"October 29, 1944 on a parallel farther south in the eastern Pacific than San Diego and 1000 miles east of Hawaii the American Liberty ship John A. Johnson, enroute from San Francisco and unescorted, was hit with two torpedoes launched from what was unknown to U.S. Naval authorities at the time, a Japanese submarine operating in eastern waters that late into the war. The Johnson broke into two pieces and the submarine responsible for the hits, identified by survivors as the I-12, surfaced, lacing the two sections with shells until both sank below the surface.

"Two weeks went by without another word on the submarine. Then on November 13, 1944, 100 miles WSW of Los Angeles off the coast of Baja, Mexico the Coast Guard cutter Rockford and a Navy minelayer the USS Ardent made sonar contact with a submarine. At 1:08 in the afternoon the Ardent unleashed an attack of 13 contact fuse Hedgehogs underwater mortar shells resulting in three explosions and a lot of debris floating to the surface. The ships were co-credited with sinking the I-12 in that it was the only known submarine operating that far into the eastern Pacific during that period of time."(source)

the Wanderling

The sinking of the I-12 is racked with almost as many inconsistencies as that of the U-196, a World War II German U-boat whose record was all over the map --- from Malaysia to Mexico, to South America and New Zealand --- said to have been loaded to the gills with stolen Nazi gold and escaping Nazi VIPs. At one time I-12 inconsistencies even ranked right up there with the Fate of the U-133, another World War II German U-boat that got caught up in any number of myths and legends including an attempt to destroy Hoover Dam --- that is, until she was located by divers in 1994 sitting on the bottom of the Mediterranean in 78 meters of water, having been there since March 14, 1942 with loss of all hands.

As for the Coast Guard Cutter Rockford and the Navy Minelayer the USS Ardent claim of sinking the I-12 100 miles WSW of Los Angels on November 13, 1944, as found in the quote at the top of the page from the source so cited, except for a good number of the crew members on both ships at the time of the co-kill, the claim carries a great deal of uncertainty.

The uncertainty of the kill arises for a number of reasons. For one thing, the sinking has not been corroborated by Japanese documentation captured after the war --- the same Japanese documentation construed to be so accurate that everybody else uses it to confirm their kills. Japanese sources indicate that the I-12 was active through the end of December and given credit for the sinking of an Allied transport and a tanker in the mid-Pacific. Their records also indicate the I-12 continued to operate up until at least January 5, 1945 then listed as having been lost January 31, 1945 from unknown causes. Then there are a number of inconsistancies in other records and documentaions. The Japanese submarine I-38, although not known to be that far into the eastern Pacific shows up over and over on the records as being the sub sunk that same day and location by the Rockford and Ardent --- as for example as found in the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee Report, which lists the I-38 as being the sub sunk on the same day, date, and location as given for the I-12. The same joint report lists the I-12 as having been sunk on May 30, 1945 by planes from a United States Navy carrier Anzio (CVE-57), AKA USS Coral Sea, in a location roughly 1000 miles WNW of the Philippines.

The I-12 Tabular Record of Movement, linked below, lists the following incidents attributed to, involving, or about the I-12, all showing up well after the reported sinking by the Rockford and Ardent:

20-31 December 1944:
The Owada center informs the Sixth Fleet HQ about the sinking of an Allied transport and a tanker in mid-Pacific. I-12 is credited with both sinkings.

2 to 5 January 1945:
The Owada center intercepts three separate submarine sighting reports by USN ships and aircraft relayed to Pearl Harbor. The Sixth Fleet staff concludes that I-12 is still operating off Hawaii.

15 January 1945:
The Owada center receives a garbled message from a Japanese submarine N of the Marshalls (14N, 171E), reporting a contact with enemy. The Sixth Fleet HQ concludes that it was sent by I-12.

The I-12 was the last known of the giant aircraft equipped Japanese submarines operating in the eastern Pacific. Facts borne out by kills against allied shipping well east of Hawaii are solidly confirmed for the I-12 at least up to as late as October 1944. She was also the only Japanese submarine that late in the war that was in any sort of a position to have accessed the submarine facilities of Magdalena Bay in Baja California. She had shown up at the much farther south La Palma Secret Base in Chiapas, Mexico sometime around mid-December, 1944 followed within days by the previously mentioned and equally infamous if not more so German u-boat, the U-196. When the 1-12 departed the secret base it headed north into the Sea of Cortez, then, after traversing nearly the full length of the sea she turned back, rounded the tip of Baja California and headed north.[1]

If the I-12 accessed the onetime Japanese sub mooring facility at Magdalena Bay, located about a quarter of the way up the peninsula from the southern tip, is not known. If not, she went right by it. It is my feeling she did not stop, bypassing the bay for three reasons. One, there was no need to stop after having most recently left the La Palma Secret Base where any needed supplies, fuel and fresh water would have been obtained. Secondly, the Magdalena Bay facilities, unlike the La Palma Secret Base, were transient. That is, they depended on trawlers for supplies and repairs. Since there had not been any known Japanese subs operating in eastern Pacific waters on a regular basis for several years, more than likely the Japanese discontinued maintaining trawlers that far afield. Third, she was probably attempting to maximize as much secrecy as possible relative to her location and movements. Magdalena Bay, although remote in location, especially during the same years as World War II, still presented a much greater chance for discovery or being sighted than at La Palma. As it was the I-12s movements and discovery still occurred, apparently by the USS Willard Keith (DD-775) in March of 1945 near San Francisco and, according to Willard Keith crew members, sunk.

As for I-12 herself, the following is a list of inconsistencies regarding her:


Is There A Sunken Japanese Submarine Off San Francisco?

by Capt. Alan Hugenot

Bill Anderson, was on board the destroyer USS Willard Keith (DD-775) on a day in March 1945 when it depth charged and sank a submarine not far from the Farallone Islands.

Anderson has been using his 33-foot boat Echo Hunter - equipped with a depth sounder and sonar - to search for the submarine. He regularly makes sub-hunting forays from the Pillar Point Marina in Half Moon Bay. Over the last nine years, Anderson has found seven suspicious sites, any one of which could be the submarine. One of the wrecks looks more promising than the others because its coordinates were provided by a helpful Navy officer in Washington D.C., who has access to classified files.

"We think we found a Japanese submarine; [at least] we found what looks like a submarine to our equipment," Anderson told a press conference at Half Moon Bay on Oct. 2. The suspect object is located 235 feet deep 10 miles off the San Mateo Coastline, approximately 20 miles west by northwest of Pillar Point.

Anderson remembers the sinking as if it were yesterday. Returning from a patrol mission down the coast to Catalina Island, Anderson said, the destroyer's sonar picked up the sound of a submarine's propellers. The general alarm went off, and the ship made a fast turn to come back over the target location and drop a pattern of about a dozen depth charges.

Next, the bridge announced that they had scored a hit, Anderson told the press conference. The destroyer returned five minutes later to the same location to check for signs of a sinking and to listen for the submarine. As they crossed over the site, there was the rainbow sheen of fresh diesel on the sea surface, and it looked as if a submarine had been sunk.

Returning to Treasure Island later that evening, the crew of 350 men were mustered up on deck, and according to Anderson, "We were told never to say a word, not to anybody." When asked why the Navy would suppress news a destroyer had thwarted an enemy attack, Anderson told the news conference, "They didn't want to alarm the public."

Approximately one week later, the destroyer left for Okinawa. There were no casualties on the USS Willard Keith, but, by the time the men had returned when the war was over, they all just wanted to forget all the fighting. It was later that Anderson remembered the sinking of the sub off the Farallones.

Anderson believes they sank a submarine that day, and he has heard stories from local divers who also think there is a sunken sub out there where the attack took place. At age 76, Bill has been searching for the sub every summer since 1993. And back in 1995, the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" aired a segment on his search.

The current object could be the missing Japanese Submarine I-12, or nothing at all. It could be a sunken barge or an old shipwreck, any one of over 400 known wrecks within the Gulf of the Farallones National Seashore.

The special long-range submarine I-12, has never been accounted for, but left Japan prior to the American attack on Okinawa on Oct. 11, 1944. The submarine's mission was to conduct independent operations in the central and eastern Pacific between Hawaii and California, and she did sink the Liberty Ship John A. Johnson, in October 1944, but was last seen in the Central Pacific, thousands of miles away from San Francisco. Did her commander Kaneo Kudo carry out the basic pre-war strategy taught to all I-boat captains of the "advance force:" to penetrate deeply into American territory when the Americans attacked the homeland (Okinawa), and so advanced to the Farallone Islands, to attempt to attack shipping leaving San Francisco? These I-class boats were specially built with a 16,000-mile range so that they could sail from Japan to the U.S. and back again.

In the 1976 book "I-Boat Captain," Japanese author, Zenji Orita - who later commanded the submarine I-47 - writes about his experiences as a junior officer aboard the I-15 on Dec. 17, 1941, when his submarine stationed itself just west of the Farallone Islands, only 10 days after Pearl Harbor. At the time, they were part of a task force of nine I-class submarines that were sent to attack shipping off the U.S. West Coast. The I-12 was not among them. Orita also writes about a second trip to the U.S. West Coast where, on Feb. 25, 1942, as a junior officer aboard I-17, he participated in the shelling of the Elwood oil terminal near Santa Barbara, Calif.

Currently, Anderson is hoping to find a larger, more stable search vessel from which he can deploy a remotely operated vehicle. He now has the exclusive use of a remote-control vehicle from VideoRay, a Pennsylvania company. A spokesperson for VideoRay, Kayla Patenaude, told the San Mateo County Times, "We need to [find] a good boat from someone who would sponsor the trip for just two or three days; if it can't happen in the next couple of weeks, we'll have to wait until next spring," she said.









I-12, TYPE A-2 SUB


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The reason the I-12 was in the Sea of Cortez in not known with any amount of certainty. However, most of the rumors refer back to the following as found in both the map below and the source so cited:

"The V-2 hauling U-195 and 219 transfered the major item of their quote cargo, unquote, over to the U-181 in the Indian Ocean with the U-181 then taking it toward the Pacific. There, at a point undisclosed the U-181 was met by the infamous long-range ghost-like Japanese submarine I-12. The I-12 took over eventually ending up at the La Palma Secret Base sometime around mid-December, 1944. After a minor shakedown and testing in and around the secret base and just off shore by German crew members, the cargo was taken a 1000 miles north by the powerful trans-oceanic I-12 to the mouth of the Sea of Cortez that lies between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, then another 1000 miles north to Isla Angel de la Guarda, also called Archangel Island, off Bahia de los Angeles --- or one of the other smaller islands nearby and hidden in a cove."(source)


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Having the I-12 moored in some fashion at or near Isla Angel de la Guarda put her, and as has been reported, possible German submarines as well, floating around clear up at the northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez.

So said, there is an American who has been in contact with me over a period of time that is a sometime resident of the Sonoran village area along the northern west coast of the Sea of Cortez known as Las Dunas Santo Tomas. He has told me there are parts of a wrecked World War II F6F Navy Hellcat that shows up scattered in the sand along the beach during extra low tide events with the wings still having machine guns mounted in them. A onetime long time local, an old Mexican man, told him the wreck happened sometime in 1942 or 1943. Although the plane washed ashore later the old man said his father rescued the pilot who told him "they" had bombed a German ship or submarine although he wasn't sure which. A few weeks later American troops arrived in Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point, about 75 miles north, taking trawlers down to the site, loading up many large crates and boxes and returning to the states with them.



In 1943 my Uncle became privy to the fact that German U-boats were in the Sea of Cortez and was shot by Japanese operatives because of it. In 1970 he repeated to me how the events unfolded:

My uncle, a civilian in 1943 and for sure a non-combatant --- actually falling more into a role of a conscientious objector type than anything else --- I cite often in my works. He was a fairly well established artist in those days as well as what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989 he had, as a biosearcher, more than a half dozen plant species named after him following years of trekking, searching, and discovering previously unknown and unnamed plants all over mostly remote and hidden areas and sections of the desert southwest. In 1943 he was biosearching alone in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east.

In the process of his biosearching he came across two men, and unusually so, both Asian. One of men was flat on his back all but unconscious and visibly quite ill after apparently having been bitten by a rattlesnake with the bite being left untreated. My uncle, after using the healing properties of indigenous plants he gathered up, soon found the man up and around. One of the men who had a rudimentary use of English told my uncle they were Japanese, were testing soil samples for radioactivity, and had been left off in Mexico by a submarine. By then my uncle was wanting to beat a hasty retreat but before he could one of the men shot him. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed out he survived. In 1985 a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book Wilcox writes about the two Japanese men my uncle encountered and the U-boat they arrived in, of which I turn around and write about as found in the sourced link below the quote so cited:

"Wilcox's book that, for the first time brought to the public's attention Japanese agents having been in the desert southwest during World War II specifically tasked with testing soil samples for radiation, was published in 1985. It was in 1970, fifteen years before Wilcox's book was published that my uncle told me about his 1943 encounter with Japanese spies soil testing deep into state of New Mexico and the fact that according to their own testimony, they had initially been brought to Mexico via German U-boat from Europe."