the Wanderling

I was much too young to have fought in World War II. Years passed before I served in uniform, and by then it was a much different time and a much different war.

However, as a young boy growing up during those years, even though I was not old enough to have been in the military, like millions of other kids, I served our country in a myrid of ways. Tin can drives, victory gardens, rationing. No gas or rubber tires. Cardboard toys. Having close friends my own age who I played with whose fathers, uncles, or brothers were fighting in the war, some lost, dying, or dead. Gold Star Mothers, Blue Star Mothers, many sharing both.

Even though my home was thousands of miles away from the raging turmoil of the battlefronts, living practically on the beach along the Pacific coast we were constant hostage to attack. Although most people don't know it or they don't remember it, the hostilities of the war visited our shores more than once, and sometimes so close it was like it was in our front yard. Japanese submarines prowled the waters all up and down the coast with shipping being hit, torpedoed, damaged and sunk. The mainland being hit with shells, bombs, and by air attacks. Sure, it was nothing like what was happening in either of the two major theaters, but happening none the less.

Now, while it is true during the years from 1941 to 1945 a number of areas were hit along the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico, for some reason Santa Barbara north of Los Angeles to San Pedro harbor in the south seemed to be an area of concentration the Japanese focused an extra amount of effort on. Near the southern end of their interests, was the then small California beach community of Redondo Beach, the town my brothers and I grew up in during the early years of the war. Even though San Pedro was several miles further south from Redondo, because my dad worked in the shipyards on Terminal Island just across the shipping channel from San Pedro, for me as a kid, it was all tied together.

On December 14, 1941, seven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) ordered a number of submarines to the west coast of the United States to attack shipping. They were also given additional orders to strike against the continental U.S. by shelling and bombing targets of opportunity. Within days those orders were narrowed to a specific set of directives telling each of the submarines to fire 30 shells on Christmas night, December 25, 1941, into high profile targets up and down the Pacific coast. To underscore the level of importance the Japanese high command put into the successful execution of the plan all of the submarines were able to launch bomb dropping aircraft from catapults. One of the submarines even carried a Rear Admiral.

On December 22, 1941, three days before the Christmas night attack, the IJN Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet, postponed it until December 27th because on that same day, the 22nd, their Combined Fleet Intelligence Bureau intercepted a message indicating three U.S. battleships were steaming toward Los Angeles with an expected arrival date of December 25th. Four of the closest submarines spread out along the coast were redirected to rendezvous off southern California and coordinate plans to intercept and engage the battleships. The reports proved to be wrong. Without any battleships to engage the four heavily armed Japanese submarines were left sitting right on top of the San Pedro, Los Angeles harbor for the December 27th attack rather than being dispersed miles apart up and down California.

Then, for reasons unkown, the following happened:

"On Christmas day, December 25th, one of the four submarines, the I-19, taking up a position in the narrow channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland just off Point Fermin near San Pedro, and possibly leaning rogue or breaking rank, torpedoed and damaged the unarmed U.S. freighter Absaroka. Although the Absaroka settled up to her main deck within minutes and abandoned, the crew reboarded her and a Navy tug towed her to a strip of sand below Fort MacArthur and beached. Such a blatant attack a mile off Point Fermin within eyesight of the Naval shipyards on Terminal Island and on Christmas day besides, set off a whole slew of concerns and heightened alerts by the Americans and possibly undermined the potential outcome of an attack by the Japanese on the 27th." (source)

The same source as the above quote says that at the very last minute on the same day of the rescheduled December 27th "land-attack" the Japanese General Staff totally rescinded the order. However, if there were any submarines left remaining in the San Pedro, Los Angeles harbor area after the I-19 attack on the Absaroka is not known because in the Oral History of Palos Verdes Estates Police Department the following is found, and where Redondo Beach comes in:

"On Christmas 1941 what was thought to be a Japanese submarine was sighted off of Redondo Beach. The Air Corps and Navy responded and dropped several bombs."

After the above bombing, newspaper headlines announced "Army Flyer Sinks Coast Raider, Air Filled with Debris as Nippon Submarine Is Destroyed."

Regardless of headlines, according to Michael H McCandless (1959-2010), a historian of sorts on Redondo Beach, any assumption that the submarine might have been sunk proved to be untrue. The idea that it WAS sunk came about because of a ton of wreckage that showed up following the bombing. Later it was discovered the wreckage was actually from the Kohala, a fishing barge anchored off Redondo. If you remember from above, the Oral History of Palos Verdes Estates Police Department is quoted as saying that a submarine WAS sighted off Redondo Beach. Then, regarding the debris, it goes on to say:

"The only thing sunk was an old fishing barge that was anchored off the coast. What was left of the barge washed ashore on the beach at Malaga Cove. It was quite an attraction for some time and a number of its parts were salvaged by local boys."

The I-19 must have left the Catalina Channel immediately after the torpedo attack on the Absaroka, apparently beating a hasty retreat north from the Point Fermin area passing by the fishing barge to the deep marine trench off Redondo and in the process the reason it was spotted.

Tracking the sub's movements when it was first seen after it left the channel until it disappeared over the horizon to the northwest is picked up by South Bay historian Marshall E. Stewart, who writes the following in his self-published book History of the Early Hollywood Riviera.

"On Christmas Day 1941 at the start of WWII the first sighting of a Japanese submarine was from the veranda of the (Hollywood Riviera Club). Soldiers unfamiliar with the ocean were placed along the cliffs and at the Club. One of the soldiers, looking through a telescope, spotted an unusual vessel near one of the fishing barges. He asked Roy Stewart (manager of the Hollywood Riviera Club from 1930-1942) to identify what kind of vessel it was, and he recognized it as a submarine. The sighting was reported, causing a small military plane to arrive over the surfaced sub and drop a bomb. The bomb landed next to the sub on the same side as a fishing barge. The submarine moved westward on the surface and as dusk and low clouds increased, a Navy ship could be dimly be seen firing at the Japanese submarine. The bomb also ruptured the wood planking of the fishing barge which took on water until she was decks awash."

The Hollywood Riviera Club was a onetime exclusive club just south of Redondo Beach right on the bluffs overlooking the ocean where they start rising up toward and curving into the much higher Palos Verdes Peninsula. The club actually straddled the city line between both Redondo Beach and Torrance.

It is known the sub eventually left the area without harm and, possibly because of her actions against the Absaroka, the December 27th attack was called off.[1]

Two months later, on the night of February 25, 1942, one of the most mysterious events to have transpired in the war, or any other time for that matter, unfolded. At 1:44 AM in the morning, a remote military radar installation that was part of a newly minted early warning system, picked up an unidentified aerial target 120 miles west of Los Angeles and closing. At 2:15 AM Los Angeles area anti-aircraft batteries were put on Green Alert --- ready to fire --- and at 2:21 AM the regional controller ordered a total area-wide blackout. Then, just minutes before the object should have come into the path of the waiting anti-aircraft guns it suddenly vanished. Soon it was seen rising up over the Santa Monica Mountains behind and to the east of the aimed direction of the anti-aircraft guns. At 3:06 AM the Santa Monica area anti-aircraft batteries turned inward toward the object and started firing out over the city following it's track toward Baldwin Hills. Suddenly "the air over Los Angeles erupted like a volcano." (source)

During the intervening period the the giant object of unknown origin, said to be 800 feet long --- the size of a Zeppelin --- withstood the continued pounding of 1440 direct hit anti-aircraft rounds with no signs of any ill effect. Eventually it headed back toward the coast turning south past the beach cities of Manhattan and Hermosa. When it reached Redondo Beach it turned inland again then south back out to sea between Long Beach and Huntington Beach, never to be seen again. The the true aspects of mystifying incident have never been answered. Some say it was the Japanese, although after the war they completely refuted any implication in the event. Others say it was pure mass hysteria.

A person by the name of C. Scott Littleton was a young boy living along the Strand in Hermosa Beach when the object flew past his house just beyond the surf-line paralleling the coast. It was Littleton's later published reports as an adult that supports the the fact that the object turned inland around Redondo Beach. It was however, not the only confirmation. Within minutes of the Littleton sighting, just south of the Edison steam plant another eyewitness confirmed the object turned diagonally inland toward the south-southeast flying almost directly over the top of the Happy Hour Cafe at 400 Strand, Redondo Beach, owned by the infamous Fifie Malouf. The following, describing the eyewitness account, is found at the Fifie Malouf link:

"(O)ne night in February 1942 right there on the Strand a huge, giant object, as big as a locomotive, came in off the ocean and flew right over the top of the Happy Hour Cafe and the apartments. (I) had heard a ruckus going on outside, sirens, guns firing, all kinds of stuff, so (I) went out on to the Strand only to see this 'thing' a few hundred feet above the beach slowly glide overhead off the ocean, not making a sound and, because of its length, taking forever to pass over."

As the object approached the top of the hill as it sloped up from the beach, it's path was picked up by a man named Edwards. Edwards, along with his father, owned and operated a neighborhood store on Garnet Street maybe a mile or so inland. The younger Edwards grew up in Redondo Beach and lived in a house on Juanita Avenue just up the street from the store almost on the top of the crest of the Garnet Street hill. Edwards was probably in his early 30s or so in 1942 when the object crossed right over his house. The following is how he recalled the event:

"(Edwards) was awakened in the darkened pre-dawn hours by what he thought was the sound of gunfire. Then the house began to rattle, then shudder, causing a few things to fall off the shelves as though a bulldozer or a freight train had gone by right out front of the house on the sidewalk or something. He ran outside just barely catching a glimpse of what he said looked like the dark black hull of a "flying ship" cresting over and going down the hill toward Torrance Boulevard. He raced inside, threw on a pair of shoes and a jacket over his pajamas and ran out to the top of the hill thinking all along that whatever it was crashed into the houses on Lucia Street or into the oil fields beyond. When he got to the top of the hill none of the houses were destroyed, nothing was on fire, and there was no sign of the object."(source)

Then, not very many minutes after it had been seen in the sky over Redondo Beach, the object was out over the agriculture fields that existed in those days a few miles inland east and south of the beach cities. That same night Albert Nozaki was helping guard a friend's field from vandals that had been ruining crops. Below describes what Nozaki saw that night in the early morning hours:

"(A)pproaching him well above the fields from the west, silhouetted against the slightly lighter night sky, was a fairly huge dark airborne object coming straight toward him at a fairly quick pace. At first it seemed as though it would take a path off to the right of where he was standing, but before it reached him it just barely began turning flatly toward the south, almost as in a controlled drift. By then he was just under the edge of the object as it went over him with the center off to his left, continuing its turn and eventually disappearing in the southern night sky while all the time gaining altitude. It was huge, dark, very long and wide with no lights or signs of windows. Although it did not have protruding wings like an airplane, the object's outside edges ominously curved down. As well, other than feeling a slight vibrational 'hum' in his chest as it passed over, the object made no sound."

Nozaki, who later went on to be an Oscar nominated art director, apparently drawing upon his his experiences in the field that night in 1942, designed the terrifying Martian flying machines seen in the 1953 movie War of the Worlds. Without any real answers to what the object might have been, a strong string of out-of-this world extra-terrestrial connontations has blanketed the phenomenon, of which such an angle, pro and con, is explored as found in UFO Over L.A.: The Battle of Los Angeles.

Although I remember the events of the so-called Battle of Los Angeles on February 25, 1942 quite well I have no personal recollection from the same period regarding the aforementioned barge, the Kohala, being accidently bombed off the coast of Redondo Beach just two months earlier on Christmas day, 1941. It could be my parents, possibly thinking it was an enemy submarine so close to Redondo, may have purposely chosen to withold knowledge of the events of that day from my brothers and me because it WAS Christmas day. The thing is, even the Japanese say they were not involved in the Battle of Los Angeles incident --- so, in that sense the Battle was not exactly "war related," like say the barge situation was. There are however, two actual physical World War II Japan versus the United States war related events I personally saw and still remember quite well --- although both were apparently minor in the overall scheme of things and neither show up anywhere in history books I have ever been able to find.

One was in Santa Barbara, the other in Redondo Beach. Chronologically the Santa Barbara event happened a few years after the Redondo Beach one, but I am presenting the Santa Barbara incident ahead because I want to close with Redondo.

When the war started, as far as I knew, my mother was well and healthy. Such was not the case. As the war wore on she appeared to be sicker and sicker. Eventually she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, a tumor that impacted her daily activities and in the end led to her being totally incapacitated and death at a very young age.[2] During that lead up period to her total incapacitation it became increasingly more difficult for my father to care for her as well as take care of three young boys, so much so that he decided to investigate the possibility of a full time care facility. One of the facilities he looked into was an around the clock full care sanatorium-like hospital in Santa Barbara. The day he went to see it he took me and my mother along. While we were there we went out on the Santa Barbara pier. Along one edge of the pier toward the end was a crane-like boom that was lifting an airplane out of the water and placing it on a flatbed trailer. To me the plane was what I would call a seaplane. On its wings and beind the wings on both sides of the fuselage were clearly distinguishable bright red circular Japanese insignias. The plane was intact and showed no signs of visible damage. Years later I would identify the plane as a Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane. How such a plane ended up being put onto a waiting flatbed trailer on the dock in Santa Barbara I have no clue. So too, the year is somewhat elusive for me, but it must have been sometime before the end of the year 1943 because by Christmas of that year I was in India, not returning until the summer of 1944. The E14Y was typically launched from a B-1 type Japanese submarine. To my knowledge there is no record of a B-1 type submarine operating that far south along the coast during the time period I saw the plane being lifted out of the water.[3]

The war related event I really remember involved a two-man Japanese midget submarine that washed up on the beach just south of the Redondo Beach pier --- an event that goes totally unreported for some reason. A then Redondo Beach resident named Max Harris and an avowed eyewitness to the midget sub washing up on the beach, who would be well into his 90s now if still alive, was age 26 at the time and, extrapolated from his own words, describes how he recalls the event:

"It was a quiet morning around 10:00 AM and me and my girlfriend were walking along the beach. All of a sudden out of nowhere, six American bombers flew right over us and started dropping bombs about 500 yards from the shoreline. They then circled back and did it again, dropping at least 50 bombs and then flew away. The next thing I knew about 200 soldiers appeared and they quickly closed the beach.

"Later that day radio news broadcasts said that a Japanese two-man submarine had been sighted off the coast of Redondo and it was destroyed. Two days later the submarine washed up on shore and inside they found the bodies of two Japanese Naval officers." (source)

Harris has cited the date of the above event as being October 4, 1942. It is not clear exactly what the date Harris gives signifies. Since the sub took two days following the bombing to actually show up on the beach, when Harris says the 4th, does he mean the day of the bombing was the 4th thus indicating the day the sub washed up on shore was the 6th? Or does he mean the day the sub washed up was the 4th meaning the sub was bombed the 2nd?

Why is it important? It has to do with HOW the sub was able to end up being off the coast of Redondo Beach in the first place. I remember a different date, maybe only a few days later, but enough days to allow the submarine to be off Redondo on a more-or-less "official record" basis.

My brother's birthday is more toward the middle of October. Since his birthday fell on a weekend in 1942 my parents decided to give him a surprise party. To pull it off required my brothers and me to be out of the house while it was being decorated and guests, friends and kids secretly arrived --- so my dad took us to the beach for a walk. It was not unusual to wander along the sand with one or the other or both of our parents, or even grandparents, so it was no big thing. However, we invariably hunted moonstones on what was called Moonstone Beach in front of the Strand that ran north of the pier in those days near the previously mentioned Happy Hour Cafe. Instead, this time, our dad took us a short distance south of the pier to see a highly-muted town event, the Japanese midget submarine that had washed up on shore a few days before. He even lifted me up to look into the inside through the open hatch. What happened to that sub I do not know as nobody ever seems to talk about it. How it got there is another thing. Harris says six American bombers flew right over and dropped 50 bombs about 500 yards from the shoreline and two days later it washed up on the beach.

Six planes dropped 50 bombs a quarter mile off the beach at 10:00 in the morning! That is a heck of a lot of bombs and a WHOLE lot of noise, especially so early in the day on whatever day or date it was done. One would think I would recall specifically such a major noise making event living only a few blocks from the ocean and straight up from the pier. The thing is, the thumping noise of explosives had become common place. Not long after Pearl Harbor the military installed two 155mm guns of the end of the Redondo Beach pier as well as anti-aircraft guns a short distance away just above the beach south of Redondo by the Hollywood Riviera Club. They were constantly test firing the things, so much so that in the case of the anti-aircraft guns the continued pounding of the ensuing target practice structurally damaged the club so much it actually had to close the place in 1942.


By October 1942 most if not all of the Japanese submarines, except for the I-25, had departed the west coast for other areas of operation. The whereabouts of the I-25, which had just participated in the aerial bombing of Oregon on September 9th and the 29th, was known to still be off the south Oregon coast on October 4, 1942 because on that date she torpedoed the 6,653-ton American tanker Camden. Two days later on October 6th the I-25 sunk the 7,038-ton American tanker Larry Doheny somewhere south of Cape Sebastian. Thereafter it is said to have departed the Oregon coast arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942 for overhaul. During the 20-day span that lasped between the September 9th aerial attack on the U.S. mainland in Oregon and the second one on September 29th, the I-25 must have embarked on an extremely top secret mission involving the release of the midget submarine that ended up being bombed off Redondo.

On the 10th of September, one single day after the I-25's first aerial bombing of Oregon, which was for the most part was so ineffective it was basically unknown at the time --- and basically still is --- an Army Air Force maritime patrol bomber out of McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington, not searching for the sub but on routine patrol, caught the I-25 exposed on the surface with a number of crew members on deck. The sub managed to crash-dive eventually escaping with no damage after the bomber dropped three 300-lb depth charges (some reports cite 10 depth charges unleashed by the bomber). A few days later, well off the Oregon coast and no longer being pursued --- and apparently what the crew was on deck making preparations for --- the sub took on the midget sub offloaded from a Japanese Q-ship similar to the Delhi Maru or other surface vessel of some type, possibly under the luxury of the flag of a non-belligerent. The midget sub, which had a short range of operation, typically carried only two crew members, and had to be launched from a mothership, of which the I-25 had the capability of being, transported it south, leaving it and it's crew in the shadow of one of the Channel Islands, most likely Santa Barbara Island, 38 miles off the southern Californaia coast or San Nicolas located 61 miles due west of Los Angeles. There the midget sub lurked for several days up to a week or two waiting along the beach or one of the coves for the right time to strike or complete its mission.

It should be noted that B-1 type submarines like the I-25 that carried and launched the midget sub had a 14,000 nautical mile range. The home base for the I-25 was thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from the U.S. on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It was scheduled to arrive in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942 for overhaul after having left Kwajalein ten months earlier, on January 11, 1942.

When the I-25 departed the waters off Oregon in September and headed south to release the midget submarine it had already transited clear across the Pacific and been prowling up and down the U.S. Pacific west coast close to ten months, soon afterwhich it had no torpedoes and was running low on fuel and provisions. It is my belief the I-25, after launching the two-man sub then returning north hitting the Camden and the Larry Doheny it was ordered to return back south to pick up the sub and or at least it's crew. Needing fuel, fresh provisions, and torpedoes, the I-25 bypassed Redondo continuing on to the La Palma Secret Base seen and reported by American espionage agent and actress Rochelle Hudson as being located in the estuaries near Acacoyagua, Chiapas, Mexico. There it refueled and took on supplies --- then returned north to pick up the sub and or it's crew. Of course by then the midget sub had been bombed and ended up on the beach in Redondo.

As for the midget submarine, although there were plenty of targets in the north around Seattle and San Francisco for both full-size and midget submarines, there were no known substantial hard targets that fell into the range of capabilities of a two-man sub in the general Los Angeles area. No U.S. aircraft carriers, battleships, or other major naval vessels or warships like up north. Nothing coastal that could have been impacted adversely enough to warrent such a mission either. The midget sub must have been dealing with a soft target, say like the pick up or delivery of documents, maps or blueprints or a high profile person, most likely a spy, saboteur, or turncoat. In that there were only two naval officers said to have been on board, if they were delivering, it is not known if our military interceded or confiscated whatever it was prior to or after the bombing OR if the sub's crew had already transfered the package to the mainland, with the whatever it was blending into the wartime milieu of America.

Why the sub was running close to or on the surface at 10:00 AM in broad daylight right off the coast of Redondo Beach and WHY Redondo Beach, is not known. Nobody knows if it was coming or going or which direction it was traveling. If it had been positioned due west by it's mother ship off one of the Channel Islands there would be no practical reason, military or otherwise, for the sub to be transiting the blight in a north-south direction paralleling the South Bay coastline during daylight hours. Same with east-west. Midget subs only carried a small air reserve and not much under surface battery power compared to conventional subs, but usually had sufficient supplies of both for any mission assigned. Harris reported two dead Japanese were found on the sub which means at the time of the bombing the sub wasn't abandoned by it's crew. Nothing about the Japanese officers or their fate has ever been revealed. But, if they were still alive at the time of the bombing or already dead is not known. I saw the sub on the beach within a day or so of it washing up and to my knowledge no bodies were found in conjuction with the sub. Even though there is very little that could be much more blatantly obvious than an enemy two-man sub washing up on a public beach in a highly populated area, let alone with two dead Japanese officers, the whole incident must have been super-sensitive on BOTH sides because it was kept quiet at the time and very little or nothing has surfaced regarding the event since.[4]


It is odd that after all these years not one official has come forward with details of what happened. After all, Harris is quoted as saying "200 soldiers appeared and they quickly closed the beach." That is an awful lot of witnesses, and for sure, not all of them could have had security clearances. If the two dead naval officers died in the line of duty, out of courtesy, more than likely their bodies were returned to Japan, so another sizable group of non security clearance personel would have been involved. So too, it is really odd that in 1942, Harris, who was age 26 at the time, single, and apparently in good health --- he said he was with his girlfriend and when his article was made public he was in his 90s --- was not in the military himself, especially being it was at the height of the draft. Nowhere does he claim any military or service connected affliation in what he writes. It could be he was actually in a more official capacity than he was willing to say.

Just as I started high school I returned to living in Redondo Beach after having been gone all of my elementary school years --- albeit living as close as Hermosa Beach for awhile during the second or third grade. No sooner had I entered the ninth grade than I found a part-time job running errands several days a week for a house-bound former merchant marine who lived around the corner and up the street from my house. The ship he was on during World War II was torpedoed by German U-boats off the coast of Florida just at the beginning of the war. He was severely burned when he was forced to jump overboard into oil burning along the surface of the water. Over the two-year period or so I worked for him we became friends. One day returning from my errands my Merchant Marine Friend introduced me to a man who was visiting him as they were discussing various aspects of submarine warfare. One of the topics that came up was the two-man sub that ended up on the beach next to the pier in Redondo. When I interjected that my father had lifted me up to see inside the sub the man got all excited and went on and on about it. If that man was Max Harris or not I do not know. He was however, the only person I knew that ever talked about it much.


In December 1959, seventeen years after the October 1942 two-man Japanese midget submarine washed up on shore just south of the Redondo Beach pier, only to disappear a couple of days later without a trace, a diver by the name of Bob Bell reported finding a previously undocumented submarine laying on the bottom in 60 feet of water off the Los Angeles Harbor breakwater. According to newspaper articles dated December 27, 1959 Bell, who was said to have owned an industrial diving service, was led to the site by a Long Beach diver named Bill Stach. Bell, as cited by the articles (linked below), suggested because of the sub's less than traditional size it was possibly one of a group of small subs brought across the Pacific by mother ships.

Almost immediately follow-up articles were published discounting the possibility of Bell's find being a Japanese sub. Former Imperial Japanese Naval officers reportedly doubted that a Japanese sub was sunk off the L.A. Harbor in World War II. According to the Japanese Disabled Veterans Association, Imperial Navy records showed no submarines lost near Los Angeles throughout the entire annals of the Pacific war.

Bell said he had "read in a book" that a Japanese submarine named Sakuri had been sunk off Point Fermin Christmas day 1941. The Japanese made it clear that they did not name their subs but used only identifying letters or numbers (which is true). The thing is, the Japanese submarine involved in the Christmas day attack was not in any sense of the word a small submarine like Bell's, but instead, like the Japanese said, a numbered sub, more specifically the I-19. The I-19 was a huge Type B-1 trans-oceanic vessel capable of launching an airplane --- which would place it more into the catagory of a "mother ship" than being similar to the Bell find. The I-19's history, including the Christmas attack clear through to it's utimate demise February 2, 1944 with a loss of all hands near the Gilberts Islands area, is fully documented and accounted for.(see)

Because of Naval records we know the submarine that Bell found could not have been the I-19. It is also highly unlikely, as some have claimed, that instead of a Japanese sub, he might have stumbled across the World War I German submarine UB-88. The UB-88, a World War era German submarine was scuttled by the U.S. Navy on January 3, 1921 after being towed to an area off Los Angeles in San Pedro Bay and sunk by gunfire from the destroyer USS Wickes. After years of uncoordinated on-and-off searching by a variety of dive teams she was finally located by sonar in July 2003. On August 27, a dive team reached the wreckage providing the following regarding their find:

"A slender, preserved hull, diving planes, torpedo tubes conning tower, two shell holes from the USS Wickes’ four-inch deck gun and a measured length of 190 feet and 19-foot beam confirmed the wreck to be the elusive UB-88. Fabian has not revealed the location or depth of UB-88 but says she is well beyond the range of sport diving."(source)

In comparison, the typical Japanese midget submarine, as pictured at the top of the page for example, was at least half the size of the UB-88, measuring 78.5 feet in length overall, with a 6.1-foot breadth and a 6.1-foot draft. Bell's description of the sunken vessel he saw underwater off the breakwater comes across as though it wasn't nearly as large as the typical crew of 70 men and 10 officers independent ocean-going or "wolf pack" type submarine --- as he presented it, in size it's configuration more closely resembled that of a two-man sub saying it was "a small sub similar to ones brought across the Pacific by mother ships."

There seems to be no record of what happened to the two-man sub I saw as a young boy on the beach just south of the Redondo pier, for all practical purposes it simply disappeared off the face of the earth --- or, as I suspect, under the sea. If Bell's story carries any validity I think the sub that washed up on the beach in Redondo and the one he found is most likely one and the same. There are a few discreprencies in how the facts that have come down to us are interpreted, but none that can't be overcome. In the articles the attempt is to tie his find to the Christmas day attack on a sub spotted off Redondo, which we know is just not the case because the sub involved in the Christmas day event was not a midget submarine, but a full-size tran-oceanic craft. It is also related in one of the articles, continuing to tie it to the Christmas event and quoting marine sources, albeit unnamed, that it would be possible with prevailing currents the disabled sub could have drifted around the Palos Verdes peninsula and finally sunk off Point Fermin.

That possibility is a real stretch. I crewed on and off for awhile on a yacht come marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire David J. Halliburton that spent some of its time in Cabo San Lucas and some of its time moored in Marina Del Rey. In so saying, I have made several trips up and down the coast at different times of the year. I can tell you there probably is not many more places in the world that has as much screwed up currents as those that are found along the southern California coast. For one thing, even though the California Current is the prime driver as it heads south from the northern Pacific, as it reaches the channel islands some of it splits somewhat to the east between the islands and the mainland with the main portion of the current staying west outside the islands. That less powerful southward flow between the islands and the mainland meets up with what is called the inshore counter current --- which flows north right along the coastline up from San Diego and below. Although the inshore counter current is variable --- in position and strength at different times of the year --- usually the two clash just off the coast of Palos Verdes between Point Fermin and Catalina Island causing a whole series of eddies, some turing clockwise, some turning counter clockwise.(see) To imply realistically that a disabled sub or anything else would drift from off the coast of Redondo Beach to where Bell found a sub off the Los Angeles breakwater in 60 feet of water is taking a lot of potential uncertainties into consideration. If you remember from the above:

"The only thing sunk was an old fishing barge that was anchored off the coast. What was left of the barge washed ashore on the beach at Malaga Cove. It was quite an attraction for some time and a number of its parts were salvaged by local boys."

What was left of the barge washed ashore on the beach at Malaga Cove --- none of the sub. You can't have it both ways. I will tell you what I think happened. To do so you have to forget the Christmas 1941 attack and jump to the October 1942 two-man midget submarine --- two separate incidents. Whatever the two-man sub was involved in, authorities on both sides of the action did not want it to get out and in my estimation they still don't. Previously, in the main text above, I wrote that there is very little that could be much more blatantly obvious than an enemy two-man sub washing up on a public beach in a highly populated area. The whole incident must have been super-sensitive on BOTH sides because it was kept quiet at the time and very little or nothing has surfaced regarding the event since --- that is, UNLESS you take into consideration Bell's find.

Bell said when he came across the sub in 60 feet of water the hatches and compartments were secure but the bow seemed to have been blown off. When my dad took me to see the midget sub, if you recall, he held me up in some fashion to look into the open hatch. So too, I do not recall any portion of the craft, fore or aft or anywhere else, damaged or open as in not being there (i.e., blown off). As I remember it the sub was "whole." It is my suspicion that under the cover of darkness a small quick-strike military team, in a rather intensive secret retrieval operation, quietly and covertly pulled the sub off the beach and towed it around Palos Verdes Peninsula toward some designated and secure place within the Naval docking sheds or warehouses inside the L.A. harbor. Coincidently enough, for the record, the travel route being towed from Redondo Beach would pretty much duplicate the unnamed marine sources contention that 'with the prevailing currents the sub could have drifted around the peninsula and sunk off Point Fermin.'

As to being sunk, since it would have been in the hands of friendlies, how or why it was sunk is a good question. Most likely the sub was either being taken to a place within the deep confines of the Naval facilities inside the breakwater where it would be far removed from prying eyes then gone over with a fine tooth comb OR it was simply scuttled to remove it from history. Which one, if either, is not known. That is to say, while being towed did the sub sink before it ever made it inside the harbor or was it thoroughly gone through and examined at a secure spot inside the breakwater then towed back outside and scuttled?

Bell said the bow appeared to be blown off. When I saw it I am sure the sub was whole. A number of scenarios are in play here. If you went to the linked page on the German submarine UB-88 you would have learned that inside the wreck was a 25-pound cache of TNT designed to sink it if the shellfire intended to scuttle it proved ineffective. It could be that a similar explosive device was placed in the midget sub prior to transit to ensure that it wouldn't fall into the hands of someone unintended (remember, we were still at war at the time). If such a device was placed onboard it may have gone off prematurely while still outside the breakwater. A concerned reader has told me there is the possibility, however remote, that one of the torpedoes could have exploded accidently while being removed from the launch tubes prior to entering the harbor. So too, the sub could have met it's fate at the hands of unfriendlies on route and more of a reason to keep the whole thing secret --- especially if there was a loss of American lives. Most likely what happened the sub was dealt with by authorities inside the breakwater, then, if not cut into tiny little pieces by blowtorches, towed back outside and like the UB-88 simply scuttled.

The following links are newspaper articles refering to Bob Bell and his find:

  • Divers To Try Salvage Of Sunken Japanese Sub

  • Support Found For Claim Of Sunken Sub

  • Japanese Officers Doubt Sunk Sub Yarn

  • Japanese Deny Submarine Sunk Near Los Angeles
  • For more on Bob Bell click HERE

    Several years before Bell's find, actually just one short year after the war, in August 1946, a former Navy hard hat diver named Glen Dean 'Tonga' Stainbrook (1921-2001) reported knowing the whereabouts of and diving on a sunken sub in 180 feet of water in the Catalina Channel a mile off White's Point, Palos Verdes Peninsula. Stainbrook said he discovered the sub while in the Navy and after his discharge dove on it several times. Newspapers articles of the day reported that he actually got the bends diving on it as well as saying that on one of his dives he found four skeletons, all carrying Japanese identification. I question the validity of "four skeletons" and for sure, four skeletons, if they were human, would most certaintly discount his "find" being a two man sub, of which where my interest here are.[5]

  • Finds Japanese Submarine Sunk Off West Coast

  • Diver Seeking Sunk Jap Sub Gets Bends

  • Japanese Submarine Sunk Off West Coast Located By Diver
  • Since his find was said to be in 180 feet of water and a mile off shore it has been suggested it was the UB-88. If it was or wasn't the UB-88, even though Stainbrook is quoted as saying he was given permission to raise the sub, to this day to anyones knowledge nothing was ever done. A full 57 years passed before a local Los Angeles sports fisherman named Gary Fabian and a long time dive boat operator named Ray Arntz teamed to search for the UB-88. After fourteen months of extensive weekend searching, on July 9, 2003 the wreck of a vessel thought to be the UB-88 was picked up by sonar. A search team was put together that included technical divers Kendall Raine and John Walker, and later Scott Brooks and Fred Colburn to confirm the find. On August 27, 2003 Raine and Walker made the initial dive, and in doing so officially became the first to lay eyes on UB-88 since she was scuttled 82 years earlier. There was no mention of skeletons.

    Although Fabian and Arntz released a sufficient number of documents and photographs to easily confirm their find was ligitimate they never released the exact location of the submarine except vaguely. Then, three years later, in July 2010, a diver by the name of Phil Garner using his knowledge of the sea and extrapolating clues from the works of Fabian and Arntz along with his gut instincts, independently located her. His instincts went thus:

    "They would have to tow the sub far enough offshore to avoid launching a torpedo onto someone's front porch. Open ocean is south of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. I drew a line directly south of the old Navy base and followed it until I found a depth between 175 feet and 182 feet. There were only a few targets in the area, but one of them was exactly ten miles south in 178 feet." (source)

    Ten miles directly south of the old Navy base. If such was the case, and apparently it is, the so said location of the UB-88 would eliminate the potential possibility of Stainbrook's find while diving on a sunken sub in 180 feet of water in the Catalina Channel he reported as being a mile off White's Point, Palos Verdes Peninsula. Those are two entirely different locations, two different to make the UB-88 and Stainbrooks find as being the same sunken vessel. See:








    (please click)

    As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

    FOOTNOTE [1]

    In the book Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles in World War II, the authors take a little different view of the event than what the local eyewitness recall:

    "At approximately 1400, 25 December 1941, a slow moving submarine, which appeared to be disabled, was identified in a position approximately 4000 yards off shore near Redondo Beach. It is probable that this submarine was the one which was disabled by the destroyer depth charge attack the previous day. Due to the submarine’s position none of the fixed Harbor Defense batteries could be brought to bear on it. Fortunately this contingency had been foreseen and Battery F, 105th Field Artillery Battalion was ready as a roving battery to meet the situation. One 75mm gun from this battery was immediately dispatched from Fort MacArthur and emplaced on Redondo Pier in a position from which it could open fire on the disabled vessel. Ten rounds were fired at the submarine before decreasing visibility made further firing impracticable. All traces of the submarine had disappeared the next morning. The general belief is that the sub was sunk. For its action against the submarine, Battery F, 105th FA was officially commended in General Orders No. 6, Headquarters Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles, dated 7 July 1945."

    Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles in World War II
    Monett, John R., Lester Cole and Jack C. Cleland, 1945
    Reprinted: San Pedro Bay Hist. Soc. Shoreline Vol. 12, No. 1 (Aug. 1985) pp 1—40).

    I question the conclusions that the sub was sunk. Seems like an awful lot of overlap of unneeded coverage. No sign of a full-size sunken submarine, foreign or domestic, has ever been found off the coast of Redondo, nor any parts thereof washing up on shore.(see) There was a ton of debris from the barge that floated up, however.

    The Japanese submarine I-19, known to have been the sub involved in the torpedo attack off Point Fermin that day, went on to kill again before its actual overall utimate demise on November 25, 1943. It is officially recorded as racking up considrable damage and sinking of a number of other vessels prior to that demise --- and not just unarmed freighters either. For example, on September 15, 1942, the I-19 fired a half dozen torpedoes at the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, two of which hit and sank her. The remainder of the four torpedos hit and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina as well as the destroyer USS O'Brien which sank later.

    FOOTNOTE [2]

    The depth of my mother's illness seemed to increase almost exponentially from practically negligible to extremely serious almost overnight. As she became more and more immobilized my father began to farm us boys out to others on a more-or-less regular basis. We went from conventional short term babysitting during the day to being with our grandparents overnight or to others several days a week, as my father continued --- because of mounting medical expenses --- to put more and more working hours in to make ends meet. Before the end of the war, sometime near the end of the year 1943 and before the death of my mother, my father placed me --- but not my brothers --- with a foster couple, with me then, not returning to Redondo Beach until right after the war. See:


    Their Life and Times Together

    FOOTNOTE [3]

    Sometime after my mother died my father remarried. My new mother or Stepmother as the case may be, was planning to see a man she knew that was in a hospital in Santa Barbara and asked me if I wanted to go with her. She said he was a longtime friend and was recuperating after having been in the army. Since it was in a hospital in Santa Barbara that I last saw my mother alive, and being it could be the same hospital, I jumped at the chance to go. I also wanted to see the place I saw the Japanese seaplane being pulled out of the water and talked my stepmother into taking me there. The whole of the pier remained seemingly unchanged, even the crane-like boom that lifted the plane onto the dock was still there.

    In those days it was just a few years after World War II and lots of veterans were still recuperating and since my stepmother said the man had been in the army and was in the hospital I just connected the two together. I am not sure what the nature of her business with the man was, but basically I just thought it was an honorable thing to see a veteran in the hospital.

    How little I knew. I remember he was introduced as Johnny. Years later I found out "Johnny" was a bigtime member of the mob named Johnny Roselli. While it is true he had been in the army, having gone in on December 4, 1942 at age 37, he only served until he was arrested on federal charges March 19, 1943. On December 30, 1943 he was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. On Aug. 13, 1947, after serving roughly three and a half years Roselli was paroled. So when my stepmother and I saw him in the hospital he may have been recuperating alright, but not from the army, but prison.

    A few years later Roselli was instrumental in ensuring my older brother was safe from any undue harm at the hands of a freight yard railroad bull. See:


    FOOTNOTE [4]

    Harris said later in the day radio news broadcasts reported that a Japanese two-man submarine had been sighted off the coast of Redondo and was destroyed. There is not much stopping news going out over the radio at first, but before it can be repeated it can be. Blocking it from appearing in newpapers the next day was well within the purview and abilities of the military.

    As for the midget submarines, the units were designated as tokkotai (short for tokubetsu kogekitai and meaning "special attack units"). Crewmembers clearly understood that there would be little likelihood of survival as they wrote last letters to their family members. Even though the mother submarine would try to rendezvous with the midget submarine after the attack crewmembers knew that no mother submarine successfully recovered a crewman from a launched midget. (source)

    To see an example of how it is within the realm of reality for radio and newspaper reports can be blocked or eliminated in the name of security by the military or other authorities when need be during nearly the same era and under similar circumstances, click HERE.

    The sunken World War I German U-boat off Long Beach in the channel between Catalina Island and the mainland, the UB-88, is mentioned rather extensively in the main text. There is a little extra interest on my part because one of the dive team members mentioned in the UB-88 page linked is a man by the name of G. Pat Macha. Although he is listed as a dive member his major area of interest is aircraft wrecks in the mountains and deserts of the American west, and of which he is an unequaled master. Macha finding a crashed C-47 in the San Bernadino mountains as a 16 year old boy led to answering a lot of questions for me about a C-47 painted in the tan colors of the German Afrika Korps found stashed away on a remote abandoned air strip in Nevada in 1944.

    For those who may be so interested in seeing how it all ties together please see Footnote [7] of The German Submarine Attack on Hoover Dam.

    My research reveals the full name of Bob Bell, the diver attested to in the articles for having found the Japanese submarine, was one Robert Vaughn Bell (1924-1997). Bell lived a rich and varied life, and of which the submarine find was just an integral part of it. He was a highly decorated World War II veteran having joined the Army the day after Pearl Harbor at age 17. After the war he worked as a deep sea diver in the Philippines, Mexico, Eniwetok and California. At the time of the find, 1959, at age 35, he was a partner in a California based industrial diving service called the Blue Water Diving & Towing Company operating out of Long Beach. In later years, paralleling Louis L'Amour, he went on to be a rather succesful author of several books with an old west or cowboy theme.(see) As to the submarine, why Bell, a highly qualified and certified salvage diver --- or anybody else for that fact --- after all these years, never raised it from the bottom or even bothered to photograph or video is not known with any amount of certainty. Personally, I think it may have been moved. Bell had a niece he was close to and, although the two lived on opposite sides of the country and she only visited him on occasion, over the years they kept an on-going regular long term communication relationship between each other. In an attempt to find out what happened to the sub myself, Bell's niece, in an email, wrote the following in in October 2003 regarding the submarine:

    "A long time ago, when Uncle Bob was in the salvage business (I believe this was part of the diving partnership), he located a Japanese sub sunk off the coast of Long Beach and was seeking permission from our government in order to raise it. The government, I was told, said that this was an impossibility, and I don't know what transcended from that point."

    FOOTNOTE [5]

    British historian Chris Owen in The Battle of Cape Lookout writes:

    In January 1943, the United States Army and Navy had set up a Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC) to catalogue enemy Naval and merchant shipping losses during the war. The Air Force was part of the Army at the time, although it did have its own representative on JANAC. Using PoW reports, intelligence sources and bombing reports it put together a comprehensive index of enemy war losses. After the defeat of Japan, the US Navy and British Admiralty jointly conducted a major survey of the Japanese Navy.

    Both eventually produced reports on enemy losses, the Admiralty in June 1946 and the Navy Department in February 1947. 3 The two reports overlapped considerably but each published different levels of detail. Both reports identify the vessels sunk and the date. The British report gives the identity of the ship(s) or aircraft responsible for the sinking, but only a vague location. The American report gives a precise latitude/longitute location but only a general category of sinking agent (e.g. "ship", "aircraft", etc.) By cross-referencing the two, it is possible to identify who sank which submarines, with exact details of where and when.

    (No) vessel is recorded by either the British or American naval authorities as having been sunk off the West Coast of the United States at any time during the war. Almost every Japanese submarine was accounted for. Of the 130 Japanese submarines destroyed during World War II, the cause of destruction of only five was never determined. Of those, the location of only one remained unknown, the RO.35, lost sometime during June 1942. Its cause of sinking was described as an "operational accident" but where and when this happened was not determined by the Allies in their contemporary reports. According to Lt Cdr Shizuo Fukui of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the RO.35 was sunk in October 1943 in the Solomon Islands.

    NOTE: Not all records reflect reality. There are potential caveats to the above about NO Japanese Submarines sunk off the West Coast of the United States as found at the bottom of Footnote [3] of Secret Japanese Submarine Bases on the Pacific West Coast. See also: