"On Monday morning July 16, 1945, the world was changed forever when the first atomic bomb was tested in an isolated area of the New Mexico desert.
"The selection of this remote location in the Jornada del Muerto Valley for the Trinity test was from an initial list of eight possible test sites. Besides the Jornada, three of the other seven sites were also located in New Mexico: the Tularosa Basin near Alamogordo, the lava beds south of Grants, and an area north of Thoreau. Other possible sites were located outside of New Mexico, an Army training area in the Mojave Desert north of Blythe, California; on Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico south of Corpus Christi, Texas; the San Luis Valley of south- central Colorado, near Great Sand Dunes National Monument. Last but not least, San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California."
TRINITY ATOMIC WEB SITE
In the very early throes of World War II the United States found their military machine fighting two formidable foes in a variety of far flung highly divided parts of the world, while all at the same time the enemy was being busy setting the stage for the what, when, where and how of the hostilities. In order to take charge, end the war, and/or win outright, the U.S. needed something way more formidable than the enemy was themselves --- or anything they had at their disposal. An end the war weapon.
Top of the list was the then little known, never before built nor never before tested theoretical weapon called the atomic bomb. The U.S. brain trust that was eventually put together to design such a weapon knew that once constructed, before it could ever be used formally, some form of the weapon would have to be tested --- and that any test would have to be done in some isolated spot without prying eyes, with minimal concern for destruction and radioactive fallout. Top secret at the time, several locations were suggested, of which one was San Nicolas Island, the most remote of the California Channel Islands.
When the U.S. became involved on a formal level in World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, I was living with my mother, father, and two brothers in our original family home in a small community along the southern California coast called Redondo Beach. Although San Nicolas Island typically wasn't visible from the bluffs near my house because of the distance, being somewhat over 73 miles almost due west and a little south away, on a clear day you could see several of the other channel islands. Even though we were aware of them, seldom were we ever concerned with them. Little did we know how tied in with the channel islands, especially San Nicolas, we would become.
On the weekend between the first and second full week of the first October to come up after the start of the war, one of my brothers had a birthday. Because the future was so unsure in those days, and scary besides, my parents decided to throw him the very best surprise party they could while time and circumstances would still allow it. To pull off the surprise required my brothers and me to be out of the house while it was being decorated and guests, friends and kids secretly arrived.
To accomplish such a feat without raising suspicions was relatively easy. My dad simply took the three of us down to the shoreline to walk along the sand, which in most cases was not all that unusual. However, no sooner had we reached the waters edge, rather than hunt moonstones north of the pier which was typical in those days if we weren't swimming, we worked our way south and under the pier to see a highly-muted town event, a two-man Japanese midget submarine that had only just washed up on shore. In that the sub was roped off blocking any formal access from the front, to get to it my dad took us along a narrow strip between the Horseshoe Pier and the rocks, crossing under the pilings of the straight pier along the water line and onto the beach. When we reached the sub, which was more-or-less tilted to one side, he lifted me up and I was able to look inside through an open hatch.
A handful of well armed GIs, at least if not toting rifles packing side arms, whose job it was to apparently guard the submarine in some fashion from incorrigibles or worse, had repositioned themselves some distance from the immediate vicinity of the sub to the somewhat more palatable sidewalk above the beach next to the pier in order to interact with a few of the more viable members of the local female population. Eventually one of the GIs saw us climbing all over the sub and waved us off.
A few days before, within minutes of the midget submarine being spotted 500 yards off the Redondo Beach pier, a half a dozen airplanes dropped bombs from her last known position to all along her suspected path of travel. Two days later the sub, although virtually undamaged, washed up on shore. The date of the event has been reported as being October 4, 1942 although it doesn't really matter much as the bombing occurred in October, 1942 and I personally saw the midget submarine within days of it washing up on the beach --- and I remember seeing it quite clearly with my dad --- and we were there that day because we had to be out of the house for my brother's birthday.
ANYONE KNOWING REDONDO WOULD RECOGNIZE THE COLOR PHOTO ON THE RIGHT AS BEING ALONG THE ESPLANADE
(for more on the Redondo Beach midget submarine click either image)
Early in World War II the Imperial Japanese Navy dispatched nine over 350 foot long Type B-1 aircraft equipped long range submarines along the Pacific west coast, each strategically located in areas considered best suited to attack shipping lanes most commonly used by American merchantmen. The nine submarines (in numerical order) and locations were:
- I-9 Cape Blanco, Oregon
- I-10 San Diego, California
- I-15 San Francisco Bay, California
- I-17 Cape Mendocino, California
- I-19 Los Angeles Harbor, California
- I-21 Estero Bay, California
- I-23 Monterey Bay, California
- I-25 Columbia River, marks the border dividing Washington state and Oregon
- I-26 Strait of Juan de Fuca, U.S. and Canada international boundary
During the first few months of the war almost all nine of the Japanese submarines were involved in some sort of action, either major or minor, against the U.S. Pacific coast. Four of those nine spent a good part of their time prowling in California waters, with two of those four concentrating their primary efforts against targets in Southern California. The highest profile of those efforts were set into motion by the I-17 and the I-19, both of which attacked targets right along the coast where I lived.
Although Japanese submarines had started hitting targets in central and northern California a few days before, the first to show her colors near my house was the 1-19 when on Christmas day 1941 she struck against two unarmed American merchant ships. The initial target of the I-19 was the lumber schooner Barbara Olson headed toward San Diego, and secondly, later in the day, not far from San Pedro in the Catalina Channel off Point Fermin, she struck the S.S. Absaroka a 5,695-ton American lumber carrier owned by the McCormick Steamship Company.(see)
The second of the two high profile incidents occurred on the night of February 24, 1942, when at 7:15 PM the I-17 rose up out of the depths of Pacific just along the shoreline off the little town of Goleta, 12 miles north of Santa Barbara, California. Totally unchallenged, for a full 25 minutes, the I-17 unleashed 25 heavy-duty rounds from her five-inch deck gun into the Ellwood oil refinery.
In reference to that shelling of Goleta, please take note of the graphic below. Along the upper right hand edge there is a drawing outlining the North American Pacific west coast ranging from just above Vancouver to below Baja. The location of Santa Barbara and the Ellwood refinery is clearly marked with a small darkened circle as well as Japanese writing in bold script. Somewhat above the heavier or bolder script is a lighter script with a small circle on the coastline apparently marking Cape Mendocino, the area of operation the I-17 was assigned. Lower down is another circle with Japanese writing apparently indicating the location of the city of Los Angeles.
I-17 GUN CREW SHELLING THE ELLWOOD OIL REFINERY
(please click image)
About four months later, on the nights of June 21-22, 1942, another submarine borne attack occurred against U.S. soil, only not in California, but Oregon. This time it was the I-25. She unleashed 17 rounds from her deck gun toward Fort Stevens, a military installation initially constructed to guard the mouth of the Columbia River.
Then, on September 9, 1942, the I-25, taking advantage of a radar gap of over 400 miles that existed along the coast between Fort Bragg, California and Cape Perpetua, Oregon, launched another attack, only this time from the air.
On Wednesday morning, September 9, 1942, the I-25 surfaced west of Cape Blanco, Oregon, and launched her seaplane piloted by Chief Flying Officer Nobuo Fujita. Fujita flew southeast over the coast, dropping incendiary bombs on Mount Emily, 10 miles northeast of Brookings.
The next day, September 10, 1942, an Army Air Force maritime patrol bomber out of McChord Field in Tacoma, Washington flown by Capt. Jean H. Daugherty, 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 a whole bomb bay of explosives on her (some reports cite anywhere from 3 to 10 depth charges unleashed by the bomber). Why the lack of damage to the sub? Although not always reported to its fullest extent, what really happened can be found in the paragraph below from the source so cited:
"Captain Daugherty had not been on search for more than an hour when he spotted a sub. It was typical of the good hunting luck that the small Texan with the fighting heart was to enjoy throughout his career with the Group; it was also an all-time record for colossal snafus. Captain Daugherty made a two-mile run, opened his bomb bay and released his bombs. All were near misses which would probably have decided the issue permanently, but, unfortunately, in the excitement of the chase, he had forgotten to arm them. Returning to strafe, he swooped in again and the gunner, Sgt. Robert Strempeck, strapped in his turret, got his bead and was set to squeeze his triggers when he discovered that there were no barrels in the guns!"(source)
A few days later, the I-25, 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 a two-man midget sub. The sub was apparently transfered from an armed merchant ship or commerce raider, with all fingers pointing to the Japanese transport ship Hakusan Maru, her decks bristling with anti-aircraft guns and being escorted at the time in the open seas south of the Aleutians by the Japanese submarine RO-64, both vessels operating out of the occupied island of Kiska, Alaska. Kiska being at the time a major hotbed of midget submarine activity.
The midget sub, which had a short range of operation, typically carried only two crew members and had to be launched from a mother ship, of which the I-25 had the capability of being. The midget sub, after being offloaded from he Hakusan Maru and securely mounted on the aft deck of the I-25, it was transported southward, eventually being left in the shadow of one of California's channel islands, most likely Santa Barbara Island, 45 miles off the southern California coast or San Nicolas located 75 miles due west of the Los Angeles/Redondo Beach coastline. 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.
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 she is said to have departed the Oregon coast for Yokosuka, Japan arriving October 24, 1942 for overhaul.
It was during the 20-day span that lapsed between the September 9th aerial attack on the U.S. mainland in Oregon and the second one on September 29th, that the I-25 embarked on an extremely top secret mission involving the release of the midget submarine that ended up being bombed off Redondo October 4, 1942.
Many people have come forward suggesting that the real reason behind the unusual 20 day gap the I-25 went missing was because she was damaged in the depth charge attack and holed up somewhere while they implemented real or makeshift repairs. The problem with such a scenario is, as I've purposely reported above, at the time of the incident no amount of significant damage could have been inflicted on the I-25. Not only had Daugherty not even armed the munitions he dropped, hence they wouldn't, couldn't, or didn't explode, not one of the not-armed explosive devices so dropped were direct hits. Then, when he swung the plane back around to at least strafe the sub there were no barrels in the machine guns. Not only did the I-25 not take any bullets, there weren't even any dents. The I-25 escaped without a scratch.
My Uncle, who I cite often in my works, and who was so predominant in my early childhood and upbringing, was not only a fairly well established artist in the Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico area, he was also as well, what I call a biosearcher. Prior to his death in 1989, as a biosearcher, he had 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, not long after the war started, as he had been doing for years, war or not, he was out biosearching alone, only this time chosing for his location for no particular reason, an area in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like terrain in the central section of New Mexico, somewhere somewhat south of Los Alamos 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, both Asian, which was super unusual considering where they were and the time period we are talking about. 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 had a chance one of the men shot him in the back. They took his truck and although they left him to bleed to death, he survived.
In 1985 a book titled The Japanese Secret War authored by Robert K. Wilcox was published. In the book, completely independent of anything that happened to my uncle or what he told me, Wilcox, in his own research, writes about two Japanese spies doing soil testing in Arizona and New Mexico and the U-boat they arrived in, all of which I in turn write about as found in the source 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."(source)
Wilcox, through plain old fashioned leg work, all the while being totally unaware of my uncle's experiences, was eventually able to piece together a sizable amount of unraveled loose ends that once weaved together revealed that in 1943 the Axis Powers had assembled a highly secret Spanish-Japanese espionage ring whose at least one purpose was to conduct reconnaissance in the U.S. desert southwest in an attempt to determine if the U.S. had as of then, detonated an atomic bomb.
The Spanish part of it involved a high level Spaniard working for the Germans as a spy. Wilcox, who interviewed the Spaniard, writes that he told him that early on in the U.S. nuclear program, as a spy, he had become aware of the Manhattan Project and from there had discovered the existence of the eastern branch of the effort, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was determined that a third branch of the U.S. nuclear program was located somewhere in the American desert southwest and purposely so for the actual testing of a device. Because of that he arranged for two Japanese operatives to board a U-boat somewhere in Europe and from there they journeyed to the Pacific coast of Mexico where the Japanese were put ashore. There they were, as said by the spy, to have hiked overland to Arizona into New Mexico taking soil samples to test for radioactivity.
Even though my hometown of Redondo Beach 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, as I write in the opening paragraphs at the top of the page, 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. In World War II Comes To Redondo, I write:
"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 warrant such a mission either."
Which brings us back around full circle, the WHY. Why in 1942 was a Japanese two-man midget submarine plying the waters of Southern California?
Actually, for the answer you have to take all that is woven throughout what I've written thus far, including the footnotes, but most especially so starting with the opening quote at the very top of the page. You need to follow where the I-25 was, the RO-64 was, and the Hakusan Maru was. You need to know why my uncle was shot in the back and left to die in the desert south west by Japanese operatives. And you need to know why San Nicolas Island is involved. When you do, the answer is quite simple. To wit:
The I-25, the RO-64, and the Hakusan Maru all had separate missions during the war except for a certain extended moment in time. For a particular roughly 20 day period in September 1942 they all came together to accomplish one single task: deliver efficiently, safely, and on time a two-man midget submarine and her crew to the Channel Islands off the southern California coast.
Why? For two reasons. First, for the same reason my uncle was shot in the back and left to die in a barren, isolated section of New Mexico's desert southwest. Somewhere along the way the Japanese and their German cohorts, both working in some fashion in the development of an atomic bomb became privy to the fact, like I've written in the opening quote at the top of the page, that one of California's channel islands, more specifically San Nicolas Island, was quite possibly going to be used to test a nuclear device, i.e., set off an atomic bomb. Since San Nicolas was an island and islands and the sea were a purview of the Japanese, they took it upon themselves to investigate, and did so by sending a midget submarine into the area. Again, they did so for two reasons, possibly a third if you want to go out on a limb.
If you have read my work on Japanese type B-1 submarines being used as mother ships to transport midget submarines then you would have read that one Herbert Lester, who, along with his family, lived on the island of San Miguel about 40 miles or so off the coast from Santa Barbara.
In an interview with a major journalist conducted in 1942 Lester mentioned he had seen from a distance what looked like a landing party of several men with a strong military bearing (i.e., uniforms and weapons) who had come ashore in an inflatable boat having arrived from an unseen source, possibly a submarine. Cautious not to be seen he got as close as possible and even from the distance of his hidden vantage point he was easily able see the men were Asian, most likely Japanese.
Now, if Lester's sighting of a landing party was in connection with the two man submarine, say scouting the area for a safe place for the midget submarine to hole up or possibly a spot to stash stores including fuel and an electrical generator --- or if the same or similar landing party was scouting other islands in the channel for the same or similar reasons as well is not known. It is known, as far as San Miguel is concerned, on June 18, 1942, one week before the datelined article, Herbert Lester was found shot to death in an isolated section of the island from a bullet emanating from the barrel of his own gun. In that no one knew what Lester knew or saw what Lester saw, in all appearances there was zero chance that any other person or persons could possibly be involved in his death, hence there was no reason not to rule it other than a suicide.
Almost immediately after Lester's death his family abandoned the island leaving it uninhabited. It wasn't until November that the first U.S. military contingent showed up, leaving at least a four month window of the island being totally empty of people and prying eyes. During that exact same period, if you remember, within the 20 day span between the September 9th aerial attack on the U.S. mainland in Oregon and the second one on September 29th that the I-25 embarked on it's top secret mission involving the release of the midget submarine that ended up being bombed off Redondo Beach October 4, 1942.
San Nicolas Island is the most remote of California's Channel Islands. The shortest distance between the mainland and the island is found by measuring a straight line from the mean tide line from the point of Point Mugu on the California coast to a point unnamed that juts out from a northeast portion of the island, a distance that measures out to be several feet over 61 miles. Otherwise, say for example the direct distance over open water from the Redondo Beach pier, San Nicolas is over 73 miles from the coastline while, because of the curve of the topography, the outflow exit to Ballona Creek, eight miles north of Redondo Beach and discussed in a few minutes, is 76 miles over open water from San Nicolas.
The above four graphics, in order left to right, the first shows the distance from Point Arguello to San Miguel Island (40.3 miles); the second the distance from Goleta to San Miguel Island (41.5 miles); the third the distance from Redondo Beach to Santa Barbara Island (45.3 miles); and the fourth the distance from Redondo Beach to San Nicolas Island (76.3 miles), all islands of the Channel Island group off the southern California coast with San Nicolas being the most distant and remote from the mainland. San Miguel Island, as shown in the graphic below, the island Herbert Lester observed the landing party, is a full 114 miles from Redondo Beach.
Of the three islands, Santa Barbara sitting only 45.3 miles off Redondo Beach would appear to be best selection for access to Redondo, although it must be said, even though the midget sub was bombed off Redondo, there is nothing to indicate the sub was doing anything that involved Redondo per se' other than being in transit. Even then it is not known which direction it was going when bombed or where it was coming from or going. The real mystery is why the sub was exposed on or near the surface during mid-morning daylight hours in the first place.
It is my belief that the crew of the two-man submarine had been tasked to do three things. One, covertly investigate San Nicolas Island and test the soil for radioactivity to see if a nuclear device had already been detonated just like the two operatives that shot my uncle were tasked to do in the desert southwest. Secondly, if there was no evidence of a detonation were there activities in place or being put into place such as infrastructure, etc. that would indicate the U.S. was setting up to test such a device. And third, if it hadn't been detonated and it looked like it might be, since no one could be near the device when it was set off, and the island was so small, would it be possible to swipe the device before anybody had a chance to intercede, then set it off somewhere on the mainland.
At one point in my growing up life, more of a young man age than a boy-age, I worked on a marlin boat. The boat, owned by a multi-millionaire heir to an oil fortune was more of a yacht than anything resembling a commercial fishing venture. Actually, the whole marlin-boat-thing was designed to cater toward the multi-millionaire's high rolling friends and customers. The boat originally operated out of San Pedro but the owner had her moved to one of the more up scale yacht harbors in southern California called Marina Del Rey not long after it opened. The boat was there six months out of the year with the rest of year spent in Mexican waters operating out of Cabo San Lucas and when the season dictated it, typically for blue marlin, black marlin, and sailfish. The oil heir lived 100 or so miles north of Marina Del Rey in Santa Barbara and the skipper, who lived in a condo in the marina provided by the boat owner, had life-long ties farther south in the Los Angeles harbor area where the boat was originally moored.
When the skipper was growing up the communities surrounding the L.A. harbor such as Long Beach, San Pedro, and Wilmington were all pretty much wide open Navy towns accompanied by all the usual semi-underbelly trappings. Even though things had changed considerably since the end of the war, pockets of those wide open areas still existed along the fringes of the harbor if you knew where to look, and the skipper did. In that he was initially from there and grew up in and around those pockets he knew where they were and most of the people who inhabited them from the has-beens and derelicts to the yacht owners and their molls.
Although I would be hard pressed to say I hung out in Wilmington a whole lot, I had, however, been in and out of the same areas along the docks and harbor on-and-off a good part of my life starting at a very young age, my father having worked on Liberty ships on Terminal Island during the war. From there I came to know the place fairly well. Even though the boat I worked on, the Twin Dolphin, was owned by David Halliburton Sr. and moored in Marina Del Rey, in that the skipper had life-long deep connections in the Wilmington area and knew the ins-and-outs of the harbor and shipyards intimately, when parts were needed such as bilge pumps and such things he used to send me down into the bowels of the L.A. Harbor/Wilmington area to backstreet boat and ship repair shops to retrieve them. Often times the two of us would go together, and when we did it seems we always ended up in some dive of a dump and/or hanging out after hours in some scroungy closed up for the day boat repair shop drinking beer and bullshitting late into the night.
There was a lot of give and take about the skipper and me and the boat repair guys view of us being sort of "up there Marina Del Rey guys." One night in conversation an old salt interjected he remembered when Marina Del Rey was nothing but a swamp. It was during the early part of the war and he was helping to build Howard Hughes' off limits if not secret airport and aircraft facility in Culver City located along the Pacific Ocean wedged between Ballona Creek on the north and some bluffs on the south --- Ballona Creek being the southern edge of the swamp that was to eventually become Marina Del Rey.
The old salt said to make extra money a lot of the time he and some of his buddies would join the regular security to help patrol the buildings, grounds and outer edges of the nearly 400 acre facility at night. One night, not thinking anything would ever happen, they came across an unconscious badly beaten man laying face down on the airstrip carrying an ID badge identifying him as a Hughes employee. Nearby they found tire tracks leading off the airstrip toward the channel. Within a few minutes one of the men in the group came back saying he spotted a Hughes company flatbed truck with it's lights off across the field halfway down the airstrip between the edge of the airstirp and Ballona Creek. Together the group only had a couple of small flashlights, no walkie-talkies between them, the real security guard being the only one with one, plus the only one with a gun. Before they were able to get close to the truck and with no clue what they were getting into someone shot at them. They all scattered trying to find as much protection as they could out in the middle of a bush-free flat field.
Dropping to the ground the armed guard fired a number of shots toward the far side of the creek opposite the truck where the gunfire seemed to come from. In doing so the old salt telling the story and those with him were able to scoot toward the driver's side of the truck behind the rear wheels and at least be afforded some protection. After a reasonable amount of time with no sounds or signs of movement one of the men in the group pulled open the driver's side door and flipped on the headlights. Just as he did, although it was some distance, in the glare of the headlights westward toward the end of the creek where the exit of the channel was edged on either side by rock-lined jetties that formed the outlet to the sea, they were able to get a clear view of what was later identified as being a two-man midget submarine just about to leave the creek into the open ocean.
The first graphic directly below was taken looking west several years after the Hughes airfield was built, but prior to the construction of Marina Del Rey. The right side of the photo clearly shows the location and closeness of how Ballona Creek flowed pass the north side of the by then fully constructed Hughes airport and aircraft facility as it exited into the Pacific (marked by the arrow). It also depicts the basically flat, farm-like field area that the old salt and his fellow guards needed to cross in order to reach the flatbed truck apparently being used to tow the midget submarine toward the ocean. The second photo is from the opposite side and shows the spot Ballona Creek flows out into the Pacific Ocean. It was taken around the same period of time the old salt was speaking of and where the midget submarine was last seen exiting the creek into the open ocean. The land area just to the right of the creek exit in the first photo (to the left in the second photo) shows the area the old salt called a swamp that in later years would become the location of Marina Del Rey.
LATE 1940s. BALLONA CREEK'S PACIFIC OUTLET, CENTER TOP
(please click image)
BALLONA CREEK WHEN THE OLD SALT WORKED FOR HUGHES
SHOWING THE WEST END WHERE IT EMPTYS INTO THE PACIFIC
The next morning the area was swarming with all kinds of Hughes security and military. Even Hughes himself was there. According to the old salt, what looked like happened was the midget submarine had entered the creek from the ocean and after traveling inland some distance either got stuck or tried to turn around and got stuck. Apparently the sub's crew apprehended a truck and driver out on the runway in the middle of the night and using a fire hose they found pulled the sub loose, turned it around somehow, and were in the process of towing it back down the channel toward the ocean when the old salt, his buddies, and the security guard came across them. An investigation on the other side of the creek channel, the side the shots rang out from, revealed several scuffed foot prints looking all the same as having been left by the same person, a person that seems to have jumped to the edge from some place in the water. Also scattered around on the ground were a handful of empty brass 8mm cartridge shells from a Nambu. It also appeared the sub crew may have had some sort of assist from one or more persons on the north side of the creek as there were tire tracks in the dirt that seemed to have come from a truck that had dual rear wheels as well as boot prints from several different individuals. Who those individuals were or where they went was never learned.
The above map graphically shows the whole of the Los Angeles basin. The long green line more-or-less in the center of the basin depicts the route of the Los Angeles river, starting in the north in San Fernando Valley and flowing south to where it exits out into the Pacific just east of the Los Angeles, Long Beach harbor complex with all of it's man made islands and channels. The short green line on the left or western part of the basin shows Ballona Creek where it starts inland just to the north of the Baldwin Hills to where it flows out into the Pacific a hair south of Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey. The gap toward the east between where Ballona Creek starts near Baldwin Hills and where the Los Angeles River is shown on the right flowing to the south, albeit more toward the L.A. River, is where the greater Los Angeles downtown area is located.
While it is true many Japanese officers had visited the United States at one time or the other with lots of them seemingly having attended colleges and universities in the U.S., not all were experienced in all of it's subtle intricacies. Looking on a map and seeing the L.A. River clearly marked as such doesn't mean it was the Mississippi River. Most of the time it would be hard to operate a radio controlled model boat on large portions of it, let alone transgress it's full extent. I could see why looking at a map, if one was trying to get as close to the center of Los Angeles as possible via a water borne craft and not knowing how un-river like either of the two rivers were, that Ballona Creek would seem the most inviting --- especially the length of travel the L.A. River would require to reach the same spot, without even considering how much protection one would encounter during the war years trying to access the Long Beach, Los Angeles harbor area.
The Japanese knew that the U.S., to ensure against a potential air attack from the Pacific side, at the beginning of the war, proposed to build a network of radar stations covering the full length of the coast from the Canadian border into Baja Mexico. Actually, a total of 72 sites were proposed, of which 65 were eventually built. According to The Radar Dilemma, at the start of the war not much more than ten or so were in place let alone operational, and most of those were pretty much concentrated around Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Within weeks of their attack on Pearl Harbor, and possibly even before, the Japanese began probing U.S. radar capability up and down the Pacific coast, sometimes with clandestine operatives, and had a pretty good handle on where radar coverage was effective and where it was weak or nonexistent. That is why when they did decide to attack the U.S. mainland along the Pacific coast there was such a difference in how each of the attacks were carried out.
The Japanese submarine that shelled the oilfields near Santa Barbara on February 23, 1942, was aircraft equipped. The plane was not launched because the Japanese as well as the submarine captain knew that the radar along that section of the coast was at least adequate. Those involved with the aerial bombing against Mt. Emily in Oregon on September 9, 1942 were well aware, as did their superiors higher up the chain, that a "radar gap" existed along the heavily wooded area of the Oregon coast, especially between Fort Bragg, California and Cape Perpetua, thus allowing unobstructed aircraft penetration.
In a number of places I write that there were plenty of targets in the north around Seattle and San Francisco for both full-size and midget submarines, but 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. Nothing coastal that could have been impacted adversely enough to warrant such a mission either. That is, what we knew about at the time, known conventional targets like battleships and stuff.
Midget submarines were not long range vessels, depending solely on the amount of power of their battery packs, while all along carrying no self contained battery charging abilities. It is not known when, where, or how the midget submarine was maintaining or getting the electrical power needed to continually keep her batteries charged other than possibly a trawler or land generator somewhere.
I bring it up only because all signs point to her as having done an awful lot of traveling in, around, and near the Channel Islands and the mainland just prior to being bombed off Redondo Beach on October 4, 1942. It is my belief she actually had been in the process of measuring the tides, currents, the back-and-forth time and distance between San Nicolas Island and the mainland --- especially so reconnoitering or probing the area along that west facing portion of the coast seeking an access route to get as far inland as possible. As I figure it, with the outcome at hand, the aerial attack on the midget submarine off Redondo Beach would have to had been after the Ballona Creek excursion. All of that traveling begs the question, in that the submarine didn't seem to have a single specific target of interest, what was the sub doing off Redondo Beach, was there a crew on board, which direction was she traveling, or why was she on or near the surface during daylight hours? All questions that have been unable to fully explain away.
While clandestine operatives may have had a pretty good handle on where radar coverage was effective and where it was weak or nonexistent, they would also be able to gather information on the accessibility of Ballona Creek, which in turn would clarify one way or the other if using it to travel inland any distance would be a good idea or not. Additional exploration up and down that portion of the coast may not have been necessary. However, in that what the Japanese was considering was super top secret, and with everybody being considered a double agent, or if caught, being interrogated to death, they were not about to share plans very far outside their immediate food chain.
As for a potential supply trawler plying the waters around the Channel Islands during the early part of the war it wouldn't have been easy. It is known for example that during the first two years or so of the war Stearns Wharf, the pier at Santa Barbara, was closed to the public and for the most part any boats associated with it, falling under the control of the U.S. Navy. The same sanctions pretty much existed up and down the coast. Near the end of those two years, with any apparent imminent threat or danger having seemingly dissipated, control of Stearns Wharf was given over to the Coast Guard. Initially however, area fishing boats, or any boats, were curtailed due to concerns over sabotage and potential fifth column activity. When the boats did go out they were not allowed to stay overnight. By 1943 that restriction had been lifted and boats were able to stay out up to as long as five nights. As for any signs of a ground based generator, large, small, portable or otherwise, to my knowledge no report has ever shown up regarding one being found abandoned or left unattended on any of the islands or off shore in the water. An electrical power generator of Japanese manufacture left on one of the islands in those days or shortly after the war would have most certainly drawn attention. If such a find would have fallen into the need to keep secret category is another thing.
There were of course, a variety of facilities on some of the islands that used power such as lighthouses, personal residences, ranches, etc., that could have been tapped into as sources. The thing is, most of those facilities were situated far enough inland from the ocean or surf line to be basically inaccessible to any ocean going craft or vessel. Besides, by late 1942 most if not all such facilities had either been shut down or rendered inoperative in some fashion as people departed the islands or were forcibly removed, meaning the delivery of fuel, etc., required to operate generators would be curtailed or stopped altogether. At one time I entertained the possibility that the Yokosuka E14Y floatplane found abandoned and drifting around aimlessly in the waters between some of the Channel Islands six months later could have either carried or been modified in some fashion to provide electricity or power to the midget submarine. However, after looking into it later the timing was all wrong.
So, what was going on? Atomic bombs were going on, or at least the potential for atomic bombs. Even though the specifics of the existence of an atomic bomb or the building of one was top secret stuff on the highest level of things, on a wider spectrum of military knowledge it was a given that all three of the major powers in the war, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. and her close allies were all in some manner seriously investigating or in the process of developing and/or building a nuclear weapon. At the get go the U.S. was ahead, with Germany and Japan, at least in the early stages, rather than actual development, trying to find out how far along the U.S. was and steal as much of that information as possible.
Although the central core of the U.S. nuclear program was under a heavy blanket of security throughout the war, from the early beginnings to even afterwards, the farther out the support systems that fed that secret infrastructure tentacled away from that central core the weaker the security became and the more vulnerable those distance edges were to penetration by those seeking to do that penetration. On the U.S. west coast, especially concentrated in the general southern California area, the Japanese had in place, albeit unofficial and highly loose knit, a formidable feedback network. Some of it was innocent and inadvertent, some of it pulled by strings at the top, but in place nonetheless. It wasn't long before one of those penetrated tentacles began leaking tidbits of information that federal officials and the Navy seemed to have more than an extraordinary interest in one of the California channel islands, more specifically, San Nicolas Island. San Nicolas Island was small, barren, uninhabited, and the most remote of the channel islands, so why the hubbub? Filtering the sand of information through the screen of scrutiny the use of San Nicolas eventually narrowed down to only a few things, one of which was being a possible site for a nuclear test.
While the average common American citizen living along the southern California coastline working in a defense plant, building liberty ships, working in a drug store, tending to the carrots and tomatoes in their victory gardens or washing tin cans and saving them along with newspapers for the war effort may have been patently unaware of San Nicolas' importance, the Japanese hierarchy saw it differently.
The Japanese knew that any atomic weapon would most likely eventually take on the form of a bomb capable of being delivered via an aircraft similar to a conventional bomb. However, they also figured, no doubt from their own early explorations into the same area, that any weapon moving from the planning and development stage into an actual test-detonation stage would most likely be a stationary "test stand" type of weapon, with all kinds of monitoring equipment and devices attached or nearby. Of which of course was an assumption that, in the U.S. case anyway, proved to be right on target so to speak.
Below are two graphics depicting the actual U.S. nuclear test device given the name the Gadget as photographed at what would become ground zero, otherwise known as Trinity Site, White Sands, New Mexico. The first graphic shows the Gadget, depicting the relative size and shape as compared against that of the two men standing close by. The second graphic shows the tower the Gadget was installed on. Notice in the first graphic the Gadget can be seen in position at the top of the tower, easily determined because of the New Mexico landscape can be seen stretching out in the background below and behind the two men.
Although the Japanese, being totally in the dark about the size, shape, and weight of an actual test device, they still had a fair idea what they were dealing with. They knew it had to be a size, shape, and weight that was at least transportable in some fashion. They also figured that whatever equipment the U.S. had in place to install the device such as chains, pulleys, transport carts, tracks, roads, etc., most likely would still be place for the Japanese to uninstall and move it. They knew as well there would be no one close by or in the immediate vicinity of the device, possibly even miles around prior to the detonation, leaving a small window, no matter how small, of an opportunity to access the island. So said, their idea was to dispatch a two-man midget submarine to investigate. The Japanese wanted to know if a bomb had already been detonated via soil samples and/or by finding any damaged or destroyed infrastructure or attempt at the removal or cover up of same. If not, were there any signs of impending tests likely to be conducted, i.e., piers, docks, survey marks, equipment, grading, or any other indications of construction, either in the infant stage or leading toward the future.
If the device was going to be tested on San Nicolas Island the Japanese wanted to know. All the reconnoitering, exploring, midget submarining, and investigating was being done for one thing and one thing only. Once a test was a given as a go on San Nicolas the Japanese intended to take advantage of the aforementioned small window and using the already in place installation equipment, remove the device, load it onto some sort of a below the ocean surface operating vessel --- so it would be less likely to be detected --- then ferry it across to the mainland to Ballona Creek. After entering Ballona Creek the idea was to get the device as far inland and as close to the center of downtown Los Angeles as possible, then detonate it. The alternate plan was, if anywhere along the route the mission was compromised in any fashion set the device off immediately and on the spot regardless where it was, even if it had to be blown up conventionally. The Japanese of course, were already deep into working on another alternative, a totally new alternative, one not nuclear in nature, but instead biological in nature, given the codename Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night.
Operation Cherry Blossoms At Night was, along with the midget submarine nuke attack against Los Angeles, just two of eight known plans against the United States by Axis powers. All are covered by going to the graphic-links below and as you will see, except for one, all of the remaining plans came late in the war. They had to because by then they were loosing their edge and on the ropes so to speak. If the Japanese had followed the plan discussed below there may have been a significantly different outcome to the war as found in the following:
On Sunday, November 7, 1937, a major west coast newspaper, at least at the time it was major, the Los Angeles Examiner, had a full page color map of the Earth's northern hemisphere depicting most of the Pacific Ocean from roughly the edge of China's eastern coastline and Japan to about the mid west of the United States, concentrating on Hawaii in the center and down the Alaskan coast, along Canada, the U.S. and Mexico's Baja peninsula. The theme of the article and map was to show that long before the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as early as 1937, all the plans and legwork was being laid down for an attack, and still we were caught off guard. For more, including a huge expandable version of the full color Examiner map click either of the following graphics:
(please click image)
REMEMBER, THE DATE OF THE ARTICLE WAS NOVEMBER 7, 1937
SECRET JAPANESE SUBMARINES BASES ON
THE PACIFIC WEST COAST
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
THE JAPANESE SECRET WAR
THE SINKING OF THE I-12
RALPH A. MULTER
GUNNER'S MATE 3rd CLASS, U.S. NAVY
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so 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.
THE REDONDO BEACH HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Every now and then I get an email from someone who tells me, after having visited the Redondo Beach Historical Museum and carrying on a casual conversation with museum staff mentioning something they recalled from material of mine regarding some aspect of Redondo Beach they came across, it is not always received with full 100% substantiating results --- in other words, it gets pooh-poohed. Max Harris and midget submarine falls into just such a category. See the Tike Karavas link below the quote.
On October 4, 1942, just south of the pier in Redondo Beach a two-man Japanese midget submarine washed up on shore --- 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)
The photograph below depicts the onetime modern interpretive dancer and choreographer Ruth St. Denis caught in motion of an impromptu dance on the sands of Morro Bay in 1916. Seen in the photo is a portion of Morro Rock, an iconic Morro Bay landmark. While in the process of doing research on St. Denis and the Indian sage Swami Ramdas I came across an article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune reporting that in 1941, at the very beginning of World War II, a Japanese submarine launched a torpedo against the Rock, the torpedo exploding in a direct hit.
Although no specific individual date was given for such a bold and blatant attack against such a formidable adversary as Morro Rock, a fairly well guessed time frame of events can be narrowed down because there was only a certain open window of time when Japanese submarines were active along the the hundreds of miles of California coastline that included Morro Bay and Morro Rock, say between Cape Mendocino in the north for example to Point Arguello in the south.
That open window started on December 18, 1941 off Cape Mendocino when the I-17, torpedoed the American freighter Samoa. Four days later, on December 22, 1941, off Point Arguello in the south a second submarine, the I-19, attacked the tankers H.M. Story and Larry Doheny. Following one more attack off the coast near the community of Cambria on the 23rd the window begins to narrow a little on the central California coast with the majority of Japanese submarines operating further south and further north. It is thought it was somewhere between the December 18th date and the December 23 date when the brave Japanese submarine captain unleashed a single torpedo against Morro Rock although the rock remained watertight and didn't sink and has continued to do so right up to this day.
As shown in the illustrated page below, in Rangoon, Burma, on Christmas day December 25, 1941 found the quiet Christmas dinner for the pilots and crews of the Flying Tigers interrupted by the Japanese throwing a slew of 63 bombers escorted by 25 fighters against them. Almost immediately the Flying Tigers were able to scramble 14 P-40s into the air, with the battle ending that day by the A.V.G. having shot down a combination of 35 bombers and fighters with a loss of only five P-40s.
As found in the main text above, on that exact same day, Christmas day, December 25, 1941, a half a world away from Rangoon but practically on top of my home in Redondo Beach, California, a long range aircraft equipped Japanese submarine, the I-19, took up a position in the narrow channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland just off Point Fermin near San Pedro. Laying in wait at periscope depth in sight of the fully operational military installation of Fort MacArthur, without warning, the I-19 unleashed her torpedoes against the unarmed U.S. freighter SS Absaroka. The Absaroka settled up to her main deck within minutes and abandoned. Shortly thereafter the crew reboarded her and a Navy tug towed her to a strip of sand below Fort MacArthur and beached.
The I-19 went on to kill again before its actual overall ultimate demise on November 25, 1943. It is officially recorded as racking up considerable 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 torpedoes hit and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina as well as the destroyer USS O'Brien which sank later.
(for the full Rangoon attack story please click the image)
CLAIRE CHENNAULT AND HIS FLYING TIGERS
THE I-25: TABULAR RECORD OF MOVEMENT, SEPTEMBER 1942
Below is a section extracted from the Tabular Record of Movement (TROM) for the World War II Imperial Japanese Navy submarine, I-25. The TROM data so cited is from material obtained by Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp through their rather extensive research of official Japanese and American sources.
Using the lifetime movements of the I-25 provided through Hackett and Kingsepp's published works, that is, starting from the time the keel was laid for the I-25 to her ultimate demise, I've extrapolated out her reported movements regarding the month of September 1942, as presented below. During that period the I-25 was operating out of her assigned focus area in the Northwest United States around the outlet of Columbia River that marks the border dividing Washington and Oregon states.
Please note that for nearly a complete three week time period, between the dates September 10, 1942 to September 29, 1942 exclusive, after being quite visibly active the first part of the month, the I-25 becomes unaccounted for, disappearing from all available official records.
4 September 1942:
Attacks a transport after sundown, claiming one hit.
7 September 1942:
I-25 arrives off the Port Orford Heads on the Oregon coast in bad weather. The planned bombing is delayed for two days by heavy wave action.
8 September 1942:
September is normally a time of high fire danger for the Oregon coast, but that evening, Brookings, Oregon receives 46/100 inches of rain. (From 16 July until 7 September 1942, Brookings received only 16/100 inches of rain.)
9 September 1942: The First Bombing of the Continental United States:
25 miles W of the Oregon coast. The sea condition calms. I-25 surfaces just before dawn and the Glen is assembled and readied for the attack. Fujita catapults off at 0535 and drops two incendiary bombs near Mount Emily, but the rain has saturated the woods and renders the bombs ineffective. Fujita heads for I-25. On his way back he spots two merchants steaming N at 12 knots. To avoid detection, I-25 moves NNE.
10 September 1942:
A USAAF 42nd Bomb Group Lockheed A-29 "Hudson" maritime patrol bomber on patrol from McChord Field at Tacoma, Washington spots I-25 when some of her crew is on deck, but Cdr Tagami manages to crash-dive. I-25 is at 230 feet when the A-29 drops three 300-lb depth charges. The first one explodes at 80 feet and the others at 100 feet, damaging an antenna lead and causing a leak in the radio room. While Tagami tries to escape seawards, the plane drops seven more DCs, but inflicts no damage.
THREE WEEK GAP
29 September 1942:
Cdr Tagami makes another attempt to start a forest fire in the Oregon woods. I-25 surfaces after midnight about 50 miles west of Cape Blanco. Fujita's plane is launched by catapult at 2107(I). Although the entire western coast of Oregon is blacked out, the Cape Blanco lighthouse is still operating. Using that light to navigate, Fujita flies east over the coast and drops his bombs. At least one starts a fire; however, it goes out before US Forest Service foresters can reach it. The bombing is unsuccessful. On his way back, Fujita manages to find his sub by following an oil slick. During the following days the rough sea and heavy mist permitted no further attacks.
No sooner had the I-25 crossed out of the month of September into the month of October following a three week absence than she jumped headstrong back into the ship sinking business. On October 4, 1942 she torpedoed the 6,653-ton American tanker Camden. Two days later on the 6th she sinks the 7,038-ton American tanker Larry Doheny somewhere south of Cape Sebastian, then officially leaves the area altogether, arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942.
After completion of patrols off the Aleutian Islands during the period August 17 to 26, 1942 the RO-64 returns to Kiska.
In port August 26 to September 4, 1942.
September 5 to 17 1942 patrols off Aleutians.
At this point there is an additional unaccounted for 8 or 9 days before the RO-63 shows up again on record as having returned to Kiska, adding up to a total of 21 days from her departure from port to return.
September 26, 1942 departs Kiska for Maizuru, Japan with RO-63 and RO-68.
October 5, 1942 arrives at Maizuru.
HAKUSAN MARU 1942
The Hakusan Maru was an armed IJN transport ship, her decks bristling with concealed or camouflaged Type 93 13mm duel or double barrel anti-aircraft machine guns having been installed from at least July 1942 onward. It is on record the Hakusan Maru was sunk, not from the air where anti-aircraft machine guns would have been the most effective, but underwater from torpedoes unleashed by the submerged submarine USS Flier on June 4, 1944.
The USS Flier (SS-250) was a World War II Gato-class submarine. In 2010 Rebekah J. Hughes wrote a book titled Surviving the Flier, a book she was compelled to write after having met a former, and last, crewmember of the Flier through her role as a curator and exhibit designer for the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.
On the Flier's first war patrol in May 1944, en route from Pearl Harbor to her assigned battle area around Luzon, the Philippines, she is given credit for attacking and sinking the Hakusan Maru. Tracking the early movements of the Hakusan Maru leading up to her eventual June 4, 1944 sinking, Hughes writes the following, as found at the source so cited:
"Spring of 1942, Hakusan, with a bunch of other ships, headed from Mutsu Bay to Kiska Island Alaska. She was carrying troops to invade America, and her troops would actually win. That's right, it's a little known fact that the USA was successfully invaded and occupied during WWII. Not much of it, and we took it back, but still, America was invaded.
"Hakusan apparently did two round trips in the summer of 1942, dropping off men and supplies, ending in 2 August. I found no more records of her for the rest of 1942.
"The next time I found records of her, she's in Palau(February 3, 1943, six months later), heading for New Guinea, then Japan, back to Palau, Balikpapan, Yokosuka (her home port before this mess) then doing a number of routes between Truk and Rabaul, Yokosuka, then back to Rabaul."(source)
Take notice that during the period I have designated above as a Three Week Gap for the I-25, that all three vessels, the I-25, the RO-64, and the Hakusan Maru, immediately prior to the start of that three week period were operating in the same general area (i.e., in the open waters well south of the Gulf of Alaska) and, according to records, all went missing at the exact same time during the exact same period ending up all together approximately half way between the Aleutian island of Kiska and the North American west coast somewhere near the Campbell Seamount. The reason for the three week gap of course was for the meeting of the three and the physical transference of the midget submarine from the decks of the Hakusan Maru to the aft deck of the I-25 for the then delivery thereof south to the vicinity of one of the channel islands off the coast of southern California.
For the record, scratch the surface even a tiny bit and you will soon find there has been a minimum of three different occasions that a Japanese transport ship with the name Hakusan Maru met her ultimate demise during the war, not taking into consideration one fully functioning one having made it completely through the war unscathed only to be scrapped shortly after the war. However, the one we are interested in is the one Rebekah Hughes writes about above that after the date August 2, 1942 there is no more record of her until she shows up in Palau the next year on February 3, 1943 --- a FULL six months later. During that six months absence in the record sometime during the very early stages of the three week period from September 10, 1942 to September 29, 1942, around September 12-15, she met up with the I-25.(see)
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, after-which it was getting low on, or had no torpedoes, as well as running low on fuel and provisions. It is my belief the I-25, after launching the two-man sub on or near one of the Channel Islands she continued south to the La Palma Secret Base located in the estuaries near Acacoyagua, Chiapas, Mexico as seen and reported on by American espionage agent, spy, and movie actress Rochelle Hudson.
There the I-25 refueled and took on supplies --- then returned north, of which for one would think was to retrieve the midget sub and/or pick up it's crew. However, on September 29th the I-25 was back in northwest waters, having bypassed both Redondo Beach and the Channel Islands because it is a known fact she launched a plane carrying incendiary bombs to set fire to the Oregon forests on that same date. Then, a few days later, on October 4, the same day the midget submarine was bombed off Redondo, the I-25 torpedoed the 6,653-ton American tanker Camden in Oregon waters. Two days after that, on the 6th, she sank the 7,038-ton American tanker Larry Doheny somewhere south of Cape Sebastian, then departed the Pacific west coast altogether, arriving in Yokosuka, Japan October 24, 1942.
The big question of the day, at least as I view it is: WAS the crew and midget sub left out to dry or had the I-25 picked up the crew on the way back north from the Las Palmas secret base leaving the sub abandoned only to end up being bombed and left floating unmanned off Redondo Beach? Although it is known the I-25 as a mother ship had the ability to launch a midget sub it isn't clear that she could actually pull one out of the water safely and reattach it on her aft deck. Hence, if such was the case, crew or not, the sub would have to be left, albeit most likely scuttled.
A couple of days after the two-man Japanese midget submarine washed up on shore just south of the Redondo Beach pier it disappeared without a trace. In December 1959, seventeen years after the sub disappeared, a Long Beach based 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 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.
"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.'"
In August 1946, just one short year after the war and long before Bob Bell's find (which may or may not be the same sub), a former Navy hard hat diver named Glen Dean 'Tonga' Stainbrook 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 quote him as saying that on one of his dives he found four skeletons, all carrying Japanese identification.
"In Footnote  I go on to say that in 1975 I caught up with Stainbrook to discuss his find and anything else I could learn in hopes of determining if the sub was a two man midget sub or not. Just as I suspected, the number of skeletons found in the sub as reported in the newspaper articles wasn't accurate. In conversation the number of skeletons dropped from four to two, then none. Where the newspapers got the numbers from he wasn't sure. He says he didn't remember talking about skeletons at the time, but once it was printed and out there he just let it ride, although he was sure there was a retraction printed at onetime."
The source for any of the previously mentioned relevant newspaper articles, footnotes, etc., can be found by clicking HERE.
GLADWIN HILL, HERBERT LESTER, AND SAN MIGUEL ISLAND 1942:
An article datelined June 23, 1942 was published under the banner of the Santa Barbara News Press written by famed journalist Gladwin Hill. In the article, done sometime previous to the dateline, Hill interviewed one Herbert Lester who, along with his family lived on the island of San Miguel 40.3 miles south of Point Arguello and 41.5 miles south west of Goleta.
In the published interview by Hill, although it doesn't show up in the article, possibly being censored because of the war or by Hill himself not wanting to frighten the mainland folk, Lester mentioned he had seen from a distance what looked like a landing party of several men with a strong military bearing (i.e., uniforms and weapons) who had come ashore in an inflatable boat having arrived from an unseen source, possibly a submarine. Cautious not to be seen he got as close as possible and even from the distance of his hidden vantage point he was easily able see the men were Asian, most likely Japanese. The way they were searching the area and pacing off the shoreline et al, it looked all the same as though they were trying to locate a secure or safe landing spot or possibly an anchorage for a larger vessel.
Many years after the war I interviewed Gladwin Hill in his home located on a set of curvy roads just north of the end of Fairfax in the Hollywood Hills. It was during that interview Hill told me about the landing party Herbert Lester saw that he, Hill, left out of the article.
I only bring it up because a lot of folk have contacted me over the years insisting that during the time period I talk about Hill interviewing Lester couldn't be so because Hill was in Europe reporting on the war. The logic being, if Hill was in Europe he couldn't have interviewed Lester and if he couldn't have interviewed Lester then Lester could never have told him about any World War II Japanese landing party on San Miguel or anyplace else.
The quoted paragraph below appears in a publication titled Oral History Interview With Gladwin Hill, Journalist an interview conducted by Carlos Vasquez for the Oral History Program, University of California, Los Angeles from October 22, November 25, and December 21, 1987, pages 30-31. In that interview by Vasquez, Hill states the following:
"Anyway, right after Pearl Harbor, the AP got scared that the Japs were going to invade the West Coast. They needed more people in the bureau here in Los Angeles, so they sent me out from New York. I came out early in '42 and worked in the bureau here. And of course the Japanese did not invade, so I was kind of a fifth wheel in the bureau, doing features and a lot of Hollywood things. [I] had a fine time for about six months, and then decided that with a war going on, if you were going to be in the big league, you had better be a war correspondent. So I told New York I wanted to be a war correspondent. So, about August of '42, I went to Europe."
Oral History Interview With Gladwin Hill, Journalist
THE LEGENDARY KING OF SAN MIGUEL ISLAND
BY GLADWIN HILL, SANTA BARBARA NEWS PRESS, JUNE 23, 1942
"While it is true many Japanese officers had visited the United States at one time or the other with lots of them seemingly having attended college in the U.S., not all were experienced in all of it's subtle intricacies."
As a young boy during World War II if I wasn't listening to Captain Midnight on the radio, working in the Victory Garden, or collecting tin cans for the war effort I was reading comic books, lots and lots of comic books. There was one specific comic book that showed up late in the war that carried a series of stories in it that combined almost all of my fantasies, Cowboys, Indians, the military and P-40 fighters --- all lumped together around one central character, Tommy Tomahawk.
Tommy Tomahawk, as written, was a college educated Native American fighter pilot who led a highly rough and tumble group of other Native American pilots a la Greg Boyington's Black Sheep squadron, who, using Army Air Corps marked P-40 Tomahawks, albeit painted in the colors of the Flying Tigers, battled furiously in the Pacific Theater and/or southeast Asia against the Japanese onslaught during World War II. Below is page three of a multi-page online story about Tommy Tomahawk that has been specifically selected out because, as you can see in the top second panel the Japanese pilot, in conversation with Tommy Tomahawk, says he speaks English so well because he is a graduate from a college in the west, Class of 1938.
TOMMY TOMAHAWK P-40 TOMAHAWK SQUADRON
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I was very young when my mother died. Prior to her death she was quite ill, her health slowly deteriorating over several years. During those years it became more and more difficult for my father to care for my mother as well as take care of three young boys. In so saying he decided to investigate the possibility of placing her in 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, California. The day my father went to see the facility he took my mother and me along. While we were there the three of us went down to the Santa Barbara pier, known as Stearns Wharf in those days. Somewhere along one edge of the pier was a crane-like boom that was in the process of pulling 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 behind 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 that I was aware of. Years later I would identify the plane being lifted onto the dock as a Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane, especially so in that the aircraft was fairly typical of the type plane carried by the long range Imperial Japanese Navy I-Class Type B-1 submarines.
Even though I was young kid and not able to purely identify the plane at the time I still knew what the red meatball insignias meant. The enemy. I remember asking my dad how such a plane, that is, one that belonged to the bad guys, ended up being put onto a waiting flatbed trailer on the dock in Santa Barbara. With no verbal response he just quietly shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as having no clue.
The Office of the State Historian, State Records Center & Archives, under the banner of New Mexico History.org has an article related to a Japanese internment camp that existed in Lordsburg, New Mexico during World War II. On their internment camp page, speaking of two individuals, the following can be found:
"Perhaps the most remarkable incident during the stay of the Japanese came about through the Army's mistake of sending some prisoners of war captured overseas to the camp. Rumors went around that these were the men who had shelled Santa Barbara, California. They had their heads shaved in Japanese military fashion, and the internees hailed them as heroes, going so far as to run a Japanese flag over their barracks. It was a tense time at the camp."
Lordsburg Internment POW Camp
The submarine that attacked U.S. soil near Santa Barbara was done by the Japanese submarine I-17. The I-17 got away scot free, not hit, captured, or bombed. Neither was any of the crew. From March 1st through the 12th the I-17 wreaked havoc all along the central California coast to north of San Francisco before returning to Japan. After that she fought all over the Pacific not reaching her ultimate fate until October 24, 1943 off Australia after being depth charged by U.S. Kingfisher floatplanes operating out of New Caledonia. Four, possibly six crew members were said to have survived and been picked up by a ship of the New Zealand navy. After the four to six crew men were picked up it is not clear what happened to them specifically as the record becomes murky. However it isn't likely those survivors, having been pulled out of the sea off Australia by the New Zealand navy, shaved heads or not, would have ever made it clear to New Mexico and Lordsburg.(source)
Lordsburg was an internment camp whose primary purpose, right or wrong, was to house Japanese American citizens or U.S. inhabitants of Japanese descent during the war. It was never designed nor intended initially to house battle hardened military POWs, that's why I find it so interesting that two, and only two, actual war-duty veteran fighters were confined there.
There is a very good possibility that the two captured overseas Japanese POWs being held at the Lordsburg internee camp, if not crew from the midget sub, were pilot and crew member of the Yokosuka E14Y Floatplane that was found floating abandoned in the channel islands off Santa Barbara. The plane was said to have a damaged or broken propeller (i.e., couldn't fly) and since the plane was abandoned, the question is who abandoned it and what happened to them?
As for any relation of the floatplane to the midget submarine, it is highly unlikely because of the timing. Midget submarines were not long range vessels, depending solely on the amount of power of their battery packs, while all along, at least in the early years of the war, carrying no self contained battery charging abilities. It is not known when, where, or how the midget submarine was maintaining or getting the electrical power needed to continually keep her batteries charged other than possibly a trawler or land generator somewhere although no record of either has surfaced. Surfaced or not, the Japanese were willing to go to any extreme to complete their mission whatever extreme that may have been.
Excessive ways to deliver and use of fuel (for power or otherwise) to complete a mission during wartime would not be unprecedented. A good example was the U.S. effort to bomb Japan from India during World War II under the codename Operation Matterhorn. The U.S. built rear staging bases in India and forward operating bases in China. From India they used B-29s to ferry fuel over the hump to fuel B-29s in China to strike against Japan. The delivery of the fuel by the B-29s from India to China and back took almost as much fuel used to deliver it.
B-29 IN INDIA SUPPORTING OPERATION MATTERHORN. PAINTING BY PETER HURD
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Although the abandoned midget submarine that ended up floating in the surf along the beach next to the pier in Redondo disappeared before it could be scrutinized or logged in by neutral or reachable official parties, by most reliable descriptions as well as my own memory, it had all outward appearances of being a designated IJN Type A midget submarine. In that there is no way of actually knowing, she could have been a single one-off or modified Type A designed specifically for the mission it was assigned --- that is to say, possibly longer range, quicker, or carrying a generator charging system of some sort. It should be recalled from the main text above the "old salt" and other witnesses with him later clearly identified the vessel they saw exiting Ballona Creek as being a two-man midget submarine, and by default, most likely Japanese.
Standard Type A's were approximately 80 feet in length, carried two 17.7 inch by 18 feet 5 inch torpedoes, a crew of two, and propelled by a single-shaft 600 h.p. electric motor powered by 208 trays of two volt cells, 136 trays aft, 72 trays forward with an estimated endurance of about 12 hours before needing to be recharged (some sources cite Type A battery specifications as being 192 trays of two two-volt cells each, 136 forward, 56 aft). Type A's carried no generator and required recharging by a mother submarine or tender. At top speed (26 mph on the surface, 22 mph submerged) the submarine's battery charge would last around 55 minutes. However, at a submerged speed of 6.9 mph, the submarine had an effective range of 92 miles or 115 miles at 2.3 mph. No telling what a specifically designed modified version might be capable of.
It is known that eight months later, around the summer of 1943, a new or slightly different version of the Type A sub, a more-or-less one off prototype numbered HA-53 was completed --- with one major difference. Although still maintaining the same overall outward appearance, the HA-53 was actually a foot longer than a typical Type A, the extra space created to accommodate a 40 h.p., 25 kilowatt diesel generator to recharge the sub's batteries, correcting the major design deficiency of previous Type A's.
Rebekah Hughes reporting the American submarine USS Flier sank the Hakusan Maru on June 4, 1944 is substantiated in the records. However, when the record of movements of the ship so recorded as sinking on that date is compared with others it does not fully coincide with the movements so presented by Hughes --- although they do on one of the so named vessels that was sunk on another date. For the record, one of those Hakusan Maru's, a Hakusan Maru that was torpedoed by American submarine USS Crevalle (SS-291), a Balao-class submarine, was sunk one year later than the Rebekah Hughes' report, on June 11, 1945 during her seventh war patrol in the northeast section of the Sea of Japan. The main reason the records of when and where the ship was and how and where it was sunk are so inconsistent is not because the present day researchers are incompetent, but because back in the day when all the movements were going on every effort was made to cloud the Hakusan Maru's real whereabouts.
Below, for your own edification, is a list of the other websites wherein I mention the 1945 U.S. New Mexico nuclear test at Trinity Site in some fashion, most commonly related back to my uncle and then how atomic bombs and atomic bomb tests, German or American, circle back to what I have presented elsewhere in my works:
For those of you who have read this far and think the possibility of the Japanese stealing a nuclear test device right out of under the noses of the U.S. off of San Nicolas Island and detonating it in the center of downtown Los Angeles as impossible, infeasible, and downright stupid, consider the following:
OPERATION CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT NIGHT
AIRBORNE AICHI M6A SEIRANS AFTER LAUNCH FROM I-400 CLASS SUB
By the time October 1942 rolled around and the midget submarine had been bombed some 500 yards offshore of Redondo Beach only to wash up in the surf a few days later south of the pier, for the Japanese, as far as they viewed it, the mission the sub had been assigned to do was over. Any follow-up in their plans was in the hands of a series of unnamed decision making committees in the United States: Were they or were they not going to use San Nicolas Island as a nuclear test site? The following year, 1943, supplementing their clandestine spying endeavors on San Nicolas Island and for similar or like reasons, the Japanese dispatched at least two known operatives into the desert southwest to do radioactive soil sampling.(see)
By then, the Japanese, pretty much figured any major move involving nuclear strikes in any fashion by them would most likely not be forthcoming any time soon. Feeling the squeeze and needing a major game changer, as well as being unsure if the U.S. was capable, able, or willing to attack Japan with a nuclear weapon --- but knowing if not, or in a possible combination of the two, an invasion of their homeland was inevitable, the Japanese began putting into place another long distance inexpensive yet feasible non-manpower heavy preemptive first strike against America.
That operation, given the codename "Cherry Blossoms at Night," was finalized on March 26, 1945. The idea was to use I-400 aircraft equipped long-range submarines, each carrying three 300 mph Aichi M6A Seiran single wing attack-bomber floatplanes, loaded to the gills with plague-infected fleas. Although the plan was not implemented for a number of reasons, lack of sufficient numbers of I-400's and aircraft, for example, but not lack of will, the submarines were to surface off the coast of San Diego, then the Japanese planes would fan out over a wide area and deep as possible inland keeping high populations in mind, all the while along their routes dropping balloon bombs filled with plague infested fleas. The end results were to infect and kill as many people as possible, with figures ranging into the tens of thousands. The Japanese, knowing the U.S. might be able to contain the spread of disease somewhat quickly within reason, chose San Diego because of its proximity to Mexico and especially so Tijuana with its high population, and most likely lack of ability of the Mexican government to respond fully to the crisis, thus not containing the spread of the disease before completion of its intended impact.
OPERATION CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT NIGHT
At the same time the Japanese were working on their "Cherry Blossoms at Night" biological attack against the U.S. west coast the Germans were way deep into laying plans of their own, also aimed at the west coast. Their plan applied first to the infrastructure, more specifically Hoover Dam that generated and provided most of the electricity that powered all the Southern California defense plants and secondly: flooding and destroying as much of the desert land, farms, cities, and dams downstream in the water's path. One plan involved using a submersible craft navigating up the Colorado River, the other circulated around an air attack. The Colorado River assault is covered extensively in the German Submarine Attack On Hoover Dam. The by-air route through the backdoor is generally less covered.
The Germans, knowing full well from the experience of the Japanese that crossing California from the Pacific by air to the dam was practically impossible. Sticking with their allies they went about coordinating an attack through a combined effort between themselves and the Japanese. Well before 1945 the Japanese had honed a serious set of plans to destroy a good part of the Panama Canal, specifically the Gatun Dam, with the attack emanating from the Atlantic side rather than the Pacific side. To do so they designed and built the aforementioned "Cherry Blossoms at Night" super long distance submarines, the I-400 Class, each capable of carrying three powerful aircraft.
Source: Janusz Piekalkiewicz, The Air War: 1939-1945, (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press, 1985), 420-421
A four-boat flotilla was assembled consisting of two of the newly designed I-400 Class submarines, the I-400 and I-401. They were joined by two smaller subs capable of carrying two aircraft each, the I-13 and I-14. In that the two smaller subs did not have the fuel capacity for the round trip to Panama, they were to either refuel from the two larger subs or abandoned after the attack. The Germans planned to use one of the subs and enter the Caribbean launching two or three planes on a one way trip toward Hoover dam from off the coast near Brownsville, Texas, coordinating the timing of the destruction of the dam with the Japanese attack against the canal --- basically coming through the backdoor and bypassing any of the west coast radar. The subs were provisioned for a four-month cruise on a route designed to take them beyond India, around South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope and out into the open Atlantic ending in the Caribbean off Panama.
However, on May 8, 1945, before they were able to implement their part the attack the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies and the plan aborted.
THE NAZI'S PLOT TO BLOW UP HOOVER DAM
I-17 GUN CREW SHELLING THE ELLWOOD OIL REFINERY------SAME MAP AREA AS PHOTO'S UPPER RIGHT
In reference to the Santa Barbara shelling, take note of the photo above left. It has long been attributed to show the actual shelling that night. If you notice, along the upper right hand edge of the photo there is a drawing outlining the North American Pacific west coast ranging from just above Vancouver to below Baja. The location of Santa Barbara and the Ellwood refinery is clearly marked with a small darkened circle as well as Japanese writing in bold script. Somewhat above the heavier or bolder script is a lighter script with a small circle on the coastline apparently marking Cape Mendocino, the area of operation the I-17 was assigned. Lower down is another circle with Japanese writing apparently indicating the location of the city of Los Angeles.
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