Researchers find 1941 Japanese Midget Sub off Pearl Harbor

University of Hawaiʻi
Tara Hicks, (808) 956-3151
Outreach Specialist
Posted: Aug 29, 2002

Researchers aboard the R/V Ka‘imikai-o-Kanaloa from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) yesterday found the mini-sub involved in military actions that lead up to the war of the Pacific between the Americans and the Japanese. The midget sub was discovered 3-4 miles off Pearl Harbor in several hundred meters of water. The destroyer USS Ward sank the sub at approximately 6am on December 7, 1941, 2 hours prior to the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor.

The discovery of the 78-foot submarine took place during test and training dives on the manned submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V, in a region routinely used for pilot training. This was only the 3rd time in the schools history that the two Pisces vessels were diving together, and was the final test dive for the season.

John Wiltshire, associate director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, called the discovery "probably the most significant archaeological find in the Pacific". Barry Raleigh, Dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology (SOEST) says that this outcome "is a tribute to the drive and talent of the HURL team." Moreover, that the "discovery will surely open up some interesting questions regarding the events leading up to the war in the Pacific."

"This is a discovery of substantial historical significance to the state of Hawaii, our country, and the world," said UH President Evan Dobelle. "As a leading university in marine science and research, we are proud of the tremendous dedication and effort of our scientists at the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology."

There are plans to visit the site again, but there are no immediate plans to recover the submarine. Although video footage shows the submarine in good condition, the submarine has two torpedoes on board that may still be active. The sub may also contain the remains of the two Japanese crew members.

HURL is one of six national laboratories within the National Undersea Research Program (funded by NOAA), and is the undersea research program within SOEST at the University of Hawaii.

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