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Submarine I-8
Career Japanese Navy Ensign
Name: I-8
Launched: 20 July 1936
Completed: 1937-1938
Fate: Sunk, 31 March 1945
General characteristics
Class and type: Junsen-class J3 Type submarine
Displacement: 2,525 long tons (2,566 t) surfaced
3,583 long tons (3,640 t) submerged
Length: 358.5 ft 6 in (109.42 m)
Beam: 29 ft 8 in (9.04 m)
Draft: 17 ft 3 in (5.26 m)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric
2 diesel engines, 11,200 hp (8,400 kW) (surfaced)
Electric motors, 2,800 hp (2,100 kW) (submerged)
Speed: 23 knots (26 mph; 43 km/h) (surfaced)
8 kn (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) (submerged)
Range: 14,000 nmi (26,000 km) at 16 kn (18 mph; 30 km/h)
Test depth: 100 m (330 ft)
Complement: 100 officers and men
Armament: • 1 × 140 mm (6 in)/50 caliber gun
• 2 × 25 mm AA guns
• 6 × 533 mm (21.0 in) forward torpedo tubes
• 21 torpedoes
Aircraft carried: 1 × Yokosuka E14Y seaplane

The Japanese submarine I-8 was a World War II Junsen Type J-3 Imperial Japanese Navy submarine, famous for completing a technology exchange mission to German-occupied France and back to Japan in 1943.

The series (I-7 and I-8), based on the KD (Kaidai) type, were the largest Japanese submarines to be completed before World War II. They participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor in patrol missions with their Yokosuka E14Y seaplanes being used in reconnaissance flights.


Mission to Germany

These missions took place under the Axis Powers' Tripartite Pact to provide for an exchange of strategic materials and manufactured goods between Germany, Italy, and Japan. Initially, cargo ships made the exchanges, but when that was no longer possible, submarines were used. Only six submarines attempted the trans-oceanic voyage: I-30 (April 1942), I-8 (June 1943), I-34 (October 1943), I-29 (November 1943), I-52 (March 1944), and the German submarine U-511 (August 1943).

Of these, I-30 was sunk by a mine, I-34 by the British submarine Taurus, I-29 by the American submarine Sawfish, and I-52 by US Navy aircraft.

Commanded by Shinji Uchino, I-8 departed Kure harbor on 1 June 1943, accompanied by I-10 and the submarine tender Hie Maru. Their cargo included two of the famed Type 95 oxygen-propelled torpedoes, torpedo tubes, drawings of an automatic trim system, and a new naval reconnaissance plane, the Yokosuka E14Y. A supplementary crew of 48 men, commanded by Sadatoshi Norita, was also packed into the submarine, intended to man the German submarine (U-1224, a Type IXC/40 U-boat) and bring her back to Japan for reverse engineering.

Arriving in Singapore nine days later, I-8 also took on board quinine, tin, and raw rubber before heading for the Japanese base at Penang.

On July 21, I-8 entered the Atlantic, where she encountered fierce storms, but was able to continue to German-occupied France.

The I-8 arriving in Brest, France

On August 20, I-8 rendezvoused with the German submarine U-161, commanded by Captain Albrecht Achilles. Two German radio technicians were transferred to I-8, as well as an FuMB 1 "Metox" 600A radar detector, which was installed on the I-8's bridge. As I-8 entered the Bay of Biscay on 29 August, the Luftwaffe sent Ju-88s to provide air cover to Brest, where she arrived safely two days later.

The Japanese submarine was warmly welcomed. Parties and visits to Paris and Berlin were organized for the crew for over a month, and German news agencies announced that "now even Japanese submarines are operating in the Atlantic."

Return to Japan

I-8 left Brest on October 5, with a cargo of German equipment: machine guns, bomb sights, a Daimler-Benz torpedo boat engine, marine chronometers, radars, sonar equipment, anti-aircraft gunsights, electric torpedoes, and penicillin. The submarine also transported Rear Admiral Yokoi, naval attaché to Berlin since 1940; Captain Hosoya, naval attaché to France since December 1939; three German officers; and four radar and hydrophone technicians.

I-8 hit rough seas in the South Atlantic off the Cape of Good Hope, which delayed her arrival to Singapore. She radioed her position to Germany, but the message was intercepted by the Allies, prompting an attack by anti-submarine aircraft, which failed. I-8 arrived in Singapore on 5 December, and finally returned to Kure, Japan on 21 December, after a voyage of 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km).

War Crimes

Despite her distinction as the only wartime submarine to make a successful round trip voyage between Japan and Germany, I-8 later gained infamy under a new commander, Tetsunosuke Ariizumi, because of the crew's treatment of Allied prisoners of war.

SS Tjisalak

On the 26 March 1944, during a cruise into the Indian Ocean, I-8 torpedoed the 5,787-ton Dutch freighter SS Tjisalak. The submarine surfaced amid the debris field and after a brief exchange of gunfire with the ship's defensive armament, collected the survivors on the submarine's deck. Shortly after the freighter had sunk, the merchantman's crew and passengers, totalling 97, were tied together and forced to run a gauntlet of Japanese sailors, during which they were slashed with samurai swords and beaten with monkey wrenches and sledgehammers before being shot, then kicked into the water. Six men managed to survive and found a life raft. They were later rescued by the Liberty ship SS James O. Wilder.

SS Jean Nicolet

Two months after the massacre of the crew of the Tjisalak, I-8 was involved in another atrocity. They struck the 7,176-ton American liberty ship SS Jean Nicolet with two torpedoes. The 100 crewmen abandoned their burning ship and took to life rafts. Again, the survivors were gathered on the submarine's deck. The massacre took several hours, as they were made to walk one at a time past the conning tower, where they were murdered[1]. When an aircraft approached, the submarine dived, plunging the remaining bound prisoners into the ocean, where most drowned. Sources differ, but it is believed 23 men made it to a life raft, from which they were picked up by the HMS Hoxa 30 hours later. Five prisoners were taken to Japan by the submarine; one of them, Francis J. O'Gara, was found alive in a prison camp after the war. A new Liberty ship had been named after him, making O'Gara the only living person to have a Liberty ship named for him.[1]

I-8 also sank many other merchant ships, often with a high or even total loss of life, suggesting that additional war crimes were committed. Commander Ariizumi, who had encouraged and participated in the murders, committed suicide after the Japanese surrender. Few of the crew had survived the war, but three were located and prosecuted. One was granted immunity in return for testifying against his former comrades. The others were convicted and served prison terms, which were commuted by the Japanese government in 1955.

Sinking of the I-8

In late 1944, I-8 was converted to carry Kaiten suicide torpedoes. She was lost off Okinawa on 31 March 1945, in an encounter with the American destroyers USS Morrison and USS Stockton.

Commanding Officers

  • Chief Equipping Officer - Cmdr. Hiroshi Goto - 20 May 1938 - 15 December 1938
  • Cmdr. Hiroshi Goto - 15 December 1938 - 15 November 1939
  • Cmdr. Taro Shimizu - 15 November 1939 - 31 October 1941
  • Cmdr. Tetsuhiro Emi - 31 October 1941 - 25 July 1942
  • Cmdr. Shinji Uchino - 25 July 1942 - 15 January 1944
  • Cmdr. / Capt. Tetsunosuke Ariizumi - 15 January 1944 - 15 December 1944 (Promoted to Captain on 15 October 1944.)
  • Lt. Cmdr. Shigeo Shinohara - 15 December 1944 - 31 March 1945 (KIA)

See also



Bridgland, Tony (2002). Waves of Hate. Pen & Sword. ISBN 0-85052-822-4.  

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