Longer than a football field with stunning capability, the I-400 was one of five Japanese submarines that at one time docked at Pearl Harbor. Terry Kerby, of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, recalled seeing the wreckage for the first time as their submersible combed the ocean floor in August: “There was a communications cable and it was coming out of the bottom into space and so we knew it was pretty big and so we followed this cable and out of this darkness came this massive bow, and it was a thrill.” This mega-sub with strike capability actually practiced drills to bomb the Panama Canal.It carried three airplanes with foldable wings. And the planes could be armed and catapulted in 45 minutes. ”They could put them into this hanger nose-to-tail. So they had a watertight door and they could open it out and move these planes out,” Kerby said.
The Navy sunk the sub off Oahu’s southwest shore and after years of sleuthing, the University of Hawaii scientists found the target about three miles off Barbers Point in 2,300 feet of water. It’s missing part of its bow and main tower but otherwise is still mostly intact. And while it was one thing to find this incredible piece of Japanese ingenuity on the ocean floor, it was another to sit on the secret for months. ”That’s why we are glad the word is out. We were waiting for this,” said Kerby.
The wait was due to the back and forth with the state department and the Japanese government to verify it was what they thought it was. “We couldn’t really see the tell-tale sign number I-400 painted on the side like we saw with the other subs, but we saw features of it that match it up with the I-400,” said Kerby. Even though the find was months ago, scientists are still jazzed about the discovery. But they won’t be able to get back out to the site until next August.
The sub will stay where she sits but finally the scientists are finally able to share the secret with the world in time for the Pearl Harbor anniversary — a time to reflect on the turn of events. “Every one of these finds offers so much closure for veterans on both sides,” Kerby said.