➽ [Reading] ➿ I-Boat Captain By Zenji Orita ➲ – Horse-zine.co.uk

10 thoughts on “I-Boat Captain

  1. says:

    I had the good fortune of reading I-Boat Captain after reading Sunk by Mochitsura Hashimoto. The reason it is a good fortune is that I-Boat Captain is able to expand upon what Sunk could not based on a few factors. Sunk was written during the American Occupation of Japan after the war and was written in some respects not as freely as I-Boat Captain. Where I-Boat Captain exceeds Sunk is that Joseph Harrington a historian working the Department of the Navy where he had access to American records is a co author not a translator and Orita had access to Japanese records gives the reader a more complete picture of the Japanese submarine force in WWII. Like Sunk this is a combination of memoir and force history.

    I-Boat Captain is a study of the failures of the Japanese submarine force. Orita's conclusions are that Japan's military did not have a relationship with the scientific community which caused the military be behind the Allies by at best two years with things such as radar and sonar. Orita as well Hashimoto conclude that this factor caused the sinking’s of a great majority of the 134 submarines the Japanese lost. Orita correct relates another technological advance is the use of hedgehogs which were mini depth charges fused with contact fuses rather than hydrostatic fuses. Which meant the attacking surface ship could maintain contact with the submarine and only when the hedgehog made contact with a submarine did it explode. With the explosion the submarine was often mortally wounded but the destroyer now had a reference point and an accurate knowledge of the depth to give the submarine a coup de grace.

    Another significant conclusion by both books is that the admirals who led the Japanese fleet misused the submarine fleet. First the submarine fleet wasn’t deployed the way they should have been. Quite often the submarines were used as freighters rather than war ships bringing supplies into besieged garrisons rather than attacking the Allies supply lines which would have hampered the war effort. Secondly many of the admirals in charge of the submarine fleet were staff officers with often no submarine experience which caused them to underappreciate their own force. This caused the admirals to misuse their own force to the detriment of Japan’s war effort. His lesson seems to be let experienced operators to run the fleet. In Japanese Destroyer Captain the author Tameichi Hara describes how staff officers were often promoted over officers who were in combat because the staff officers were considered to have the big picture of the war but Sunk, I-Boat Captain and Japanese Destroyer Captain contradict this theory in that front line forces have a better understanding and a more up to date understanding of the opponents capabilities and tactics. This failure of leadership seems to be throughout out the Imperial Japanese Navy but in the submarine force the lack of knowledgeable leadership seems to have an exaggerated. Edward Beach’s (eminent US submarine Historian and novelist as well as experienced US submariner) forward in Sunk suggests that the Japanese submarine force lost face in the apparent failure of the “midget submarines” in the Pearl Harbor attack caused the submarine force to lose “face” and led to perhaps not the best staff officers being assigned to the submarine force.

    Another significant cause to the failure of the Japanese submarine force is the lack of a coherent strategic shipbuilding plan. This had the Japanese focusing on building submarine freighters and submarine "aircraft carriers" when they should have been building combat submarines. This lack of a strategic shipbuilding plan meant that the limited resources (which are a stated reason why Japan entered into the war) were wasted by building these submarines that weren't helping with assisting in combat. The use of submarine based aircraft was interesting but it shows the lack of a coherent ship building plan that the aircraft and midget submarines could have been better utilized in manpower and resources that would have helped Japan’s war effort.

    A disturbing part of both Hashimoto's book and Orita's is their description of tokko or suicide weapons which for submarines are called kaitens. Orita was the most disturbing because he suggested that an earlier use of kaitens might have been helpful in turning the tide of the war in the Japanese favor. Orita describes how the submarine force had thought of suicide style weapons before any part of the Japanese military. It seems that Orita wasn't enamored with the use of tokko weapons but saw it as his duty in order to defend his country. In Orita's book he develops the best reason I have seen supporting why Hashimoto (author of Sunk and the man who sank the Indianapolis) didn't use kaiten in sinking the Indianapolis, fist kaiten needed sunlight to be effective to see their targets with their inadequate periscopes and it would have taken too long to man and launch the kaiten. Orita then answers questions I had about Hasimoto's role in the controversial court martial in Charles McVey the commanding officer of the Indianapolis.

    This book is a valuable resource to anyone interested in the Imperial Japanese Navy or a comparison of how effective the US submarine force was in WWII. To date the only successful submarine campaign in History is the US submarine campaign in the Pacific and the largest failure of submarine campaigns is the Japanese effort in WWII. Orita's book is an insight of the men who fought well in a fight they were never given a chance to influence.

  2. says:

    Interesting. Had never previously come across or even given any thought to the Japanese submarine activities before and during WWII. It concludes with brief mention of the writer's post-war service in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces from which Zenji Orita appears to have retired with the rank of Captain. The book was written with Joseph D Harrington and contains illustrations including a couple of maps and several photographs. Although Goodreads states this is an unknown binding the ISBN and cover photo are the same as the soft cover that I read.

  3. says:

    This is a mediocre book. There are many misspellings of American ships and the transliterations used for Japanese words and names are occasionally very different from the ones I'm used to seeing. With the names, this made researching the people a bit of a challenge.
    I'm also not a fan of Mr. Harrington's informal writing style. The book is full of phrases, clichés and one word sayings that, for me, detract from the narrative.

  4. says:

    Well, there are a few interesting tidbits in here, but quite a few howlers, as well. It's a bit of a misnomer of a title, being more a anecdotal history of the Japanese submarine effort in the war rather than a straight memoir of this man's participation, and it is myopic, disingenuous at times, banal at many points, and overall, bland. Dates from 1976, so the Ultra secret was out and well discussed, so it's not an automatic deal killer, but read this only if you are very, very, very, dedicated to the history of the second world war.

  5. says:

    Older book with some historical quirks, but did provide an interesting prospective. Would only recommend to those who are really interested in the topic and don't have anything better to read.

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