Leopold Fellerer

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Oblt Leopold Fellerer. Gruppenkommandeur II./NJG 5. Gütersloh

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Leopold “Poldi” Fellerer (7 June 1919 – 16 July 1968) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Fellerer was born in Vienna, Austria on 7 June 1919. In November 1940 he was posted as a bomber pilot, before being assigned as Technical Officer to II./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1). He claimed his first victory on 11 February 1941, a Handley Page Hampden of No. 49 Squadron north of Bergen-Alkmaar. He was transferred to 4./NJG 1 in June 1941.

In October 1942 Fellerer was made Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 3./NJG 1 before being posted to Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 (NJG 5) in December 1942. Promoted to Hauptmann, Fellerer became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of II./NJG 5 in December 1943. During this period, Fellerer raised his score to 18 victories.

In January 1944 Fellerer claimed two United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) heavy bombers in daylight- a Consolidated B-24 Liberator on 4 January, and a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress on 11 January. On the night of 20/21 January 1944 he claimed five Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers. He was then awarded the German Cross in Gold in February 1944.

After 34 victories Hauptmann Fellerer was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 8 April 1944. He then moved to command III./Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 (NJG 6) in May 1944.

During August–October 1944 Fellerer and III./NJG 6 also flew operations to counter supply operations from Italy to the Polish Home Army uprising in Warsaw. He claimed two Douglas DC-3’s and two Liberators during this time, his final kill coming in October 1944.

In 450 missions Leopold Fellerer claimed 41 aerial victories, 39 of them at night. 32 were four engine heavy bombers.

During the 1950s, he served with the Austrian Air Force, becoming Commander of the Langenlebarn Airbase in Tulln on the River Donau, retiring as a Oberstleutnant. Leopold Fellerer died on 15 July 1968 in an air crash, his Cessna L-19 coming down near Krems.

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Espionage During the Napoleonic Wars

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Charles Schulmeister

The Napoleonic wars pitted France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, against a number of countries in Europe from 1797 through 1815. At different times during this period, Great Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, and the Neapolitan Kingdom all waged war against France in various coalitions. The main rivals in this struggle were Great Britain and France. During this time, the methods of intelligence gathering, espionage, and counterespionage did not differ so much from modern methods, apart from the differences in technological progress. Compared to other periods, however, espionage was a much more intense activity during the Napoleonic wars. This rise in espionage activity resulted mainly from revolutionary events in France and the following French emigration, which was in turn, used by Britain to achieve their own goals.

France had one unsurpassed master of intrigue in the famous person of Joseph Fouché, who spied rampantly on his social and professional contacts alike. Fouché remained as permanent minister of police during four consecutive regimes: directory, consulate, empire, and the restored monarchy.

During this period, Switzerland became a place of intensive intelligence activity by Britain, mostly against France. In 1794 the new charge d’affaire of Great Britain was the newly arrived William Wickham (1761-1840), for whom his diplomatic work in Bern was a cover. Wickham’s main activity was to collect information about France and to lead various royalist organizations, which acted inside France as well as abroad. In particular, Wickham organized invasions of royalist armies into France, one of which was the Quiberon Bay invasion of 1795; the effort failed within one month. Both Wickham’s agents and those of the royalist organizations actively participated for almost three years in different conspiracies against France, but in 1797, many of those involved were arrested. Wickham was forced to leave Switzerland in 1798, but the successive charge d’affaire continued the same activity.

British espionage against the Italian Army of France was also well organized. Here, the main figures were Count d’Antreg, one of the organizers of the royalist underground, and the British diplomat Francis Drake. D’Antreg received information from the generals of the French army, such as key information about the Egyptian expedition of Bonaparte. D’Antreg was arrested in 1797 by the French in Venice and was scheduled for extradition to France, but was first granted an audience with Napoleon. After gaining Napoleon’s favor, d’Antreg was released on his word of honor. He was then quickly aided in an escape to Switzerland.

British intelligence agents pursued Napoleon and his army during the Egypt expedition, and even attempted to organize the general’s assassination. One well-known attempt was organized by one of the top officers of the British intelligence service. A fellow officer named Foure was married to one of Napoleon’s mistresses; the plan called for Madame Foure to carry out the assassination during one of her dalliances with Napoleon. Foure eventually refused his mission, and the plan was not executed.

Another attempt to assassinate Napoleon was made on December 24, 1800. The First Consul Napoleon was required to be present at a performance in the Paris Grande Opera. When Napoleon’s carriage rushed along Saint Nicolas Street, an explosion resounded. Napoleon did not suffer; his carriage was driving too quickly, but the power of the explosion was such that almost 50 people were killed or wounded and 46 neighboring houses were damaged. The source was a barrel of gunpowder laced with shrapnel that was hidden in a harnessed wagon at the roadside. At first, the Jacobins were accused of the attempt, and some were executed. But those who headed the investigation quickly determined that it was the work of royalists through whom was apparent “the hand of London.”

Yet another attempt on Napoleon was undertaken by royalists (again supported from London) in 1803 to 1804, but it was stopped by Fouche’s police. Fouche identified the plotters using his “Chouan’s Geography,” an elementary data base (card-index) compiled in his ministry containing detailed information about 1000 active royalists. The French word chouan is associated with royalty, or in this case, royalists.

Britain also actively collected all possible information about France during the Napoleonic period. For this purpose they used (in addition to traditional methods) various royalist organizations (in particular the “Correspondence,” which mainly collected intelligence data). Smugglers, and fishers, and the inhabitants of Jersey Island were also actively recruited, especially during the continental blockade, for contact between Britain and the continent, as well as for espionage. One of these Jersey inhabitants, a British agent, was able to make 184 spying trips from Jersey to France before he was eventually captured by the French and executed in 1808.

Led by Fouche, the French used counterespionage and organized the assassinations of unwelcome persons, or at the least, discredited them. One example is the brilliantly executed operation directed against the British diplomat Francis Drake. The French agent Mehde de la Touch was sent to London, where with great difficulty he was able to gain the confidence of top British authorities. De la Touch was able to persuade them that he represented a Jacobin committee that wanted to overthrow Napoleon. De la Touch was put in contact with Drake, at that time the ambassador in Munich, Bavaria, and using Drake, the phony committee was able to swindle large amounts of money from the British government. After a long period of such activity, the French published this information in the French press, Drake was discredited, and was forced to flee from Munich.

Napoleon himself was also actively interested in espionage. Among Napoleon’s secret agents, the most successful was the Alsatian Charles Schulmeister, a trader from Strasbourg. Schulmeister brilliantly infiltrated the Austrian army, including its intelligence service, and by collecting vital information from and disseminating misinformation to the Austrian military commanders, ensured Napoleon’s victory in Austria.

The year 1805 marked the beginning of Napoleon’s war with Austria and Russia. Schulmeister was sent to Vienna with the mission to discern the character and plans of General Karl von Mack, commander of the Austrian Army on the Danube. Schulmeister gained the confidence of those in the aristocratic circles of Vienna and was soon introduced to General Mack. Schulmeister then persuaded Mack that he represented a royalist opposition, showing him secret data about the French army, given to him according to Napoleon’s order, and false documents about his own Hungarian aristocratic origin. Soon Schulmeister was completely trusted by Mack and, incredibly, was designated chief of intelligence in General Mack’s army. Schulmeister immediately informed Napoleon about Mack’s plans, and Napoleon, in turn, ordered the printing of false newspapers and letters detailing the unrest in the French army. Mack swallowed the bait. He assumed that France was close to an uprising, and believed the information that Napoleon’s troops were retreating from the front line on the Rhine River. He began to pursue the French. Most likely Mack was surprised when he collided with the “retreated” corps of French General Ney, and then discovered French troops at his flanks and back. The army of the gullible general was surrounded in Uhlm, and all that was left to do was to surrender. Napoleon then gained one of his most famous victories at the battle of Austerlitz, captured Vienna, and installed Schulmeister as its chief of police.

Napoleon soon required the further services of Schulmeister in Germany, where the operative set up an effective spy cluster that provided Napoleon, for a while, with valuable information from adversaries to the East. Schulmeister was awarded wealth for his efforts, but longed for the Legion of Honor, which Napoleon never bestowed, claiming, “gold is the only suitable reward for spies.” After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and subsequent exile, Schulmeister was arrested, and bought his freedom with his fortune. Years later and nearly penniless, Schulmeister sold tobacco at a stand in Strasbourg and regaled customers with stories of espionage during the Napoleonic wars.

BOOKS: Dallas, Gregor. The Final Act: The Roads to Waterloo. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2001. Durant, Will, and Ariel Durant. The Age of Napoleon. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975.

Japan’s Panama Canal Buster II



In December 1944, the Imperial Japanese Navy organized the 1st Submarine Flotilla and 631st Kokutai (Air Corps), with Captain Tatsunoke Ariizumi commanding both units. The force consisted ofI-400, I-401 and two AM-class subs, I-13and I-14, which were smaller and carried two Seirans each, for a total of 10 Seiran bombers. An experienced naval officer from a distinguished military family, Ariizumi and had been in charge of the midget sub attacks at Pearl Harbor.

In March 1945, Vice Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa, vice chief of the navy general staff, toyed with a plan to use the Seirans to unleash biological weapons on a U.S. West Coast city in revenge for the firebombing of Tokyo. The notorious Japanese Unit 731 had already conducted successful experiments in Manchuria using rats infected with bubonic plague and other diseases to kill Chinese citizens. But the opera­tion was canceled later that month by General Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the army general staff, who declared, “Germ warfare against the United States would escalate to war against all humanity.” Instead, the Japanese decided to target the Panama Canal.

By 1945 there was little doubt among the Japanese that the war was going badly. If Germany was defeated, the Allies would be on their doorstep next. The Panama Canal was a major transshipment point for war materiel essential to the Pacific theater. Closing it off would slow down if not stop the Allied advance, which would give Japan much-needed breathing room. As a result, the plan to at­tack the canal, drain Gatun Lake and block Allied shipping made strategic sense.

Japanese engineers had helped to build the canal, so Japan had construction plans to work from. Since Japanese carriers couldn’t get close enough to at­tack without being discovered, the 1st Sub­­marine Flotilla and 631st Koku-taiwere selected for the task.

The four submarines were to leave Japan in June 1945 and surface 100 miles off the coast of Ecuador, where they would launch their 10 Seirans at night. The Seirans, painted to resemble U.S. Army Air Forces planes, would fly northeast over Colombia, turn west over the Caribbean, then attack from the north at dawn, torpedoing the Gatun locks. After returning to their launch point, the pilots would ditch their planes and swim to their respective subs.

Before I-400 and I-401 crews could begin training for the mission, however, the Japanese had to deal with a severe fuel shortage resulting from the Allies’ sinking their tankers. The I-400s did not have enough die­sel to complete their mission, soI-401, disguised as a frigate with a false funnel, was ordered to Manchuria to get more fuel. On April 12, shortly after departure, the sub was damaged by a mine and had to return to port for repairs, but I-400was sent in its place and returned with the necessary fuel.

By June 4, the sister subs had arrived in Nanao Bay for battle training. There the crews practiced speeding up the assembly of the Seirans, night catapult launches, and submerging and surfacing the submarines in preparation for launches.

“The sub’s pitching and rolling made catapult launches difficult; the navigator had to time it just right,” Lieutenant Asamura remembered. “Nevertheless, compressed air made it a smoother launch than catapults that used gunpowder.” Asamura also recalled the importance of launching against the wind to make sure the Seiran got enough lift. As a result, he said, “It could be dangerous if the wind direction changed on you during a catapult launch.”

A full-scale mockup of the Gatun locks was constructed to practice Seiran torpedo runs, but training conditions proved ex­tremely difficult. The I-400s had to deal with relentless Allied bombing and strafing as well as heavily mined waters. There were not enough experienced pilots for the mission, and two Seirans were lost during training. In fact, only one pilot had the requisite torpedo experience, so it was decided the Seirans would carry a single large bomb instead of a torpedo. To ensure success, the pilots would fly their aircraft directly into the locks rather than risk inaccurate bomb drops.

Born in Osaka in 1922, Asamura now lives in Tokyo’s Nezu section in a high-rise apartment with his wife. A small, balding man, he has an interest in history and a fair understanding of English.

Asamura remembered that for the pilots, “life on a submarine was 180 degrees different than flying in the air. You couldn’t tell night from day on the sub, so I never knew what meal I should be eating.” But he also noted that though they ate canned rather than fresh food, there was enough to go around, which often wasn’t the case for the Japanese army. Pilots had no duties to perform on the sub, and he recalled that crew relations were good.

Asamura said the Panama Canal mission was an open secret among I-401‘s crew. But with the U.S. already positioning an enormous armada of ships, aircraft and troop transports in the Pacific for the planned invasion of Japan, the Japa­nese navy’s high command decided the Seirans should attack U.S. carriers at Ulithi Atoll instead of the canal.

Captain Ariizumi was disappointed that the Panama mission had been canceled and argued the decision with his superior officers. Accord­ing to Captain Zenji Orita in his 1976 book I-Boat Captain, Ariizumi was told, “A man does not worry about a fire he sees on the horizon when other flames are licking at his kimono sleeve!”

Asamura recalled that he was not disappointed at the change in mission objective despite the intensive preparation because he knew the situation. “I understood the importance of the Panama mission, but the U.S. was on our doorstep and that was more imperative,” he said.

I-400 and I-401received orders on June 25 for a two-part operation. The first phase was called Hikari (light). I-13 and I-14were to offload four Nakajima C6N1 Saiun reconnaissance aircraft at Truk Island, where the planes would scout the American fleet at Ulithi and relay target information to I-400 and I-401. The second part of the operation, called Arashi (storm), involved the twoI-400 subs launching their six Seirans to carry out kamikaze attacks on the U.S. carriers and troop transports in coordination with Kaiten (manned torpedoes).

Fake U.S. markings were applied to the Seirans on July 21, and two days later I-400 and I-401 set out following separate routes to reduce their chance of discovery. The mission, however, was plagued by problems. En route, a Japanese shore battery accidentally shelled I-401, and I-13, carrying two of the Nakajima surveillance planes, was sunk, most likely by an American destroyer. Ad­ditionally, I-400failed to pick up a crucial radio message, which led to its missing its rendezvous with I-401. As a result, the attack was postponed until August 25, giving the two subs time to regroup.

I-401‘s Commander Nambu recalled picking up Allied broadcasts on August 14 an­nouncing that Japan would soon surrender, but he did not believe them at the time, assuming they were either propaganda or a trick. Even when Emperor Hirohito made his August 15 radio broadcast asking the Japanese people to “endure the unendurable,” the captain and lieutenant commander debated whether to continue the mission, return to Japan or scuttle the ship. Asamura said he missed the emperor’s surrender announcement because he was sleeping at the time, but was not surprised that Japan had to surrender as he knew the war was going badly.

Some of I-401‘s crew wanted to go ahead with the plan to attack U.S. forces at Ulithi. In fact Nambu said that even after I-401 received specific instructions canceling the operation and ordering the sub back to Japan, some crew members wanted to keep the sub and become pirates instead.

Finally, I-401‘s crew hoisted the black triangular surrender flag and on August 26 fired all of its torpedoes. The crew destroyed its codes, logs, charts, manuals and secret documents, and after punching holes in the Seirans’ floats, either pushed or catapulted them into the sea. I-400 surrendered on August 27 on its way back to Japan, and two days later I-401encountered USS Segundo.
Captain Ariizumi appointed Lieutenant Bando, I-401‘s chief navigator, to negotiate the surrender of his flagship to Segundo, in part because Bando spoke some English. Despite the Japanese navigator’s English training, however, Commander Johnson wrote in his war patrol report that he and Bando “held a doubtful conversation…in baby talk plus violent gestures.”

Johnson initially responded with disbelief to Bando’s assertion that I-401carried 200 men, stating, “This could quite possibly be an error on his part, as I think the war interrupted English instruction.” But of course Bando’s figure was correct.

Bando remembered Captain Ariizumi becoming impatient with the surrender negotiations, preferring to scuttle the submarine and have the officers and crew commit suicide. Johnson was also concerned about the possibility of mass suicide aboard the sub, but after some haggling, terms were agreed upon and a prize crew from Segundo boarded I-401, checked that there were no torpedoes left, chained the hatches open to prevent the sub from diving and accompanied it on its return to Japan.

At 0500 hours on August 31, the U.S. flag was hoisted aboard I-401and Commander Nambu delivered two samurai swords as a symbol of surrender to Lieutenant J.E. Balson, Segundo‘s executive officer and prize crew chief. Shortly thereafter, Ariizumi shot himself in his cabin with a pistol; his body was subsequently buried at sea. “It was a small boat,” Asamura said. “Everyone knew the commander had killed himself.”

Nambu recalled that the officers and crew of I-401“received gentle treatment by the U.S. Navy after the surrender.” Bando noted that Johnson even invited him to visit the United States after the war.
Escorted by Segundo, I-401sailed to Yokosuka in Tokyo Bay, where it officially surrendered to the U.S. The sub was stricken from the Imperial Japanese Navy’s active duty roster on September 15.

The I-400 submarines only saw eight months of service from their launch to their surrender, and the Seirans likely never flew in combat. But the U.S. Navy was so impressed by the underwater aircraft carriers that it decided the subs merited further study. On December 11, 1945, I-400and I-401 sailed with an American prize crew of four officers and 40 enlisted men (as well as a load of smuggled Japanese war souvenirs in I-400‘s hangar) from Yokosuka to Pearl Harbor. They were escorted by a sub rescue vessel, and after an uneventful trip arrived in Pearl on January 6, 1946.

According to the late Thomas O. Paine, who served as executive officer and navigator during I-400‘s trip to Pearl Harbor, the absence of manuals for the I-400s did not stop American crews from figuring out how to operate the subs because “Japanese submarine design…followed fairly standard practice.” In an unpublished memoir, Paine wrote that the prize crews developed their own drawings and color codes for I-400‘s operating systems as well as “learned under the critical eyes of Japanese petty officers.”

Paine explained that I-400‘s interior included a “large torpedo room, chief’s quarters, radio shack, capacious wardroom featuring fine wooden cabinet work, a Shinto shrine, officer’s staterooms, and a large control room.” He also described the sub’s aft crew compartment as having “raised wooden decks polished like a dance floor—you took your shoes off before walking there.”

Both subs were extensively studied at Pearl, though the Navy never tried submerging either one. When the Soviets asked for access to the I-400s as part of an information-sharing agreement, U.S. officials decided to prevent them from obtaining potentially disruptive technology by scuttling the submarines. I-402 was sunk off Japan’s Goto Island in April 1946, and I-401 was tor­pedoed by the submarine Cabezon and sunk off Pearl Harbor on May 31. I-400 quickly followed it to the bottom.
In March 2005, the Hawaii Undersea Re­search Laboratory, using two deep-diving submersibles, located I-401 off the coast of Kalaeloa in 2,665 feet of water. The main hull sits upright on the bottom. The bow is broken off just forward of the airplane hangar, and the “I-401” designation is still clearly visible on the conning tower. Otherwise the sub appears in remarkably good condition. I-400 and I-402 have yet to be found.

Nambu, who knows that his old sub command has been rediscovered on the ocean floor, believes I-401 and its Seirans comprised a strategic weapon. But though he feels the Panama Canal bombing mission was an objective worthy of his flagship sub, he thinks the mission would have needed to occur at least a year earlier than planned in order to be truly effective.

Some reports have suggested that the I-400 submarines’ technology was incorporated into future U.S. submarine innovations like the Regulus sub-launched missile program, much as Wernher von Braun’s V-2 program became the backbone of future U.S. ballistic missile and space programs. Though this may give the technology more credit than it warrants, the underwater aircraft carriers were clearly superior in important ways to subs at the time.

And though Nambu is proud of what he accomplished in defense of his country, he feels Japan did not make full strategic use of submarines during World War II. “Subs were not meant to be deployed as cargo carriers,” he said, referring to the many missions in which submarines were used to provide supplies to the Japanese army on remote island outposts. “Subs were meant to attack.”

Fortunately for the United States, I-401 and its Seirans never got the chance.

John Geoghegan, who frequently writes about marine and aviation adventure and exploration, is a director of the SILOE Research Institutein Marin County, Calif. Additional reporting for this article was done by Takuji Ozasayama. Further reading: I-400: Japan’s Secret Aircraft-Carrying Strike Submarine, by Henry Sakaida, Gary Nilaand Koji Takaki.

Japan’s Panama Canal Buster I

 

Members of the US Navy inspecting the plane hangar of I-400.

It was seven minutes before midnight on August 28, 1945, when a large unidentified object appeared on the radar screen of USS Segundo, a Balao-class submarine on patrol south of Japan. It had been 13 days since Japan’s sur­ren­der an­nounce­ment, and Segundo‘s commanding of­fi­cer, Lieu­tenant Commander S.L. John­son, was on the lookout for remnants of Japan’s naval fleet. Segundo was 18 days out from Midway, and except for an en­coun­ter with a Japanese fishing boat, the patrol had been uneventful.

Soon after Segundo changed course to intercept the blip, Commander Johnson and his men realized they were on the trail of a Japanese submarine. After tracking the sub for more than four hours, Johnson tired of the cat-and-mouse game and radioed for it to stop, receiving a positive acknowledgement in reply. But as Segundoclosed in, Johnson and his crew were literally in for a big surprise.

The vessel 1,900 yards off their bow was not your average Japanese submarine; it was I-401, flagship of the I-400class known as Sen-Toku, or special submarines. At the time I-400s were the biggest submarines ever built, and they would remain so for nearly 20 years after the war. The sub Commander Johnson intercepted simply dwarfedSegundo.

Johnson and his men were about to discover that they’d happened upon one of the war’s most unusual and innovative weapon systems. Not only was I-401bristling with topside weaponry, the sub was also designed to carry, launch and retrieve three Aichi M6A1 Seiran floatplane attack bombers. In other words, I-401wasn’t just a major offensive weapon in a submarine fleet used to playing defense—it was actually the world’s first purpose-built underwater aircraft carrier.

Japan’s I-400 subs were just over 400 feet long and displaced 6,560 tons when submerged. Segundo was nearly 25 percent shorter and displaced less than half that tonnage. Remarkably, I-400s could travel 37,500 nautical miles at 14 knots while surfaced, equivalent to going 1½ times around the world without refueling, while Segundo could travel less than 12,000 nautical miles at 10 knots surfaced. I-400s carried between 157 and 200 officers, crew and passengers, compared to Segundo‘s complement of 81 men.

Originally conceived in 1942 to attack U.S. coastal cities, the I-400subs and their Seirans were central to an audacious, top-secret plan to stop the Allies’ Pacific advance by disguising the floatplane bombers with U.S. Army Air Forces insignia and attacking the Panama Canal. It was a desperate, Hail Mary–type mission to slow the American advance in the closing days of World War II. However, when the giant subs were finished too late in the war to be effective in stemming the Allied tide, they were reassigned to attack U.S. carrier forces at Ulithi Atoll, the launch point for a devastating air campaign against Japan in preparation for Operation Olym­pic, the planned invasion of the island nation.

But Commander Johnson and his men did not know any of this at the time because the United States was unaware that Japan had underwater aircraft carriers and knew little about its powerful attack bombers. As a result, when Johnson got a good look at I-401, he marveled at the “latest thing in Jap subs.”

After I-401 and its sister sub, I-400, surrendered in August 1945, U.S. officials were similarly staggered by their size, long-range capability and ability to carry and launch floatplane bombers. The Allies had nothing comparable in their fleet. Had the I-400s been built just six months earlier and succeeded in their mission, they could have thrown a major wrench into the Allied advance, giving Japan valuable time to regroup and rearm.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which has restored the last surviving Aichi M6A1 (see “Re­stored,” P. 58 in the print version of Aviation History, May 2008 edition), calls the I-400–class subs and their Seirans “an ingenious blend of aviation and marine technology.” In other words, it was a state-of-the-art sub with a similarly sophisticated plane designed to inflict serious damage.

The I-400s boasted a maximum speed of 18.75 knots surfaced, or 6.5 knots submerged. They could dive to a depth of 330 feet, shallower than most U.S. subs at the time, and had a draft of 23 feet—fairly deep but hardly surprising given the sub’s size.

Nevertheless, the I-400s were to submarines what the Yamato class was to battleships. They carried Type 95 torpedoes, a smaller version of the Type 93 Long Lance torpedoes, the most advanced used by any navy in the war. The oxygen-powered 95s traveled nearly three times farther than the American Mark 14s, carried more explosive punch, left virtually no wake and were the second fastest torpedoes built during the war (Type 93s were the fastest). They were launched from eight 21-inch forward torpedo tubes, four on each side (two upper and two lower). Unlike U.S. subs, I-400s had no aft torpedo tubes, which could prove a shortcoming in certain situations, but topside they were all business, with one 5.5-inch rear- facing deck gun, three triple-barrel 25mm anti-aircraft guns on top of the aircraft hangar and a single 25mm gun on the bridge.

The most innovative aspect of the I-400 subs, however, was their role as underwater aircraft carriers. Each packed three Seirans in a huge, 115-foot-long watertight hangar that projected from the bridge structure onto the deck. The hangar was so large that the conning tower had to be offset seven feet to port of centerline to accommodate it. The hangar in turn was offset two feet to starboard to compensate for its size. A massive hydraulic hangar door opened onto a 120-foot-long compressed-air catapult that launched the Seirans. A collapsible hydraulic crane lifted the planes back on board for hangar storage. It was the unusual, bulbous shape of I-401‘s hangar that especially captured the interest of Johnson and his men.

In a recent interview at his son’s home outside Tokyo, Lt. Cmdr. Nobukiyo Nambu, who captained I-401, said the I-400subs were maneuverable for their size. “I-401‘s maneuverability under the sea was no different than other subs, though it had a greater turning radius on the surface,” recalled the 97-year-old, who is surprisingly tall for a submarine captain and still maintains an erect bearing.

Born in 1911, Nambu is a living history lesson. Though he walks with a cane and is hard of hearing, he recently authored a successful book about his adventures aboard I-401. His navy career began with a scholarship to Eta­jima, Japan’s naval academy, attending submarine school and graduating as a member of class number 62. Nambu served as the chief torpedo officer on I-17 during the Pearl Harbor attack and later shelled Santa Bar­bara, Calif., in February 1942, an incident that became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s movie 1941. After the war he served in Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force, achieving the rank of rear admiral.

Lieutenant Muneo Bando, Nambu’s chief navigator and a sometime observer aboard a Seiran, remembered I-401 as harder to navigate than a smaller sub. He said the big boat required one kilometer to stop and the crew experienced a 30-second delay in re­sponse to steering commands. But I-400s gained a reputation for riding smoothly in rough seas due to their double hull construction—essentially two large steel tubes laid side by side.

The I-400s were specifically designed as underwater aircraft carriers to support the M6A1 Seiran, designed by Aichi’s chief engineer, Toshio Ozaki, and built in the company’s Nagoya factory. The Seiran was intended to strike directly at the U.S. mainland. Unlike previous sub-based aircraft designed for reconnaissance or defensive measures, it was a purely offensive weapon built to command respect.

In the book I-400: Japan’s Secret Aircraft-Carrying Strike Submarine, Lieutenant Ta­dashi Funada, a test pilot who flew the first Seiran prototype, is credited with naming the aircraft. The name Seiran is composed of two Japanese words that can be translated as “storm out of a clear sky.” According to the authors, Lieutenant Funada’s hope was that the bomber would gain the key element of surprise by suddenly seeming to appear out of nowhere.

Aichi completed the first Seiran prototype in the fall of 1943, and the Imperial Japanese Navy was happy enough with the result to order production to start immediately. The original production goal of 44 aircraft was eventually reduced to 28 (including two M6A1-K trainers) due to the plane’s cost and war-driven material shortages, not to mention two major earthquakes and relentless bombing by B-29s, both of which damaged Aichi’s Seiran factory.

Former Lieutenant Atsushi Asamura, the leader of Squadron Number 1, which was re­sponsible for the planned attack on the Panama Canal, confirmed the difficulties surrounding Seiran production. Interviewed in his Tokyo apartment, the 86-year-old former pilot said, “The Seirans that were custom built were of good quality, but as they scaled back production the quality became poor due to material shortages and difficult manufacturing conditions.” In fact, many of the Aichi employees responsible for building the Seirans were high school students.

Nevertheless, Lieutenant Asamura, who remains fit and speaks in a strong voice, recalled the Seiran as “a good performance aircraft,” confirming its reputation as streamlined and responsive, with excellent attack power. “It was a versatile plane since it was both an attack bomber and had long distance range,” Asamura said, illustrating the Seiran’s easy handling by holding his arms out like wings, then grabbing an imaginary stick. “But there was no big difference in how it handled a sea landing compared to other planes.”

Asamura also recalled that the Seiran’s liquid-cooled engine provided pilots with much better visibility than the bulkier and more common air-cooled engines in use at the time. The Atsuta 30 series 12-cylinder inverted Vee engine (Japan’s version of a German Daimler-Benz DB 601A) delivered 1,400 hp, and its liquid-cooled design meant it didn’t need as much warm-up time as an air-cooled engine, so the plane could launch faster. Given the danger subs faced on the surface, this was a distinct advantage.

The Seiran featured a metal frame construction with a riveted metal fuselage and triple-blade propeller. It required a crew of two: a pilot and an observer who sat in a tandem configu­ration. The observer served as radio operator and navigator, also manning the flexible rear-facing 13mm machine gun, which flipped up from a recess in the fuselage and locked into place for firing. The aircraft carried either a 551-pound bomb with its floats attached or a 1,764-pound bomb (or torpedo) without floats. The heavier ordnance meant that the pilot would have to ditch the plane upon his return, or it was a one-way suicide mission.

By necessity, the Seiran had hydraulically folding wings similar to the Grumman F6F Hellcat’s that rotated 90 degrees to ensure the aircraft fit inside its small, tubelike hangar, which was only 11 feet 6 inches in diameter. Part of the horizontal stabilizer and the tip of the vertical stabilizer also folded down to accommodate the tight fit. The plane’s floats were detachable and stored separately, as were their support pylons and spare parts.

One of the key requirements of the Seiran was that it could be rolled out on a dolly, assembled by its ground crew and launched in a very short time. Reports vary on how fast this could be accomplished. According to Commander Nambu, intensive training enabled the I-401 crew to launch three planes within 45 minutes. But Nambu also noted that given the rough handling the Seirans received during sea launches and landings, it was difficult to keep all three in good operating condition at the same time.

The Smithsonian notes the Seirans had “interesting design features built in…that ranged in engineering quality from the ingenious to the seemingly absurd.” The fact that some of the floatplane’s parts were painted with luminescent paint for night assembly certainly has to fall into the former category. Lieutenant Asamura claimed the Seiran cost “50 times more than a Zero to produce,” and though it’s not possible to confirm the exact cost, clearly they were expensive to manufacture.

Although some German and British subs had carried reconnaissance aircraft on their decks during World War I, Japan was the only nation to use submarine-launched aircraft in WWII. At the beginning of the war, it had approximately 63 oceangoing subs, 11 carrying one catapult-launched reconnaissance plane each. Even­tually, Japan would expand this to a total of 41 aircraft-carrying subs.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Combined Fleet and architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, gets credit for the I-400class of submarines and its Seiran bomber, though I-401‘s Commander Na­mbu says the actual idea for an underwater aircraft carrier probably originated from lower down in the command structure. Admiral Yamamoto’s vision in 1942 was for the underwater aircraft carriers to launch their Seiran attack bombers against U.S. coastal cities such as Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to deliver a Doolittle-like blow to American morale.

The original plan was to build 18 I-400– class subs, but after Yamamoto was ambushed and killed by Lockheed P-38 Lightnings in April 1943, the guiding hand behind the I-400subs was gone. Construction plans were scaled back to nine subs, due in part to steel shortages. Actual construction began on five subs but was later reduced to three, of which only two (I-400 and I-401) made it into service. A third, I-402, was converted into a fuel tanker and completed in July 1945 but never saw active duty.

Final design plans for the underwater aircraft carriers were finished by May 1942, and construction on the first sub (I-400) began at Kure’s dockyards in January 1943. I-401‘s construction quickly followed. By December 30, 1944, I-400was complete, and I-401 was completed less than two weeks later. Both subs immediately deployed for their shakedown cruises.

Marcus Aurelius

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Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus 161- 180

Being forced by the senate to assume the government of the state after the death of the Deified Pius, Marcus made his brother his colleague in the empire, giving him the name Lucius Aurelius Verus Commodus and bestowing on him the titles Caesar and Augustus. They began to rule the state on equal terms, and then it was that the Roman Empire first had two emperors, when he shared with another the empire left to him. Historia Augusta Life of Marcus VII

Thus, with one minor inaccuracy (for Verus dropped the name Commodus on his accession), does the imperial biographer describe the joint rule of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. In the event, it was a partnership which survived only until the latter’s death in 1 69, a period of less than eight years. The device of shared rule, however, was destined to become a regular feature of imperial government in the troubled later centuries of the Roman Empire.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by bitter and near-continuous warfare, first on the eastern, then on the northern frontier, exacerbated by plague, invasion and insurrection. The sequence of calamities is reflected in the bleak stoicism of Marcus’s Meditations. These, the bedside jottings of a philosopher-king, forced by his imperial destiny to spend most of his energies campaigning on the Danube, are dominated by thoughts of death and the transitoriness of human experience. Rarely do we get such an insight into an emperor’s true character as the glimpse which these writings provide. They are not the work of a happy man, but they testify to a certain grandeur of spirit. Indeed, historians such as Cassius Dio made Marcus Aurelius a model for later generations: ‘In addition to possessing all the other virtues, he ruled better than any others who had ever been in any position of power.’

Marcus Aurelius spent a longer apprenticeship than any previous emperor since Tiberius. He was born Marcus Annius Verus into a family originally from Ucubi, near Corduba, in the south Spanish province of Baetica. Their wealth may have derived from olive oil, and they prospered politically, too. Both Marcus’s grandfathers became consul, and his father’s sister, Annia Galeria Faustina, married Antoninus Pius. This was a distinguished ancestry by any account, but Marcus’s early years were passed without any intimation of what was to come. He was born at Rome on 26 April 121, in his mother’s garden villa on the Caelian Hill. Little is known of Marcus’s father, another Marcus Annius Verus, save that he died relatively young, probably when Marcus was only three years old. The boy was then adopted by his grandfather, the thrice consul Marcus Annius Verus, and spent most of his childhood in his grandfather’s palatial residence on the Lateran.

The inexplicable feature of these early years is the way Marcus so soon caught the attention of the reigning emperor Hadrian. They may have been related but there is no clear evidence. The Historia Augusta tells us: ‘He was reared under the eye of Hadrian, who called him Verissimus, and did him the honour of enrolling him in the equestrian order when he was six years old.’ Ten years later, in 1 36, he was betrothed at Hadrian’s wish to Ceionia Fabia, the daughter of Lucius Ceionius Commodus. Within a few months Commodus had been adopted by the emperor as his son and chosen successor. As son-in-law of the heir-apparent, Marcus was rocketed into the forefront of Roman political life.

New arrangements were made when Commodus died and Antoninus became the chosen successor. As part of the plan, Antoninus adopted Marcus along with Commodus’s orphaned son, also named Lucius Ceionius Commodus. The ceremony took place on 25 February 138, when Marcus was 16 and his new adoptive brother seven.

The able lieutenant

Marcus became deeply attached to Antoninus, and quickly began to assume a share in the burdens of office. In 139 he was given the title ‘Caesar’, and the following year became consul at the age of 18. It was a peaceful partnership: ‘For three and twenty years Marcus conducted himself in his [adoptive] father’s home in such a manner that Pius felt more affection for him day by day, and never in all these years, save for two nights on different occasions, remained away from him . ‘One of Antoninus’s first acts was to break off Marcus’s earlier engagement to Ceionia Fabia and betroth him instead to his own daughter, Annia Galeria Faustina the younger. The wedding took place in April or May 145. Faustina was to bear no fewer than 14 children for Marcus during their 31 years of marriage.

Lucius Ceionius Commodus meanwhile was receiving less rapid advancement. Born at Rome 15 December 130, he was several years younger than Marcus, too young to occupy any of the senior positions during the early part of Antoninus’s reign. There is no doubt, however, which of the two the emperor most favoured. Whereas Marcus was appointed consul at the age of 18, Lucius had to wait until he was 24. Furthermore, in betrothing Faustina to Marcus, Antoninus broke off her earlier engagement to Lucius. This early experience was to cast a shadow over later relations between the two adoptive brothers.

The dual succession

The death of Antoninus Pius on 7 March 161 may have been expected for some months. Marcus Aurelius had already arranged that he and Lucius Verus hold the consulate jointly that year. Antoninus seems to have had no intention of placing the two on an equal footing, but that was what Marcus did immediately after his death. Marcus himself adopted the usual imperial titles ‘ Augustus’ and ‘Pontifex Maximus’, and took the additional name ‘Antoninus’ out of respect for his predecessor. At the same time he prevailed upon the senate to confer upon Lucius also the imperial titles ‘Caesar’ and ‘ Augustus’. For some reason he also gave Lucius the name ‘Verus’, which had been part of Marcus’s own family name. Finally, the two were jointly acclaimed ‘Imperator’ by the Praetorian Guard, and coins were issued bearing the proclamation ‘Concordia Augustorum’, the ‘Harmony of the Emperors’.

It may have been the desire to have time for his philosophical pursuits which persuaded Marcus to elevate Verus to the status of joint ruler. If so, the respite was short-lived. For the peaceful opening to the reign was soon broken by flood and famine at Rome itself, then by serious trouble on the eastern frontier.

The Parthian War

Whether through adept diplomacy or simple good fortune, Antoninus Pius had managed to avoid major warfare throughout his long reign. By contrast, there were scarcely four of Marcus’s 20 years of reign without fierce fighting on either the northern or eastern frontier. The Parthian War arose out of a long-standing quarrel over control of Armenia, which Trajan had made a Roman protectorate. In 1 6 1 the Parthians hit back, expelling the pro-Roman ruler of Armenia, installing their own nominee, and defeating the four-legion garrison of Syria. The crisis called for determined action, and the emperors decided that Verus must travel east to direct operations in person.

Verus and his staff arrived in Syria in 162. The following year, the Roman forces entered Armenia and captured the capital, Artaxata, installing a Roman puppet-king. Meanwhile another general, Avidius Cassius, was operating on the Mesopotamian front. In 165 Cassius captured the Parthian capital Ctesiphon and destroyed the palace of the Parthian king. It was a notable success, but one for which Verus himself was given little credit. The work was done by his generals, it was said, while the emperor was enjoying himself in the garden suburb of Daphne (outside Antioch) or wintering on the Mediterranean coast. He was also criticized for taking up with Panthea, a lady from Smyrna renowned for her beauty. He even shaved off part of his beard to satisfy her whim.

No one could deny, however, that the Parthian War had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The troops returned from the east in 166, and in October of that year a magnificent triumph was celebrated at Rome. To his credit, Verus insisted that Marcus share the triumph with him, and accept the official titles ‘Armeniacus’, ‘Parthicus Maximus’ and ‘Medicus’. It was in fact the first triumph to be celebrated for almost 50 years, since Trajan’s famous victories in the east.

Plague and invasion

As luck would have it, along with the Parthian spoils, the soldiers returning from the east had also brought the plague. This broke out in full scale epidemic with devastating effect in 167. Rome, as a major centre of population, was especially badly affected. It was the first outbreak of its kind for several centuries, and was still raging at Rome over la years later, recurring in the reign of Commodus.

Alongside disease the emperors had to confront a new danger from Germanic invaders on the Danube frontier. A first attack in 166 or early 167 was driven off by the local commander, but further invasions followed, and stronger measures were needed. Together the two emperors left Rome for the north in the spring of 168, but arrived at Aquileia to find most of the fighting over, and the Germanic war-bands already in retreat. Verus was all for returning to Rome, but Marcus insisted that they press on over the Alps. After settling the situation in the frontier provinces they retired to Aquileia for the winter. Early next spring they were travelling south in a carriage when Verus suffered a stroke. Unable to speak, he was taken to Altinum, a small town on the north side of the Venetian lagoon, where he died three days later. Verus’s body was taken back to Rome and laid to rest in the Mausoleum of Hadrian, along with his true father, Lucius Ceionius Commodus, and his adoptive father Antoninus Pius.

Marcus Aurelius did not long remain in Rome, but by the end of 169 was back campaigning in the north. He spent the next five years fighting against the Quadi and Marcomanni, Germanic peoples living north of the middle Danube. In 170 these peoples broke through the frontier and invaded northern Italy, laying siege to Aquileia. It was only towards the end of 171 that the Roman forces began to gain the upper hand, but the fighting was protracted and the conditions harsh. One battle was fought in the depth of winter on the frozen surface of the Danube, another in baking summer on the plains of Hungary, where the legions were pushed to the brink by heat and thirst. Throughout these campaigns, however, Marcus continued to find time for the ordinary practice of government, hearing law-suits and settling the business of the empire. It was also during these years that he began to write the Meditations, the first book is subscribed ‘ Among the Quadi, on the River Gran’.

The revolt of Cassius

Marcus was still heavily engaged on the Danube when news reached him in spring 175 of a revolt in the east. The leader of the revolt was Gaius Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria, a man who had taken a prominent part in the Parthian War under Lucius Verus. Marcus held him in high regard, and had given him command of the east while he himself was campaigning against the Germans.

The whole episode seems indeed to have been a tragic error, stemming from a false rumour that Marcus was dead. Had that been true it would have led at once to a power struggle, since Marcus’s son Commodus was only 13 at the time. The empire might well have devolved instead upon Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus, a distinguished senator who had married Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla, Marcus’s eldest surviving daughter and the widow of Lucius Verus. The empress Faustina, however, had entered into conspiracy with Avidius Cassius. It is unlikely that Avidius Cassius had any intention of deposing Marcus Aurelius, but once he had been proclaimed emperor by the troops there was no turning back. At first, things went well for him. He was Alexandrian by birth, and the eastern provinces supported him with enthusiasm. By the beginning of May, Egypt and Alexandria had come over to his side. But there the dream ended, and just as he was setting out for Rome, Avidius Cassius was assassinated by soldiers loyal to Marcus.

Final years

The emperor was careful not to mount a witch-hunt, aware perhaps of Cassius’s mistaken motives and the involvement of Faustina. He nonetheless took measures to avoid any future attempt at revolt. Commodus was proclaimed heir-apparent, and Marcus and he set out to tour the rebellious eastern provinces. When they eventually returned to Rome in the autumn of 176, Marcus had been absent from the capital for almost eight years. On 23 December they celebrated a belated triumph for the German victories, which were further commemorated by the Aurelian Column, carved with a spiralling frieze in the manner of Trajan’s Column half a century earlier.

But the war in the north was not finished, and on 3 August 1 78 Marcus and Commodus set out once more for the Danube frontier. The year 179 saw a vigorous campaign against the Quadi, but by 180 Marcus was seriously ill. He had been intermittently unwell for several years with stomach and chest troubles, and cancer is one possibility. Cassius Dio tells us ‘it was never his practice to eat during the daytime, unless it was some of the drug called theriac. This drug he took, not so much because he feared anything, as because his stomach and chest were in bad condition; and it is reported that this practice enabled him to endure both this and other maladies.’ Theriac contained opium, and the failing Marcus Aurelius may well have been a drug addict.

The final illness lasted only a week. Dying, he berated his friends for their emotion: ‘Why do you weep for me, instead of thinking about the plague, and about death which is the common lot of us all? ‘Marcus Aurelius died near Sirmium, on 1 7 March 180. The body was buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian. The senate pronounced deification; and though the northern wars were broken off, and the provinces which he had hoped to establish abandoned, his legacy survived in the Meditations, the musings of a stoic prince. The final word may be left to Cassius Dio: ‘He did not meet with the good fortune that he deserved, for he was not strong in body and was involved in a multitude of troubles throughout practically his entire reign. But for my part, I admire him all the more for this very reason, that amid unusual and extraordinary difficulties he both survived himself and preserved the empire.’

To Leyte Gulf

 
Sailing towards Leyte Gulf from left to right CA Chikuma, BB Nagato, BC Haruna, BC Kongo and CA Tone.
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Toyoda readied his various forces on 20 October for the decisive action to come. Setting dawn of 25 October 1944 as ‘X-Day’, he ordered Kurita and Vice- Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s forces to leave Brunei Bay on 22 October and instructed the three other components of the plan: the transport unit of Vice- Admiral Naomasa Sakonju from Manila, the 2nd Striking Force of Vice- Admiral Kiyohide Shima from the islands of the Pescadores in the waters off Formosa, and the diversionary force of Jisaburo Ozawa from the Inland Sea to set out on their travels so that they could meet the requirements of the plan. Despite their major setbacks in the recent past, the Japanese were still able to put a formidable naval force together for this latest and most decisive battle with the Americans. Apart from Musashi and Yamato, the two super-battleships that formed the apex of his designated Centre Force, Kurita could rely upon the substantial battleship Nagato, the two fast ex-battlecruisers that had been reclassified as battleships Haruna and Kongo, ten heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and fifteen destroyers. Shoji Nishimura’s warships, which were expected to form the southern part of the pincer movement against the invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf, were much less impressive both in quantitative and qualitative terms than Kurita’s Centre Force. Although the southern force contained two battleships (Fuso and Yamashiro), the heavy cruiser Mogami and four destroyers, both of the battleships were relatively old, slow and ponderous. Because their route to Leyte Gulf by way of the Surigao Strait was more direct than that to be taken by Kurita, Nishimura left Brunei Bay seven hours after the cutting edge of Shō–Gō- 1 had left port at 0805 hours on 22 October for its longer, more circuitous voyage through the Philippines to Leyte Gulf via the Sibuyan Sea, the San Bernardino Strait and along the east coast of Samar – a distance of some 1400nm (2,593km). Shima’s group was meant to join it in the Sulu Sea west of Leyte and bring a further mix of two cruisers and seven destroyers to bear when the southern part of the pincer snapped shut. That at least was the theory, but would it work out in practice? Much hung on theory and speculation at this time. Ozawa’s appearance with the 1st Mobile Fleet was a case in point. It was to be a decoy force meant to lure Admiral Halsey 3rd Fleet away from Leyte to the north and enable Kurita, Nishimura and Shima to execute a brilliant pincer movement trapping and eliminating Vice-Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s 7th Fleet off the invasion beaches in Leyte Gulf. Despite losing so many planes and, even more importantly, experienced pilots in the Pacific campaign, Ozawa could muster more than 100 aircraft for the fleet carrier Zuikaku and the light carriers Chitose, Chiyoda and Zuiho to use. Along with him, Ozawa brought two old battleships (Hyuga and Ise) which, despite having been converted into seaplane carriers, were carrying only guns – a battery of over a hundred light A.A. guns and six rocket launchers – and no aircraft for this operation. Their main purpose was to be the initial magnet for Halsey’s carrier fleet and then subsequently to defend the rest of Ozawa’s carriers with their A.A. armament. Rounding off his force were three light cruisers, eight destroyers and a supply force that brought together a further destroyer, two tankers and six corvettes. Commanding a decoy force with few aircraft at his disposal was no easy undertaking, but if any Japanese naval officer could pull off this risky manoeuvre Ozawa had the fearless qualities to do so.

As part of the plan to shore up resistance on Leyte to assist the 20,000 Japanese troops already there, Naomasa Sakonju was made responsible for bringing in troop reinforcements in the shape of the 30th and 102nd Infantry Divisions to Ormoc, a port on the northwest coast of the island. His force, consisting of the heavy cruiser Aoba and the old light cruiser Kinu, a destroyer and four fast transports, stayed well clear of the invasion sites in Leyte Gulf, but was still found a few miles south of Cape Calavite off the northeast coast of the island of Mindoro at 0325 hours on 23 October by the US submarine Bream which managed to torpedo the Aoba before making good her escape. That hadn’t been in the script and neither were the activities of two other American submarines, Dace and Darter, which were to strike with even more telling effect a few hours after Bream’s moment of partial success. Cruising off the west coast of the island of Palawan, the two submarines picked up Kurita’s Centre Force on their radar screens at 0116 hours on 23 October. They reported the contact to Halsey and closed in on the warships which were intent on conserving fuel and only making about 15 knots during the hours of darkness. Manoeuvring their way into position before dawn broke, the two submarines waited for the Centre Force to pass before Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes at Kurita’s flagship Atago at 980 yards (274m) distance at 0632 hours. Four of them hit home with deadly effect a minute later. Atago took on an almost immediate 25* list and sank within twenty minutes. Darter was far from finished. She also managed to hit the Takao twice two minutes later on her starboard side totally destroying her rudder, carving two sizable holes in her hull, smashing two of her four propellers and flooding three of her boiler rooms. Not surprisingly, she took on a 10* list to starboard. Her day was done. She was forced to limp back to port in Brunei Bay in the company of the two destroyers Asashimo and the Naganami. Well before arrangements could be carried out to save the Takao, however, Dace announced her entrance onto the scene by firing four torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Maya – all of which hit her port side at 0657 hours and literally blew her apart. She took a few minutes to join her flagship in sinking. Rescued from the wreck of the Atago before she foundered, Kurita quickly transferred his flag to the Yamato (much to Ugaki’s chagrin) and forged on ahead determined that he would fulfil his part of the Shō–Gō- 1 plan even if the element of surprise had been lost, which it obviously had been!

Yak-1

 

At the onset of Great Patriotic War on 22 June 1941, 425 Yak-1 were built, although many of these were en route or still disassembled. Just 92 machines were fully operational in the Western Military Districts – but most were lost in the very first days of the war. Yak-1 was designed with the goal of providing direct coverage of the Il-2 attack planes from enemy fighters. Thus, most of the air combat took place below 4,000 m (13,123 ft), at low altitudes, where Yak-1 performed the best. The Yak-1 proved to have a significant advantage over its Soviet competitors. A full circle turn took just 17 seconds in the Yak-1M. The MiG-3, which had the best high-altitude performance, did poorly at low and medium altitudes, and its light armament made it unsuitable even for ground attack. The LaGG-3 experienced a significant degradation in performance (as much as 100 km/h/62 mph on some aircraft) compared to its prototypes due to the manufacturer’s inexperience with its special wooden construction, which suffered from warping and rotting when exposed to the elements. The Yak-1’s plywood covering also suffered from the weather, but the steel frame kept the aircraft largely intact.

The aircraft’s major problem early in deployment was fuel leaks caused by failure of spot-welded fuel tanks from vibration. Also troublesome was the fact that the canopy could not be opened under certain conditions in earlier models, potentially trapping the pilot in a falling aircraft. As the result, some pilots had the sliding portion of the canopy removed altogether. The first 1,000 Yak-1 had no radios at all. Installation of radio equipment became common by spring 1942 and obligatory by August 1942. But Soviet radios were notoriously unreliable and short-ranged, so they were frequently removed to save weight.

Like most early carburetor-equipped engines, the M-105 could not tolerate negative G forces, which starved it of fuel. Moreover, they suffered breakdowns of magnetos and speed governors, and emitted oil from the reduction shaft.

The Yak-1 was better than Bf 109E but inferior to Bf 109F  – its main opponent – in rate of climb at all altitudes. And although it could complete a circle at the same speed (20–21 seconds at 1,000 meters) as a Bf 109, its lack of agility made dogfights difficult, demanding high levels of concentration. In comparison, a Bf 109, with its automatic flaps, had a lower stall speed and was more stable in sharp turns and vertical aerobatic figures. A simulated combat between a Yak (with M-105PF engine) and a Bf 109F revealed that the Messerschmitt had only marginally superior manoeuvrability at 1,000 meters (3,300 ft), though the German fighter could gain substantial advantage over the Yak-1 within four or five nose-to-tail turns. At 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) the capabilities of the two fighters were nearly equal, combat essentially reduced to head-on attacks. At altitudes over 5,000 meters ( 16,400 ft) the Yak was more manoeuvrable. The engine’s nominal speed at low altitudes was increased to 2,550 rpm and the superiority of the Bf 109F at these altitudes was reduced.

Its armament would be considered too light by Western standards, but was perfectly typical of Soviet aircraft, the pilots of which preferred a few guns grouped on the centerline to improve accuracy and lower weight. Wing guns were rarely used on Soviet fighters, and when they were they were often removed (as they were from US-supplied Bell P-39 Airacobras). Avoiding wing guns lowered weight and demonstrably improved roll rates (the same was true with the Bf 109F). The US and Britain considered heavy armament and high performance necessary even at the cost of reduced agility, while the Soviets relied on the marksmanship of their pilots coupled with agile aircraft. Even with the Yak-1’s light armament, to reduce weight, modifications were made both on front line and on about thirty production aircraft: the 7,62 mm ShKAS machine guns were removed, retaining only the single ShVAK cannon. Nevertheless, those lighter aircraft were popular with experienced pilots, for whom the reduction in armament was acceptable, and combat experience in November 1942 showed a much improved kill-to-loss ratio. Also, in the autumn of 1942 the Yak-1B appeared with the more powerful M-105P engine and a single 12,7 mm UBS machine gun instead of the two ShKAS. Although this did not increase the total weight of fire by much, the UBS machine gun was much more effective than the two 7,62 mm ShKAS. Moreover, the simple VV ring sight replaced the PBP gun-sight, because of the very poor quality of the lenses of the latter. The Yak-1 had a light tail and it was easy to tip over and to hit the ground with the propeller. Often technicians had to keep the tail down and that could lead to accidents, with aircraft taking off with technicians still on the rear fuselage. This was true of other aircraft as well; an almost identical complaint was made about the Supermarine Spitfires in Soviet use, although in that case it was compounded by a very narrow landing gear track.

Nonetheless, the Yak-1 was well liked by its pilots. For Soviet pilot Nikolai G. Golodnikov, overall, in its tactical and technical characteristic, the Yak-1B was comparable to the Messerschmitt Bf 109G at low to mid, but vastly inferior in top speed and high altitude performance. French Normandie-Niemen squadron selected the primitive model Yak-1M (that had a cut-down fuselage to allow all-round vision) when it was formed, in March 1943. Twenty-four of these aircraft were sent to the elite all-female 586 IAP whose pilots included the world’s only female aces: Katya Budanova, with 11, and Lydia Litvyak (11 plus three shared). Litvyak, the most famous fighter pilot woman of all time, flew Yak-1 “Yellow 44”, with aerial mast, at first in 296.IAP and then with 73.Gv.IAP, until her death in combat, on 1 August 1943. Another famous ace who flew the Yak-1 was Mikhail Baranov, who scored all his 24 victories on it, including five on a day (four Bf 109s and one Ju 87, on 6 August 1942). Yak-1s were also the first type operated by the 1 Pułk Lotnictwa Myśliwskiego “Warszawa” (“1st Polish Fighter Regiment ‘Warsaw'”).

The importance of this type in World War II is often underestimated. Soviet naming conventions obscure the fact that the Yak-1 and its successors — the Yak-7, Yak-9 and Yak-3 — are essentially the same design, comparable to the numerous Spitfire or Bf 109 variants. Were the Yaks considered as one type, the 37,000 built would constitute the most produced fighter in history. That total would also make the Yak one of the most prolific aircraft in history, roughly equal to the best known Soviet ground attack type of World War II, the IL-2 Shturmovik. But losses were proportionally high, in fact the highest of all fighters type in service in USSR: in 1941-1945 VVS KA lost 3,336 Yak-1s; 325 in 1941, 1,301 the following year, 1,056 in 1943, 575 in 1944 and 79 in 1945