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Japanese submarine I-3
Career (Imperial Japanese Navy) RN Ensign
Name: SS-76
Builder: Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corporation, Kobe, Japan
Laid down: 1 November 1923
Renamed: I-3 1 November 1924
Launched: 8 June 1925
Completed: 30 November 1926
Commissioned: 30 November 1926
Decommissioned: 15 November 1935
Recommissioned: 1 December 1936
Fate: Sunk 9 December 1942
Struck: 20 January 1943
General characteristics
Class & type: J1 type submarine
Displacement: 2135 tons (surfaced) 2,791 tons(submerged)
Length: 320 ft (98 m)
Beam: 30 ft (9.1 m)
Draught: 16.5 ft (5.0 m)
  • Twin-shaft MAN 10-cylinder 4-stroke diesels giving 6000 bhp
  • Two electric motors of 2600 ehp
Speed: 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) (surfaced) 8 kn (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) (submerged)
Range: 24,400 nmi (45,200 km; 28,100 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 68 officers and men
  • two 140mm/40 caliber (5.5-in) deck guns (one each fore and aft)[1]
  • After gun replaced by mounting for 46 ft (14.0 m) Daihatsu barge in September 1942
  • 6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes
  • 20 × Type 95 oxygen-driven torpedoes
Notes: Max depth 80 metres (262 ft)

I-3 was a J1 type submarine built by Kawasaki, Kobe, for the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was a large cruiser submarine displacing 2,135 tons that entered service in 1926 and served in the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. During the latter conflict she operated in support of the attack on Pearl Harbor, conducted anti-shipping patrols in the Indian Ocean, supported the Indian Ocean raid, and took part in the Aleutian Islands campaign and the Guadalcanal campaign before she was sunk in December 1942.

Construction and commissioning[]

Built by Kawasaki at Kobe, Japan, I-3 was laid down on 1 November 1923 with the name SS-76.[2] While she was on the building ways, she was renamed I-3 on 1 November 1924.[2] She was launched on 8 June 1925[2] and was completed and commissioned on 30 November 1926.[2]

Service history[]

Early service[]

Upon commissioning, I-3 was attached to the Yokosuka Naval District, assigned to Submarine Division 7 in Submarine Squadron 2 in the 2nd Fleet.[2] While in the Seto Inland Sea entering Moroshima Bay on the surface at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) on 12 July 1928, she suffered a rudder failure and ran aground off Ōmishima Island at 10:11, damaging her bow fuel tank.[2] She was refloated at 16:22 and proceeded to Kure to undergo repairs at Kure Navy Yard.[2]

The German naval attaché to Japan, Kapitän zur See Paul Wenneker, was scheduled to inspect I-3 and her sister ship I-2 on 10 January 1935 while the two submarines were tied up at Yokosuka.[2] Wenneker toured I-2 between 14:50 and 15:40, but his inspection of I-3 was cancelled due to bad weather.[2]

On 15 November 1935 I-3 was decommissioned and placed in reserve to undergo reconstruction.[2] While she was out of commission her American-made sonar was replaced by a sonar system manufactured in Japan and her conning tower was streamlined.[2] After the reconstruction was complete, she was recommissioned on 1 December 1936.[2] During scheduled upkeep in Sukumo Bay on the coast of Shikoku on 18 May 1937, she suffered an explosion in a lubricating oil sump tank that killed one man and injured 17 others.[2] She proceeded to Kure Navy Yard for repairs.[2]

Second Sino-Japanese War[]

On 7 July 1937 the first day of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident took place, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War.[2] On 28 July 1937, I-3′s division, Submarine Division 7, was assigned to Submarine Squadron 1 in the 1st Fleet,[2] and in September 1937 Submarine Squadron 1 was reassigned to the 3rd Fleet,[3] which in turn was subordinated to the China Area Fleet for service in Chinese waters.[3] The squadron, consisting of I-1, I-2, I-3, I-4, I-5, and I-6,[3] deployed to a base at Hong Kong with the submarine tenders Chōgei and Taigei in September 1937.[3] From Hong Kong, the submarines began operations in support of a Japanese blockade of China and patrols of China's central and southern coast.[3] From 21 to 23 August 1937, all six submarines of Submarine Squadron 1 operated in the East China Sea as distant cover for an operation in which the battleships Nagato, Mutsu, Haruna, and Kirishima and the light cruiser Isuzu ferried troops from Tadotsu, Japan, to Shanghai, China.[2]

Submarine Squadron 1 was based at Hong Kong until the autumn of 1938.[3] In an effort to reduce international tensions over the conflict in China, Japan withdrew its submarines from Chinese waters in December 1938.[3]

World War II[]

On 10 November 1941 — by which time I-1, I-2, and I-3 made up Submarine Division 17 in Submarine Squadron 2 in the 6th Fleet[2] — the commander of the 6th Fleet, Vice Admiral Mitsumi Shimizu, gathered the commanding officers of the fleet's submarines together for a meeting aboard his flagship, the light cruiser Katori, which was anchored in Saeki Bay.[4] Shimizu briefed them on the upcoming attack on Pearl Harbor, which would bring Japan and the United States into World War II.[2] As the Imperial Japanese Navy began to deploy for the upcoming conflict in the Pacific, I-3 got underway from Yokosuka at 12:00 on 16 November 1941, bound for the Hawaiian Islands.[2] By 1 December 1941, she was within 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) of Oahu.[2] She received the message "Climb Mount Niitaka 1208" (Japanese language: Niitakayama nobore 1208 ) from the Combined Fleet on 2 December 1941, indicating that war with the Allies would commence on 8 December 1941 Japan time, which was on 7 December 1941 on the other side of the International Date Line in Hawaii.[2]

First war patrol[]

On 7 December 1941, I-1, I-2, and I-3 arrived in their patrol areas in the Kauai Channel between Oahu and Kauai, with I-3 the easternmost of the three.[2] They had orders to conduct reconnaissance in the area and attack any ships which sortied from Pearl Harbor during or after the attack, which occurred that morning.[2] On 27 December 1941, I-3 received an order from the commander of Submarine Squadron 2 aboard the submarine I-7 to bombard the harbor at Nawiliwili, Kauai, on 30 December.[2] She arrived off Nawiliwili during daylight hours on 30 December 1941 and conducted a periscope reconnaissance of the Wailua River estuary.[4] After dark, she surfaced and fired twenty 140-millimetre (5.5 in) high-explosive rounds from her deck guns, targeting the harbor's breakwater and a building she identified as a warehouse.[2] Most of the rounds fell short, although one shell damaged a house with shrapnel and another punched a hole in a large gasoline storage tank, which did not explode.[2] The bombardment inflicted damage totaling an estimated US$500.[2]

On 31 December 1941, I-3 sighted what she identified as an aircraft carrier, two cruisers, and several destroyers heading due west 100 nautical miles (190 km; 120 mi) west-southwest of Oahu, but was unable to obtain a firing position on them.[2] On 9 January 1942, she was ordered to divert from her patrol and search for the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), which the submarine I-18 had sighted,[2] but she did not find Lexington. She arrived at Kwajalein in company with I-1 and I-2 on 22 January 1942.[2] The three submarines departed[2] Kwajalein on 24 January 1942 bound for Yokosuka, which they reached on 1 February 1942.[2] They underwent a complete overhaul and refit there.[2]

Second war patrol[]

While I-3 was at Yokosuka, Submarine Squadron 2 — consisting of I-1, I-2, I-3, I-4, I-6, and I-7, the latter serving as squadron flagship — was assigned to the Dutch East Indies Invasion Force.[2] Accordingly, I-3 departed Yokosuka on 12 February 1942 with the commander of Submarine Division 7 embarked, bound for Palau, where she arrived on 16 February 1942 and refueled from the oiler Fujisan Maru, then got back underway on 17 February in company with I-2 bound for the Netherlands East Indies.[2] The two submarines arrived at Staring Bay on the Southeast Peninsula of Celebes just southeast of Kendari on 22 February 1942,[2] then put back to sea that same afternoon, heading for the Indian Ocean off the southwest coast of Australia, where I-3 was to conduct her second war patrol in the Cape LeeuwinShark Bay area.[2] While en route, I-3 sighted an Allied submarine on the surface in the Banda Sea on 23 February 1942, but could not get into a firing position.[2]

On 2 March 1942, I-3 attacked the New Zealand 9,540-ton armed steamer Narbada on the surface in the Indian Ocean 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) west-northwest of Fremantle, Australia.[2] Although Narbada suffered minor damage from shell fragments, I-3 failed to score any hits on her, and when Narbada fired back, I-3 broke off her attack and submerged at 31°50′S 113°30′E / 31.833°S 113.5°E / -31.833; 113.5.[2] On 3 March 1942, I-3 encountered the New Zealand 8,719-ton armed steamer Tongariro in the Indian Ocean 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) west-northwest of Rottnest Island and pursued her on the surface, but when Tongariro — which was nearing the end of a voyage from Wellington, New Zealand, to Fremantle — opened fire, I-3 discontinued the chase and submerged.[2] On 6 March 1942, while heading west-southwest on the surface, I-3 sighted the United States Navy submarine USS S-40 (SS-145), also on the surface and on an intersecting course.[2] Mistaking I-3 for the submarine USS Stingray (SS-186), S-40 attempted to contact I-3, but I-3 opened fire on her with both deck guns at 24°28′S 112°40′E / 24.467°S 112.667°E / -24.467; 112.667.[2] S-40 submerged and attempted to gain a firing position on I-3 for a torpedo attack, but I-3 was too far away.[2] I-3 concluded her patrol with her arrival at Penang in Japanese-occupied British Malaya on 14 March 1942.[2]

Third war patrol[]

Orders arrived from the headquarters of the Combined Fleet on 15 March 1942 for all the submarines of Submarine Squadron 2 except for I-1 to conduct reconnaissance operations along the coast of Ceylon and western coast of India in preparation for Operation C, the upcoming Indian Ocean raid by the aircraft carriers of the Combined Fleet's Mobile Force.[2] Accordingly, I-3 departed Penang at 28 March 1942 bound for the waters off Colombo, Ceylon.[2] She sighted a land plane at 13:00 local time on 31 March 1942 at a distance of 195 nautical miles (361 km; 224 mi) from Colombo and bearing 135 degrees from that port, but saw no other aircraft during her approach.[2] She arrived in the Colombo area on 2 April 1942 and began to transmit weather reports for the benefit of the Japanese aircraft carrier force, and at 04:25 local time sighted a lone merchant ship steaming westward 70 nautical miles (130 km; 81 mi) from, and bearing 220 degrees from, Colombo, but found no ships leaving or entering the harbor itself.[2] At 22:00 she reported that she had been unable to penetrate the harbor itself due to heavy patrolling by Allied vessels.[2]

I-3 departed the Colombo area and was not in the vicinity when Mobile Force carrier aircraft struck Colombo on 5 April 1942.[2] Early on the morning of 7 April 1942, she was in the Indian Ocean 150 nautical miles (280 km; 170 mi) west-southwest of Colombo when she sighted five Allied merchant ships heading eastward and then a merchant ship and an oiler, both westbound.[2] After an unsuccessful pursuit, she surfaced at 06°52′N 078°50′E / 6.867°N 78.833°E / 6.867; 78.833 and attacked the British 4,872-ton armed merchant steamer Elmdale, which was on a voyage from Karachi to Colombo.[2] From 02:40, she fired thirty-nine 140-millimetre (5.5 in) rounds and four torpedoes at Elmdale and scored 14 shell hits, but Elmdale survived the encounter.[2] After 01:50 on 8 April 1942, I-3 surfaced 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) west of Colombo and attacked the 5,051-ton armed merchant ship Fultala, which was on a voyage from Calcutta, India, to Karachi carrying 8,000 tons of coal.[2] She hit Fultala with a Type 89 torpedo, and Fultala sank without loss of life at 06°52′N 076°54′E / 6.867°N 76.9°E / 6.867; 76.9.[2] Her entire crew was later rescued.[2]

I-3 returned to her patrol area southwest of Colombo on 9 April 1942, then proceeded to Singapore, where she arrived in company with I-7 on 15 April 1942.[2] She got back underway on 21 April 1942 bound for Japan, and arrived at Yokosuka on 1 May 1942.[2]

Fourth war patrol[]

While I-3 was at Yokosuka, the Aleutian Islands campaign began on 3–4 June 1942 with a Japanese air raid on Dutch Harbor, Alaska, followed quickly by the unopposed Japanese occupation in the Aleutian Islands of Attu on 5 June and Kiska on 7 June 1942.[2] On 10 June 1842, I-1, I-2, and I-3 were reassigned to the Northern Force for duty in the Aleutians, and on 11 June 1942 I-3 set out for Aleutian waters in company with I-1, I-2, I-6, and I-7 to begin her fourth war patrol.[2] On 20 June 1942, I-1, I-2, and I-3 joined the "K" patrol line in the North Pacific Ocean between 48°00′00″N 178°00′00″W / 48°N 178°W / 48; -178 and 50°00′00″N 178°00′00″W / 50°N 178°W / 50; -178.[2] She remained on the patrol line until 3 July 1942.[2] On 20 July 1942, she was reassigned to the Advance Force and ordered to return to Japan.[2] She arrived at Yokosuka on 1 August 1942 and underwent repairs there.[2]

Guadalcanal campaign[]

During I-3′s stay at Yokosuka, the Guadalcanal campaign began on 7 August 1942 with U.S. amphibious landings on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Florida Island, Gavutu, and Tanambogo in the southeastern Solomon Islands.[2] Submarine Squadron 2 was disbanded on 20 August 1942 and I-3 was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 1 for operations around Guadalcanal.[2] I-3 left Yokosuka on 8 September 1942 in company with I-1, I-2, I-4, and I-5, stopped at Truk from 15 to 17 September 1942, and proceeded to Shortland Island in the Shortland Islands.[2][4] While she was at sea, she was reassigned along with I-1 and I-2 to the Outer South Seas Force in the 8th Fleet.[2] On 26 September, I-3 reached Shortland Island, where the destroyers Amagiri and Ayanami had delivered four Daihatsu-class landing craft, each loaded with a Type 88 75-millimeter antiaircraft gun, an artillery tractor, and several Type 96 150-millimeter infantry mortars.[2] The commanding officers of I-2 and I-3 took part in a staff conference to decide on a way of delivering the equipment to the Imperial Japanese Army forces on Guadalcanal,[2] and, after they made their plans, I-2 and I-3 departed on a supply run to Guadalcanal at 03:30 on 27 September 1942, each towing a Daihatsu.[2][4] They returned to Shortland Island after delivering their cargoes.[2] Between 3 and 5 October 1942, I-3 attempted three supply runs to Wickham Anchorage on Vangunu and Viru Harbor on New Georgia, but aborted each voyage.[2] She was reassigned to "A" Patrol Group in the Advance Force on 10 October 1942, and while on patrol 110 nautical miles (200 km; 130 mi) south-southeast of San Cristobal on 15 October 1942 transmitted a report at 22:40 that she had sighted several Allied cruisers.[2]

I-3 returned to Truk on 3 November 1942, and while there had her after 140-millimetre (5.5 in) gun replaced with a mounting abaft her conning tower for a waterproof Daihatsu that allowed her to discharge her cargo more quickly.[2] While she was at Truk, the commander of the 6th Fleet, Vice Admiral Teruhisa Komatsu, addressed a meeting of the commanding officers of his fleet's submarines on 16 November 1942 to inform them that the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, had ordered the 6th Fleet to organize a system of supply runs to the 17th Army forces fighting on Guadalcanal via submarine.[2] Assigned to these supply missions, I-3 departed Truk on 19 November 1942 bound for Rabaul with a cargo of 20 tons of food and medicine.[2] She stopped at Rabaul from 22 to 24 November 1942, then proceeded to Shortland Island, which she reached on 25 November 1942.[2] Carrying a waterproof Daihatsu on her new mounting, she departed on 27 November and reached Kamimbo Bay on the northwest coast of Guadalcanal on 28 November 1942.[4] She quickly unloaded the Daihatsu and got back underway for Shortland Island, which she reached on 30 November 1942.[2] On 1 December 1942, she put back to sea on another supply run to Guadalcanal, but when she surfaced off Kamimbo Bay after sunset on 3 December 1942, two Allied motor torpedo boats sighted her and forced her to submerge, and she returned to Shortland Island on 5 December 1942 without delivering her cargo.[2] On 7 December 1942, she got underway from Shortland Island for her sixth supply run to Guadalcanal.[2]


On 9 December 1942, I-3 surfaced at Kamimbo Bay, launched her Daihatsu, and began preparations to deliver her cargo.[2] At 06:52, the PT boat PT-59, patrolling the area in company with PT-44, sighted I-3 on the surface with her Daihatsu alongside.[2] At 07:03, PT-59 fired two Mark 15 torpedoes at I-3 at a range of 400 yards (370 m)[2] Her second torpedo missed and passed under PT-44 without detonating, but her first torpedo struck I-3′s stern, resulting in a large explosion.[2] I-3 quickly sank at 09°12′S 159°42′E / 9.2°S 159.7°E / -9.2; 159.7 (I-3).[2] Four members of her crew were blown overboard, swam to Guadalcanal, and survived, but the other 90 members of I-3′s crew perished.[2] Over the next 90 minutes, a large oil slick rose to the surface.[2]

The loss of I-3 led the Japanese to suspend submarine supply trips to Guadalcanal on 11 December 1942.[4] I-2, which departed Shortland Island on 9 December 1942 on a supply run to Guadalcanal, aborted her voyage on 11 December and returned to Shortland.[4]

I-3 was stricken from the Navy list on 20 January 1943.[2]




  • Boyd, Carl, and Akihiko Yoshida. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995. ISBN 1-55750-015-0.

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