The Submarine Force Museum is known for being able to tour the first ever nuclear-powered submarine. While the Nautilus is the only submarine at the museum that can be toured from the inside, it doesn’t mean that it is the only submarine on display. Standing outside of the museum doors, a row of smaller submarines greets visitors. People may be surprised to see a submarine on display, on concrete, on a walkway in front of the museum. The “Type A”
submarine on display is not your typical submarine and recalls a time in our nation’s history when a Japanese submarine was generating ticket sales across the country.
On December 7, 1941, America was thrust into WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aerial strike in Hawaii was devastating and began a series of events that would lead our government to declare war on Japan. While the facts of that day can be found everywhere, many people aren’t aware of the Japanese naval attack that was also occurring at the same time. The Imperial Japanese Navy sent a group of submarines to surround Oahu to sink any American ships that attempted to flee. Some of these submarines were equipped with top secret “mini-submarines” that were each armed with two torpedoes and carried two crew members. The plan was for these “mini submarines” to surface and fire their torpedoes during the aerial attack. While we all know the very devastating effect of the air attack, the submarines failed in their mission. Only one was able to escape but was sunk once out of the harbor. Another washed ashore the next day and its surviving crew member was captured. A third submarine was sunk before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It had been seen following a U.S. ship that
was heading into the harbor. The failed mission of the “mini submarines” is not the end of their short history. The submarine captured by the U.S on December 8th was studied by our government and then was used to garner support for the war effort and sell war bonds. This was an effective way to show the American people exactly what they were fighting against.
War bonds are debt securities that help to finance military efforts in times of war. Sold by the government, they are usually retail bonds marketed to the public or wholesales ones sold on the stock market. During WWII, posters encouraged citizens to show their patriotism and buy war bonds and many different events were held throughout the country to encourage sales. However, promotional art and film reels of the frontline could only elicit so much support. But a Japanese submarine provided a physical reminder of what Japan had done to them and promote the rally cry “Remember Pearl Harbor”. The “mini submarine”, or HA-19, that was captured on December 8th was sent around the United States on war bond rallies between 1942 and 1945. Admission to view the submarine was made possible through the purchase of war bonds and stamps. One stop on its tour was Washington D.C. on April 3, 1943.
Upon arriving in Alexandria, Virginia, $40,000 was raised in a little over 20 minutes with a total of $1,061,650 by the end of the day. When she made her way to Hartford, Connecticut, $250,000 worth of bonds were sold with over 20,000 people descending to the city center to view the submarine. War bonds were crucial to the war effort and kept troops supplied with what they needed. While the HA-19 was the more popular
“mini submarine” due to its involvement at Pearl Harbor, she was not the only one to participate in war bond rally tours.
On May 7, 1943, a Japanese midget submarine was salvaged off the coast of Guadalcanal. The HA-8, as she is known, was launched on November 11, 1942 from her carrier submarine I-16. During the launch, her rudder was damaged and lost steering. The mission was aborted and the submarine was scuttled. HA-8 has a length of 79 feet and a displacement of 46 tons. She arrived in Groton as part of one of the War bond efforts between 1943 and 1944. She is just one of four Type A midget submarines on display in the world, including HA-19. While a novelty now, submarines such as HA-8 and HA-19 served as a stark reminder in the 1940’s that the world was not as large as everyone thought. The fight had been brought to our shores, and our military was doing what they had signed up to do – to defend and protect.