I-68 / I-168 file photo

I-68 / I-168

CountryJapan
Ship ClassKaidai-class Submarine
BuilderKure Naval Arsenal
Launched1 Jun 1934
Commissioned31 Jul 1934
Sunk27 Jul 1943
Displacement1400 tons standard

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

I-68 was a Kaidai-class submarine of the KD6A type. On 23 Nov 1941, as a member of Submarine Squadron 3, she was deployed off the Hawaii Islands for reconnaissance in preparation of the Pearl Harbor attack. She remained in the area after the attack, and was detected and attacked by depth charges on 13 Dec, damaging many battery cells and flooded the aft torpedo tubes. Lieutenant Commander Otoji Nakamura decided to take her back to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands for repairs, arriving on 28 Dec. In Jan 1942, she traveled to Kure, Japan to receive further repairs. Upon completion of repairs, she made several war patrols, but none yielded any sinkings. On 20 May 1942, she was renamed I-168.

On 31 May 1942, as a part of the Advance Expeditionary Force, I-168 arrived in the vicinity of Midway Atoll. On 2 Jun, she reported usually heavy aircraft traffic at Sand Island. On 4 Jun, as the battle began, she made periscope observations during the first attack on the atoll. I-168 surfaced 1,100 yards southwest of Midway at 1024 hours and fired 6 shots with her 10-centimeter deck gun, inflicting no damage. When she was caught by American searchlights, she submerged and evaded American return-fire. She survived a brief subsequent patrol vessel chase and depth charge attack. Later on 5 Jun, while ordered to approach the damaged USS Yorktown, she was attack by a PBY Catalina patrol aircraft, but the attack caused no damage. On 6 Jun at about 0410 hours, at the range of 12 miles, she found USS Yorktown. At 0600 hours, she detected the first of six American destroyers guarding the carrier. Submerged, she successfully maneuvered, very slowly, toward Yorktown without being spotted by any of the American destroyers in the area. At 1331 hours, at the range of about 1,900 yards, she fired two spreads of 2 torpedoes each, three seconds apart, then began to dive to the depth of 200 feet. Destroyer USS Hammann attempted to hit the torpedoes with a 20-millimeter gun, but she failed to detonate them before one of them hit her amidships, sinking her quickly. Two of the three remaining torpedoes hit USS Yorktown at 1332 hours, but she would remain afloat until 0701 hours of the following day. After the attack, beginning at about 1336 hours, American destroyers began attacking I-168 with depth charges, causing flood in the forward torpedo room and the maneuvering room and damaging many battery cells; the latter damage released toxic air into the interior of the submarine, forcing the crew to don gas masks. She remained below the surface until 1640, still in view of the destroyers at just over 10,000 yards, so that she could charge her batteries. American destroyers gave chase and began firing at the range of 5,000 to 6,000 yards, but by then I-168 had charged her batteries enough that she could dive again to hide. She would surface at 2000 hours and continue her escape. She arrived in Japan on 19 Jun on only two engines due to low fuel levels.

Upon completion of repairs, I-168 conducted several transport missions to Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands and various locations in the Solomon Islands. On 27 Jul 1943, sent a regular situation report while in the Isabel Strait; this would be the last message from the submarine. At 1754 hours, at dusk, she observed an enemy submarine in the Steffen Strait between New Ireland and New Hanover. She fired a torpedo at what turned out to be USS Scamp, which crash dove and evaded the attack. At 1812, USS Scamp returned fire with a spread of four torpedoes at periscope depth, and claimed that she had hit and sunk the Japanese submarine.

After WW2, the United States Army-Navy Joint Assessment Committee took away the credit of the sinking of I-168 from USS Scamp.

Sources: Combinedfleet.com, Wikipedia.

Submarine I-68 / I-168 Interactive Map

I-68 / I-168 Operational Timeline

31 Jul 1934 I-68 / I-168 was commissioned into service.
25 Jul 1941 Lieutenant Commander Otoji Nakamura became the commanding officer of I-68.
11 Nov 1941 I-68 joined the Advance Expeditionary Force for the Pearl Harbor attack; she departed Saeki, Japan for Kwajalein, Marshall Islands.
23 Nov 1941 I-68 departed Kwajalein, Marshall Islands for her first war patrol in the Hawaii Islands area.
8 Dec 1941 I-68 traveled to the entrance of Pearl Harbor to rescue any surviving midget submarine crews.
13 Dec 1941 I-68 was attacked by American depth charges on this day and following days, damaging many battery cells and flooded the aft torpedo tubes.
28 Dec 1941 I-68 arrived at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands and received temporary repairs.
31 Dec 1941 I-68 departed Kwajalein, Marshall Islands.
9 Jan 1942 I-68 arrived at Kure, Japan and received repairs.
27 Jan 1942 Lieutenant Commander Otoji Nakamura of I-68 traveled to Yamato to brief Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto on the depth charge attacks his submarine received during the Pearl Harbor attack.
31 Jan 1942 Commander Yahachi Tanabe became the commanding officer of I-68.
20 May 1942 Japanese submarine I-68 was renamed I-168.
23 May 1942 I-168 departed Kure, Japan on her second war patrol in the Midway area.
31 May 1942 I-168 arrived in the Midway Atoll vicinity.
2 Jun 1942 I-168 observed Sand Island, Midway Atoll with her periscope, reporting heavy aircraft activity.
3 Jun 1942 I-168 circled Midway Atoll to provide weather data and other observations to the headquarters of the Combined Fleet.
4 Jun 1942 I-168 observed the first Japanese attack on Midway Atoll through the periscope.
5 Jun 1942 I-168 surfaced 1,100 yards southwest of Midway at 1024 hours and fired 6 shots with her 10-centimeter deck gun, inflicting no damage. When she was caught by American searchlights, she submerged and evaded American return-fire. She survived two subsequent attacks, one by a patrol vessel and another by PBY Catalina aircraft, incurring no damage.
6 Jun 1942 Japanese submarine I-168 successfully navigated past American destroyers at 0430 hours north of Midway Atoll and closed in on the damaged carrier USS Yorktown at 1331 hours, firing 4 torpedoes. Destroyer USS Hammann was struck, sinking her immediately (84 were killed, 104 survived). Yorktown was also hit, but it would remain afloat despite the additional damage.
7 Jun 1942 I-168 successfully evaded the hunt by American submarines and escaped the Midway area on only two engines to conserve fuel.
19 Jun 1942 I-168 arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, took on fuel, and departed for Kure, Japan.
26 Jun 1942 I-168 arrived at Sasebo, Japan for repairs.
30 Jun 1942 Commander Kinzo Tonozuka became the commanding officer of I-168.
31 Aug 1942 Repairs to I-168 was finished and she departed Sasebo, Japan. Lieutenant Commander Katsuji Watanabe became the commanding officer of the submarine.
15 Oct 1942 Lieutenant Commander Sakae Nakajima became the commanding officer of I-168.
18 Nov 1942 I-168 arrived at Kure, Japan and entered drydock for repairs.
15 Dec 1942 I-168 departed Kure, Japan for Truk, Caroline Islands.
22 Dec 1942 I-168 arrived at Truk, Caroline Islands.
1 Jan 1943 I-168 arrived at Guadalcanal with 15 tons of cargo; she was chased away by two patrol boats after only 60% of her cargo had been unloaded.
3 Jan 1943 I-168 arrived at Shortland Islands in the Soloman Islands.
4 Jan 1943 I-168 departed Shortland Islands in the Soloman Islands.
7 Jan 1943 I-168 arrived at Truk, Caroline Islands.
8 Jan 1943 I-168 departed Truk, Caroline Islands.
14 Jan 1943 I-168 arrived at Kure, Japan.
22 Feb 1943 I-168 departed Kure, Japan.
25 Feb 1943 I-168 arrived at Yokosuka, Japan.
5 Mar 1943 I-168 departed Yokosuka, Japan for Paramushiro, Kurile Islands.
13 Mar 1943 I-168 departed Paramushiro, Kurile Islands for the Aleutian Islands.
18 Mar 1943 I-168 departed Kiska, Aleutian Islands and patrolled an area south of Amchitka.
1 Apr 1943 I-168 arrived at Kiska, Aleutian Islands from Paramushiro, Kurile Islands; she took on sick personnel of the Kiska garrison and departed.
4 Apr 1943 I-168 transferred men from Kiska to Attu in the Aleutian Islands.
17 Apr 1943 I-168 departed Attu, Aleutian Islands with a cargo of ammunition and mail for Kiska.
19 Apr 1943 I-168 arrived at Kiska, Aleutian Islands with a cargo of ammunition and mail.
9 May 1943 I-168 arrived at Yokosuka, Japan and was transferred to Submarine Squadron 3.
12 Jul 1943 I-168 departed Kure, Japan.
22 Jul 1943 I-168 arrived at Truk, Caroline Islands.
25 Jul 1943 I-168 departed Truk, Caroline Islands for Rabaul.
27 Jul 1943 I-168 sent a regular situation report while in the Isabel Strait; this would be the last message from the submarine. At 1754 hours, at dusk, she observed an enemy submarine in the Steffen Strait between New Ireland and New Hanover. She fired a torpedo at what turned out to be USS Scamp, which crash dove and evaded the attack. At 1812, USS Scamp returned fire with a spread of four torpedoes at periscope depth, hitting her with the loss of all hands.
10 Sep 1943 After no report since 27 Jul 1943, the Japanese Navy presumed I-168 lost.
15 Oct 1943 I-168 was struck from the Navy List.

Photographs

Japanese submarine I-68 underway, Mar 1934; she was likely to be running trials




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    21 May 2014 02:55:49 PM

    It is good that this website has an article on the I-68/168. It would be nice if it also had articles on Japan's other successful subs: the I-19, I-26, and the sole survivor of the B1 class, the I-36.

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Personnel:
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Submarine I-68 / I-168 Photo Gallery
Japanese submarine I-68 underway, Mar 1934; she was likely to be running trials




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