Built at Sasebo Navy Yard in Sasebo as Boat Number 377. Laid down November 21, 1942. Launched September 29, 1943. Completed on July 10, 1944. After commissioning, based at the Yokosuka Naval District under the command of LtCdr Zenji Orita. After joining SubDiv 11, the sub completed its shake down cruise, then was assigned to SibDiv 15.
During October 1944 while at Yokosuka, I-47 was configured to carry four Kaiten (Turning of the Heavens) human-torpedoes, and begins training.
On November 8, 1944 the submarine departed Otsujima on a mission to attack the US Navy anchorage at Ulithi, as part of the Kikusui Group (including submarines I-47, I-36 and the I-37, each armed with four kaitens and eight conventional torpedoes). The I-47 and the I-36 are to attack Ulithi. I-37 is to attack anchored enemy shipping off Palau. After the Kaiten attacks, I-47 and the I-36 are to proceed to Leyte Gulf and attack enemy shipping with conventional torpedoes.
On November 16, 1944 a C6N1 Saiun-Kai (Myrt) high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the 141 Kokutai from Truk reported four fleet carriers, three battleships, cruisers and destroyers are in the north central part of Ulithi while south central area is occupied by transports, oilers and other vessels. This report is relayed to the Kikusui Group submarines.
During the evening of November 18, 1944, I-47 arrives in the area 50 miles west of Ulithi and approaches from the southwest direction.
On November 19, 1944 the I-47 and I-36 reach their launching point off Ulithi. At dawn, the I-47 surfaces. LtCdr Orita approaches on the surface at 12 knots. From 4 ½ miles, he sees over 200 ships in the anchorage at Ulithi.
20 November 1944:
The I-47 surfaces at 0030. At 0415, Orita launches Lt (j.g.) Nishina Sekio (the co-inventor of the Kaiten). Nishina carries with him the ashes of the other the kaiten co-inventor, Ensign Kuroki Hiroshi. At 0420, Orita launches Ensign Sato Akira, at 0425 Ensign Watanabe Kozo and at 0430, Lt (j.g.) Fukuda Hitoshi.
The attacks by the I-47's kaiten are unsuccessful, but at 0545 a kaiten launched by the I-36 hits USS Mississinewa (AO-59) on her starboard bow. Engulfed by flames, the oiler capsizes and sinks. After the attack, the I-47 and the I-36 then proceed towards Leyte Gulf. Instead, they are ordered to return to Kure, returning on November 30, 1944.
2 December 1944:
A special conference of more than 200 staff officers and specialists is held aboard the Sixth Fleet's flagship, the TSUKUSHI MARU to evaluate the Kikusui mission to Ulithi. The staff considers reports and post-attack photo reconnaissance and concludes quite erroneously that three aircraft carriers and two battleships were sunk in the attack.
25 December 1944: The Second Kaiten Mission:
The plan calls for the "Kongo" group: I-36, I-47, I-48, I-53, I-56 and the I-58 to attack the Americans at five different points. The I-47 departs Otsujima for Hollandia, New Guinea.
30 December 1944:
290 miles W of Guam. The I-47 rescues eight starved Imperial Army soldiers who escaped from Guam on a raft in an attempt to storm the airfield and drifted in the open sea for 32 days.
On January 11, 1945, I-47 was roughly 50 miles north of Hollandia and spotted a fully illuminated hospital ship and several torpedo boats heading for the Humboldt Bay anchorage.
On January 12, 1945 I-47 took up position in Humboldt Bay off Hollandia. At 4:15am launched four kaitens at five minute intervals piloted by Lt (jg) Kawakubo Teruo, CPO Muramatsu Minoru, PO2C Sato Katsumi and Lt (jg) Hara Atsuro. At 5:11am, one kaitens damage the anchored American Liberty ship USS Pontus H. Ross. A red column of fire is sighted in the anchorage at roughly Lat 2° 33' S, Long 140° 6W. While withdrawing, the I-47 receives an S. O. S. signal from the direction of the anchorage. Afterwards, departs northward back to Japan arriving at Kure on February 1, 1945.
20 March 1945:
Inland Sea. Conducts battle exercises with kaitens along with I-36, I-44, I-53, I-56 and I-58.
26 March 1945: American Operation "Iceberg" - The Invasion of Okinawa:
The 77th Infantry Division ("Statue of Liberty") lands on the Kerama Islands and by 29 March captures advance bases and anchorages. On 1 April, Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet, including more than 40 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 200 destroyers and over 1,000 support ships surround Okinawa. LtGen Simon B. Buckner Jr's Tenth Army (7th, 77th, 96th Infantry, 2nd, 6th Marine divisions) makes amphibious landings and takes the island from LtGen Ushijima Mitsuro's 32nd Army.
March 1945: The Fifth Kaiten Mission:
The I-47, I-44, I-56 and the I-58 are formed into the "Tatara"group, each carrying six kaitens, to attack anchored American shipping off Okinawa.
27 May 1945:
Rear Admiral Nagai arrives to see the kaiten crews off.
28 March 1945:
Hikari. Six Kaiten are loaded aboard the I-47. Their pilots receive the ritual daggers from Admiral Nagai.
29 March 1945:
Departs Hikari. About 1600, in the Hyuga Nada, the I-47 spots a flight of planes identified as TBM "Avengers" and crash-dives.
31 March 1945:
25 miles E of Tanegashima Island, S of Kyushu. About 0200, the I-47 sights two enemy destroyers. She crash-dives, but is chased for the next 12 hours. As the I-47 submerges, fragments rain down on her conning tower. Her No. 1 periscope is knocked out and develops a leak. She survives 21 depth charges.
After surfacing in heavy mist off Tanegashima, LtCdr Orita inspects for damage and finds the I-47 is leaking fuel oil.
1 April 1945:
Arrives at Kure for repairs.
Returns to Hikari to load new kaitens.
20 April 1945: The Sixth Kaiten Mission:
The I-47 and the I-36, each carrying six kaitens, form the "Tembu" ("Heavenly Warriors") group that is ordered to attack American supply ships between Ulithi and Okinawa. The I-47 departs Hikari.
24 April 1945:
LtCdr Suzuki Shokichi (former CO of RO-46) is slated to be the I-47's next Commanding Officer.
27 April 1945:
LtCdr Orita receives a signal from the I-36 about a successful kaiten attack on a convoy.
1 May 1945:
SSW of Oki-Daito-Shima. About midnight, the I-47's Type 22 radar detects an American convoy. That same day, Vice Admiral, the Marquis, Daigo Tadashige (former CO of ASHIGARA) relieves Vice Admiral Miwa of command of the Sixth Fleet (Submarines).**
2 May 1945:
160 miles SSW of Oki-Daito-Shima. About 0900, the I-47's hydrophones pick up screw noises. The I-47 sights two ships heading NW at ten knots. The I-47 launches two kaitens piloted by Lt (j.g.) Kakizaki Minoru and PO1C Yamaguchi Shigeo. Forty-seven minutes later the I-47's soundman hears an explosion. Then the last kaiten piloted by CPO Furukawa Shichiro is launched to attack the escorts. The I-47's soundman reports that Furukawa hit a destroyer.***
5 May 1945:
The I-47 arrives at her assigned area between Guam and Okinawa.
7 May 1945:
SSW of Oki-Daito-Shima. The I-47's radar detects a "British LEANDER-class cruiser" (possibly HMNZS ACHILLES). LtCdr Orita launches a kaiten piloted by Lt (j.g.) Maeda Hajime. The remaining two kaitens cannot be launched because of malfunctioning torpedoes . Orita reports a hit on the cruiser to the Sixth Fleet. The I-47 is ordered to return to port.
13 May 1945:
Returns to Kure.
14 May 1945:
LtCdr Orita is relieved by LtCdr Suzuki. Orita is reassigned as a tactics instructor at the Kure Submarine School.
19 July 1945: The Ninth Kaiten Mission:
The I-47 is in the "Tamon" kaiten group with the I-53, I-58, I-367, I-366 and the I-363. Departs Hikari for an area SE of Okinawa, but is unable to make any contacts due to rough weather.
21 July 1945:
400 miles E of Okinawa. The I-47 fires one kaiten at a lone merchant, but LtCdr Suzuki does not report the attack.
11 August 1945:
Returns to Kure.
14 August 1945:
At Hikari. The I-47 is scheduled to proceed to Dairen, Manchukuo (Manchuria) in late August to get fuel for the next patrol.
15 August 1945:
Arrives at Kure. The Emperor Hirohito (Showa) broadcasts an Imperial Rescript that calls for an end to hostilities.
The crew of the I-47 refuses to surrender. They board a kaibokan in Kure harbor and confiscate its food supply, as well as several rifles and machine guns. They intend to proceed to Rabaul to continue fighting but the plan fails because of the lack of fuel. Eventually the revolt peters out and the submarine is abandoned by her crew.
2 September 1945:
At Kure. The I-47 is surrendered.
30 November 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.
1 April 1946:
Scuttled off the Goto Islands by the Occupation Forces.
*The floating chrysanthemum was the crest of Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336) a revered champion of Emperor Go-Daigo.
**On 6 December 1947, former Vice Admiral Daigo is executed by a firing squad after a Dutch military tribunal finds him guilty of war crimes committed under his command in Borneo.
***Postwar analysis determines that none of the kaitens launched by the I-47 hit or damaged any ship. Special thanks for help in preparing this TROM go to Dr. Higuchi Tatsuhiro of Japan. – Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.
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May 9, 2016