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  HA-53 Type B Midget Submarine
IJN
Type B Midget Submarine

46 Tons (surfaced)
47 Tons (submerged)
81' 8" x 6' 1" x 11' 2"
2 x 18" Type 2 torpedo Tubes (empty)

Click For Enlargement
Click For Enlargement
AWM September 1945

Click For Enlargement
AWM September 1945

Ship History
Built by 'P' Naval Armory (ÅŒurasaki) during 1943 as the 53rd Type A midget submarine completed, then rebuilt as as one of five Type B Midget Submarine (Tokugata Unkato): HA-49, HA-50, HA-51, HA-52 and HA-53.

Wartime History
Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) HA-53 was assigned to Lt(jg) Nagura Tsukasa. Too heavy to be lifted aboard a merchant using their derricks, the submarines would instead be towed to Rabaul.

On November 1, 1943 towed by Hidaka Maru departs Yokosuka at 1:30pm as part of "convoy 3101" bound for Truk along with Haguro Maru, Konei Maru, Muko Maru, Shibazono Maru, Taikoku Maru and Nankai Maru No. 2 escorted by destroyers Asanagi and Inazuma with gunboat Choan Maru. Later that day, the convoy arrives at Tateyama before proceeding to Truk.

On December 10, 1943 towed by Hidaka Maru departs Truk as part of "convoy 1103" bound for Rabaul along with Kimishima Maru towing an unkato (cargo transporting tube) and Shinsei Maru No. 18 escorted by minesweepers W-21, W-22 and subchaser CHa-48 and destroyer Tachikaze. Several days into the voyage, Shinsei Maru No. 18 escorted by W-22 and CHa-48 detach from the convoy bound for Kavieng. On December 15, 1943 the convoy was attacked by Allied aircraft, but sustains no damage. On December 16, 1943 the convoy arrives at Rabaul.

HA-53 was the only Type B midget submarine to reach Rabaul, the other four were lost elsewhere. Sometime later HA-53 was sunk or deliberately scuttled into Simpson Harbor, likely during August or September 1945 when Japan surrendered ending the Pacific War.

Shipwreck
During late September 1945 during the Australian occupation of Rabaul, the submarine was located in Simpson Harbor. On January 17, 1946 the submarine was raised by Caledonian Salvor with assistance from Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW). Afterwards, the submarine was turned over to the Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) at Rabaul. Later, the submarine deteriorated and was scuttled into deep water in Simpson Harbor.

During October 2011 "Operation Render Safe" a joint Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) to locate and dispose of unexploded ordnance from World War II in Papua New Guinea a submarine was discovered by HMAS Gascoyne (M 85) in Simpson Harbor. Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to the submarine was determined to be upright with the periscope extended on the bottom at a depth of 55m and partially buried. The hull was estimated to be 20m (66') in length. Initially, some hoped this submarine might be Australian submarine HMAS AE1 missing since September 14, 1914. The ROV footage was studied by the RAN historical staff that determined the submarine to be a Japanese midget submarine sunk postwar based on the size, features and location.

References
Combined Fleet - Midget Submarines in the Bismarcks 1943-1944
Australian Defence Force "Wreck in PNG likely to be a Japanese submarine" (October 28, 2011)
Reuters "Japanese WW2 submarine wreck found in Pacific" (October 28, 2011)
The Telegraph "Japanese midget submarine found in Papua New Guinea harbour" (October 28, 2011)
Daily Mail "Japanese World War II midget submarine found underwater in a harbour" (October 31, 2011)
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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