Commissioned on January 24, 1941 at Yokosuka. Assigned to Cdr Nishino Kozo. On November 11, 1941 assigned to the Advance Expeditionary Force (Sixth Fleet) under Rear Admiral Sato Tsutomu's SubRon 1 in Captain Imazato Hiroshi's SubDiv 1 with the I-15 and the I-16. Admiral Shimizu convenes a meeting of all his commanders aboard his flagship Katori and briefed them on the plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On November 21, 1941 I-17 and the I-15 departs Yokosuka for the Hawaiian Islands on her first war patrol. On December 7, 1941 patrolled north of Oahu to reconnoiter and engage any ships that try to sortie from Pearl Harbor.
Afterwards, I-17 patrols off Cape Mendocino, Humboldt County, California. On December 20, 1941 during the early afternoon sights SS Emidio and opens fire with the 140mm deck gun, hitting the tanker five times within sight of land. Abandoning ship, the crew reached the Blunt Reef in lifeboats while the the tanker drifted north grounding on rocks off Crescent City, California.
On December 24, 1941 a planned shelling of American coastal cities canceled because of the frequency of coastal air and surface patrols.
Shelling Elwood Oil Field
On February 23, 1942 a few minutes after 7:00pm, I-17 surfaced a few hundred yards off the Ellwood Oil Field, roughly 10 miles west of Santa Barbara, California. Over 20 minutes she fired 17 shells from her 140mm deck gun at the Richfield aviation fuel storage tanks on the bluff. The shots were mostly wild, one landing more than a mile inland. The closest shell exploded 27m from one of the fuel tanks. The shelling caused only minor damage to a pier and a pump house. Recovered shell fragments are displayed at CAF Camarillo (Southern California Wing Aviation Museum).
I-17 was the first Axis vessel to shell the United States mainland. News of the shelling triggered an "invasion" scare along the West Coast.
During November 1942 her deck gun was removed and the submarine departed for Guadalcanal on the first of many supply missions.
Battle of the Bismarck Sea
After the Battle of the Bismarck Sea I-17 was directed to the area to rescue survivors in lifeboats. On March 5, 1943, PT-143 and PT-150, discovered I-17 rescuing three lifeboats full of survivors from the battle. The PT-Boats opened fire with their guns and torpedoes, causing the submarine to crash dive. The PT boats then sinks the lifeboats with machine gun fire and depth charges. Several hours later, the I-17 resurfaced and rescued 33 surviving soldiers. The following day I-17 rescued another 118 soldiers and 4 sailors then travels to Lae and disembarks the 155 rescued.
On May 24, 1943 roughly 100 miles south of Nouméa. I-17 sighted Stanvac Manila. The tanker had six PT boats on board as cargo. At 0407, I-17's torpedo hit the tanker, flooding the engine and fire room and disabling all power and communications. At 12:05 the Manila sank with one fatality and two PT boats aboard: PT-165 and PT-173.
On August 19, 1943, 40 miles southeast off Nouméa. I-17 launched its E14Y Glen reconnoitered and spotted a convoy that departed Nouméa Harbor. After recovering and stowing the plane, the I-17 followed the convoy.
Spotted by their escort armed trawler HMNZS Tui and made an initial run over the sub without using depth charges, a second run dropping two depth charges, and a third run another two depth charges, then lost contact.
Next, OS2U Kingfishers from VS-57 joined the search and spotted smoke on the horizon and radioed Tui to investigate. I-17 was sighted on the surface and Tui opened fire at maximum range, scoring one and possibly two hits. The two shells exploded ahead of the periscope, with the submarine severely damaged and slid down beneath the waves, leaving a trail of bubbles and oil marking her path.
The submarine surfaced quickly five minutes later with the bow exiting at a steep angle. The OS2U Kingfishers strafed the deck of the submarine keeping the crew from off the deck gun.
The Kingfishers dropped further depth charges and the submarine sank at roughly 23°26′S 166°50′E. Ninety-one crewmen were lost.
Six survivors were rescued by HMNZS Tui who stated the depth charge attacks had damaged the submarine and forced it to the surface, then the Kingfisher depth charges finally sank her.
Combined Fleet - HIJMS Submarine I-17: Tabular Record of Movement
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May 22, 2017