Type 95 Torpedo: The Long Lance of Japan’s Submarine Fleet

The Japanese Type 95 was faster and boasted a longer range than its U.S. Navy counterparts—and it left no wake. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
The Japanese Type 95 was faster and boasted a longer range than its U.S. Navy counterparts—and it left no wake. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
 

In 1933 the Japanese navy revolutionized the torpedo with its Type 93—a 30-foot-long, 3-ton monster whose extraordinary range (up to 25 miles) earned it the U.S. nickname “Long Lance.” It was a surface-launched torpedo, fitted for the tubes of cruisers and destroyers. Two years later the Japanese introduced a smaller version, the Type 95, for use by submarines.

Though it lacked the reach of its predecessor, the Type 95 boasted three times the range of its U.S. Navy counterpart, the Mark 14. Fitted with a kerosene-oxygen wet-heater engine, the Type 95 was faster then the electrically driven Mark 18—and the Japanese torpedo left no wake. Fortunately for the Allies, its delivery system, the I-boat, was a relatively large, slow and shallow-diving sub, making it an easy target for nimble destroyers. But when I-boats did manage to land a blow with their Type 95s, the effects were devastating, as when I-58 sank the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (en route from delivering Little Boy—the atomic bomb destined for Hiroshima—to Tinian), when I-175 sank the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay and, most remarkable, when a six-torpedo spread from I-19 off Guadalcanal on Sept. 15, 1942, sank the carrier USS Wasp and (ultimately) the destroyer USS O’Brien and badly damaged the battleship USS North Carolina.

5 Responses

  1. Edward H. Phillips

    Jon: Hi. Thanks for this summation of the famous Type 95 torpedo. Very interesting. I guess it can be safely said the the “Long Lance” was the best torpedo deployed by any combatant in WW 2. Was the Type 93 also carried by the Nakajima “Kate” torpedo bomber or was it a different version? Do you know if any of these torpedoes still exist in a museum(s)? Thanks again, EP.

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    Reply
    • Jon Guttman

      Ed: The standard Japanese aerial torpedo was the Type 91, which was 17 3/4 inches in diameter, compared to the famous, but much bigger, 24-inch-diameter Type 93 for surface vessels and the likewise smaller Type 95 for submarines. I’m sure some specimens must exist in museums, but I’m not sure which. Sincerely,Jon Guttman

      Reply
  2. Mike H.

    Jon, I’m not certain, but I believe the IJN Submariner’s pin was more likely not a cherry blossom; but a crysanthemum, Emperor Hirohito’s personal insignia, and revered by all Japanese, but especially the military and naval forces of the Emperor. Even the Arisaka rifles had them stamped into the barrel, making them the Emperor’s personal property. Having that kind of insignia would have a huge motivating presence especially in battle, I would think.

    Reply
    • David Lauterborn

      Mike,

      Thanks for your involved readership. You’re right about the chrysanthemum having symbolic significance with regard to the Japanese emperor. But the cherry blossom held an equally cherished place in the empire and with its military forces as a symbol of renewal in the face of death. It is indeed a cherry blossom that backs the submarine officer’s badge.

      Respectfully,
      David Lauterborn
      Managing Editor
      Military History

      Reply
  3. Steve Lende

    Hi Jon,
    I belong to the San Diego Maritime Museum where we have a display of a Type 95 Japanese torpedo launched against the tanker Montecello off the coast of central California. This one was a dud but others weren’t. The propellers to the oil container was hauled in the ’60’s and donated to the museum. I need a drawings of the Type 95 in order to verify what we’ve got. Would please help me out?
    Thanks,
    Steve

    Reply

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