Operation Storm: Japan’s Top Secret Submarines and Their Plan to Change the Course of World War II
By John J. Geoghegan. 496 pp. Crown, 2013. $28.
Among the Japanese Navy’s numerous and exotic technical innovations was the monster I-400 class of aircraft-carrying submarines, the world’s largest subs until the late 1950s. Conceived by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to shake American morale with surprise aerial attacks on New York and other cities, and later on the Panama Canal, the subs’ only actual mission involved an aborted strike on American aircraft carriers at their Ulithi Atoll base in the Caroline Islands.
This offbeat turf has been explored before. In 2006, the excellent and lavishly illustrated I-400: Japan’s Secret Aircraft-Carrying Strike Submarine, Objective Panama Canal described the origins, technical aspects, and operational history of this submarine class. In Operation Storm, author John J. Geoghegan covers much the same ground but adds a good deal about the tortured history of the Aichi M6A1 Seiran aircraft the submarines carried. He also enormously expands the I-400’s convoluted tale with a vast amount of detail about the players involved: bureaucratic warriors who battled over the program, designers who turned basic submarine and aircraft concepts into reality, and especially the officers, crews, and aviators.
At the center of Operation Storm are the clashes between the 1st Submarine Squadron leader, Commander Tatsunosuke Ariizuma, and the skipper of I-401, Lieutenant Commander Nobukiyo Nambu— particularly over the fate of the boat and its crew after they received word of the surrender. Juxtaposed with the Japanese are the American sailors on the Balao-class submarine Segundo, which ultimately captured I-401.
Engrossing and deeply researched, Operation Storm tells one of the war’s most bizarre and fascinating stories with skillful verve.