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Operation Storm: Japan’s Top Secret Submarines and Their Plan to Change the Course of World War II

by John J. Geoghegan, Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2013, $39.95.

Early in 1942, Warner Brothers released Across the Pacific, a film about a Japanese attempt to attack the Panama Canal using an airplane assembled at a secret base in the Panamanian jungle. The film may have been entertaining, but the story was pure rubbish. What the producers didn’t know at the time was that the Imperial Japanese Navy was indeed preparing a bomb strike on the Panama Canal, with a plan far more bizarre and diabolical than the cloak-and-dagger scheme they had dreamed up. The attack was to be launched from specially built submarine aircraft carriers. Moreover, the Panama Canal wasn’t the only proposed target; plans were also being prepared to launch similar attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C.

Operation Storm, which had its genesis with an article by John Geoghegan in the May 2008 Aviation History, is the incredible tale of one of WWII’s most closely guarded secrets. Allied intelligence hadn’t the slightest inkling that the project existed until after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The level of secrecy maintained is all the more impressive considering that the Allies broke the Japanese navy’s codes in the spring of 1942.

Initiated shortly after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Operation Storm involved the development of an entirely new and highly advanced attack plane, the Aichi M6A1 Seiran, as well as a fleet of the largest and longest-range submarines built to that time. The I-400-class submarine aircraft carriers were actually en route to their first combat mission when the war ended; the Japanese simply ran out of time. For decades Operation Storm has been all but forgotten, little more than a footnote to the war.Yet the massive production effort involved and the problems that had to be overcome render this story every bit as gripping as the chronicle of the atomic bomb or the V-weapons.

Operation Storm is an exciting page-turner, comparable to the best of Tom Clancy’s techno-thrillers—except this tale happens to be true. Geoghegan has delved deeply into both Japanese and U.S. records to tell a fascinating story.


Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Aviation History Magazine. To subscribe, click here.