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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.