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I-400 Submarine

I-400 was the world's largest submarine and remained the largest ever built until the construction of nuclear ballistic missile submarines in the 1960s.  She was actually a submarine aircraft carrier that carried three aircrafts underwater to their destinations.   They were designed to surface, launch their planes, then quickly dive again before being discovered.For close-range combat, they have 3 torpedos. 

The I-400 could travel round-trip to anywhere in the world and return.   It was the brainchild of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet.  Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he conceived the idea of taking the war to the United States mainland by making aerial attacks against cities along the US western and eastern seaboards using submarine-launched naval aircraft.  The first target was the strategic Panama Canal, a journey expected to take two months. 

A fleet of 18 boats was planned in 1942, and work started on the first in January 1943.  The actual costs of building these crafts ran much higher than expected, and within a year, following Yamamoto's death when his plane was shot down during an inspection tour of the Solomon Islands in April 1943, the number was reduced from eighteen to nine, then five and finally three.  Only I-400 and I-401 actually entered service; I-402 was completed five weeks before the end of the war and never made it to sea.

The Panama Canal strike called for four aircraft-carrying submarines (I-400, I-401, I-13 and I-14.)  At a point 185 km off the coast of Ecuador, the submarines would launch their aircraft at 0300hrs on a moonlit night. The Seirans, without floats, would fly at an altitude of 4,000 m across the northern coast of Colombia to the vicinity of Colón. Now on the Caribbean side of the isthmus, they would turn westward on a heading of 270 degrees, then angle south-west and make their final approach to the Canal locks at dawn. After completing their bombing runs, the Seirans were to return to a designated rendezvous point and ditch alongside the waiting submarines where the aircrews would be picked up. 

On April 1945, Captain Ariizumi, the man appointed to carry out the attack, decided the Seiran pilots would make kamikaze ramming attacks against the gates.  By June 5th, all four aircraft-carrying submarines had arrived at Nanao Wan where a full-scale wooden model of the Gatun Locks gate had been built and towed into the bay.  From June 15th the Seiran pilots made practice daylight bombing runs against the target.  By 20 June, all training ended and the operation was set to proceed. 

However, all changed when Okinawa fell.  Fifteen American aircraft carriers had assembled at the Ulithi atoll and the Panama Canal mission was changed to help an attack on the Ulithi base. 

Japan surrendered before the Ulithi attack was launched, and on August 22, 1945, the crews of the submarines were ordered to destroy all their weapons. The torpedoes were fired without aiming and the aircraft were launched without unfolding the wings and stabilizers. When I-400 surrendered to USS Blue (DD-744), the U.S. crew was astounded at her size.

While the U.S. Navy recovered an studied 24 submarines, including the three I-400 submarines, they received a message that the Soviets were sending an inspection team to examine the submarines. So most of the submarines were taken to a place about 60 km west of Nagasaki and destroyed with C-2 explosive

Only the most advanced were saved: I-400, I-401, I-201 and I-203 were sailed to Hawaii for further study. Upon completion of the inspections, they were scuttled near Oahu in Hawaii by torpedoes from US submarine USS Trumpetfish on June 4, 1946, to prevent the technology from being made available to the Soviets who were demanding access to them.

The Japanese were ahead of the Allies in many aspects of submarine development and underwater weapons.  During the WWII, they had 30 different classes of submarines.   In many ways the I-400 was decades ahead of her time.  Japanese torpedo "Long Lance" were the world's most dangerous.


This I-400 submarine model features:

- Real deck, not computer-printed paper (very difficult and time consuming to make.)

- Plank-on-frame, hollow hull construction (very important), weighing less than 15 lbs  (A solid hull of this model would be over 60 lbs which needs two people to handle and a fortified table to accommodate.)

- Windows and portholes are cutouts (not black decals), thanks to the hollow structures.

- >95% of parts are wood and metal

- "Rust"  appearance to portray realism of a steel craft "living" in seawater.

65" long x 15" tall x 9" wide (1/72 scale)
   $3,500   S & H is $220