I-400: Japan’s Secret Aircraft Carrying Strike Submarine

Published on
February 7, 2011
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Henry Sakaida, Gary Nila and Koji Takaki
Other Publication Information
7.75 X 10.5 inches, 144 pages; 100+ BW & 40 color photos and artwork
Product / Stock #
Provided by: Specialty Press
Book cover

I missed out on this book when it was originally published as a hardback a few years ago. Fortunately it has been re-issued as a softbound book. The book is the definitive volume on this submarine. It was the largest submarine to serve in WWII at over 400 feet long with a crew of almost 200 and weighing over 5200 tons.

The first chapter gives us an overview of the Japanese submarine service in WWII. Chapter two covers the specifics of the I-400 class, with chapter three giving us the details and specifications on the aircraft the sub was designed to carry, the Aichi M6A “Seiran” attack-bomber. This chapter includes detailed drawings and pilot memories.

Chapter four covers the proposed mission to bomb the Panama Canal. Including those officers involved in developing the plan and how this plan was to be carried out; and lastly, the reasons behind and those making the decision for canceling the attack on the canal. This is a great lead in to chapter five: The actual operation that the subs were to undertake in the final days of WWII. This was to attack the American fleet anchored at Ulithi Atoll. One of the most interesting items in this chapter is the confirmation that the Seirans were repainted in silver with American markings on all six points as were Japanese aircraft.

Chapter six covers the surrender of the subs to US forces and how the captains wanted to make it back to Japanese territorial waters prior to surrendering. After surrendering the story continues with the events surrounding the US Prize Crew taking command of the subs and the journey back to Tokyo Bay.

Chapter seven covers the journey of the subs from Japan to Pearl Harbor where they were to be examined for any innovations and to further the knowledge of US submarine designers about those innovations. Finally, this chapter covers the fate of the 3 survivors of the class. With the Cold War heating up, Soviet demands that the subs be turned over to them for examination doomed them. They all were sunk off Hawaii in 1946 The final pages cover the rediscovery of the I-401 wreck in almost 2700 feet of water off Hawaii. The restoration of the world’s only remaining M6A Seiran and a listing of the I-400’s crew and the US Navy Prize Crew.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a fascinating look into the I-400, the plans to bomb the Panama Canal and the US fleet at Ulithi, The Seiran aircraft and the emerging cold war politics between the USA and USSR.

This book will be of interest to the modeler, ship enthusiast/historian alike. I can recommend it to all that like the subject or have an interest in maritime or WWII naval history.

I wish to offer our thanks to Specialty Press and to IPMS/USA for this review copy.


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