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Japanese submarine I-124
Name: I-124
Builder: Kawasaki Corporation, Kobe
Laid down: 17 April 1926
Launched: 12 December 1927
Commissioned: 10 December 1928
Renamed: from SS-60 to I-124, 1 June 1938
Fate: Sunk, 21 January 1942
General characteristics
Class & type: I-121-class submarine
Displacement: 1,142 long tons (1,160 t) surfaced
1,768 long tons (1,796 t) submerged
Length: 85.20 m (279 ft 6 in) overall
Beam: 7.52 m (24 ft 8 in)
Draft: 4.42 m (14 ft 6 in)
Propulsion: 2 × Rauschenbach Mk.1 diesels
2,400 bhp surfaced
1,100 shp submerged
2 shafts
Speed: 14.9 knots (27.6 km/h; 17.1 mph) surfaced
6.5 knots (12.0 km/h; 7.5 mph) submerged
Range: 10,500 nmi (19,400 km; 12,100 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) surfaced
40 nmi (74 km; 46 mi) at 4.5 knots (8.3 km/h; 5.2 mph) submerged
Test depth: 75 m (246 ft)
Complement: 51
Armament: • 2 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes
• 12 × 6th Year Type torpedoes
• 1 × 14 cm/40 11th Year Type naval gun[1]
• 42 × naval mines

I-124 was a I-121-class submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy that was sunk off Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, on 21 January 1942, during World War II. I-124 was conducting mine laying operations and attacking shipping along with three other submarines along the northern coast of Australia.

Service history

The submarine was laid down on 17 April 1926 at the Kawasaki Shipyard at Kobe, launched on 12 December 1927, and was commissioned on 10 December 1928 as the SS-60, being renumbered I-124 on 1 June 1938.[2]

Pacific War begins

In November 1941 I-124, under the command of Lt.Cdr. Kishigami Koichi, sailed in company with I-123 for the Philippines. She received the coded signal "Climb Mount Niitaka" on 2 December 1941, notifying her that hostilities would commence on 8 December (Japan time). On that day I-124 laid mines off Manila Bay, Philippines, before proceeding to the seas south-west of Lubang Island.[2]

On 10 December she torpedoed and sank the 1,523-ton British freighter Hareldawns off western Luzon. I-124 then sailed to Cam Ranh Bay, before returning to the Philippines to patrol Manila Bay in late December, before proceeding south via the Mindoro Strait into the Sulu Sea. On 31 December 1941 she arrived at Davao, to join the rest of Submarine Squadron 6 (I-121, I-122 and I-123) and their flagship, the 6,600-ton submarine tender Chogei.[2]

SubRon 6 was then assigned to operate in the Flores Sea and the Torres Strait north of Australia. On 10 January they departed Davao, and the same day, one of the mines laid by I-124 the previous month in Manila Bay sank the 1,976-ton Panamanian-flagged freighter Daylight. On 12 January I-124 laid 39 mines in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, and on the 14th she sighted the American heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30) and two destroyers, but was unable to gain an attack position.[2]

On 16 January I-124 laid 27 mines near Darwin where over 40 Allied ships were in the harbor. On the 19th she sent a radio signal reporting the arrival at Darwin of three transports escorted by a destroyer. The signal was intercepted by Allied codebreakers who warned that a Japanese submarine was operating near Darwin.[2]

Sinking off Australia

On 20 January 1942, some 60 miles north-west of Darwin, the American destroyers Alden (DD-211) and Edsall (DD-219) were escorting the 5,375-ton oiler Trinity (AO-13) to Port Darwin when Trinity reported that three torpedoes were fired at her. The Alden carried out a depth charge attack, but lost contact. She continued to port. The Australian corvettes Deloraine, Lithgow and Katoomba were also sent to the scene. The Deloraine arrived first.[2]

I-124 attacked the Deloraine, but its commander, Lieutenant Commander Desmond Menlove, was alerted to the approaching torpedo, and utilising skillful teamwork and leadership, fought her until the submarine half-rose to the surface, where it was depth-charged at point-blank range. I-124 was sunk with the loss of 80 lives. The Lithgow, Katoomba, and Edsall arrived after the sinking, and also laid attack patterns in the area.

Attempted salvage

The submarine, the fourth Japanese submarine lost in action in World War II and the most accessible of the seagoing types sunk to that time, has been surrounded in controversy since it was lost. In World War II there were claims that two submarines had been lost in the attack on Darwin, that its crew remained alive for some time and that divers heard crew movement inside the hull. Later it was reported by both Japanese and American sources that "the I 124 with her Division Commander Keiyu Endo, embarked, sank with all those on board in water only forty feet deep. US Navy divers were sent down and entered the submarine, and removed naval code books, a godsend for the Navy codebreakers at Pearl Harbor".[3]

Though relatives of the crew attempted to organise the recovery of the crew's remains for cremation in accordance with Japanese custom,[4] I-124 was left undisturbed until 1972, when its location was rediscovered following a six-week search. Trade Winds Ltd. and Lincoln Ltd. Salvage Company (T&L Salvage) of the New Hebrides purchased the salvage rights for the submarine from the Australian government, which was found to be mostly intact in 48 metres (157 ft) of water with several holes near the conning tower and at least one 'blown' hatch, and believed to carry large quantities of mercury, and offered to sell the wreck and any remains of its personnel to the Japanese government for A$2.5 million.[5] The Japanese Consul-General in Australia advised T&L Salvage that any salvage required Japanese governmental approval, which it was not willing to give as it considered the site a war grave, and the Australian government found that it legally held no control over the wrecked submarine. The matter was further complicated by infighting within the salvage company, which led to a split in April 1973 when one of the salvors threatened to drop explosives on the submarine if a Japanese decision was slow in forthcoming. The controversy gained much media attention,


Both salvage groups attempted to claim the right to salvage I-124, but withdrew their claims by the end of 1974, one willingly, the other after pressure from the Australian government, which had come to join the Japanese in considering the shipwreck a war grave. In December 1976, the matter of I-124 was raised in Parliament during discussion of a bill that would protect all shipwrecks in Australian waters.[5] The bill was enacted as the Historic Shipwrecks Act at the end of 1976. The salvor who threatened to use explosives on the wreck carried through, damaging the conning tower and causing the aft section to come loose. In response, I-124 was placed under the enhanced level of protection offered by the legislation, with an exclusion zone placed around the wreck in July 1977.[5] The salvage team reports indicated that mines were still carried by the submarine, which led to the Royal Australian Navy sending the minehunter HMAS Curlew to locate and defuse these mines. Divers from the minehunter found no mines or explosives at the wreck site.[6]

A subsequent investigation of the wreck was carried out in March 1989 by a team from the Western Australian Museum, aboard the research vessel Flamingo Bay. During the inspection, it was found that the location of the submarine was incorrectly recorded on charts, this was corrected to 12°07′12.328″S 130°06′23.619″E / 12.12009111°S 130.10656083°E / -12.12009111; 130.10656083Coordinates: 12°07′12.328″S 130°06′23.619″E / 12.12009111°S 130.10656083°E / -12.12009111; 130.10656083, a point 18 nautical miles (33 km; 21 mi) due south of Penguin Hill, Bathurst Island. The researchers also disproved rumours that a second submarine had been sunk off Darwin at the same time, that the US Navy had salvaged Japanese code books from the wreck, the presence of mercury (which was the reason given in the 1970s for removing the wreck),[7] while subsequent research by naval historian Tom Lewis led to further proof against these rumours, along with claims that I-124 was involved in the sinking of the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney in November 1941.[8]


  1. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two ISBN 0-87021-459-4 p.191
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Bob Hackett & Sander Kingsepp. "HIJMS Submarine I-124 : Tabular Record of Movement". Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  3. Hiroyuki Agawa. (nd) The Reluctant Admiral. Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy. Kodansha International. Tokyo, p. 307 & Carpenter, D. and Polmar, N., (1986), Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Conway, NY, Cha. 2
  4. The Sun 9/5/1973
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 An excerpt from a report 'History'. A copy of which is in the Flamingo Bay Research Pty Ltd archives and on AFP I 124 file. See precis in McCarthy, M., 1990. HIJMS Submarine I 124. Report_ Department of Maritime Archaeology. Western Australian Maritime Museum, No 43
  6. McCarthy, M., 1990. HIJMS Submarine I 124. Report_ Department of Maritime Archaeology. Western Australian Maritime Museum, No 43. Available in PDF format.
  7. McCarthy, M (1991, The Flamingo Bay Voyage. Report- Department of Maritime Archaeology. Western Australian Museum, No 4. Available in PDF Form.
  8. Lewis, T., 1997. Sensuikan I-124. Darwin: Tall Stories, 1997
  • Lewis, Tom. Sensuikan I-124. Darwin: Tall Stories, 1997.
  • Lewis, Tom. "Darwin's Submarine I-124". South Australia: Avonmore Books, 2011.

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