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I-29, code-named Matsu (松, Japanese for "pine tree"), was a B1 type submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy used during World War II on two secret missions with Germany, during one of which she was sunk.

Type B Submarines

This was the most numerous class of Japanese submarines - almost 20 were built, of which only one (I-36) survived. These boats were fast, had a long range, and carried a seaplane, launched via a forward catapult.

The keel of I-52 was laid on 29 September 1940 at the Yokosuka Naval Yard, and she was commissioned on 27 February 1942, into the 14th submarine squadron under the command of Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) Izu Juichi (伊豆壽市).

Yanagi missions

These were missions enabled under the Axis Powers' Tripartite Pact to provide for an exchange of personnel, strategic materials and manufactured goods between Germany, Italy and Japan. Initially, cargo ships made the exchanges, but when that was no longer possible submarines are used.

Only four other submarines had attempted this trans-continental voyage during World War II: I-30 (April 1942), I-8 (June 1943), I-34 (October 1943) and the German submarine U-511 (August 1943). Of these, I-30 was sunk by a mine and I-34 by the British submarine Taurus. Later, the famous Japanese submarine I-52 would also share their fate.


I-29 participated in missions supporting the attack on Port Moresbymarker in New Guineamarker (Operation Mo), and also in the futile search for Task Force 16, that launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyomarker in April 1942.

I-29's reconnaissance of Sydney harbourmarker on the 23rd May 1942 resulted in the Japanese midget submarineattack on Sydney Harbour.

First exchange

In April 1943, I-29 was tasked with a Yanagi mission. She was commanded by Captain Masao Teraoka, submarine flotilla commander — indicating the importance of the trip. She left Penangmarker with a cargo that included two tons of gold. She met Fregattenkapitän Werner Musenberg's Type IXD-1 U-boat, U-180marker on 26 April 1943 off the coast of Mozambiquemarker.

During this meeting that lasted over 12 hours due to bad weather, the two Axis submarines swapped some very interesting passengers. U-180 transferred Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a leader of the Indian Independence Movement who was going from Berlinmarker to Tokyo, and his Adjutant, Abid Hasan. I-29 in turn transferred two Japanese Navy personnel who were to study U-boat building techniques in Germany: Commander (later Rear Admiral, posthumously) Emi Tetsushiro, and Lieutenant Commander (later Captain, posthumously) Tomonaga Hideo (who is later connected with the German submarine, U-234). Both submarines returned safely to their bases. I-29 dropped off her important passenger at Sabang harbour on an isolated We island located to the north of Sumatramarker on 6 May 1943, instead of Penang, to avoid detection by British spies.

Second exchange

In December 17, 1943, I-29 was dispatched on a second Yanagi mission, this time to Lorient, Francemarker under star Japanese submarine Commander Takakazu Kinashi. At Singaporemarker she was loaded with 80 tons of raw rubber, 80 tons of tungsten, 50 tons of tin, 2 tons of zinc, and 3 tons of quinine, opium and coffee.

In spite of Allied Ultra decrypts of her mission, I-29 managed to reach Lorient 11 March 1944. On her way she was refueled twice by German vessels. Also, she had three close brushes with Allied aircraft tracking her signals. Of special note is the interaction with six RAF aircraft including two Tse-tse De Havilland Mosquito fighters equipped with 57 mm cannons from the No. 248 RAF Squadron off Cape Penas, Bay of Biscaymarker , and the protection provided to her during the entry into Lorient by the Luftwaffe's only Long Range Maritime Fighter Unit, V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40 using Ju-88s.

She left Lorient 16 April 1944 for the long voyage home with a cargo of 18 passengers, torpedo boat engines, Enigma coding machines, radar components, a Walter HWK 509A rocket engine, and Messerschmitt Me 163 & Messerschmitt Me 262 blueprints for the development of the rocket plane Mitsubishi J8M. After an uneventful trip she arrived at Singapore in 14 July 1944, disembarking her passengers, though not the cargo.


On her way back to Kure, Japan, she was attacked at Balintang Channel, Luzon Straitmarker near the Philippinesmarker by Commander W. D. Wilkins' "Wildcats" submarine taskforce consisting of Tilefish, Rock and Sawfish, using Ultra signal intelligence. During the evening of 26 July 1944, she was spotted by Sawfish which fired four torpedoes at her. Three hit the I-29, which sank immediately at . Only one of her crewmen survived.

Among the dead was I-29's Commanding Officer, Commander [[Takakazu Kinashi]], Japan's highest-scoring submarine "ace". Earlier in the war, as skipper of [[Japanese submarine I-19|''I-29'']]'s sister ship I-19, Kinashi torpedoed and sank the U.S. aircraft carrier U.S.S.marker Waspmarker and damaged both the battleship U.S.S.marker North Carolinamarker and the destroyer O'Brien during the same attack. O'Brien later sank as a result of the torpedo damage and North Carolina was under repair at Pearl Harbor until November 16, 1942, a spectacular achievement that is still considered to this day to be the most effective torpedo salvo ever fired in naval history. Kinashi was honored by a rare 2-rank posthumous promotion to Rear Admiral.

Commanding Officers

Lt. Cmdr. / Cmdr. Juichi Izu - 27 February 1942 - 10 October 1943 (Promoted to Commander on 1 November 1942.)

Cmdr. / RADM* Takakazu Kinashi - 10 October 1943 - 26 July 1944 (KIA; posthumous double promotion to Rear Admiral.)


  • Paterson, Lawrence. Hitler's Grey Wolves: U-Boats in the Indian Ocean., Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004, ISBN 1-85367-615-2, 287 pgs. Chapter II

Additional reading

  • Miller, Vernon. Analysis of Japanese Submarine Losses to Allied Submarines in World War II, Merriam Press Original Publication, 36 pgs.
  • Boyd, Carl and Akihiko Yoshida. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II., Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995
  • Jenkins, David. Battle Surface!: Japan's Submarine War Against Australia, 1942-44. Milsons Point and London: Random House, 1992
  • Goss, Chris. Bloody Biscay: The Story of the Luftwaffe's Only Long Range Maritime Fighter Unit, V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40, and its Adversaries, 1942-1944. Manchester, England: Crecy Publishing, 1997, ISBN 0-947554-62-9, 254 pgs.
  • Clay Blair" Hitler's U-Boats War The Hunted 1942-1945

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