Midway at 71: ‘I Sank the Yorktown at Midway’

June 3, 2013 8:53 AM - Updated: June 3, 2013 10:47 AM
USS Yorktown after a series of torpedo strikes in 1942. Naval Institute Archives
USS Yorktown after a series of torpedo strikes in 1942. Naval Institute Archives

The following ran in Proceedings in May 1968:

The tension in I-168’s conning tower had been steadily building up for six and a half hours. In the cramped command post, I stood, palms out, waiting to grip the rising periscope’s handles. We were all perspiring heavily. My torpedo petty officer was scanning his switch panel, and a nervous helmsman wiped clammy hands frequently on his pants. Lieutenant (jg) Nakagawa, pencil in hand, mopped his damp brow between looks at the compass and speed indicator. But my gunnery officer, Ensign Watanabe, seemed almost unconcerned. Of the five, his job was by far the simplest. Our submarine was creeping straight toward the crippled American aircraft carrier Yorktown. There were no ballistics problems for Watanabe to work out-the range was point-blank, and target speed was nearly zero.

The whine of the periscope’s lift motor died away as I sighted through the eyepiece. I had been allowing myself a maximum of five seconds on each sight check and I didn’t intend to change the tactic. One quick glance would give me the range, and I could give the order to fire torpedoes.

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Yahachi Tanabe

Mr. Tanabe graduated from the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima in 1928, and entered the submarine service six years later. At the end of World War II, he acted as Imperial Naval Representative at Atsugi and made preparations for the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur.

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