Tokkou no Shima 8 (The Isle of Tokkou 8)
by Syuho Sato
Houbunsa, 2015, 179 pages
Unlike the prior volume with much dialogue and little battle action, Volume
8 depicts the Japanese I-53 submarine, with six kaiten torpedoes each manned
by a pilot, under constant attack by exploding depth charges dropped by two
enemy escort ships from a convoy of 17 ships. The submarine originally dives to
a depth of 80 meters to try to escape the depth charges, but it starts to
take on water due to a nearby explosion and cannot stabilize its depth and
raise the bow. The story gives the depth at several points with the last
report at 160 meters, and it looks uncertain whether the sinking I-53 submarine
will survive when this volume ends. The volume portrays intense emotions of both
kaiten pilots and submarine crewmen as depth charges explode around them
and as they consider how to counterattack in this desperate situation.
As described in Volume 7, two kaiten torpedoes, #2 and #4, strapped to the
top of the I-53 submarine were damaged in a strafing attack by an enemy plane
when the submarine was surfaced. Kaiten #4 cannot be launched, but the pilot
releases all of the kaiten's fuel and oxygen in an attempt to deceive the enemy
ships on the surface that the submarine had been destroyed. The straps of kaiten #4 are
loosened to free it to float to the surface, but apparently no part of the
kaiten reaches the surface, possibly due to a depth charge sinking it. Flight
Petty Officer 2nd Class Yūzō Watanabe, kaiten #1 pilot and leader of the
squadron of six kaiten pilots, says that bubbles and an oil slick will not stop
the enemy attack unless they see submarine debris.
Jun Katsuyama in kaiten #2 volunteers to be a decoy, if his damaged
can be launched, in order to lead the enemy ships away to allow the
submarine to avoid the continuing depth charges and possibly to let the other
kaiten weapons be launched. The other kaiten pilots also eagerly volunteer to serve
as a decoy if kaiten #2 cannot be launched. This plan has the same purpose as that
of Watanabe's friend, kaiten pilot Masao Sekiguchi, who at the end of Volume 3
allowed the I-53 submarine to escape three enemy destroyers when he led them
away from the submerged submarine with his kaiten. Katsuyama's kaiten travels
some distance but then explodes
when hit by a depth charge.
Despite the extreme depth of the submarine, Watanabe in kaiten #1 gets
launched next, and this volume ends with him in his kaiten determined to destroy
an enemy ship. The three remaining kaiten pilots refuse to return to the
submarine even though there is almost no chance that they can be launched due to
the extreme depth of the sinking submarine. Throughout this volume up to
Watanabe's kaiten launch, he exhibits a calm attitude with fierce
determination to hit an enemy ship. The submarine's captain was seriously
wounded in the prior volume and cannot function during the battle since he is
near death, so Watanabe steps up as a leader with ideas on what actions to take
by continuing to focus on the mission of the kaiten squadron. Watanabe
experiences several flashbacks in this volume, especially of his friend Masao
Sekiguchi who saved the I-53 submarine on a prior mission when his kaiten lured
away the destroyers that were dropping depth charges. Watanabe may be near
delirium after his kaiten is launched. The two pages next to the last one show a
squadron of seven kaiten moving through the water even though only Watanabe's
kaiten is there, but the scene may also symbolize that kaiten pilots who died
before him are with him in spirit as he carries out his suicide attack.
The last chapter has an abrupt shift where the author presents details of US
Navy reports of the battle action on July 24, 1945:
- 17:00 - Destroyer escort Overhill discovered floating mines
thought to be enemy's.
- 17:10 - Overhill's radar detected submarine. Contacted destroyer
escort PC-184 by convoy phone and ordered her to investigate. Moved away
- 17:15 - 20-mm machine guns began firing to explode mines.
- 17:30 - PC-804 discovered periscope a short distance in front. Soon the
same ship detected submarine passing underneath. At same time Overhill
also detected submarine.
- 17:34 - Overhill dropped ten depth charges set to explode at shallow depth.
- 18:05 - Something like submarine oil was rising to surface. Continued
search and attacks since no debris came to surface. (Note: This was caused
by kaiten #4 in the story.)
- 18:16 - A depth charge exploded in the sea, and submarine debris came to
surface. Captain broadcasted to each ship that one enemy submarine had been
sunk. Planned to join up with convoy. (Note: This is Jun Katsuyama's kaiten
in the story.)
- 18:45 - PC-804 once again discovered periscope. Overhill went
quickly there but soon could not see periscope.
- 18:49 - Overhill's crew saw several
periscopes on surface at same time. There appeared the figure of midget submarine intermittently breaking the surface in various directions
like a dolphin. (Note: This is Yūzō Watanabe's kaiten in the story.)
Although in the form of an official US Navy action report, actual records
provide a slightly different account. The manga version is clearly meant to be
fictional, since the actual destroyer escort sunk by a kaiten was named
Underhill (DE-682) rather than Overhill in the story. Although the
manga's events occur on July 24, 1945, the same date that the destroyer escort
Underhill was sunk by a kaiten explosion, the actual events took place a
few hours earlier. The details contained in action reports vary somewhat from
the manga story, although the general sequence of events remains the same.
Kaiten pilot Jun Katsuyama (top) after his kaiten
has been launched shouts to Yūzō Watanabe (bottom)
in his kaiten waiting to be launched,
"Win glory!! Watanabe!!"
Included with this manga volume is a separate sheet with a map of kaiten
historical sites at Ōtsushima, the small island in the Seto Inland Sea where the
first and main kaiten base was located. The sheet shows photos of nine locations
on Ōtsushima alongside the frames from the manga series that show these places.
The main tourist site on Ōtsushima is
Kaiten Memorial Museum.
Kaiten pilot Jun Katsuyama cries "Mother"
right before his kaiten torpedo explodes