Japanese submarine I-55 (1925)

The Japanese submarine I-55, later redesignated I-155 (伊号第五五潜水艦, I-gō Dai-Hyaku-gojūgosensuikan), was a Kaidai-class cruiser submarine of the KD3A sub-class built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the 1920s. She saw service throughout World War II.

I-55 in harbor in 1930
Empire of Japan
Name: I-55
Builder: Kure Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 1 April 1924, as Submarine No. 78
Launched: 2 September 1925
Completed: 5 September 1927
Renamed: 20 May 1942, as I-155
Struck: 20 November 1945
Fate: Sunk as target 8 May 1946
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaidai-class submarine (KD3A Type)
  • 1,829 t (1,800 long tons) surfaced
  • 2,337 t (2,300 long tons) submerged
Length: 100 m (328 ft 1 in)
Beam: 8 m (26 ft 3 in)
Draft: 4.82 m (15 ft 10 in)
Installed power:
  • 6,800 bhp (5,100 kW) (diesels)
  • 1,800 hp (1,300 kW) (electric motors)
  • 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) surfaced
  • 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
  • 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) submerged
Test depth: 60 m (200 ft)
Complement: 60


Following World War I, the Imperial Japanese Navy re-evaluated the use submarine warfare as an element of fleet strategy due to the successful deployment of long-range cruiser-submarines for commerce raiding by the major combatant navies. Japanese strategists came to realize possibilities for using the weapon for long range reconnaissance, and in a war of attrition against an enemy fleet approaching Japan.[1] Two large, long-range Japanese submarines had already been built under the Eight-six fleet program as prototype (I-51 and I-52), however, the arrival on 20 June 1919 of seven German U-boats received by Japan as war reparations at the end of World War I led to a complete re-design. The Japanese quickly hired hundreds of German submarine engineers, technicians and former U-boat officers unemployed by the defeat of Germany in World War I, and brought them to Japan under 5-year contracts. The American ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) estimated that some 800 German advisors had gone to Japan by the end of 1920. The Japanese also sent delegations to Germany, and were active in purchasing many patents.[2]


The four Kaidai Type 3a vessels were the first mass-produced Japanese fleet submarines. Based largely on the indigenous Kaidai Type II (I-52) a strengthened double hull, their design was also influenced by the largest of the German submarines in Japanese hands, the SM U-125.[3] The hull had almost the same outer dimensions as the I-52, but the increased thickness of the inner hull permitted a diving depth of 60 meters. Internal volume was slightly increased by making the hull slightly trapezoidal in cross-section, at the expense of 300 tons of additional displacement. External differences included an anti-submarine net cutter on the bow, as well as an O-ring for towing purposes.

They displaced 1,829 metric tons (1,800 long tons) surfaced and 2,337 metric tons (2,300 long tons) submerged. The submarines were 100 meters (328 ft 1 in) long, had a beam of 8 meters (26 ft 3 in) and a draft of 4.82 meters (15 ft 10 in). The boats had a diving depth of 60 m (200 ft) and a complement of 60 officers and crewmen.[4]

Sulzer was retained as the manufacturer for the diesel engines, which had a slightly improved performance over the engines in the I-52. For surface running, the boats were powered by two 3,400-brake-horsepower (2,535 kW) diesel engines, each driving one propeller shaft. When submerged each propeller was driven by a 900-horsepower (671 kW) electric motor. They could reach 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) on the surface and 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) underwater. On the surface, the KD3As had a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph); submerged, they had a range of 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph).[5]

The boats were armed with eight internal 53.3 cm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes, six in the bow and two in the stern. They carried one reload for each tube; a total of 16 torpedoes. They were also armed with one 120 mm (4.7 in) deck gun for combat on the surface.[6]

Construction and career

Built by the Kure Naval Arsenal, I-55 was laid down on 1 April 1924 as Submarine No.78 (第七十八号潜水艦, Dai-nanajuhachi-gō sensuikan), and renamed I-55 on 1 November.[7] The boat was launched on 2 September 1925 and completed on 5 September 1927.[4]


I-55 was assigned to the Kure Naval District on commissiong. During a training exercise on 11 July 1929, she accidentally collided with her target, the heavy cruiser Kinugasa, and damaged her bow plating. On 10 February 1932, she was slightly damaged when she was accidentally rammed by her sister ship, I-54. On 10 May 1936, she suffered minor damage to her bow plating in a collision with her sister ship I-53. On 23 July 1936 she suffered more extensive damage when she was caught in a typhoon off Beppu, Kyushu, during naval maneuvers and ran aground in Terajima Channel, suffering severe damage to her hull plating. After her superstructure was partially dismantled, I-55 was refloated and towed to Kure on 31 July 1936, where she was drydocked for repairs.[7]

By November 1941, I-55 and her sister ships I-53 and I-54 were assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy's Submarine Division 18, a part of Submarine Squadron 4.[7] and was based at Sanya, Hainan Island, China in December in preparation for the coming conflict in the Pacific.

World War II

First war patrol

On 1 December 1941, I-55 departed Sanya to begin her first war patrol, and on 7 December she deployed north of Kuantan with I-53 and I-54 in a patrol line to support the Japanese invasion of Malaya, which was scheduled to begin the following day. Hostilities began in East Asia on 8 December 1941 (7 December across the International Date Line in Hawaii, where Japan began the war with its attack on Pearl Harbor), and on 9 and 10 December I-55 participated in attempts to intercept a British Royal Navy task force centered around the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse before they could threaten Japanese invasion convoys, although Imperial Japanese Navy torpedo planes sank the two ships off the Malayan Peninsula on 10 December before the submarines could engage them.[7]

On 14 December 1941, the Royal Netherlands Navy submarine K XII reported sighting the periscope of a Japanese submarine and attempting to ram the submarine. The submarine probably was I-54 or I-55, neither of which suffered damage. I-55 ended her patrol at Cam Ranh in Japanese-occupied French Indochina on 20 December 1941.[7]

Second war patrol

I-55 departed Cam Ranh on 29 December 1941 to begin her second war patrol. She patrolled the Bangka Strait off Sumatra without incident and returned to Cam Ranh on 14 January 1942.[7]

Third war patrol

I-55 departed Cam Ranh for her third war patrol on 31 January 1942, assigned to patrol off the Anambas Islands. After refueling there on 2 February 1942, she proceed to the southern entrance to Lombok Strait. After the Japanese submarine Ro-34 expended all of her torpedoes in an attack on an Allied convoy, I-53, I-54, and I-55 received orders on 5 February to patrol Ro-34ʼs area.[7]

On 7 February, I-55 encountered the 4,519-gross register ton Dutch passenger ship Van Cloon in the Java Sea at 06°18′S 111°36′E and engaged her with gunfire, forcing her to beach herself on the south shore of Bawean Island in a sinking condition. The United States Navy patrol vessel USS Isabel arrived on the scene and rescued 187 people from Van Cloon, and opened fire on I-55 when I-55 attempted to surface nearby. I-55 dived and later was attacked by an Allied PBY Catalina flying boat.[7]

Japanese forces invaded Sumatra and Java on 8 February 1942, and on the evening of 13 February I-55 hit the British 4,799-gross register ton armed steamer Derrymore with two torpedoes. Derrymore, which was evacuating Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel from Singapore to Batavia, sank 90 minutes later at 05°18′S 106°20′E with the loss of her entire cargo of ammunition and six crated Hawker Hurricane Mark II fighters, as well as nine RAAF personnel, although her entire crew of 36 and the other 209 RAAF personnel aboard were rescued.[7]

On 18 February 1942, I-55 reported sinking an Allied merchant ship with gunfire, although her likely target, the Norwegian tanker Madrono, was undamaged. I-55 ended her patrol with her arrival at Staring-baai on Celebes on 21 February 1942.[7]

At Kure

Submarine Squadron 4 was disbanded on 10 March 1942, and I-55 was ordered back to Japanese home waters, and was reassigned to the Kure Guard Unit of the Kure Naval District. She departed Staring-baai on 16 March and arrived at Kure on 25 March 1942. Renumbered as Japanese submarine I-155 (伊号第五五潜水艦, I-gō Dai-Hyaku-gojūgo sensuikan) on 20 May 1942, she operated from Kure, reassigned to Submarine Division 18 of the Kure Naval District on 1 April 1943 and to Submarine Division 33 of the Kure Submarine Squadron on 20 April 1943.[7]

I-155ʼs operations were uneventful until late May 1943, when the Imperial General Headquarters decided to evacuate Japanese forces from Kiska in the Aleutian Islands. Ordered to participate in the evacuation, I-155 departed Kure on 22 May, called at Yokosuka on 23 May, and then proceeded to Paramushiro in the Kurile Islands, being attached temporarily to the Kiska Evacuation Force on 29 May. She arrived at Paramushiro on 2 June 1943, and departed on 4 June carrying supplies for the forces in Kiska; however, she suffered damage in heavy seas and was forced to return to Paramushiro, where she arrived on 7 June. On 14 June she departed Paramushiro for repairs.[7]

I-155 arrived at Kure on 20 June 1943 and thereafter was employed as a training ship, assigned to the Kure Guard Unit on 28 July 1943 and to Submarine Division 18 of the Kure Submarine Squadron on 1 December 1943.[7] On 5 January 1944, she tested a new submarine camouflage pattern in the Inland Sea for the Naval Submarine School, painted in a light gray scheme based on that of the German submarine U-511, which Germany had transferred to the Imperial Japanese Navy as Ro-500. On 31 January 1944, I-155 was reassigned to Submarine Division 19 of the Kure Submarine Squadron and laid up without a crew. From 23 to 25 February 1944, she tested another camouflage scheme for the Naval Submarine School, painted bluish-gray and black.[7]

On 20 April 1945, I-155 was reassigned to Submarine Division 33, and by late in the month she had been converted to transport Kaiten submersible suicide craft to bases on Shikoku,.[7] with her 120 mm gun replaced by two Kaiten.[5] On 5 May 1945, she suffered damage while submerged in a collision with the hybrid oiler-seaplane carrier Hayasui off Kabuto-jima in the Inland Sea. On 20 July 1945, she was redesignated as a reserve ship and anchored near the Kure Submarine School.[7]

In the final days of the war, I-155 was selected for a Kaiten mission. Recommissioned in early August 1945, she was fitted with two Kaiten at Otsujima Naval Base and was scheduled to depart Hirao on 25 August 1945 with the submarine I-156 as part of the Shinshu-tai ("Land of Gods Unit") Kaiten group. However, Japan agreed to surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945, and the operation was cancelled and I-155 was recalled. Japan's formal surrender took place on 2 September 1945.[7]


I-155 surrendered to Allied forces at Kure in September 1945. She was stricken from the Navy list on 20 November 1945.[7] I-155 was among 17 captured Japanese submarines sunk by gunfire by the Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Quiberon and the Royal Indian Navy sloop-of-war HMIS Sutlej in the Pacific Ocean between Honshu and Shikoku on 8 May 1946 in Operation Bottom.[7][8][9]


  1. Peatty, pp. 212–14
  2. Boyd, pp. 17–18
  3. Stille, p. 4
  4. Carpenter & Polmar, p. 93
  5. Chesneau, p. 198
  6. Bagnasco, p. 183
  7. Hackett & Kingsepp
  8. Anonymous, "Remaining Jap Subs Sunk", Townsville Daily Bulletin, May 10, 1946, p. 1
  9. Anonymous, "Jap Submarines Demolition Convoy Caught in Gale", Kalgoorlie Miner, May 14, 1946, p. 3


  • Bagnasco, Erminio (1977). Submarines of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-962-6.
  • Boyd, Carl (2002). The Japanese Submarine Force in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557500150.
  • Carpenter, Dorr B. & Polmar, Norman (1986). Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1904–1945. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-396-6.
  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
  • Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander (2013). "IJN Submarine I-155: Tabular Record of Movement". combinedfleet.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  • Peattie, Mark R. (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7.
  • Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter & Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 18691945. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-893-X.
  • Stille, Mark (2007). Imperial Japanese Navy Submarines 1941–45. Osprey. ISBN 1846030900.
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