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Tug-o-War Over WWII Sub Sinks to New Depths : V-J Day: Park Service wants to take two-man Japanese submersible to Pearl Harbor for Sept. 2 celebration. Officials at Nimitz Museum want to keep it in Texas.

July 02, 1995|TERRY WALLACE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS — A two-man submarine used in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is involved in another battle, this one between federal officials and a museum that won't give up the ship.

The National Park Service wants to return the sub to Pearl Harbor for a ceremony Sept. 2 marking the 50th anniversary of V-J Day. The Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg has the sub and wants to display it the same day.

"We'd like to avoid an argument with anybody, but we're going to keep our little boat," said Marshall Steves, president and chief executive of the San Antonio-based Admiral Nimitz Foundation, a nonprofit group that raises money for the state-operated museum.

While a carrier-based Japanese air armada attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet from above, Japanese submarines launched the five 110-foot, battery-powered midget submersibles Dec. 7, 1941.

The two-man craft were to penetrate Pearl Harbor's mouth and fire their two torpedoes at warships. No more than one of the midget subs is known to have penetrated the harbor and all but one were sunk by U.S. Navy depth charges.

The surviving sub drifted to the eastern shore of Oahu, about 15 miles east of Pearl Harbor, and beached on a reef. One of the two men aboard--Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki--made it ashore.

He became U.S. Prisoner of War No. 1 and lived to become a manager for Toyota in Brazil.

The submarine was taken to the U.S. mainland, where it became an attraction at War Bond rallies. It went on display at a Navy submarine base in Key West, Fla.

In 1990, when the Navy closed the base, the Nimitz Foundation obtained the sub on loan from the Navy, Steves said.

"It was found in three pieces, rusted through. We got permission from the Navy to get it back," he said. "Then the National Park Service got into it with the idea of moving it to Hawaii."

Fredericksburg, a town of 7,000 residents about 55 miles northwest of San Antonio, is the birthplace of World War II Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

But Don Magee, superintendent of the USS Arizona National Memorial, says the Park Service always intended to move the sub to Pearl Harbor. The memorial is the shrine anchored in Pearl Harbor over the wreck of the sunken battleship in which 1,102 crew members remain entombed.

"We have a signed agreement with the Nimitz Museum that we are supposed to get the sub," Magee said.

Bob Kinzler of Honolulu, a member of the USS Arizona Memorial Museum Assn. and another survivor of the raid, said he and many others want the sub displayed at Pearl Harbor.

"Admiral Nimitz was a great man, but he did not take command until around Christmas [1941]. He was not in command when the attack occurred. And the sub wasn't beached at Galveston; it was beached on Waimanalo Bay, near Bellows Field," Kinzler said. "It should be displayed here."

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