O-R Mystery Photo’s history surfaces

June 30, 2013
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The damaged Japanese submarine HA-19 washed up on an Oahu beach in December 1941.
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Commercial photographer Dan Harbaugh shot the visit of the Japanese sub to Washington.

The images most of us associate with the devastating sneak attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, are of Japanese fighter planes dive-bombing the American fleet. But the assault came not just from the air; six miniature submarines armed with torpedoes also entered the harbor.

“HA-19 failed to gain entrance to Pearl Harbor, and with its batteries exhausted, the two-man crew set scuttling charges and abandoned ship,” Observer-Reporter reader James Morris informed us. One of the crew members died, but “the midget sub commander, Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki, washed ashore unconscious and became the first Japanese prisoner of war. The scuttling charges failed to explode and the sub went aground on a beach in eastern Oahu on the morning of Dec. 8.”

The U.S. Navy salvaged the submarine, and according to another one of our O-R readers, Albert White, sent it on a tour of 40 states and 2,000 cities to promote the sale of war bonds.

And that is how a Japanese submarine came to be on Cherry Avenue in Washington. Dan Harbaugh, a local commercial photographer, snapped this photo and several others of the spectacle taking place near the side entrance to the courthouse.

Almost all of the dozen or so readers who called or emailed us agree on the identity of the submarine, but the big question is: When was it here?

On the south side of Cherry Avenue is a sign for tailor Charles E. Wrenshall’s shop, which operated there only from 1941 through 1946, according to Washington City Directories. But a narrower estimation comes from Tom Wylie, owner of Judson Wylie & Sons in Washington. “I was there when they brought the submarine,” Wylie said. “I was about 10 years old at the time and remember it vividly.” Wylie is 81 now, which means the sub would have been here in summer 1942. But he admits that’s a guess and it could have been a later year.

The interest in the submarine must have been keen though, considering how fresh the memories of the infamous attack were at the time.

So, where is the sub now?

Reader Bob Donnan offered us this information:

In 1947, the Navy moved it to the naval station at Key West, Fla. It was given to the Key West Art and Historical Association, and it became a national historic landmark in 1989. It moved to the Admiral Nimitz Museum at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1991, and that is where it remains today.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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