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Japanese Kaiten Suicide Submarine Photo

Kaiten Suicide Submarine

The Kaiten is a modified Japanese Long Lance Torpedo, also referred to as a Human Torpedo. Kaiten translates roughly from Japanese as "To Change the World". The Kaiten's specifications are:

Length: 55 feet
Beam: 4 feet 6 inches
Crew: 1
Displacement: 18 Tons
Max Speed: 40 knots (44mph)
 1 3,300 pound warhead

Power Plant: Type 6 Torpedo motor
Range: 83 miles

The Kaiten was a modified Japanese Long Lance Torpedo (with provision for one crew member) launched from a mother sub which carried up to 6 Kaitens for Kamikaze suicide attacks. The pilot would enter from the mother sub through a hatch in the bottom of the submarine. It was a collision with a one of these Kamikaze (meaning Divine Wind - a reference to a typhoon in 1281 that saved Japan from a Mongol invasion by ship) weapons that caused the destruction of Destroyer Escort (the USS Underhill DE-682) like my dad's (the USS Bangust DE-739), the 3300lb warhead blowing the ship in two. At the time the Underhill had sighted 2 periscopes on a collision course with the ship and prepared to ram one of the kaitens, probably not realizing the subs were in fact human torpedoes. There were 2 massive explosions after the impact. Here are 3 slightly varying accounts of the Underhill's sinking:


This MK II Kaiten was 55' long by 4'6" in diameter and had a top speed of 40 knots with a range of 83 miles at 20 knots. The big advantage of this Japanese Kamikaze weapon was its human guidance system and the ability to make multiple passes at a target should it miss the first time. But they were unstable and tended to porpoise up and down and were difficult to keep at depth. During the Underhill sinking one of the subs targeted an LST which should have been it's primary target but the craft went clean under the ship. Then the modified human Long Lance Torpedo came about and back towards the Underhill. Trying to pilot this Kamikaze weapon must have been even more terrifying than being targeted by one.

Kaiten Human Torpedo Photo Gallery

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01Kaiten 02KaitenStern 03KaitenPropeller 04WaterBallastHoles
01 Japanese Kaiten Suicide Submarine 02 Stern View 03 Kaiten Propeller 04 Water Ballast Holes
05KaitenModularConstruction 06KaitenHatch 07KaitenNose 08KaitenConningTower
05 The Submarine's Modular Construction 06 Conning Tower Hatch 07 Warhead 08 Conning Tower
09KaitenPeriscope 10KaitenHatch 11Gears 12KaitenPeriscope
09 Periscope 10 Conning Tower Hatch 11 Gears 12 Periscope

This Kaiten Suicide Submarine can be found at the USS Ling Submarine Museum in Hackensack, NJ. This Japanese Human Torpedo is outdoors and has suffered greatly from the elements, but the staff has given it a thick coat of paint to help prevent further deterioration. It may be a torpedo, but it's a very BIG torpedo!

Another Japanese Suicide Craft can be found at the Battleship Cove Naval Museum in Fall River MA. It appears to be a modified Chris Craft Barrel Back Runabout copy. The craft has an enclosed cockpit with a glass cabin for the pilot.

Other Submarine Museums and Exhibits
John Holland's Submarine Fenian Ram Japanese Type A Midget Submarine USS Nautilus German Seehund Midget Submarine USS Lionfish USS Ling

USS Ling Main Page