Sunday, January 01, 2006

Midget submarine mystery surfaces


The Sailor´s Paper
By Michael Brooke

A documentary currently being filmed with assistance from the Navy about the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour has rekindled the debate surrounding the fate of the third sub that vanished in mystery in 1942.

Historians and WWII veterans are divided on whether the third midget submarine is somewhere on the bottom of Sydney Harbour, or sank outside Sydney Heads after torpedoing HMAS Kuttabul on June 1, 1942.

The documentary, entitled ‘He’s Coming South – The Attack on Sydney Harbour’, is being filmed on location by Animax Films with assistance from the Royal Australian Navy.

The director of the documentary, Damien Lay, said he was inspired to make the documentary “because of the mystery that surrounds the disappearance of the third submarine”.

Mr Lay told Navy News that the documentary will be screened on Foxtel’s History Channel on Armistice Day and the evidence it presents suggests that “the third midget submarine could be anywhere in Sydney Harbour or outside the Heads.”

Neil Roberts, 82, a survivor of HMAS Kuttabul that was torpedoed by the missing submarine, said the mystery surrounding the missing sub would follow him to the grave.

“There are so many myths and legends about what happened to the third sub but nobody knows for sure.” — Neil Roberts However, former sailors and WWII veterans said the midget sub sank in Sydney Harbour where it is still waiting to be discovered.

Bob Parish, NSW President of the Naval Association, said “some time ago a side-scan sonar device detected what could be the missing submarine in deep water opposite Balls Head Reserve.”

Mr Parish’s theory is supported by a former Japanese submariner, Sub LT Kazao Sakamaki, who said the missing sub sank in Sydney Harbour, because it did not have enough battery power to get outside Sydney Heads.

However, others say the sub made it out of Sydney Heads because oceanography and hydrographic ships and technology used to map the entire sea floor of Sydney Harbour had found nothing.

The documentary producer, Chris Berry, said Navy had helped with the documentary in a big way by providing historical advice and allowing filming on Garden Island, including the annual memorial ceremony to commemorate the 21 sailors killed in the submarine attack.

The midget subs were launched from three mother submarines off Sydney Heads and sneaked in at night, after a Japanese plane had conducted a reconnaissance flight over Sydney Harbour to spy on the Australian and US warships at berth. Each of the 24-metre midget submarines carried two men.

The first sub blew itself up after becoming entangled in the anti-submarine boom-gate near Watson’s Bay, while the second sub was scuttled by its crew after being depth charged into submission at Taylor’s Bay.

The fate of the third submarine has remained a mystery since it fired two torpedoes at the cruiser USS Chicago, which missed and instead hit HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 men sleeping on-board.

Navy personnel and the public can get the Navy’s official version of events when the Maritime Heritage Centre opens on Garden Island in October.

One of the major exhibits will be ‘The Battle Of Sydney’ audio-visual display that will tell the story of the Japanese midget submarine attack. The conning tower of the second submarine will also be displayed at the RAN Heritage Centre that opens on October 4.”



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