Operation Rising Sun Cover

Operation Rising Sun

The Sinking of Japan’s Secret Submarine I-52

David W. Jourdan

Potomac Books, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2020, 328 pages

Book Review published on: October 8, 2021

Deep-sea explorer David W. Jourdan presents a fascinating account of the American-Russian expedition in 1995 that found the remains of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s I-52 submarine that the U.S. Navy sunk in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Military historians and enthusiasts should find Jourdan’s Operation Rising Sun: The Sinking of Japan’s Secret Submarine I-52 remarkably interesting as he explains the submarine’s mission, the U.S. Navy’s efforts that led to its sinking, and the search effort that located the ship in its final resting place fifty years later. The author had a substantial role in the 1995 expedition by analyzing U.S. Navy navigation records of the incident to help the American-Russian exploration team locate the submarine’s wreckage with underwater sonar sensors.

Originally designed as a long-range offensive weapon, I-52 was repurposed by the Japanese navy as a cargo carrier to exchange precious materiel with Germany after the Allies gained the upper hand in blockading both countries’ access to important strategic resources in 1943. Referred to as the “Yanagi Missions,” Japanese submarines supplied material critical to German war production in exchange for weapon and communication technology. Their missions were arduous, requiring a voyage of fourteen thousand to seventeen thousand miles across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, which were patrolled by Allied naval forces. Several Japanese submarines successfully delivered their cargo at ports in German-occupied France and returned to Penang in Japanese-occupied Malaysia, or Kure in mainland Japan. I-52 embarked on the fifth Yanagi mission with almost three hundred tons of cargo, including two tons of gold as payment for German technology. It successfully rendezvoused with a U-boat on 23 June 1944 and received three German sailors who would guide it on the final leg of its journey to Lorient, France.

Unfortunately for the Japanese and German sailors, the Allies’ “Ultra” program had tracked I-52 into the Atlantic Ocean, which enabled a U.S. Navy task group to intercept it the next day.

Jourdan describes events in 1944 and 1995 in a parallel narrative that brings closure to what happened to I-52 in the final hours of its voyage. He explains the Yanagi missions and the Allies’ “Ultra” program in considerable detail, to include the actions leading up to the submarine’s fateful encounter with U.S. Navy torpedo bombers from the USS Bogue aircraft carrier. His analysis of what probably occurred to I-52 on 24 June 1944 during the U.S. Navy attack is particularly impressive. Jourdan’s discussion of the oceanic physical challenges that the 1995 expedition dealt with in finding I-52’s remains convey the remarkable feat that the deep-sea explorers accomplished. Operation Rising Sun is a very interesting account of deep-sea exploration and an intriguing reexamination of a maritime battle in World War II.

Book Review written by: Dirk C. Blackdeer, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas