The Midget Subs of Kiska Island

Author: Richard W Galloway | Historic Archaeologist

Working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2009 allowed me to make a visit to Kiska for archaeological survey and documentation. While only there for less than a fort night, we did manage to reach several sites to document them in greater detail and found a few that had not been written about before.

What caught my attention were the remnants of a Japanese Type- A midget sub of the Ko-Hyoteki designed in 1938. The one that is left there still shows the damage that was done when the Japanese forces abandoned the island under cover of fog, but right in front of the US Navy. Since the Type-A arrived on the deck of a modified I type Japanese submarine, they could not be taken as the troops departed on ships.

Kiska_06 05 09_1257

Seeing the one sub got me to wondering and more research back in Anchorage turned up several US military photos that showed there were three subs on tracks in the sub pen when our forces landed. Each had the damage of the remaining sub where the Japanese troops had blown them up before leaving. The records are unclear, but do show that at least one of those three was scrapped to aid the US with needed steel. Part of another sub is still on the beach in Kiska Harbor, and the third is still sitting right where it was when our troops landed.

Kiska_06 05 09_1251

Further research gave me the number of six different midget subs that were once on Kiska. At least two of those are thought to have sunk in the harbor during bad storms, and one just seems to have vanished off the records. Since many records were destroyed at the end of the war that last sub may never be identified.

While five of the Type- A subs were used in the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were mainly used for attacks on merchant ships or for harbor defense. That is presumably the reason for their presence on Kiska, but no records I have found to date verify that usage.

What will happen to the one remaining Type-A still on Kiska? Given the low, to nonexistent budget the USFWS has had for many years now, and the distance from anywhere to Kiska, it will likely slowly rust into oblivion. Although the metal items on Kiska are surviving far better than the same items in the South Pacific.

There are a couple of the Type-A subs on display; the one from Pearl Harbor is in Fredericksburg Texas, and another in Australia where it was found in Sydney Harbor. The one on Kiska however is the only one still in the combat arena.


One thought on “The Midget Subs of Kiska Island

  1. Pingback: While I was away… some recommended reads | The Lab and Field

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