Skip to content

All posts by Jenne James - 2. page

Wreckage of Kaga

During our September, 1999 expedition to image seafloor sonar targets at the site of the Battle of Midway, the Nauticos/NAVO team used a system called TOSS (Towed Optical Search System). Dangled from a cable over 17,000 feet below the surface, the instrument captured video and still images of a huge debris field of wreckage. Some of these pieces had unique features that confirmed we had found the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. Other artifacts, including a Japanese sailor’s boot, preserved for nearly seventy years, was evidence of the loss of life in battle. Three hundred and seven American sailors, Marines, and airmen perished in the battle, against over 3,000 Japanese.

49 Wreckage - image 256

Pieces of wreckage, large and small, were scattered in profusion around the area as seen in this montage. In the bottom photo, a deep sea worm left a trail as it gathered sustenance from the muddy bottom, evidence of life at extreme depths. The seafloor was thickly sprinkled with nodules of pure manganese. Nauticos.

Kaga versus Sōryū

In The Search for the Japanese Fleet, I argue that Nautilus attacked the aircraft carrier Kaga, not Sōryū as Captain Brockman thought, owing to outdated recognition guides. The information in his possession showed Kaga in its pre-war configuration, with a three-quarter length flight deck and uncovered bow. Otherwise, the two ships resembled one another, and both had a unique starboard-side island superstructure. (Kaga was significantly heavier, 39,000 tons vs. 16,000 tons, as it was built on an armored battlecruiser hull, but that did not affect its appearance through the periscope.) Wreckage from a vessel identified as Kaga was found in 1999 at the position of the Nautilus attack. Yet Captain Brockman and his crew recovered a life ring from Sōryū! How can this be?

Nautilus made her attack at around 1400 local time and evaded depth-charging destroyers by heading south. Nautilus first surfaced that evening at 1941. By that time she was twenty miles south of the attack location, but much closer southwest of the location of the dive bomber attacks that mortally wounded both ships (as well as Akagi) that morning at 1020. With winds and currents pushing floating debris to the west, it is likely that Nautilus fell among flotsam from the morning attacks on all three ships rather than from the particular ship they attacked at 1400.

Regardless of which ship Nautilus attacked, the old boat and her gallant crew were key members of the team of aviators and sailors that caused the destruction of the carriers of Kidō Butai that June day in 1942 and turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.


Excerpt from The Search for the Japanese Fleet. Location of dive bomber attacks at 1020 is closer to Nautilus position at 1941 than attack at 1400. Illustration by Bethany Jourdan.
Excerpt from The Search for the Japanese Fleet. Location of dive bomber attacks at 1020 is closer to Nautilus position at 1941 than attack at 1400.     Illustration by Bethany Jourdan.

Letter from Larry Brockman

Shortly after release of The Search for the Japanese Fleet, I received a wonderful letter from Larry Brockman, nephew of William Brockman, captain of Nautilus. He began with:

“I want to thank you on behalf of the entire Brockman family for the wonderful tribute to my uncle.  I have often hoped that something would be written about Uncle Bill’s Nautilus Days, and your book is the fulfillment of that hope and so much more.”

The letter went on to tell more about his uncle and memories of his service. Included was this passage about the controversy surrounding which ship Nautilus attacked:

“In 1976, I … drove up to Boca Raton to see Uncle Bill.  We had a nice long chat.  It seems that he was all steamed over a book writer who had interviewed him about the Midway encounter.  He described in great detail how they argued about which carrier he had attacked, and whether or not the torpedoes had sunk the carrier.  After raving about the encounter with the writer, Uncle Bill told me that he really didn’t care what the guy said or did because he was certain that he was right.  I asked him how he could be so sure.  He got up, went to a closet, and pulled out the life preserver.  I took a photo of him with the preserver, which I have attached to this note.  Then he said to me, ‘When it was safe, I surfaced and fished this out of the water.  And there were hundreds more just like it all around me’.”

In my book, I report that the ship that Nauticos found, based on the position of the Nautilus attack, was clearly identified to be Kaga. Brockman was equally certain he attacked Sōryū . How do we resolve this contradiction? See next week’s blog post for a possible explanation.

William Brockman departed on eternal patrol from Boca Raton, Florida, January 2, 1979, at the age of seventy-four.

Rear Admiral William H. Brockman, Ret., posing with life preserver from Japanese carrier IJN Sōryū, in Boca Raton, Florida, 1976. Photo and excerpts from letter courtesy Larry Brockman, with permission.



U.S. Submarines in World War II

With the dramatic exception of USS Nautilus, U.S. submarines made a poor showing at the Battle of Midway. However, with more experienced and aggressive commanders, better torpedoes, newer boat designs and growing numbers, the tide turned. By war’s end, the submarine force, representing less than two percent of the Navy, accounted for fifty-five percent of Japan’s maritime losses. This achievement came at high cost – nearly 3,500 U.S. submariners perished during the war, over twenty percent of those who made patrols. This was the highest casualty rate for any branch of the U.S. military. May those brave men be … never forgotten!  Excerpt from The Search for the Japanese Fleet.

USS Nautilus - 5
USS Nautilus taking on provisions prior to departing Pearl Harbor, 11 December 1942. Note the huge six-inch caliber deck guns. U.S. Navy.