Operation Rising Sun

The I-52 Recovery Project

The only known photo of the I-52. The I-52 was sunk while on her maiden Yanagi (exchange) mission.


Blueprints of the I-52, a C-3 cargo submarine. This class of submarines was designed and built by Mitsubishi Corporation, between 1943 and 1944, as cargo carriers. They were very long .(356 ft. with a beam of 30.5 ft.) and carried a crew of up to 94. They also had a long cruising range at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h). The Japanese constructed only three of these submarines during World War II (I-52, I-53 and I-55), although twenty were planned. They were the largest submarines ever built at that time, and were known as the most advanced Japanese submarines of their time. The keel of I-52 was laid on 18 March 1942, and she was commissioned on 28 December 1943 into the 11th submarine squadron. After training in Japan she was selected for a Yanagi (exchange) mission to Germany. These were missions enabled under the Axis Powers' Tripartite Pact to provide for an exchange of strategic materials and manufactured goods between Germany, Italy and Japan. Initially, cargo ships made the exchanges, but when that was no longer possible submarines were used.

Only five other submarines had attempted this transcontinental voyage during World War II: I-30 (April 1942), I-8 (June 1943), I-34 (October 1943), I-29 (November 1943), and German submarine U-511 (August 1943). Of these, I-30 was sunk by a mine, I-34 by the British submarine Taurus, and I-29 by the United States submarine Sawfish (assisted by Ultra intelligence).

The first image of the I-52 after being lost for over 50 years. This B&W image was taken by a Russian camera sled "Neptun" on June 5th, 1995 at a depth of 5,240 meters. This is over a mile deeper than the shipwreck of the Titanic. Paul Tidwell, with the help of Sound Ocean Systems and Meridian, was able to locate the I-52 after only a 17 day search. It is the 2nd deepest wreck ever found on sidescan sonar and the deepest wreck to have items salvaged from.
Sidescan sonar images from I-52 wrecksite 5,240 meters deep courtesy of Paul Tidwell. As you can see, the bow is detached from the wreck most likely due to a torpedo in the bow imploding from the tremendous pressure of the ocean at this depth. After the bow separated from the submarine, it caused the I-52 to sink in a slow circular pattern coming to rest on the bottom in a left to right motion sweeping the debris field clean in that area.
Front view of conning tower. Note redish brown objects are not rust, but are a type of bacterial growth that is eating away at the metal. Note this picture is so clear that you can actually see into the conning tower...
Rear anti-aircraft deck gun of the I-52. The Type 96 25mm gun was a Japanese automatic cannon used during World War II. It was primarily used as an anti-aircraft weapon in fixed mounts with a rate of fire of 220 rounds per minute. It had an effective range of over 1,000 meters. This was the submarine version that made extensive use of stainless steel.
"Rising Sun" flag raised on the deck of the I-52 by Paul Tidwell on one of the last Mir trip to the I-52. This was done as a symbol of respect to the people who lost their lives that fatefull day.
Note ghostly image of a silient guardian in uniform watching over the I-52. Is this the Commander Uno Kameo, Santonobu Gamo, or is it someone else from the I-52?? ..You decide...
The top of the I-52's conning tower including the anti-aircraft gun placement. This gives you some perspective to the immense size of a Japanese Mitsubishi C-3 cargo submarine.
Commander Uno Kameo
A memorial in Tokyo newspaper telling of the loss of one of the 18 civillian engineers from the I-52. These engineers, mostly from Mitsubishi, were on there way to study optical, diesel engines, aircraft engines, and V-2 rocket technology.
TThe Research Vessel (R/V) Akademik Mstislav Keldysh was built by Hollming OY of Finland and is owned and operated by the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The homeport of this globally ranging vessel is Kaliningrad. The Keldysh was launched in 1981. Since then, it has supported many scientific and exploratory voyages. The vessel can berth up to 47 scientific personnel, 53 officers and crew, and 25 marine technicians. The working space for research includes 17 laboratories. It also is home to the Mir I and Mir II submersibles. They have been used in several filming expeditions including the Japanese I-52, the RMS Titanic, and the German warship the Bismark...
The Mir I and Mir II are battery-powered, three-person submersibles with a maximum operating depth of 6,000 meters (20,000 ft). This ties the Mirs with the French submersible Nautile as the second-deepest-diving submersibles in the world. The Japanese Shinkai 6500 is the leader, with a depth rating of 6,500 meters. Each submersible is 7.8 m long and weighs 18.6 tons. The personnel sphere of each sub is just over 2 m in diameter and is made of a 5-cm-thick combination of nickel and steel. They were used in the I-52, RMS Titanic, and Bismark explorations.

Mir I retreiving tin ingot from deck of the I-52. Each ingot weighs over 100 pounds and is stamped with the Japanese foundry mark. There are over 160 tons of tin on-board the I-52.

See ingot photo below.

Opium container recovered from wreck site. Opium was used to make morphine, which was useful as a field pain-killer for war injuries. These containers were headed to Germany.
Part of bow topedo tube hatch cover from I-52 debris field

courtesy Paul Tidwell

Inside view of bow torpedo hatch cover: note black is explosive residue from a torpedo explosion. As the I-52 sank into the depths, one of the torpedoes in the forward tubes imploded causing a chain reaction, which then in turn caused the bow portion of the I-52 to seperate from the I-52.

Check image of debris field above