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    Description

    Archive of Machinist Bernice Francis Johnson, USN Prize Crew Member of Imperial Japanese Navy I-400 Submarine.
    Many fascinating stories came out of World War II, but few more intriguing than that of the top-secret Japanese I-400 submarine. The top secret Imperial Japanese Navy I-400 Class Submarine Aircraft Carrier was the design and concept of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Just after the raid on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto devised the strategy of taking the fight to the U.S. mainland by striking both the eastern and western seaboards using submarine-launched aircraft. The resulting submarines, I-400, I-401 and I-402, would be the largest of WWII. These submarines were capable of circumnavigating the globe without refueling and carried the specially designed Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft. These formidable medium strike bombers could launch, attack, land at sea, and be reloaded into the I-400 hangar in a matter of only a short time. This early stealth technology allowed surprise raids on coastal cities subsequently leaving the Naval Command trying to find a traditional aircraft carrier.

    Fortunately, the three submarines produced never saw action as intended. The secret project was delayed by the early death of Admiral Yamamoto and, ultimately, the submarines were ready too late in the war. Having been completed too late to serve their original purpose and, after several scrapped missions, including attacking the locks at the Panama Canal, the submarines were surrendered to the U. S. Navy after the capitulation of Japan.

    The I-400 submarine was captured by the Submarine Tender U.S.S. Proteus [AS-19] on August 27, 1945. Crew members of the Proteus, as well as several other ships, were chosen to board to I-400 for inspection. The I-400 was moored alongside the U.S.S. Proteus and taken to Tokyo Bay where it sat until after the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender of Japan aboard the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945. After the signing, the submarine was sailed to Hawaii by a crew of engineers to study its design and function. After only a matter of eight months, the remaining I-400 class submarines were taken north of Oahu and scuttled in order to prevent the Soviet Union from observing or receiving the technology. This class of submarines remained the largest in the world until the development of nuclear ballistic submarines in the 1960s. Their design and construction played a large role in the post-war development of new U.S. submarines.

    Very little is known to exist from the I-400 project. Having been designated Top Secret by the Imperial Japanese Navy and also a war-time secret of the U.S. Navy, it was not until the late 20th century that information became academically available. The discovery of the Machinist Bernice F. Johnson Archive led to the comprehensive history I-400 Japan's Secret Aircraft-Carrying Strike Submarine: Objective Panama Canal by Henry Sakaida, Gary Nila and Koji Takaki [2010]. The U.S. Navy also captured an Aichi M6A Seiran Aircraft from a factory in Japan. This aircraft is permanently displayed behind the B-29 Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institute of Air & Space, Udvar Hazy Smithsonian Annex in Chantilly, Virginia.

    Offered here is the archive compiled by career U.S. Navy Machinist Bernice F. Johnson who was chosen as a member of the Prize Crew to sail the I-400 submarine from Tokyo Bay to Honolulu to study the design and capabilities of the U.S. Navy's largest surrendered prize. Machinist Johnson led the crew of enlisted men who worked on and sailed the submarine. His notes, recordings and other reports were instrumental in compiling the official intelligence reports about the submarine. This one-of-a-kind archive contains important pieces taken from the I-400 submarine including the data plaque from the hangar showing the stealth technology by which the airplane engines could be warmed with oil and water before surfacing, guaranteeing optimal operating temperatures for an immediate take-off. The other highlights from the archive are a full hand-written crew muster roll of all members of the submarine, original photograph of the crew posed on the deck (the only such photo known to exist) and a Japanese Submarine Qualification Badge. In addition to these items are several other small relics removed from the submarine included the straight razor of crew-member Mechanic Chief Petty Officer Sute Jiro Shimazu, an unused set of Imperial Japanese Navy flight-suit collar tabs and a booklet of shore leave passes for Yokosuka Naval Base. The items from Machinist Johnson include several service records (one showing service aboard the I-400 and I-401 from August 1945 to March 1946), Commander Kissinger intelligence report about the I-400 and I-401, several original photographs, his personal note book, some insignia and a newspaper article about his involvement with the I-400. This special collection was the inspiration and driving force behind the publication of the aforementioned 2010 book. Many of the items in the archive are prominently utilized in the book and its research. A special 1st edition signed copy of the book is included in this lot.
    Provenance: Bernice F. Johnson, Gary Nila.

    The term "museum quality" is sometimes used rather liberally by auction catalogers. However, it is most appropriate in the case of the this unique group of artifacts from one of World War II's most amazing, little-known stories.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2019
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 631

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