Archive related to the sinking of Japanese Submarine I-52


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(WORLD WAR II). Archive related to the sinking of Japanese Submarine I-52. No place: 1944. Various sizes and formats, mostly quarto, many items staple-bound or in original wrappers. $5500.

Historically important archive of documents concerning the June 24, 1944 sinking by a U.S. bomber of the Japanese Submarine I-52, which had left Japan for Nazi-occupied France on March 10, 1944, with a cargo which included over two tons of gold bullion and three tons of opium. Includes signed statements of military and civilian personnel involved in the attack, including the statement of Lt. William Gordon, one of the two pilots credited with the sinking of Japan's "Golden Submarine."

"Lost Japanese Sub With 2 Tons of Axis Gold Found on Floor of Atlantic" headlined the March 18, 1995, New York Times article by William J. Broad. The Japanese submarine I-52 was part of a secretive exchange of raw materials and technologies between Hitler and Emperor Hirohito. With Allied attacks making surface transport impossible, the Axis powers resorted to submarines sneaking half way around the globe.

Longer than a football field, I-52 was a cargo submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy used during World War II for a secret mission to Lorient, France, then occupied by Germany. The I-52 had left Japan in March 1944, with 2.2 metric tons of gold on board, then stopped in Singapore to pick up the other raw materials including 228 tons of tin, molybdenum, and tungsten, 54 tons of raw rubber, and 3 tons of quinine. She also carried 109 men, including 14 experts from such concerns as the Mitsubishi Instrument Company, who were along to study and procure German technology. In late April, she set out again, traveling through the Indian Ocean and around Africa, bound for the seaport of Lorient in Nazi-held France. She traveled the usual way, submerged during the day and surfaced at night, charging batteries.

Unbeknownst to Tokyo and Berlin, the I-52's route and cargo were known to the Allies, who had broken a host of Axis ciphers for secret communications, including German military orders and Japanese naval codes. On the moonless night off June 23, 1944, under a clear sky, the Japanese sub rendezvoused with a German sub in the mid-Atlantic. Food fuel, and two German technicians were taken aboard, as well as a radar detector meant to help the Japanese submarine evade enemy planes as she neared Europe.

Near midnight, just after the rendezvous, Lt. Cmdr. Jesse D. Taylor, flying as part of a naval task force, took off from the aircraft carrier "Bogue" in an Avenger bomber. He picked up the I-52 on his radar. Zeroing in, he dropped flares and two 500-pound bombs and watched as the submarine desperately sought to dive. Taylor, listening to undersea sounds radioed by acoustic buoys, heard an explosion and a metallic groan as the submarine lost air and sank with more than 100 men. AS Taylor's patrol ended, he was relieved by Lt. William Gordon who, hearing faint propeller noises, dropped a second acoustic torpedo.

Far away, both the "Bogue" and the escaping Nazi submarine saw the flares of the distant battle, and both of them noted the position of the blaze above the I-52's grave. The U.S. Navy credited both Taylor and Gordon with the sinking of Japan's "Golden Submarine." The I-52's sunken gold consisted of 146 bars packed in 49 metal box, according to a manifest that was radioed from Tokyo to Berlin and decrypted by its American interceptors.

The archive includes:

(1) Lieutenant (jg) William D. Gordon. Typed manuscript, not signed but with 30 words, as edits, in his hand including initials "W.D.", four separate pages, 8 by 10-1/2 inches, stapled in upper left corner [June 30, 1944]. Marked "Top Secret" on each page. In part, it reads, "On the morning of 24 June 1944 at 0028½, I was launched from the USS BOGUE [aircraft carrier]… I was vectored 226º 54½ miles to the scene of Lt. Commander Taylor's attack against an enemy submarine, with orders to drop a Mark 24 Mine if sonobuoy [a buoy that emits a radio signal on receiving an underwater signal from a vessel] indications revealed the presence of a submarine in the area. At about 0055, Mr. Price Fish, a Civilian Technician and underwater sound expert, who had been requested to accompany me, informed me that he was hearing faint propeller noises on the orange and yellow sonobuoys… I informed Mr. Taylor that I had been sent out to the area to relieve him and that he was to return to the ship…"

(2) Three groups of identical statements, each personally signed; 44 signatures in all. One is marked in ink at top corner of the cover page "Copy 13" and the other, "Copy 14." The third cover page indicates that it is an incomplete set; but it is not. The Scale Map and stamping on verso of the map, "U.S.S. Bogue, dated June 30, 1944" is present but not attached. However, this set has a duplicate signed statement of Quentin R. Kelso.

"Attack of Lt. (jg) William D. Gordon… 24 June 1944," 19 separate mimeographed pages, 8 by 10-1/2 inches, stapled together at top. Each page is marked "TOP SECRET." Each statement is individually signed at its conclusion. Includes:

(a) Statement of Lt. (jg) W.D. Gordon, signed "W D Gordon" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(b) Statement of Mr. Price Fish, "Civilian Technician from Columbia University, Division of War Research, United States Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory, New London, Connecticut," signed "Price Fish" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(c) Statement of Lieutenant (jg) A. Hirtsbrunner signed "Arthur L. Hirtsbrunner" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(d) Statement of Lieutenant (jg) Francis L. Brady signed "Lt. (jg) Francis L. Brady A-V(N)" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(e) Statement of I.E. Martin, ARM2c, USNR, signed "I.E. Martin" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(f) Statement of D.P. Knox, ARM1/c, USN, signed "Donald Phillips Knox" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

(g) Statement of Q.R. Kelso, AOM3/c, USNR, signed "Quentin R. Kelso" and by interrogator "William H. Earl," Ensign, A-V(S), USNR.

Also: List of "Debris and Other Materials Recovered from Area of Attck by Lt. Cdr. J.D. Taylor & Lt. (jg) W.D. Gordon on 24 June 1944" and Scale Map of the "Attack of Lt (jg) W.D. Gordon A-V(N) USNR 24 June 1944."

(3) "Report of Operations of Composite Squadron 69 for period of 4 May 1944 to 3 July 1944." Mimeographed, 21 separate pages, stapled at top. Marked "TOP SECRET." "From: The Commanding Officer" [Lieutenant Commander J.D. Taylor]. "To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet" [Admiral R.E. Ingersoll].

(4) "Performance of Japanese Aircraft," 14 mimeographed pages, 8-1/2 by 11 inches. Naval Air Combat Information School, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, December 26, 1944. Marked CONFIDENTIAL. Over 100 words of handwritten notes on last page about some of the aircraft in this report.

(5) Collection of five "Flak Information" Bulletins, numbered 3 (October 1944), 4 (November 1944), 5 (December 1944), 6 (January 1945), and 8 (April 1945). Each noted "CONFIDENTIAL" on the cover, 8 by 10-1/2 inches, each 16-32 pages long. Each illustrated with charts, maps, and/or photographs. Published by the Air Intelligence Group, Division of Naval Intelligence, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC. The April 1945 issue is signed at the upper edge of the cover "Lt (jg) Earl" by William H. Earl, interrogator of the statements above.

(6) "Report of Antisubmarine Action by Aircraft," four six-page forms, 8 by 10-1/2 inches, marked "Confidential," not filled out; Naval Air Combat Intelligence School, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, three small identification photo charts of Japanese aircraft used as examinations, December 1944, January 1945, and April 1945; 9-3/4 by 7-1/2-inch transparency of a map of the Northern Atlantic marked "Restricted."

(7) National Geographic 2009 DVD titled "Submarine I-52: Search for WW2 Gold."

Fine condition.

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