Japanese 'Holland' Submarines
(Type 7-P)

Japan-05-Type 7-P Built for Japan

Holland Type 7-P Submarines Built for Japan

Dynamic America Edited by J. Niven, 1960

Length 67 feet 0 inches
Diameter 11 feet 10.5 inches
Displacement 123 tons

Japanese interest in Holland submarines dates back to 1897 when Lieutenant Kenji Ide, Naval Attache at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC met John Holland. In October 1898, Count Kosuke Kizaki and Count Takashi Sasaki dove in the Holland VI and Lieutenant Ide was on board the Holland VI during trials on the Potomac River in April 1900. These gentlemen provded their government with detailed reports on the performance of the Holland VI and the attitude of the U.S. Navy and Congress. In 1902, Lieutenant Ide gave a public lecture in which he advocated the purchase of Holland submarines.1

Following the sinking of the Japanese battleships Yamato and Yashima in May 1904 and heavy damage to four other warships, the Imperial Navy felt the need for submarines. A plan presented by Lieutenant Commander Kozaburo Oguri called for the purchase of five submarines of the "improved Holland" type. These boats were built at the Fore River yard in Massachusetts, knocked down, and shipped to the Gokaska Docks at Yokosuka, Japan for reassembly under the supervision of Arthur L. Busch.2

Frank Cable and his crew arrived in Yokohama on 30 May 1905 and proceeded to Yokosuka (about 20 miles away) where the submarines were reassembled. Frank Cable writes:

"The Battle of the Sea of Japan had just been fought and won, but the disappearance of Rodjestvensky's fleet had not depleted Russia of war vessels. The Japanese saw immediate work for at least two submarines off Vladivostok, and were eager to have the boats ready for transport to the harbor there."
"Toward the close of June we made a surface run in Tokio Bay with one of these boats, which thus became the first submarine operated in the Japanese navy. When a submerged run was later made we had a full crew of Japanese naval officers in addition to our own crew of six men. These officers were to be trained to operate the boat in actual service."
"The boat was ready for official trials with its native crew by July 22nd and I so notified the commandant of the navy yard. Unlike our experience with the Russian Navy Department, to say nothing of our own, there was no delay. In war Japan's watchword was dispatch. My advice was sent on a Saturday afternoon, and that evening official word came from the commandant that the board of inspection had been appointed and the trials would begin the next morning. I demurred to running trials on a Sunday, and we agreed to hold them the following day."
"The trials occupied two days and fulfilled requirements. The board of inspection immediately left for Tokio, and the following morning reported to me that the boat was accepted. When could she be delivered? At once, was my answer. The craft was ready except for checking up certain spare parts. In less than two hours all material had been delivered, the boat's flag hoisted, and lines cast off, and she put out to sea in commission with a full Japanese crew and no Americans."
"The Japanese stayed at sea four days, during which they navigated the boat several hundred miles under her own power and without convoy. On returning they hitched her at the end of a tow line attached to a steam vessel and were off again. They spent several days thus trying out her towing capabilities. Once more returning, they placed torpedoes aboard and all supplies necessary for a long cruise. This time she was to be on the warpath - and then peace was declared."3

On 1 October 1905, these five submarines were incorporated into the Dai-ichi (the 1st) Submarine Force. They saw no action, but served as training boats until 1920.4

High Speed Submarines

In 1904, John Holland resigned from the Holland Torpedo boat Company and struck out on his own. He designed a submarine with 300 h.p. for surface travel (versus 160 h.p. for the type 7 boats) and capable of 16 knots submerged speed (versus 8 knots for the type 7). The United States navy had no interest in a submarine capable of such reckless speed, but the Japanese did. The Japanese government purchased the plans and the construction details were worked out between John Holland and Kojiro Matsukata, Director of the Kawasaki Dockyard in Kobe. Construction was supervised by Mason S. Chance (an american engineer) because Holland was too sick to travel to Japan.5 Frank Cable "was anxious to see these boats, but, despite [his] acquaintance with Lieutenant Ide, the Japanese officer in charge of the work for his government, red tape barred me from access to the Kobe Yard. The boats were duly launched and put in commission."6

"On 15 April, 1910, one of these boats was lost with Lieutenant Sakuma, its commander, and the crew of fourteen men, during maneuvers in Hiroshima Bay. Lieutenant Sakuma's story of the tragedy lay in the conning tower when it was raised by a wrecking party from the cruiser Toyohashi. This sailor's log, hereunder quoted, recorded the creeping approach of a slow but certain death between 10 A.M. (after total immersion) and 12:40 P.M., the lingering ordeal thus lasting two hours and forty minutes. It was addressed to the Navy Department as a confidential report:"

Words of apology fail me for having sunk His majesty's submarine No. 6. My subordinates are killed by my fault, but it is with pride that I inform you that the crew to a man have discharged their duties as sailors should with the utmost coolness until their dying moments.
"We now sacrifice our lives for the sake of our country, but my fear is that the disaster will affect the future development of submarines. It is therefore my hope that nothing will daunt your determination to study the submarine until it is a perfect machine, absolutely reliable. We can then die without regret.
"It was while making a gasoline dive that the boat sank lower than was intended, and in our attempt to close the sluice the chain broke. We endeavored to stop the inrush of water with our hands, but too late, the water entered at the rear and the boat sank at an incline of 25 degrees.
"When it touched the bottom it was at an angle of 13 degrees. The current submerged the electric generator, put out the light, and the electric wires were burned. In a few minutes bad gas was generated, making it difficult for us to breathe.
"It was at 10 A. M. on the 15th inst. that the boat sank. Surrounded by poisonous gas, the crew strove to pump out the water. As soon as the boat sank the water in the main tank was being pumped out. The electric light was extinguished and the gauge was invisible, but it seems the water in the main tank was completely pumped out.
"The electric current has become useless, gas cannot be generated, and the hand pump is our only hope. The vessel is in darkness, and I note this down by the light through the conning tower at 11:45 A. M.
"The crew are now wet and it is extremely cold. It is my opinion that men embarking in submarines must possess the qualities of coolness and nerve, and must be extremely painstaking; they must be brave and daring in their handling of the boat. People may laugh at the opinion in view of my failure, but the statement is true.
"We have worked hard to pump out the water, but the boat is still in the same position. It is now twelve o'clock. The depth of water here is about ten fathoms.
"The crew of a submarine should be selected from the bravest, the coolest, or they will be of little use in time of crisis - in such as we are now. My brave men are doing their best.
"I always expect death when away from home. My will is therefore prepared and is in the locker. But this is of my private affairs. I hope Mr. Taguchi will send it to my father.
"A word to His majesty the Emperor. It is my earnest hope that Your majesty will supply the means of living to the poor families of the crew. This is my only desire, and I an so anxious to have it fulfilled.
"My respect and best regard to the following: Admiral Saito, Minister of the Navy; Vice Admirals Shinamura and Fujii, Rear Admiral Nawa, Yamashita and Narita - the air pressure is so light that I feel as if my eardrums will be broken - Captain Oguri and Ide, Commander Matsumura, Lieut-Commander Matsumura (this is my elder brother), Captain Funakoshi, Mr. Marita, and Mr. Ikuta - it is now 12:30 P.M. My breathing is so difficult and painful.
"I thought I could blow out gasoline, but I am intoxicated with it - Capt. Makano - it is now 12:40 P. M.

"Here the record ended. The crew had been suffocated by carbonic-acid gas."7

Submarine No. 6

Submarine No. 6
(Image provided by Tony Bellomo)

  1. Rowan, Sean, Irish Ambassador to Japan in a paper presented in March 1999. p. 13
  2. Ibid., p. 14
  3. Cable, Frank Taylor, The Birth and Development of the American Submarine. (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1924), pg. 243.
  4. Rowan, Sean, Irish Ambassador to Japan in a paper presented in March 1999. p. 14
  5. Ibid., p. 14
  6. Cable, p. 244
  7. Ibid., pp. 244-253

Copyright 1999,2000,2001,2002 Gary McCue