PEARL HARBOR, OAHU DECEMBER 7, 1941
Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarine, the I-16-tou, hides in the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor. A few hundred yards ahead seven first-line battleships comprising the nucleus of the United States' power in the Pacific rest quietly at anchor.
The midget sub's commander, Lieutenant, junior grade, Masaharu Yokoyama is stripped to his waist with sweat dripping from every pore of his body in the one-hundred-twenty-five-degree temperature. He sleeps restlessly. The iron hull upon which he is leaning bleeds drops of water. A few feet away the sub's engineer, Sadamu Kamita, stripped to his loin cloth, his forehead resting on a control panel, also sleeps. The only sound in the dimly lighted iron tube is the low humming of the ventilation system.
Yokoyama is considered to be among the brightest of the first class of Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarine commanders. As a result, he has been rewarded the honor of being released from his mother submarine closer to the entrance of Pearl Harbor than the remaining four midget submarines. He is a quick thinker and charismatic. One of his superiors said he has an angelic smile that can immediately disarm otherwise confrontational situations. He is also a first-rate student and has studied every detail of the proposed Pearl Harbor attack along with the geographical features of Pearl Harbor and Oahu. He has memorized the names and contact information of various Japanese sympathizers upon whom he may rely in the event of the need to scuttle his sub.
Their sleep is abruptly ended by the shock waves of the first aerial torpedo and bomb strikes. The surprise Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor has begun. Yokoyama stands, wipes the sweat from his eyes and shouts:
"Kamita! Quickly, make turns for five knots and bring us to periscope depth."
Kamita, a few years older than Yokoyama and considered one of the finest of the midget sub engineers, picks up his head as he feels the vibrations of the explosions coming through the hull. Before the orders are even spoken he begins to discharge ballast and re-start the electric motor. He does not even glance at Yokoyama as he firmly replies:
"Aye, Sir, five knots, periscope depth."
It's not long when Kamita calls out, "Periscope depth!"
Yokoyama grabs the handles of the periscope as it slides into place and presses his forehead against the moist rubber edges of the viewer. Moving from left to right he takes in the length of battleship row then lowers the periscope and turns towards Kamita.
"Prepare for firing torpedoes!"
"Aye, torpedoes are ready for firing." Kamita's tone is calm and collected.
"The West Virginia and Oklahoma are directly in our path. I will confirm our firing solution and strike the West Virginia, just aft of amidships. We will target the Oklahoma second. The effect of firing the first torpedo should place the port bow of the Oklahoma nearly dead-center for torpedo two." Yokoyama closes his eyes momentarily as he envisions the path of the second torpedo.
"Sir, if the Emperor could know of our situation he would most certainly be smiling," says Kamita.
Yokoyama does not respond as he has returned to the newly raised periscope. He makes a final calculation of his firing solution, lowers the periscope and turns to Kamita.
As Kamita lets the one-thousand-pound torpedo loose he replies, "Firing torpedo one!"
The little submarine violently lurches fore and aft in response to the sudden discharge of the torpedo and corresponding weight loss. After many months of practice they both know firing their second torpedo at this time will veer left of the original target, but in this event, unlike the practice runs, the battleship Oklahoma lies in its path. Precious moments pass as the submarine begins to stabilize.
"Raising periscope!" As the periscope slides into position Yokoyama checks the firing solution for his second target, the Oklahoma now slightly listing to port. As the periscope lowers he shouts:
"Firing torpedo two!" Kamita, no longer able to disguise his excitement, shouts his reply.
Again, the little sub lurches even more violently than upon firing the first torpedo as it is now two thousand pounds lighter. Kamita loses his grip and bangs his head against a control panel, opening a gouge above his right eye. He grabs his uniform shirt hanging nearby and presses it against the wound.
Yokoyama stares at his stop-watch as he times the first torpedo.
"Our venom is in the water. Now we wait." Yokoyama's voice is just above a whisper.
The seconds pass and frowning, he continues: "Our first torpedo malfunctioned! It certainly could not have missed as I witnessed the propeller trail steering directly at the West Virginia."
"It cannot be," cries Kamita, his voice full of anguish.
Yokoyama continues to stare at the stop-watch. He raises his free hand and calls out:
"Now, Kamita, it should strike now!"
No sooner are the words spoken than the little sub shudders as the concussion of torpedo number two pushes them fore and aft, up then down, as if they are on a roller coaster. As soon as the sub settles, Yokoyama decides it's time to assess their success.
"Raising periscope." Yokoyama's voice reveals only modest excitement.
As he presses his forehead into the viewer he witnesses the result of his torpedo strike. A thirty-eight-foot hole straight through the protective torpedo belt of the Oklahoma has been opened in her port side dramatically increasing the doomed ship's list to port. He observes little white bodies. Some are scrambling to crawl along the hull of the capsizing ship to the relative safety of the ship's bottom while others are jumping into the water. In a matter of moments he is viewing one of the once-mighty Oklahoma's propellers jutting from the oil-covered surface of the harbor.
Without saying a word, he lowers the periscope. Both men say nothing as they contemplate the fate of the sailors aboard the battleship they just sunk.
KAILUA, OAHU PRESENT DAY
Excerpted from "Chameleons" by Marcus A. Nannini. Copyright © 2017 by Marcus A. Nannini. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.