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Kaichu Type submarine
1,109 Tons (surfaced)
264' x 23' x 13'
4 x forward torpedo tubes
10 Long Lance torpedoes
1 x 80mm gun
2 x 25mm guns
Built at the Kure Navy Yard in Kure. Completed October 7, 1935. Commissioned into the Maizuru Naval District. Assigned to SubRon 4 in SubDiv 21, commanded by LtCdr Sakamoto Eiichi.
At the start of the Pacific War on December 8, 1941, this sub participated in Operation "E" the Invasion of Malaya. Departs Sasebo with RO-34 and the Maki Unit to raid enemy forces off Malaya and Java.
On February 15, 1942 RO-33, I-53 and I-55 are ordered to intercept cruisers HMS Exeter (68) and HMAS Hobart (D63) but the submarines were unable to locate the warships. On February 20, 1942 transited Lombok Strait into the Indian Ocean. Between March 1, 1942 to March 4, 1942 patrolled off Tjilatjap and spots several enemy transports and destroyers and attempts to attack but fails to score any hits.
On March 10, 1942 SubRon 4 is disbanded and RO-33 and RO-34 are assigned to SubRon 6 under the command of Vice Admiral Inoue Shigeyoshi, 4th Fleet patrolling Palau and Truk. On April 4, 1942 both RO-33 and RO-34 were assigned to the South Seas Unit. On April 15, 1942 departs Truk and three days later arrives in Simpson Harbor off Rabaul and was placed under the command of LtCdr Kuriyama Shigeshi.
On April 20 1942, RO-33 departs Rabaul to reconnoiter Port Moresby and search the Jomard Passage for convoy routes and to reconnoiter Deboyne Islands and the Rossel Island for suitable anchorages before to the planned operation against Port Moresby. Afterwards, RO-33 and RO-34 are ordered to blockade Port Moresby and help guide Japanese ships into the area. On April 23, 1942 she returns to Rabaul.
On 1 May 1942, departs Rabaul as part of Operation "MO" to the Jomard Passage in the Louisiade Archipelago with DesRon 6 including light cruiser Yubari, four destroyers and a patrol boat escorting a force of twelve transports and a minesweeper.
On May 5, 1942, RO-33 arrives off Port Moresby and on May 10, 1942 departs for Truk. On May 23, 1942 departs Truk with RO-34 bound for Japan. On May 30, 1942 arrives at at Sasebo for overhaul and repair and departs on July 9, 1942 with RO-34 and returns to Truk on July 17, 1942. Six days later departs for Rabaul with RO-34. On July 29, 1942 departs Rabaul bound for the Coral Sea and off Port Moresby and the southeast coast of New Guinea.
On August 6, 1942 RO-33 was north of Murray Island in the Torres Strait Islands of Queensland then proceeded into the Gulf of Papua. At 10:34am, spotted and chased MV Mamutu and around 11:00am opens fire with the e 80mm deck gun and scores repeated hits, sinking the vessel with great loss of life and only 28 survivors. Wartime accounts claim RO-33's captain Kuriyama ordered his crew to machine gun the survivors. Yet, the account of the sole survivor and Japanese sources dispute this claim, stating the submarine only used the deck gun.
On August 7, 1942 RO-33 was ordered to patrol the Indispensable Strait to reconnoiter the U. S. landing on Guadalcanal then make contact with Japanese forces ashore. On August 11, 1942 arrived off Lunga Point. On August 12, 1942 arrived off Cape Hunter and contacts Japanese forces ashore and learns from them an enemy task force consisting of two carriers, two battleships, five cruisers and several transports were observed leaving Guadalcanal and LtCdr Kuriyama relays this information to headquarters. On August 13, 1942 delivers food to Japanese forces on Cape Esperance, then departs for Rabaul arriving August 16, 1942.
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