Sunday, November 10, 2013

The day a Japanese midget submarine came to Delphi


Hey, what’s that Japanese midget submarine doing parked in front of what was later my dad’s insurance agency on the north side of the courthouse square in Delphi, Ind.?

This is one of five photos posted yesterday on a Carroll County nostalgia Facebook page that caught my attention and settled what – for me – was an unresolved dispute I had more than 20 years ago with Indianapolis News copy editor John Rutherford.

Rutherford, who was a boy living in southern Indiana during World War II, was convinced that the German submarine U-505, which is on permanent display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, toured the U.S., including his hometown, to promote the sale of War Bonds during WWII.

I contended that the U-505, at 252 feet in length and 1,120 tons, was much too large to be hauled around on a truck and pointed out that the U-boat didn’t come ashore until 1954 when it was carefully moved from Lake Michigan, across the Outer Drive, to its new berth at the museum. So far as I know, Rutherford still thinks he saw the U-505 in southern Indiana.

What he almost certainly saw was  the HA-19, a 78 foot, 46 ton two-man Japanese midget submarine that failed in its mission to enter Pearl Harbor and torpedo warships. Instead, it was grounded and captured.

The HA-19 was trucked around the country during the war to inspire Americans to buy War Bonds.


The HA-19 was on display for several years after the war at Key West, Fla., and since 1991 has been on exhibit at the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Site in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The building to the immediate right of the alley in the top photo was occupied by Pearson Appliances at the time. My dad bought it around 1953 and made it the home of Charles M. Flora Insurance & Real Estate until his retirement in the 1980s. The Roxy Theater, two doors to the east, was razed in the 1970s and is now the site of apartments.

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