Story Sharing

This is a page where world descendants of WWll submariners share their stories. I welcome and appreciate your sharing your stories with all of us. Please send your stories to me at info@descendantsofwwllsubmariners.com so that I could upload them to this site. First I start with my stories just to show you as a sample. Text only is fine, but if you show photos too, it is better. Thank you.

Stories by Akira Tsurukame (Lomita, California, USA)

My Story

Hello, my name is Akira Tsurukame. I live in Lomita, California with my wife Kay and son Andre. I was born in Kagoshima, Japan, on March 10, 1941. I moved to USA in 1966. I lost my father when I was 3 years old. I hardly remember my father as I was so small. In 2003, when I became 62 years old, my wife and I started to investigate more about my father and his submarine. Our journey expanded from USA to Japan to the Netherlands to UK, Ireland and eventually to the Straits of Malacca. We tried to look for my father’s submarine twice in 2004 and 2005 in the Straits of Malacca, but she is not found yet. We still hope to find her before July 2013 which will be 70th anniversary of her sinking.

Story of My Father

My father, Tsuruichi Tsurukame, was born in 1906. He was a chief engineer of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s submarine. He was born as the fourth children of a poor fisherman’s family and started to work on a fishing boat as a cook at age of 12.  At age of 15, he became in charge of boat’s engine. At age of 20, he enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Navy. He strove to be an excellent submariner, and he eventually became an officer after many years’ hard work. At the Submarine School, he was a top student and was awarded a prize from the Emperor Showa. He was one of the only few who became an officer climbing up from the bottom in the Imperial Navy with just an elementary school education. When he died, his wife Tami and son Akira (myself) and Mutsuko(my younger sister) were left behind.

Story of His Submarine

I-166 was the submarine my father was aboard. Right after Japan’s attack at the Pearl Harbor in December 1941, I-166 went to the South China Sea to help Japanese Imperial Army’s landing onto Borneo which was then the colonies of UK and the Netherlands. In addition to the British Naval Force, the Dutch submarines were active in the area and caused a lot of damage to the Japanese fleets. On December 24, a Dutch submarine K-XVI sank a Japanese destroyer, Sagiri. Then, next day on the Christmas Day, I-166 sank K-XVI and all crew of the 36 brave soldiers died. William Blom, Katja Boonstra-Blom’s father, was one of them. (K-XVI was found in October 2011, which is almost 70 years after her sinking.)

I-166 participated in the Battle of Midway, but not with much success. After the victory at the Midway, the US and Allies increased their offensive against Japan. I-166 sank quite many Allied merchant ships until her demise in July, 1944. She left Penang on July 16 and was on her route to Singapore through the Straits of Malacca. In the morning of July 17 at 07:08am, Commander William King, captain of a British submarine, HMS Telemachus spotted I-166 which was cruising above water at 7 miles south of the One Fathom Bank Lighthouse. He followed I-166 for 12 minutes and at 07:20am he shot six torpedoes and one of them hit right rear end of I-166. 98 soldiers were on board and 10 survived by swimming for 7 hours and 88 perished with the submarine. Later in my research, I have found 4 survivors and learned from them how I-166 sank in very detail.

I also found and visited Commander King three times, in May and August, 2004 and July 2006, in Ireland where he lives now with his daughter, Leonie, and granddaughter, Heather. I learned from him in detail about the July 17, 1941 battle. In May 2010 when the 47th International Submariners Congress was held in Israel, my wife and I collected “Happy 100th Birthday” messages from the participants and sent them to Commander King, the world’s oldest surviving WWll submarine captain, as our birthday gift. He was really happy.  At this writing (May, 2012), he is still alive at the age of 101 and about to welcome his 102nd birthday on June 23. He lives in a castle named Oranmore Castle in Oranmore, Ireland. His family and my family are now very close friends.

Stories by Maria Luisa Appi (Friuli, Italy)

My Story

Hello, my name is Maria Luisa Appi. I reside in Friuli, north-eastern Italy.    My story is like the story of many children born during WWII while the fathers were away fighting to defend their homeland at war. I have never met my father since he left for his final mission on March 1943, and I was born in September 1943. Thanks to my grandmother who kept his memory alive, I have always felt a strong love and attachment for him. In 1959, my mother re-married to a gentleman from California where I lived till 1986, then I returned to Italy and being angry and tormented about my father’s life, I decided to research the case. In my possession I had many letters, documents and photographs that my father had religiously sent home. I contacted Achille Rastelli, expert historian and writer of this particular period of the war. After examining the material, he consented to publish it. Rastelli wrote a book titled “Sommergibili a Singapore” that made the book stores of Italy. Between the book and Rastelli’s research, much information was uncovered especially what the Italian government kept buried in the moldy archives in Rome. Myself and the 5 families of the submariners that perished with the “Giuliani,” finally found the truth and with it peace.

Story of My Father

My father, Pietro Appi, was born in 1920 and enrolled with the consent of his father, at the age of 17, in the Regia Marina (Italian Navy). At that time the navy offered schooling, on the job training and after 4 years, the sum of 4.000 Lire. These were times of great poverty and jobs were scarce, therefore for a young and ambitious man, the offer that couldn’t be passed. There were rumors of war but only rumors, not to be believed.

Papà entered the CREM (Corpo Reali Equipaggi Marittimi) school of Venice. He was then transferred to the CREM school of Pola where after 2 years he was promoted Sergente Motorista Navale and became part of the crew in the submarine “Bagnolini.” This was 1939 and on June 10th 1940, Italy declared war!  Later in 1943, he changed to “Giuliani” and “Giuliani” was sunken in the Straits of Malacca by a British sub HMS Tally Ho on February 15, 1944 after her name was changed to “UIT-23” under German flag.

Many years later at the submariners’ reunion which was held in Padova, Italy, the former Commander of the “Cappellini,” a sub that was also utilized as a transport vessel, gave an account of what happened in the Far East and to the “UIT-23(Giuliani).” The report was published in all the news papers, and finally my family found out part of my father’s fate.

Story of His Submarines

In the early stages of war, the missions of the “Bagnolini” were in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean waters till September 4, 1940 when the new Atlantic base, located in Bordeaux, France was inaugurated. The base of BETASOM, so it was called, was a joint venture between Italy and Germany. Due to the turn of the war, by the Spring of 1943, Germany’s resources were depleted, and were in need of strategic material that could be had from Japan. In agreement with the Italian government, a decision was made to modify our submarines, which were larger and slower in submersion, into cargo vessels, transporting materials to and from the various Japanese bases in the Far East; in exchange Germany would give Italy newer and faster submarines. In the early months of 1943, my father changed submarines from the “Bagnolini” to its twin sub, the “Giuliani.” On May 16, 1943, depleted of his gun and any other means of defense, the “Giuliani” left for the Orient. The September 8th 1943, Armistice Day, found the “Giuliani” loaded and anchored in the port of Singapore waiting for the permission to set sail towards Europe. Being uncertain of the Italian position in this phase of the war, (Italy was in a major confusing state, the King left Rome, and Mussolini tried to live the country), the Japanese confiscated the “Giuliani” and the crew was kept in a concentration camp. Upon Italy’s decision not to continue the war, the “Giuliani” was given to the Kriegsmarine and renamed UIT-23 under the German flag. The cargo of the “UIT-23” had to be brought to Germany, therefore on February 14, 1943, with a mixed crew of Italian/German submariners, the sub left Singapore headed for home.

While crossing the Straits of Malacca, in the early morning of February 15, the “UIT-23” was spotted by an English sub, the HMS Tally Ho that launched three torpedoes. The third torpedo hit and in 10 seconds the “UIT-23(Giuliani)” was swallowed by the ocean.

Stories by Henk Bussemaker(Oegstgeest, Holland)

My Story

Hello, my name is Henk Bussemaker. I live in Holland in a place named Oegstgeest which is near from  Leiden. Leiden is 12 km north of The Hague where our Queen lives.  The name of my wife is Elly Verduyn den Boer. We have 3 children; a son Anton (1959), a daughter Mariette (1961) and a son Wouter born in 1968. All these children started working after the University. I was born in 1928 and my wife in 1932. I was always very interested in my father and his submarine, and after my retirement I started my investigation of my father’s submarine.

Story of My Father

He was born in 1900 and had one sister and 4 brothers.  One of these brothers was his twin brother and the twins were always very close to each other. The twins and an older brother went to Den Helder , a Navy base  to become officers.  My father became an officer at the age of 22.   At the age of 30, he was promoted to be the Commanding Officer of a submarine (K-13). From 1934 to 1936 he went to the Higher War School in The Hague and later on he became a Staff Officer.  In 1939 he became the Commanding Officer of the 0-20 and went with this submarine to the East Indies via Panama.   In 1941 he was promoted to Flotilla Commander of all the operational submarines the Dutch Navy had in the Far East and took the 0-16 as his flagship. He was killed in action on December 15, 1941.

Story of His Submarine

The O-16 was the submarine my father was aboard as a Commanding Officer. When the War broke out in the Far East, most Dutch submarines came under a command of the British Navy Commander as the Dutch Royal Family and the Government was in exile in England. On the 12th December 1941, the O-16 torpedoed 4 Japanese transport ships, of which 3 were sunk and one damaged. On 15th December 1941 while returning from patrol at about 02.30am, the submarine hit a mine laid by Japanese Imperial Navy near the island of Tioman in South China Sea and sank with just one minute. Whole crew of 36 except one died. Only one survivor reached the shore by swimming for 35 hours. This survivor had a very bad time after stranding with no drink or food .He was rescued by an inhabitant of a nearby island, and reached after many days to Singapore to tell the story of the 0-16.

In 1995 we got the news that a Swedish ship salver probably has found a submarine.  He said it was possible that it could be the O-16.  The sub lies on a depth of 50 meter near the island of Tioman in the South China Sea. A party of the Royal Navy was sent to the island of Tioman to make an identification of the boat. My brother, who was a Navy officer, took also part in this party.  Also the son of the Commanding Officer of the Dutch submarine K-17, which was also hit by a Japanese mine, was also a member of the party. His name is Hans Beçanson and he did the identification of his father’s submarine, K-17 in 1982. He had some experience in this matter. Both submarines were sunk by Japanese mines laid down just before the war on December 7, 1941. These mines were intended to hit the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse.