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The wooden box

By Special to the Times
Published August 28, 2005


During January 1946 in Pearl Harbor, my father, Sumner D. Lang, U.S. Navy first class machinist mate, was assigned to the I-401, a Japanese submarine captured by the U.S. Navy shortly after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The I-401 was brought to Pearl Harbor, along with four other Japanese submarines, by an American crew. What was special about the I-401 was its size, more than 400 feet long, and an airplane hangar that had been built on the top deck that housed two float planes (two additional, dismantled float planes were stored below decks). The mission for the I-401 was to launch its float planes and bomb the Panama Canal.

Before the I-401 made its journey to Pearl Harbor, American sailors had stored Japanese war souvenirs in the hangar, including guns and the wooden box that would decades later store records for the five Lang children.

The box's design was to hold a navigation device. American officers told the sailors assigned to the I-401 that they could help themselves to the items - my father took two rifles and the small wooden box.

"It looked real nice and I just figured because they were going to destroy everything, I'd take it," my father, now 86, said recently from his home in Ledyard, Conn.

After scientists from Washington, D.C., studied the I-401 and the other Japanese submarines in Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy decided to scuttle the boats so the Russians couldn't get hold of the technology.

-- KATHLEEN M. LANG, St. Petersburg

THE WOODEN BOX

During January 1946 in Pearl Harbor, my father, Sumner D. Lang, U.S. Navy first class machinist mate, was assigned to the I-401, a Japanese submarine captured by the U.S. Navy shortly after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The I-401 was brought to Pearl Harbor, along with four other Japanese submarines, by an American crew. What was special about the I-401 was its size, more than 400 feet long, and an airplane hangar that had been built on the top deck that housed two float planes (two additional, dismantled float planes were stored below decks). The mission for the I-401 was to launch its float planes and bomb the Panama Canal.

Before the I-401 made its journey to Pearl Harbor, American sailors had stored Japanese war souvenirs in the hangar, including guns and the wooden box that would decades later store records for the five Lang children.

The box's design was to hold a navigation device. American officers told the sailors assigned to the I-401 that they could help themselves to the items - my father took two rifles and the small wooden box.

"It looked real nice and I just figured because they were going to destroy everything, I'd take it," my father, now 86, said recently from his home in Ledyard, Conn.

After scientists from Washington, D.C., studied the I-401 and the other Japanese submarines in Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy decided to scuttle the boats so the Russians couldn't get hold of the technology.

KATHLEEN M. LANG, St. Petersburg