Axis Midget Submarines details the history, weapons, and operations of German, Japanese, and Italian midget submarines during World War II. Over this period, Germany, Japan, and Italy built approximately 2,000 small, inherently stealthy, naval craft to perform special operations and conventional navy missions. Much more numerous and more technically advanced than their Allied counterparts, they saw service worldwide, operating in the Pacific, Mediterranean, Black Sea, Indian Ocean, North Sea, and the English Channel. Manned by courageous crews, these vessels made daring attacks on Allied ships in heavily protected anchorages using torpedoes and mines. Most notable were attacks against Gibraltar - launched from an Italian cargo vessel interred in nearby neutral Spain that had been converted into a clandestine support base and equipped with an underwater hatch - and Pearl Harbor. They were used against shipping in coastal waters and, near the end of the war, in desperate attempts to offset their opponents' overwhelming naval superiority during the US advance across the Pacific and the Allied amphibious landings in France and Italy.
In this book, the term midget submarine includes submarines of less than 50 tons, equipped with two torpedoes and a crew of 1-4, and manned torpedoes, relatively short range torpedo-size craft with one or two operators and armed with either mines or one torpedo. It excludes vessels designed as suicide craft. It addresses operational vessels and prototypes, spanning 11 German, 4 Japanese, and 5 Italian classes. The most advanced types incorporated innovative design features and served as the basis for a number of post-war vessels. This book also briefly covers the larger vessels used to transport the midget submarines to their operational areas. Also included is an analysis of the effectiveness of these vessels, including an examination of their strengths and weaknesses. The success (or lack of success) will be discussed both in the context of the individual vessel design and as a component of their respective nation's submarine force. They are also compared to similar Allied designs.