Have you seen the Centrum Silver commercial that talks about how sensitive to light your eyes can be? The narrative goes something like this: “Your eyes – even at a distance of ten miles, the length of 146 football fields, they can see the light of a single candle. Your eyes are amazing.” I’ve done some checking, and the claim appears to be true; some sources say you can see a candle at much greater distances – up to thirty miles! So, ten miles (which happens to be 176 football fields, not 146, unless you include the end zones) appears to be a reasonable claim.
Each time I see that commercial I am reminded of a story from a book I read last winter entitled Japanese Destroyer Captain, by Tameichi Hara. Before relating the story, here’s a brief description of the book and of Hara:
“This highly regarded war memoir was a best seller in both Japan and the United States during the 1960s and has long been treasured by historians for its insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The author was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known throughout Japan as the “Unsinkable Captain.” A hero to his countrymen, Capt. Hara exemplified the best in Japanese surface commanders: highly skilled (he wrote the manual on torpedo warfare), hard driving, and aggressive. Moreover, he maintained a code of honor worthy of his samurai grandfather, and, as readers of this book have come to appreciate, he was as free with praise for American courage and resourcefulness as he was critical of himself and his senior commanders.” 
Hara received his naval training at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima, graduating in 1921. In the 1930s, while serving as a surface warfare instructor Hara was dissatisfied with the success rate of Japan’s excellent Mark 93 (aka “Long Lance”) torpedoes, so he rewrote the Japanese torpedo doctrine. In doing so he dramatically improved the success rate – and deadliness – of Japan’s torpedoes. As captain of three ships over the course of the war – first the destroyer Amatsukaze, then the destroyer Shigure, and late in the war, the light cruiser Yahagi – he was in command of a ship participating in every major naval battle of the Pacific war: Empress Augusta Bay, Coral Sea, the invasion of the Philippines, Guadalcanal, Savo Island, and Midway. In the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal his ship Amatsukaze sank the USS Barton.  On the night of 2 August 1943 Hara’s Amatsukaze was following Japanese destroyer Amagiri when Amagiri cut John F. Kennedy’s PT – 109 in two. Hara ordered his men to fire on the PT boat. 
IJN Light Cruiser Yahagi, the last ship commanded by Captain Hara; sunk in Operation Ten-ho
Battleship Yamato under aerial bombardment, April 1945.
Three waves of American aircraft hit the Yamato with a total of twelve bombs and seven torpedoes. Yamato capsized at 1420. When the roll reached approximately 120°, one of the two bow magazines detonated in a tremendous explosion. Yamato sank beneath the waves at 1423, taking all but 276 of her 3,332-man crew down with her.
As the war’s end neared Hara commanded the light cruiser Yahagi,
and was chosen to participate in Operation Ten-Go. This last-ditch plan was to send most of Japan’s remaining ships in a naval kamikaze attack on the Allied naval forces supporting the invasion of Okinawa. At dawn on April 7, 1945 the superbattleship Yamato
, accompanied by Yahagi
and nine destroyers, departed their home port of Kure, Japan, with enough fuel to reach Okinawa – but not enough to return. Their movement was detected almost immediately by American submarines; American aircraft from carriers near Okinawa were soon in the air to meet the enemy. The Japanese force lacked any significant air support, and the resultant battle was completely one-sided; Japan lost between 3,700 and 4,250 sailors, while the U.S. lost just twelve airmen. Hara’s Yahagi
capsized and sank at 1405, hit by twelve bombs and seven torpedoes. Hara survived, and from the water he watched waves of American aircraft attack Yamato
, until she capsized and sank at 1423, signaling the effective end of Japan’s naval involvement in the war. 
But years before, in the early days of World War II when Japan was enjoying success after success, Hara was the captain of the destroyer Amatsukaze. In early March, 1942, his assignment was to ply the Java Sea in search of Allied ships, particularly submarines. The following story occurred on the night of 3 March.
“Around 2030 I saw a dim, flickering, yellowish light Several thousand meters away on Amatsukaze’s starboard bow. It blinked Once and swiftly disappeared, like the flick of a lighted match. I pulled out my pocket binoculars and gazed in the same direction. Yes, someone was on deck smoking a cigarette. I estimated the distance as 4,000 meters almost due north and forward of Amatsukaze’s course.
“The destroyer quickly picked up speed and dashed forward through the dark with all hands ready at battle stations. The target was made out to be a surfaced submarine. It was moving to the east at fairly good speed. We boosted speed to 26 knots and swung left to bring Amatsukaze on a parallel heading with the sub at a distance of 2,300 meters. Our searchlight showed the target to be a medium-sized submarine.
IJN Destroyer Amatzukaze; Hara commanded this ship at the outbreak of the war, and it was the ship on which this story takes place.
“ The first salvo roared. All the shells were over. The next moment, I saw two sinister lines of foam running a few feet ahead of our bows. ”Torpedoes!” someone shouted, and a chill went down my spine. My dread was forgotten a few seconds later when two shells of our second salvo landed on the target. Amatsukaze was up to 30 knots, and the enemy torpedoes had missed us.
“There was a third salvo, which scored one more hit, as fire broke out on the conning tower of the submarine. The flaming ship vanished quietly into the waves.
“We swung rapidly to port and dashed to the submersion scene. Six depth charges were dropped. The sea billowed and boiled in the dark, and all was still but for the rain. There was no question about the fate of this enemy.
“We cleared out at 2345 after combing the area for possible sonar contacts. There were no signs that the sub was alive.
“Weather cleared the following day, and we returned to the scene of the night’s action, 39 miles, bearing 245 degrees from Bawean Island. This spot too, was marked by a long path of heavy oil. It rose to the surface like smoke belching from an undersea volcano. The crew was again called out to see the results of their teamwork. They were not as exhilarated as on the previous evening, but they looked contented and satisfied. While the crew was thus assembled on deck, I took the opportunity to speak to them: “You have seen the good results of our combined efforts. I am thoroughly satisfied with your fine job. We have been through much together in the months since this war started, without losing a single soul. Let us hope our good fortune may continue. You have done a fine job, but more will be expected of you from now on.
”Look at the stream of oil! That oil comes from an enemy submarine that has been turned into a huge casket for its crew of more than 100 men. They died because of the unpardonable stupidity of one man who smoked on the surfaced deck. I saw the match he lit and that gave us the initiative.
”Enemy seamanship was good. Their torpedo marksmanship was terrific. Despite all our advantage, Amatsukaze survived only by a very close shave. But for one stupid, careless man breaking blackout by smoking, this destroyer might well have been sunk and all 250 of us killed. This is war. I trust that each of you has learned a lesson from this.
“As you may know, I have been an inveterate smoker for 20 years. But last night when we sank this sub, I stopped smoking. I mention this-not to urge such stoicism on you, but to let you remind me of my pledge whenever I am tempted to do it again. As your skipper, I am responsible for your lives and thus I cannot afford smoking any longer.
“Now let us offer a humble prayer for our victims. Though enemy, they died for their nation and thus are deserving of our prayers.”
“After the brief prayer, I called up Ikeda, who had spotted the submarine adrift on March 2 and rewarded him with a bonus of ten yen (roughly $4) from my pocket, a package of towel, soap and cigarettes, and a certificate noting that he had earned 10 priority shore leaves. The meeting ended with an ovation for Ikeda. A number of his colleagues thronged about him with congratulations.” 
USS Perch under way.
It’s a bit difficult to identify which sub was engaged by Amatsukaze in this story. It is known that on the night of 1 March Amatsukaze spotted the submarine USS Perch in the same general area, dropped depth charges, and reported that the sub had been sunk. However, Perch wasn’t sunk; she was heavily damaged and put on the bottom at 147 ft. Extensive oil loss and flooded compartments gave the appearance of a sub breaking apart. Perch surfaced in the early hours of March 2, but again sought refuge on the sea bottom two hours before sunrise, in 200 feet of water, after being spotted on the surface by two Japanese destroyers. Again depth charges rained around her, and again she managed to evade destruction. Perch remained on the bottom until after dark on 2 March, when, after an hour of effort, she was able to break loose from the bottom and surface.
The crew of the USS Perch aboard the IJN destroyer Ushio. All 59 crew members of Perch were rescued by the Japanese and were sent to Japan; six died of malnutrition during their imprisonment but the remainder survived the war and returned home at war’s end.
This time the damage was extensive, and leaking hatches left Perch unable to dive safely. On the morning of 3 March Perch was again spotted by Japanese destroyers, which fired on her and rapidly closed. Unable to train her damaged gun, fire torpedoes or dive, it was decided to scuttle the ship. All crew members were removed, hatches opened, and after she was abandoned the ship sank quickly. All crew members were picked up by the Japanese destroyers, eventually being sent to Japan to work as slave labor in the mines and factories there. 
On a side note, the wreckage of USS Perch was discovered accidently by an international dive team on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, off the coast of Java. The team had been searching for the HMS Exeter when Perch was located. The wreckage of Perch now rests in 190 feet of water. 
Plate found on the sail of the sunken USS Perch that led to identification of the wreck.
So, was Perch the submarine sunk in Hara’s story? Most researchers don’t think so. The details of the last days of Perch don’t quite coincide with the story told by Hara. Perch was scuttled in the morning of 3 March; Hara’s story took place that night. Some researchers suggest that it may have been a Dutch sub – but I’ve been unable to find any sunk in that area on that date, or that are unaccounted for. At this point the target in the story above remains a mystery.
Whatever the case, the light from a single match, seen from four thousand meters (about two and a half miles) away, led to the sinking of a gallant Allied warship. It was a ship killed by a match.
If you or your family member served aboard Tryon, or if for another reason you’re interested in Tryon, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment so that we can communicate further.
If you have a comment, correction, annecdote or story related to this or any other post, please be sure to leave a comment. I enjoy nothing more than hearing from others that share an interest in this most pivital time in world history.
And thanks for taking time to check out my blog. I sincerely appreciate it.
 United States Naval Institute Bookstore: Japanese Destroyer Captain – http://www.usni.org/store/books/audio-books/japanese-destroyer-captain
 Hara, Tameichi. Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway – the Great Naval Battles as Seen through Japanese Eyes. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 2007. Print. Pp. 28-30.
 Wikipedia – “Tameichi Hara” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tameichi_Hara
 Japanese Destroyer Captain, pg. 284.
 Japanese Destroyer Captain, pp. 82-3.
 Wikipedia – “USS Perch (SS-176) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Perch_(SS-176)
 “On Eternal Patrol – The Discovery of USS Perch (SS-176)” http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-perch-announcement.htm
 “IJN Battleship YAMATO: Tabular Record of Movement” http://combinedfleet.com/yamato.htm