January 29, 2011
My late uncle, Lt. John Francis Fairbanks, Jr., USNA class of 1932, was the XO of the Edsall when it was attacked and sunk on March 1, 1942, south of Christmas Island, by the combined forces of two Japanese battleships, two Japanese heavy cruisers, and 17 aircraft from 3 of 5 Japanese carriers in an stern chase that
lasted approximately 90 minutes.
Prior to this engagement, the Edsall along with some Australian corvettes reportedly sunk the first full-sized Japanese submarine in relatively shallow water off the coast of Australia. It has been repeated in several documents that the Japanese naval code books were retrieved from this submarine and contributed to the
allied success thereafter at Midway. Author Donald Kern has written an excellent book about the Edsall and disputes this, saying that diving equipment was not available at the time. This seems plausible given the chaos of
the early war period.
Do you have any information about this submarine sinking and/or about the possibility that its code books were or were not retrieved? My immediate and extended family would greatly appreciate any information that you may have on this subject. Uncle Jack was a central figure of our family as told to us by his three sisters, one of
which is my late mother.
Leonard Anthony Richardson, III, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Any details I have seen about the sinking of the Japanese Submarine I-124 indicate that the sunken sub was never entered, and no documents were ever recovered from her. See this report from Wikipedia:
USS Edsall (DD-219) WIKI
Preceded by: /Wickes/ class
List of destroyers of the United States Navy
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