The opening scene takes place within the cramped, steam room-like conditions of a two man Japanese midget submarine lying on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor as if it were an animal waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting prey. The date is Sunday, December 7, 1941. The time is just before eight in the morning and as the reverberations from aerial torpedo and bomb explosions rock the little submarine the two men jump to their controls and the midget sub comes to life.
The commander lines up the mighty battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma and launches two torpedoes, one at each ship. Disappointed the warhead striking the West Virginia proves to be a dud, they experience temporary elation when the second underwater missile rips apart the Oklahoma, causing her to capsize. The sight of white-clad sailors scampering over the side of the dying ship proves very sobering to the Commander and his engineer as elation is replaced with sadness and respect as the opening scene fades to black.
The second scene takes place at an ocean-front residential setting in present-day Kailua, Oahu. A pair of laid-back Hawaiian excavators are installing a pool for a popular woman known by all in the neighborhood as “Auntie Lee.” When they discover a corpse clutching a strange looking pistol the work comes to a halt, causing “Auntie Lee” a great deal of consternation for she plans to host a party for the high school graduation of her favorite grandson the following month.
A US Navy investigative team is called upon to determine the identity of the skeleton and soon discover they are looking at the engineer of the Japanese midget submarine, I-16-tou, the very submarine responsible for sinking the Oklahoma, presenting them with a significant mystery: What happened to the midget submarine’s commander? Word of the mysterious skeleton is leaked to a local newspaper which sends their most aggressive reporter, Lani Gale, to investigate.
The Commander, still alive and living in retirement on Oahu, reads the newspaper story and realizes there is a race between the Navy and Gale to find him. Convinced he will be located and his world shattered, he makes a decision to relate his life story to his Annapolis-bound grandson rather than have him read about his arrest in the paper. The telling of his true history, beginning in pre-war Japan, through internment in Honolulu and California, the Korean Conflict and into the present-day is interspersed with the progress of the Navy and Gale as they hunt him down.
The concluding scenes comprise a dizzying sequence of events which tie up all the loose ends and sets up the sequels.
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