Copyright Marcus A. Nannini, 2010-2019
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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CHAMELEONS, An Untold World War II Story…
After the Japanese midget submarine I-16-tou torpedoed and sunk the battleship Oklahoma the midget sub’s commander maneuvered his damaged vessel in the quiet backwaters of West Loch. Unable to effect repairs the commander and his engineer scuttled the little submarine, swam ashore and used their list of safe houses to meld into the population, never to be heard from again. Until now.
Chameleons follows their lives prior to, during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A female reviewer wrote:
“This book, from a Japanese viewpoint, from Hawai’i to Korea and back to Hawai’i, was riveting. Some of the war scenes were enough to keep my fingers gripping my seat, literally. You will not see the ending coming, it is a total surprise. In a nutshell, if you like historical war fiction, this is definitely for you. The fact that it is definitely based on true events is proven by the pictures in the back of the book. There is enough here to make you wonder what exactly is fiction and what is not.”
Chapter One is a scene unlike any other before written as Nannini places the reader inside the steam room-like confines of the Japanese midget submarine I-16-tou as she sits on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When the reverberations of the first aerial bomb and torpedo strikes of the Japanese surprise attack wake the crew from their sleep they quickly launch their twin, one thousand pound torpedoes. One torpedo proves to be a dud, but the second torpedo explodes with catastrophic results. The chapter closes with the image of white-clad sailors scrambling along the sides of the capsizing Oklahoma when the author whisks the reader forward into the present-day and presents an unsettling mystery.
Another reviewer states:
The cornerstone of an excellent historical fiction novel is research and it is extremely evident that Marcus A. Nannini has spent countless hours researching his subject. He has gone to painstaking depths to make as many elements of his story as real as possible and has done an amazing job. His descriptions of the training undergone by the submarine commanders, the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the landscapes of Hawaii, and the conflicts later on in the book are nothing short of exemplary.
I loved how this book mixed elements from both the past and the present. Either of the storylines could have made an excellent book on their own, but together they add another dimension entirely. The mix of different characters in the present day timeline is also fantastic. There is a refreshing mix of hard-working naval officers, sleazy reporters, traitorous informants, and even a pudgy Petty Officer who lends a smidge of humor (not to mention a few donuts) to the plot.
A second Japanese midget submarine was later discovered, abandoned, in only sixty feet of water and within a short swim to an Oahu beach. The hatch was in the open position and was impossible to open if submerged. There was no evidence of the crew to be found representing two additional members of the Imperial Japanese Navy who may have melded into the local population as if Chameleons.
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I had long been fixated on a photograph taken by a Japanese aviator during the attack on Pearl Harbor. In my opinion it clearly focused on a black object from which two torpedo tracks were racing towards the West Virginia and Oklahoma. There were three distinct splashes behind the black object and I didn’t know what they were. I was confused and extremely curious.
During Thanksgiving Dinner in November, 2009, I conceived the idea for Chameleons. I explained the story line to everyone present and received a rousing endorsement to pursue the project. So I did.
My idea was to write a screenplay.
I immediately began my research and acquired every book on the subject including a little orange colored, hard-bound book titled: I attacked Pearl Harbor by Kazuo Sakamaki, a/k/a Prisoner of War Number One. It cost me a bundle.
I didn’t just read the books, I made hand-written outlines and began formulating the guts of the screenplay. You see, I already knew the beginning and the ending, but I would need to accomplish a great deal of research to re-create the past, especially the portions in Japan. I also expended a great deal of time researching on the web and accumulated an incredible amount of information.
I had so much information I found it necessary to de-content the draft manuscript for fear of over-kill. However, let me say this right away: I intended from the beginning for the I-16-tou to be damaged and seek shelter in West Loch.
I wrote the screenplay in three long days, March, 2010. I registered the screenplay which serves as evidence I placed the I-16-tou in West Loch years before the Navy discovered it had, indeed, been scuttled in West Loch. I was already thinking like Lieutenant (jg) Masaharu Yokoyama!
I encountered all manner of obstacles including variations in Yokoyama’s and Kamita’s names. Eventually I settled on the versions I most often came across and stayed with them. I could not find a consensus on the depth of the channel leading into Pearl Harbor. There were all sorts of conflicting statements on that key element. As you read the book you will discover Yokoyama had to deal with the same dilemma. Obviously, he managed ok.
There was the issue of the twin torpedo tracks, one directed at the West Virginia and one at the Oklahoma. Eventually I found a report by Admiral Chester Nimitz stating they had discovered an unexploded 1,000 pound torpedo next to the West Virginia. Mystery solved.
I read numerous accounts of the survivors from the Oklahoma, but one account is what convinced me my theory was correct:
All the battlewagons were ready for inspection on December 7, the result being all the water-tight doors on the ships were OPEN. West Virginia, Oklahoma and California were all listing to port as the result of torpedo strikes, but they were slowly settling onto the bottom of the harbor. Only the Oklahoma rolled over, but why? Because a one thousand pound torpedo tore a hole clear through her torpedo belt and opened about a thirty-eight foot wide hole below the waterline. Thousands of gallons of water rushed in and overwhelmed the doomed ship.
One account in particular caught my attention to support my theory. One of the sailors rescued over the next few days had been in the engine room. He heard the “bangs” from numerous aerial torpedo hits, but then heard a remarkably “loud explosion from up forward.” The ship immediately began to roll over. His account also matched a photo taken by an aviator. The photo depicts a tall, narrow geyser coming from the West Virginia and a low, thick geyser coming from the Oklahoma. (Reference the photos at the back of my book.)
The tall, narrow geyser was typical of a five hundred pound aerial torpedo. The low, thick geyser contained so much water it could not shoot straight up. It was the visual evidence of a one thousand pound torpedo hitting the ship.
And what about the three water spouts behind the black object? I laughed at a documentary where they spent a great deal of money constructing a midget version of the real sub and concluded the spouts must have been from an aerial torpedo. I wish they would have donated the money they spent on the homeless as they were just silly in their assumptions, and wrong in their conclusion.
First, if the three sprouts were from a torpedo strike, then where was the plane? The planes had to slow to under one hundred miles per hour before releasing their torpedo and with three fresh sprouts in the water, where was the plane? It should have been in the photograph.
Second, how could they know the ballast arrangement Yokoyama was using, as well as his speed when they built their mini version? They couldn’t know.
Third, why would the Japanese aviator have taken the photo? He was focused, not on battleship row, but on the midget submarine. Admiral Reardon mentions the fact in Chameleons.
I just realized I’m getting a little long-winded here and need to end this soon.
I noticed most everyone mentions the ending. Let me make a couple of things clear.
- I wrote the ending precisely as I envisioned it at Thanksgiving Dinner.
- You, the reader, experience the same feelings the Kida family experience.
Most of you figured out I added a couple of characters when I finally got around to introducing Colonel Nat. Go back and re-read the description of the Aussie as you will be encountering a great deal of him as the Commander Pastwa series continues.
If there is something you would like me to discuss, drop me a note at ChameleonsNovel@aol.com.
Thanks for reading!
The Imperial Japanese Navy engaged in significant espionage activity leading up to the infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. In addition to providing the midget submariners with Lists of Safe Contacts with whom they might seek shelter, they also provided a detailed map of the Harbor and how the U. S. Pacific Fleet might be anchored. The midget submariners were also given crash courses in English as it was not the intention of Admiral Yamamoto that the midget submariners needlessly sacrifice their lives. He fully expected at least some of them to return for debriefing and congratulatory celebrations.
Details of the harbor were obtained by a combination of sight-seeing fly-overs in civilian planes, ground observation and casual interviews with U. S. personnel. This is a copy of the map Masaharu Yokoyama was using on December 7, 1941.
I researched this book over a period of many months. In the process I read and made notes from the six books that I could find, on topic, including the book written by Prisoner of War Number One, Kazuo Sakamaki, captured on the morning of December 8, 1941, while sleeping on an Oahu beach. I also accumulated a large volume of web-based research and updated the research continuously. It was a couple of years after I wrote the Screenplay that the U.S. Navy confirmed the I-16-tou had, indeed, sought refuge in West Loch. I reached that conclusion in 2009, based on all I learned about the commander of the I-16-tou.
Before I wrote the first word of Chameleons I already knew the story I was about to relate, including the ending. However, it was not until I saw the potential for spin-offs, beginning with Geographic Treachery, did I return to the manuscript to add a chance meeting with the two antagonists who take the series to new heights of cunning, cold-blooded murder and revenge for actions that took place in the 20th Century.
So those of you who guessed the two men Admiral Reardon meets at Colonel Nat’s will be seen again, guessed correctly. You can count on them being complex and cold-hearted, yet I don’t just present them without developing their backgrounds. Though I will say you will not discover the motivations behind “the Aussie” until you read the third novel, Vigorous Brutality. And yes, the action remains in Hawaii, centering on the Big Island, in particular.
Throughout Chameleons I inserted small clues about the ending. I also worked hard to bring the reader to understand Ken Kida and stand in his shoes. From the comments I gathered pre and post publication, the readers are experiencing the exact emotions Ken, his wife and grandson felt towards the end of the book. I could not give much away and still retain a separation of Lt. Commander Pastwa’s team and Admiral Reardon. At the same time I revealed more about Admiral Reardon than I had done in the entire book to that point. Just wait to you see what he does in Geographic Treachery!
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The I-16-tou, a Japanese midget submarine, successfully penetrated Pearl Harbor early on the morning of December 7, 1941. It launched 2 torpedoes, one of which turtled the mighty U.S.S. Oklahoma. Eventually the 2 man Crew abandoned their badly damaged little submarine in West Loch. They swam ashore, connected with pre-arranged contacts and melded into the population as if human Chameleons. This is their story. EBook: http://www.books2read.com/MarcusNannini
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The U.S.S. Oklahoma, sunk by I-16-tou.
One Japanese midget submarine successfully penetrated Pearl Harbor early on the morning of December 7, 1941. It launched 2 torpedoes, one of which turtled the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Eventually the 2 man Crew abandoned their badly damaged little submarine in West Loch. They swam ashore, connected with pre-arranged contacts and melded into the population as if human Chameleons.
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The Japanese midget submarine I-16-tou is hiding on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor waiting to release its deadly twin-warheads against the battleships of the U. S. Pacific Fleet. The sub’s commander and engineer are asleep and drenched in sweat as are the walls of the iron coffin-like midget submarine.
Awakened by the shock waves of aerial bomb and torpedo strikes the two men jump to the controls and begin final maneuvers as they target the battleships U. S. S. West Virginia and Oklahoma. While the torpedo strike into the West Virginia proves to be a dud, the second torpedo dramatically explodes and tears a thirty eight foot wide hole in the Oklahoma’s already damaged port side, causing her to immediately roll over.
Chapter two takes place in present day Kailua, Oahu with the accidental discovery of a mysterious skeleton while excavating a residential pool. A team of United States Navy investigators spearheaded by Lt. Commander Christopher Pastwa and Lt. Karen Yamura are under a mandate from their admiral, Roman Reardon, to quickly solve the mystery.
Much to their chagrin they soon discover the skeleton belongs to the engineer of the I-16-tou. The midget sub’s logbook is recovered from the grave and indicates the commander of the sub was still alive days after the Pearl Harbor attack and living amongst the Japanese-American population, contrary to navy dogma.
As the team begins what will prove to be a difficult and frenetic search, Lani Gale, a Honolulu newspaper reporter, learns of the grave’s contents. Her newspaper begins publishing a series of front page stories and offers a $100,000 reward for anyone with information leading either to a still-alive midget sub commander or his death certificate. A race is on between the navy team and an unscrupulous Gale to learn what became of the commander.
Ken Kida, the commander of the midget submarine and living under an assumed name, is now an elderly retiree. He and his Korean wife are anxiously reading the front page story when their grandson drives up. Suspecting he may soon be arrested, Ken Kida relates his life story to Gary through a series of flash-backs and narratives which are interspersed with the present-day progress of the Navy and Lani Gale, who are steadily hunting him down.
When Lt. Commander Pastwa and Lt. Yamura turn up at Ken Kida’s front door, he, Sun and Gary believe their world is about to be shattered. However, a series of events unfold over the following twenty four hours creating a surprise ending while introducing the two main antagonists featured in the subsequent novels in my series, Geographic Treachery and Vigorous Brutality.
ISBN 13: 9780692814352
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CONTROL NUMBER: 2016920544
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