Rare video footage of the Navy sinking the I-14 submarine in 1946, taken by a U.S. Navy chief, revealed a target zone the researchers had never considered.
"I look back on it today, I was some place nobody else was," Charles Alger, a retired Navy chief in charge of one of the Japanese submarines, said in the National Geographic program. "They got underway, got out to sea and then fired their torpedos. The front end tipped up, the back end tipped up and they each shot down to the bottom."
Using landmarks on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, which is where Pearl Harbor is based, Kerby and his team were able to pinpoint the location where the submarines were submerged.
Piloting deep submergence vehicles, Kerby and colleague Max Cremer traveled 3,000 feet below the surface of the water to try to locate the scuttled subs.
Their missions were not without false alarms. On several occasions, the pair only found giant rocks where they hoped the sunken subs would be.
But, finally, they found what they spent more than a decade looking for.
"It is a great day," Kerby said during the successful mission. "Charles' footage paid off."
In his deep submergence vehicle, Kerby first flew over the deck of the massive 400-foot-long I-14 submarine, which housed and launched two military aircraft and could stay submerged for a month. He and Cremer also uncovered a sunken I-201 fast-attack submarine.
The discoveries surprised many people but perhaps none so much as the men who witnessed the moment the submarines were shot down.
"It was very sickening, the moment of the explosion," Alger said in the program. "But, like any good sailor, a job is done and we've done it."
"I never ever thought that it would ever be seen by a human being again."
National Geographic Channel's "The Hunt for the Samurai Subs" premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. For more information, click here.