The subs were found in February in 3,000 feet of water by the pilots of two Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory submersibles, according to an announcement made Thursday by the lab and the National Geographic Channel, which partly funded and documented the mission.
One of the subs was 400 feet long and carried planes as well as enough fuel to travel around the world, said Hans Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Sanctuaries in the Pacific Islands.
The second sub had a streamlined body, conning tower and retractable guns, making it look more like a Cold War-era submarine, he said.
National Geographic Channel is set to broadcast the special "Hunt for the Samurai Subs" on Nov. 17.
The two were among five Japanese submarines brought to Pearl Harbor after the war for inspection. They were sunk by the U.S. Navy in 1946 when Russian scientists began demanding access to the technology under terms of the treaty that ended the war.
The submersibles, piloted by Terry Kerby, the lab's operations director, and Max Cremer, came upon the subs while conducting test and trial dives.
The ocean bottom south of Oahu "is like a giant underwater museum," Kerby said, who explained his team uses the dives to look for maritime artifacts. "We've been pretty successful."
Kerby began using test dives in 1992 to look for a Japanese midget sub that sank during Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The midget sub was found in 2002.
In 2005, lab scientists found the wreckage of a Japanese submarine that carried three aircraft.