Interrogation Nav 9, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita
Editor's Note: The following content is a transcription of a period document or a collection of period statistics. It may be incomplete, inaccurate, or biased. The reader may not wish to take the content as factual.16 Oct 1945
KURITA, Takeo, Vice Admiral, I.J.N.
KURITA served 38 years in the regular Navy. As Rear Admiral he was in command of Cruiser Division 7 from September 1940 to July 1942. Promoted Vice Admiral, he then commanded Battleship Division 3 until July 1943 when he became CinC Second Fleet, in which capacity he took part in the battles of June and October 1944. When interrogated, KURITA appeared somewhat on the defensive, giving only the briefest of replies prior to the discussion of the actual engagement of the 25th. In some instances his memory for details such as times, cruising dispositions, etc. appeared to be inaccurate.
|Commanding Officer, 7th Cruiser Division||September 1940-July 1942|
|Commanding Officer, 3rd Battleship Division||July 1942-July 1943|
|CinC Second Fleet||July 1943-December 1944|
|President Naval Academy||December 1944-End of War|
INTERROGATION NAV NO. 9
USSBS NO. 47
BATTLE OF THE PHILIPPINE SEA
BATTLE FOR LEYTE GULF
16, 17 OCTOBER 1945
Interrogation of: Vice Admiral KURITA, Takeo, who was CinC Second Fleet during the battles of June and October 1944.
Interrogated by: Rear Admiral R. A. Ofstie, USN; Lt. Comdr,. J. A. Field, Jr., USNR.
Allied Officers Present: Brig. Gen. Grandison Gardiner, USA; Capt. T. J. Hedding, USN; Comdr. T. H. Moorer, USN.
When U. S. forces landed in the MARIANAS in June 1944, the Japanese Fleet offered battle for the first time since the GUADALCANAL Campaign. In the.Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA, the Japanese suffered the loss of three carriers sunk and one seriously damaged, plus the virtual annihilation of the air groups of three carrier divisions.
In October 1944, the landing of U. S. Forces on LEYTE caused the Japanese to commit their entire remaining Navy to a desperate three-pronged attack on our forces in the hope of repelling the landings and, by holding the PHILIPPINES, of being able to continue the war. Admiral KURITA commanded the Center Force of battleships and cruisers which, under heavy attack, succeeded in penetrating the PHILIPPINES, engaged our escort carriers, and reached almost to the entrance to LEYTE GULF only to withdraw at the moment when success seemed within his grasp.
Admiral KURITA briefly discusses the planning for these operations and his part in the Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA. The role of the Japanese Center Force in the Battle for LEYTE GULF is analyzed in considerable detail, with the reasons for the failure of the Japanese plan and his own reasons for withdrawing without entering the Gulf. He also offers miscellaneous comments on various features of the Pacific War.
Q. (Admiral Ofstie) Admiral KURITA, before the Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA in June 1944, where was your fleet based?
A. The Second Fleet had been basing at LINGGA, but had recently moved to TAWITAWI so as to be closer to expected operations.
Q. When you left TAWITAWI, about the 10th of June, did you have full knowledge of the plan for that operation?
A. I received instructions concerning the plan and orders for action from Admiral OZAWA.
Q. What was the plan of the operation?
A. Through SAN BERNARDINO Strait, to refuel about 130Â°E and attack the enemy about 136Â° or 137Â° E and retire to refuel a little north of the original position. The fleet under Admiral OZAWA proceeded towards GUIMARAS Strait, upon receipt of the intelligence that the American Force had made an attack on the MARIANAS ISLANDS; the operation at that time was to change base in order to be nearer to any succeeding action. On the way to GUIMARAS Strait orders were received to proceed to attack operation on the American Task Force. The fleet fueled in GUIMARAS Strait and proceeded through the SULU SEA. They proceeded out of TAWITAWI on the 12th.
Q. What was the principal difference in the attack plan if American Force had gone to PALAU instead of to the MARIANAS ISLANDS?
A. If the American Task Force had not gone to the MARIANAS but further south, the plan was for the fleet to abandon the SULU route for a southerly one around MINDANAO.
Q. On 19 June what was your flagship?
A. The flagship was the cruiser ATAGO.
Q. Where were you personally relative to TAIHO and SHOKAKU on 19 June?
A. I do not know; communication was not maintained successfully and I learned of the damage the following day.
Q. When did you first hear the report of the result of the air attack on the American Fleet on the 19th, and what was the substance of that report?
A. I got only unreliable reports from the returning fliers.
Q. When did you get the report, and what was contained in it?
A. We received running reports of all planes damaged from radio reports from own fighters at the scene.
Q. Were the losses reported such that the plans were changed that night, and if so what were the changes?
A. Because the damage report consisted of only planes of the Second Fleet, I did not have knowledge of losses in the Main Body; the main plan, however, was not changed because of the losses of which I had knowledge, which were confined to the Second Fleet. The 3rd Air Squadron, assigned to my force, consisted of the ZUIHO and CHITOSE, which were carriers converted from tankers, and the CHIYODA which was the TAIGEI (AS) before conversion.
Q. Of the three carriers that you had in your command, what were the total number of planes that went on the attack and how many came back -- approximately?
A. The most of the wave that we sent out were fighters. Those which went to cover came back, but the attacking fighters did not. Something like 100 were in the total that took off. The attacking fighters came under American attack, apparently some 20 miles before reaching the target, and more than half were destroyed at that time.
Q. On the next day did you continue to have control of these three carriers?
Q. How did you operate those planes on the 20th?
A. I had only three or four torpedo places, no body of fighters, and used six or seven for scouting.
Q. Did you lose any more planes on the 20th of June?
A. We made no offensive operations on the following day, but when taking aboard the scouting planes we received bombing attacks from the American Task Force which damaged some of them.
Q. On the 20th during that bombing attack, were any of your ships damaged -- that is, in the Second Fleet?
A. The ZUIHO and battleship HARUNA were slightly damaged. The HARUNA apparently slight damage at first. The shaft brackets were loosened but it was not known that it was so serious until they did 27 knots.
Q. The ZUIHO, what damage to her?
A. Just a hole in the after end of the flight deck.
Q. Do you know what damage was done to the tankers and their escorts?
A. One tanker was sunk, no damage to the tanker's escort.
Q. Where did the fleet retire after this operation?
A. To OKINAWA to fuel, and then to the INLAND SEA for training of pilots; the Second Fleet returned to SINGAPORE Area.
Q. When the Second Fleet left the INLAND SEA, begin there and please tell us what your movements were.
A. All ships of the Second Fleet and the 10th Squadron of destroyers from the Third Fleet left KURE the 12th of July.
Q. Describe the movements of the Second Fleet from then on.
A. They departed through BUNGO SUIDO to OKINAWA and then to LINGGA. Some ships brought troop reinforcements to OKINAWA and MANILA and all rendezvoused at LINGGA.
Q. What was the purpose of going to LINGGA?
A. For training. The shortage of fuel in the home area required training operations in LINGGA.
Q. How long did you stay at LINGGA?
A. Until October 1944.
Q. During this period between June and October, what new plans did you receive for operations against the American Fleet or against American operations?
A. Planning was done according to whether the next American operation was directed against the PHILLIPINES, or secondarily OKINAWA, or possibly FORMOSA, and finally the home islands.
Q. How much did you yourself enter into the planning; that is, did you receive a plan from the Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet, or did you do some planning at LINGGA?
A. Orders and directions from Admiral TOYODA only.
Q. (Lt. Comdr. Field) These new plans you speak of, were they known as the SHO plans?
A. SHO-GO, that is correct.
Q. Did you see or have a conference with Admiral OZAWA between the time you left the INLAND SEA and your departure from LINGGA?
A. Staff of OZAWA came to LINGGA for a conference in the middle of August, but I had no meeting.
Q. Was the command organization originally the same as for "A" Operation (Defense of MARIANAS)?
A. The command originally was not the same as in the "A" Operation; Admiral OZAWA had command of the carrier force only and then I had command, independent command, of the remaining force.
Q. Admiral NISHIMURA was responsible to you; and you in turn were directly responsible td Admiral TOYODA, is that correct? Who was responsible for the coordination of the movement of the three forces with each other and with the land-based aircraft?
A. That is correct. (Annex A) The only coordination command rested with TOYODA, otherwise coordination was by communication among the units concerned and that was by radio message.
Q. What was the coordination with Army land-based planes?
A. I do not know under what command such coordination was executed, whether under the Army or the Navy.
Q. What training was emphasized at LINGGA?
A. The first point is that if you seized the PHILIPPINES it would cut off fuel supply to the EMPIRE and that all supply of fuel being severed, the war in all areas south of the EMPIRE must end. The PHILIPPINES were vital to the continuation of the war. The training was therefore so conducted as to prevent landing operations -- coast defense landing parties and then in radar and AA defense, and especially night action.
Q. From the 12th to 14th of October, our Task Force was heavily attacked off FORMOSA by your aircraft. Did you receive reports of the damage done to our forces and if so, did the report influence the operation plans?
A. We got the report, but don't think that the intelligence affected future plans too seriously. .
Q. When was the Second Fleet alerted for the operation?
A. I am not sure, but I think that the alert was received on the 15th.
Q. Do you remember what information led to this alert?
A. Your mine sweeping activity. Based upon the intelligence report of your mine sweeping activity in the vicinity of LEYTE, I received orders from CinC Combined Fleet to shift base of operation nearer to the PHILIPPINE ISLANDS. Although BRUNEI was not specified in the orders, it was the best, and had been so considered in the planning.
Q. When did the Second Fleet leave LINGGA for BRUNEI, and was Admiral NISHIMURA's Force in company?
A. I do not remember the date; we departed LINGGA together and from BRUNEI separately.
Q. Were refueling facilities available anywhere other than at BRUNEI, in the PHILIPPINE Area?
A. There was no shore facilities at BRUNEI, but there were tankers there and at CORON Bay.
Q. Were these tankers awaiting you at BRUNEI and CORON, or did they travel in company?
A. There was one tanker waiting at CORON and two tankers came from SINGAPORE to the SULU SEA.
Q. Who did you believe commanded our Invasion Forces?
A. We had believed that General MACARTHUR would come from the south to here (indicating PHILIPPINES on chart).
Q. Did you know who commanded our Task Forces?
A. No, I did not know.
Q. What was the mission of your force?
A. It was to attack and destroy the landing forces at LEYTE at day-break of the 25th of October
[Plate 9-1, Annex A]
Q. Does that apply to Admiral NISHIMURA's Force also?
A. The same orders applied to Admiral NISHIMURA's Force also.
Q. Were they intended to be simultaneous attacks by both forces -- attacks at the same moment?
A. We planned for a two hour interval between, the two hours because of the great movement of ships in confined waters. Admiral NISHIMURA was to proceed first and then my force.
Q. How were both forces to approach?
A. Admiral NISHIMURA was to approach through SURIGAO Strait from the south and my force through the SAN BERNARDINO Strait from the north.
Q. What was the mission of Admiral OZAWA's Force?
A. He was to divert your Task Force and bring it under attack from the north.
Q. When you left BRUNEI to launch your attack, what information did you have of our force inside of LEYTE Gulf?
A. I thought you had about 200 transports, about seven battleships and appropriate accompanying cruisers and destroyers.
Q. Was that estimate modified in any way from further information received on the 24th?
A. Because of the bad weather, we did not receive any further intelligence. I requested them to send seaplanes from SAN JOSE (MINDORO) to scout, but because of the weather they found nothing.
Q. Did you have no information from land-based planes in the PHILIPPINES?
A. Nothing whatsoever.
Q. What losses were expected inside of the Gulf from our battleships?
A. We expected more than half of our ships to be lost.
Q. Was it expected that Admiral NISHIMURA, by his early arrival at LEYTE, would draw our force to the south and facilitate the entrance of the SAN BERNARDINO force?
A. No; in fact it was thought that knowledge of the larger body coming from the north might draw the American ships out from the Gulf and thus leave NISHIMURA free to enter.
Q. On the morning of the 24th, our planes sighted Admiral NISHIMURA's force off NEGROS and your force off MINDORO; at about what speed were you proceeding at this time?
A. About 22 knots.
Q. What was the originally planned time of entry into the Gulf?
A. Admiral NISHIMURA's force about five -- the Second Fleet about six in the morning.
Q. Did you plan to steam at 22 knots all day?
A. 22 or 24 knots. The point was that the tankers could not supply the ships enough fuel for long distance voyages at high speed and they had to save their fuel for the trip back to BRUNEI.
Q. Where were you embarked on leaving BRUNEI?
A. In ATAGO.
Q. Was ATAGO attacked by our submarines?
Q. Had you had any warning of the attack?
A. We knew that submarines were there and there were three possible routes planned. First the most southerly route which would bring our forces under land-based plane attacks from MOROTAI; second, the most northerly route which would take too long; and third, the route adopted which was known to contain patrol submarines; but considering the time and other factors, it was decided to proceed on the middle route.
Q. Did the fact that you were forced to change flagships inconvenience the rest of this operation?
A. It did not interfere with the plan; in fact, it rather improved control. The shift to the YAMATO improved the command possible because she was designed as a flagship and communications were therefore better and the AA defense was also better.
Q. What was the total loss and damage sustained because of our submarines on the 23rd?
A. ATAGO and MAYA were sunk; TAKAO engine damaged and stopped and could not navigate.
Q. Did TAKAO return safely to port?
A. Returned to BRUNEI and then to SINGAPORE.
[Plate 9-2, Annex B]
Q. Will you sketch the disposition of your ships at the time of the submarine attack?
A. (See Annex B) At 0643 when the attack was made, the fleet was zigzagging and had just completed a turn to the left when both ATAGO and TAKAO were hit. The second in column was TAKAO; there were two hits in her stern which interfered with navigation. The right-hand column turned to starboard because of the submarine attack on the left-hand column; the right-hand column gave way to starboard but within ten minutes had resumed course when the second attack opened. A second submarine attack on the right-hand column occurred immediately after resuming course, interval between the two attacks about ten minutes. MAYA belonged to the 4th Squadron; she sank almost immediately; I do not know the location and number of hits. ATAGO took half an hour to sink.
Q. On the 24th when you were passing through the Central PHILIPPINES did you expect air attacks?
Q. Were there plans to have protective fighters overhead?
A. I requested that they send fighters from land base, but they did not send any.
Q. Was fighter cover provided for in the Operation Plan or was it merely requested at that moment?
A. Both. The plan was, first the planes from land bases were to attack the American Task Force and then to shift south to act as cover for our force; but the size of the American Task Force made it necessary for all land-based plane activity to center on that part, namely the American Task Force, leaving the Second Fleet without the expected cover.
Q. And that was in the Operation Plan?
A. Yes, also provision for the Carrier Division 3 to accompany the fleet; but that plan was not carried out because the American Task Force arrived earlier than expected. CarDiv 3 plus ZUIKAKU was included in the plan. The plan was for CarDiv 3 plus the ZUIKAKU to join the Second Fleet at LINGGA and accompany it on the succeeding operation; but the early arrival of the American Task Force prevented the junction.
Q. When had CarDiv 3 been expected to reach LINGGA?
A. It was expected to leave Japan waters on 15 October. That delay was due to the training of the flight personnel. The training of new personnel for CarDiv 3 was because all skilled flight personnel had been lost in the June engagement.
Q. When you requested fighters from LUZON, to whom did you address the request?
A. To Admiral ONISHI, who was in command of the First Air Fleet in the PHILIPPINES.
Q. Were there any Army aircraft in the PHILIPPINES that could be requested?
Q. Do you mean that there were none in the PHILIPPINES, or that no arrangements had been made to obtain their help?
A. No request was made of the Army; I do not know whether there were any Army planes there or not. When called upon for planes, the Navy would send planes if they had them; if not, the Navy would request them locally from the Army. That was my opinion.
Q. What warning of our air attack on the morning of the 24th did you have?
A. First received intelligence that your planes had been over MANILA; then from own radar.
Q. At what distance did your radar warn you?
A. About 100 or 120 km.
Q. How many attacks did you receive on the 24th?
A. It differed according to the ship, but I think that my own ship received six large attacks with 40 to 50 planes in each attack.
Q. What damage was incurred by the ships of your force?
A. The MYOKO received damage to two shafts and returned to SINGAPORE, and towards the evening the MUSASHI sank. All other battleships received one or two hits, but were able to continue to fight. No battleships torpedoed, nor cruisers. They were in ring formation and because American attack was directed at major units, the cruisers and destroyers suffered less.
Q. Did any cruiser receive bomb hits but still continue with the operation?
A. With the exception of MYOKO, the cruisers were not damaged.
Q. In the course of the afternoon under the attack, did you reverse course and retire for a time?
A. About four I reversed course to the westward and because your bombing attack ceased, I again resumed the advance.
Q. Did you report the damage received to Admiral TOYODA?
Q. Was your change of course to the westward your own decision or on instruction from Admiral TOYODA?
A. I informed Admiral TOYODA that I was retiring temporarily to the westward to avoid attacks and would return to the action later, and then Admiral TOYODA sent a response with an order to continue the operation.
Q. During the day had you received any report from Admiral NISHIMURA that he was under attack?
A. About ten o'clock in the morning I got, not a detailed report, but a short message from Admiral NISHIMURA that his part of the operation was not going successfully.
Q. Do you know if Admiral NISHIMURA's Force was damaged by that air attack?
A. Yes, I assumed that it was serious damage.
Q. As a result of the air attack on the Second Fleet, did you order Admiral NISHIMURA to delay his advance?
A. No change in the plans.
Q. On the afternoon of the 24th, where did you believe our Task Force was located?
A. Northeast of SAN BERNARDINO Strait about 80-100 miles.
Q. What speed was maintained during the night?
A. 20 knots.
Q. How did you navigate through the narrow channel at 20 knots?
A. We navigated in single column through the narrow places and as it was very clear, I could determine the position visually.
Q. What was the condition of the battleships that had been damaged? What type of damage had been received?
A. The NAGATO had received some damage to her communication system, but all guns were able to shoot, nothing important on other ships.
Q. Any damage to fire control?
Q. What time, did you sortie from SAN BERNAARDINO Strait?
A. At midnight. The plan was to come through SAN BERNARDINO Strait at 6 p.m., but the delay was six hours. We were at the exit at midnight.
Q. Did you expect to have to fight your way out of the Straits?
Q. Did you have any further information in the course of the night on the position of our Task Force?
Q. When you came out at midnight were your ships at General Quarters?
A. Yes, all of them were ready to fight.
Q. What conclusion did you draw when you found no force there?
A. Since there was no force there, there was no conclusion and I continued the operation.
Q. What was your first contact with American forces?
A. First contacts were with the planes. They were fighters, I think. I did not see them, but there was one or two fighters; and then I saw the masts and I then was able to see the shape of the aircraft carriers to the southeast.
Q. Was the first contact with aircraft carriers made visually or by radar?
A. The first was by eyes.
(Interrogation adjourned 1646; resumed 17 October, 0930).
[Plate 9-3, Annex C]
Q. Admiral KURITA, would you sketch the disposition of your force on the morning of the 25th as you came down the coast of SAMAR?
A. (See Annex C) The engagement off SAMAR opened about 0700, not at 0650 as suggested yesterday. On the right flank was the 5th Squadron plus HAGURO, MYOKO having been disabled the previous day; in the center the 1st Squadron, less MUSASHI which had been sunk, and the 3rd Squadron; on the left flank the 7th Squadron; on the starboard bow Desron 2 and on the port bow Desron 10. About four kilometers interval between columns.
Q. How many destroyers were in this right-hand group, roughly?
A. We had had to assign several destroyers to take back the ships that had been damaged on the 23rd and 24th. Therefore, we were greatly reduced in the number of destroyers we had with us. There were six or eight on the right and four on the other.
Q. You said yesterday that you thought we had six or seven battleships inside the Gulf along with our transports. Did you believe there were any battleships with the Task Force in this region (north-east of SAN BERNARDINO Strait)?
A. I didn't think there were many. I thought there might be one with the carriers.
Q. In the course of the 24th or during the night before the battle opened here, did you have any reports from Admiral OZAWA as to the events in the north?
A. No reports except that Admiral OZAWA's planes had attacked and some had landed in the water and the able ones were landing in LUZON.
Q. Up to the time of beginning the action here, had you had any report from Admiral NISHIMURA subsequent to the first one in the morning which said that operations were not going too well? I remember you said that on the 24th you heard from Admiral NISHIMURA that he had been attacked from the air. Did you have any later information from Admiral NISHIMURA before 7 o'clock?
A. I don't know exactly where he was when he sent the first message but he was somewhere around in there. (Indicating south of NEGROS). I think I had a report in this area, that is due south of LEYTE, that he had been brought under attack by torpedo boats.
Q. And that was the only report before the battle began here?
A. That was followed by one more report to estimate the time of arrival at the target.
Q. In the course of the night, did you receive any messages from Admiral TOYODA giving further information or additional instructions?
A. I don't remember for certain but I think the last message I got from Admiral TOYODA was the order to proceed with the action which I mentioned yesterday. I certainly remember no other messages.
Q. Late on the night of the 24th when your force was passing through this area by MASBATE Island, were you aware that you were being followed by our aircraft?
A. I did not know it.
Q. Had you considered the possibility that our forces might have mined SAN BERNARDINO Strait?
A. There were certain Japanese fields but I did not consider your having mined any of the area.
Q. Just before 7 o'clock in the morning, you sighted the masts of carriers. What happened then?
A. It was just at the time when we were changing formation so that these two cruiser divisions came back. We were preparing to change formation but had not changed formation when the masts of your ships were sighted.
Q. Changing formation for entry into the Gulf?
A. No, going to change formation into the ring formation. On a course of 200 degrees masts were sighted to the southeast. All ships altered course to 110 degrees. The wind was in the northeast. I altered course to 110 degrees in order to come up-wind of your formation. The resultant formation was with squadrons in column. The first sighting was at a range of about 35,000 meters. The intention was to reduce the range, keeping to windward of the American forces. At the time of the sighting, though I do not know the precise course of the American forces, I think it was an opposing and meeting course but it soon changed to right-turnabout. I thought it was a right-turnabout because the flight decks being full of planes, all planes were visible at the time of the turn. I opened fire from the YAMATO. I am uncertain of the range but I think it was between 32,000 and 33,000 meters. At the same time American cruisers and destroyers commenced laying a smoke screen.
Q. What did you do then as our ships turned, reversed course and proceeded to the southwest? What was your speed?
A. The speed of my ships varied at that time. They were all on full speed. The HARUNA could do no better than 25 at the outside, the NAGATO no better than 24. Also, because your planes were coming over in groups of three, for more adequate defense the ships were separating and scattering.
Q. What speed was the YAMATO making?
A. The YAMATO was doing full speed at 26. On the 24th the YAMATO had three bombs on the deck, forward. She was heavy by the bow, having taken water forward as a result of the bombing.
Q. Then all ships were going at their individual top speeds, not at a uniform speed?
A. That is correct.
Q. Well then, as our ships reversed course and headed southwest --?
A. As your ships altered course, I continued individual full speed on course 110 degrees until I got up-wind and then bore down on your ships.
Q. Did you believe that our carriers immediately changed course like that (indicating) or that they went in a larger circle. Or, in other words, could you draw what the track of our carriers appeared to be?
A. I believed this course: that you were coming into the wind to send off planes and then retiring and coming into the wind again and retiring. Coming into the wind only to send off the planes but in general it was a zig-zagging wide curve. The Japanese course gradually curved as it approached position up-wind.
Q. When did our air attacks begin that morning?
A. The attacks were in small formations. As the battle opened, small formations of your planes attacked my ships and about half past eight, thinking that there would be a concerted attack, I altered my plans, partly because the small formations had ceased to come for awhile. In preparation for a concerted attack by American bombers, I ordered the closing of the formation. I thought that the American formation was retiring rapidly to the southeast and at about 0830 the small formation attacks ceased. I therefore thought that there would be later on -- perhaps an hour later -- a large formation attack. Therefore, I ordered the formation to close.
Q. Did you at that time, break off the battle with these carriers?
A. The 10th Destroyer Squadron having finished its torpedo attack upon your formation, thinking that this engagement was over and that we would come under attack from your northern carrier force, I ordered the formation closed. It was about ten minutes past nine o'clock. I then intended to enter LEYTE Gulf, and passed through the damaged or sinking ships of your formation, aircraft carriers and cruisers of your formation. I came under, air attack just as I had given the order to the destroyers to pick up survivors the water
Q. Now in the course of this first battle with the carriers, what damage had you inflicted on our forces and. what damage had your force received from any cause?.
A. Because of the smoke, I could see very little but we felt certain on the YAMATO that one of your carriers, which had a bridge, was listing seriously and we therefore concluded that we had hit it, and one cruiser was down by the head. That is all I saw. Perhaps one more of your cruisers and perhaps two or three of your destroyers. I am not certain of my memory on this. The 10th Destroyer Squadron having launched its torpedo attack in the smoke, reported to me that three or four of your carriers were seriously damaged or sinking.
Q. By the torpedo attack?
A. The destroyers and cruisers from gunfire and the aircraft carriers, after the first one that I mentioned, from torpedo attack.
Q. What damage had your force received?
A. One torpedo in the KUMANO, which reduce the speed to about 16 knots.
Q. Aerial torpedo?
A. Destroyer torpedo. After the fast torpedoes had passed and missed a slow-speed one got it near the stern. Now the SUZUYA received a hit or near miss or misses which caused damage near the bridge to such an extent that later, after the battle was over, her own torpedoes exploded .
A. Yes. The fire extended to the torpedo-tube chamber and there exploded.
Q. That was from aircraft bombing?
A. Yes, it was aircraft bombing.
Q. What was the result of that?
A. It sank, after the battle. The CHOKAI and the CHIKUMA couldn't maneuver. I couldn't tell whether it was because the engines had given out or because they had been under attack but they were unmaneuverable. They were sunk by our own destroyers after they had removed their personnel, by torpedoes from destroyers. I do not know whether the engines had simply been overtaxed or from bombing or gunfire. From gunfire or any other cause, there was no further damage to my force.
Q. You know of no damage specifically from gunfire?
A. No damage except that I later received a report that the YAMATO had received one 15-cm shell that had damaged a motor.
Q. What kind of a motor?
A. Above the engine room, starboard side. It was a dud.
Q. What type of aircraft carriers were the American carriers present? Were they the ESSEX or ENTERPRISE class? Did you recognize them?
A. I don't remember. Starboard bridge structure was all I could tell. There wasn't enough visibility nor adequate reports from the scouting planes.
Q. Was the use of smoke by the U.S. forces a serious trouble to you?
A. It was very serious trouble for us. It was exceedingly well used tactically.
Q. Did you fire by visual control or by radar control in aiming the guns?
A. Both. Commenced visually when we could see anything. Thereafter we tried to work it with radar.
Q. Did you assign specific targets to your ships or merely tell them to fire on all ships they could see?
A. Because I concluded that it would not be possible to make a formation attack, I left it to each individual ship to fight on its own.
Q. From the YAMATO or from reports from other ships, did you feel that the gunfire was hitting? was it effective?
A. In the beginning the gunfire was effective; toward the end it was very bad.
Q. Do you know why?
A. We were making a stern chase on your ships which were zig-zagging and that made it difficult to get the range. That is what I think was the cause. Also, the major units were separating further all the time because of your destroyer torpedo attacks. The second or third salvo of the YAMATO was followed by a very great explosion from the middle of the smoke. I do not know what ship.
Q. Did your ships fire continuously as long as they had a target?
A. I saw only that one high explosion. So long as they had a target they all kept on shooting
Q. What speed were the American carriers making?
A. I didn't know.
Q. Was it difficult to close the range? Was it fast enough so that you had trouble closing?
A. At first the range closed quickly. At first, even after we had altered course, the range narrowed rapidly. After that your ships were making good time away and my ships were becoming more and more separated and we didn't consider that the range was closing.
Q. Did you expect to have protective air cover that morning from land-based planes?
A. I did not think so. I did not expect it.
Q. Did you expect assistance from land-based planes on the attacks on our ships?
A. No, I did not. I thought that I would have no assistance or cover from land-based planes because most of the Japanese land-based planes were in LUZON, assigned for action that might occur in the north, The southern sector was my own responsibility.
Q. Did you have any information later that day, in the middle of the day, of attacks by Japanese planes on our forces in this area here where the battle was and inside the Gulf?
A. No, no information of such attacks.
Q. Could you describe the attacks made on your ships by torpedo, by our cruisers and destroyers?
A. The torpedo attacks were launched from inside the smoke screen; the paths of the torpedoes were almost parallel and very obvious. The speed of the torpedoes was so slow that it was possible to avoid them by turning away from them, which however resulted in the separation of the formation.
Q. Did you see any of the ships at the time they were launching torpedoes?
A. I could see that the ships were there occasionally but did not see them launch any torpedoes.
Q. During this action you mentioned being attacked several times by small groups of torpedo planes and bombers. Did you maneuver to avoid all those attacks?
A. Yes. We received no torpedo attack I know about. Each vessel turned course and avoided that bombing. Each ship undertook evasive action in attempting to avoid the bombing action but I know of no torpedo attacks.
Q. How far off course did a ship usually turn?
A. When there were few bombers, as much as 45 degrees.
Q. Were these maneuvers done by the individual ships and not on signal from you?
A. That is right, individual ships maneuvered on their own.
Q. And that led to further scattering of the formation?
A. It led to gradual separation, breaking up the. formation.
Q. Did these attacks by scattered groups continue up until 0830 when they stopped entirely?
A. I am not certain of the time the attacks ceased; it was about 0830.
Q. Did they stop suddenly or did they just taper off -- less frequent, less strong?
A. It diminished gradually.
Q. When you first sighted our disposition, why did you maneuver around to get to windward rather than closing directly upon it?
A. To prevent launching and retaking of your planes, I intended to intercept to windward as much as possible.
Q. Did you consider sending part of your force to do that and to continue towards the Gulf with the rest?
A. No, I did not consider that. The idea was that I would make a concerted action of the fleet.
Q. After this attack, however, you still intended to enter the Gulf?
A. I held to that intention until I received the second bombing attack.
Q. At what time was that?
A. I can't remember.
Q. How long after you broke off the action with the carriers was this second bombing attack?
A. At about 10 our ships had made a formation, at which time they received the first bombing attack. The first attack came when I had hoisted the signal for ring formation after they had assembled.
Q. Was this a heavy attack?
A. The attack was big but the damage was small.
Q. What type of damage, specifically?
A. The extent of damage was not such as to interfere with ability of the ships. I did not receive details of damage at that time. Now the sort of information I did receive when damage was great was breaking of oil tanks, gasoline, rudder control and that sort of thing; but I did not receive any of that on the first attack.
Q. Were you still on a course west or southwest towards the Gulf when this attack was delivered?
A. I was on a course for LEYTE Bay. The conclusion from our gunfire and anti-aircraft fire during the day had led me to believe in my uselessness, my ineffectual position, if I proceeded into LEYTE Bay where I would come under even heavier aircraft attack. I therefore concluded to go north and join Admiral OZAWA for coordinated action against your northern Task Forces.
Q. About what time did you make this decision and start north?
A. I think about 10 or 11 o'clock. From that time on I steamed north.
Q. You think, then, that it was about two hours after you broke off the attack on our carriers there that you finally turned north? Is that correct?
A. About two hours; anyway less than three hours. I am not sure about the exact hour.
Q. You said you expected very heavy air attacks inside the Gulf. From what source?
A. From land-based planes, on LEYTE.
Q. You believed at that time that we had planes operating from LEYTE?
A. I was convinced that your aircraft planes had gone to LEYTE after the attacks upon my fleet. I therefore expected that they would bring us under heavy attack if we entered the Bay. I did not know whether there were normally land-based planes situated there but I knew there were fields there and there might be.
Q. Did you have knowledge of any other American aircraft carriers in this neighborhood, that is, except those with whom you had had a battle already?
A. I thought I had seen a mast or masts to the east, which was the only guess I had that there might be other carriers in the vicinity. I knew of nothing to the south. We were listening in on your Communications at that time, at the opening of the original battle. We intercepted a message which said "We are under attack by Japanese ships, hasten with aid," and for two hours, we heard the message that it was useless. From the assistance that had been called, we heard the reply that it would take two hours to render aid.
Q. What type of aid did you think was referred to?
A. I didn't know where any other aid was but understood from the message that it was air aid.
Q. Was it this aid promised in two hours which you expected to hit you inside the Gulf -- was that part of the reason you did not enter the Gulf?
A. Yes, that is one reason. It had gotten very late too; that is, the schedule was very much delayed because of the engagement.
Q. As far as fuel and ammunition went, were you in satisfactory condition to enter the Gulf?
A. There was no consideration for fuel. There was no consideration for how to get home. We had enough ammunition.
Q. You had enough to take on these battleships you expected inside?
Q. In the course of that morning's engagement, had you received any information from either Admiral NISHIMURA or Admiral OZAWA?
A. No information.
Q. Then at the time you turned north you did not know what had happened in SURIGAO Strait the night before?
A. No. I had no wireless information or intelligence of any sort. I therefore sent up two planes from the YAMATO, one to go over the SURIGAO Strait area, the other to scout to the north. Neither brought any information.
Q. Did the planes return?
A. They landed ashore and never came back to the ship. Not a word. There was a message from the one that went to the north saying that he had seen nothing. There was no message from the one that went through the SURIGAO Strait area.
Q. Did you have any information as to Admiral OZAWA's operations in the north from anyone else?
A. Sometime during the day -- I do not remember when -- I received word from Admiral OZAWA. The message did not come from OZAWA but I received intelligence by wireless -- I do not know the source -- that Admiral OZAWA had become engaged and damaged and was intending a night torpedo attack upon your formation; that he was going to change his flagship but he did not name the ship. The extent of damage that OZAWA's fleet had sustained was not known to me.
Q. Do you remember if you received this information decision, I concluded it was best to go north or afterwards? . .
A. After I changed the course to north.
Q. So that the reason for changing course to the north was the threat of a heavy air attack if you entered the Gulf, is that correct?
A. It wasn't a question of destruction that was neither here nor there. It was a question of what good I could do in the Bay. I concluded that under the heavy attack from ship and shore-based planes, I could not be effective. Therefore, on my own decision, I concluded it was best to go north and join Admiral OZAWA.
Q. Was this alternative plan provided for in the original plans, or was it a decision of the moment only?
A. The decision was a momentary one. I sent a report to Admiral OZAWA that I had turned north and would be able to coordinate my attack with the night destroyer torpedo attack which I learned Admiral OZAWA was going to make, which I had learned from other sources.
Q. You are sure that Admiral OZAWA did intend to make such an attack?
A. I did not get that from Admiral OZAWA. I got the news of it that such an attack was intended. I had the distinct impression that Admiral OZAWA was going to launch that night attack and I myself, coming north, was determined to help and if I didn't find anything up in here, I would withdraw through SAN BERNARDINO Strait. .
Q. Did you not feel on this northern trip that you would be brought under heavy attack there from our task force in that region?
A. I concluded to do it, no matter what come from the north.
Q. Well, I wanted to get the distinction between an air attack here and an air attack there. Why did you prefer this one?
A. It is the same under attack in either case; but I would be no good here while I might by coordination assist up there in the north.
Q. Do you mean that you felt it more profitable to attack our Task Force than to attack our transport invasion shipping in the Gulf?
A. In the narrow confines of LEYTE Gulf I couldn't use the advantage that ships have of maneuvering, whereas I would be a more useful force under the same attack with the advantage of maneuver in the open sea.
Q. Yes, but was there a choice of targets involved?
A. By the time the question arose, your landing had been confirmed and I therefor considered it not so important as it would have been before.
Q. (Admiral Ofstie), Admiral KURITA, when you came through SAN BERNARDINO, why did you attack the carriers and delay your movement rather than going on down the coast of SAMAR directly to LEYTE Gulf?
A. I thought that the course I actually took was the best course for LEYTE and I encountered your force in the way. That is, closer to shore was not the best course for LEYTE.
Q. (Lt. Comdr. Field). What speed did you take when you started north?
A. 20 when we saw no enemy planes -- 24 whenever we saw enemy planes.
Q. Did you receive other air attacks while moving north?
A. I think it is about 11 times that I was under attack from the air on the way north.
Q. On what scale were the attacks?
A. 40 or 50 plane attacks, both bombing and torpedo.
Q. Did these attacks inflict serious damage?
A. It was at that time that the bulges got perforated and all the major ships were trailing oil. The ability of the ships wasn't seriously interfered with but they left a long conspicuous trail of oil in the water. There was no vital damage to any ship. They could maintain speed and they were able for battle all the way through it.
Q. What course did you take going north? Did you sweep around here? Could you draw the course on the chart.
A. I do not remember the precise course.
Q. Well, approximately. Were you headed for Admiral OZAWA or were you headed for SAN BERNARDINO?
A. My intention was not primarily to join Admiral OZAWA but to go north and seek out the enemy. If I failed to find the enemy, having reached here (indicating about 13Æ’20'N) my intention was to go north and seek out the enemy but to be able to retire through SAN BERNARDINO Strait at dark.
Q. You did not then plan to coordinate with Admiral OZAWA in a night battle?
A. I considered my mission to go north and seek out your carrier Task Force and bring it under engagement with the assumption that Admiral OZAWA to the north would thereby be assisted by it. But it was not to join forces with Admiral OZAWA. Secondarily or overall, I wanted to be at SAN BERNARDINO at sunset to get through and as far to the west as possible during the night.
Q. If you planned to be there by dark, surely you could not get very far north?
A. No, I didn't know how far. I thought perhaps Admiral OZAWA's action might lead them to be in my path if we went through quickly that afternoon.
Q. Did you have any information as to their location?
A. I had no information.
Q. Did you expect American forces in this area to come south in answer to the calls for help which you mentioned earlier?
A. Yes, that is right. I also thought that the engagement with Admiral OZAWA might produce them in my path.
Q. When you turned north at eleven or twelve o'clock, was the governing consideration to reach there by dark or to attack our forces? Which was the more important?
A. The point was the immediate objective to hit the enemy. I won't say which was more important; because if I did not get into the Straits by night, the next day was hopeless for me because I could be brought under attack by land planes and by this force. When I got about this area, (indicating about 12Â°30'N) I found Japanese airplane flying over this area so I thought that the American forces might be located about this area and I tried to seek out the American forces but couldn't find them.
Q. If you found American forces, you then would have stayed to fight and not bothered about being here by dark, is that correct?
A. Yes. If I could attack American forces about this area, I would abandon that decision to get to the Straits by dark.
Q. While traveling north did you receive any instruction from Admiral TOYODA?
A. No instructions.
Q. No intelligence from Admiral NISHIMURA?
A. No instructions. I did receive, during that northward course, information as to what had happened to NISHIMURA; that it was not good; but no instructions from TOYODA.
Q. Is it correct then to say that the decision to proceed north here and the decision to proceed west here (indicating) were both dictated by fear of air attack; in the first case, air attack inside the narrow gulf, in the second case, air attack the next day? Is that correct?
A. Going north with the hope of encountering the enemy and keeping touch, but with the intention of making this by sunset if I did not encounter the enemy, in order to withdraw clear back to my base because I was low on fuel.
Q. Was the decision to pass through SAN BERNARDINO Strait by dark due to shortage of fuel for further operations or due to fear of air attack while in this area (indicating SIBUYAN SEA) the next day? Which was the governing consideration?
A. It was primarily fuel. Furthermore, if and when brought under air attack on the following day in the passage through the islands, I would have to use extra fuel in dodging and maneuvering. Therefore, the fuel was very important consideration; the basic one.
Q. Did you have any knowledge of a plan to use Kamikaze attacks by land-based aircraft in the LEYTE Area on that day?
A. I had no connection with Kamikaze; neither had I heard anything about the Kamikaze method; but I now believe that after I had left my base, the Kamikaze first came under planning. As I understood it, my operation was without regard to land-based planes and that developments separate from my activities governed the beginning of the Kamikaze sort of operation. The Kamikaze method was used because the fleet was attacking here with few planes. So to aid this operation, they planned for Kamikaze. Fundamentally, because the fleet action was not a success.
Q. At the time you were fighting off SAMAR you had no knowledge of Kamikaze?
A. I did not know anything of that. It was developed from the shore-based plane units, the Kamikaze; as assistance to a situation which as far as the fleet was concerned, had not been a success.
Q. Did you receive any communication from Admiral TOYODA during the late afternoon, while passing through here?
A. No communication from TOYODA.
(Interrogation adjourned 1200; upon reconvening at 1330, Admiral KURITA was joined by Captain OHMAE.)
Q. Captain OHMAE, this morning we discussed the battle down here on the 25th, and when we stopped for lunch, we had just gotten the Admiral back to SAN BERNARDINO Straits. Were you in this action?
A. Yes, I was on the flagship of Admiral OZAWA's forces. There was no coordination intended on the afternoon of the 25th.
Q. Admiral, on the next day, on the 26th, did you receive more air attacks while retiring through the SIBUYAN SEA?
A. From about 8 o'clock on, received three attacks.
Q. Where were you at that time, near TABLAS?
A. Southeast of MINDORO. B-24s were the third attack: the first two attacks were search planes, carrier planes.
Q. What damage was done in each attack?
A. In the first attack, one torpedo hit on the NOSHIRO. The NOSHIRO was stopped dead in the water from the first attack, torpedo, and was therefore bombed and sunk in the second attack.
Q. Was there any other damage in the first attack?
A. Something happened to the stern of one of the destroyers, but I don't know what. That is the entire damage from all three attacks.
Q. In the first attack, the NOSHIRO had a torpedo hit which stopped her, and that is all that happened in the first attack?
A. That is correct.
Q. In the second attack, the NOSHIRO was hit by bombs and sunk, and that is all that happened, in the second attack?
Q. The third attack was by B-24s; no hits at all?
A. They were using very large bombs and there were no hits.
Q. Was it a heavy attack, many planes, the third one?
A. 24 planes.
Q. Were there any damaging near misses?
A. There were some very near misses but not to do any appreciable damage to the ships.
Q. Where did your force then retire, to what port?
A. The destroyers fueled north at CORON; the ether ships without fueling went on around to BRUNEI where the destroyer joined them later. The tankers and destroyers came under air attack later on and some of the destroyers were sunk in the area of CORON and one tanker, having received one hit, fled away to the northwest. One tanker was sunk. in BALABAC Passage and the other escaped in PAITAN Bay. The first was sunk by submarine torpedo; the other was damaged by one submarine torpedo.
Q. These were the tankers that had followed your force and were in the SULU SEA during the action, is that correct?
A. Yes. When the fleet went up, the order was issued to return to BRUNEI. When passing the BALABAC Passage, each was torpedoed by submarine.
Q. Would you tell us very briefly what were the subsequent movements of your fleet? Where did you go? What did you do?
A. Fueling, loading ammunition, and repairing in BRUNEI. The orders for that came from Headquarters; also that would be hospitalized.
Q. Did the fleet stay at BRUNEI or did it go to SINGAPORE?
A. Most of the ships returned to the INLAND SEA.
Q. Reaching there about what time?
A. About the end of November, arriving in the INLAND SEA.
Q. Now, in general, covering this whole operation, do you feel that your communications were satisfactory?
A. I thought that the communications were not entirely adequate partly because, when I switched my flag from the ATAGO to the YAMATO, communications personnel were divided between two destroyers, one of which had to accompany the TAKAO back to BRUNEI, and for that reason I consider that the communications were not adequate.
Q. Did you receive as much information about our forces throughout this operation as you expected?
A. From the first, I did not think I was getting enough.
Q. To what do you attribute that failure of information?
A. I thought it was not a matter of communications but of scouting.
Q. Had there been any planned arrangements for you to receive information gathered by land-based planes in the PHILIPPINES?
A. There had been a plan, but no specific orders providing for it at that time.
Q. Now did you receive any?
A. I received information from the land-based planes, but I don't remember in detail which communication received or when.
Q. Was it of importance or value to you?
A. Yes, it was very important. All the information received about the location of your carrier forces came from land-based stations.
Q. Was it precise, or did you at that time think it precise?
A. I thought it was. That was on the 24th.
Q. Do you remember where our carrier forces were reported?
A. The information that I had from land-based planes on the 24th indicated that American carriers were east of LUZON and about 18 degrees north.
Q. You spoke of using your battleship scout planes to provide you with information. Was that your intention from the beginning of the operation, or was it a last resort due to failure of other methods?
A. The commanding officer of this detachment (indicating SAN JOSE, MINDORO) made a plan to search this area but I didn't know the plan precisely; but anyway I received no information about the American fleet, only that force east of LUZON.
Q. So you used the planes from the YAMATO. But did you expect to have to use battleship planes?
A. Because they were observation planes, I did not send them out on scouting until at this point when I turned. I sent out in three directions at that time. I had about 12 planes for search purposes which I might have used out here going north except that they had been damaged in previous action from air bombing and gunfire. I had also sent them off in order to avoid own gun blast.
Q. Did the original plan for this operation contemplate that you would use your own scout planes that way or was information to be gained from land-based planes?
A. The plan was to receive information from the Air Forces and if I wanted to search on my own, I would, send my own airplanes.
Q. Did you send your own to search or just for spotting gunfire?
A. All scouting was sent from land but for a suspicious place I would send my own planes for limited scouting,
Q. From what you said this morning we gathered that you received no early report from Admiral OZAWA or Admiral NISHIMURA about their actions. Did you expect more ample reports? Did you expect full, prompt reports?
A. (Capt. OHMAE) This northern fleet sent three or four reports to TOKYO and to the 2nd Fleet but for some reason they were not received, at TOKYO or by the 2nd Fleet on the 24th. I think that these important reports were the reason for the unsuccessful operation. Four messages were sent on the 24th from the Japanese 3rd Fleet to TOKYO and to the 2nd Fleet. They were not received and I think the lack of success of the entire operation depended upon that failure of communication.
Q. Admiral KURITA, in relation to Admiral NISHIMURA's force, apparently you received no good reporting from them. Do you know why?
A. I don't know. The 2nd Fleet did not receive that.
Q. Did you. receive any information from Admiral NISHIMURA?
A. As I said this morning he was under air attack. He sent three massages; one that he was under air attack, that he was under torpedo boat attack, and one saying that he will be delayed getting into LEYTE GULF. Perhaps I received some other messages thereafter but I don't remember.
Q. Do you remember when you heard the results of the battle in the Strait? When did you receive news of what happened in the battle there?
A. About 11 o'clock. I did not receive any direct report but got word which made me think that it had been a failure, about 11 o'clock of the following day.
Q. And from whom did that message come and what was the substance?
A. I think it was from a destroyer with Admiral NISHIMURA.
Q. Did it give specific details of the action, of damage suffered and damage inflicted?
A. It was very serious; that there were very serious fires, but no details. They were very short messages. It seems that the source had not actually seen the action or the results.
Q. Did this report of the action of Admiral NISHIMURA have any influence on your decision not to enter the Gulf?
A. I did know, when I made that decision at, 11 o'clock on the following day, that the NISHIMURA action was a failure.
Q. Was that a reason contributing to your decision?
A. I did not know where the NISHIMURA fleet had met disaster, whether it was in LEYTE Bay, in the passage, or where. Therefore, it did not influence my decision.
Q. How often in the course of the engagement did you send reports to Admiral TOYODA? That is, did you send a regular series at 'stated' times or only when something important happened? About how many reports did you send?
A. Not at a fixed time. For example, when we were brought under observation, air attack or gunfire I instantly reported to the Combined Fleet. When in sight of enemy forces I used radio but when not located by enemy forces, I did not use radio.
Q. Why did not Admiral NISHIMURA make further reports when he was in this action in the south?
A. Thinking about it afterwards, I cannot say why he didn't. I don't think that Admiral NISHIMURA knew the, extent of damage to his fleet because the sea is very narrow. The area was confined so he, didn't send any message, I supposed.
Q. Admiral NISHIMURA was under your direction; should he have reported what was happening?
A. I think that Admiral NISHIMURA could not observe the condition because of the confined waters in which he was maneuvering. I don't know why he did not report more, other than that guess now.
Q. Captain OHMAE, did you have a special communication channel between the three admirals and Admiral TOYODA, a special channel for important messages, a special frequency?
A. Yes, I think there was a high command channel.
Q. Admiral, do you remember about how long it took to send a message to Admiral TOYODA and to receive a reply?
A. About 30 minutes. Sometimes long and sometimes very short, but when I passed here (indicating 250000 sortie from SAN BERNARDINO Strait) he returned the answer in a minimum of about 30 minutes.
Q. That message was in code naturally, wasn't it?
Q. If 30 minutes was the minimum, what was the longest delay? Was 30 minutes exceptionally good?
A. It was very good.
Q. What did you usually expect?
A. The messages were some times long in the number of words but anyway I didn't expect to receive answers so quickly. The exact time I don't remember. In my opinion it takes usually about three hours for an urgent message to get a reply.
Q. Admiral, in your opinion, was the general plan for this operation, the Japanese plan, the best. that could have been made at that time with the forces available?
A. I think that was the best plan which we could apply but not the best theoretical plan. According to your question, I think it was the best plan under the conditions.
Q. You said this morning that in this operation you were prepared to accept 50% losses in ships. What did you expect to gain in exchange for that 50%?
A. About the intention in my mind was, for that price, to succeed in damaging one-half of all your ships in LEYTE Bay.
Q. Did you expect to stop the landings before they could be completed or to destroy the supply of shipping and thus isolate the troops ashore, or to destroy our fighting ships?
A. Only to delay the landing for two or three days. It was to achieve a temporary delay of landing progress.
Q. How were you going to exploit this delay?
A. It was then a limited objective, to delay that particular landing for two or three days. We could do nothing about succeeding landings, not having enough strength.
Q. Your purpose was to attack the landing ships and the transports and cargo ships rather than the fighting ships?
Q. Any choice?
A. Combatant ships; if both were present I would engage the battleships.
Q. What particular thing or event do you believe caused this operation to fail? What was the main cause of the failure of the operation?
A. The lack of planes, either for search or for attack, overall.
Q. Was that lack known in advance when you set out on the operation, or did you then believe you had sufficient planes?
A. It was understood from the beginning, before the plan was put into operation, that we did not have enough.
Q. What chance of success did you believe there was in beginning the operation?
A. I thought that it would be useful only if the land-based troops had a piece of luck.
(Captain OHMAE) When this whole plan was in TOKYO at that time, we thought that there wasn't such a good chance but if we did nothing, the whole PHILIPPINES would be seized. So we had to do something and we did our best. It was the last chance we had, although not a very good one.
Q. Admiral, you said you had knowledge that there were not enough planes in advance. From whom did you receive that information? Was it in the Operation Plan or did you receive a message from Admiral TOYODA, or what was the source of that knowledge?
A. I knew it from my own knowledge that there weren't enough for such a operation. I did not receive any word from headquarters to that effect.
Q. What do you think was the cause of that lack of planes?
A. Considering it after the war, I think perhaps it was failure of production, transportation, and lack of pilots.
Q. Did you have an opinion at that time which was different?
A. Nothing, except to try to do my best with the supplies that we could get.
Q. (Admiral Ofstie) What was the principal agent for the loss of Japanese air power?
A. Sudden attacks from your carrier task forces everywhere prevented or injured our air operations; and second, submarine attacks on our transportation system (of aeroplanes and fuels), including the transportation of supplies to manufacturing plants.
Q. Referring to the Battle of the CORAL SEA in May 1942, do you have an opinion as to what effect that had on subsequent Japanese strategy or strength?
A. I have not given it specific study but I think it had no great effect.
Q. The same thing with respect to the Battle of MIDWAY?
A. The Battle of MIDWAY had effect precisely to the extent of the loss of new carriers. That was the effect on future operations.
Q. The same question referring to the long period down in the SOUTH PACIFIC, the RABAUL-GUADALCANAL Area; the naval losses there for a period of 6 months perhaps.
A. Because of the attrition and loss of planes and destroyers having effect upon escorting supply ships, all operations therefore suffered.
Q. What was the relative effect, in order of their importance, of the loss of naval vessels, loss of naval air strength, and the loss of merchant shipping?
A. Loss of air strength was the worst. There is a great gap between that and the next. It is by far the most important. It depends upon the circumstances, without saying which is the more important, the loss of merchant shipping or naval vessels.
Q. Admiral KURITA, do you believe that you were kept well informed of the American strength and the losses as the war went along?
A. I received a great deal of official information about American losses but I myself reduced that to about a half.
Q. In your opinion, was the information you received any more accurate from either the Japanese Army or the Japanese Navy?
A. At the beginning of the war I thought that naval intelligence about your losses was the better but as the war continued I thought the two services were about equal in the inaccuracy of information, particularly from air, in that there was repetition on the same item. Therefore, I added up the reports and divided them by two for total damage.
Q. Did you have specific information on the loss in 1942 of the LEXINGTON, WASP, HORNET and the YORKTOWN at that time?
A. I did not have precise information. I saw the burning and sinking of one of them and thought it might be the HORNET, off GUADALCANAL, SANTA CRUZ, at night.
Q. Were you able to put any people on board the HORNET? Did you board the HORNET or did you fire any torpedoes into it?
A. Two American destroyers were shooting at the HORNET. I was on the KONGO at the time. My own ship did nothing. I don't know whether somebody put a torpedo in her or not.
Q. About how long after the destroyers finished shooting did she sink?
A. I don't know how long afterwards. It was still at night that she sank. I heard the noise, the sound of her destroyers firing, as I thought, into the HQRNET, and we approached indirectly and they fled. That was my impression.
Q. What is your personal opinion of the basic planning of the Japanese Naval General Staff?
A. I didn't know very much about it but I thought that there wasn't a sure touch, a sure treatment of plan making. The planning lacked a sureness of touch.
Q. At what stage in the war did you feel that the balance had swung over against you?
Q. What was the actual bore of the YAMATO guns?
A. I never knew, it was very secret, about 45 centimeters I think. Neither did I know the maximum speed of the YAMATO. But in formation she was going 26 knots. ww2dbase
United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Interrogation of Japanese Officials [OPNAV-P-03-100], courtesy of ibilio Hyperwar Project
C. Peter Chen
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943