TOKYO 19 October 1945
Interrogation of: Captain YAMAOKA, M., IJN, Operations Officer, Staff 5th Air Flotilla at Battle of CORAL SEA, 7-8 May 1942.
Interrogated by: Captain C. Shands, USN.
- Two task units were in CORAL SEA, 7-8 May. Shoho (sunk) Unit consisted of transports to occupy PORT MORESBY. Shokaku (damaged) and Zuikaku were to support operations, intercept American ships and to attack TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA, where U.S. planes and Army were being disembarked. Interception by U.S. Carrier Task Force thwarted plans which were later abandoned. The resultant damage to Japanese CV's weakened air strength at MIDWAY, contributing to annihilation of Japanese Carrier Force and failure to capture MIDWAY, 4-6 June 1942.
- Tribute to Marines at WAKE, December 1942.
- Admiral YAMAMOTO shot down and killed in airplane enroute BUIN.
- Japanese started night carrier operations about 1933.
Q. Were you in the SOLOMON Area during the Battle of CORAL SEA, 7-8 May 1942?
A.Yes, I was on the Zuikaku, which was the flagship, serving as staff officer of the Fifth Air Flotilla.
Q. What was the mission of the Shoho?
A. The mission of the Shoho was: first, to defend the transport ships in its task force going to PORT MORESBY; and secondly, to scout for submarines.
Q. At what distance were the anti-submarine patrols maintained, and what type planes used?
A. About 15 miles. Fighters were used. Torpedo planes were used for scouting at the same time.
Q. How many planes did the Shoho carry?
A. 12 Zero fighters and about 9 to 12 torpedo planes. The Shoho isn't a main aircraft carrier.
Q. Were any land-based planes employed in this action?
A. Yes, RABAUL based planes. It was the 25th Land-Based Air Flotilla; 50 to 60 fighters, Zero Type, 30 to 40 bomber planes. They attacked cruisers.
Q. Were any planes operated from TULAGI?
A. Yes, TULAGI was prepared as a seaplane base for operation against PORT MORESBY. DEBOINE and TULAGI are the seaplane bases which were used against PORT MORESBY.
Q. What was the mission of the Shokaku and Zuikaku and their task force?
A. The mission of those two aircraft carriers was first to defend the PORT MORESBY attacking group. The second mission was to attack the American Fleet which was expected to appear on the scene; and the third, to make and air raid on TOWNSVILLE and to destroy American and Australian planes and ships that were being delivered there.
Q. When did you first receive information regarding the location of our American force?
A. On the 4th of May, TULAGI was attacked by your planes. I was to the north of TULAGI at the time with the 6th Squadron, which was composed of Shokaku, Zuikaku, Naka, Haguro, seven destroyers and one tanker.
Q. Do you know what damage was incurred at TULAGI?
A. I am not certain. I heard that several small torpedo boats were damaged and sunk; one destroyer and one minelayer received mediocre damage. No seaplane tender present. The damaged destroyer was beached and then later swept out by the tide and sank. (Name: Kikuzuki)
Q. What planes were destroyed?
A. Two or three seaplanes were damaged.
Q. Was the minelayer sunk or damaged?
A. It was damaged by near misses and one hit. It sailed to SHORTLAND where it was repaired.
Q. How did you first know the location of the American force?
A. Following the attack on TULAGI we knew the force was in the general area. The exact location wasn't known, but it was expected that American carriers, battleships and possibly some British forces were in the CORAL SEA. After our attack on the tanker and destroyer the morning of the 7th of June [sic] and your attack on Shoho about 4 p.m., we sent out a dusk attack of about 27 bombers and torpedo planes to attack the American carrier force. They did not find it although searched for almost 300 miles. Finally they jettisoned their bombs and torpedoes and returned to their own carriers. While returning they passed over the American carrier at night. Some planes mistook the American force for the Japanese carriers, turned on their lights and tried to land before they realized their mistake. Then all planes returned to the Japanese carriers/ About ten planes were lost during this flight.
Q. Why did you attack our tanker (Neosho) and destroyer (Sims) instead of our carrier force during the morning of 7 May?
A. Our scouting planes from the Shokaku and Zuikaku erroneously reported the tanker group as the American carrier group; therefore, the Japanese carrier planes attacked them instead of the American carriers.
Q. Did you have radar at that time?
Q. Do you know how close the two forces were that night?
A. We thought that they were about 40 miles south of our force and did not want to have a night action; therefore retired to the north, intending to attack your force in the morning. I wanted to attack your force that night' but we did not know how many ships you had, so it was decided not to attack until morning.
Q. Had your pilots been trained to land on the carriers at night?
A. Yes, about 2/3 of all pilots were thoroughly trained at night.
Q. When did you first start night carrier operations?
A. About 1933.
Q. Was one carrier used for night operation or did you have pilots on each carrier?
A. Each carrier had a few night pilots at first, then increased. About 2/3 of all pilots on each carrier were thoroughly trained in night carrier operation. About 1/3 were familiar but not so well trained.
Q. How did you land at night?
A. We used a green and red light which were lined up for a flight path to come aboard. We also used a signalman.
Q. Did he control the speed during the landing?
A. No, after a night battle, only signal used was O.K. and should land, or that he was not O.K. and should be waved off; in which case he made another approach. During the training more signals were used to indicate speed and altitude. These signals were given by blinker guns at night.
Q. What accidents incurred in training?
A. Thorough basic training was given at night on land; therefore, we had very few accidents in night landings aboard ship.
Q. How as the Shoho sunk?
A. Damaged by dive-bombers but sunk by torpedoes. It capsized. More than five torpedoes hit and many bombs.
Q. Were many personnel lost?
A. About 200 out of 800 were rescued by destroyers. If they had more destroyers more personnel would have been saved.
Q. How was the Shokaku damaged?
A. About mid-morning on the 8th two bombs hit -- one, well forward on the port bow; second, well aft on the starboard quarter. The first bomb forward set the gasoline afire and destroyed anchor windlass room. The second bomb destroyed the airplane motor repair room. As result of the first hit, the flight deck was badly damaged and we were unable to launch planes; however, we were able to land them aboard; following the bomb hits, four planes landed aboard and later the fire was put out. In the torpedo attack on both the Zuikaku and Shokaku, the torpedoes were launched at too great a range permitting both carriers to avoid them. Slow torpedoes and long range. We could turn and run away from them.
Q. Where did the remaining planes go?
A. Some of them went to Zuikaku. Two landed at seaplane bases and the pilots recovered. Five or six planes made a forced landing in the water near carriers. The pilots were recovered by destroyers.
Q. Was the Zuikaku attacked?
A. Yes, but no damage. Bombs missed, torpedoes launched far away, easily avoided.
Q. Following the damage, where did the carriers go for repairs?
A. Shokaku went to KURE for repairs. The Zuikaku went to TRUK.
Q. About how many planes were lost in the entire operation?
A. 30 planes and 30 pilots and plane crew.
Q. What effect did the losses in this battle have on current and future plans?
A. We gave up the plan to attack PORT MORESBY by sea. The army desired to take PORT MORESBY so attempted to capture by land from BUNA Area. These carriers were to take part in MIDWAY occupation, but due to damage were unable to participate. This weakened our air striking force at MIDWAY.
Q. Were any ME-109's in that battle?
A. No. No Messerschmitt planes in Japanese Navy.
Q. Did you know how much damage was done to our carriers?
A. More than six torpedoes hit on the Lexington, more than eight bombs hit; two torpedoes hit the Yorktown.
Q. Which type of attack did you most fear?
A. Dive-bombing; because it is difficult to avoid.
Q. Were you present when the Japanese captured WAKE in December 1941?
A. Not at the island. I was returning from PEARL HARBOR attack. On the way home from HAWAII, 2 carriers were ordered to assist in the attack on WAKE Island. I don't know what specific forces were in the WAKE Island attack group. Our planes did not see them. We just bombed the island while enroute to JAPAN.
Q. What ships were lost at WAKE?
A. Two destroyers hit the reef and were subsequently dive-bombed and shelled from the beach.
Q. What military personnel were lost during the landing at WAKE Island?
A. None of the Navy, but severe losses were suffered in the Navy Special Landing Force. Our Navy admires the ability and courage of the pilots and fighters that defended WAKE in the operation. The airplane pilots were very brave and skillful
Q. What was the purpose of capturing WAKE?
A. One, to seize it because it was held by the Americans; and the other reason, to use it for a base from which to scout and search that area.
Q. Did the American raids on WAKE Island do any damage?
A. On the 6th and 7th October 1943 between 500 and 600 planes bombed WAKE. At the same time 10 cruisers and destroyers bombarded the island, resulting in losses of more than 300 personnel. The installations above the ground were almost completely destroyed. That I learned from a person who came back from WAKE.
Q. How was Admiral YAMAMOTO killed?
A. Shot down while flying in a two-engine bomber to BUIN. Five or six of his staff officers, including the Chief of Staff and the Chief Medical Officer of the fleet, were killed at the same time.
Q. In the opinion of the Japanese pilots was there any difference in the American Army and Navy pilots or planes?
A. Both good. Generally, carrier pilots are more skillful. Army planes a little faster.
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