TOKYO 20 October 1945
Interrogation of: Commander MATSUURA, Goro, IJN; a military pilot of 1800 hours flying experience and 17 years Naval experience, Staff officer of Flotilla No. 22 in the MARSHALLS, and MARIANAS, October 1943 to February 1944; and Staff officer of Central Pacific Fleet in the MARIANAS, March 1944 to May 1944.
Interrogated by: Captain Steadman Teller, USN.
Allied Officers Present: Captain T.J. Hedding, USN.
U.S. raids on GILBERT-MARSHALL Air Bases during the months preceding our invasion and the carrier aircraft raid on Wake, 5 October 1943, had so reduced the Japanese bomber strength in this area that daily air searches were drastically limited. Although reinforcements were brought in from other areas, including hard-pressed RABAUL, this situation was not materially improved and resulted in our carrier forces achieving surprise in many raids.
The first U.S. carrier attack on the MARIANAS, 22 February 1944, caught the Japanese with several important fields still under construction and with a large proportion of students among their pilots. The air strength in the MARIANAS was built up rapidly between February and the end of May 1944.
Q. What was the distribution of aircraft in the MARSHALLS-GILBERTS, about 1 November 1943?
A. About 40 bombers, 30 fighters, 5 flying boats, total 75 aircraft. In TAROA 8 bombers, 20 fighters. At JALUIT only 5 flying boats; land maintenance, no seaplane tender. At MILLE, 18 dive bombers--half Type 99, half Type 96. The 22nd Flotilla was the only air organization in the MARSHALLS-GILBERTS.
Q. Was this level of aircraft strength maintained in November and December or was it increased or decreased?
A. 25th of November ,24th Air Flotilla (40 bombers, 30 fighters) arrived from HOKKAIDO and the KURILES. From RABAUL, 18 fighters. Also single engine bomber-torpedo planes arrive in last part of November.
Q. Where was your headquarters?
A. TRUK, No. 4 field.
Q. Was the 24th Air Flotilla under command of the 22nd while in the MARSHALLS?
A. Yes, 24th was under 22nd until the 5th of December, when the 22nd Air Flotilla left the MARSHALLS for the MARIANAS with nine bombers.
Q. What was the plan for defending the MARSHALL-GILBERT ISLANDS from U.S. Attack in November?
A. The plan was fighters covering the area over the islands and to 50 miles out, and bombing planes going to attack your forces at dawn.
Q. Did you know of any plan for the fleet to come up from TRUK and defend these islands from U.S. Forces seeking to land there?
A. No. However, on 2 December a part of the fleet came from TRUK to the MARSHALLS, the main body to ENIWETOK. I saw them .Four cruisers at WOTJE and some destroyers.
Q. What type of ships and how many came to ENIWETOK? How long did they stay?
A. Four battleships, eight cruisers, 12 destroyers. On December 3, the above named ships arrived at KWAJALEIN but immediately departed for ENIWETOK again. I think the fleet stayed in ENIWETOK a very short time and soon left for TRUK.
Q. From where and to what distances did your scout planes fly?
A. Bombers were used. The scouting was limited to four planes daily in a sector between limiting bearings approximately 060 and 110 degrees from TAROA Island to a distance of 600 or 700 miles. They had no radar.
Q. Was that the only daily scouting from any of the MARSHALL-GILBERT ISLANDS?
A. Yes, only TAROA.
Q. How and where did you discover the first American Force in the MARSHALL-GILBERT Action?
A. On the 16th of November, orders were received by an air unit based at WOTJE to proceed to NAURU and perform scouting operations to the usual 600 mile radius between limiting 135°-180°. At 0300 in the morning of the 19th, 3 planes found the American Fleet.
Q. Was that the day before the U.S. Force attacked NAURU?
A. The very day. Two carriers, one large and one small, and other surface escorts were sighted at this time. The information was radioed to RUOT (KWAJALEIN), which broadcast the report. This was the first American force sighted in the area.
Q. Did you lose any planes during the attack on NAURU?
A. During the carrier attack on NAURU on the 19th, two fighters and three bombers on the ground were damaged. The three bombers which had scouted that morning returned safely to NAURU.
Q. What attacks did you make then on this American force?
A. The attack on the U.S. Force, which had attacked NAURU, was made by eight torpedo planes on the afternoon of the day of the attack. One torpedo hit was claimed and three or four torpedo planes were lost in this attack.
Q. When did you sight the next American force in the MARSHALL-GILBERT ISLANDS?
A. The next force was sighted southeast of TARAWA between 7 and 8, morning of the 20th and was reported as four cargo ships at 20 knots steaming toward TARAWA.
Q. Did your planes attack an American force on 21 November, west of TARAWA?
A. Yes, about 16 planes. The time was sunset. We caught three carriers--one big, one medium, one small--with planes circling to land. We lost 8 planes in this attack.
Q. Did you stage your planes form northern bases, through islands like MILLE to the objective?
A. These came direct 600 miles from WOTJE.
Q. What was the effect on your bases of the carrier raids on 18, 19, and 20 November against MILLE, KWAJALEIN, JALUIT?
A. During the attack on JALUIT, 19 November three seaplanes (flying boats) damaged, one cargo vessel sunk.
Q. What was the most serious form of air attack against your planes and bases; high-level bombing, low-level bombing, strafing?
A. Low-level medium attack plane, B-25, was most effective particularly because the radar could not detect it in time. Its high speed precented successful fighter interception.
Q. When did you discontinue full coverage by scouting planes of the approaches to the MARSHALL-GILBERT ISLANDS?
A. After WAKE was attacked on 5 October 1943. At that time aircraft strength became so low we had only 12 planes left and were forced to confine our scouting operations to one sector.
Q. How many aircraft did you lose on WAKE in the 5 October attack?
A. 12 bombers, 10 fighters.
Q. Did you know that there was going to be an attack on KWAJALEIN, 4 December?
A. We sighted one TBF airplane between KWAJALEIN and TARAWA and assumed attack was coming. Two or three bombers were dispatched on 3 December to find the American Task Force but were unsuccessful.
Q. Did our night fighters interfere with your might torpedo attacks?
A. At this time, the night fighters did not bother us very much because there weren't many fighters. Later, night torpedo attacks were made very difficult due to night fighters.
Q. How was tactical control exercised over night torpedo attack groups?
A. Tactical instructions were relayed from the base to the senior pilot. The senior pilot was allowed to adjust his tactics to the situation, if he saw that the orders received from the base did not provide the best means of attack in that particular situation.
Q. When we attacked TRUK on 17 February 1944, you apparently were caught by surprise. Did you not have an effective air search?
A. Our scouting plane was shot down. That plane should have notified TRUK but by the very fact it didn't return, we figured a Task Force was on its way.
Q. Were you in the MARIANAS on 22 February 1944, when the U.S. Carrier Force attacked?
A. I was in TINIAN on 22 February with the 22nd Air Flotilla. We found an American Task Force at 1400 on the 21st about 300 miles east of TINIAN. We made a torpedo attack with 20 planes before you hit the MARIANAS and lost 15 of them.
Q. Why did your planes attack by one, two's, three's and not coordinated as in the MARSHALLS?
A. We were delayed n getting the planes off and had to send them in three waves of 8, 6 and 6.
Q. Was there any training in the MARIANAS at that time? If so, what were the proportions of experienced pilots and students?
A. Of the torpedo plane pilots in the MARIANAS at this time, the 22nd Air Squadron had 10 experienced pilots and 30 students. The First Air Fleet had just received 18 experienced pilots from SAIPAN. The 25th Air Squadron had 30 fighter pilots, 10 experienced and 20 students. TINIAN was being used as a training station for torpedo plane pilots.
Q. How many airplanes were damaged or destroyed n the MARIANAS, on the ground and in the air, during that Task Force attack?
A. On the ground, 20 fighters as SAIPAN, 10 bombers at TINIAN. There were no planes at GUAM because the field was still under construction and not usable.
Q. What method of night torpedo attack did you use that night?
A. They were given instructions prior to takeoff. The flight officer in charge of the flight issued directions on the spot but operational reports were passed directly back to the base.
Q. Why did you not disperse the planes on TINIAN and SAIPAN after sighting the U.S. Attack Force?
A. The runway was the only usable part of field and we weren't able to spread planes. The field was still in the process of construction.
Q. Did our attack on the MARIANAS at this time affect the building up your air force in those islands?
A. No. The 22nd Air Flotilla with 40 planes went to TRUK and 600 planes belonging to the First Air Fleet arrived between February and May and were divided between GUAM, TINIAN, and SAIPAN.
Q. What proportion of your planes were lost or damage n being flown from JAPAN south to the islands?
A. Not so many; between 20 and 30 planes between February and May.
Q. What was the average proportion of planes that were ready to fly on combat missions in your squadrons?
A. By May, 400 out of 600 planes; 60 per cent were ready to fly at any time. Fighters and twin-engine bombers averaged 70 per cent availability. Dive-bombers average only 50 per cent, principally because they were a new type just coming into use.
Q. Were the pilots you received from JAPAN in February, March, April 1944 well trained?
A. The bombing pilots had more training than the fighter pilots. The training at this time was not any worse but all the experienced pilots were lost at RABAUL. The best pilots had been sent to the Northern SOLOMONS or to new carrier groups forming. Consequently there wasn't sufficient number of experienced pilots for Island Air Commands.
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