TOKYO 25 OCTOBER 1945
Interrogation of: Lieut.-Comdr. TOKUNO, Horishi, IJN, who was Assistant Gunnery Officer of the Kirishima (BB) at GUADALCANAL, 12-14 November 1942 and at MIDWAY, 4-6 June 1942. He was Gunnery Officer of the Minegumo (DD) which was sunk in a night action at VILLA, 6 March 1943.
Interrogated by: Captain C. Shands, USN.
The Hiei (F) and the Kirishima (BBs) bombarded the U.S. Airfield on GUADALCANAL on 13-14 November 1942 as support for the landing operations. Just before reaching the firing position, U.S. Cruisers opened fire on the Hiei, badly damaging it. Course was reversed and the Jap Task Force, less Hiei, retired. Hiei remained in the general area and sank the next night. On the night of 14 November, the Kirishima returned to the GUADALCANAL Area. During the approach it engaged the South Dakota but was in turn engaged by the Washington which damaged the steering gear, causing the Kirishima to turn in circles while being subjected to U.S. fire. About two hours after the battle commenced, the Kirishima was scuttled and sank. The successful destruction of the heavy bombardment group prevented the night bombardment of HENDERSON Field which permitted the U.S. aircraft to attack and disperse the Transport Force destined for the recapture of GUADALCANAL.
No bomb hits on Kirishima or Haruna at MIDWAY, 6 June 1942. The DDs Minegumo and Murasame sunk in night action near KOLOMBANGARA 6 March 1943.
Q. What ships were present in your force at GUADALCANAL, 12-14 November, 1942?
A. 2 (BB) Hiei and Kirishima. 2 (CA) Takao class. 1 (CL) Natori class. 11 (DD) Class unknown.
Q. What was your mission?
A. We had planned to bombard the airfield on Guadalcanal while the transports unloaded military personnel.
Q. What was your navigation track during the approach?
A. We approached the SOLOMONS from the north, passing around the southeastern tip of SANTA ISABEL Island, then south around the southern side of SAVO Island towards GUADALCANAL. The Hiei was leading with the Kirishima about 1500 meters astern.
Q. Give a description of the action during the night battle of 12 November.
A. It was our plan to steam southwest to a firing position on the airfield, then reverse course and retire. While steaming southwest, the battle commenced. The Hiei and Kirishima both turned to the left to reverse course. The Hiei, which was leading, was being hit and did not turn as fast as the Kirishima. Although we were supposed to be in column, the Kirishima was then on the port quarter of the Hiei, then soon ahead of it. I do not know how many times the Hiei was hit, but the Kirishima was hit only once by a 15 cm shell. Many salvos landed around both battleships. We did not have radar fire control. It was always visual unless we received help from airplanes. I think that one cruiser had radar search control, but it was not very reliable. We thought that we badly damaged or sank the South Dakota.
Q. What ships were sunk that night?
A. The Hiei was badly damaged on the night of the 13th and sank the next day. The Kinugasa (CA) and the Ayanami (DD) from another force were also sunk. The Kirishima was lost the night of the 14th.
Q. Did the Hiei bombard the airfield before it sank?
A. No, it was very badly damaged and could not steer. I heard that it sank the next night after air attacks during the day. About 450 men were lost on the Hiei.
Q. During your approach or retirement from GUADALCANAL were you attacked by aircraft?
A. No, we were never attacked by airplanes during the entire time that we were near GUADALCANAL.
Q. Give a description of the battle the night of the 14th.
A. The Kirishima was again proceeding towards GUADALCANAL to support the transport landing by shelling the airfield. Our speed was about 28-30 knots. One of our destroyers turned its search light on the South Dakota and we opened fire. We think we hit the South Dakota many times, inflicting much damage. We received about 9x16" hits and about 40x5" hits. We didn't think that the South Dakota hit us at any time. However a second battleship was firing upon us. We couldn't see it because of the glare from the destroyers searchlights. Because we were hitting the South Dakota and couldn't see the second battleship, we did not shift fire. Two heavy cruisers were with us and were hit but not damaged badly. They were of the Takao class.
Q. Did the Kirishima sink as a result of the gunfire?
A. No. Shortly after the American ships opened fire the steering of the Kirishima was so badly damaged that we were unable to steer or repair it. We kept turning in a circle but couldn't get away. We slowed down to try to steer with the engines but it was no use. Our engines were not badly damaged, but we were receiving many hits from the Washington. Then the Captain decided that since we couldn't steer and the engines were damaged that it would be better to scuttle the ship. He then gave the order to open the Kingston valves. We did not receive any torpedo hits.
Q. How long did the ship remain afloat after receiving the first hit?
A. It took about two and one-half hours to sink. Destroyers came alongside and took off about one quarter of the men. The rest of the men jumped over the side and were later picked up by destroyers. We had about 1400 men on board and lost about 250. I stepped from the Kirishima to a destroyer and did not even get wet.
Q. How do you know that the ship was not sunk by shell fire?
A. I heard the Captain give the order to scuttle the ship. Later; on the destroyer, one of the engineers told me that they had opened the Kingston valves. The Captain was also informed that the valves had been opened before he transferred to a destroyer.
Q. While you were retiring on the destroyers, were you attacked by airplanes?
A. While we were on the way back to TRUK one destroyer was attacked by two dive-bombers, but did not receive any damage.
Q. Did the loss of your ships in this action affect the plans for your SOLOMON Campaign?
A. It affected it to a certain extent, but not too much. It was decided not to try to recapture GUADALCANAL. About a month later it was decided to use destroyers to take Japanese troops out of GUADALCANAL.
Q. Did you receive any damage at MIDWAY?
A. No, no hits on either the Kirishima or Haruna. One dive-bomber attacked the Kirishima and splashed water on the stern, but no damage. High horizontal-bombers dropped bombs about 100 meters from the Haruna, but no damage. I was stationed in the mast in charge of all anti-aircraft weapons and small guns. Dive-bombers attacked the aircraft carriers and sank them. Torpedo planes attacked carriers in the morning but did not get very close to the battleships. We did not like the dive-bombers because they came in at such a high angle they were very hard to hit. We could dodge torpedoes and horizontal-bombers.
Q. Were you on the Minegumo (DD) when it was sunk?
A. Yes I was Gunnery Officer when it was sunk on 6 March 1943, at KOLOMBANGARA. The Murasame (DD) was sunk at the same time.
Q. Give a description of the sinking.
A. We had carried supplies to VILLA. We had left BUIN in the late afternoon, passed between VELLA LAVELLA and KOLOMBANGARA Islands to VILLA. After leaving VILLA, we went to the north where about eight American ships commenced firing at us. It was very dark so we did not see them until they commenced firing. We were hit so quickly that we were able to return only a few shots. Both the Minegumo and Murarame sank very quickly. Only 49 men saved. It took us seven hours to swim ashore.
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