TOKYO 24 October 1945
Interrogation of: Captain OHMAE, Toshikazu, IJN, Chief of Staff to CinC Third Fleet during the MARIANAS and PHILIPPINES battles of 1944.
Interrogated by: Lieut. Comdr. James A. Field, Jr., USNR.
Captain OHMAE discusses the planning for the defense of the PHILIPPINES in 1944 and the conduct of the battles of 24-26 October, with special emphasis on the operations of the Japanese Northern (carrier) Force, of which he was Chief of Staff.
Q. Admiral OZAWA said that on 19 June a number of your carrier planes that attacked our fleet continued on after the attack and landed on GUAM and TINIAN. Did any of those planes return to your carriers the next day?
Q. Did you get any reports sent from those pilots at GUAM and TINIAN?
A. We got information saying that planes, just before landing on GUAM, were attacked by your planes and were severely damaged and after landing they were also attacked; 50 per cent were damaged on the ground.
Q. Did you get any information from those pilots, any useful information on our Task Force?
A. We had a report saying they sighted three groups about 14-40N, 142E but on account of the clouds they were not able to see very clearly after attacking. They saw white smoke rising from a ship which appeared to be a carrier and black smoke from two other ships. Then another group of planes were intercepted about 50 miles from where they thought your forces were, and on account of interception, never did sight your ships. In conclusion, the attack of the day was a failure.
Q. When you got back to OKINAWA afterwards, about how many planes remained aboard your carriers and how many pilots?
A. About 40 planes, about 100 crews. The day after the attack, the 20th, we had 120 planes left.
Q. What was the command organization for the SHO Operation, the defense of the PHILIPPINES?
A. About ten days before the battle, Admiral OZAWA, not wishing to command KURITA's force because of the wide dispersion of the two forces, recommended to Admiral TOYODA that command organization be changed, which was done and Admiral KURITA's forces then came directly under Admiral TOYODA. At the end of the battle of June, it was Admiral OZAWA's opinion that the carrier force should be joined and operated together with Admiral KURITA's force. However, the American invasion came too soon for this to be done and since the carriers were still in the INLAND SEA they necessarily operated separately.
Q. If Admiral OZAWA desired to use the carriers in conjunction with Admiral KURITA's fleet, how soon would that have been possible?
A. The carriers could have sailed about 10 November. Your attack came about a month before it would have been possible for our fleets to join.
Q. By that time would the pilots have been fully trained again?
A. We expected so. At first we heard the training would be finished by early October, but in fact this proved impossible.
Q. Then, when it became necessary to use them in October before they had been fully retrained, was it expected that they would take off from the carriers and afterwards operate from shore bases?
A. At first there was no plan to use carriers. When the American Force Attacked the PHILIPPINES on the 10th of October, carrier planes were sent to FORMOSA and PHILIPPINES to reinforce. I remember that we had about 300 airplanes in training and 150 were sent at that time. The remaining airplanes were not so good and so we trained from 13 or 14 October how to run off and how to get on the carriers. Also I believe these airmen were very bad; but the orders did come to go with these bad airmen, so we decided only to lure American planes, to decoy your forces, and so help the Second Fleet to get into LEYTE Bay.
Q. The use that was actually made of Admiral OZAWA's fleet was not planned in advance, it was not part of the SHO Plan?
A. No plan, I am sure; I myself telephoned to headquarters. By telephone we decided. It was planned on the spur of the moment.
Q. Was the original SHO Plan set up on the basis of having the carriers operate in company with Admiral KURITA?
A. The only plan was that OZAWA would command all these fleets, OZAWA's fleet after finish repair of ships would go to LINGGA, OZAWA would command all fleets and when American ships come to PHILIPPINES then all ships go together.
Q. That was on the basis of expecting the invasion in mid-November or December?
A. We thought that you were going to make the landing earlier, about the early part of October; but we couldn't train the pilots.
Q. If the SHO Plan was drawn up for the defense of the PHILIPPINES, FORMOSA, etc., and if you expected our attack before the carrier pilots were fully trained, then why did the plan call for Admiral OZAWA to command all three fleets and operate them together? If you expected our attack before the pilots were trained, how could you expect them all to operate together?
A. There was opinion that if you should land on IWO JIMA, then the Fifth and Third Fleets would go there; but that was deemed unwise, so it was ordered later to concentrate the force so the change was made. In actuality they wanted this Second Fleet to remain in JAPAN, but because there was not enough fuel they were compelled to go to LINGGA. It was necessary at that time for Third Fleet Headquarters to stay in JAPAN in order to get the requests for pilots and planes filled. If headquarters were not in JAPAN we would have had difficult time getting requests in for pilots and planes.
Q. The 4th Air Squadron (Carrier Division) was composed of Ise and Hyuga?
A. Yes, but they had no planes at the time of. the battle; their planes had been sent to FORMOSA as reinforcement.
Q. Was there any advance planning for the use of KAMIKAZE tactics before the battle?
A. Unofficially only. Admiral OZAWA had not planned to set up his KAMIKAZE force. He got this idea after the battle in June. Right after the Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA in June, the commander of one of the Air Squadrons sent his opinions to Commander Third Fleet, saying that he would become the commander to organize the KAMIKAZE attack, that he wanted to do this.
Q. Who was this commander that you speak of?
A. It was Rear Admiral OBAYASHI, Commander 3rd Air Squadron, who volunteered to organize KAMIKAZE units immediately after the Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA and requested of Admiral OZAWA that he be allowed to do so.
Q. Did Admiral OZAWA take any action on this request?
A. He unofficially informed the Commander in Chief Combined Fleet, Admiral TOYODA. They discussed the matter but there were no concrete results. In order to organize KAMIKAZE units it had to be on a volunteer basis, it could not be ordered from above.
Q. So that in the battle of October, there was no plan for the carrier pilots to use KAMIKAZE tactics?
A. No, it was not planned that carrier pilots should do it. It was done by Admiral ONISHI's group in the PHILIPPINES. After the land-based planes were hit by your carrier force, few planes were left and in order to meet your attack KAMIKAZE was necessary.
Q. Were any ships which had been scheduled to accompany Admiral OZAWA's fleet, prevented from doing so by our submarine attacks in the first part of October? We had a report that our submarines had attacked and damaged some of your ships.
A. The Fifth Fleet left the INLAND SEA on 10 October. It is possible they were then discovered by your submarines, but so far as I know no damage received. Six American submarines were concentrated off OKINAWA on the 16th but no damage.
Q. What was the first information that you received in the INLAND SEA about our landing in the PHILIPPINES? Do you remember what day?
A. 17th. We expect landing on the 17th, and we decided to go out and fight with the U. S. Fleet. On the 18th the U. S. Fleet was sweeping the DULAG area and we determined that it was sure American Fleet would land in LEYTE Bay. We heard telephone conversation at 1530 of the 18th. Your telephone told me your force landing south of TACLOBAN.
Q. Do you remember who was telephoning? Was it ship to ship, or plane to ship?
A. Ship to ship.
Q. When did your force leave the INLAND SEA?
A. The 20th about 12 o'clock. We started out the BUNGO Channel, passed through the channel and about 1730 in the evening we find submarine in our path. We heard also from your telephone that another submarine was waiting further off shore, and so we went eastward close to shore for a time to avoid him, and about midnight turned south.
Q.,In what ship were you and Admiral OZAWA embarked?
Q. When you left the INLAND SEA, did you have good information on the disposition of our forces? You knew we were landing in LEYTE Bay. Did you know where the Task Force was?
A. (Referring to note book) The morning of the 20th in the LEYTE Bay, 14 battleships and cruisers and seven carriers, and 50 small combatant ships; near SAMAR Island 80 transports, 20 small combatant ships. We thought that about three divisions of Army forces were landing and at 1640 we found other forces, five battleships, about ten cruisers and about 20 transports were approaching. At 1330 we found four converted carriers, two battleships, two cruisers, six destroyers 80 miles from TACLOBAN. Bearing was 080 degrees and course was south, speed was 20.
Q. Did you know where our large carriers were?
A. The morning of the 20th, seven carriers, maybe large types, were off LEYTE.
Q. These reports were from pilots or from your people on shore?
A. The information received in the morning was from shore, the rest by plane.
Q. Did you continue to receive good information as you came south?
A. Good information we had, but sometimes there were too many informations so it made confusions.
Q. Could you draw the cruising formation of your ships as you went south?
A. (See Annex A).
Q. Were Ise and Hyuga with you all the time?
A. Almost all the time. We made this formation, but on the evening of the 24th they went south of main body, and next morning rejoined.
Q. What was your first contact with U. S. forces?
A. By airplane on the 24th at 7 a.m. Our airplane found the carrier group.
Q. Did you launch planes for search on the 24th?
A. On the 22nd.
Q. Launched planes from carriers on the 22nd.
Q. Did they return to the carriers?
A. Because of lack of training and poor communications, nine planes take off, about six return. Every day after the 22nd, nine planes were sent out on search. Due to poor communications, lack of training, usually about six returned. Some of these which did not return reached DAITO Island. We have about 80 fighters, about 40 of them were equipped for bombing, and about 30 bombers and torpedo planes.
Q. On the 24th when you made this sighting, did you immediately launch an attack?
A. The distance was about 250 at that time, and so we approached until about 11 or 1130. We started planes at that time, the distance was about 130 or 150.
Q. How many planes did you launch?
A. About 90. About ten were not satisfactory when turned up on deck, and had to be struck below.
Q. Did you keep protective fighters overhead on the 24th?
A. Just a little, about six of them.
Q. And so about eighty planes went out on the attack?
Q. Did you have reports on them? Did some go to the beach or return to the ships?
A. We planned that planes go to the American fleet, bomb and torpedo, and then go to land because our ship would be sunk because we went too near on purpose to lure your ships to the north. Surely we would be sunk, that was our duty.
Q. So all the planes were instructed to go ashore after attack?
Q. Did you have a report how many reached shore?
A. About forty planes attacked your fleet, report was that two carriers were seriously damaged, and then continued to LUZON. About 30 or 40 got ashore.
Q. Did you know whether or not our force had sighted you on the 24th?
A. I know. About four o'clock in the evening we had radar contact on an American plane. We thought it was very strange that no American planes attacked us on the 24th. We thought you were attacking the Second Fleet.
Q. What course did you take after you had been sighted by the American planes?
A. West nearing PHILIPPINES. After sunset we turned southeast.
Q. How many planes did you still have aboard your ship?
A. 15 or 20 about, divided among the various ships.
Q. Did you have any information that day from Admiral KURITA or Admiral NISHIMURA?
A. Yes, we heard in the morning and afternoon the Second Fleet was attacked by American air force and NISHIMURA's fleet was supposed to be going smoothly.
Q. In the course of the night what did you do, cruise back and forth and wait?
A. About 1600, Ise and Hyuga and the cruiser Oyodo, with destroyers, were dispatched to the south to engage the American force in night action. About 1100 in the evening of 24th, these forces sighted what appeared to be your carrier force; but they saw our planes were attacking your force, so didn't have a chance to close.
Q. This was night and your planes were attacking?
A. Yes, air forces from land were attacking by torpedoes, so it was thought very dangerous to get near. So the Commanding Officer of the squadron departed from American fleet and after the planes finished attacking he closed again but couldn't find your force.
Q. Was this sighting by eye or by radar?
A. By eye, they saw the anti-aircraft gun fire.
Q. Then did they come back and reinforce you towards morning?
A. They were ordered to, to lure your force.
Q. In general the movement of your carriers during the night was back and forth staying in the same place waiting for the next day?
A. First went west, after sunset on course of southeast. We used about 14 knots. The training of destroyers very bad. We couldn't see and some destroyers separated so we had hard time trying to rendezvous.
Q. Did you have any information during the night or early morning of Admiral NISHIMURA's force?
A. Yes, on the morning of the 25th we heard something -- NISHIMURA's fleet was seriously damaged.
Q. Did you know from whom that message came?
A. From a destroyer or Mogami, only a very brief message. The contact made by the Ise and Hyuga with the U. S. carrier forces was not radioed back to Admiral OZAWA. He was only informed later when they rejoined and was very much put out by the news and reprimanded the commander of the squadron. Had he known that contact had been made he would have not given orders to rejoin.
Q. Was radio silence observed at this time?
A. At no time. We kept sending messages in the hope of decoying your Task Force.
Q. Did you have any information during the course of the night regarding movements of our main carrier Task Force? Did you know what their night movements were?
A. No reports.
Q. So when morning came you didn't know what to expect? What was your plan in the morning? What were you to do?
A. We were about 100 miles from American force. We thought probably we will be attacked, but that was our mission.
Q. You knew in the morning you were 100 miles from the American force?
A. Yes, we knew. It was knowing they always took off on reconnaissance about one-half hour before sunrise; we judged from that how far the American Fleet would be. Actually we didn't know exactly how many miles. We sent out search planes but got no reports and we really did not expect to be that close.
Q. You sent out search planes on the morning of the 25th?
A. Yes, three or four only in a narrow radius.
Q. On the morning of the 25th did you have any information from Admiral KURITA on his success in getting through the Straits?
A. In the afternoon we received a report from TOKYO.
Q. In general on the morning of the 25th before you were attacked, did you feel the operation as a whole was going well, or badly, or couldn't you tell?
A. We were not able to judge at that time, we had insufficient information.
Q. About what time were you first attacked in the morning?
A. Maybe nine o'clock.
Q. Did you have radar warning?
A. Yes, we know by radar.
Q. Did you start north again then?
A. Yes, to draw your force. We thought we could lure them 100 miles.
Q. How many attacks did you have made on you that day?
A. Big attack once. Three times we had small ones.
Q. Can you tell me what damage was inflicted by various attacks?
A. One torpedo hit on Zuikaku first attack. The initial phases of the first attack we were able to avoid very well, but toward the end the ships sustained their damage. One destroyer was sunk instantaneously, one bomb each on Chitose and Chiyoda with slight damage. About ten o'clock we changed flagships from Zuikaku to Oyodo, after the first attack. Zuikaku could still navigate at 20 knots but the rudder was damaged so she was difficult to steer so no good to command all ships. We transferred by small boat. There were no American planes around then.
Q. The second attack was about ten o'clock?
A. About eleven o'clock. In this attack we received the heaviest damage. Zuikaku received from two to four hits. I think she was torpedoed too, and other carriers were unnavigable, but as yet no sinkings. The carriers sank about three or four in the afternoon when the water came in on one side and they capsized, all sank about the same time. The carriers were stopped then and we rescued about 60 or 70%. Sometimes American planes came to bomb, so it was hard to rescue them. We finished the work about 1700 or 1730, and then went north at about 20 or 22 knots.
Q. Was that as fast as the Ise and Hyuga could go?
A. It was as fast as we could go. The Ise and Hyuga were the slowest.
Q. Was Ise or Hyuga damaged that day?
A. Very slight damage by near misses which didn't hamper navigation; there were no hits on either of them. Oyodo had one bomb hit. I was witnessing the bombing. I thought that the bombing of the afternoon wasn't so efficient.
Q. Was tama damaged?
A. tama was rescuing and did not rendezvous. We never had any report and never knew whether she was lost to submarines or to planes. No report at all.
Q. Were any of your surface ships attacked by submarines that night?
A. No attack from submarines that I know of. We had no information about submarines that night.
Q. How many ships survived the battle?
A. Oyodo, Ise, Hyuga, and five destroyers out of eight. When we returned I changed flagships and saw by my own eyes there was no damage to the Ise or Hyuga. Over 100 planes bombed these ships, every time they missed. I saw all this bombing and thought the American pilot is not so good.
Q. During the morning of the attack, our forces which were attacking you saw on their radar large groups of your planes approaching from the PHILIPPINES, which never closed to attack but went away again. Were they meant to attack, or to return to land on your carriers?
A. We sent our remaining 20 planes to land bases so that perhaps your radar detected those planes; otherwise I do not know.
Q. They were not coming to land on your ships?
Q. At the time of the first attack did you launch fighter planes to repel it?
A. We launched about six planes to attack your aircraft, that was all we had. After bombing, the carriers couldn't steer into the wind so that they could not return to the carriers. They landed in the water and we rescued the pilots.
Q. The other day when we were talking to Admiral KURITA, you mentioned some important messages which you sent and he failed to receive. What messages were these?
A. These messages were not received by Admiral KURITA: (1) The plans for attacking your forces on the morning of the 24th from east of LUZON. The result of that operation was also sent and was not received. (2) The separation in preparation for the night attack of the Ise and Hyuga on your fleet wasn't received either. (3) News of your attacks on our force on the 25th wasn't received. It was later known that the transmission of the Zuikaku had something wrong with it, out of order. Receiving station in FORMOSA got part of the messages but TOKYO never received the messages and KURITA never received them either.
Q. Do you feel that the fact those messages were not received had an influence on the course of the battle?
A. Yes. The influence of these lost messages was: first, that since Admiral KURITA did not receive word of our attacking your carrier force east of LUZON, he turned back on the afternoon of the 24th for a time and thus lost time; secondly, had he known, that your forces were attacking us on the morning of the 25th, he could have continued on into LEYTE Gulf.
Q. Admiral KURITA spoke of a message from you on the morning of the 25th announcing that you would make a torpedo attack that night on our Task Force; do you recall such a message?
A. Admiral KURITA has confused the times. At about 1730 on the afternoon of the 25th, one of our destroyers was attacked by torpedoes and gunfire by your surface force and, on receiving this information Admiral OZAWA made plans to counter-attack your surface force by night. This must be the message of which Admiral KURITA speaks, but as he would not have received it until he was again approaching SAN BERNARDINO, it could not have influenced his decisions.
Q. You had no plan for attacking the night of the 25th, no advance plan made in the morning?
A. No, only this afternoon plan I spoke of, and after we sighted American forces we changed our minds.
Q. Did you receive Admiral KURITA's message saying he was coming north to help you?
A. No. Admiral KURITA was fighting off SAMAR. We heard he had sunk three or four carriers, we received this report in the afternoon of the 25th. We had no other information.
Q. Do you know why Admiral KURITA turned back? Why he did not enter the Gulf?
A. From officers who were present, we know that Admiral KURITA thought the American Task Force was northeast of SAN BERNARDINO Strait and that he turned back hoping to engage this force. However he did not find the force in that area. The second reason was shortage of fuel.
Q. Was Admiral KURITA's mission as outlined in the plans for the operation to attack our task force or transports and landing forces?
A. Either. It was his choice. He expected to meet your fleet and so made up his mind.
Q. But the decision was left up to him?
A. Yes. After attacking your carrier force, he was to go on to LEYTE and attack the transports. But many of his ships were sunk and he supposed it was impossible to go into this very narrow place to attack the transports. It was not good -- he should have been braver and gone on to LEYTE. He heard your forces say on the radio-telephone that they would come to their aid in two hours, so he judged your other force was in a very near area.
Q. How close a supervision or control did Admiral TOYODA exercise over an operation like this?
A. Gave the general orders to attack and return.
Q. He did not attempt to direct the operation while it was in progress in any way?
A. No, because he didn't know the situation.
Q. In your opinion how far did this operation proceed as planned, where did it break down seriously, what was the decisive or immediate cause for failure of the operation?
A. We did not have enough support from the shore-based aircraft; and also one of the greatest reasons was that reconnaissance was not good enough.
Q. Was the shortage of aircraft on shore due to our Task Force attacks previously?
Q. Which were the more important, the attacks on FORMOSA or on LUZON?
A. Both, especially LUZON, we were very seriously damaged. With so few airplanes in this area they could not search and attack. Also Admiral KURITA demanded air escort but did not get any planes for escort.
Q. Was it in the plans that he get air escort or was it just his request?
A. I think there was a plan for air support.
Q. Did you have any satisfactory liaison with Army aircraft in the PHILIPPINES? Could you call on them for assistance and get it?
Q. Were they entirely independent?
A. The commanding side were independent. They were to cooperate as much as possible but cooperation between Army and Navy was very poor. This had a great effect on operations.
Q. Was the fact cooperation was poor a matter of personalities in the area, or insufficiency of planning? Was it always this way?
A. On the technical side, Army pilots couldn't navigate. Secondly, the Army insisted on being a defensive machine and wouldn't fight offensively. The Army and Navy always quarrelled with each other. In theory they were supposed to cooperate and on the higher levels it would work, but personalities were the trouble. Third, the Army didn't have much ability in repairing their planes. Their maintenance was very poor, they had a low percentage of operational planes.
Q. When you were off LUZON on the 24th and 25th, did you send any messages to Admiral ONISHI directing or requesting cooperation with you or his forces?
A. No attempt was made to request cooperation from land based air and there was no thought given to requesting protection. The land based air was to be used only to attack the American forces.
Q. Was the Fifth Fleet to follow Admiral NISHIMURA's force into the Gulf?
A. They came from CORON. They started the morning of the 23rd. They passed south of NEGROS and there met Admiral NISHIMURA's fleet and the plan was to follow him into the Gulf about an hour later. Their mission was the same as his.
Q. When did you stop work on carrier new construction?
A. In May of this year (1945).
Q. Were you attempting up until May, the training of carrier pilots?
A. They kept training for carrier duty, but they were always taken away before they finished. After that they concentrated on training for new type plane, something like OKA but which took off by itself. It was called KIKA. We expected to use them by July of this year. We expected much from KIKA had it been put in effect. It was jet propelled and carried about 800 kilogram in the head.
Q. Did OKA live up to your expectations?
A. It was weak. The weak point was in the mother plane; that was why we developed KIKA.
Q. Do you know when the design and construction of OKA was begun?
A. About January of this year it started to be used. I don't know when plans were made for its use. The OKA was planned before KAMIKAZE tactics were begun, however.
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Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Charles Hall, HyperWar Foundation