TOKYO 31 OCTOBER 1945
Interrogation of: Rear Admiral MATSUYAMA, Mitsuharu, IJN (Retired) ; engaged in convoy escort in eastern New GUINEA, June to December 1942 and at ORMOC in November 1944.
Interrogated by: Captain Steadman Teller, USN.
Allied Officers Present: Captain C. Shands, USN, Lieut. Comdr. J.A. Field, jr., USNR.
Rear Admiral MATSUYAMA, had experience in escorting shipping in the BISMARK ARCHIPELAGO in the latter half of 1942, between the Japanese EMPIRE and NETHERLAND EAST INDIES in the summer of 1944 and between MANILA and ORMOC Bay in November 1944. Three successful submarine attacks on Japanese convoys are described and the air attacks against two reinforcing convoys to ORMOC are told in some detail.
Q. Describe the organization of the Seventh Escort Group while under your command.
A. I commanded this group between April and December, 1944. The Seventh Escort Group was a tactical command whose mission was to escort and protect important convoys over long and dangerous routes. The group received its assignment to specific tasks and also general instructions from Grand Escort Fleet Headquarters, TOKYO. While carrying out an assignment the group was under the direct command of one of the eight Escort Group Headquarters or under the command of the Area Fleet Commander. For example, while convoying between MANILA and ORMOC my group acted under orders of the commander Southwestern. Area Fleet whose headquarters were in MANILA. There was no permanent assignment of ships to my command. Escort vessels were assigned to the group for specific convoy trips according to requirements of the occasion and availability of escorts.
Q. On what routes did you escort convoys?
A. In April and May 1944 I made one round trip to SAIPAN. This was the first convoy to SAIPAN for several months which had not received damage. During May and June, I escorted two convoys from the EMPIRE to SINGAPORE. During August, I made two trips between the EMPIRE and MANILA. After your landings on LEYTE my duties were to convoy between MANILA and ORMOC Bay.
Q. Describe the submarine attacks which were made on convoys under your escort.
A. At the end of May or the first of June 1944, I commanded a convoy proceeding south near FORMOSA. It was my desire to pass west of FORMOSA because I thought there were more submarines on the east. However, I was ordered by the First Convoy Escort Squadron (later First Escort Fleet) to pass east of FORMOSA. As the convoy passed south between FORMOSA and the island of KASHIO a submarine attack was made from the west, or FORMOSA side. The escort was sunk immediately and the second transport in right column was damaged by a torpedo. The torpedoed transport swung to port and in the confusion collided with one in the center column injuring the rudder of the latter. A large number of depth charges were dropped to discourage further attack. The Kashii, my flagship, took in tow the transport with damaged rudder and proceeded to KIIRUN. The transport which was hit by the torpedo and the undamaged vessels proceeded south around FORMOSA to TAKAO where I rejoined them with Kashii.
In early August 1944, 1 had a twenty five ship convoy protected by 4 or 5 vessels, heading south in latitude 31°30' North, longitude 130° East. Between 0400 and 0500 in the morning before dawn one collier of 2 to 3,000 tons was sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
In early September I was convoying 11 ships from FORMOSA to MANILA. A radio dispatch had been received from the headquarters of the First Escort Squadron at TAKAO giving the position of two enemy submarines about 80 miles apart across my track. I laid the course to go between them. At about 0330, after moonrise, in position approximately latitude 20° North, longitude 121* East, two ships of 3 to 4,000 tons were sunk by a torpedo attack believed to have been delivered by a submarine within the convoy between the center and right hand column.
Q. What order of accuracy was credited to various types of reports of enemy submarine positions?
A. Aircraft sightings were considered to be accurate within ten miles. Positions by radio direction finders were several times less accurate.
Q. Did you have air cover over your convoys?
A. Yes we had anti-submarine search planes, some times four or five of them equipped with magnetic detecting devices and searching in a special manner.
Q. Did you send your escort vessels to make attacks when these planes reported a submarine contact?
A. Sometimes I did. These aircraft with the magnetic device made reports of submarines found on several occasions but when my escort vessels attacked they produced no results. I was uncertain as to the location of the submarines reported and whether or not they were friendly or enemy.
Q. What was your experience in NEW GUINEA between June 1942 and January 1943?
A. My experience was in convoying and our principal trouble was with airplanes. The convoys were principally from RABAUL carrying Army transports to BUNA, WEWAK and MADANG and carrying special Navy landing force parties to MILNE Bay.
Q. What was the most effective form of air attacks against your convoys in the BISMARK SEA Area?
A. B-17's were the worst. At BUNA on the first day of the landing one transport was sunk at anchor in the evening by 4 or 5 B-17's attacking at low level. However, I was some distance away and cannot be sure. In September 1942 the Yayoi was sunk east of MAMBY Island late in the afternoon. She was underway and I think one B-17 sank her. I was not present, and know nothing of altitude from which attack was delivered. Most of the bombers that I saw were B-17's. No twin-engine planes were seen in this area but later B-24's were seen. I know of one other sinking, a destroyer in September 1942 off LAE-SALUMAUA Area. After September the use of transports to Eastern NEW GUINEA Area was suspended, principally because the transports were slow and thus were unduly exposed to air attack. Submarine attacks south of NEW BRITAIN were not an important factor.
Q. Did you receive many air attacks west of the BISMARKS?
A. On the route from RABAUL via the ADMIRALTIES to MADANG we received frequent light attacks and one transport was hit but with no great damage. At that time no air attacks were being received at WEWAK. When I left the BISMARK Area in January 1943 air attacks had still not become very serious west of the BISMARKS and submarine attacks also were light.
Q. How many convoys did you accompany into ORMOC Bay?
A. Two, the first of which left MANILA about 29 October. This convoy took the First Army Division into ORMOC. I believe that before that date some troops had been sent from MINDANAO into ORMOC Bay.
Q. What were the losses in your first convoy?
A. The first convoy which I accompanied to ORMOC Bay approached ORMOC on the 1st of November, I believe it was first sighted off northwest tip of LEYTE and was later attacked near ORMOC. At this time we had Japanese fighters for cover and an air battle resulted. There was little damage to our formation at this time. Our convoy was composed of four transports and four coast defense ships, all of which were under my command. Also assisting in escort were 6 or 8 destroyers of DesRon ONE. In this operation the Commander of DesRon ONE was in command of the entire formation. The transports all started to unload the evening of the first and, except for one sunk, finished by the evening of the 2nd. At about 1300 in the afternoon of the 2nd while the ships were engaged in unloading close to ORMOC pier about 26 B-24's and a similar number of P-38's attacked. The B-24's hit the most westward anchored ship (Noto an Army transport of 6-7,000 tons) from an altitude of about 5,000 meters damaging ship so that it capsized and sank. No other serious damage was incurred in this attack. The convoy left ORMOC the evening of the 2nd and returned to MANILA without further serious incident.
Q. What was your experience in your second trip to ORMOC?
A. My next convoy left MANILA about 7 November with part of the 26th Infantry Division consisting of about 10,000 troops divided among the three remaining ships of the previous convoy. This convoy was composed of the three transports, some coast defense ships and about 6 or 8 perhaps 9 destroyers. Three or four armed transports (APD) joined the convoy en route and entered ORMOC Bay in company. This trip was uneventful except for a possible submarine sighting off MANILA Bay and the convoy was sighted off northwest LEYTE by a P-38. The convoy arrived late on the day of the 9th in ORMOC Bay. As the convoy passed north of the CAMOTES Islands to enter ORMOC Bay we received an attack by B-25's which did considerable damage to the upper works including unloading tackle. Due to the damage to the unloading gear only a part of the equipment could be unloaded. Unloading was further hampered by failure of landing craft to appear as originally planned and coast defense ships were used in lieu of landing craft to unload personnel. On the morning of the 10th, P-38's attacked while unloading was in progress but defense smoke pots were lit and damage was very light. The convoy less the four armed transports sailed at 1000 on 10 November having unloaded only light baggage and personnel. While passing north of the CAMOTES Islands in column formation we were attacked from the north by about 70 B-25's and P-38's. Coastal Defense Ship No. 11 was hit, beached and burned. The 2nd and 3rd ships in column the Kashii Maru
and Kozoma Maru were hit by low-level bombing and sank. One of them, believed to be the Kozuma Maru sank immediately the other, Kashii Maru remained afloat long enough to remove personnel. Although the remaining ships of the convoy were under continuous attack by P-38's until reaching northern tip of LEYTE the only serious damage was done to a destroyer which appeared down by the bow. The next convoy under the command of Admiral HAYAKAWA was proceeding south on the night of 10/11 November passed my convoy about BURIAS Passage. That convoy was attacked by carrier based planes in the latter part of the 11th near ORMOC and before reaching that port. I believe that all the transport vessels in this convoy were destroyed and that only one of the six destroyers forming the escort survived. This convoy was loaded with freight rather than personnel.
Q. Do you know of any convoys entering ORMOC Bay between your first convoy on 1 November and your second convoy on 9 November?
A. No. However, there may have been some individual ships such as small armed transports.
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