TOKYO 10 NOVEMBER 1945
Interrogation of: Captain IHARA, Mitsugo, IJN; Staff of Third Fleet (Gunnery), operating in the South Seas from December 1941 to July 1942; Staff of Second Fleet (Gunnery) at MIDWAY and SOLOMONS, from July 1942 to April 1943.
Interrogated by: Commander T.H. Moorer, U.S.N.
This interrogation verifies and clarifies certain information previously obtained relative to the movements of the Japanese Third Fleet in the PHILIPPINE, CELEBES and JAVA Areas.
Q. List the forces assigned to the Third Fleet.
A. The organization of the Third Fleet was as follows:
Ashigara (Flagship) Fifth Cruiser Squadron 4 heavy cruisers Second Torpedo Squadron 1 Lt. cruiser, 12 destroyers Fourth Torpedo Squadron 1 Lt. cruiser, 12 destroyers Fifth Torpedo Squadron 1 Lt. cruiser, 12 destroyers Sixth Torpedo Squadron 4 submarines Seventeenth Minelayer Sqd. 2 minelayers First Base Force 30 ships (troops and supply) Second Base Force 30 ships (troops and supply)
Q. Was the entire force listed above in FORMOSA prior to the outbreak of the war?
A. Yes, but there was also another invasion force in PALAU. The Third Fleet was divided into two forces which assembled at FORMOSA and PALAU respectively about 3 December.
Q. What time did the Third Fleet sortie from FORMOSA?
A. On the morning of 10 December, about 24 hours after the air attack on the PHILIPPINES.
Q. At what time did the Third Fleet make their first landing?
A. December 10, at APARRI.
Q. Was the Third Fleet attacked by aircraft during the approach to the PHILIPPINES?
Q. After occupying APARRI, describe the movements of the Third Fleet.
A. Prior to leaving FORMOSA, the Third Fleet was divided into three forces. One proceeded to APARRI and one to VIGAN. The third force, which included the cruisers, operated west of VIGAN as a support force.
Q. Did all three forces leave FORMOSA at the same time?
A. No. The forces departed according to a previously arranged time schedule, the APARRI force leaving first.
Q. Were any of these three forces attacked by aircraft during their movement down to the PHILIPPINES Area?
A. No, but after arrival the APARRI force was attacked and suffered the loss of one mine sweeper sunk and one heavily damaged; the VIGAN force was also attacked and lost one sub-chaser and one transport.
Q. After the completion of the VIGAN landing, were additional forces brought down for the LINGAYAN landing?
A. Yes, the APARRI and VIGAN forces were reinforced by additional forces from FORMOSA in preparation for the LINGAYAN landing.
Q. What force was used in direct support of the LINGAYAN landing?
A. In general, the forces participated in the LINGAYAN landing were: The 14th Squadron, the Second Torpedo Squadron, and about one and half base force; which in terms of ships means three 10,000 ton cruisers, 20 destroyers, 40 small type ships and about 20 transports.
Q. What damage was suffered by that force during the invasion?
A. The ASHIGARA was attacked by five or six bombers, but she received no damage. The bombs fell on the port quarter. Other smaller ships were damaged by strafing and near bomb misses.
Q. Where did the aircraft come from that attacked DAVAO on the morning of 8 December?
A. I think they came from PALAU, but am not certain.
Q. Were there any aircraft carriers used in the PHILIPPINE Operation?
A. I think there were two small carriers attached to the Second Fleet, but they did not operate inside of the area bounded by the PHILIPPINES, CELEBES, BORNEO and JAVA.
Q. What were the names of the carriers?
A. HOSHO; I don't know the other.
Q. After the completion of the invasion of LINGAYAN, describe the movements of the Third Fleet.
A. The Third Fleet returned to FORMOSA for fuel. It then proceeded to DAVAO and rendezvoused with the PALAU force in preparation for the forthcoming operations in the islands to the south.
Q. Do you know what damage was received by Japanese transports on the night of 24 January when attacked by American destroyers at BALIKPAPAN?
A. Four transports and one patrol vessel sunk, but this loss caused no delay in the operations as planned.
Q. Are you familiar with the engagement of BALI, 19-20 February?
A. Yes, slightly. This operation was the first one in which warships were seriously damaged. One destroyer was seriously damaged and one destroyer lightly damaged.
Q. What forces were assembled in the JAVA SEA for the invasion of JAVA?
A. The LINGAYAN force plus the Fifth Squadron, which contained four cruisers of 10,000 tons, invaded the eastern part of JAVA. The western tip was invaded by part of the MALAYA force.
Q. Where were these cruisers during the LINGAYAN Operation?
A. They operated from PALAU to assist in the invasion of DAVAO.
Q. What damage was suffered by the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the JAVA SEA?
A. There were no sinkings, but two destroyers were heavily damaged.
Q. Can you describe the action of the Exeter, Encounter, and Pope?
A. It was just as described previously by Captain ISHIBARA.
Q. Were all three ships sunk by gunfire?
A. The Exeter and Encounter were sunk by gunfire and torpedoes. As soon as they were dead in the water and unable to maneuver, the Pope reversed course to eastward and attempted to escape. She was attacked by aircraft, heavily damaged, and, while in sinking condition, sunk by pursuing surface vessels.
Q. During the entire campaign, did the Japanese learn any particular lesson which was of value to them in future operations?
A. No. The opposition was so light that the Japanese forces were not put to a severe test and consequently they concluded that equipment available and the tactics used were satisfactory for future operations. It would have been better for the Japanese if they had encountered more opposition.
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