© 1997 Anthony P. Tully


Ship of Nine Lives: The long struggle of cruiser KUMANO

Posted August 15, 1997

The fire-eating and impetuous Admiral William "Bull" Halsey - Commander of the hard-htting fast carrier Task Force 38 - reportedly once remarked that "if there was a Japanese ship he could feel sorry for at all, it would be the KUMANO". There was a good reason. Despite his well-documented loathing of his Japanese enemies, the heavy cruiser KUMANO had sought to cheat death with a tenacity that was truly admirable, indeed almost miraculous. That it was ultimately in vain - as it would be for virtually all IJN heavy ships - was more a testimony of United States logistical might and persistence than any failure of design or effort.

The KUMANO was one of the four MOGAMI-class cruisers, and like her two remaining sisters MOGAMI and SUZUYA, perished in the fierce air and surface actions during the Leyte campaign. By an eerie quirk, KUMANO's last epic battle to survive the crushing power of her adversaries would span exactly a month, from 25 October to 25 November. In this time frame she would be subjected to a veritable rain of torpedoes and bombs and attacked by almost every conceivable means, air, surface gunfire, and submarine torpedo attack. In absorbing each of these and remaining somehow afloat she built a reputation for being seemingly more indestructible than a battleship. This article tells the story as revealed on the Japanese side, and shows that the actual number of hits and damage was far-less than claimed. However, it takes nothing away from KUMANO's Captain Hitomi and his brave crew's fight to save her -- even the actual confirmed hits are a daunting number.

The vessel's epic begins within the larger epic known as the Battle off Samar the morning of 25 October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf . KUMANO was part of Vice-Admiral Kurita Takeo's First Diversion Striking Force, a powerful unit of battleships and cruisers with destroyer squadrons dispatched to destroy the beachhead of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur near Tacloban on Leyte. Five days prior, MacArthur had made his triumphant "return" to the Philippines; but seven days prior, on 18 October, Combined Fleet had mobilized nearly all its remaining strength to converge on Leyte Gulf to destroy the enemy or die trying.

It is far beyond the scope of this article to discuss the unfolding of the titanic naval Battle of Leyte Gulf. Suffice it to say that through a simple but devastatingly effective ploy, Combined Fleet had decoyed the bulk of Halsey's carrier strength north. This was done by the expedient of sending Japan's nearly plane-less aircraft carriers south in a sacrifice lure, to draw the Allied covering forces south. The moment this was done, heavy surface forces would seek to charge through Surigao and San Bernardino Straits to converge on the Leyte Gulf transports from both north and south and annihilate them in a devastating pincers. Despite the odds, the complicated plan worked nearly perfectly for the impetuous Halsey indeed charged north will his entire force after the impotent Japanese carrier fleet; but not before his swarming planes had inflicted damage on the approaching Japanese surface forces, including sinking one of the fabled YAMATO-class battleships, the superbattleship MUSASHI under an avalanche of 20 torpedoes and 17 bombs.

KUMANO however, and most of Kurita's other battleships and cruisers, including mighty YAMATO herself, remained fit and eager for battle. Passing through San Bernardino Straits unopposed at midnight of the 24th, dawn found them converging rapidly on Leyte Gulf from the north. It was here, off the Samar coast, that Kurita encountered the modest escort carrier forces and their screen that formed the 7th Fleet's amphibious covering support. Code named "Taffys" there were three such formations, and it was Taffy 3 that Kurita's excited lookouts sighted at 0648 hours 25 October. Caught by surprise, the Japanese lunged to the attack with delighted eagerness, foregoing proper formation arrangements and battle preparations in favor of a willy-nilly, "general attack".

The thin-skinned escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts of Taffy 3 should have been mere meat to the powerful vessels of First Striking Force, but fought with unparalleled tenacity and courage. Moreover, their bomb and torpedo armed planes - however small in number - posed a real threat to Kurita's ships. Especially so since the Japanese had forsaken strong anti-aircraft defense formation and their warships were advancing in groups of twos and fours at different speeds. Spread out in this way, they were much more vulnerable to attacking planes and escorts since they could be engaged piece-meal.

Undaunted, KUMANO's Crudiv 7 rapidly closed on the enemy carriers and opened fire with main batteries at 0710, five minutes after Crudiv 5. The great battleships had already opened fire at the first of the hour, and soon the sea around Taffy 3 was filled with monstrous shell splashes and drifting clouds of smoke as U.S. Navy escorts sought to lay down a shielding smoke screen.

The KUMANO was leading the other four cruiser's of CruDiv 7 in a full speed charge when shortly after 0720 an enemy destroyer suddenly appeared out of the mist, making a near suicidal torpedo attack from less than 10,000 yards! This was the valiant destroyer USS JOHNSTON, whose heroic skipper Ernest E. Evans would enter naval legend that day with his baldheaded defiance of First Striking Force's guns. The JOHNSTON launched ten torpedoes, and Captain Hitomi Soichiro altered course to avoid them. After an appropriate interval, VAdm Shiraishi directed a turn back to the battle. Too soon! The Japanese had reckoned without the slower speed setting of U.S. Navy torpedoes, and as a result, though three wakes crossed ahead, one caught KUMANO squarely at 0727 hours.

The torpedo exploded against the starboard bow, and with a sudden screeching, a large portion of KUMANO's forecastle suddenly collapsed into the sea. The hit had come far forward, and from frame 20 forward on both sides the outer plating was severed and bent left, with the upper deck dangling downward. KUMANO staggered and vibrated, her ruined bow acting like a sudden brake on the cruiser's speed. Captain Hitomi looked in dismay. KUMANO's whole cable deck now dangled grotesquely straight down into the sea, twisted to port. The anchors and capstans had disappeared, and the cruiser's speed dropped drastically to ten knots. All knew, she was out of the battle. Sure enough, the KUMANO began to curve reluctantly to port, to the north out of formation, her speed falling rapidly as the waters raised a large cataract from her shattered bow. Turning, KUMANO encountered cruiser SUZUYA, second in line, also staggering and slowing. She had just been damaged by a near-miss bomb and speed cut to 20 knots, also veering out of column to port. Since SUZUYA could not continue the chase at flank speed anyway, it was decided she might as well heave to long enough to receive Crudiv 7's flag.

The transfer of ComCruDiv 7 VAdm Shiraishi Kazutaka and his staff completed by 0830, Hitomi turned KUMANO north and commenced the painful withdrawal toward Coron, leaving behind the battle and the rest of 1-YB. In enemy controlled waters filled with danger from above and below the voyage to Coron promised to be a long and perilous one with little chance of success. Moreover, KUMANO would have to make that voyage alone---no destroyer had been spared to escort her. If she was sunk en route, her survivors would face little hope of rescue.

What must have been an anxious and very long night for Captain Hitomi and his men passed in grateful silence. No thundering torpedo hits, no sudden attack from night bombers. Just the steady rumble of engines and the splash of water raised by the shattered bow. By 0700 KUMANO had fully completed the transit through the Sibuyan and Visayan Seas and sunrise found her rounding the southern tip of Mindoro. By this time as well, KUMANO had received a flurry of messages telling of Kurita's ultimate break-off of the operation and indicating that he was now only some hours astern and overtaking. That meant help, and Coron was also now less than a day away.

But at 0850 came the dreaded and expected news: enemy aircraft approaching fast. These were four bombers, seven torpedo bombers, and twelve fighters from USS HANCOCK. They formed part of a larger strike heading for Kurita's fleet, and had been detached to attack the cruiser. With her ruined bow, the KUMANO could not hope to steer effectively and fast enough to evade all blows. The bombs rained down, and despite a withing hail of AA fire thrown up by KUMANO's gunners, three struck numbing blows.

One bomb was a very close near-miss to port that tore a gash in the hull and flooded No. 6 boiler room. Severe as this was, the real damage was done by one (possibly two) 1,000-pound bomb hit[s] starboard amidships at the base of the funnel. The uptakes of No. 1 boiler room and the intakes of Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 boiler rooms were heavily damaged. The casings of Nos. 1, 3, and 4 boiler rooms were damaged as well as the starboard cruising turbine. Another bomb exploded at the bottom of the bridge on the port side, and two 12.7 cm HA guns and the search radar were knocked out. The total result was that KUMANO lost all steam pressure and seven of her eight boilers were made inoperable. She slobbered to a halt. The HANCOCK's planes left KUMANO dead in the water and belching a towering column of steam and smoke. No further attention was paid to her, for the cruiser appeared finished. (Anyone looking at the classic photograph of this attack would agree!). Captain Hitomi, however, disagreed. With plucky persistence he put his damage control teams to work in the engine rooms, and signaled for friendly units to assist.

Miraculously, the plucky Japanese soon had No. 1 boiler back on line, and KUMANO resumed course toward Coron, wobbling forward at a painful 2 knots. However, by 1000 two shafts were back in operation, and KUMANO had built speed to 10 knots. Building with it Captain Hitomi's confidence, for he now optmistically signaled his intention to bypass Coron and make for the more distant and safer Urugan Bay, Palawan Island. By this time the waters south of Mindoro were filled with Japanese ships from both First and Second Striking Forces in retreat. As a result, though Kurita ordered the destroyer HAMANAMI (then rescuing survivors of the sunken cruiser NOSHIRO) to proceed to KUMANO's assistance, it was the heavy cruiser ASHIGARA and destroyer KASUMI from Shima's Second Striking Force that reached KUMANO first. They arrived at 1330 hours, and Captain Hitomi decided it was best to proceed to Coron after all in their company. This KUMANO did, arriving safely about 1630 hours. With her forecastle destroyed, KUMANO could not anchor, and had to resort to temporary mooring lines.

It did not matter. Captain Hitomi had no intention of staying here. Despite the risk, KUMANO was going to proceed to Manila. Only there could she receive the emergency repairs needed to return to the homeland. KUMANO waited her turn to refuel from the busy oiler NICHEI MARU and thirty minutes past midnight set out alone for Manila. The destroyers OKINAMI and FUJINAMI had been assigned as escorts, but neither had shown up, and Captain Hitomi was impatient to proceed. However, soon after the OKINAMI arrived and caught up with the limping cruiser. Ironically, in his impatience to move on, Captain Hitomi also put destroyers KIYOSHIMO and HAMAKAZE on a wild goose chase. These two destroyers had been ordered by Kurita at 1815 hours to depart Manila loaded with repair technicians to assist KUMANO - - but passed her in the dark! KUMANO and OKINAMI plodded slowly north through the night, mooring safely at Manila at 0720 hours 28 October. The ship of nine lives had survived the greatest naval battle in history. Now it remained to escape the long aftermath.

In the span of her ordeal since Samar to Manila, KUMANO had suffered 56 officers and men killed, and 99 wounded; nineteen of the wounded requiring immediate hospitalization in Manila. Meanwhile the fit members of the crew set about temporary repairs. They were assisted by the engineers of the Manila Repair Section. The latter were very overworked men these days---in addition to the KUMANO, they had repairs to the damaged bow of the cruiser NACHI and the half-sunk cruiser AOBA to contend with. Despite all this, by 3 November KUMANO's bow and four boilers were repaired, and she made 15 knots on a test loop around the bay. Gratified, Captain Hitomi requested orders for immediate departure, for Manila was no longer safe from enemy carrier raids since September.

This was granted and at 0100 5 November the KUMANO got underway from Manila together with another damaged cruiser, the unlucky AOBA. The latter vessel also made seaworthy by the intrepid Manila engineers. Both cruisers rendevoused under orders outside the bay with the convoy MA-TA 31, comprised of three marus and three landing crafts. Escort was provided by four subchasers and the convoy headed north for Takao via Formosa at a speed of about 12 knots.

By leaving shortly after midnight, rather than the customary just before daybreak departure, KUMANO survived yet another catastrophe. For that very morning of the 5th, starting at 0800, Manila Bay was blizted by four waves of aicraft from Halsey's TF 38. With KUMANO and AOBA gone, the biggest warship left was Shima's flagship, heavy cruiser NACHI. Predictably she drew the brunt of the attackers upon her and it was just as well that Admiral Shima was ashore at the time for a conference. NACHI went down, blasted into three sections by a rain of torpedoes and bombs, taking down Captain Kanooka Enpei and 806 officers and men. Destroyer AKEBONO was mauled and set afire trying to defend her, and the damage to shore facilities set back the schedule of the TA reinforcement operations to Leyte.

Unaware that she had expended yet another of her `nine lives' the KUMANO proceeded northward with AOBA and MA-TA 31 to Santa Cruz, where they anchored for an overnight stay. The morning of the 6th, at 0700 the small convoy once again got underway, bound for San Fernando and then Takao, Formosa. The convoy sailed in three parallel columns, with KUMANO leading AOBA in the starboard echelon closest to shore.

However, less than an hour after weighing anchor, there appeared a serious obstacle to KUMANO's bid to escape. This was the U.S. submarine GUITARRO, commanded by E.D. Haskins. The GUITARRO as it happened was part of a larger wolf pack that MA-TA 31 now blundered into and which proceeded to close one by one like sharks to injured prey. At 0810 GUITARRO sighted the convoy, and choosing one of the cruisers as her target, closed to attack. Exactly fifty-five minutes after the first sighting, Haskin's let fly with three stern tubes at his target. As their boat descended, GUITARRO's crew heard three properly timed hits.

Whatever it was, it was not hits. At 0910 the KUMANO's bridge officers were startled to hear a low rumble and a large spout of water erupt out of the empty sea bearing 150 degrees. They did not understand what it was, but no damage had been done. This was the only manifestation the Japanese noted of GUITARRO's attack. Had the torpedoes prematured? Hit rocks? It is unknown.

Another life expended, KUMANO bent on knots, but moments later appeared the next assailant as U.S. submarine BREAM commanded by "Moon" Chapple made contact at 0916. In fact, Chapple had met one of these heavies before, for it had been his BREAM that had put AOBA in such bad shape in the first place by torpedoing her on 23 October just before the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Now he had a second chance to finish the job, for in her condition one more hit would surely have done for AOBA. However, it appears that Chapple chose KUMANO for his target when he launched four torpedoes at 0943. Pulling the plug, two timed hits were heard and claimed.

Again, alas, not so. At 0945 KUMANO's alert lookouts sighted torpedoes approaching bearing 70 degrees and cried the warning. Captains Hitomi and AOBA's Yamazumi put their helms over and both damaged cruisers sidestepped neatly out of harm's way. They could not know it, but only three minutes later they were sighted by a third undersea predator. This was USS RATON (W.M. Shea) and he took up the chase, boring in on the Mogami-class cruiser he had sighted. Almost immediately, yet a fourth submarine, the USS RAY joined the hunt and the unsuspecting Japanese cruisers were being stalked simultaneously from both sides!

RATON was first to reach firing position, and shot a full salvo of six torpedoes at the KUMANO. RATON went deep to avoid the escorts as her torpedoes sped on eastward toward the Japanese---and as it happened, the RAY! Three booms were heard at the proper times and RATON claimed three hits on a Mogami-class cruiser. Shea and his crew didn't know it, but topside they left an ocean in pandemonium.

Aboard KUMANO lookouts again screamed warning at 1042 of a fan of torpedoes converging on her from 54 degrees off the port bow. Captain Hitomi sheared hard left, and despite her damaged bow, the KUMANO managed to squeak by death yet another time. RATON's torpedoes churned onward, passing over a startled RAY as the latter submarine drove in on her own attack run. Finally the torpedoes exploded against the cliffs on shore with loud thunderclaps.

The Japanese were still looking at the explosions on the shoreline and getting their breath back from KUMANO's narrow escape, when lookouts again shouted. More torpedoes! This time arrowing in from starboard! Undaunted by her narrow escape from her fellow sub's fish the RAY had loosed four torpedoes of her own only three minutes later. Captain Hitomi must have blinked--the four attack by a submarine in an hour! He tried to swing KUMANO again in evasion, but she was at the wrong angle, still recovering from the avoiding of RATON's salvo.

At 1048 the doughty KUMANO's luck finally ran out as two torpedoes crashed into her starboard side, one under the bridge, the other in the forward starboard engine room. The impacts flooded the hull amidships and knocked out the machinery. Stubborn KUMANO wavered to a halt, belching smoke and listing 11 degrees to starboard. Her luck had finally run out. The enemy submarine was sure to close to finish the job.

However, if KUMANO had expended her run of good-luck, it transpired that she had not expended the last of her lives. Moving in to renew the attack, Kinsella's RAY observed a tanker moving up to aid the damaged cruiser. Kinsella was unimpressed---a tanker could not deter a submarine; rather only serve as additional fodder. As Kinsella sought to bring RAY in to attack the stalled cruiser from the undefended shallow side, incredible bad luck struck. Despite charts showing clear water, RAY rammed a coral pinnacle that sprung leaks in the torpedo room and wiped out her sound gear. The chagrined submariners were forced to break off their attack, and RAY limped to safety.

Above Captain Hitomi was ignorant of this latest blessing of Dame Fortune. He and his crew watched anxiously as the brave merchantmen DORYO MARU sidled up to his cruiser and passed out a towline. The enemy wolfpack that had ambushed his cruiser could return at any moment and Captain Hitomi had no illusions. The AOBA and MA-TA 31 had hastened on toward San Fernando, and if KUMANO was to reach safety it would have to be with the tanker's help alone.

First the KUMANO's flooding had to be checked, and the list arrested. This was accomplished, but sunset was approaching before the DORYO MARU commenced the painful tow, only capable of pulling the waterlogged hull of the cruiser at a snail's pace of just under 2 knots. At this rate, the voyage to even nearby Santa Cruz seemed like an ocean. Nonetheless, the flooding had been checked and the two vessels made steady - albeit barely perceptible - progress. Once more Fortune rewarded Hitomi's perserverance. Incredibly, despite the fact they were sitting ducks the DORYO MARU and KUMANO crawled slowly across the dangerous waters all through the remainder of the day and the entire night of the 6th. Morning of the 7th saw limping KUMANO in lee of Santa Cruz and salvation. More than one must scarcely have beleived their eyes when at 1130 the KUMANO hove to and passed out temporary mooring lines, having arrived in harbor at last.

In the days that followed, while much of Japan's destroyer fleet was blasted under the waves off Ormoc or at Manila, the KUMANO's crew labored hard to make the stubborn cruiser seaworthy again. However, though no enemy attacks came for some time, a new menace appeared. Mother Nature now chose to `engage' the beleaugered KUMANO as well, dispatching a typhoon to augment the repeated blows of the Americans. The storm blew up soon after her arrival at Santa Cruz, and became fiercest 9 and 10 November, disrupting the ongoing Ormoc landings and rocking the cruiser like a skiff. On the 10th the KUMANO broke adrift, causing consternation and concern less she be blown ashore and wrecked for good. Yet the imperishable vessel survived this menace too, and aided by shore based engineers, Hitomi's crew made good progress on the repair work. In response, Combined Fleet sent an order that as soon as humanly possible the KUMANO was to get underway for Takao, and advised that salvage craft were being dispatched to assist her. The Japanese knew that the longer she stayed in the Philippine area the less chance she would ever leave. Every day counted.

However, preoccupied with destroying the TA Reinforcement efforts to Leyte, the U.S. Navy left the KUMANO in relative peace till 19 November. On that date TF 38 carrier planes subjected her to a half-hour long attack commencing at 1419 hours. Despite the targets immobility, not a single bomb struck home and KUMANO survived yet again. The raiders flew off, and the next day a triumphant and proud salvage team reported to Captain Hitomi that KUMANO now had one boiler and one engine back in service. Chief Engineer Horiyama Sakae beleived they could make 6 knots. Undared hopes were raised anew, and all hands prepared soberly but with determination for the final voyage home.

Men propose, the gods dispose. For it was now that the sands of time ran dry for heroic KUMANO. On 25 November TF 38 once more closed Luzon for what would be the last time before departing for Ulithi. Their orders were to disrupt the big land-based kamikaze offensive the Japanese were preparing to launch against Leyte and also - "to destroy, repeat, destroy the heavy cruiser at Santa Cruz."

At 0840 the first trouble began, when Dasol Bay was attacked by isolated groups of planes. Instead of attacking his big cruiser, Captain Hitomi watched puzzled as the enemy planes instead bombed and set afire the NO. 21 CHOUMA camouflaged nearby. Twenty minutes later, KUMANO saw AA-gunfire in the sky to the west, as a convoy led by the old light cruiser ISHOJIMA, flagship of ComTransRon 1 RAdm Shoji Akira himself, was attacked and soon sent to the bottom. Still no planes disturbed the the KUMANO. So, although puzzled by the enemy's neglect, Captain Hitomi took advantage to dispatch rescue boats to the burning CHOUMA. These efforts were frustrated by the return of enemy planes, and at 1210 the CHOUMA was struck forcefully by a direct bomb hit, though KUMANO remained strangely undisturbed. Three minutes later the No. 21 CHOUMA blew apart and sank in a puddle of flame. The watching crew of KUMANO could only wonder how long their own immunity could last.

Alas, not long. For if the American fliers appeared to be neglecting the juicy target of a heavy cruiser for smaller game, it was only because KUMANO's executioners had already been assigned. Thirty dive bombers and torpedo planes of Air Group 80 from USS TICONDEROGA were even then winging their way toward Santa Cruz and Dasol Bay. KUMANO's cutters was still involved in rescue operations of CHOUMA's crew when lookouts shouted warning of approaching planes at 1430. The doughty cruiser's final cruel hour had finally come.

As Captain Hitomi's gunners watched, the enemy carrier planes split into two groups. One diverged, taking a long looping approach out of sight over the land, but the other section bored straight on in and soon were diving out of the sun. They plunged like kingfishers from the starboard quarter, while the cruiser's AA gunners - half blinded by sunlight - frantically blasted away with every gun at hand. The bombs rained down, blasting on and all around the KUMANO, the near-misses making huge circles in the water and obscuring the cruiser with smoke and spray.

Four of those 500-lb bombs scored direct hits. Two of them blasted the mangled bow to port of No. 1 turret, a third hit the port side of the aircraft deck, and the fourth nearly killed Captain Hitomi Soichiro when it exploded against the starboard side of the bridge. The KUMANO rocked under these blows, but they were no real threat to her survival. That threat came from port where lookout's pointed frantically in warning. Captain Hitomi looked and saw a sobering sight: the five or six enemy planes that had gone inland had now re-emerged and were skimming toward the immobile KUMANO at low level. Torpedo planes!

Hastily the KUMANO's guns were swung around and down from the diversion of the dive-bombers and cut loose with desperate fury against the new and deadlier menace. It was to no avail. The TF 38 pilots were veterans and made their runs with cool professionalism. There was no staying their approach, and one by one the Avengers dropped their lethal `fish'. In so doing they expended the last of KUMANO's nine lives.

Captain Hitomi could do nothing but watch in helpless resignation as at 1445 not one, not two, or even three, but no less than five torpedoes exploded with shocking force against KUMANO's port side. They were evenly spaced - opening the cruiser's hull like a can opener - flooding No. 2 and No. 5 magazines, No. 2 and 6 boiler rooms, and the port forward engine room. No battleship - let alone cruiser - could hope to withstand such rapid and massive damage. KUMANO at once began to tilt sharply to port as the water flooded in, but incredibly still fought death, the list pausing for a moment. The ship's guns continued to fire and the American's continued to drop bombs, and Captain Hitomi watched with grim pride as it seemed four enemy planes went down. Counterflooding was ordered, but within three minutes KUMANO's list was 45 degrees, and the guns could no longer fire. Captain Hitomi cancelled the order and ordered all hands to save themselves, but made no move to leave the bridge himself. He remained on the bridge, calmly calling down encouragement to the men and directing their evacuation. Four minutes after the impacts KUMANO flopped completely over like a harpooned whale, ruined bow nosing under the waves while men streamed and floundered over the barnacle encrusted hull. She hung there thus, the upturned hull remaining afloat for a while, rudders facing the sky.

The survivors scrambling in the water and over the hull now were subjected to a particularly cruel strafing by the enemy planes. Reportedly, even bombs were dropped in the water to explode among the swimmers, but fortunately for the Japanese, all flew away soon. KUMANO itself yielded to the depths she had so long cheated with typical stubborness, for not till 1515 did the capsized hull at last gurgle out of sight. In view of the rapid blasting and sinking, and strafing that followed, KUMANO's losses were severe, but not what might be expected. Out of a crew of 1,036 officers and men, Captain Hitomi Soichiro and 440 others "shared the vessel's fate" but 41 officers and 554 petty officers and men survived the sinking. Senior survivor was Chief Engineer Horiyama Sakae. He and the others could take pride in one small consolation: The Emperor's portrait - so sacred to Imperial Navy tradition - was safe, having been stored ashore at Santa Cruz since the submarine attack. Furthermore, they could take pride on how hard they had fought to prevent this outcome, only to be thwarted by an unrelenting enemy.

KUMANO's survivors had reason to be proud, despite the outcome. Since sailing from Brunei a month ago, she had engaged enemy carrier planes, an enemy surface fleet, and a submarine wolf pack. Starting with her dramatic torpedoing by JOHNSTON off Samar, the KUMANO had in the days that followed, absorbed a total of eight torpedoes and six bombs before yielding at last to the sea. It has been rightly observed, few battleships could have done better! Heavy cruiser KUMANO was indeed, a ship that refused to die, a ship of "nine lives".

NOTE: Some sources incorrectly state that Captain Hitomi Soichiro was removed from the bridge of KUMANO and survived the sinking. However, KUMANO's Detailed Action Report and the Japanese Defense Agency's history (BKS) confirm that he went down with the cruiser.

Any correspondence from readers with interest in the subject and details described wishing to engage in commentary and discussion would be welcome.

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