IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY MYSTERIES © 2003 Anthony P. Tully

MYSTERIES/UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY

Located/Surveyed Shipwrecks of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Opened May 23, 2003

(Updated March 5, 2012)

By Anthony "Tony" Tully

E-Mail: tullyfleet - gmail.com

More than fifty years after the Pacific War the exploration and description of Japanese Navy wrecks remains fairly limited. While such household names as the BISMARCK and HOOD have generated even repeat investigations and filming, Japanese capital ships of almost totally unknown circumstances of loss like the FUSO remain unchronicled. However, the past decade has seen a gradual, and one hopes increasing, change in this situation. There appears to be rising interest and respect for the Imperial Navy's underwater legacy as well. Both as a way of chronicling the progress thus far, and to encourage more, I am opening this section to describe what is known to date. Included in the description are generally only wrecks known to be be found, and some details available of their condition.

Since the recent work on RMS TITANIC the science of wreck forensics and exploration to reconstruct circumstances has been growing but remains a fairly young field. Especially with warships, there is a relative paucity of examples where "before and after" data can be compared to learn more about sinking dynamics and how such hulls comes to rest on the bottom. To that end, I have included here wrecks that were surveyed in detail during and after the war as well, regardless whether they have since been re-visited or re-located, and further matched those with a short capsule of the immediate condition/orientation of the vessel when sinking as revealed by action reports or eyewitnesses.

The author himself has had the happy fortune to participate in wreck identification with remains of the Japanese carrier KAGA off Midway, and has been poised to oversee an expedition to unlock some of the mysteries of the Battle of Surigao Strait, particularly of the battleships FUSO and YAMASHIRO. Unfortunately, the latter has been postponed due to shifting global circumstances. But there are many other wrecks of interest, and while the search in the Philippines is currently stalled, there has been a good step forward with the March discovery and diving of the wreck of the famous heavy-cruiser HAGURO, sunk in the celebrated last surface battle of the Pacific War. It is my hope that readers who know of any further wreck discoveries or projects, or can add details here, will certainly contact me. All too many Japanese ships went down in circumstances of near anonymity, or with all their crews. It is only right that some detail and knowledge of their last moments be brought to life, and in this way, perhaps offer some closure and rest. If this page even serves to illuminate or spur further such feats as the HAGURO, or a return to the FUSO's mystery, or many others, then it has served its purpose.

- Anthony Tully May 2003


Discussion & Questions


Note: Since the term sometimes is ambiguous in sinking descriptions and precision in wreck investigation is important, unless specified otherwise here I use "capsize" in its technical sense of describing a ship turning onto her beam ends. When a literal "bottom up" posture beyond say beyond 145 degrees is intended, it will be described as such, or as "turned over".

(It is my intention to hopefully provide some free-hand drawings of some of these wrecks as the page is expanded and revised.)

Note II: All times and dates given are rendered as Tokyo time, (Item-9)

Note III: This record is concerned with describing the condition of a wreck after sinking, when known, to compare to the circumstances - and augment the details of - its loss. In some cases, a wreck's condition was known during the war,or immediately post-war, but has either been removed or never explored since. An excellent example is the condition of the CA NACHI; preserved in the April 1945 examination report, but a wreck that has since been nearly or even totally demolished and removed. Another example would be destroyer YUZUKI it's fate or even whether re-visited since 1945 is unknown. - (Tully)



Aircraft Carriers

Japan built or tried to complete, thirty aircraft carriers. Of these, eleven were sunk or damaged in shallow water and scrapped post-war. Of the available remainder, surprisingly enough, to date, only one Japanese carrier wreck is known to have been investigated, and it only partially discovered:


Aircraft Carrier - KAGA

Wreckage clearly belonging to a Japanese carrier was found & photographed in the Midway battle-site in May and September 1999. Subsequently, this chunk of wreckage was confirmed to be part of the aircraft carrier KAGA in the spring of 2000 by a research analyst team comprised of the author (Anthony Tully), Jon Parshall, and David Dickson.

Condition: The fragment is just that, transpiring to be the starboard gun tub of the KAGA, its positive identification on 14 February 2000 was made possible by the landing array arrangement attachment unique to her of the four unlocated Midway carriers. Since it is a fragment, it is of course next to impossible to tell anything of the condition of the main wreck, or even if it is immediately adjacent. However, according to eyewitness testimony in the last hour of KAGA afloat and as she sank, the carrier's hull remained intact, but a good section of all but the aft and forward ends of the hangars and flight deck and side completely blown out and missing. She went down stern first at a very shallow angle, and presumably descended in such a way to the ocean floor. However, as further exploration has been repeatedly postponed due to changing conditions, any further details are purely speculative.

Note: For further details on the 1999 discovery and the 2000 identification process, see:

Identifying (part of) KAGA's wreck

Also: "Identifying Kaga", by Jonathan Parshall, Anthony Tully, David Dickson, United States Naval Institute Proceedings, June 2001.


Escort Carrier - SHINYO

Though it is unknown if the carrier's wreckage location has been confirmed, let alone explored, it is mentioned here because it sank in water's less than deep than its length (some 23 fathoms), and for this reason should prove relatively easy to locate. In fact, it is possible it has even been anonymously salvaged and scrapped by this time (one hopes not) and any clarification or further details regarding the wreck site would be welcomed.

Note: Due to intensive recent research, it is this author's informed opinion that the attack position given by USS SPADEFISH for Shinyo ---- 33-04'N, 123-32'E, is in fact, more accurate than the official IJN position of 32-59'N, 123-38'E. Such a discrepancy might mean the wreck has in fact, not been located. Any information would be welcomed.



Battleships

Of the twelve Japanese battleships all but one were lost in World War II, and the last, NAGATO was expended just after, as a symbolic sacrifice in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in July 1946. Of these twelve, three - HARUNA, ISE, HYUGA --- were sunk in shallow water by air raids and scrapped in-situ post-war. Of the remainder, five have been located to date:


Battleship - YAMATO

The wreck of the celebrated YAMATO was apparently first located on 1 August 1985. All accounts had agreed that at the moment of sinking at 1423 on 7 April 1945, that the YAMATO had first capsized more than 90 degrees to port, then exploded violently, allegedly as a result of a raging fire touching off "C" turret magazine. However, discovery and submersible exploration of the wreck, particularly a series of surveys in 1999 have shed new light and revealed a somewhat different sequence, sometimes surprising.

These surveys show that YAMATO ended up in two major halfs in a depth of 1,400 feet. The surprising thing is that it turned out that YAMATO had first turned over to port, and while turning, `vomited' out the huge 18.1 inch gun turrets and their barbettes in their entirety. Immediately after, came the huge explosion seen, but it was not "C" turret at all, but rather apparently "B" turret magazine that first exploded. Though this contradicted all prior assumptions, ironically, this matched the testimony of YAMATO' s XO Nomura who had all along reported seeing a red light flash for No.1 magazine just before the capsize. Even so, it seems that it was No.2, not No.1 that went first. In any event, the explosion of forward main magazines was sufficient to sever meters of the bow section clean off the ship. Further, immediately following, apparently the aft 6-inch magazine exploded and tore a large hole in the bottom on the port side of the ship, about level with the mainmast. Both halves subsequently plunged to the bottom, the bow landing upright, and the bulk of the ship landing flat upside down, the bridge superstructure crushed to the side. The rear half is the longest, some 180 meters, and is keel up. The bow half is 90 meters long, with the break just abaft No.1 barbette. The bow half lies upright less than 50 meters to `starboard' of the aft section, pointed at an angle to its midships.

Though it can't be certain, the lack of blast damage at that spot on the bottom of the hull suggests that No.3 turret magazine never exploded, but that the fire in the aft-6-in turret did finally reach its magazine when the ship turned over. This detail actually has some importance as it lays to rest a theory that had recently been gaining some currency, and that was the fact that had YAMATO not capsized, the fire in in the 6-in turret would have touched off its magazine and with it the No.3 main magazine in turn, thus destroying the vessel anyway. The condition of the wreck shows this was not the case. Had the 6-in store detonated, it would have greviously injured and flooded YAMATO, but she would have lingered a while yet. More importantly, this has bearing on the possibility of whether a "late moment" detonation of MUSASHI's secondary magazine as she sank would have wrecked the vessel underwater. It now appears likely that the MUSASHI would be in fairly good condition for camera work, but there is risk she is bottom up on the seabed.


Battleship - MUSASHI

Despite the wreck's significance, a surprising disinterest in locating her (at least when compared to YAMATO, or even SHINANO) seems to have obtained over the years. Though many internet rumors and claims abound, no verified or credible account of discovery has surfaced, let alone photographs. Most likely this is due to the likely depth of the wreck and the unpredictable politics in the Philippines regarding wrecks. What is known is that the Japanese reports in "real-time" at the time of sinking, when the concern was whether secret documents and materials could be recovered by the enemy, stated by way of assurance this was no risk, that the depth was 800 meters. If true (and for the reason cited it probably is), it already puts MUSASHI at depths at the very limit of known dives, and requiring the kind of expedition with RV and deep bottom scan mounted by Robert Ballard, or more recently by the Australian discovery of the wrecks of HMAS SYDNEY and KM KORMORAN.

The condition of the wreck is likewise unknown, but it is likely somewhat better than that of her sister YAMATO. Though explosions are mentioned as MUSASHI capsized to port and plunged by the bow, there still is little indication they were of the volcanic force and appearance of the final explosion of YAMATO. Another factor is that MUSASHI's excellent damage control had time to secure her main battery and likely did so, nor were their reports of the kind of large internal fires implicated in YAMATO's explosion. However, the structural damage, particularly from the array of torpedo hits on the port side was daunting, and should not be underestimated. Though probably not broken into well separated halves like YAMATO, it is possible MUSASHI's main hull did split and buckle in places. When she left the surface, there was some indication of growing fracture at the forecastle.


Battleship - NAGATO

The NAGATO, along with new light cruiser SAKAWA, had fallen into American hands at the end of the Pacific War. (NAGATO had already been damaged, with her bridge wrecked in bombing at Yokosuka 18 July 1945.) Both ships were then subjected to the atomic bomb tests on fleet targets on 1 and 25 July 1946. The SAKAWA and NAGATO were moored roughly parallel, with the battleship to starboard and the U.S. battleship NEVADA between them. The first test fatally wounded and sank the SAKAWA (see entry), but the NAGATO rode it out with minimal damage. The second test, a bomb suspended underwater and detonated at 0835 25 July 1946 inflicted mortal damage, though this was not at first certain. NAGATO was moored in a position only 1,100 yards away, starboard beam facing the bomb. After the bomb, though highly radioactive, the NAGATO appeared more or less intact, though her superstructure was heavily scarred and she had a 5 degree list to starboard. Attempts to wash her down were made the following days, but it remained impossible to consider reboarding her to inspect hull damage. Progressive flooding slowly and almost invisibly mounted, the list increasing only very slowly. However, by 27 July the NAGATO was now listing 8 degrees to starboard, though remaining on an even keel fore-and-aft. She remained this way though, and plans were made to possibly move her to deep water and finish the job. It had neither been expected or desired that she would survive so close to the blast, and the delay was proving discomfiting. However, NAGATO had other plans --- like a samurai, it transpired that she chose her own time.

At nightfall 29 July, the NAGATO was listing close to 10 degrees to starboard and the main deck was awash beside the mainmast. Incredibly the battleship appeared to otherwise be on an even keel. However, come sunrise 30 July, the NAGATO's outline was not visible among the array of ships. She was nowhere to be seen. A search party sent out found her to have capsized 120 degrees to starboard. At sometime during the night she had "sunk under cover of darkness and no one knows the time". The impression gained is that it had been a fairly even roll to starboard followed by a bodily settling to the atoll floor. Either then, or subsequently the wreck turned further and settled deeper into the atoll bottom, snapping its stern and causing the large pagoda foremast to bend and flatten outward on the bottom on the starboard side of the wreck. She lies in about 160 feet of water. The famous bridge tower and spot from where Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku directed the Attack on Pearl Harbor remains well-preserved and by the fluke of the crumpling, accessible to the camera and divers. The NAGATO is now often visited by divers today, though the SAKAWA attracts little attention.


Battleship - MUTSU

The battleship MUTSU mysteriously exploded and sank at anchor in Hashirajima on 8 June 1943. At the moment of the blast, centered in the aft magazines, the MUTSU broke in half at a point roughly approximating the join of the engine room. The larger section was the foreward part, some 535-feet, and immediately capsized to starboard and sank bodily on its side to the bottom of Hashira-jima in some 130 feet of water. The severed stern floated free, upended, and remained afloat due to air pockets until two hours past midnight; where upon it too, sank to the bottom. Formal inquirys and investigation by divers commenced almost immediately, well before the war was over, and the wreck's location was never in dispute. In 1970 an eight-year salvage operation commences, and later that year the No.4 turret is raised. The climax of the operation comes in February 1972 when the forepart is raised, but some work continues until 1978. The net-result is that while parts of the afterpart and apparently the stern remain on the bottom, most of the wreck of the MUTSU has been cleared and there would be little left to dive. A memorial is maintained in the vicinity, and 272 crew remains were never accounted for.


Battleship - KIRISHIMA

In August 1992 during Dr. Robert Ballard's expedition with National Geographic to explore wrecks associated with the battles in Iron Bottom Sound he located in 4,000 feet of water the upturned hull of a Japanese battleship assumed to be the KIRISHIMA, though sister-ship HIEI remains a lesser possibility. Being totally upside down, the wreck yields disappointingly few details of the damage that sent it to the bottom, which would in turn possibly assist identification. However, even keel up, some important details are discernible. For one thing, the whole forepart of the ship is missing, and the whereabouts of it were not located. Though no clear hull landmarks apart from the bilge keels were obvious, rouch calculations based on the remaining length of about 150 meters suggest that the break in the hull is about level with the foremast pagoda structure. That is to say, by any calculation, it was the forward 14-inch and possibly secondary magazines as well that exploded. Only one pass over the wreck was made, so it is not certain there was no damage further aft, but nothing like torpedo holes were observed. It should be noted this further supports identification as KIRISHIMA.

All four screws and props are still in place, and the two port ones are entangled with anchor chains. Both rudders are inclined for a turn to starboard, the port rudder at a sharper angle than the starboard one, which is closer to fore-aft. Interestingly enough, the extereme stern is broken off, though it is far from clear that it happened from any contact with the sea-floor given the flat posture of the hulk. Further, a curious gash in the bottom of the port quarter, near the break and well aft of the props, appears. It may even be a shell hole. It is very tempting to speculate that in fact the fantail of the battleship had been shorn off by a torpedo hit or such, and this damage was partly responsible for the jammed rudders and inability to steer the ship. If this is KIRISHIMA, such a torpedo hit would add an important details to the facts of her loss. The anchor chains may suggest an attempt to "kite steer" the battleship.

It is to be hoped that eventually someone returns and makes further survey of the wreck, or at least a camera pass or two. Perhaps the missing forepart can be located, and may not be upside down. Until then, all we can do is speculate on the available information. Since the hulk is upside down, it conceals details of damage, and even, as observed, preserves some ambiguity of its identity. However, four factors converge to strongly support the original identification as KIRISHIMA. (1) The site is apparently a mere mile or so east from the IJN sinking position for KIRISHIMA. (2) The missing fore-section strongly hints at the massive underwater explosion reported after KIRISHIMA had rolled over to starboard and sank. As far as known, the HIEI suffered no such explosion, though it must be remembered that no one observed her final moments. (3) Though inconclusive given the coverage, since no torpedo hits in the remaining hull were observed, this is markedly inconsistent with the known, let alone claimed, torpedo hits on HIEI prior to sinking. (4) Finally, the position of the rudders strongly agrees with the evidence available for KIRISHIMA, though perversely enough, this detail is also echoed in HIEI's loss! The best one can do is render an honest opinion --- mine is that Ballard's analysis team is correct and this is indeed the KIRISHIMA.

Note: Those seeking HIEI should look along a bearing 5 miles NNW of Savo Island taking into account the known direction of drift revealed by other ships logs and the 1992 discoveries. The last precisely reported position in IJN records was at 1305 bearing 347 degrees, distance 4.6 miles from the summit of Savo Island. This about six hours before sunset. At the time, she had lost all propulsive power and was drifting. Ugaki's position for KIRISHIMA on the other hand was bearing 285 degrees 8.5 miles from the summit of Savo Island,about 09-05'S, 159-42' E. The HIEI was thus always "closer" to Savo Island than the KIRISHIMA which was more than three miles further out than that, and bearing nearly west rather than north-northwest.

Note: For more information on the 1992 Ballard expedition and some fine paintings and wreck photos of KIRISHIMA, YUDACHI, and AYANAMI, as well as celebrated U.S. Navy warships, see "The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal" by Robert D. Ballard with Rick Archbold, Warner/Madison Press, 1993.


Battleship - YAMASHIRO

The YAMASHIRO was sunk with sister-battleship FUSO on 25 October 1944 in the chaos of the night surface battle of Surigao Strait. Having gallantly engaged six battleships and the whole American battleline with gunfire only to be shelled and torpedoed into ruin, the YAMASHIRO at the end reportedly capsized and sank stern first following a final two torpedo hits in the starboard side amidships and aft. Accounts actually contradict whether she heeled to port or more likely to starboard at the end, but as it happens, it does not matter. It is not how she wound up.

For in the first weekend of April 2001, the large wreck of what is almost certainly the battleship YAMASHIRO was discovered in the vicinity of her reported sinking position. Rather surprisingly, apparently the battleship landed upright on the bottom in some 600 feet of water, but almost no other details are available as it was a scan.

Update: August 2009 - As regards FUSO, as revealed in my recent book The Battle of Surigao Strait the FUSO seems did not suffer a massive magazine explosion, nor was she blown and torn into two separate sections floating well apart. The circumstances are extremely complicated but are breifly summarized as this: following a torpedo hit in No.1 powder room and a second amidships in the starboard boiler or machinery spaces, the FUSO began to list to starboard and lose speed, while settling inexorably by the bow. However, she remained underway, at slow speed, until the forecastle became inundated. At which point, twenty to forty minutes after being hit, she nosed down and heeled over to starboard. She upended sharply enough to lift the screws clear and corkscrewed as she sank. Stories of great noise and her pagoda smacking the water hint that -- like TITANIC - at that point battleship FUSO might have wrenched and snapped her hull apart from strain as she sank, but this is completely distinct from the conventional version of being "blown in two" by a magazine explosion. Furthermore, it is just as likely she remained in one piece and rests on the bottom upright, for her construction and armor belt would be naturally stouter than the TITANIC's.

For details of the questions involved, see:

Entangled Fates of Battleships YAMASHIRO & FUSO

Major revisions and answer to questions raised there are found in:

The Battle of Surigao Strait by Anthony Tully, Indiana University Press, 2009.



Cruisers

Heavy Cruiser - ASHIGARA

The ASHIGARA was torpedoed and sunk by HMS TRENCHANT on 8 June 1945 while trying to relocate troops from Batavia to Singapore. Struck by four to five torpedoes in the starboard side, her bow was blown off, and she capsized and sank in the narrow Banka Strait near and west of Hendrik Klippen Shoal. Though no details have come to the author's attention, in 1998? it was reported that the ASHIGARA wreck was to be salvaged. Though this is uncertain, it is more than likely the wreck "position" had always been known, as the Banka Strait is not likely to have been very deep in that area of reefs. When last seen, the ASHIGARA had lost her bow and had capsized to starboard and settled beneath the waves. Presumably the wreck ended up not unlike KUMANO (see below) upside down, or possibly lying on its starboard side. Anyone knowing any details of this supposed salvage plan or the condition of the cruiser is asked to contact me. One possible important detail that inspection could provide if not too weathered is whether or not ASHIGARA sported a camouflage pattern like the MYOKO and TAKAO, and possibly the HAGURO did in spring 1945.

Addendum: On 23 May Paul Parsons on J-aircraft.com brought this little blub to my attention:
On the subject of Ashigara I remember reading somewhere that the wreck was rumoured to contain gold (as usual!) and was to be dived. I did a quick web search and came up with this message posted to a forum in January 2002:

dear sir we are looking for sponsors for a project in salvaging a japanese ship name Ashigara sunk in indonesian waters on the 8.6.1945 with 228 tons gold the wreck is in 60 meters deep permits and legal papers are arranged can you help me on this thank you

Comment: if the above is true, starting in January 2002 there was renewed interest in ASHIGARA. Due apparently, to probably unfounded assumption that there was gold aboard. (though it is possible some might have once been). Interestingly, this seems to tie with a message Kevin Denlay sent (see next). It may be that this expedition came to grief.

Update: Kevin Denlay, one of the divers of the HAGURO site, submitted this useful appendix to the state of the ASHIGARA wreck today: "Her remains lay in very shallow water and reportedly have been heavily salvaged over the years, and also dived on occasionally. Because of the VERY poor visibility at the site there have been several deaths on her over the years, with, reportedly, two Indonesian navy divers loosing their life, lost inside her hulk, these just sometime in 2002. When we passed by the wreck site earlier this year (February) the clarity of the water (or lack thereof) would have been equivalent to looking into a cup of milk coffee. Seriously. We didn't even bother stopping it was so bad." It is unclear whether the Indonesian divers were on official assignment or a private venture at the time of their tragedy.


Heavy Cruiser - HAGURO

On 16 May 1945, in the early hours of the morning, the HAGURO went down after a hard-fought surface battle against five British destroyers. When last seen she was had returned nearly to an even keel from a steep port list and was sinking by the bow. It is now possible to compare this with facts from the bottom.

On 4 March 2003 the wreck of the HAGURO was located by the liveaboard dive vessel MV Empress, and dived in the days following by a small team of divers, including Kevin Denlay who supplied me with some of his, and the groups, observations. She sits upright in about 212ft/64m of water, buried in some sections up to almost the main deck level in the silty bottom, the fore funnel collapsed, the foremast missing and apparently the mainmast collapsed as well. The upper section of the bridge structure - approximately the top half - is also missing, possibly dislodged over the years by snagged trawler nets, the remains of which are abundant on the wreck. No.1 turret's guns are elevated and pointed to starboard. No.2 turret is trained to starboard, but part of its roof is missing and peeled off, and the barrels completely absent. No. 3 turret is trained on a port quarter bearing. Here and there, the holes made by shell hits are also visible. Since the hull is partially buried in the mud, it may be difficult to confirm the torpedo hits received, hopefully the groups next visit will settle these questions, but the only hit really ever doubted was the one by HMS VERULAM prior to the final `coup de grace' shots of HMS VENUS.


Heavy Cruiser - NACHI

On 5 November 1944 VAdm Shima Kiyohide's 5th Fleet flagship heavy cruiser NACHI was caught by bombers and torpedo planes from USS ESSEX and USS LEXINGTON while trying to escape Manila Bay. Brought to a halt, she was then blown into three sections by torpedoes of the LEXINGTON planes which took a spectacular series of photographs. They showed NACHI heeling to starboard and sinking nearly upright with both bow and stern severed. Of warship wrecks, few have provoked as much lurid and absurdly unwarranted tales as the NACHI. The ultimate fate of the wreck post-war has been obscured by tales of gold and the consequence re-exploration and and apparent removal of the wreck in the 1970's. However, the immediate post-sinking condition of the wreck is known, and has plenty of interest as it can be compared to the condition and unforgettable aerial photographs of her spectacular demise.

For after Manila fell to MacArthur's forces in spring 1945, CinCPac wasted little time ordering the sunken flagship searched by divers. This was done in a series of dives commencing on 14 April 1945 and brought equipment and very valuable documents and records which were translated and distributed before the war was over. These same divers reported finding the NACHI in 102' of water, with the main cruiser wreck buried in the bottom with a 45 degree starboard list covered with barnacles. The bow was completely missing, and the severed stern was nearby, bottom up on the seabed. The divers noted several torpedo holes and bomb hits, the former presumably in the port side as the starboard was buried. These in fact belonged to the final fatal series of hits that sank the cruiser, as the earlier hits were to starboard. When the salvage operations were finished, the masts were dynamited to clear any obstruction of the ship channel.

The condition of the cruiser was not the main interest, and few other details are available, but these form a useful appendix to the pictorial record of the sinking. Contrary to often cited locations placing it near Corregidor the NACHI was sunk west of Manila Harbor in a main-ship channel. This factor, with the addition of post-war salvage, has apparently resulted in the wreck being entirely or nearly so removed and the site leveled.


Heavy Cruiser - KUMANO

On 25 November 1944, after having her bow blown off forward of No.1 turret and surviving an incredible number of attacks and damage during and after the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the KUMANO was finally caught and sunk in Dasol Bay, near Santa Cruz, Luzon by planes from USS TICONDEROGA. Blasted by five nearly simultaneous torpedo hits on the port side, the KUMANO within four minutes had heeled 45 degrees to port, then turned almost completely upside down. Twenty five minutes later the upturned hull had settled beneath the waves.

On 4 June 1945 USS CHANTICLEER's team located the KUMANO. At the time she was lying upside down with a 120 degree list to port in 108 feet of water. The superstructure and all decks above the third deck were in the mud. The bow was completely blown off (matching IJN records - author), and was subsequently found 150 yards from the bulk of the wreck. Numerous bomb and torpedo holes were found and practically all seams were split. Interestingly, even at the time the entire ship seemed to have been well-stripped apart from a compartment that yielded several coding books and instruments, and the deck logs of KUMANO from 1937 to 1942. Ironically, also recovered and of great interest to the salvers was the wiring diagrams of the rader sets pulled off the NACHI a few months prior. One 27mm mount and ammo was salvaged in operating condition. According to an email in 1998, the KUMANO wreck is still on the bottom, and this may be true for the site is in the open sea and difficult weather conditions in the assessment of the U.S. Navy salvers.


Light Cruiser - SAKAWA

The detonation of the Atomic Bomb "Able" inflicted devastating damage to the flimsy light cruiser, and left her little more than a floating junkyard. Though the forward turrets and bridge were oddly almost whole, everything aft of it had been squashed flat as if stepped on by a giant foot. The stack, hangar, and amidships superstructure were almost unrecognizable -- only the mainmast topped over to port and the No.3 turret standing forlornly in place provided a landmark. The explosion smashed the stern and started a fire, and apparently here, as well, inflicted the damage that ultimately proved mortal. After the test she was found down by the stern about two feet, with a slight list to port. However, during the night this settling greatly accelerated and morning found the stern down by ten feet now and the port rail almost awash. She was clearly sinking and at 0906 an attempt was made to tow and ground her. But the list to port increased to 8 degrees and the stern now went under. The tow was cut as SAKAWA began to heel over to port faster and faster. By 1035 her stern had come to rest on the bottom, and she was listing 85 degrees to port, whereupon the upraised bow slowly subsided under the waves, to finally vanish at 1042 in nearly 200 feet of water.

Twenty-four days after the first blast, a second atom bomb "Baker" was detonated, a shallow-water shot. The effect on the sunken SAKAWA, barely 500 feet away, was unrecorded, but was presumed severe. As recently as 1992 the SAKAWA's wreck had not been relocated or positively identified, but has since been found. The way she ended up is interesting, having apparently corrected as she settled. Despite the angle at which she sank, the SAKAWA in her final resting place is almost upright. She is buried in the sand with a perhaps 15-20 degree list to port, with the starboard side exposed but the port main deck rail completely buried abaft the forecastle. The bridge has clearly been further flattened by the blast of "Baker" Bomb after she was already on the bottom. The forward turrets are still in place, but almost nothing is left abaft of these and a ruined segment of conning tower. In fact, the highest point now on the wreck is ironically one of the "Christmas Tree" monitors still on "B" turret. What remains of the bridge lays smashed in the mud off the port side, apparently destroyed during the "Baker" blast, for it was intact when she sank. Aft of this point, little is left, which accords with the last views of her before she sank


Light Cruiser - KINU

Like the NACHI, the KINU was in fact sought out and dived by personnel of the USS CHANTICLEER in spring 1945. Though nothing is known about the wreck since, the findings then agree with what was known about her last moments. According to KINU's Action Report a direct bomb hit and three severe near-misses acted like torpedoes to rip open her port side aft, flooding the aft engine room. Despite efforts to stay the flooding, she foundered about six hours later. The KINU was located and diving began on 15 July 1945. The KINU was found in 150 feet of water, lying flat on the bottom with a 90 degree list to port. Inspection showed a torpedo hit forward and that her back was broken abaft the bridge in the well deck area. Bomb hits were seen between number one and two stacks, and between number three stack and the aft torpedo tube mounts. However, this wasn't the only impact area as all was a mass of wreckage abaft the after superstructure. As it happened, the bridge itself was undamaged. Many documents and four coding machines were pulled from the communication room in the bridge as well as misc other material. The torpedo hit on the starboard side forward is a bit puzzling, as it was not reported by KINU's report, but in the hail of bombs and torpedoes on her, it is perhaps not surprising. Any possibility that she is the ABUKUMA instead seems ruled out by the location found off Western Masbate, and the unequivocal statement of the CHANTICLEER log.



Destroyers & Escorts

(Incomplete, still collating and researching)

Note: Four Japanese destroyers were sunk in shallow waters in Manila Harbor or Cavite; the AKEBONO, AKISHIMO (off Cavite pier), OKINAMI, and HATSUHARU (Inside Manila harbor mole.) Another, the HAYASHIMO was beached in plain view off Semirara Island. With the apparent exception of the last, all almost certainly salvaged and scrapped post-war, probably before 1960. However, with the exception of OKINAMI (in Gakken), the author has not seen photographs or info of the salvage operations of the other wrecks. Apparently they were extant in 1952-55, but removed afterward. Any information would be greatly appreciated and urged to contact me.


Destroyer AMAGIRI

The wreck of the celebrated Japanese destroyer AMAGIRI, which gained notoriety and fame for ramming and sinking John F. Kennedy's PT 109 at 0024 (IJN time) August 2, 1943 was discovered by Captain Vidar Skoglie of MV EMPRESS in 2003. The identification was confirmed in October of that year, and it was found that the AMAGIRI wreck rests on her starboard side but somewhat upright at a depth of 28 meters/92 feet about 60 miles south of Balikpapan in Makassar Strait. It turns out she landed much as she left the surface, as will be seen.

How AMAGIRI came to be there is a relatively obscure chapter of the Pacific War, and certainly not as well known as her encounter with PT 109. By an interesting quirk, both senior officers involved that fateful night -- Comdesdiv 11 Captain Yamashiro Katsumori and CO Lt.Cdr. Hanami Kouhei had left the destroyer at the end of February 1944 before she headed south to the Singapore area. On 20 April 1944 with cruisers AOBA and OI she had departed Singapore transporting aviation materials for Davao. At 1235 on April 23 while the force was passing through Makassar Strait, the AMAGIRI struck a mine (apparently laid by USS TAUTOG) in way of No.1 boiler room, and fire and flood broke out. Though Chief watertender Nishimatsu was mortally wounded in Boiler Room No.3 during courageous measures to save her, after two hours the AMAGIRI listed to starboard and settled bow first in reported position 02-12'S, 116-45'E at 1453. The AOBA rescued her crew including Lt.Cdr. Yoshinaga Gen, and her losses were very light, but Chief Nishimatsu died the next day and Comdesdiv 19 cited him for special posthumous promotion.

After initial survey in October 2003, the wreck of the AMAGIRI was visited more extensively in January 2005 and most of its details recorded. Curiously, for one reason or another, the wreck has somewhat collapsed in on itself, leading to the unusual situation where areas usually below decks or inaccessible are exposed to view. Apparently in addition to the usual destructive forces on a wreck, some illicit diving and demolitions have taken place. In fact, it appears that fishermen conducting illegal underwater demolitions to kill schools of fish somehow set off Amagiri's No.1 forward magazine! The destruction in the bridge area and beneath that mount is accordingly massive. (The speculation this is post-war damage inflicted in this way is probably correct, for AMAGIRI went down somewhat slowly, with no huge explosion, though there was a fire and scalding of men in the boiler rooms). The forecastle area forward, however, remains reasonably intact, and divers even thought they could discover traces of where AMAGIRI's prow had hit PT 109. (AMAGIRI received a very small rent in the cutwater above waterline from the collision, and though repaired, traces might remain of the patch).

Moving aft from the shattered fore-turret area, not much remains of the lower bridge area, but the rangefinder and director above survive, though collapsed down into the heap. The foremast is described as a tripod, but no mention of a radar platform or such key details.There are also remains of both funnels, but the deck around them is now split where even the boilers can be seen. Being a FUBUKI-class destroyer, the AMAGIRI had three sets of torpedo mounts, and all survive, though not all in original position. No.1 TT mount lays upside down, half buried in the bottom; No.2 TT mount has actually collapsed with the deck into the hull; and No.3 TT mount has also collapsed, splaying fan-like on the port deck -- which itself, however held at this location. Notable is that while all tubes are empty , the reload torpedoes are still there lying around, and appear to be `Long Lance' Type 93.

Of particular interest to IJN historians is the fantail area, where one finds confirmation that AMAGIRI's No.2 turret was removed and replaced by increased 25mm AA like many destroyers at this time. (Allyn Nevitt's speculation in his TROM that this took place during the refit in the first half of January 1944 is thus shown almost certainly correct). No.3 turret is there, but its gunhouse completely eroded away, and the remains lying on its side, and scattered a little behind are numerous depth charges and their throwers. The rounded fantail is also collapsed, but the rudder and two screws are visible just beneath it.

For more details, see:

See Kevin Denlay's write-up of the exploration here HIJMS Amagiri .


Destroyer AYANAMI

The same expedition by Dr. Ballard and the National Geographic Society that found the KIRISHIMA also found in late July 1992 in some 700 meters of water two sunken Japanese destroyers associated with the battle. One was clearly identified as YUDACHI, the other with only slightly less certainty as the AYANAMI, though AKATSUKI was a long-shot alternative. Though not 100% certain, it seems fairly clear that the Japanese destroyer wreck located is the AYANAMI and not the AKATSUKI. The historical record and location are almost decisive alone. The destroyer surveyed on July 28, 1992 is in a strange "two angle" configuration. This is because at the break of the hull abaft the bridge, the ship's hull and back is literally broken, so that the forepart lies twisted and lying on its starboard side, while the rest of the destroyer is perversely upright. Though Japanese accounts slightly conflict on whether an induced explosion or a scuttling torpedo from URANAMI ultimately sank the AYANAMI, they agree on the location of the event: just abaft the bridge, which corresponds exactly with what was found, hull-breaking damage resembling a starboard torpedo hit.

Incidentally, these details of the wreck orientation further militate against the AKATSUKI possibility. The AKATSUKI's survivors reported that when the destroyer foundered it had heeled increasingly to port until it lay over on its side, then the bow raised and she slipped under stern first.{Curiously, the painting of AKATSUKI made for the expedition book does not follow this testimony and instead shows her down at the bow, perhaps for dramatic license}. Though she may have corrected her descent, this would lead one to expect to find AKATSUKI on her port side or upright, not jacknifed and partially laying on her starboard side. Nor was such vast damage abaft the bridge mentioned. As a particularly ironic commentary on the identity question, had the ships just had different letters it would be settled already -- for the first cursive letter "A" in Hiragana still survives on the wreck's stern, more than 50 years later. Of course, since AKATSUKI had the same first letter, even that isn't enough!


Destroyer FUMIZUKI

The FUMIZUKI had foundered the next day after a bomb hit during the raid on Truk on 17 February 1944. In April 1987 the FUMIZUKI was discovered due to the efforts of Japanese writer and diving enthusiast Yoshimura Tomoyuki. The FUMIZUKI was found in 130 feet of water, resting upright but with a 25 degree list to port. The stern and deck there are buckled, apparently from impact with the sea floor, and the forward stack is missing. The aft torpedo tube has been removed, and bomb damage that sank the ship is visible there.

Note: For more details, the reader is encouraged to consult "WW II Wrecks of the Kwajalein and Truk Atolls" by Dan E. Bailey. North Valley Diver Publications, Redding, CA, 1992.


Destroyer HAYASHIMO

Destroyer HAYASHIMO was a member Desdiv 2 of Kurita's Fleet at Leyte Gulf, and had a rather protracted and star-crossed adventure as she sought to escape from the Battle of Samar with the other ships. With her forepeak collapsed by a torpedo hit in the port bow on October 26, 1944 while in Tablas Strait, she steered to a temporary anchorage in a cove off Semirara, only to be further damaged and bottomed there by subsequent attacks, the next day and even afterward. As late as April-May 1946 her wreck was in position sunk upright with a slight list to port to the main deck level amidships, with fantail submerged to the top of No.3 turret. After that, her wreck disappears from the written and photograph record. There is no mention of post-war recovery. Though it seems scarcely likely that such a prominent wreck would have remained all these years, there has been mention more than once of an unsalvaged Japanese wreck in shallow water (now just beneath the surface) off Semirara Island, that has been settling ever deeper over the years. The mentions are little more than anecdotal evidence given in passing by locals and divers of the Mindoro area. It is just possible that this is indeed, HAYASHIMO, but remains unconfirmed. In any case, if this is true, identification should prove very simple - a Yugumo-class in the right location with forecastle damage that could be matched to any remains.

Note: it is not likely that the wrecks of destroyers FUJINAMI or SHIRANUHI (sunk in near vicinity on October 27, 1944 while trying to assist HAYASHIMO), rest in shallow water. Even if they do, they are readily distinguished from HAYASHIMO, for sister-ship FUJINAMI jacknifed, and SHIRANUHI is a Kagero-class with removed No.2 turret.


Destroyer KIKUZUKI

Hit by bombs from planes of USS YORKTOWN on 4 May 1942 while covering the invasion of Tulagi. It was the prelude to the Battle of Coral Sea, and while subchaster TOSHI MARU No.3 managed to beach KIKUZUKI on Gavutu Island, the Japanese were unable to give full attention to salvage. Before they could make her sufficiently watertight, KIKUZUKI slid back into the sea and sank on 5 May. For a while the wreck was forgotten, but in 1943 after the fall of Guadalcanal to the Americans, salvage teams from USS PROMETHEUS raised the KIKUZUKI and got her back on the beach. The wreck thereafter has a complicated history, which because of the confusion it often causes, is worth outlining in sequence.

In mid-1943 KIKUZUKI was raised by the U.S. Navy and towed to Ngelle Sule (Big Gela Island) and beached in Tokio Bay on the south shore of Tulagi Island. There intelligence teams studied the ship and its fittings for more than a year. A photograph of 11 June 1944 shows the KIZUZUKI wreck beached on an even keel, bow facing shore, but stern down with the quarterdeck and main deck abaft amidships awash. (This is the photo discussed below as often mis-identified as the wreck of HAYATE sunk off Wake Island).

Later, in 1944, after the intel study was completed, apparently in December 1944 the wreck was moved to Purvis Bay, and positioned with stern facing the shoreline and allowed to settle there. At the time she was on even keel with fantail awash, stacks and bridge still in place.

The wreck remained there long after the war, and indeed, if some color pictures seen indicate they were taken recently, the KIKUZUKI may yet be there still. In any case, she is no longer on the bottom, but sat upright in shallow water with main deck clear and both stacks still in place. Whether or not she has been broken up as of this date (2009) is unknown, but the KIKUZUKI has figured in an interesting drama of identity confusion. A picture of her wreck was often identified as the HAYATE (for example in A.J. Watt's "Japanese Warships of WW II" published in 1973) , sunk during the invasion of Wake Island in December 1941, but this never really fit the facts of HAYATE's explosive demise. The mystery was put to rest by noted IJN destroyer enthusiast Allyn Nevitt in a letter to Warship International No.2 in 1982, p 107. Having with others ruled out such choices as NAGATSUKI, Mr. Nevitt showed that the oft-anonymous or mislabeled wreck was KIKUZUKI.

Addendum: After first posting this page in May 2003, I have received no less than three updates from readers on the KIKUZUKI in particular, and they shed great light on the ravages to the wreck over time, while once more returning some mystery to the wreck site. The photos agree with the descriptions that KIKUZUKI likes sunken canted over to starboard with only a portion of her port main deck and forecastle above water. It is an extreme state of ruin, and could easily perplex those unaware of the wreck's past.

Michael Slater gave this vivid description: "I visited Guadalcanal last August [2002] and saw her sitting upright in shallow water in a channel between two of the Florida Islands. She is still there. Her superstructure is long gone and the deck lies only a foot or so above water. Two of her 4.7" (?) guns are lying on the remains of her deck. One large crocodile was resting on her stern. A few miles distant lies the remains of the bow section of a USN LST [LST 342]. From what I gathered from a survivor's story, the LST was sunk during an action off the Russell Islands in mid-43. The bow section remained afloat and was towed to Tulagi to serve as a Fleet Post Office for the rest of the war."

Kevin Denlay reports: "She is still there, in a backwater on Florida Island (Ngella Sulle). Very little of her remains above water although if you want to brave the crocodile infested mangrove swamps that surround her (well not quite 'infested' but there are crocs around there and you certainly wouldn't want to go swimming near her!) then you can pull a dinghy alongside her and walk around on her deck - that is if you don't fall through the rusty deck! She is not where she was initially beached, and cannot be seen from the ocean, and must have been towed in there many years ago, as I first saw here there in 1993 (and it looked like she had been there forever then.) How she got where she is now is a bit of a mystery to me actually as I cant imagine it being deep enough to sail her up the inlet to get her in there now..."

Steve Athanas has sent and kindly granted permission to use this photograph of KIKUZUKI, taken on 10 August, 1993. (Coincidentally and usefully, it is thefore from the same year as Kevin Denlay first saw her as related above.).


Destroyer KUROSHIO

On May 19, 2002 during Robert Ballard's search for PT 109 in Blackett Strait (he found PT 109 on May 26), the wreck of a destroyer was noted by sonar, and soon after filmed. It was identified as the KUROSHIO, one of three Japanese destroyers sunk in the mining disaster of May 8, 1943.(See Allyn Nevitt's study Destruction of Desdiv 15) Though not described in the associated National Geographic book, the discovery and name of the ship is mentioned in the DVD video special of same search. The wreck was in bad condition, highly shattered by the forces that had sunk her. Unfortunately - but understandably (they had barely a week for the search) - the expedition was interested only in using her wreck as a fix for the track of movement of Japanese forces through Blackett Strait, and it seems little time was spent at the wreck. Almost no details were given. However, the brief glimpses of video footage when mated with the historical record of the sinking yield a passable picture. At about 0500 May 8 1943 KUROSHIO struck a mine aft, and was rendered unnavigable then shortly after, while drifting struck one or more mines, one of these exploding her No.2 magazine. By 0506 she had swiftly gone to the bottom, shattered into three parts (and this observed above water).

What the PT 109 search team of Ballard found was a shattered Japanese destroyer, that the historian on the expedition - Dale Ridder - apparently identified as KUROSHIO. The little video is sufficient to confirm massive upper deck and hull damage, and of most interest, that KUROSHIO settled to the bottom somewhat upright, possibly with a list to port (if interpretation of video is correct). This is not very surprising considering how fast she sank and apparently in sections. It is not unlikely that the Ballard team found only part of the wreck --- as said before, little interest was shown in her. However, the identification is probably correct, as despite the close proximity of the the three Japanese destroyers involved in the Desdiv 15 disaster, their wrecks ultimately sank at very distinct and separate locations, readily apparent even on a general plot. KAGERO sank westward up the strait, indeed, not far from Plum Pudding Island where Lt.(jg) John F. Kennedy and his shipwrecked crew first landed. The OYASHIO had drifted south, grounding on the reef of Anuin Island on the east side of Ferguson Passage where she keeled over to starboard (it is unclear if it implies part of wreck remained above water); thus only KUROSHIO sank in mid-Blackett Strait where all three struck mines, for she was the one that sank almost immediately. Therefore, on the strength of these correlations, the identification of the wreck as KUROSHIO can be accepted. (And likely, was made on pretty firm grounds not apparent in the National Geographic video).

Naturally, this discovery immediately raises the question --- what happened to the wrecks of OYASHIO and KAGERO? Are they still there? Were they salvaged post-war? At the present, September 2009, that answer is unknown to the author. If anyone has information concerning this, their mail would be welcome.


Destroyer KUWA

The Matsu-class destroyer Kuwa was sunk around midnight of Dec 2/3 1944 in the violent surface battle of Ormoc Bay when the third echelon of the TA VII reinforcement ran into a U.S. destroyer trio sent to intercept it. The action was as bloody as it was swift -- flagship Kuwa and consort Take raced to defend the convoy, only to for Kuwa be hit repeatedly starting ten minutes after midnight just as Dec 3 began, and apparently going down in flames soon after. In the meantime, destroyer USS Cooper had also been sunk with 191 hands, falling victim to a torpedo hit starboard amidship from one of the Japanese destroyers.

In 2002 a wreck suspected to be the Matsu-class destroyer Kuwa sunk in this Battle of Ormoc Bay on 3 December 1944 was located by renowned diver Robert Lalumerie. On December 15, 2005 a major dive to survey and attempt to confirm the wreck's identity was undertaken by a team of six Hong Kong based divers. A documentary aired on the expedition gives useful details and precious interviews with Japanese survivors. The wreck was found to lie at a depth of 105.12 meters, and somewhat upright, buried in the bottom. The distinctive torpedo tube mount among other features confirmed its identity as a Japanese warship, and its length was the correct length. Moreover, the location was not far from where the U.S. Navy had reported sinking her. A final confirmation seemed to come from the fact the wreck has a welded hull. Though technically identity could not be proven in 2005-2006 and some slight doubts remained among the diving team and their consultants, they really have little cause to doubt their find. It is this writer's firm informed opinion that the wreck is Kuwa, no question, for the other four Japanese destroyers mentioned (the victims of Nov 11, 1944 TA III convoy disaster) do not lie anywhere near there, but rather off Ponson Island. Furthermore, the single torpedo mount is characteristic, and the wreck's position and even how it lies matches the account of a survivor's interrogation the author located in the National Archives. There simply are not any other comparable candidates though the relative neglect of the later Leyte campaign apparently has created this impression. The case is strengthened all the more by the discovery of the other victim of that battle, destroyer USS Cooper at comparable depth and in the correct relation to the Japanese wreck.

From what can be discerned from the documentaries and few images of the wreck from the dive, Kuwa's superstructure lies largely collapsed, and the bridge area and pilothouse all but destroyed. This is consistent with reports that mentioned shell hits on the pilothouse area. The torpedo tube mount is trained out to port, but it was not mentioned if its torpedoes have been fired, which would have been desirable to know, as the 2005 expedition asserts claim for the torpedo hit on USS Cooper to Kuwa when it is more generally credited to her consort Matsu that night, the Take, which certainly fired torpedoes.
Update: Kevin Denlay in a post on J-aircraft.com affirmed that the torpedo tubes were empty and that this was one of the details checked. Supposedly also, some reload torpedoes were found further aft.

According to the interviews of Kuwa survivors, the destroyer than slowly settled with a port list, and nosed under "quietly" to descend to the bottom. Among the few other unusual details cited by the survivors was that Kuwa floated about 1-2 hours after being hit before finally sinking (never before claimed), and that eight survivors were rescued by Transport No.140 as she passed through them and left the bay with the withdrawing convoy. (The No. 140 was indeed with the TA VII Third Echelon, and the citing of this obscure fact goes far to affirm the interviewee's - Hirabayashi Takashi - recall. It is worth noting that the 140 and others departed Ormoc at 0330, so Kuwa had sunk prior to then at the latest.). As far as is known, there have been no follow-up dives since December 2005 to further document the wreck.

Destroyer MINAZUKI

(Pending).

A slightly later, likely post-war photograph shows the wreck had undergone considerable degradation. Though the example of KIKUZUKI gives pause, it seems safe to assume the wreck has been removed from the reef off Cape Gloucester by the present.


Destroyer NAGATSUKI

The NAGATSUKI was damaged in the night battle of Kula Gulf on July 5-6, 1944, and while maneuvering ran hard aground on Kolombangara near Bambari Harbor. Destroyer SATSUKI came to her aid and tried to pull her off, but was unsuccessful. Then an air attack came and a bomb exploded a magazine and blew of the bow of the vessel.

Though little textual detail has come to light about NAGATSUKI's last fight as yet, the photographic evidence is solid and clear. The destroyer ran hard aground and became bottomed with an almost even trim and pronounced list to port. The entire forward section of the ship immediately in front of the bridge had been blown off by the direct hit and explosion. (Disclaimer: Close examination of the wreck picture reveals what looks like the extreme forepeak above water after an interval forward -- it is just possible that NAGATSUKI's fore-section is only buckled, but still attached, and the submerged well deck and lower part of the ship forward gives the illusion of being severed? A similar case exists with USS ARIZONA at Pearl Harbor). The question is whether such a prominent wreck above water remains in any way partly unsalvaged and a rusting ruin. The remoteness of the area and the example of the KIKUZUKI do raise the possibility NAGATSUKI -- or part of her, remains where she grounded. As far as is known, she was never moved (even if scrapped) from her grounding position at 08-02'S, 157-12'E.


Destroyer OITE

Like the FUMIZUKI, the OITE was sunk in the TF 58 air raid on Truk on 17 February 1944. Also like FUMIZUKI, her wreck was located largely by the efforts of Yoshimura Tomoyuki. The remains of the OITE were found in March 1986 in about 200 feet of water. Attack photos confirmed she had been blown in half by a torpedo right after entering North Pass, and sure enough, two sections is what was found, lying 40 feet apart from one another. The bow section is upside down, bridge buried in the mud; the afterpart lies on the bottom upright. The wreck is relatively clear of marine growth.(For more details, the reader is encouraged to consult "WW II Wrecks of the Kwajalein and Truk Atolls" by Dan E. Bailey. North Valley Diver Publications, Redding, CA, 1992).


Destroyer SHIMOTSUKI

New information from diver Kevin Denlay regarding his recent work has contributed the following: The wreck site of the Japanese Akizuki Class destroyer SHIMOTSUKI was originally discovered by Vidar Skoglie / MV EMPRESS on the night of July 6th 2002 using side scan sonar. At the time inclement weather did not allow for dives to be carried out and it wasn't until May 14th 2003 that he could find the time to get back to the site and do one dive to confirm the wreck was actually SHIMOTSUKI. A week later several more dives were conducted in varying conditions and the wreck explored in more detail. SHIMOTSUKI lays well over on her port side in approximately 240 feet of water and although intact amidships has massive damage to hull starboard forward and around the rear main 3.9" gun area and is seemingly missing her very stern. A return exploration was made in September of this same year, and helped confirm or clarify details of anomalies in the wreck observed initially. Of particular interest is the fact that the explosions noted by USS CAVALLA were apparently from gun and powder rooms only. As far as can be determined, the torpedo tube mount remains fixed and more or less intact in its general position. Thus, the condition of the wreck indicates that unlike some of her sisters, the SHIMOTSUKI's torpedoes and their store did not explode. Though the bow area is heavily demolished, the extreme prow remains apparently attached by some buried plating on the port side despite a massive gash-gap forward of No.1 turret and abaft the hawsehole. Though the No.3 turret sits in an odd position on a remnant canted out to port amid and under the wreckage at the end of the wreck, neither No.4 turret or anything clearly belonging to the stern section aft to the fantail was discovered. At present, it is speculated that in accordance with this fact and the evidence of the action report, that SHIMOTSUKI's fantail was severed and lies somewhere further outside the wreck and debris zone.

Author's Note: USS Cavalla's torpedo attack on SHIMOTSUKI and MOMO on 25 November 1944 claimed four torpedo hits on the starboard side of a `cruiser' (SHIMOTSUKI) which exploded violently, appeared to break in two, and sank immediately. The Japanese believed that the havoc was caused by two torpedoes, but it appears that at a minimum, three hit, and probably all four, just as claimed by CAVALLA. The data submitted by Kevin Denlay in response to some queries allows clear matching of at least three torpedo hits, and it may be that a fourth strike indeed took place. Two hits forward, one just under the bridge and the other the starboard bow, exploded those magazines and tore out the whole starboard side forward. A third hit seems to have severed the stern abaft No.3 turret, and the hull also broke at the mainmast. If the last is due to a torpedo hit as seems likely, all four torpedoes fired hit. The accuracy of CAVALLA's record and marksmanship both is remarkable. To date, I still have not confirmed how many survivors if any were rescued, but the number may have been tragically small, as much of the crew was asleep in their bunks at the time.

Update: A Japanese website gives the figure of only 46 men rescued by MOMO. Though unconfirmed, this small number fits the expectation and grim evidence of the large number of human remains, and is probably correct.


Destroyer YUDACHI

The YUDACHI was the third Japanese warship found by the Ballard/National Geographic expedition, and in this case 's the wreck's identity was not doubted. For any informed of the pounding she took before sinking, the YUDACHI's condition certainly confirms what one would expect. The main hulk sits upright, though the forecastle is broken off and skewed to port to the side forward of the turret. It seems this happened on contact with the bottom, not before. Though the ship is upright, the bridge is open on the top and canted to port, apparently due to the collapse of shell-damaged plating. Other upperworks are smashed and tangled, no stacks visible, and the whole afterpart of the ship beyond the aft torpedo tube mount appears to be missing. Apparently sheared off by the fiery explosion of her aft magazine observed when USS PORTLAND sank the derelict the morning of 14 November.


Destroyer YUZUKI

The YUZUKI was sunk while trying to withdraw after the landing of troops at Ormoc on 12 December 1944, but was caught by aircraft. Reportedly, she was damaged by a bomb hit, and slow flooding sank her five hours later. The hit location was not given, but the impression is that the destroyer was in fairly good shape but foundered. This happens to have fascinating confirmation. Divers from USS CHANTICLEER reportedly inspected the sunken YUZUKI on 2 August 1945. They reported that she sank in only 70 feet of water and was upright on the bottom in nearly perfect condition. Only one sign of impact was found, a bomb hit between No.2 stack and the radio shack aft. The radio shack aft was in fact the object of the salvage, and after decoding machines were brought up, the operations were finished on 4 August.


Submarines

I-401

On the morning of March 20, 2005 it was announced that a research team from the University of Hawaii had three days earlier discovered the wreckage of the huge ex-Japanese submarine I-401. The discovery was made during exploratory trial dives off Oahu, whose divers first mistook the upright huge hulk for an outcropping of underwater rocks. However, it was soon determined with examination and video by the submersible PISCES IV that it was in fact I-401, one of the giant Japanese subs designed to carry and launch three specially designed float bomber aircraft. Identification of type was fairly straight-foward, even if the the number "I-401" had not remained so readily distinguishable, and the submarines anti-aircraft guns in nearly perfect condition. With her sister I-400, the submarine that gave the famous class its name and others, the I-401 had been taken to Pearl Harbor in winter of 1946 for study and evaluation. It was later then scuttled off the coast on 31 May 1946, apparently in part to forestall Soviet demands to examine Japanese submarine technology, where they remain to the present day.

Two torpedoes fired by an American submarine, USS CABEZON (SS-334), had sent I-401 to the bottom; apparently shattering the forward section in front of the aircraft hanger. The two sections remain in close proximity, and rest in position 21-12'N, 158-07'W some 870 meters deep off Kaleola coast. For more details, see:

TROM of I-401 on Sensuikan!


Japanese Navy Warship wrecks Known to be Found to Date

This list will be ever-growing of course as recall or learn about them (Ex: I know several submarines have been found), or new discoveries are made. Each will be moved up into the detailed entry column as time permits and/or details of finding and condition of wreck become available.

CL Kuma

DD Sagiri

DD Shigure

Minelayer Hatsutaka

Minelayer Istukushima

Minesweeper W-12



Special gratitude and thanks go to Kevin Denlay of Australia, who dived the HAGURO and has submitted fascinating descriptions and source videos and information of other wrecks discussed here; Steve Athanas who provided an update and recent photo of KIKUZUKI, and Michael Slater whose account rounds out the KIKUZUKI status.


Editorial Note - The following entry present in earlier versions regarding CL Isuzu has proven impossible to reliably verify and has thus been removed. This in turn will be absent from future revisions: Light Cruiser - According to unconfirmed rumors, the ISUZU was found in 2002 in the context of expeditions that exploring for wrecks related to the Battle of the Java Sea. However it is unclear whether the cruiser has been located, or is merely of interest to find, and remains little more than rumor.
Update: that ISUZU's wreck has been found is made even more unlikely by the discovery of a message sent by her skipper at 0720 April 8, 1945 where he remarks "as the water in this area is about 1,000 meters deep, it would appear there is no danger of the previously disposed of documents falling into enemy hands." Apparently the ISUZU sank in a portion of the Flores Sea much deeper than the wrecks of the battle of Java Sea. - (Tully)


E-Mail: tullyfleet - gmail.com

Return to IJN Mysteries/Untold Sags


Other Sources:
  • The Battle of Surigao Strait

  • Total Eclipse, Last Battles of the IJN, 1944-45 Unpublished manuscript by Anthony Tully, 1996.

  • War Diary of USS CHANTICELEER (ASR 7) March to August 1945


  • Opened: May 23, 2003
    Revisions: - Nov 10, 2003
    - Sep 4, 2009
    - Sep 9, 2009
    - Aug 8, 2011