© 1998 Allyn D. Nevitt
Authorized enhancement by Anthony Tully

IJN Kuwa: Tabular Record of Movement

Matsu-class (20 ships) profile

@Revised - Allyn Nevitt - January 2012

@Revised - Allyn Nevitt with Anthony Tully - December 2013

Name Translation: "Mulberry"

25 May 1944 launched at Osaka.

2 July 1944:
Commander Yamashita Masamichi [53] (Pre-war C.O. of FUMIZUKI) assigned as fitting out officer.

25 July 1944:
Completed at Osaka. Commander Yamashita assigned as commanding officer. Assigned to Desron 11, Combined Fleet for training.[Note-1]

27 July 1944:
Depart Osaka; arrived Kure next day. Carried out training exercises over the following months.

3 August 1944:
Moved to Hashirajima to carry out exercises with the fleet.

9 August 1944:
Visited Tokuyama; then on to Otsujima anchorage, West Inland Sea. Carries on training in and out of the anchorage.

11 August 1944:
Arrives at Beppu Bay.

14 August 1944:
Departs Beppu Bay for training.

15 August 1944:
Arrives at Yashima anchorage. Carries out training from there over next few days.

17 August 1944:
Depart Yashima anchorage; arrives at Hashirajima anchorage. Hereafter carries out exercises in and out of port.

20 August 1944:
Desdiv 43 (TAKE, UME,MOMO) assigned with DesDiv 30 to new Escort Desron 31 created this day, with Rear Admiral Edo Heitaro [40] in command flying his flag in cruiser ISUZU. Known as the "Anti-submarine Mop-Up Force" Escort Desron 31 in turn attached direct to Combined Fleet. KUWA attachment to DesDiv 43 pending completion of two month work-up with training Desron 11.

23 August 1944:
Cruised to Kure. There carries out maintenance work.

31 August 1944:
Returns to Hashirajima. Continues training and maintenance.

5 September 1944:
Cruised to Yashima anchorage. Carries out training while at anchor.

6 September 1944:
Cruises to Kure.

10-11 September 1944:
Cruising between Kure and Yashima area.

17 September 1944:
Arrived at Mitsubishi shipyward. Entered drydock for repairs and refitting.

18 September 1944:
Left drydock. Departs same day back to Hashirajima and Kure area.

21 September 1944:
Arrives at Yashima anchorage.

23 September 1944:
Departs. Arrives next day at Iwakuni Sea. Thereafter remains till October, conducting sortie exercises.

5 October 1944:
KUWA departs Iwakuni Sea and arrives at Kure.

10 October 1944:
Carried out sortie exercises in conjunction with (later cancelled) possible sortie with 2-YB against the enemy.

11 October 1944:
Sails to Saeki, northeast Kyushu. Carries out anti-submarine maneuvers.

16 October 1944:
DesDiv 43 MAKI, KIRI, KUWA in Western Inland Sea. ISUZU at Kure.
DesRon 11: At Iwakuni, except SUGI at sea en-route to Kagoshima.

18 October 1944: Operation SHO-1 (Battle of Leyte Gulf)
1450: Com Escort Desron 31 Edo transfers the flag from ISUZU to OYODO, which is also designated standby-flagship of the Mobile Force for SHO Operation. Additionally for the SHO-Go operation, DesRon 11 was ordered to transfer its cruiser flagship TAMA along with destroyers SUGI and KUWA to the Mobile Fleet. ComDesRon 11 Rear Admiral Takama Tamotsu [41] temporarily transfers his flag to HINOKI, and KUWA and SUGI formally become part of Desdiv 43.
1700: ISUZU, MAKI, and KUWA arrive at Oita from Saeki.

20 October 1944:
0700: ISUZU, KUWA, MAKI, KIRI, and SUGI sortie to sweep the route of Bungo Strait ahead of the Mobile Fleet.
1730: Mobile Fleet exits Bungo Suido and heads south. The sweep completed without incident, led by ISUZU, KUWA with her four sister ships assume designated screen positions. KUWA is assigned to the screen of ZUIKAKU and ZUIHO in the first echelon.

22 October 1944:
Since the MATSU-class destroyers lack the range needed, it is necessary to refuel them before the battle. KUWA refueled astern from carrier CHITOSE.

24 October 1944:
When some of ZUIKAKU's planes ditch, in the afternoon KIRI and SUGI are detached to rescue the pilots. Doing so, they become separated and have difficulty finding the fleet. Low on fuel, they are forced to head for Formosa. KUWA has to adjust station accordingly.

25 October: Battle of Leyte Gulf - Battle off Cape Engano
Escorted Admiral Ozawa's Northern Force in Battle off Cape Engano.
1404: KUWA assigned direct screen of crippled ZUIHO now limping at 6 knots from torpedo and bomb damage. At 1526 the carrier sank. KUWA immediately begins picking up the vast majority of the huge patch of survivors, rescueing no less than 841 ZUIHO survivors. At 1720 the small destroyer is so packed with men she can carry no more, and heads for Okinawa; the ZUIHO men ordered to not even move about to preserve stability.
1730: KUWA attacked by 10 enemy planes, but has only light damage.
2245: Rejoins ISE following abortive attempt at night surface engagement.

26 October 1944:
1420: Arrives at Nakagusuku Bay. Some 310 survivors of ZUIHO transferred to ISUZU. The damaged MAKI limps in at 1600 and KUWA is assigned to her escort. At first the plan is for KUWA to sail with MAKI at 2300 for Amami-o-shima, but this is postponed till morning.

27 October 1944:
0630: Departs escorting damaged MAKI, and at 1400 arrives at Satsukawa Bay, Amami-o-Shima and rejoined Main Body. Remaining survivors of ZUIHO transferred to HYUGA, new flagship of Mobile Fleet. Depart next day for the homeland.

28 October 1944:
1300: Departs Satsukawa Bay for Kure with CarDiv 4, ISUZU, SHIMOTSUKI, and MAKI.

29 October 1944:
2200: Arrived at Kure. Begins repairs and maintenance work.(A small hole had been made in starboard hull at waterline at frame 101 and one 24mm gun damaged by strafing.)

November 1944: Due to the sinking of DesRon 31 flagship with the entire staff and records this month (see November 25 entry) primary source records for the Matsu-class destroyers for November and first part of December are limited. The record must be carefully reconstructed from other records such as port arrivals and mentions by dispatches and other ships. For this reason only primary source data is used, and the record is as a result, sparse, but it is thought, accurate.

5 November 1944:
JN 25 L signal mentions southbound schedule from November 9 of the following units to arrive at Mako about the 12th: 31st Division [ISUZU, UME, MOMO, unknown, CarDiv 4, unknown, KUWA, and SUGI." (Though a preliminary order, this is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that ISUZU would have sailed south from Japan on 9 November with HYUGA and ISE, including KUWA and four other Matsu-class and SHIMOTSUKI. See 10 November and Note-2.)

8 November 1944:
Repairs completed.

10 November 1944:
Departed Kure, escorting convoy via Mako to Manila.
Remark: Here an important discrepancy appears in the records, and two different conflicting iteniaries for KUWA are encountered. As a result, KUWA's whereabouts from 10-18 November are ambiguous. For detailed discussion see [Note-2]

15 November 1944:
KUWA is assigned to new Desdiv 52 (HINOKI, KUWA, MOMI, SUGI, KASHI), assigned same day to training Desron 11, Combined Fleet.

18 November 1944:
1202: USS HAKE (SS-256) sights ISUZU on course 70 degrees heading to enter Manila Bay. No escorts seen but two detected by sound dropping depth charges randomly.
1620: ISUZU, KUWA, MOMO, and SUGI arrive in Manila Bay. ISUZU and KUWA go to Cavite while MOMO and SUGI go to Manila harbor. Two hours later, transports 6, 9, 10 enter Manila port after them. Just before midnight ISUZU and MOMO move over to Manila dock and hastily unload their cargo and refuel, eager to depart to avoid the threat of air attack at daylight.

19 November 1944:
Before dawn, ISUZU, MOMO, KUWA, and SUGI depart Manila for Brunei to construct a new seaplane base there. However, when 55 nm west of Manila Bay entrance at 0640 ISUZU is hit in the starboard quarter by a torpedo from a salvo of six fired by USS HAKE (SS-256). The cruisers steering gear is heavily damaged and she is rendered temporarily unnavigable. However, within an hour ISUZU gets underway again and heads for Singapore with MOMO and SUGI at 16 knots for repairs. At some point KUWA detaches.
Later in day: Arrived somewhere.[Note-3]

20 November 1944:
Desdiv 52 reassigned to Escort Squadron 31 in turn re-designated Desron 31 , and today attached to the Fifth Fleet. Composition now:
Light cruiser ISUZU [flag]

22 November 1944:
Departed above place.

25 November 1944:
At 0448 Escort Desron 31 Flagship SHIMOTSUKI was torpedoed by USS CAVALLA (SS-) and blew up and sank so violently there were only 46 survivors. ComDesRon 31 Edo and ComDesDiv 41 Wakida Kiichiro [48] with their staffs are killed in action. As a result, late that day in Japan Tsuruoka Nobumichi [43] is appointed replacement ComDesRon 31 and departs by air immediately for Singapore. During the hiatus, the various ships of Escort Desron 31 operate with some ambiguity in orders and records alike.

28 November 1944:
KUWA arrives at Canacao.

29 November 1944:
0812: KUWA and another destroyer arrive at Manila harbor from Cavite.

1 December 1944:
1423: Third Echelon of No.7 "TA" transport run to Ormoc is activated by Southwest Area Fleet order to Commander First Transport Division. KUWA is assigned to this mission as flagship and her skipper Commander Yamashita in command.
1800: Depart Manila for Ormoc. Destroyers KUWA (flag) and TAKE are escorting reinforcement convoy of first class transport No.9, and second-class transports (LSTs) No.140 and No. 159.[Note-4]

2 December 1944:
2330: Arrives at Ormoc. TAKE stands in closer to shoreline to take aboard survivors from the TA III convoy disaster of 11 November, among them the skipper and Chief Navigator of SHIMAKAZE, and the Chief-of-Staff of Desron 2. Meanwhile, KUWA takes a patrol position to the south of Ormoc pier, to keep watch and patrolling at a slow speed of 6 knots to avoid making a large bow wave or risk running aground.

3 December 1944: (Battle of Ormoc Bay)
While thus engaged, almost precisely at midnight a sweep of three American destroyers of DesDiv 120 (flagship USS ALLEN M. SUMNER-DD-692, COOPER-DD 695, MOALE DD-693) under Commander J.C. Zahm surprises the Japanese, whose attention had been skyward expecting night air-attack. The three American destroyers open fire at 0008 and advance line abreast to present a narrow target and engaging with forward guns a target to the north of KUWA that is either TAKE or one of the transports.To buy time, flagship KUWA rushes out to meet the enemy. KUWA opens fire and trains her torpedo mount to port, but it is unclear if she fired them before a series of shell hits strike her. Starting about 0011 KUWA begins taking a series of hits - the first salvo lands aft near No.2 gun, the second salvo on the forecastle and bridge area and the third salvo cripples the engine room. At first Kuwa is returning fire and making better than 15 knots and continuing to close range aggressively. But more hits follow in quick succession. KUWA is reduced to a burning wreck and comes to a stop listing to port and by 0020 is out of the battle. TAKE had not been idle during this time; under cover of the flagship's charge, she circled to unmask her guns and tubes and opened fire as well, charging into action in the shoal waters at 24 knots. With KUWA going down, she now came under heavy fire in turn, and bracketed by waterspouts, fired two of her three available torpedoes by manual control at the enemy.

In the ensuing melee, one of the attacking American destroyers, USS COOPER (DD-695), was also sunk with the loss of 10 officers and 181 men, breaking in two abruptly after a torpedo hit starboard amidship at 0015 from one of the Japanese destroyers, usually presumed to be TAKE's pair of "fish."[Note-5] At 0145 Commander Zahm orders retreat without pausing to rescue the survivors of COOPER. After following long enough to ensure the Americans were fleeing, crippled TAKE returns to the transports and the Japanese rush to finish the offloading.

Sunk: Around 0100 or earlier KUWA sank in 105 meters of water (official position (10-50'N, 124-35'E) with about half of her crew including Commander Yamashita lost in action (posthumously promoted to Captain) By this time TAKE had taken damage and was listing to port. Only one shaft was operable now, and TAKE dared not stop to rescue survivors. She radioed Ormoc to send out barges. However, at 0330 when the transports depart Ormoc the course takes them close enough to the battle site that shortly thereafter No. 140 is able to pause long enough to rescue eight KUWA survivors. The remaining survivors of KUWA and COOPER end up in close proximity, with the result that a handful of Japanese are also later rescued by U.S. forces which rescued Captain Mell A. Petersen and 168 men. Still others successfully reach shore in considerable numbers.(Note-6)

4 December 1944:
0730: Transport 140 with KUWA survivors arrives at Manila with No. 159.
1845: Still steaming on just her starboard shaft, TAKE arrives safely at Manila guarded by No.9 transport.

5 Februrary 1945:
The Fifth Fleet is abolished. Desron 31 with KUWA still listed, is attached to Combined Fleet.

10 February 1945:
Removed from Navy List.

Editorial Note 1 - A survivor of Kuwa captured after she was sunk in December 1944, Leading Seaman Matsubara Kiichi, reported as part of a detailed description that Kuwa had a distinctive new fire control director atop the pilothouse, hence three levels above the main deck. According to Matsubara, Kiri was the only other so fitted. This interesting detail remains unconfirmed but the testimony is persuasive. - (Tully)

Editorial Note 2 - Here an important discrepancy centered on cruiser Isuzu appears in the records, and two different iteniaries for Kuwa are encountered that are not easily reconciled and thus are offered here. For the period of 10 November to 18 November it is important to to note a significant conflict in the record, where the whereabouts of Isuzu, Kuwa, Momo and Sugi) in particular are in some question. Clues resolving any of the following should be noted by future IJN historians. The fixed data point is Isuzu and the other's arrival at Manila at 1620 on 18 November. Getting there, two conflicting versions are found in works to date:


Most accounts identify this as a military convoy and have Kuwa departing southward from Japan 10 November toward Mako as part of "H" Unit comprised of CarDiv 4 Hyuga, Ise, light cruiser Isuzu, Shimotsuki, Ume, Momo, Sugi, and Kiri. The battleship-carriers had been loaded with supplies for Manila. After which CarDiv 4 was to proceed to Brunei and join Kurita's 1-YB there. According to this version, Kuwa:

11 November 1944:
Arrived at Mako with her four sister-ships, Isuzu, Shimotsuki and CarDiv 4, departing next day for Manila, scheduled to arrive 14 November.

13 November 1944:
2000 Because of severe air-raids on Manila, force re-routed to Shinnan Gunto. There to transfer part of their cargo to fast transports.

15 November 1944:
CarDiv 4 and others transfer part of cargo to fast transports No.6, No.9, and No.10. These depart same day for Manila, convoyed by Isuzu, Momo, Kuwa, and Sugi. The Shimotsuki, Ume, and Kiri remain with CarDiv 4 and are there at Nagashima when Kurita's group built around Yamato depart Brunei at 1830 16 November whereupon the two Matsu-class destroyers depart to augment Kurita's screen.

18 November 1944:
Isuzu, Momo, Kuwa, and Sugi arrive at Manila. The three fast transports arriving two hours later with the supplies from CarDiv 4.


Alternate: Signficantly, Lacroix & Wells in their monumental Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War relate that Isuzu and her destroyers actually formed a second formation leaving Kure following very closely in the wake of the "H" Unit but with divergent dates and schedule. An important article on the Matsu-class in Gakken No.43 The Fighting Captains of the Matsus by Akemura Takashi follows this line as well and adds the detail they were transferring components of Desron 31's attached 933rd Air Group to Manila for anti-submarine operations, after which all would go to Brunei. Therefore it is a separate source from Lacroix & Wells. According to this version, CarDiv 4 and Shimotsuki left homeland waters on 10 November headed south, and only on:

14 November 1944:
Isuzu (with Momo, Kuwa, Sugi, Kiri, and Ume) departed Kure bound for Manila via Mako.

16 November 1944:
Force departed Mako.

18 November 1944:
Isuzu, Momo, Kuwa, and Sugi arrive at Manila.

Since this version would leave CarDiv 4 with only SHIMOTSUKI when headed south, it seems problematic. In any case as can be seen, 18 November forms the datum point where the record becomes clear again. Yet even this is must be qualified, as Sugi's microfilm TROM inexplicably shows arrival at 17 November at Manila. If speculation is permissable, Sugi preceded the others on an anti-sub sweep. - (Tully)

Editorial Note 3 - Probably Shinnan Gunto/Nagashima. It is likely that Isuzu, Momo, Sugi, Kuwa stayed together until reaching Shinnan Gunto, but this is unknown. At some point, Kuwa detached, and the damaged cruiser and Momo proceeded to Singapore. According to a PoW survivor of Kuwa after leaving damaged Isuzu she proceeded to Saigon. There, "they did not land, but took on oil" and headed back to Manila. This seems unusual, but may be true given the context. It is not unlikely that Kuwa accompanied limping Isuzu part of the way to Singapore (where cruiser arrived 22 November) which would make refueling somewhere necessary for return to Manila. - (Tully)

Editorial Note 4 - While most say 1 December, some accounts have the third echelon of TA No.7 operation departing on 30 November. However, the activation signal on 1 December helps clarify the actual date convincingly. - (Tully)

Editorial Note 5 - Destroyer Take is generally credited with the torpedo hit that sank Cooper. This "general crediting" comes from the majority of post-war accounts on both sides, but the chronology indicates the question should remain open. It is known Kuwa had time to engage with both main batteries, and divers found Kuwa's torpedo mount trained to port. It seems possible she did have time to fire them. The USN accounts make clear Kuwa was still fighting at 0015 when Cooper was torpedoed. According to the same accounts, Kuwa appeared to sink at 0021. Given the ambiguity of her sinking time (see next note) the final verdict for sinking Cooper is best left ambiguous and should be studied by trajectory and distance analysis by those so inclined.- (Tully)

Editorial Note 6 - Both Allied and Japanese sources have tended to agree that Kuwa was quickly left wrecked and burning and sank in the vicinity of a mere ten minutes or so. However, one of two survivors accounts - Hirabayashi Takashi - in 2005 expressly mentioned that the sinking was much slower than that, as much as an hour or more, and not particularly abrupt. According to him, Kuwa lurched to port and settled bow down upright about 1-2 hours after being hit. Against this it must be considered the other survivor account from 1945 - Matsubara Kiichi - supports the conventional view, saying "she [Kuwa] sank in approximately ten minutes." The only definite thing is Kuwa had sunk by 0330 when Take and Transport No.140 passed through the patch of survivors. - (Tully).

Remark: - Kuwa's wreck was discovered in 2002 and in December 2005 a team including renowned diver Robert Lalumerie dove the wreck and confirmed Kuwa's identity. She was found on the bottom upright, but superstructure leveled. This and other details helped fill in some of the gaps in the sparse battle record.- (Tully)
For more info, see editor's page on: Shipwrecks of the IJN

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Anthony Tully and Bill Somerville for contributing from their works to this TROM. Further thanks to Kevin Denlay for providing translated aspects of Kuwa dive video from 2006 Chinese television.

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