Japanese Naval AAA Early War

Japan developed naval radar to a far greater extent than her Axis partners, because her fleets spent much more time in contact with enemy fleets and enemy aircraft. Unlike the Germans, the Japanese pursued both metric-wave and microwave technology. They did not develop the powerful magnetrons which made British and US microwave radar fully effective (output was typically half a kW rather than the hundreds of kW of the Western sets). Also, because the first radars they saw (in Germany) were air-search sets, the Japanese were inclined to begin with that type of radar rather than, as in the German navy, to limit themselves to fire-control sets. The first two installations were on board the battleships Ise and Hyuga, prior to Midway. Meanwhile US and British metric army radars fell into Japanese hands at Singapore and in the Philippines.

The first major operational sets were a metric air-search radar (Type 2 Mk 2 Mod 1) and a microwave surface-search set (Mk 2 Mod 2, a developmental designation). Mk 2 Mod 1 had a mattress antenna. On a carrier it was typically free-standing; on a battleship or cruiser it was on the foretop. Range on an aircraft was 70 to 100km (38 to 54nm). Because there was no Japanese PPI scope, the surface-search set was also treated as a fire-control rangefinder.

After the battle of the Philippine Sea, the Naval General Staff ordered all surviving ships equipped with both an air-search set (Type 3 Mk 1 Mod 3) and a surface-search set (Mk 2 Mod 3, with increased power [10 kW]). Type 3 Mk 1 was a new set, development of which was completed only in February 1944, based on a land-based radar. The great deficiency was a complete lack of anti-aircraft fire-control radar. There were also airborne radars, including sea-search sets. Unfortunately they were heavy. Thus during the battle of the Philippine Sea Japanese torpedo bombers equipped with Mk 6 radars were ordered to remove them: they could not lift both the radar and a torpedo.

The pre-war Imperial Japanese Navy was determined to maintain radio silence, which to the higher staff included radar silence. That view stopped radar development for a time before the war, when it was first proposed, and the ban on emissions (until ships were under fire) was not completely lifted until the spring of 1944, just before the battle of the Philippine Sea. By that time ships had been lost under circumstances suggesting that they would have survived had they had air warning. The battleship Musashi had been damaged by a surprise attack while steaming from Japan to Palau in the latter part of February 1944. The cruiser Atago had given a practical demonstration of the value of radar. During repairs after Guadalcanal, the Communications Officer of First Fleet convinced his superiors to mount an early Mk 2 Mod 2 microwave surface-search set aboard the cruiser. The radar was credited with the survival of seven cruisers after the battle of Empress Augusta Bay in November 1943.

In the 1930s, like the US Navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy considered its carriers both powerful and vulnerable; the question was how to use them most effectively before they could be destroyed. The initial answer for both navies was dispersal. Thus a November 1936 Staff College study called for dispersal of the carriers so that they could envelop an enemy force. The largest carriers would steam alone, the smaller ones in dispersed formations so that they could combine to provide sufficient striking power. The paper emphasised the need for greater range than the enemy’s, a continuing theme later on.36 The experience of war in China seems to have convinced the Imperial Navy that only by massing could it realise the offensive power of its carriers. The 1939–40 fleet exercises employed co-ordinated air group attacks. Since it was essential not to reveal the positions of the carriers, the Japanese saw little point in using radio to co-ordinate dispersed ships. They had to be within visual range if their air groups were to work together. The compromise solution reached in 1940 was for the carriers of each division to concentrate, but the divisions to disperse so as to envelop the enemy.

The Japanese Navy was the first in the world to concentrate all the aircraft of several carriers into an integrated Air Fleet. By May 1941 it had a multi-carrier operational doctrine. By this time, at least as conveyed to the contemporary Royal Italian Navy by a high-level Japanese mission, the Imperial Navy considered the enemy carriers its prime target, since once they were sunk the enemy’s naval force would be deprived of essential air services: search, attack, and fighter defence. Once the carriers were gone, the enemy fleet would lose about half its fighting potential. Conversely, great attention had to be paid to safe-guarding the Japanese carriers. The Japanese seem to have envisaged a two-phase battle, the carriers first destroying the enemy carriers, and the main body (surface force) then engaging the enemy’s surface force, the unstated assumption being that carrier aircraft probably could not sink the enemy’s battleships. That was a logical assumption at the time, given the large number of torpedoes a modern battleship could absorb and the ineffectiveness of dive-bombing armoured decks.

Each Japanese task force (a phrase used in the 1941 Italian notes) would have attached to it a carrier division of up to three carriers. At this stage there was no expectation of unifying the air groups. Instead, the idea was to specialise – to place all the fighters on one carrier, the dive bombers on a second, and the torpedo bombers on a third. It was understood that specialisation might be dangerous, but until the two fleets engaged the only real danger was submarine attack, which was considered minimal. Apparently Japanese doctrine also allowed for mixing different types on each carrier, but that was considered an inferior solution. All-fighter carriers would be responsible for protection of non-fighter carriers, but carriers with mixed air groups would be at the direct disposal of a task force commander both to protect the main body and for use during the surface battle and subsequent pursuit.

The carriers had to be separated from the main body – the surface force – so that they were unlikely to fall victim to enemy light or heavy ships. Prevailing wind, for launch or recovery, would determine where the carriers might be placed. In the simplest formation, the carriers were about ten miles ahead of the main body, with attached destroyers for submarine protection and cruisers to protect them from enemy light forces. Once combat was imminent, the carriers would move so that the Japanese main body was between them and the enemy, beyond gun and torpedo range (a 1941 diagram showed the carriers 20–25nm off the track of the Japanese main body, with 20nm a bare minimum).

The emphasis on fighter defence of both the carriers and the main body suggests that by the spring of 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy had limited faith in its anti-aircraft guns – which was much the position of the US Navy at the time. However, by 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy was building Akizuki class destroyers which may have been intended specifically to provide anti-aircraft support to carriers. The provision of the destroyers may have reflected fear that it would be difficult to spot high-performance attackers in time. Carriers, like capital ships, were well armed with anti-aircraft guns. Overall the Japanese seem to have had much the same view of carrier survivability as the US Navy: carriers were eggshells armed with hammers. Fighters were the only real defensive option, but attackers would probably succeed. That is certainly what happened in the 1942 carrier battles.

It is not at all clear that the Japanese had thought through the requirements of fleet air defence. The standard carrier fighter complement was eighteen aircraft, nine of which were expected to accompany its strike aircraft. Without reliable voice radio, and without radar, fighter direction could not even be imagined. The standard fighter formation was the three-plane shotai. In theory a carrier would maintain a shotai continuously aloft (with two-hour endurance), keep another on deck alert and a third at a lesser readiness. If an attack developed, the two reserve units would be launched to supplement the one aloft. Individual pilots had assigned sectors. In theory, further aircraft could be vectored to a threatened sector, but little attention went to direction of any kind.

Carriers were grouped together as an integrated force (mobile aircraft force) for the first time in the June 1940 manoeuvres, and on 1 April 1941 two carrier divisions were formed into the 1st Air Fleet as a unified entity. By the time of Pearl Harbor six carrier air groups had been integrated together. In such a force each carrier had its own mixed air group. That presented a new operational problem, as each carrier would have to launch and recover aircraft more frequently, usually manoeuvring into and out of the wind. Like the contemporary US Navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy seems to have concluded that carriers should be well separated to this end. Separation would also make it more difficult for an enemy to find and attack all of the carriers. Separation in turn made it impossible to provide the destroyer screens previously envisaged. Instead, each carrier was assigned two plane guard destroyers. Carrier survival would be based on manoeuvre (evasion) and dispersal (an enemy strike should not find all of them together).

Given their First World War experience working alongside the Royal Navy, it seems likely that the Japanese adopted the British emphasis on radio silence for security. On that basis it is not clear how well air operations from separated carriers could be conducted. It would be much simpler to concentrate a pre-arranged strike than fleet air defence. Fighter defence seems to have been conducted by a strong CAP, without any form of fighter direction. It does appear that the Japanese hoped for early warning provided by lookouts on board dispersed surface ships.

Given limited faith in fleet anti-aircraft firepower, ships could manoeuvre freely to evade attack, even though that would ruin fire-control solutions. The Japanese adopted a standard circular evasive manoeuvre, familiar from photographs of Japanese ships under attack, from Shoho at the Coral Sea onwards, had the important virtue that it might frustrate dive bombing, as an attacker would find it difficult at best to compensate for a radically varying aim point and with the changing effect of wind as the ship moved. At least one US officer espoused exactly this manoeuvre in 1942. Note that if all the ships in a formation began to circle at high speed, the formation would break up. That was probably acceptable given that there was apparently little interest in mutual support other than by integrating the air groups of carriers working together. It is not clear whether the circular manoeuvre was adopted pre-war or during the war.

Thus the Akizuki class, armed with four twin 10cm/60, and specifically intended for anti-aircraft screening, seemed to contradict evolving Japanese carrier thinking. The first six were inserted into the naval programme as modified in December 1938, under the designation ‘direct protection’ destroyers. As sketched they would displace 2600 tons, with a speed of 34kts, armed with four twin 10cm, four 25mm and a bank of four torpedo tubes. The light torpedo battery testified to their unconventional mission. They were described as close protection for carrier divisions. The projected Maru 5 and Maru 6 programmes planned in 1941 included a new class of anti-aircraft cruisers, to displace about 5000 tons and to be armed with six twin 10cm guns. However, they were not included in the programme as projected in the spring of 1941. Instead, it included sixteen improved Akizukis (2900 tons, design F-53). The other sixteen destroyers in the programme were of more traditional (Shimakaze) type (a repeat pre-war type was eventually built).

The Japanese distinguished three types of operation. One was the massed strike against a land target, as at Pearl Harbor. In that operation the carriers occupied a box about 8km on a side, the distance providing sufficient sea room for the carriers. The six ships which struck Pearl Harbor were in two widely-separated staggered columns, with screening ships around the box. Much the same formation was adopted for Midway, the only major difference being that there was columns of two rather than three. In the Indian Ocean operation (March/April 1942), the major units were in line ahead, the head of the column being a bent screen of destroyers with a cruiser on either flank. This formation would make sense (as in British operations in the Mediterranean) if the object was to clear a corridor of submarines.

A second type of operation was a fleet vs. fleet battle, as at the Coral Sea. Carriers operated loosely co-ordinated, each having only plane guards in company. The surface force (the main body) would be nearby but not too close. Probably the Japanese had learned from pre-war exercises that it was much easier to spot a large surface force from the air, and that carriers should not be so close that any scout spotting the surface force would also see them. That was much the lesson the US Navy had learned pre-war.

At Santa Cruz battleships and cruisers formed a vanguard formation, with the carriers about 100km astern. This vanguard was largely line abreast, which suggests it was a scouting formation, except that it had a pair of Kongos in line ahead at its centre. The four carriers were in loose formation, the carrier Shokaku leading her sister Zuikaku by about 8000m, with Zuiho 8000m to one side and Junyo 100 miles away (originally she was to have had Hiyo with her, but that ship had to retire due to an engine fire). Each carrier had two plane-guard destroyers as her only escorts. Compared to the Eastern Solomons, the carriers were considerably further astern of the vanguard. This combination of Main Body and Advance Force was used again at the Philippine Sea in June 1944. A third type of operation was direct support of a surface force, a single carrier being more or less integrated with the surface force. That was the case of Shoho at the Coral Sea, with cruisers in company.

In August 1943 Combined Fleet issued a memorandum explaining that for future operations it was necessary to have a standard set of operating procedures and doctrines. At just about the same time the US Navy was developing its own set of standardised procedures under the designation PAC-10 (or USF-10A). Both navies had to deal with the disintegration of the pre-war fleet. In the US case, the flood of new construction (and new air groups) could be absorbed only in standardised forms, so that each new ship or squadron knew where it fitted in. In the Japanese case, the pre-war navy understood enough that limited orders sufficed. Enough of that fleet was destroyed, particularly in the Solomons, to bring up officers who had not absorbed enough standard procedures pre-war. Like their US counterparts, they needed standardised procedures laid out explicitly. Probably the doctrines involved were not too different from those of the past, but the officers of the past did not need such explicitness. At about the same time the Japanese introduced circular screening formations for carriers, mainly for protection against submarines (almost no Japanese destroyers had area anti-aircraft capability). No other surface combatants were involved, and multicarrier formations were not envisaged; this was not contemporary US circular-screen practice.

A May 1943 paper on strike force tactics drew the lesson of the 1942 carrier battles: ‘the secret … is to divert and restrain the enemy on one side, and then to attack suddenly from the flank. This discovery was a product of chance in successive battles. We must deliberately develop such situations and, advancing, destroy the enemy on the field of battle.’ That changed the likely role of the heavy surface group from a hammer against the enemy’s surface ships (and damaged carriers) to a means of diverting his attention from the carriers, which were now to be the hammer. The May paper advocated forming a diversionary force comprising a battleship division and decoy carriers. The latter could be useful only if they were used aggressively, hence had to be fast. A light cruiser, for example, might be camouflaged to look like a carrier. Official doctrine promulgated in March 1944 went further. The Advance Force of the past (the heavy surface force) was renamed the Diversionary Attack Force in line with current thinking. This logic was inverted at Leyte Gulf, the carriers, almost bare of aircraft, acting to divert attention from the heavy attack force approaching invasion shipping.

The new doctrine emphasised air attack against the enemy’s carriers, not only as a means of reducing the enemy’s overall strength prior to a surface battle, but as the main part of a battle. In the face of enemy aircraft, the fleet would retire quickly and reorganise. That made sense, since the Japanese could expect to outreach the Americans, striking first to (they hoped) destroy US carriers and their aircraft. Only if the US Navy achieved surprise (due to a failure of Japanese scouting) or managed to wipe out the Japanese air strike force (as happened at the Philippine Sea) would the Japanese carriers see US carrier aircraft. Alternative fleet dispositions were a concentration of all three carrier divisions, a concentration of two with a third carrier division at a distance, and three separate carrier divisions. Since relatively few surface ships operated with each carrier or carrier division, the Japanese did not feel any pressure to consolidate the carriers into US-style formations.


Japanese Naval AAA Late War

The 1944 instructions include anti-aircraft fire: barrage fire is to be used both against dive bombers and against low fliers. That is much the British doctrine of this period, and it suggests that, like the British, the Japanese did not expect to use aimed fire against other than high-flying level bombers. Ships escorting carriers were to concentrate on defending the carriers.

All of this meant that, as unpleasant as Midway had been, the Philippine Sea carried the additional message that the enemy would almost always be able to carry out his air attacks unhindered by any long-range Japanese strike. Anti-aircraft weapons suddenly became far more important, because the option of striking first at greater range was gone. That had already happened in 1942, but in 1944 the Japanese could hope to regain their range advantage with new carrier attack aircraft.

After Midway, Admiral Yamamoto issued new orders for ships under air attack. Battleships were taken as the basis for more general practices. The ship in the fleet closest to the attacking aircraft was to turn towards the enemy and emit specified smoke signals, firing its guns so as to direct Japanese fighters towards the enemy. Presumably smoke was to be used because the Japanese had taken from the British the idea that radio silence was golden. However, the orders also included flag and wireless signals to provide data such as the strength of the enemy force. Their list of ways of detecting incoming enemy aircraft consisted of radio intelligence, radio location (presumably radar), scouting aircraft, watching aircraft and fire-control predictors (presumably used to project forward the path of enemy aircraft).

Alternative means of distributing fire among ships of the fleet were given. The rules clearly envisaged British-style barrage fire by the main and secondary (LA) batteries, which could be used against torpedo bombers, long-range bombers, and bombers capable of strafing (presumably a literal translation), but primarily against torpedo bombers. Medium-calibre anti-aircraft guns would be used against bombers and dive bombers. Machine guns would be used against dive bombers and, according to circumstances, short-range torpedo bombers.

Special rules indicated when guns could open fire in the presence either of numerous or few or no Japanese fighters. For example, when there were numerous Japanese fighters, guns could open fire against torpedo bombers out to 15km range. They could open fire against dive bombers when they were running in – at an estimated altitude of 3000m (9840ft) and at a 50° vertical angle. Against low-level bombers, the range to open fire depended on whether there was an adequate patrol on the second warning line. If there was, fire could be opened not more than 5km (plan range) from the second line. When the patrol at the second line was inadequate, fire could be opened 6nm (unit given) from each ship. Fire could also be opened when the enemy aircraft were at an altitude of more than 6km (19,700ft) and 7km (7650 yds) from the ship (plan range).

An appendix warned that sights etc on all types of AA guns were unsuitable for use against fast aircraft moving at 200kts or more, and should be rebuilt.49 Simple unobtrusive sights suited to 300kt targets could be placed alongside the existing sights of 12cm and 7cm AA guns. The ordinary sight of the 8cm AA gun should be improved and a simple unobtrusive sight suitable for 300kt speed should be fitted. Measurement and gradation of the firing table for the Type 89 (12.7cm) AA gun and the time taken for communication were considered excessive; a simple and rapid type of measuring instrument should be made and distributed. Automatic weapon (25mm and 13mm) sights could not match target speed, as their capacity was too limited, and therefore they could not be used in combat. Either a prism should be inserted in the sighting telescope, or a simple 300kt sight should be installed.

A drawing of a typical battleship AA battery clearly showed a Yamato class battleship, but that must not have been evident at the time. Main and secondary gun calibres were not given, but the ship clearly had two main battery turrets forward and one aft, plus four secondary battery mounts in diamond arrangement. The diagram showed three AA guns (actually twin 12.7cm) on each side, numbered odd to starboard and even to port. Also on each side were two ‘concentrations’, each apparently corresponding to a pair of light anti-aircraft mounts, which were controlled together: one each at the ends of the row of medium AA guns. Another machine gun mount was on each side forward of the middle AA gun, for a total of ten machine gun mountings. All were mounted inboard of the medium-calibre guns.

A US Navy evaluation of Japanese AA fire in mid-1944 was that medium-calibre guns were being used for barrage rather than aimed fire. Most aircraft were being damaged by guns in the 20mm to 40mm class, the 25mm Hotchkiss being the most effective. Guns of 20mm to 40mm calibres had caused three times as many casualties as those of heavier calibres and six times as many as many as guns of lighter calibres. That was contrasted with US experience in which 5in guns had overtaken the lighter weapons in lethality. A captured document gave ranges to open fire for various calibres: 9900 yds for the 12cm (4.7in), 7700 for the 3in, 6600 yds for the 8cm, 2750 for the 25mm, and 2200 yds for the 13mm. All but the last were in line with ranges at which the British and the US Navy expected fire to become effective; the 13mm figure was more than twice that adopted by the Allies. It seemed that the Japanese were relying on a course and speed sight (like the Le Prieur sight of the 25mm gun and its director) to an unrealistic degree. The same document stressed the need to conserve ammunition, hence to limit the number of rounds fired at any one target. Limits given were six rounds for a 12cm gun, ten for 8cm, and one magazine (fifteen rounds for a 25mm gun) for machine guns. Automatic weapons were not to fire at retiring targets (a policy also followed by the Allies). The severe restriction on numbers of rounds to be fired reflects production problems even before Japan began to suffer strategic bombing. The figures were far below the RPB estimated for US guns.

After Midway the Imperial Japanese Navy decided that its Type 94 fire-control system was inadequate even with planned improvements, so work began on a new Type 3 (1943) system. Like Type 94, it had its rangefinder in the director, which was arranged to insure that layer, trainer and control officer were all observing the same target. Like many wartime British systems, it had scooter control for rapid slewing by the control officer. Very rapid development, and many system features, suggest that Type 3 was inspired by British systems such as the FKC, details of which were probably captured at Singapore. Like the British systems, Type 3 worked in terms of plan motion, the target being handled as though it was flying at constant altitude. Thus, unlike Type 94, Type 3 used rectangular co-ordinates. Also like the British systems, this one included a height plot intended to allow an operator to estimate aircraft height from a scatter of observed points. Unlike British systems, the director was sufficiently stabilised (by leveller and cross-leveller, not gyros) that it was expected to provide accurate bearing data. The Japanese later said that Type 3 was designed to provide rapid solutions. Initial inputs were estimated target course and speed (as in British systems). Unlike Type 94, Type 3 worked in rectangular co-ordinates, decomposing target speed into across and along components. To avoid the use of three-dimensional ballistic cams, it employed a British-style roller on which firing table data were engraved. The computer turned the roller, and an operator found the appropriate tangent elevation on it, sending it to the guns by means of a follow-up. A similar roller was used to enter wind corrections. Ballistics could be changed simply by replacing the rollers. Type 3 was never completed, although manufacture of a prototype was well underway at the end of the war. It was not related to the Type 3 developed for use ashore.

There was also an attempt to produce a dual-purpose destroyer system to control 12.7cm/50 guns. This Type 2 (1942) system replaced pre-war LA fire-control systems. Unlike Type 3, it entered service, but was never considered satisfactory for HA fire. The Japanese described it as grossly over-complicated, because its designers refused to compromise by emphasising either HA or LA fire (i.e., large or small angular rates). Instead, the same mechanism was used for both high and low angles, with change-over gears and clutches to shift function. Change-over required a complicated lining-up procedure. The associated Type 2 director was fully enclosed and trained hydraulically, but the optics were not cross-levelled (director outputs were adjusted for cross-level). On top it carried a 3m rangefinder which could train independently. In addition to the usual pointer and trainer it carried a target inclination operator (Japanese surface fire-control systems included elaborate inclination devices). The computer maker, Aichi, considered the associated Type 2 computer the most complicated it had ever made. Prediction was based on rate integrators. The computer used a three-dimensional cam to correct LA elevation to super-elevation for HA fire.

By 1944 there was an urgent requirement for a radar director to replace the Type 2 director; the result was the Type 5 (1945) director, which was intended as a minimum modification to Type 2 for destroyers and light cruisers. The Japanese described it as a means of blind fire, but that was not true in Western terms, since their radars did not provide good enough bearing and elevation data. Type 5 never entered service.

The standard Type 95 machine-gun director was modified with scooter control (probably based on British technology acquired when Singapore fell). By the end of the war the associated ring sights provided for target speeds of 900, 800 and 700km/hr (900km/hr equated to 492kts). Given production problems, a simplified version was produced, designated Type 4 (1944) Mod 3. It had range rings only for 800 and 700km/hr (800km/hr is 437kts), with a central area to be used for speeds of less than 600km/hr (328kts).53 Because the new device was simpler, it was available in larger quantities, and it could be used more extensively, and also ashore. Initially it was intended for 12cm rockets (see below) in addition to 25mm machine guns, but use was later extended to the war-built Matsu and Tachibana class escort destroyers.

Massive anti-aircraft rearmament began in the spring of 1944. The two superbattleships had their wing 6.1 in anti-destroyer mounts replaced by anti-aircraft weapons. Many 25mm guns were added. For example, in the superbattleships the original 25mm mountings were in closed shields to protect them from the blast of their 18.1in guns. The new mountings were the standard unshielded type. The big fleet destroyers had their after superfiring twin 5in guns replaced by triple 25mm guns. Note that, unlike fleet destroyers, the Matsu and Tachibana class escort destroyers all had 12.7cm/40 guns, which were truly dual-purpose.

Two new weapons were deployed. After a short development programme, 12cm anti-aircraft rockets were deployed in 28-round launchers on modified 25mm machine-gun mounts, controlled by standard 25mm machine-gun directors. These launchers were installed on board the battleships Ise and Hyuga and on board several carriers including Zuikaku. These shrapnel incendiary weapons were used at Leyte Gulf, but results were not recorded. The Japanese did say that they valued them as a deterrent and as a way of increasing anti-aircraft firepower at relatively low cost – much as the Royal Navy had adopted rocket weapons in 1940.

The second new weapon was the Model 3 incendiary anti-aircraft shell, which was fired by low-angle guns up to and including the 18.1in guns of the two superbattleships. Shells were filled with steel tubes containing an incendiary mixture. The shell was burst by a mechanical time fuse, the tubes igniting about half a second later, burning for 5 seconds. An alternative Model 4 was phosphorus-filled. Much effort was directed at production of these shells during the run-up to the Guadalcanal campaign. Gunnery officers considered these shells more effective than the usual common shells when fire was directed at approaching targets, because the tubes and fragments formed a cone beyond the point of burst. The post-war US view was that the officers were misled by the impressive appearance of bursts; the projectiles were apparently ineffective. Among other problems, the ballistics of the special shells was different from that of standard HE. Moreover, the shells should have been burst higher than HE shell, because shrapnel drops as it is ejected by the shell. Gunnery officers were given special ballistic charts and cards giving the necessary corrections. In many ships, some turrets were loaded with HE and some with incendiary shrapnel, to be prepared to engage either approaching or retiring targets.

There was also an attempt to improve the performance of anti-aircraft guns by improving and streamlining the shells. By the end of the war, tests had been completed on the destroyer 5in shell, the standard 4.7in shell, and the 3.9in shell, of which the 4.7in had gone into production.

Under post-war interrogation, the Japanese professed themselves satisfied with their anti-aircraft weapons. Few records of shipboard performance had survived, so most naval records were of the air defence of Japan itself. The subject is complicated further by the fact that, during and after the Bougainville Island engagement, the Imperial Japanese Navy was extremely short of ammunition. As a result, it shot down many fewer aircraft. For example, 25mm machine guns were limited to ten rounds per plane against diving targets, fire being held until the aircraft closed to 1000 metres. The Japanese claimed that US aircraft were so predictable that such figures were adequate, but it turned out that they grossly overclaimed aircraft shot down. The one ship figure which emerged in interrogation was that the carrier Zuikaku, armed with three twin 12.7cm guns and sixty to seventy machine guns required 150 RPB with her 12.7cm and 1000 RPB with her 25mm at ranges of 1000 to 2000m in the South Seas Battle (presumably Philippine Sea). These were not far from generally accepted figures, which may represent hoped-for rather than achieved standards. The Japanese also stated that effective range for the 12.7cm anti-aircraft gun was 8000m and below 3000m altitude, and for the 25mm machine gun, 2000m range and 1000m height (1500 RPB). Attempts were made to predict the effectiveness of various weapons, but they were not backed by operational data of the sort used by the US Navy. Other remarks made under interrogation were that no planes were claimed by 10cm and heavier batteries for ranges beyond 8000m, and the best results were obtained at 4000m and below. For medium ranges between 4000 and 7000m, the 10cm high-velocity gun was considered the best medium-calibre weapon. No kill claims were made for ‘jinking’ targets.


Rees’s 19 Division, the first to cross, was also the first to achieve its object:

The recapture of Mandalay.

The 4/4 Gurkhas had taken the summit of Mandalay Hill, but in the subterranean chambers bored in the hillside the Japanese defenders survived and came out to snipe at the attackers who were waiting for them to emerge, thumbs ready to press the buttons of vigilant machine guns. It was the engineers who solved the problem, and in a particularly gruesome way. Under the surface of this hill, with its temples dedicated to an ideal of tranquility and non-violence, they burst open the concrete casings with explosive, poured petrol through the gaps and then fired Very lights into them. Anti-tank projectiles were used to blow down steel doors, through which petrol drums were rolled and exploded with grenades. This ghastly inferno was the key to victory. By 12 March, Mandalay Hill was clear. It would have been cleared earlier, the Indian Army Official History states, but ‘Major-General Rees had decided not to bomb the sacred places, the pagodas, though [a] lot of machine-gun fire was poured on the garrison from the air. Rees had served in Mandalay as a young officer, and no doubt knew its importance as a religious centre. But the casuistically distinction between aerial bombardment and explosives igniting petrol drums is not easy to follow. Or perhaps the purpose was aesthetic rather than moral: when Compton Mackenzie toured Mandalay in 1947 in preparation for his Indian Army History, a Gurkha battalion commander explained to him the difficulties of removing the Japanese without destroying the hill, and, he commented, he could wish that ‘the Americans had always been as scrupulous in Italy. ..I could not help contrasting the lot of Mandalay Hill with that of Cassino.

Fort Dufferin was next. 5.5 inch howitzers breached the walls, Thunderbolts bombed the bridge on the south side of the moat, 8/12 Frontier Force Regiment and 1/6 Gurkhas probed the approaches. But the Japanese reacted strongly. Their guns stopped the tanks accompanying the Gurkhas and the attack came to a halt. For several days the British guns continued to pound the walls, but the 50-foot earth ramparts behind them simply absorbed the shells.

Rees then decided to use a tactic remarkably similar to those of the Japanese ninja, the silent, invisible killers of samurai fiction. ‘Exercise Duffy’, as it was called, was meant to achieve a secret entry into the fort, to establish a foothold which could then be exploited. Rees was insistent that it was to be inexpensive in terms of casualties:

“The operation I intend is one of surprise; a silent start and rapid seizing of the bridgehead, NOT the forcing of an entry at all costs by bludgeon methods. If the surprise operation at reasonably light cost is not possible owing to enemy vigilance and preparations, then it will not be pressed home at all costs.”

The operation was entrusted to 1/15 Punjab and 8/12 Frontier Force of 64 Brigade (Flewett). They were to leave behind their steel helmets and change their boots for rubber-soled shoes. They would be brought to the walls in the darkness by engineers manning assault boats, with scaling ladders at the ready, and six man-pack flame-throwers and a machine-gun company would augment their firepower when the attack went in, which was at 10 pm on 17 March. They reached the north-east and north-west corners of the Fort in the darkness, but as they made for the breaches the guns had opened, the Japanese opened fire, sinking one of the boats. In the early hours of the 18th, a platoon which had a foothold on the railway bridge in the north-west corner (the railway ran right through the west side of the Fort) was met by automatic fire and driven back. The flame- throwers never got near enough to be of use. Realizing that any of his men caught on the walls by the morning light would be mercilessly shot down, Rees called off the attack at 3.30 am.

After the failure of ‘Exercise Duffy’, the battering began again. The RAF bombed the north wall, to little purpose, and 6-inch howitzers made seventeen more breaches in the north and east walls, on the theory that the Japanese could only man a small number of breaches and in the end would not be able to defend them all. B25s used skip-bombing with 2000lb bombs, the kind of thing that had been used against the Mohne Dam. The result was a 15-foot hole in the wall, and nothing more.3 Rees described for ” the BBC, again, a typical day’s assault on the Fort in the earlier phase -10 March-:

“Let’s get under cover. The Frontier Force are attacking Mandalay Fort now. You can probably hear the noise of the shelling, mortaring, shooting. I’m fairly close to the walls myself, standing, looking half round a concrete wall. Our chaps are advancing steadily, bunching a little more than I’d like to see them. They’re going very well. The tanks are advancing, firing very hard at the walls. You can see where our medium guns, firing direct, have made breaches in the walls of the fort. You can see the bullets flicking the ground just ahead of me. I think actually they’re our own tank bullets. The tank Besa’s co-axial firing just ahead of the infantry, smothering the operation. I can see one of our infantry running across now, just near the fort wall.

I’ll get my glasses on. I can see the breach, but there’s a big moat, this side. I can now see some of our leading infantry. They’ve just doubled to behind a concrete shelter which the sappers have built before the war, because we’re standing now in the sapper lines just north of Mandalay Fort, actually called Fort Dufferin, with a palace in- side.

Tremendous lot of noise going on. A whole lot of smoke now, near the wall itself, which is a very good thing for our infantry. I’m not quite sure which of the firing is the enemy firing. I can see some of our infantry running round the tanks. Not always a wise thing to stand near a tank. Now I can see more of our infantry going across now, they’re running across near the tanks, they’re in slouch hats, Australian hats, Gurkha hats, very clear to see.

Rees’s instructions from the Corps Commander to avoid unnecessary damage to Mandalay were proving increasingly difficult to observe. Slim was confident the Fort could be bypassed, and considered its capture to be a matter of news value rather than military advantage. Rees did not want a repetition of the stalemate at Myitkyina, and sought desperately for ways of substituting cunning for the bludgeon of artillery and air strikes. ‘Duffy’ had failed, but he remembered that, as the Governor of Burma’s Military

Secretary in pre-war days, he had explored the Fort and discovered a culvert which went beneath the moat. He decided to find it again, and an assault unit was got ready to follow a Burmese who knew the plan of the Mandalay sewers. Sappers found that it was possible to approach the Fort from underneath, as they waded through the sewers, up to their thighs in mud.

It would have been a nauseatingly filthy attack. Happily, it was not necessary. In the early afternoon of 20 March, after yet another air-strike had taken place, four Anglo-Burmans – civilian prisoners held by the Japanese – carrying a white flag and a Union Jack came out of the north gate. Already harassed by the incursion of 17 Division into Central Burma, and not wishing to see the morale of his troops deteriorate, the GOC 15 . Army, Katamura, relaxed his order to the defenders. 51 and 60 Infantry Regiments were ordered to put in a final attack on 19 Indian Division and then withdraw. The order was given on 18 March. 60 Regiment occupied the Government Farms Buildings area (called in the Japanese texts ‘the Agricultural College’) on the south edge of the city. During the night of 19 March, the main body of 15 Division withdrew from Mandalay. They were as well informed as Rees: they came out through a drain under the moat.

Slim was at Monywa when the news came through. Air Vice-Marshal Vincent at once detailed a Sentinel light plane from the L5 detachment of 194 Squadron, RAF, to fly him into Mandalay to take the salute at the victory parade, escorted by two Spitfires.

2 British Division got in on the act; but only just. Brigadier Michael West, of 5 Brigade, had been told to link up with his opposite number from 19 Division in Mandalay, and he drove up on 21 March, taking Colonel White, the Commanding Officer of the Dorsets, with him, a troop of Grant tanks, and some armoured carriers. There was no one at the crossroads rendezvous, except a puzzled military policeman, who sent them on to the Fort. They drove through the shambles of the city -White was oppressed by its air of desolation -past the ruins of King Thibaw’s Palace, and on to the parade ground where they found 19 Division drawn up on the site of Government House, in the presence of Slim, Messervy, and three divisional commanders. ‘It was perhaps most fitting’, White wrote later, ‘that the Dorsets gate-crashed this party to represent the 2nd Division, as we and the troop of the 3rd Dragoon Guards with us were the only troops of the Division to fight in Mandalay itself.’ All the more appropriate since the Dorsets wore the battle honour’ Ava’ for the Burma War of 1824-6, during which they had not entered Mandalay. By another odd coincidence, the fourth Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, who was with a Field Broadcasting Unit, was killed in an ambush between Ava and Fort Dufferin on 23 March.3 The flag was hoisted over Fort Dufferin, as soon as 72 Brigade went in, by Rees himself – according to Slim – or by a gunner of 134 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery -according to the Official History. The ceremony was repeated by Slim at the formal parade to make sure everyone realized that more than one division had collaborated in the capture: ‘The capture of Mandalay had been as much the result of operations at Meiktila and elsewhere as of those around the city itself. Every one of my divisions had played its part; it was an Army victory. I thought it would be good for everyone to have that fact demonstrated.’

From: Allen, Louis. Burma: The Longest War 1941-1945. London: Phoenix Press, 1984. ISBN: 1 84212 260 6. Pb. 686p. Illus. Maps. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Pages 420-24.



After about 6 weeks of fighting on the bridgehead the pressure began to ease, as our Division in the South began “breaking out” of its bridgehead and the enemy began to retreat towards Mandalay. First, the shelling eased off somewhat. Then night attacks became less ferocious and we began aggressively patrolling. They had constructed strong bunker positions around our perimeter and the Indian Airforce attacked these with varying success.

From dead Japanese we gathered notebooks and written messages and these were sent to Divisional H.Q where they were interpreted by C.I.S.D.I.C. personnel. These were Japanese Americans who were loaned to us. One such message from a Japanese Sergeant killed on our wire said “tonight we attack the hated British for the last time – tonight we die, this is glorious!”

Then we started to move South. This time, of course, on the East side of the Irrawaddy. The advance was pretty horrible in Teak forest where the undergrowth had been burnt and we trudged through deep ash. We moved in two echelons, each with its artillery so that one could support the other.

Madaya was the next big town before Mandalay. The Japs had fought here too. There were mines and booby-traps everywhere for the unwary. We were constantly involved with Japanese stragglers and worse, enemy suicide patrols. Bill Minto, our quartermaster, was involved in quite a battle when ambushed bringing forward our rations with Peter Sibree. He was awarded a Military Cross for his action. Bill Minto never failed us, feeding the battalion under the most trying circumstances.

Thoughts were always for a rest but not for us. Transport became available and we were carried towards Mandalay. Mandalay Hill eventually hove into sight; a very beautiful one but to any attacking infantry soldier, a daunting one.

The hill, covered with temples and shrines dominated, everything. It was obvious when we de-bussed and marched towards the battle area that the Division was not having it all its own way.

Several of our tanks had been knocked out and were burning before the hill. As we arrived the Baluch Regiment were retreating, having been given a bloody-nose. The Recce. Regt. named “Stiletto Force” was stuck around the lower part of the Hill and were pinned down.

We, the 4/4, spread out in what is called “extended order” over a large area and watched feeling vaguely sorry for the troops at the “sharp end”. It was always thus. We were actually lying in an area of cultivated land on which delicious tomatoes were growing. They were the Italian type of tomato and I had never seen them before. We gorged ourselves, as we watched the battle ahead.

The Jap occasionally sent over the odd shell but in the main he concentrated on those troops actually attacking.

A hare, an animal, which I don’t think I ever saw before in Burma, was suddenly put up and began to dash through our position towards the enemy. Gurkhas are like children when something like this happens, particularly when “Shikar” (game) is concerned. There were shouts of excitement and laughter as attempts to catch the poor thing were made. Eventually, it was caught and tossed into the air amid great shouts of “shabash”! All this time the battle raged.

Orders were then given for the Royal Berkshires, with us in support, to make a frontal attack supported by tanks. The General intervened and Col. MacKay our C.O. asked for us to lead and tackle the Hill with a night attack. Hamish, having served in Burma, knew the area well and his plea was accepted.

Our plan was to march at night by compass bearing to the army rifle-butts that lay to the East of the Hill. From here, we would make our assault at night. As the Intelligence Officer in charge of navigation, it was my responsibility to get us there. The intelligence section were well trained at this, but it was always dodgy because they had to be near the leading scouts to guide them.

The battalion started off with our mules but we ran into trouble because we were unable to cross a number of chaungs (canals) quietly enough. At one point we could hear the enemy shouting on the Hill and they were too close for comfort.

It was decided to send the mules back and go onto a ‘man-pack’ basis. This is not pleasant as it means that very heavy weights; ammunition, mortars, bombs etc. had to be carried by men, who would shortly be required to climb a very steep hill, to attack the Japanese who were waiting for them. B Company were sent back with the mules.

Fortunately for me, A Company arrived exactly on target, formed a strong base and sent out patrols.

It was D Company’s turn to lead and C prepared to follow in support. The attack started at 3.00 am and D started off. Fighting started almost immediately and A Company’s base was attacked at the same time. The Japs were driven off with heavy losses.

As dawn broke there was a shout of “Ayo Gurkhali” as they stormed the summit and David Hine, the gunner O.P. with them, directed excellent and accurate fire on the Defenders. It was a tremendous battle; Khukris bayonets and hand-grenades before the hill was ours.

As usual they immediately counter-attacked and sustained losses.

Some Japs took up positions in the many temples and barrels of petrol were rolled down slopes and fired with phosphorus grenades. The Royal Berkshires took over the mopping-up of those who survived our assault.

We carried on fighting around the hill and actually suffered greater casualties than we did in taking the hill.

The moated Fort Dufferin lay at the foot of the hill and contained a beautiful palace. I am glad that I saw this building before it was destroyed. Whether the Japs, the RAF or our gunners did the damage is not known but it was soon reduced to rubble.

The capture of the Hill was a battle honour for the Fourth Gurkha Rifles and together with the fact that we were the first to cross the Irrawaddy caused the General to describe us as a “magnificent battalion” in the despatches. There is a memorial on the Hill to the 4/4 G.R casualties (see photograph).

Lt. Col John Masters, a famous author after the war, a 4th Gurkha in it; was the G.I. of 19 Indian Division. The G.I. is the principal staff officer and is the General’s chief planner and advisor.

In his book “The Road Past Mandalay” he tells the story of the battle for the hill as follows:-

“The lion-like bulk of Mandalay Hill climbed over the southern horizon. Rising nearly a thousand feet above the plain, the spine of it is covered from end to end by temples, linked by a covered stairway. Under the temples lie cellars and dwellings and storage rooms. The Japanese held the whole complex, in strength, and from it their artillery observers directed a heavy gunfire on to our leading troops.

Pete and I spent an unpleasant hour under its western slope on two successive days. Every movement, particularly of vehicles, drew prompt and accurate fire from 105s and 155s. On our first visit a shell made a direct hit on a jeep twenty feet from us. After picking ourselves up we ran forward to help the man lying there beside the burning wreckage, but he was dead, incredibly shrunk so that I thought it must be a child; but it was a mangled mess of adult humanity, an Indian sepoy, red flesh thrown anyhow into torn green trousers. A dozen more shells were on their way and we left him.

We could make no further advance until we took Mandalay Hill. The general allotted the task to 98 Brigade, and they to the Royal Berkshires. But the 4th Battalion of the 4th Gurkhas was in that brigade, and its commanding officer came forward to protest. Hamish Mackay, very quiet and shy-seeming, in reality full of fire and fey humour, pointed out that he knew the area well having been seconded to the Burma Rifles from 1937 to 1942. Hamish thought he could take the hill with his battalion, that night, using little known paths of approach. The orders were changed, and Hamish was given his head.

On the night of March 10-11 (again, our Regimental Day), the battalion went up to the assault, led by Subadar Damarsing and Jemadar Aiman. All night they fought up the steep, up the long stairway and along the flanks of the ridge. At dawn they took the summit. An hour later Pete and I stood on the highest point of Mandalay Hill, looking down into the city and into the palace of the ancient kings of Burma. Once they had been spacious beautiful, with avenues of shady trees; now three and a half years of war had battered them, and columns of dust rose in the streets where our shells fell, and half the houses had no roofs, and to the south acres of corrugated iron, which had once been a warehouse or factory, glittered dully in the early sun. The Irrawaddy ran wide and yellow on our right and immediately below us the old splendour still lived in the brilliant white of the pagodas climbing down the ridge towards the moat and the wall of the fortress.

We stood, so to speak on top of Mandalay. We also stood, at much closer range, on top of a good many Japanese. The temples, cellars, and mysterious chambers covering Mandalay Hill were made of reinforced concrete. The 4th Gurkhas had taken the summit, and no Japanese was alive and visible; but scores of them were alive, invisible, in the subterranean chambers.

A gruesome campaign of extermination began, among the temples of one of the most sacred places of the Buddhist faith. Sikh machine-gunners sat all day on the flat roofs. Their guns aimed down the hill on either side of the covered stairway. Every now and then a Japanese put out his head and fired a quick upward shot. A Sikh got a bullet through the brain five yards from me. Our engineers brought up beehive charges, blew holes through the concrete, poured in petrol, and fired a Verey light down the holes. Sullen explosions rocked the buildings and Japanese rolled out into the open, on fire, but firing. Our machine-gunners pressed their thumb-pieces. The Japanese fell, burning. We blew in huge steel doors with PIATs (bazookas), rolled in kegs of petrol or oil, and set them on fire with tracer bullets. Our infantry fought into the tunnels behind a hail of grenades, and licking sheets of fire from the flame-throwers. Grimly, under the stench of burning bodies and the growing pall of decay, past the equally repellent Buddhist statuary (showing famine, pestilence, men eaten alive by vultures) the battalions fought their way down the ridge to the southern foot – to face the moat and thirty-foot-thick walls of Fort Dufferin.

Pete brought up the medium artillery, and the 5.5s hurled their 60-pound shells at the wall, over open sights from four hundred yards. The shells made no impression. He called in the air force. P-47s tried skip bombing, B-24s dropped some 1,000 pound bombs, some inside the fort and some outside – among our troops.

We found a municipal employee who knew where the sewers led out of the fort, and prepared an assault party. All the while the infantry fought in the brick and stone rubble of the burning city, among corpses of children and dead dogs and the universal sheets of corrugated-iron. The night the sewer assault was to go in the Japanese withdrew from Mandalay. Next morning coal-black Madrassi sappers blew in the main gate, and Pete walked in, surrounded by a cheering, yelling mob of a dozen races. Just as Pete – but not his superiors – had planned, the ‘Dagger’ Division had taken Mandalay. At the same time Jumbo Morris took Maymyo. Jumbo Morris was commander of 62 Brigade.”

Subadar Damarsing, Jemadar Aiman and Capt. David Hine were all awarded military crosses. Col. Hamish Mackay was given another bar to his D.S.O.

As Mandalay fell to 19 Indian Division, 2 British Division and 5 Indian Division crossed the Irrawaddy to the South of the town and so began the destruction of the Japanese in Burma.

An Overview of Japanese Submarine Operations off Australia during 1943 Part I

IJN Submarine I-21

Starr King sinking after being attacked by I-21 near Port Macquarie on 10 February 1943.

The Japanese never again mounted the kind of coordinated submarine attacks on Australia witnessed during mid-1942, when the Eastern Advance Detachment launched the midget attacks on Sydney Harbour and also bombarded the Sydney suburbs and the city of Newcastle. However, the Japanese did not entirely disappear from the waters around the continent, and several submarines were dispatched to harass coastal shipping and convoys throughout 1943. The submarines operated individually, and although they sank or damaged several Allied ships, their collective impact on the Australian war machine was slight, really constituted no more than a series of nuisance attacks designed to demonstrate a continued Japanese ability to strike at the Australian home front. Australian anti-submarine defences continued to develop, based on the fast corvettes, and Japanese submarine skippers became increasingly wary of the types of bold attacks they had made earlier in the war. The change in Australian naval tactics with the introduction of convoys in 1941 also had an effect on the effectiveness of Japanese submarines. Only six ships were sunk and two damaged by Japanese submarine attacks on convoys, while roving Japanese boats between 1941 and 1944 successfully destroyed eighteen ships that were travelling unescorted, proving the value of the convoy system.

The experienced I-21, famous for bombarding Newcastle in 1942, was to achieve a string of successes along the Australian coast during January and February 1943. Commander Matsumura took his boat out from the Japanese base at Rabaul on her fourth war patrol on 7 January, bound for the busy waters off Australia’s east coast. By the 15th the I-21 had arrived off Sydney and continued her patrol into the Tasman Sea off New South Wales where she achieved her first kill of the patrol on the 18th. Many vessels were still to be found sailing unescorted along the Australian coast, particularly smaller vessels plying the coastal trade routes, and these had always been a submariner’s targets of choice. Submarine skippers viewed these unprotected ships as easy prey, as they would not have to avoid a sudden corvette or destroyer counter-attack, and, as long as the submarine attacked swiftly and devastatingly, it was unlikely that help would arrive before the stricken merchantman was finished off.

The small 2,051-ton Australian freighter Kalingo had departed from Sydney and was setting out across the Pacific for Plymouth in New Zealand when Matsumura came upon her on 18 January. Attacking while submerged, two torpedoes were fired at the Kalingo, which was critically damaged. Matsumura then surfaced and in a humanitarian gesture not usually demonstrated by officers of the Imperial Navy, he gave the crew of the freighter sufficient time to take to the ship’s lifeboats before moving in to finish the vessel off. Once the merchantman’s crew were safely out of harm’s way, the I-21 launched a third torpedo which hastened the end of the Kalingo, and Matsumura departed from the scene triumphant.

Matsumura’s days work was not done, however, and later that evening a far more substantial target presented itself. This was the huge American tanker Mobilube, which had a small escort ship assigned to protect her. At 9.50 p.m. two torpedoes were unleashed towards the 10,222-ton ship, but the huge detonation of at least one strike failed to sink the tanker. Ignoring the escort vessel for the time being, Matsumura ordered his boat to the surface, and the deck-gunners began banging away at the huge tanker, until her escort returned their fire which forced the I-21 back beneath the waves in a crash-dive. As Matsumura guided his boat out of danger, the escort dumped a pattern of six depth charges over the spot where the Japanese submarine had disappeared, but although the Japanese sailors were jolted about by the sonic detonations, their vessel escaped any damage and Matsumura made off confident that the Mobilube had been fatally wounded. Indeed, his assumption of another victory was correct, for although the great tanker was towed into port she was declared a total loss and later cut up for scrap.

The hunting off New South Wales, along the shipping lanes fanning out from Sydney, was to continue to provide Matsumura and the I-21 with plenty of interdiction opportunities. The I-21 crippled an American Liberty ship, the Peter H. Burnett, on 22 January, firing two torpedoes while at periscope depth. One struck home, severely damaging the vessel. As the I-21 departed from the scene the American escort USS Zane and an Australian, HMAS Mildura, towed the vessel into Sydney where the ship’s cargo of wool and mail were salvaged. The Peter H. Burnett was declared a total loss and met the same fate as the Mobilube in a breaker’s yard reduced to scrap.

As well as attacking Allied ships along the coast of New South Wales, the I-21 was also detailed to conduct a reconnaissance of the coastline. Once again, the usefulness of the Yokosuka E14Y1 floatplane proved its worth, and Warrant Officer (Flying) Susumu Ito carried out a successful flight over Sydney Harbour on the night of 25 January. Ito reported the presence of at least one heavy cruiser and ten smaller warships inside the harbour. On 30 January Matsumura launched a single torpedo at a small British merchantman, the 1,036-ton Giang Ann, and would almost certainly have sunk her but for a torpedo malfunction. The torpedo began its run smoothly, but then detonated prematurely, allowing the British ship time to escape any further attention from the Japanese submarine. Matsumura was nothing if not bold, and on 8 February he located a convoy of ten ships off Montague Island. Convoy OC68 was making its way from Whyalla to Newcastle, and Matsumura scored an immediate hit on the lead ship, the 4,812-ton Iron Knight, a British ship carrying a cargo of iron ore. The torpedo strike under the bridge on the starboard side was so devastating that the Iron Knight went down like a stone in under two minutes, giving the crew virtually no time to abandon her. The Free French destroyer Le Triomphant, one of the convoy escorts, pulled fourteen survivors from off a floating life raft. Two days later off Port Macquarie Matsumura launched a spread of four torpedoes at the 7,176-ton American Liberty ship Starr King. This was an important prize to sink for the Starr King was loaded down with 7,000 tons of supplies destined for the US Army fighting the Japanese in New Caledonia. She was struck by two of the Japanese torpedoes, but did not sink immediately. The Australian escort vessel HMAS Warramunga rushed alongside the stricken freighter and took off the surviving members of her crew, and then attempted to take the Starr King in tow to hopefully prevent her loss. However, the freighter started to founder, and the commanding officer of the Warramunga ordered the tow lines severed, and the crew watched helplessly as the Starr King and all of her valuable supplies were swallowed up by the ocean.

Ito took to the skies once again over the Australian coast on 19 February, the sortie proving a success despite his aircraft being detected by Australian radar. Whether the photographs his observer took were of any military value is questionable, but the fact that Ito’s aircraft was not challenged in so sensitive an area for the second occasion during the submarine’s patrol, and in an area that had already witnessed extensive Japanese submarine and aerial activity, indicated that the Australians still had some way to go to secure this particular stretch of coastline from enemy infiltration. Thereafter, Matsumura headed for Japan as his boat was in need of an overhaul after extensive operations so far from base, and the I-21 concluded her war patrol at the giant Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo on 3 March.

As Matsumura headed in to Japan to celebrate his most successful war patrol to Australia, another large I-boat was headed in the opposite direction. This was the I-26, under Commander Yokota. His mission was the same as that of his colleague Matsumura, with the exception of not launching any photographic reconnaissance sorties. The I-26 was not nearly as successful as Matsumura’s recent run along the New South Wales coast. On 11 April the I-26 was nineteen miles off Cape Howe, Victoria, when her lookouts spotted Convoy QC86, which was making its way from Whyalla to Newcastle. Yokota struck and sank with torpedoes a Yugoslavian ship, the 4,732-ton Recina. She was carrying a cargo of iron ore, and was under Australian government charter. There followed for the I-26 a period of inaction, as no targets presented themselves until 24 April. Then, when thirty-five miles east of Bowen the I-26 found a lone ship and attacked her. The Australian Kowarra (2,125-tons) was heading from Bowen to Brisbane loaded down with sugar, and she sank quickly after a single Japanese torpedo strike. This was Yokota’s second and final kill of the patrol, and he headed back to base at Truk undoubtedly frustrated that more targets and opportunities had eluded his search.

The Type KD7 submarine I-177 under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Hajime Nakagawa left Truk on its first war patrol on 10 April 1943 in company with sister submarines I-178 and I-180. All were bound for the east coast of Australia, favoured hunting ground of the Imperial Navy’s submarines. On 26 April the I-177 was twenty miles south-east of Cape Byron, close to the city of Brisbane, when she encountered an escorted convoy. Moving quickly into an attack position, Nakagawa managed to sink the 8,724-ton British freighter Limerick, and also to avoid two depth charges dropped by the convoy escorts. On the same day Lieutenant-Commander Toshio Kusaka aboard the I-180 also launched an attack on an unidentified merchantman, but the freighter escaped and Kusaka end up wasting three of his torpedoes. The following day the I-178, under Commander Hidejiro Utsuki, was 100 miles off Port Stephens. Utsuki attacked and sank an American Liberty ship, the 7,176-ton Lydia M. Childs, which was loaded with tanks. However, on this occasion the RAAF attempted to take some measure of revenge against the Japanese submarine, a Catalina flying boat launching three bombing runs over the I-178 an hour after she had sunk the Liberty. The I-178 escaped without suffering any damage and made it unscathed back to Truk on 18 May.

During May 1943 the Australian army was heavily engaged against the Japanese on the island of Papua New Guinea. Fierce battles had raged at Buna, Gona and Sanananda, necessitating the evacuation of wounded soldiers to Australia for more extensive medical treatment. The Centaur, a large motor passenger ship, had undergone conversion into a hospital ship earlier in 1943, which had involved a radical alteration of not just her internal compartments, but also in her outward appearance. When the vessel left Sydney harbour on 12 May bound for Port Moresby in New Guinea, she was painted a brilliant white, with thick green stripes running the length of her hull broken by huge red crosses. On her bows was painted the number ‘47’, providing information that any enemy submarine skipper could investigate to determine the ship’s identity and purpose. The number was the Centaur’s registration lodged with the International Red Cross in Switzerland, the IRC having informed the Japanese government of the ship’s new role as a non-combatant vessel protected by International Law from any kind of attack. Although Japan had not signed the 1929 Geneva Conventions, she had nonetheless agreed prior to the outbreak of war to abide by the provisions concerning non-combatant status, and the rules regarding hospital ships that had been established as long ago as 1907.

The Centaur’s first task was to sail from Sydney to Cairns through Australian coastal waters regularly patrolled by Japanese submarines, and thence on to Port Moresby to collect wounded. Aboard her for the journey to New Guinea were sixty-four medical staff, including twelve Australian Army Medical Service nurses, who would stay on the ship to treat the wounded, and the 149 men, plus an additional forty-four attached personnel, of the 2/12th Field Ambulance who would be landed at Port Moresby to provide casualty clearing stations and aid posts for the front-line fighting troops. The Centaur had a crew of seventy-five men of the Merchant Navy, giving a total aboard of 332 souls all headed north into the war zone.

The captain of the Centaur was sailing directly into seas where Japanese submarines had been recently operating and sinking Allied ships, trusting in his ship’s clearly marked non-combatant status for protection. He was aware that the Japanese had been informed of his ship’s status as a hospital vessel on 5 February, and he knew that their superiors would have apprised any roving submarine skippers of this fact. With hindsight, it is possible to see that the disaster that followed occurred as a result of a Japanese unwillingness to follow any rules concerning conduct in war, other than their own military code. The track record of the Japanese army and navy in conducting war since 1937 in China and throughout the Pacific and south-east Asia after 1941 was a litany of atrocities and flagrant breaches of internationally agreed codes of military and naval conduct, even those rules to which Japan was bound or had agreed to honour. Put simply, the Japanese left much of the observance of these rules to individual commanders, who reacted depending upon the situation they faced, or the degree to which any such rules meant anything to them. The Japanese officer corps was renowned for being obsessively loyal to the Emperor to the ignorance of everything else, and slavishly obedient to the Bushido code of feudal Japan that took no account of prisoners or non-combatants within its ethos. Many officers were simply brutal and very often what we might subsequently define as sadistic in dealing with the enemies of Japan, and the Centaur was about to run foul of one the navy’s most brutal submarine skippers. Lieutenant-Commander Hajime Nakagawa was on his first war patrol to Australian waters as commanding officer of the submarine I-177, a KD7 type completed in December 1942. Nakagawa, along with submarines I-178 and I-180, formed Submarine Division 22, 3rd Submarine Squadron based at Truk. Nakagawa’s career had been marred by an incident before the war that meant that his promotion chances were very few and far between. On 2 February 1939, when Nakagawa was commanding the I-60, he had been conducting training exercises in the Bungo Straits in Japan, simulating attacks, when he had accidentally rammed the submarine I-63 in the early morning gloom. The pressure hull breached, the I-63 had immediately sunk, taking eighty-two of her crew with her, and Nakagawa had been placed before a court martial. He was found guilty of negligence and suspended from the navy. In 1940 he was reassigned to the command of the I-58, and then the I-177, which he took to Australian waters.

On the 26 April 1943 Nakagawa had intercepted and sunk the 8,724-ton British merchant ship Limerick, a member of an escorted convoy, off Cape Byron near Brisbane and escaped the resulting attack by the convoy escorts on his boat. The Limerick was one of five merchant ships sunk between 18 January and 29 April off the New South Wales and Queensland coasts by Japanese submarines resulting in a great loss of life among the merchant crews. Nakagawa was a man driven by a need to restore his reputation after having lost face during his court martial in 1939. Perhaps the way in which to restore his professional reputation was through achieving as many kills as possible against his country’s enemies.

As the brightly lit Centaur crossed his path in the early hours of 14 May 1943 he did not hesitate in ordering a torpedo attack launched against her. The Centaur was strung with electric light bulbs that illuminated her red crosses and IRC number on the bows for all to see, but Nakagawa turned his head from the periscope eye-piece and began to issue orders for the attack plot to be drawn, and one or more torpedo tubes made ready to fire. He knew absolutely that his next actions were illegal under the rules of war, the Geneva Conventions and International Law, yet he ruthlessly ignored these facts and prepared to launch an attack. There are several ways to rationalize Nakagawa’s sinking of the Centaur, and one is the fact that a hospital ship was tasked with collecting wounded soldiers and taking them home for treatment so that some might be returned fighting fit to once again oppose the Japanese advance. If Nakagawa sank a hospital ship he might reason that he was serving the Emperor by removing one of the links by which Australia supported her forces defending New Guinea. Perhaps what followed was revenge for Allied attacks on Japanese hospital ships? In the Allies defence, even they pointed out that the Japanese were of a habit of not properly or clearly marking their hospital ships, which led to some cases of mistaken identity. The war in the Pacific was subsequently famous for the brutality displayed by both Japanese and Allied forces towards each other, and Nakagawa may also have been aware of recent American attacks on Japanese troop transports. In January the Americans had sunk a troop transport, and thousands of the 9,500 Japanese soldiers aboard the vessel were machine gunned in the water after abandoning the sinking ship. Christopher Milligan and John Foley in Australian Hospital Ship Centaur: The Myth of Immunity point out that in early March 1943 American aircraft had sunk an entire Japanese convoy of twenty-two ships. The majority of these vessels were troop transports, which was of course a legitimate target. However, for seven days following the initial sinking of this convoy American ships and aircraft systematically set about eliminating the survivors, machine gunning and bombing more than 3,000 of them. This action was against the established rules of war and the Geneva Conventions, which the United States had most certainly signed. The ferocity of both combatants in the war in Asia and the Pacific was legendary, and the rule of law was very often put aside in a multitude of cases.

An Overview of Japanese Submarine Operations off Australia during 1943 Part II

AHS Centaur following her conversion to a hospital ship. The Red Cross designation “47” can be seen on the bow. Of the 332 medical personnel and civilian crew aboard, 268 died, including 63 of the 65 army personnel.

At 4.10 a.m. on 14 May the Centaur was off Moretan Island, Queensland when a Japanese torpedo struck home with deadly effect. Most of the medical staff was asleep at the moment of impact, as an enormous explosion shook the ship violently, and she caught fire and started to sink by the stern. Seaman Matthew Morris of the Centaur’s crew recalled those terrifying few moments as the ship foundered:

I finished the twelve to four watch and I called the four to eight watch to go down, including me mate. And I was just havin’ a cup of tea – and this big explosion, and the ship gave a shudder, and the skylight fell in on us.

In the ensuing panic Morris was able to get clear of the rapidly sinking Centaur:

I don’t really know how I got out of the mess room…and I’d say there was a dozen steps up to the deck. And I really can’t remember going up them. But then I was washed off the back of the ship and then I realised I was in the water.

Sister Ellen Savage, one of twelve members of the Australian Army Nursing Corps onboard the Centaur, was woken up by the torpedo slamming into the ship:

Merle Morton and myself were awakened by two terrific explosions and practically thrown out of bed…I registered mentally that it was a torpedo explosion.

Lurching through the stricken ship onto the boat deck, the young nurses were unsure of what to do next:

…we ran into Colonel Manson, our commanding officer, in full dress even to his cap and ‘Mae West’ life-jacket, who kindly said ‘That’s right girlies, jump for it now.’ The first words I spoke was to say ‘Will I have time to go back for my greatcoat?’ as we were only in our pyjamas. He said ‘No’ and with that climbed the deck and jumped and I followed.

Savage recorded that the Centaur sank in only about three minutes, providing little time for the crew and passengers to abandon ship, and no time to launch any of the ship’s lifeboats. Hundreds of terrified soldiers and sailors leaped into the roiling sea, and the Centaur disappeared taking scores of lives with her, many already dead from the torpedo impact or trapped below with no way out. The suction created by the ship plunging to the depths dragged hapless swimmers deep underwater, including Savage. She eventually surfaced in a patch of oil, suffering from an assortment of painful injuries after having been tossed and battered in the underwater whirlpool created by the Centaur. As Savage gasped air at the surface pain wracked her body from broken ribs, perforated eardrums and severe bruising all over. Her nose was also broken, along with her palate, but she had survived. Now came the awful realization, shared with the hundreds treading water around her, that they were far out to sea, many were injured, and there was no immediate hope of rescue.

The I-177 was seen to surface close to the point where the Centaur had gone down, and many of the survivors wondered what the next Japanese move would be. The Japanese, however, made no move towards the survivors, and shortly afterwards the submarine was seen to submerge and depart from the scene, leaving the survivors to their fate.

Seaman Morris, after being washed off the stern of the Centaur as she sank, also found himself alone. Fortunately, Morris came upon a small, damaged life raft and clambered aboard. Later, Morris saved his friend, Seaman Teenie, by pulling him onto the raft. For many of the men and women who had managed to throw themselves clear of the Centaur their fates were terrible. Many could not swim and drowned after failing to find life jackets or rafts. The noises emitted by the sinking Centaur, as well as the thrashing of survivors in the sea and the smell of blood everywhere around the area attracted dozens of large sharks. The sharks probably scavenged floating bodies, but soon moved on to hapless swimmers and people clinging to bits of wreckage. High pitched screaming continued for hours after the sinking as people were killed by sharks and devoured. Morris and Teenie drifted on their small raft amid the horror, comforting one another, until the dawn light revealed a much more substantial raft drifting close by. It was on this raft that Savage had managed to pull herself, along with many others, to get clear of the sharks and rest. Morris and his companion paddled over and joined the others aboard what came to be christened ‘Survival Island’.

Second Officer Rippon of the Centaur was the senior officer to have survived the sinking and he took charge of the raft. Rippon knew that the Japanese attack had been so sudden that no distress call had been sent before the ship sank. The survivors were in dire straights unless help arrived quickly as they possessed only a little food and fresh water, and no medical supplies with which to treat the many injured lying around them. Most of the survivors were dressed in nightclothes and would suffer from exposure and hypothermia over the coming hours. Sharks constantly bumped against the raft with their snouts, or patrolled the waters all around, attacking an occasional person still in the water, or a corpse floating at the surface. Rescue was to be thirty-six hours later, and in the meantime still more of the survivors who had managed to get off the ship and onto a raft died. Morris lay next to a badly burned soldier who had ceased moving. Morris caught Savage’s attention, knowing that she was a nurse, and said, ‘I think this young chap’s dead.’ Savage leaned over and closely examined the man, confirming Morris’s suspicions. Morris: ‘…took his identification disc off him and his name was John Wälder…I gave his…disc to Sister Savage and she said: “Will you answer the Rosary?” I said: “Yes, I’ll do my best.”’ Private Walder was one of many buried at sea, though most likely this was more of a gesture than a possibility as bodies put over the side of the raft would have been attacked by the patrolling sharks.

Eventually Morris, Savage and the other survivors were plucked to safety by the American destroyer USS Mugford on 15 May, and Australia began to count the cost in lives occasioned by the loss of the Centaur. Of the 332 men and women on board when the ship departed from Sydney on 12 May, only sixty-seven men and one woman had been rescued by the Mugford four days later. It has been estimated that over 200 survived the torpedo strike and made it into the sea, but just over a quarter of those would live. Sharks, injury, drowning and despair took care of the rest, including eleven of the twelve nurses who were aboard the Centaur. The sinking of the Centaur stands as Australia’s worst disaster from a submarine attack.

As for Sister Ellen Savage, the sole surviving nurse, she had spent thirty-six hours on ‘Survival Island’ working tirelessly to ease the suffering and pain of her companions, even though she was badly injured herself. For her courage she was awarded the George Medal. Australian Prime Minister Curtin lodged an official complaint through the neutral powers with the Japanese government over the ‘barbaric’ attack on an Australian hospital ship. Initially, Curtin called upon the Japanese to punish those officers responsible for the attack, but was later forced to tone down his outrage as he and other politicians feared that the Japanese might have exacted revenge on the thousands of Australian prisoners-of-war in their hands.

The man responsible for all the suffering of the people aboard the Centaur, Hajime Nakagawa, had actually behaved in a restrained manner considering what he was later to inflict on innocent civilians who fell into his grasp. In December 1943 Nakagawa had assumed command of submarine I-37 (though he had still not been promoted to commander), and by February 1944 was on patrol in the Indian Ocean. On 22 February he torpedoed and sank the grain tanker British Chivalry. After taking the captain prisoner he ordered machine-gun fire opened up on the helpless crewmen, who were in a pair of lifeboats and lying on four rafts. Bullets rippled backwards and forwards over the defenceless survivors, the hapless captain forced to watch the massacre. Twenty sailors were killed in cold blood, and for no reason. Nakagawa struck again on 26 February, sinking the British freighter Sutlej, and he once again ordered his crew to machine-gun the survivors. On 29 February the I-37 sank the British merchant ship Ascot, and the crew had taken to lifeboats, life rafts or were swimming in the sea. The Japanese skipper first ordered his submarine to deliberately ram the Ascot’s lifeboats, killing some of the survivors and tipping the rest into the ocean. Machine guns were turned once more upon the fifty-two men struggling in the sea, other Japanese took pot-shots at their bobbing heads with pistols, some were even dragged aboard the deck and carved up with swords and a few finished off by being pounded to death with sledge hammers before their bodies were dumped back into the sea. Forty-four men were killed in this manner before the Japanese slunk away.

Judged in the light of these appalling later crimes, it is intriguing as to why Nakagawa did not let loose his evident bloodlust upon the survivors of the Centaur eight months before. Combined Fleet Headquarters had issued an order to submarine skippers on 20 March 1943 which stated: ‘Do not stop with the sinking of enemy ships and cargoes; at the same time that you carry out the complete destruction of the crews of enemy ships, if possible, seize part of the crew and endeavour to secure information about the enemy.’ The application of this chilling order appears to have been left to the discretion of individual commanders. Nakagawa, when placed on trial in 1949 for the various outrages he had ordered committed, used the ‘I was only following orders’ plea to attempt to deflect his guilt. Sadly, much of the evidence entered in the trial was disallowed, and this meant that Nakagawa was classed as a Category B war criminal and only received eight years hard labour. In 1954, after only six years, the mass murderer submariner was released, and continued to deny that he had ever sunk the Centaur up until his death. Indeed, the Japanese government only officially acknowledged that the I-177 had sunk the Centaur in 1979.

After sinking the Centaur Nakagawa took the I-177 back to Truk and made a second war patrol to the Australian east coast in June, but went to Rabaul in July after making no further attacks on Allied ships.

On 29 April the I-180 found the small Norwegian freighter Fingal that was on her way from Sydney to Port Darwin under Australian government contract, transporting ammunition to Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. The Fingal was not such an inviting opportunity as she was under escort by the powerful American destroyer escort USS Patterson. Kusaka pressed home his attack regardless of the risk and managed to place a torpedo portside aft, with another smashing into the engine room tearing the guts out of the 2,137-ton ship. The Norwegian sank in less than one minute, taking several of her crew with her. The Patterson eventually rescued nineteen out of the crew of thirty-one.

The I-180 continued to lurk around Coffs Harbour into May, and Kusaka’s patience was rewarded with another good target that presented itself on the 12th. Convoy PG50, consisting of fifteen ships, was sailing from Cairns to Sydney. Kusaka fired a spread of torpedoes, and would have been more successful if not for torpedo malfunction. One torpedo detonated inside the 5,832-ton American freighter Ormiston, loaded with bagged sugar, blowing a hole in her portside. A second torpedo struck the Australian ship Caradale, but the contact exploder fitted to the warhead failed to detonate and the torpedo did nothing more than leave a dent in the freighter’s hull before sinking to the seabed. Two Australian and an American warship took the Ormiston in tow, and after temporary repairs were effected in Coffs Harbour the freighter continued on her way to Sydney. By the end of May Kusaka and the I-180 were back in Truk after a disappointing patrol.

Meanwhile, the I-178 returned to Australia for a second war patrol, and on 17 June while the submarine was sixty-five miles south-east of Coffs Harbour, a Beaufort of 32 Squadron, RAAF, pounced on her. A second Beaufort joined in the attack on the surfaced submarine, inflicting some damage. The aircraft left the scene after reporting that the submarine was trailing a large oil slick in her wake, and the I-178 was never heard from again. It was a notable kill for the Australians, eighty-nine Japanese losing their lives.

Formerly the I-74, the re-numbered I-174 under the command of Lieutenant Nobukiyo Nambu departed Truk on 16 May 1943 with orders to patrol off the east coast of Australia. In her earlier incarnation as the I-74 she had participated in the Pearl Harbor operation, as well as assisting with the flying boat raid on Pearl Harbor in May 1942, all under her then skipper, Lieutenant-Commander Kusaka. Nambu assumed command of the boat on 12 November 1942, as Kusaka had left to assist with the working-up of the I-180 and was later to command the giant I-400. On 27 May 1943 Nambu and the I-174 appeared off the Australian coast at Sandy Cape and began patrolling for targets along the coast. The next day the submarine was spotted on radar by a Bristol Beaufort of 32 Squadron, RAAF, which was on antisubmarine patrol from Bundaberg. Sharp-eyed lookouts on the Japanese boat spied the Beaufort as it attempted to creep up on the submarine and Nambu was able to crash-dive and escape.

On 1 June the I-174 was seventy miles east of Brisbane, hoping for an encounter with an enemy ship. Sailing towards the Japanese hunter was a lone merchant ship, and Nambu immediately began manoeuvring his submarine into an attack position. The vessel was a 3,303-ton American freighter, Point San Pedro, sailing towards Brisbane from the Panama Canal. When the merchant captain sighted the submarine he immediately began zigzagging in a desperate attempt to throw off the Japanese officers’ aim, but four torpedoes were nonetheless launched at the ship. By sheer good luck, and perhaps because of the ship’s erratic movements, all four torpedoes completely missed, and the radio operator was instructed to inform the Australian authorities of a Japanese submarine lurking close to Brisbane. The Australians reacted with the dispatch of an Avro Anson maritime bomber of 71 Squadron, RAAF, with orders to seek out and destroy the boat. A further six Anson’s left the airfields at Lowood and Coffs Harbour to join in the search but found no trace of the I-174.

Nambu was a submarine skipper of some temerity and, some might say, suicidal impulses. On the afternoon of 3 June he sighted a small convoy of six freighters being escorted by three destroyers off Brisbane, and he decided to attempt an attack. Coming to the surface at 6 p.m., he ordered his diesel engines full ahead, and grinding hastily through the waves Nambu began to pursue the convoy. Not surprisingly his submarine was soon spotted by lookouts on the various ships, and the destroyers swung around and began to close the distance between the convoy and the I-174. The Japanese submarine crash-dived and fled from the scene before the convoy escorts could plaster the boat with depth charges and Hedgehog mortar bombs.

The next day Nambu attempted to intercept another lone ship, this time a US Army transport named the Edward Chambers, another ship on her way from the Panama Canal to Brisbane loaded with supplies. Nambu spotted the 4,113-ton merchantman at 8.45 a.m. off Cape Moreton while his submarine was submerged, and he made belaboured efforts to close the distance between the two vessels in order to launch his torpedoes. Deciding instead to blow the Edward Chambers out of the water with his deck-gun Nambu ordered the I-174 to the surface. At 9.48 a.m. the gunners unmasked their fire, nine shells sailing past the merchant ship without achieving a single hit. In fact, the army gunners aboard the Edward Chambers returned fire using a 3-inch gun mounted on the stern, and twelve American shells splashed into the sea close to the submarine, which caused Nambu to break off his attack and submerge. By now large numbers of Australian aircraft had been sent aloft to search out the errant submarine, and the I-174 remained submerged for the rest of the day fearing aerial attack.

At 10.25 a.m. on 5 June the I-174 was still submerged sixty miles north-east of Coffs Harbour, the hydrophone operator listening for enemy activity. What was clearly discerned were the propeller sounds of several ships that were apparently moving in a convoy several miles from the submarine. Nambu moved the I-174 behind convoy PG53, and surfaced in poor weather. The weather was bad enough to have concealed the approach of Nambu’s boat, but he decided to take no chances so when a shadowing patrol aircraft came close he submerged and waited for it to move off before he resumed closing in on the convoy’s tail. The pursuit took Nambu all day, and by the time the sun was beginning to fade on the horizon he had managed to bring his vessel to within 6,000 yards of the convoy without being spotted. Creeping ever closer Nambu prepared to fire but an escorting destroyer spotted the shadowing Japanese submarine and turned hard about and charged. His approach ruined, Nambu had no choice but to crash-dive once more. No depth charges followed the submarine’s descent, and at 9.45 p.m. Nambu brought the I-174 back to the surface for another try at the convoy. Another charge by a destroyer forced him back beneath the waves, but Nambu had already noted the convoy’s course and speed and he decided that instead of constantly popping up behind the ships, and attracting the unwanted attentions of the escorts, he would instead pile on the speed and attempt to place his submarine in a position by first light ahead of the convoy. Running his diesels at the surface Nambu brought the I-174 to the position where he estimated the convoy would eventually appear and then settled down at periscope depth to wait.

On the morning of 6 June the I-174 ascended to the surface, but Nambu’s careful planning had placed him at too great a range to intercept the convoy passing in front of him in the distance without risking being caught by patrolling Australian aircraft as he tried to close the gap. Undoubtedly disappointed he abandoned stalking convoy PG53 and instead motored off towards the south, heading for the waters around Newcastle and Sydney that he hoped would be teeming with ships.

The next day the I-174 was 100 miles east of Sydney. Lookouts spotted a single ship at 4.50 a.m., and Nambu began once more to plan his approach and attack. The ship was the John Bartram, a 7,176-ton American Liberty approaching Sydney after crossing the Pacific from San Francisco. As the submarine charged down the distance between the two vessels the American captain began zigzagging to stall the inevitable torpedo attack that was to follow. Nambu managed to get the I-174 ahead of his target and launched a spread of four torpedoes at 6.06 a.m. In a confused attack two of the torpedoes definitely missed the ship, and another exploded prematurely, rocking the I-174. Perhaps wanting to finally record a kill, Nambu erroneously believed that he had struck the John Bartram. The I-174 departed the scene in some haste, its commander satisfied that he had sunk his target. The John Bartram sailed on undamaged.

Nambu next spent several days hanging around the approaches to Sydney without sighting a single ship, which was unusual considering the density of merchant and warship traffic travelling in and out of the port. At 2 p.m. on 13 June Nambu finally sighted a small convoy of approximately six transport ships, escorted by a pair of destroyers, about thirty miles east of the Wollongong Lighthouse. Once again, the I-174 surfaced too far from the ships to allow an interception to be attempted and Nambu was forced to submerge again and wait. The next night, another Beaufort on anti-submarine duty pounced on the I-174, and the submarine narrowly avoided a hail of bombs. After staying submerged for over half an hour Nambu resurfaced only to discover that the Australian aircraft was still circling the area and he was attacked again and forced once more beneath the waves.

On 16 June, when the I-174 was south-east of Coffs Harbour, Nambu finally discovered a convoy that he was in a position to attack. Five corvettes screened the convoy, including HMAS Deloraine, but the I-174 slipped past the warships and, at 5.20 p.m., fired two torpedoes at a pair of transports. The first torpedo Struck the 5,000-ton Landing Ship Tank, LST 469 in the starboard side, towards the stern. The detonation completely destroyed the vessel’s steering gear and also killed twenty-six men, but LST-469 remained afloat. A few moments later the second torpedo struck the starboard side of the 5,551-ton US Army transport ship Portmar. The detonation of the Japanese torpedo set a massive fire in the Portmar’s holds, which in turn set off ammunition stored aboard the ship. The crew soon abandoned the stricken ship, and after only seven minutes the Portmar sank. Two of the escorting corvettes ineffectually depth-charged the I-174. Lieutenant Nambu goes down in history as the last Japanese submarine skipper to successfully sink a ship off the east coast of Australia, and on 20 June the I-174 was ordered back to Truk. Nambu was later reassigned as commander of the submarine aircraft carrier I-401, and American aircraft east of Truk destroyed his former command, the I-174, on 12 April 1944.

Japan Triumphant, December 1941 to Spring 1942

Between December 1941 and early 1942, while Japan made its lightning conquest of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific, its navy and army appeared invincible to the Allies. Indeed, the Japanese victories owed themselves largely to skilful planning, along with the tactical and technological efficiency of their armed forces. The weak state of the US and British Empire also played an important part in facilitating Japan’s successes. Yet, as early as March 1942, the high command had to contend with many of the weaknesses which plagued its war machine, the most important of which was that neither the IJN nor IJA had the capacity to defeat the Western powers in a prolonged conflict. The Imperial forces were overstretched, and America had not been knocked out of the war. On the contrary, the US was preparing to strike back, and most importantly, it possessed the industrial resources to build a military force that was far superior to anything the Japanese could deploy. Yet the military leadership failed to comprehend the predicament it faced, and maintained that Japan could deal a crippling blow on its opponents and thereafter secure its conquests against enemy invasions. The misperception led the Japanese to embark on a number of failed ventures in the Indian Ocean and Pacific areas which eventually culminated with the IJN’s defeat at Midway in June 1942. The latter encounter was arguably the single battle which turned the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor, and emasculated Japan’s capacity to conduct further territorial conquests.


Reasons for Japanese Successes

The success achieved by the Imperial navy and army in securing control over an area stretching thousands of miles from Burma, all the way through the East Indies to the islands of the Pacific, in such a short period of time can be attributed to effective strategic and operational planning on the part of the high command, coupled with the fighting skill of the Japanese forces at the battlefront level. In addition, the poor level of preparedness which the Allied defenders demonstrated in areas such as Malaya and the Philippines played a distinct role in helping the invaders.

At the strategic and operational levels, the Japanese succeeded primarily because the navy managed to attain complete command over both the sea and airspace in the areas they intended to conquer. Furthermore, the IJN made good use of its limited strength by concentrating on key positions in the western Pacific. Throughout the period prior to the war, the navy strived to develop a way to optimize its resources. Commanders realized that a numerically inferior fleet had to rely on the element of surprise if it was to have any prospect of defeating its opponents, and focused on commencing wars with a preemptive strike. The idea was to destroy the American fleet before it could threaten Japan’s home waters. Indeed, the Pearl Harbor operation was among the most notable examples of how the attacking side could use secrecy and deception to catch the defenders off guard and inflict a devastating blow. With the navy able to achieve supremacy over the Pacific regions, the IJA could be assured that transports were able to carry troops to the areas of operations without facing any significant Allied interference. The army was also supported by a secure supply line which stretched back to the home islands. This meant that once onshore, troops received a steady flow of reinforcements and equipment to sustain their advance.

Japanese operational planning was also helped by an efficient intelligence network. For example, Colonel Tsuji Masanobu, chief of the Twenty-fifth Army’s operations staff, recalled how his officers conducted a detailed survey of the landing beaches in Malaya, and meticulously verified the possible routes for the inland advance. Japanese agents also carried out sabotage operations, destroying installations such as air bases, oilfields, and railway lines in a systematic manner. Equally impressive were their subversive activities. Winning the hearts and minds of the indigenous people in Southeast Asia had been a key objective for years. By the time the war broke out, the intelligence services had forged connections with key leaders of the Nationalist movements in most of the European colonies, and extensively spread anti-Western propaganda to the local population. As a result, the invasion received widespread local support. When the Imperial army entered the East Indies and Philippines, the colonial administrations collapsed almost overnight. In Malaya, thousands of Indian troops deserted the British army, and joined forces with the conquerors.

The Imperial forces also successfully devised tactics and weapons which enabled them to out-maneuver their opponents. In particular, the navy demonstrated how it had made a fruitful effort to develop the fighting capacity to secure control over the western Pacific areas. The Japanese sought to circumvent the disadvantages arising from their inability to match Western levels of ship construction, by building vessels with greater firepower and endurance. By the late 1920s, technicians and engineers had developed a number of sophisticated armaments that placed the IJN in a good position to compete with its US and British rivals. Battleships and cruisers were fitted with guns and torpedoes that outranged most of their opponents, as well as larger propulsion systems to increase their velocity and cruising radius. 6 In order to enable gun crews to deliver accurate fire, control towers were constructed with extra elevation so that they could house various pieces of equipment such as range finders, searchlight directors and firing calculators. Officers in the bridge were also able to locate their targets from a longer range. Naval ordnance performed well. The long-lance was the most advanced torpedo to be constructed for the duration of the conflict, and could hit targets up to 10,000 yards away at a speed of 45 knots. Torpedoes were also oxygen-propelled, which meant that they did not produce a wake, thereby rendering them difficult to detect. In the area of tactics, the Imperial fleet developed innovative ways of using modern technologies. Crews were adept at conducting night operations. This was an aspect which most navies, including the British and Americans, had neglected, mainly because maneuvers under the cover of darkness were deemed to be too complicated. Radio silence was also maintained in order to avoid revealing the ships’ positions. The Japanese fleet’s advantages became fully apparent at the Battle of the Java Sea, when they frequently managed to locate and sink Allied forces before the latter could react.

The IJN also made a painstaking effort to build up its air power. Under the 1937 fleet replenishment program, the 25,000 ton carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, were constructed. In the same year, the navy air staff established the specifications for the Zero fighter, which was designed to fly with greater range, speed, and maneuverability than any rival interceptor. Mitsubishi was commissioned to construct the new fighter, and by September 1940, the first completed machine entered service in China. As a result, the Japanese were able to attain control over the skies in the areas where they conquered, and eliminate their opponents’ air forces. Bombardment operations were also carried out effectively. Aircraft manufacturers assembled a number of bomber types which launched torpedo and aerial attacks with a high level of accuracy. Naval pilots in particular were well trained, and demonstrated their capacity to take out enemy vessels both in port as well as in the open sea. The sinking of the British capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse off the coast of Malaya demonstrated the skill and accuracy of Japanese bombardment techniques. Aircrews often used several types of maneuvers in conjunction in an effort to overwhelm the defenders. Horizontal bombers initiated the raid, attracting the attention of anti-aircraft crews. Torpedo planes and dive bombers then followed, and were often able to operate without interference. Pilots pressed home their raids, even when they faced opposition. The result was often a highly efficient bombing pattern. The naval air service also provided support for the amphibious operations in the Dutch East Indies and Malaya, with good results. Flying boats conducted reconnaissance missions, while heavy air attacks were launched to take out communications facilities and coastal defense batteries. In order to achieve air superiority over the vicinity of the landing beaches and thus protect the landing parties from aerial opposition, the Japanese undertook to neutralize the nearby aerodromes.

Although the Imperial army was not as technologically advanced as the navy, its tactics nevertheless showed finesse. The most decisive advantage was the maneuverability and fighting skill of Japanese infantry units. In the area of amphibious operations, landing parties rarely faced troubles in securing a foothold on their objectives. The Japanese developed suitable equipment, including landing craft with hinged bows that allowed the quick unloading of troops and supplies. In Malaya, amphibious forces often chose beaches which the defending forces had considered unsuitable for landings, owing to the steep gradient and choppy tidewater. Adverse terrain and weather were not an obstacle, and on the contrary, the Japanese deliberately carried out their operations in such conditions so that they could appear where their opponents least expected an attack. The army also proved adept at conducting overland advances, particularly in the jungle terrain which prevailed in the Far East. Troops did not depend on motorized transport, and could overcome any natural feature, including hills, wooded country, and river crossings. By doing so, the attackers circumvented the main roads, where Allied forces had concentrated their defenses. Within days after the landing at Malaya, the IJA’s skilful outflanking moves left British forces with few choices apart from withdrawing and consolidating themselves in more tenable positions at the southern portion of the peninsula. The Japanese also regularly infiltrated their enemy’s positions. In the Philippines, small parties often broke through the gaps in the US army’s lines, remaining silent, and waited for reinforcements to arrive until a sufficient force was gathered to launch a small assault. Firecrackers and other types of ruses were then set off to confuse the defending troops over the location of the attacking force. Thereafter, the invaders overwhelmed the disoriented American soldiers by launching a full-scale advance. The Imperial army was also aided by the strong morale which prevailed within its rank and file. Troops conducted their advances with little concern for losses, and demonstrated an unquestioned dedication towards their organization. Lieutenant-General Hutton, who commanded the British forces in Burma, noted that the fundamental cause for the Japanese success was the extent to which soldiers had been imbued with an “offensive spirit.”

Finally, the Imperial forces were aided because the defending Allied forces were in a weak state. In regard to naval and air forces, the British and Americans not only lacked adequate strengths, but were poorly equipped and inefficiently trained. Part of the problem was that Western personnel held condescending views of the Japanese, and thought that the latter were incapable of putting up a serious contest. A more serious problem stemmed from the fact that the bulk of the Allied navies and air services were committed to the Atlantic theater, which meant the Pacific areas could not be defended with large forces. The most scathing criticisms, however, were directed at the armies. In many cases, the Americans and British outnumbered the Japanese, but lacked the tactical skill to forestall the invaders. Troops were inept at fighting in undeveloped country. In order to ensure that their positions could be defended, soldiers had to adopt more imaginative methods. Many British army officers conceded that their traditional procedures of employing fixed defenses were unlikely to work if the positions could be bypassed and were not held with adequate strength. Defending forces needed to conduct an aggressive patrol of their surroundings, and in situations where difficult terrain restricted the use of motorized transport, the proper deployment of foot soldiers was vital.

Allied commanders also conceded that their failures were due to a prevailing lack of discipline. A US officer who served in the Philippines noted how the morale of troops was unsatisfactory, and insisted that soldiers needed to undergo a “spiritual training” along the lines of the Japanese, in order to develop a more aggressive attitude. Likewise, General Pownall pondered how British troops were overly dependent on creature comforts and held an aversion to strenuous work, both of which gave rise to a situation where training was conducted without preparing troops for battle conditions. Western personnel who lacked the fortitude to fight in the trying conditions which prevailed in the jungles of Southeast Asia and the islands of the western Pacific were simply no match for the efficiently trained Japanese army, whose troops held a high level of stamina.

Siege of Pusan [now Busan]

Faced with some 15,000 attackers and their alien weapons, the city’s 8,000 defending troops stood no chance. The Japanese celebrated the capture of Pusan in 1592 with an orgy of bloodletting.

The Failure of the 16th Century Japanese Invasions of Korea

Sengoku Jidai: Mandate of Heaven

Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun Collector’s Edition

Official Korean documents in the sixteenth century were dated according to the reign year of the Chinese emperor or the Korean king. Fifteen ninety-two, being the twentieth year of the reign of China’s Wanli emperor and the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Korean king Sonjo, was therefore referred to either as Wanli 20 or Sonjo 25. In everyday usage, however, a different and very ancient counting system was used to keep track of the passage of both the days and the years: the traditional cycle of sixty. Each increment in the cycle was given a name consisting of one of ten “heavenly stems” derived from the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, and an “earthly branch” of one of the twelve zodiacal symbols: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Fifteen ninety-two was the twenty-ninth year in this cycle, the year called imjin, a name combining the ninth heavenly stem, seawater, with the sign of the dragon. The Koreans did not regard the year with any particular sense of foreboding. On the contrary, the advent of imjin may even have been considered fortuitous, for the year of the dragon was traditionally viewed as a time of opportunity and prosperity, tinged with just a hint of unpredictability.

Fifteen ninety-two changed all that. The events that would unfold on the peninsula beginning in May would sear the word imjin on the Korean consciousness as a synonym for death and destruction, the apocalypse, the end of the world. To this day imjin waeran, “the Japanese bandit invasion of the water dragon year,” remains the closest that Korea has ever come to the abyss. There have been other times in her history that have brought destruction and tragedy on a terrible scale, most notably the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. But nothing can ever surpass the utter desolation of imjin waeran—the burned-out cities, the scorched earth, the broken families and snuffed-out lives. Among a people as homogeneous as the Koreans, the memory of this catastrophe not surprisingly is still very much alive today, more than four hundred years after the event. Indeed, it might even be said that they have not entirely forgiven Japan for it. Imjin waeran remains to this day a sub-text to the resentment and at times animosity that Koreans still feel toward the Japanese for their occupation of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.


It began on May 23, 1592. A dense mist hung over the sea off Pusan early that morning, obscuring any sign of activity offshore. Chong Pal, the sixty-year-old commander of the Pusan garrison, left the port early for a day of hunting on Cholyong-do, a forested island at the mouth of the harbor so named for its population of deer. Emerging from the trees some time in the afternoon, he was one of the first to spy the armada, “covering all of the sea,” approaching from the direction of Daema-do, as Tsushima was known to the Koreans. Suspecting that this could be the Japanese invasion that everyone was expecting and yet did not expect, Chong rushed back to Pusan to raise the alarm and prepare for the worst. Any doubts as to what he had seen were soon dispelled by corroborative reports from a lighthouse keeper farther along the coast and from a beacon-fire tender on a hill behind Pusan: a long battle line of ships, ninety in number, approaching from the south.

The lead ships of the Japanese armada soon reached the waters off Pusan harbor and dropped anchor. Kyongsang Left Navy Commander Pak Hong observed their arrival from his nearby base at Kijang and began to tally the numbers for himself. There were easily ninety, as reported. Then one hundred. Then one hundred and fifty. The afternoon waned, and the ships kept coming. Two hundred. Two hundred and fifty. Three hundred. The sun eased below the horizon, and still the number continued to climb. And Pak’s nerves began to fray.

Word of the Japanese arrival reached Kyongsang Right Navy Commander Won Kyun at his base on Koje Island to the west of Pusan that same afternoon. He could not at first bring himself to believe what was happening. In a dispatch to his colleague Yi Sun-sin, commander of the Cholla Left Navy based at Yosu farther to the west, Won reported that the approaching mass of ships was perhaps some sort of exceptionally large trade mission from Tsushima. As the afternoon progressed, however, and the number of ships crowding the bay off Pusan climbed to one hundred and fifty and beyond, Won was forced to the conclusion that an invasion was indeed under way and a disaster about to befall them.

Neither he nor Pak Hong, however, made any attempt that day or the next to attack the Japanese armada with the approximately one hundred and fifty heavy panokson battleships under their command, representing the bulk of the entire Korean navy. The two men simply watched and waited and sent off frantic dispatches, while the ships under their command, the most formidable weapons in the Korean arsenal and the first and most effective line in the nation’s defenses, sat idle in their ports.

For the Koreans, this frozen inaction on the part of Won and Pak was the first of many strategic errors that would be made in the early days of the Imjin War. For although the two naval commanders did not know it, the gathering armada, while numerically daunting, was in fact vulnerable to seaborne attack and could have been dealt a heavy blow before it ever had a chance to send a single man ashore.

In the order of battle he had signed two months before, Hideyoshi urged his daimyo to be particularly careful to get their troops safely across the sea to Pusan, warning them that “the loss of one man or one horse through bad judgment will be regarded as a grave offense.” To ensure their safety, the invasion plan had called for a force of battleships to travel in convoy with the transports to protect them from the very ships that now sat idle in the Korean naval bases of Kyongsang Province. But such convoying had not occurred. When the first contingents of the invasion force were leaving Nagoya for their forward staging areas on Tsushima, the navy was still assembling on the Inland Sea. When the transports were at sea between Tsushima and Pusan, the navy was only just arriving at Nagoya. In fact, it would be more than a week before Hideyoshi’s battleships would arrive at Pusan. Konishi had gambled that he could land his forces without their protection and was now in Korean waters with a fleet of light and largely unprotected transports—fishing boats really—that would have been no match for Korea’s panokson if the challenge had been made. Had a different admiral been in command of either Kyongsang fleet, one willing to put his ships to sea and strike at the enemy, the outcome of these first few days might have been very different indeed.

By nightfall on May 23 some four hundred ships bearing Konishi Yukinaga’s first contingent had successfully traversed the seventy kilometers from Tsushima’s northern tip and were crowding the waters off Pusan. At seven thirty in the evening a single vessel separated from this force and advanced into the harbor. Aboard was So Yoshitoshi, the Christian daimyo of Tsushima, also known as Dario, who had served as Hideyoshi’s emissary to the Koreans since 1589. Accompanying him was the scholar monk Genso, a member of the Tsushima mission to Seoul in 1589. The two men sent a letter to the commander of Pusan, Chong Pal, asking one last time that the way be cleared to China for the armies of Japan. They received no answer, and eventually returned in their ship and rejoined the armada.

The die was now cast for a war with Korea. So Yoshitoshi and his father-in-law Konishi Yukinaga may have come to Pusan hoping that a show of force would cow the Koreans into acceding to Hideyoshi’s demands, thereby avoiding the necessity of a fight. Chong Pal’s rebuff ensured that this was not to be. With a huge invasion army waiting behind them on Tsushima, there was tremendous pressure on these two daimyo commanders not to spend time trying to arrange a settlement with the Koreans. It was, thought Konishi, “the will of Christ” that they now go ahead and use armed force.

For the next several hours the Japanese armada sat motionless offshore as the Koreans watched anxiously from behind the walls of Pusan Castle. Then, at four o’clock the next morning, May 24, the landings began. First ashore were the five thousand men under So Yoshitoshi. He was the logical choice to lead the way, for having visited Pusan several times in the past he knew the lay of the land and the nature of the defenses better than any of Hideyoshi’s commanders. The arrival of this familiar and formerly friendly face may also have been intended to cause the Koreans at least momentary confusion. If so, it could not have lasted long. So and his men clearly had not come this time to conduct diplomacy or trade; they had come for war. They came ashore clad in armor of iron plates and leather shingles tied together to form a flexible yet nearly impenetrable shell. It covered their torsos and arms and formed an apron in the front. They wore flaring iron helmets, some with stylized buffalo horns and antlers screwed to the front, all with a jointed cowling affixed to the sides and back to protect the neck. High-ranking samurai rode horses. They wore grotesque war masks with fierce, grimacing faces, and were armed with two swords: a long katana and a shorter wakizashi, finely crafted, very expensive, and highly valued by their owner. Some may have carried bows as well, and a lesser number spears. They did not carry muskets. These effective but fundamentally dishonorable weapons went to the ashigaru foot soldiers, along with one “loan sword.”

Next ashore was So Yoshitoshi’s father-in-law, Konishi Yukinaga, at the head of seven thousand men. They followed an unusual banner featuring a huge, stuffed rendering of the white paper bags used by Japanese druggists to dispense medicine, a reference to the Konishi family’s traditional involvement in that trade. There were very likely crucifixes in evidence as well, for Konishi and his men, like So’s company, were all Christians. Konishi himself rode a fine horse that Hideyoshi had presented to him at Nagoya before his departure, with the exhortation that he use it to “gallop over the heads of the bearded savages.”

After Konishi came Matsuura, lord of Hirado, the sole nonbeliever in the group. Then Arima. Omura. Goto. A total of 18,700 men in all, dressed for combat, ready to kill. The predominant colors were black and red: black armor and helmets, red banners and brocade. The multitude formed up in ranks, then split in two. Konishi led a portion of the men a few kilometers southwest along the harbor front to the fort at Tadaepo at the mouth of the Naktong River. The fort’s defenders, under garrison commander Yun Hung-sin, managed to repel the first assault but were overwhelmed by the second and all put to the sword. So Yoshitoshi meanwhile led the advance on Pusan Castle itself. He formally called upon garrison commander Chong Pal one last time to surrender, asserting yet again that they were on their way to China and would not harm the Koreans if they would only step aside. Chong refused. Until he received orders to the contrary, he replied, he was duty bound to resist the Japanese advance.

The aging officer then turned to his men and made his orders clear. “I expect you all,” he cried out, “to fight and die like brave men! If any man attempts to turn and flee, I will personally cut off his head!”

The day was just dawning when the Japanese sounded their conch-shell trumpets to signal the attack. The ensuing battle was fierce but short, providing the beleaguered Koreans with their first taste of the stunning power of the arquebus. Their arrows and spears were no match for them. The defenders of Pusan Castle were felled by the hundreds by the flying slugs of lead that these strange “dog legs” spit out, a deluge of death that “fell like rain.” The garrison fought until all their arrows were gone. Then Chong Pal himself was killed, and with that, at around nine o’clock in the morning, all resistance ceased.

Once over the walls, “We found people running all over the place and trying to hide in the gaps between the houses,” samurai chronicler Yoshino Jingozaemon would later record. “Those who could not conceal themselves went off toward the East Gate, where they clasped their hands together, and there came to our ears the Chinese expression, ‘Manō! Manō!’ which was probably them asking for mercy. Taking no notice of what they heard our troops rushed forward and cut them down, slaughtering them as a blood sacrifice to the god of war. Both men, women, and even dogs and cats were beheaded.” That it was assumed the Koreans spoke Chinese is an indication of how little the Japanese knew of their foe.

According to Japanese records, 8,500 Koreans were killed in the fall of Pusan and 200 prisoners were taken. Among the dead was Chong Pal’s eighteen-year-old concubine, Ae-hyang. Her body was found lying beside the fallen commander. She had taken her own life.