Interrogation Nav 55, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa
OZAWA, Jisaburo, Vice Admiral, I.J.N.
OZAWA was one of the most experienced officers of the Japanese Navy, having held major commands afloat since well before the outbreak of war. In November 1942 he became CinC Third Fleet, and from March to September 1944, as CinC First Mobile Fleet, he had command over the Second Fleet as well. He was thus in overall command at the Battle of the PHILIPPINE SEA, and commanded the Japanese Northern Force in the Battle for LEYTE Gulf. OZAWA was an officer of impressive personality, dignified presence, and thoughtful habit of mind. While his memory for fine detail was not always precise his opinions were considered of the highest value.
|Professor, Naval Academy||1935|
|Commanding Officer, Maya (CL)||1935|
|Commanding Officer, Haruna (BB)||1936-1937|
|Chief of Staff, Combined Fleet||1937-1938|
|Commanding Officer, Cruiser Squadron|
|Principal of Torpedo School||1938-1940|
|Commanding Officer, First Air Squadron|
|Commanding Officer, Battle Squadron||1940-1941|
|Commanding Officer, Dispatched Fleet to South|
|Staff, Navy General Headquarters||1941-July 1942|
|CinC Third Fleet|
|CinC Task Force with Third Fleet||November 1942-March 1944|
|Vice Chief, Navy General Headquarters|
|CinC, Combined Fleet||November 1944-May 1945|
INTERROGATION NAV NO. 55
USSBS NO. 227
BATTLE FOR LEYTE GULF, OCTOBER 1944
30 OCTOBER 1945
Interrogation of: Vice Admiral OZAWA, Jisaburo, IJN, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Task Force in subject battle.
Interrogated by: Rear Admiral R.A. OFSTIE, U.S.N. Lt. Comdr. J.A. FIELD, Jr. USNR.
Allied Officer Present: Captain T.J. HEDDING, U.S.N.
In this interrogation, which is a continuation of USSBS #32 (NAV #3), Admiral OZAWA discusses the naval planning for the defense of the PHILIPPINES, the mission assigned his carrier force, the progress of the operation, and the principal reasons for its failure. In conclusion, Admiral OZAWA offers some general observations on various aspects of the PACIFIC War.
Q. (Lt. Comdr. Field) When was the SHO Plan, the basic directive, made and by whom? Was it a joint Army-Navy plan; who was the original issuing authority?
A. I do not know the exact date but was right after the MARIANAS Campaign and it was planned at Imperial Headquarters after joint conference of Army and Navy.
Q. Was that plan issued by Imperial Headquarters specific as to the use of the fleets to resist an invasion in the PHILIPPINES?
A. The original plan was made at Imperial Headquarters; but when the Navy received these orders, the Navy made the specific plan.
Q. Was that triple movement in the PHILIPPINES a part of the Navy plan or was it derived from the main plan?
A. It was planned by the Navy. The Navy had those three fleets in mind from the very beginning and they fought under command of the Combined Fleet. The original SHO Operation was very general, that the PHILIPPINES were to be defended. The Combined Fleet decided later to use those three fleets, I do not recall the date.
Q. In the original SHO Plan or in the Combined Fleet plan derived from it, was a date of our invasion assumed; if so, what was assumed as a probable invasion date?
A. It was assumed that the American invasion could take place sometime in the middle of October.
Q. Was any specific location assumed?
A. Three specific locations were assumed; first, MINDANAO; second, LEYTE and SAN BERNARDINO Strait; third, the central part of LUZON.
Q. Was it intended at any time in the plan that the First Mobile Fleet should operate together as a unit?
A. Right after the MARIANAS Campaign, KURITA's fleet was separated from this unit; it was placed directly under the command of the Combined Fleet, and I had only my own fleet. For the PHILIPPINES Campaign it was not intended to operate as a single unit.
Q. Why was Admiral KURITA's fleet removed from your command, why was it done and what date?
A. The first reason -- when we came back to the INLAND SEA, my carriers were not in good shape and we figured it would take about two months to repair and get ready for the next campaign, while KURITA's fleet was not so badly damaged; so ten days after going to the INLAND SEA, KURITA's fleet was dispatched to SINGAPORE without waiting for my fleet to get ready.
Q. I have been told that the separation was done at your suggestion, and also that the fleets were intended to reunite if possible before our invasion; is that correct?
A. I made suggestion to Admiral TOYODA that KURITA's force should be separated from mine. As for the second question, I had the intention to combine the two fleets, provided your invasion took place sometime in November. While I was re-shaping the fleet, your invasion came a little sooner than expected; so we had to operate separately instead of re-uniting. It was my intention to go to SINGAPORE as soon as the carrier force was repaired; but the invasion came, so it was not possible.
Q. If there lead been time you would have operated together as in the MARIANAS; is that correct?
A. Yes, that is correct; it was my feeling that KURITA's fleet without support of carriers would not be very strong, so I desired that my fleet and KURITA's fleet be combined if possible.
Q. At what date did you expect this combination would be possible, about what time?
A. I figured time of formation the beginning of November.
Q. In early October, did you expect that you would be able to make this combination; did you expect our invasion to come late enough to permit that?
A. We made every effort to try to get ready in time, but with every effort we couldn't do it before the 1 November; we were hoping that would be in time.
Q. Where was the preferred base for your fleets at this time?
A. I thought the INLAND SEA was the best base.
Q. If there had been no fuel shortage, both fleets would have been in the INLAND SEA?
Q. In early October then, before our invasion began, what was the planned function of your fleet in defense of the PHILIPPINES; what was its mission as assigned in the plans?
A. In early October the repair of the carriers and also the replacement of the pilots was not progressing so smoothly. I thought if the American invasion came before the time of this preparation, that all the air force would be sent out to the land bases instead of using carriers; so evidently there was no particular mission at such an early date in October. After training had progressed satisfactorily and if the invasion came at a later date, they would later use the carriers.
Q. In the event the fleets would have been able to make this combination of which we speak, would you have used the carriers in Central PHILIPPINE waters to oppose our invasion force?
A. Either through the Central PHILIPPINES or around northern end of LUZON, we would use the whole Mobile Fleet.
Q. After the MARIANAS Operation in July, was there any discussion among the officers of your fleet regarding possible use of Kamikaze attacks?
A. I never heard of them among the officers under me. The first time I heard of Kamikaze attacks was when KURITA's fleet went through SAN BERNARDINO Strait. I knew that Kamikaze attack was coming from MANILA Area to oppose the LEYTE landing.
Q. As I heard the story, one of your carrier commanders volunteered in June or July to organize a Kamikaze unit, and you raised the question with Admiral TOYODA.
A. I recall now that such was the case; it was Captain JO of the CHIYODA who suggested to me that he would like to carry out such attacks, and it was recommended to TOYODA. TOYODA said that the time wasn't ripe yet, it was too early to use it.
Q. At the time when the operation came, about 24-25 October, was there any intention among your pilots to use Kamikaze tactics?
A. There was no case like that among my pilots.
Q. About 12-14 October our carriers attacked FORMOSA; roughly, what were the losses in planes there and what consequences did they have on the SHO Plan?
A. I do not know the details or extent of damage, but I know that your attack on FORMOSA, also on the PHILIPPINES, made the operation very hard. Furthermore about 150 planes from the carriers were sent to FORMOSA; consequently our carrier strength was greatly reduced, so the operation was changed to use land based planes more frequently instead of carrier planes. My force of carrier planes became very much weakened. Only 110 were left, so less than half remained; it was not my intention to send reinforcement to FORMOSA but it was by order of TOYODA.
Q. Do you feel that in sending this carrier strength to FORMOSA at that time, Admiral TOYODA did not believe we would soon attack the PHILIPPINES, but thought that the strength could have been made up before our invasion?
A. I think that Admiral TOYODA was convinced the American invasion would have come by the end of October but sacrificed the carriers to reinforce FORMOSA; this of course is only my opinion.
Q. Then when news of the invasion came and your fleet had been thus weakened by loss of planes, what mission did you have in the operation; what was your fleet to do in repelling the invasion?
A. I thought that possibly at sacrifice of my fleet which was very much weakened, KURITA's fleet could carry out their mission; I expected complete destruction of my fleet, but if KURITA's mission was carried out that was all I wished.
Q. How, principally were you to support KURITA's mission; by delivering an air attack with your remaining planes, or by acting as a target, or how?
A. Exactly those two ways, sending out what planes I had and also to be a target for your attack. A decoy, that was our first primary mission, to act as a decoy. My fleet could not very well give the direct protection to KURITA's force because we were very weak, so I tried to attack as many American carriers as possible and to be the decoy or target for your attack. I tried to let KURITA's fleet have little attack from you. The main mission was all sacrifice. An attack with a very weak force of planes comes under the heading of sacrifice of planes and ships.
Q. Did you know who commanded our invasion of LEYTE, who commanded the Task Force, who commanded the transports, etc?
A. I do not remember who I thought was your commander in chief at that time; there was at the time some estimate but I do not remember.
Q. Who was responsible for this idea of using the fleet as a lure; was that your plan or Admiral TOYODA's?
A. Basically it was TOYODA's idea.
Q. What made you feel that you could successfully lure our Task Force in this fashion? The only previous precedent was the battle of the MARIANAS, and in the MARIANAS our Task Force stayed very close to the Invasion Force and did not come forward to attack Japanese forces at an early time; therefore, what made you think you could successfully lure us?
A. I had not much confidence in being a lure, but there was no other way than to try.
Q. When you set forth, is it correct to say that you did not believe this lure would work very well, that you feared our force would concentrate on KURITA despite your presence to the northward?
A. I figured that you might concentrate and attack KURITA or you might concentrate the attack on my carriers, and let events take care of themselves; I just assumed it would be 50-50 chance. I knew that the decoy operation even using regular surface vessel is a very difficult operation, and also that using carriers for decoy would be more difficult than regular surface forces as a decoy.
Q. During the course of the war, did the Japanese make any effort to study the personal characteristics of our commanders and to vary their tactics in accordance with the commander they believed opposed them in any particular operation?
A. We always tried to adapt the operation plan according to the characteristics of the UNITED STATES commander.
Q. In this case however, you do not remember who the UNITED STATES commander was?
A. I think Captain OHMAE knows who was the American commander, but I do not myself remember.
Q. When your fleet left the INLAND SEA on this operation were Ise and Hyuga in company?
A. Yes, they were both along.
Q. They did not have aircraft operating from them at this time?
A. All their planes had been sent to FORMOSA, so at the time of sortie they had none on board.
Q. Were they along in this force for any particular purpose or just to get a little more strength of whatever nature?
A. They were there chiefly because of the protection to the carriers, chiefly for the protection against air attack.
Q. As your fleet came south from the INLAND SEA did you have a satisfactory flow of information on UNITED STATES forces; did you know where our forces were disposed?
A. I do not remember precisely, but I think not very great information on the American force.
Q. Did you fly searches with your own planes attempting to locate our force as you went south; do you know what day you started your search?
A. Yes. We started searching work on the second day out.
Q. Did you observe radio silence on the voyage south, did you send any messages by radio?
A. We observed radio silence until the 22nd or 23rd when we opened up on the radio for purpose of luring.
Q. Do you remember when you made your first contact with our force and where our forces were?
A. I do not recollect the time and location we first made contact.
Q. Was your first definite information from your own search planes or the LUZON planes?
A. The first information to the effect that they saw the American force was from the air forces on LUZON.
Q. Did you attack on that information, or did you delay the attack until your own search planes had sighted our force?
A. Upon receipt of this message from the land plane from LUZON we dispatched our own planes to search, and when we received the same information from our own planes the attack was sent out.
Q. In what strength was their attack made; how many planes?
A. I think I sent about 80 planes.
Q. Did you retain any planes as protection for your fleet, fighter planes for cover?
A. Yes, we retained some numbers of planes for protection above the fleet, about twenty fighters.
Q. Were the planes that were sent on the attack to return to the carriers, or were they to proceed to shore after that attack?
A. Very few planes came back to the carriers, most of the planes landed on shore account of bad weather conditions.
Q. Was it intended originally that all would return to the carriers after the attack?
A. It was originally intended for the planes to come back to the carriers after the attacks.
Q. What reports of the result of the attack did you have, what damage inflicted, what number of planes lost?
A. I recall that no accurate information as to the result came. I think very little information to judge what kind of damage they inflicted.
Q. Why should that be the case? After the pilots making the attacks returned to the carriers you should surely have some information.
A. Those planes which came back to the carriers did not execute attack. On account of bad weather they were forced to come back; as to the planes which landed ashore, they could not send message on account of very bad communications.
Q. Was there ever any attempt, either in the planning of the operation or during the battle, to coordinate your planes with shore-based planes in their attack?
A. The land planes were intended to be used for search alone; in that respect the coordination was planned, but as far as attack was concerned this coordination was not planned.
Q. You spoke of not receiving information because of bad communications. Was that a trouble that occurred all through this operation; was it due to bad planning?
A. The bad communications were there all the time before the operation, during the course of the operation and after the operation; communications from land were very poor. It was due to poor technical ability. Generally speaking, naval shore communications were very poor from a standpoint of equipment, technical ability and so on.
Q. This attack that you made on our forces was made in the middle of the day on the 24th. Did you believe at that time that your location was known to our forces?
A. I knew that your searching plane came toward my force in the morning and we knew that they discovered our fleet.
Q. Before you sent the attack?
A. Yes, before.
Q. Did you sight the planes or have radar contact? How did you know they were there?
A. I sighted them myself.
Q. Before you launched your attack, are you sure?
A. Yes, quite certain.
Q. What course, then, did you take with your fleet after launching attack?
A. Immediately after launching the attacking force, I recall that the fleet moved northwest.
Q. Did you expect on attack from our forces that day?
A. Yes, we expected it.
Q. Did you have information that day of how Admiral KURITA's force was faring?
A. I received the information from KURITA's force that their fleet was taking reverse course in the SIBUYAN SEA.
Q. Do you remember if on this day you heard any information on Admiral NISHIMURA's force?
A. I knew the original plan of NISHIMURA's movements, but at the time of launching attack I did not have any particular information about NISHIMURA's fleet; so I thought he was progressing according to the schedule.
Q. After launching your attack you said you retired northwest, expecting our attack which did not come. What were your movements that night?
A. When KURITA's fleet took the reverse course, when I learned that, I thought the southward movement of my fleet would not alone be so effective; so when they started to reverse course I also started north. Then I heard the order from TOYODA to KURITA's fleet to go back again and continue the attack; so, again to coordinate our movements I started southeast.
Q. In general then you continued on a southeast course during the night?
Q. Did your forces remain united throughout the night?
A. I recall that during the night Ise and Hyuga and two or three other ships were apart from the main body, but at daybreak of the 25th all ships gathered again.
Q. Did you send Ise and Hyuga and their group apart with any purpose in view? Why did they separate?
A. Right after launching the attack I sent Ise and Hyuga down southeast of my course in the hopes of being of some assistance to KURITA's force in any engagement off SAMAR; then I heard that KURITA was reversing, so I ordered Ise and Hyuga to again rejoin.
Q. Did Ise and Hyuga sight any of our forces during the night? Did you have any such report from them?
A. I think there was no report to that effect.
Q. From another source I heard that during the night Ise and Hyuga saw at a distance an American force under Japanese air attack, but that fearing the danger of Japanese torpedoes they did not close with this force but joined your force. Do you recall anything about that?
A. I have no recollection of hearing such a story.
Q. Did you have any information on Admiral NISHIMURA's force during the night or during early morning while it was still dark?
A. I think there was no report.
Q. Up until the time when you were attacked by our planes the morning of the 25th, did you have any further information of Admiral KURITA or Admiral NISHIMURA, of what success they were achieving?
A. Evidently I did not receive any report up to the time of your attack.
Q. At the time of our attack what was your general opinion as to the progress of the whole operation? Did you believe it was going well or badly and in particular, did you know whether your decoy operations were working?
A. We felt that the operations were not going as well as could be expected. I felt that my luring operation was not succeeding, especially after hearing word that Admiral KURITA had to reverse his course. I heard no other information other than that Admiral KURITA had reversed course, and had later been ordered to resume the attack.
Q. It appears from what you have said that up until the time you received our attack, you did not have good information of Japanese progress, or of the location of our forces. Do you feel that the information was as good as could be expected?
A. From the fact that we did not receive so many detailed information from NISHIMURA and KURITA, we took it for granted that they were progressing smoothly, so didn't bother with that fact. Reports from land were rather satisfactory, so I thought they were going all right. Also I was satisfied with the reports from the planes as to the location of your forces.
Q. On the morning of the 25th, did you have good information as to the location of our force?
A. The force was northeast of CANTANDUANES Island.
Q. I would like to know very briefly what damage you received from our air attack.
A. I think that the first attack and second attack were strongest; they were about the same as far as the extent of damage was concerned, but I do not recall any details of the damage.
Q. When did you transfer from Zuikaku to Oyodo: after the first attack or later in the day?
A. After the first combat the communications of Zuikaku became out of order, that was chief reason why I transferred flag to Oyodo.
Q. Did you attempt to repel our aircraft attack with fighter planes?
A. We attempted to repel your attack by fighter planes; but owing to the small numbers and weakness of my force, this intention could not be carried out successfully.
Q. Was it planned to withdraw to the north as soon as you were attacked? Did you plan to start north as soon as our attack came, to decoy our force further north?
A. The northward movement was started before we received first attack.
Q. Why? Did you expect to save any of your carriers?
A. The chief concern was to lure your forces further north; we expected complete destruction.
Q. For what success by Admiral KURITA were you willing to sacrifice all your carriers?
A. I thought if KURITA's fleet ever succeeded in attacking your landing forces I would be satisfied, even though totally destroyed; if they destroyed the transports there in LEYTE Gulf I would have been satisfied.
Q. Was Admiral KURITA's mission only to attack the transports and their escorts, or was he to attack any ship he met, or bombard our troops ashore? What was his specific mission?
A. In my opinion Admiral KURITA would doubtless expect to meet some of your covering force on his way to LEYTE. If he met them, of course, he would attack them; but if he did not meet them so much the better, and he would go into the Gulf and attack the transports, escorts and other ships. In this way it can be seen that bombardment of the beachhead was only a third or fourth alternative. This question should however be asked of KURITA as he may have a different opinion.
Q. I would like to have your opinion on why KURITA turned north rather than enter the Gulf that day. What caused the change of plan?
A. I do not know the details of the campaign there so I cannot form an opinion of what made them take the northern course.
Q. I was given some information to indicate that one of the reasons Admiral KURITA turned north was that he heard a message from you saying that you planned to attack our task force by torpedo and gunfire and that you requested assistance. Do you remember such a message?
A. I never sent such a message.
Q. We understood from Captain OHMAE that late in the afternoon you had some thought of a torpedo attack on an American surface force; that this message was sent about 5 in the afternoon, and that this afternoon message may be the source of the confusion.
A. I think there is no truth to the story.
Q. As I heard it, our air attacks had ceased but some of our cruisers and destroyers were pressing your force and were firing on one of your destroyers which had fallen behind. It was at that time that you were said to have planned a torpedo attack on our cruisers, late in the afternoon when our air attacks were finished.
A. I now recall the following: About dusk of the 25th I received a report from a destroyer a little behind the main body that it had sighted American forces and was being attacked by gunfire. When I received that report I determined to support this destroyer and came down to the location where the destroyer was; that destroyer was there making rescue work. When we came to the scene, we could not see the American force and so reversed again and went north. This may be the source of confusion of that story.
Q. You do not remember sending any message to Admiral KURITA at that time saying what you were planning to do?
A. I sent the message to the effect that the main force was going to reinforce the destroyer. I had no thought from the very beginning of reinforcement from KURITA's fleet. My mission was to do everything possible to assist KURITA's fleet, but I expected no help in return.
Q. Do you remember roughly what damage was done to Ise and Hyuga in this action?
A. Ise received fairly severe damage to the blisters below the water line from near misses; Hyuga had practically no damage.
Q. There were no direct bomb hits or torpedo hits on either?
A. None at that time.
Interrogation adjourned at 1145; reconvened at 1330.
Q. You mentioned this morning that you received a message from Admiral TOYODA to KURITA directing him to resume the attack after his turning back, and upon receipt of this message you yourself turned south. Was that addressed only to KURITA? Did you act on your own initiative?
A. It was addressed to Admiral KURITA, not to me, but I received the radio message just the same; information addressee.
Q. In the course of the operation did you at any time receive any message from TOYODA which in any changed or modified the plan or gave you any specific instructions?
A. I had no orders direct from TOYODA.
Q. Once the operation began you were entirely on your own, not concerned with order from above?
A. Yes, everything was done on my own.
Q. Considering the operations of all three forces, what is your judgment of the plan? Was it a good plan as considered as a whole?
A. I think that was the best possible plan considering the location of the three forces and also the condition of training of the three forces.
Q. Did you feel at the outset that it had a good chance of success; or perhaps that the plan was too complex to work well?
A. Although I thought it was very complex and difficult to carry out, I still believe it was the best possible plan under the circumstances.
Q. Where do you feel that the plan broke down, at what point, and what were the reasons?
A. Before the plan worked out, I knew it was very hard and complicated plan so that I was not surprised by events; but under the circumstances, there was no other method of procedure. The lack of air power, I feel, was the weakest point. I knew in advance that lack of air power was the main drawback to the operation.
Q. Still, it was a very bold operation and came very close to success. Apart from the overall weakness in the air, is there a specific point where you feel the operation broke down?
A. I cannot mention any specific reason or point where I felt that the action broke down.
Q. Did you feel that in the course of the action the coordination of the land-based air with the various Naval forces was as good as could be expected?
A. I think the coordination was not so successful because of the bad weather and communications.
Q. If as you say the overall lack of air power was the decisive factor, would you say that the operation was doomed from the start owing to our attack on FORMOSA ten days before and the losses of air power there?
A. I do not think it was a foregone conclusion that this operation was doomed from the very beginning, although lack of air power was a decisive factor leading to the defeat. I think that if we had not sent reinforcement to FORMOSA from the carriers, the outcome of the operation would have been more successful.
Q. Would you agree that, insofar as it is possible to point to precise causes for such things, it could be said that the PHILIPPINES Operation was decided in FORMOSA ten days before?
A. That statement I think is a little strong.
Q. After this battle, what general plan for the use of the Navy was attempted for the next operation. Did you confer with Admiral TOYODA?
A. After the battle of October, due to the lack of carriers and their air forces, it was decided to proceed to future operations by using more land-based planes. That was the plan made by the Imperial Headquarters.
Q. Was there ever any plan for future operations using the remainder of the fleet?
A. With the exception of the few special surface ships, they were relying on the land forces, land-based air power, and special attacks; there was no further use assigned to surface vessels with exception of some special ships. Those exception were Yamato and destroyers and submarines and a few cruisers.
Q. Was there a plan for the use of those vessels; did you expect to be able to use them?
A. We intended to use them, for example, on your attack on OKINAWA or the mainland; no specific plan however.
Q. Would you say that, to all intents and purposes, the naval war ended with the battle of October?
A. After this battle the surface force became strictly auxiliary, so that we relied on land forces, special attack, and air power.
Q. (Rear Admiral OFSTIE) In connection with the Yamato, did you issue the orders for the Yamato to sortie on the 6th of April this year, or did they come from TOYODA? What were those orders?
A. At the time when the order came from TOYODA for the Yamato to sortie I had retired from the actual campaign so I do not know the details. I do recall it was TOYODA's order.
Q. What useful purpose, aside from preventing the installation of enemy airfields, did the Army campaign in CHINA have? Was it useful to the war or was it costly? Would you say it was useful war in CHINA?
A. I have not made any studies in that phase of the war at all, and do not want to make any statement with regard to it.
Q. When you were Vice Chief of Navy General Headquarters what sort of liaison did you have with the Army?
A. We always kept close contact with the Army exchanging information. The Army had their own headquarters, the Navy had their own headquarters; they sent liaison officers back and forth between these two bodies, and sometimes get together at a certain place to discuss plans and ooerations.
Q. Did you have a senior Army officer on your staff?
A. I had no Army officer under me.
Q. We have heard frequently suggestions of difficulty in cooperating with the Army and Navy; could you say whether or not you thought this was true?
A. I sometimes felt the difficulty in getting decisions was because the Army had their trend of thought which is different from the Navy, and we had quite a hard time to get over that discrepancy.
Q. At the beginning of the war we believed that the Japanese Navy pilots were appreciably better than the Japanese Army pilots; do you agree with that?
A. It was true that Navy pilots were appreciably superior to the Army and that was due to the training; the Navy training was much more severe and thorough than the Army.
Q. In connection with your night surface operations, which were very successful in the early part of the war, what was the reason why you put so much emphasis on night operations? Was it some weakness of our force? What sort of reason?
A. Strategically speaking, I think the night battle is a very favorable method for the side which had the weaker force, and so we stressed training on that type of battle from before the war.
Q. Now with respect to Japanese submarines, we felt that they were relatively ineffective, much less effective than they could have been. What is your opinion of the basic trouble with the Japanese submarines?
A. It is because they did not develop their electrical equipment such as radar, sonic devices, and other equipment to the extent they should have. I think that is the basic reason for our poor showing.
Q. In the first year of the war, we had quite a bit of trouble with your submarines -- a number of our ships were sunk, a good many damaged; but after the first year of the war, our ships were rarely attacked. We thought possibly in addition to these technical factors you mention, a change in the plans for using them might have been made, is that correct?
A. There was no change of plan in using the submarines; but as explained before, the electrical equipment on our submarines or surface vessels was very poor; while on your side the equipment on submarines or surface vessels advanced very quickly; so the difference was very great.
Q. In the early phases of the war, say through the MARIANAS Campaign, what was the principal agent for the loss of Japanese airpower? Was it carrier sweeps, general attrition, or what?
A. Carrier Task Force is the biggest cause of their fall, I would say off hand. Of our weaknesses, first was the inefficiency of radar; secondly, the training of the pilots was not enough; third, generally speaking, the total air force was anyway not sufficient. The agent for the actual destruction was the Carrier Task Forces. There was no change after the MARIANAS.
Q. Now concerning shipping losses and the blockade, what do you, feel was the principal cause of losses of merchant shipping?
A. I think roughly estimated, the damage by submarine was the worst, and then comes airplane attacks both from carriers and land-based, then by mines. I have no records, but I think submarine damage is about half of the total damage.
Q. What was the principal thing which shut off the supply of oil from the south?
A. The chief cause of that cutting off of the fuel supply from the south was failure of PHILIPPINES Campaign.
Q. But before that, had there been considerable cutting off, primarily by submarines or what?
A. The biggest feature was submarines. After the PHILIPPINES Campaign, the supply was absolutely cut off; before that, there was some flow from the south although it was interfered with by submarines.
Q. About what time during the course of the war was the operation of the fleet or the use of planes for training or operations first seriously inconvenienced by shortage of fuel?
A. About two or three months before the MARIANAS Campaign we felt the shortage very keenly.
Q. Up to that time you had been able to operate the fleet in any area, and thoroughly train all pilots; is that correct?
A. Yes, up to that time we could manage to move the fleet freely or give the pilots enough training.
Q. With the experience of the war, looking back to the beginning of the war, what major changes would you make in basic plans as a result of your experiences if you were to start over again?
A. The major factors which caused defeat and which I would like to have corrected are the lack of reinforcement of airplanes or all war materials concerned, and improvement of electrical devices, for example radar. We didn't have any supplies with which to reinforce. Our production rate too small. I myself had no experience with the production end of things and couldn't say what should have been done; but as one using the finished product, I felt that production must be lacking. That to me was the biggest fault.
Q. Was there any feeling shortly after the war had started that you had gone too far, taken too much territory?
A. Undoubtedly if the matter were given study, the exact point could be determined as to how far we should have gone, but I have not given the matter any thought, I cannot give an answer. I believe, however, subjects such as this should be given thought hereafter.
Q. Was there ever considered a plan of expansion in the PACIFIC OCEAN which would avoid attack on the UNITED STATES territory?
A. I am fairly certain there were quite a few people who gave that subject consideration, but apparently their plans were not used.
Q. What do you think of it? Do you think such a plan might have been good?
A. I believe that it would have been impossible.
Q. Then the attack on PEARL HARBOR and the PHILIPPINES was a military necessity? To execute your plans it was a military necessity to strike both PEARL and the PHILIPPINES?
A. If we tried to carry out an operation only against the Dutch and British; the chance the UNITED STATES would intervene was too great. From that standpoint I consider it was better to attack these major points.
Q. If there had been no early declaration for unconditional surrender, would there have been organized government efforts toward a negotiated peace; and if so when?
A. I understood there was a portion of the people who were considering surrender even before the POTSDAM Declaration; as far as I was concerned they were only rumors. I, myself, had understood that there was a movement afoot to recommend such an acceptance of a conditional peace; but since I am not interested in any way in formulating or having any part of the national policy except in carrying it out, I never officially heard of such a tendency.
Q. Was that before you were Vice Chief of the General Staff in November 1944?
A. Towards the very end of this period when I was Vice Chief, during April or May of this year I heard slight rumblings to that effect.
Q. I understood you were principal of the Naval War College in September 1941, remaining for one month. Were all the senior fleet commanders ordered there at the same time?
A. No, they were not. I served as principal from September to October 1941 and at that time the college had no students. They had absolutely no students in that period whatsoever, they were all at the front. It was about April 1941 that all the student undergraduates had been sent out to various posts.
Q. Had they ever had Army officers as students in the Navy War College?
Q. And no Navy at the Army War College?
A. No. Instructors sometimes exchanged between the two but no students.
Q. Admiral, before we adjourn, is there any observation you would like to make on the course of events, any comment, any statement -- anything at all about past, present, or future?
A. It is my opinion that this war should never have taken place. The present is greatly confused, spiritually as well as materially; and until things settle down a little more, I cannot make any kind of prediction or estimate as to the future. ww2dbase
Source: United States National Archives, Modern Military Branch
Added By: C. Peter Chen
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Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 16 Mar 1945