Interrogation Nav 2, Captain Susumu Kawaguchi

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10 Oct 1945


KAWAGUCHI, Susumu, Captain, I.J.N.

KAWAGUCHI served 24 years in the regular Navy. He was an aircraft pilot and specialist in aircraft gunnery. During this interview KAWAGUCHI answered all question within his knowledge in a precise manner. Unfortunately his action experience was limited to the Battle of MIDWAY. The accuracy of his information has been substantiated by later interrogations.

Air Officer, (CV)March 1942-June 1942
Executive Officer, Naval Air StationKANOYAJune 1942-September 1942
Commanding Officer, Naval Air StationKANOYAOctober 1942-November 1944
Additional Duty in Ordnance Test Flight Department, Naval Technical Air Arsenal1942-1944
Ordnance Officer, Staff, Air High Command Headquarters, Navy DepartmentNovember 1944-1945



10 October 1945

Interrogation of: Captain KAWAGUCHI, Susumu, IJN, air officer on the Hiryu (CV) at MIDWAY.

Interrogated by: Captain C. Shands, USN.

Allied Officers Present: Brig. Gen. G. Gardner, USA; Lt. Paine Paul, USNR.


The Hiryu was one of four aircraft carriers in the Japanese Striking Force supporting the planned occupation of MIDWAY Island, June 1942. When about 600 miles from MIDWAY a U.S. plane passed over head but did not observe ships due to high fog. No aircraft attacks were made on the carrier group until about an hour after sunrise on 4 June when the formation was attacked by torpedo planes (B-26's and TBF's). No hits were made since the long dropping ranges permitted torpedoes to be easily avoided. A little later the formation was attacked by high (approximately 18,000') horizontal bombers but no hits were made. The Hiryu launched planes against MIDWAY about sunrise then later against the U.S. Carrier Force. Although the Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu had received damage during the day, the Hiryu was not hit until late afternoon when she received six bomb hits from dive bombers setting her afire. Still later the same afternoon an unsuccessful bombing attack was made by on the Hiryu by horizontal bombers at medium altitude. The fires resulting from the dive bombing attack spread to the engine rooms during the night, rendering the ship helpless. She was sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese destroyer the next morning.

About 60 pilots were lost in the battle. About 500 of 1500 men on the ship were lost. This group of ships was not attacked during retirement, although search planes were seen. Visibility was poor. Surviving pilots of the battle were distributed between the Zuikaku, Shokaku, and SOLOMON Islands. These pilots later participated in the Battle of SANTA CRUZ, 26 October 1945 [sic].

As the war progressed the quality of pilots deteriorated due to insufficient training facilities, great attrition and a shortage of fuel for training with the consequent necessity of using inadequately trained replacements.


Q. What was the number of the air fleet at MIDWAY?
A. It was of the Second Air Attack Force of the First Air Fleet.

Q. What ships were present in Carrier Force at MIDWAY?
1st Div. (CV)2nd Div. (CV)
Akagi (F)Hiryu (F)

Kirishima (F)Tone (F)Nagara
About 10 DD'sChikuma

() Kirishima
() () Nagara
() Hiryu (F) Akagi (FF) ()
() ()
() Soryu Kaga ()
() Tone () () ()
() () Haruma ()
() ()

Q. When you left JAPAN what was the mission of the air fleet at MIDWAY?
A. It was to seize MIDWAY.

Q. What plans were made for the employment of MIDWAY following the seizure? Did they expect to run searches, go to PEARL HARBOR and the ALEUTIANS or stop at MIDWAY?
A. Just to defend Midway. Heard of no other plans other than to seize and protect MIDWAY.

Q. What carriers were in the ALEUTIANS?
A. Ryujo and Junyo; there was no 3rd Division, the first and second divisions are in the attack body, the 4th at DUTCH HARBOR, the third did not exist.

Q. During the approach to MIDWAY did you expect an attack; if so, about how far out?
A. Think a two-engined scout plane looked us over once at about 500-600 miles from MIDWAY the day before the battle; but the weather was so bad, we still didn't expect an attack.

Q. Was your formation attacked by submarines at any time during the approach?
A. No, the first submarine attack was on the Kaga after the battle opened.

Q. When was the Hiryu first attacked?
A. On the 4th of June, two hours before sunset. (5 June Tokyo time.)

Q. Were you attacked by a B-17 formation (Four-engine bombers) the day before the battle?
A. No, we didn't get anything the day before but we were attacked by Boeings on the day of big battle and didn't get hit. There was no attack on 3rd of June.

Q. Do you know of any ships which may have been hit by torpedoes from B-26's or PBY's?
A. Not a hit in those days of the battle on the carrier formation.

Q. Were you attacked with torpedoes on the morning of the battle of 4 June?
A. About an hour after sunrise, we were attacked by torpedo bombers.

Q. Were they single or twin-engined?
A. Mostly they were twin-engined, none of them hit. They were dropped at very great range and we were able to avoid them.

Q. Do you know if one of the twin-engined planes, after dropping the torpedo, flew into the deck of one of the carriers?
A. No, I was observing and know that did not happen.

Q. In the early morning of the 4th of June (5 June Tokyo time) did you receive an attack from high horizontal bombers?
A. About 2 hours after sunrise very high four engined planes attacked, maybe 5,000-6,000 meters, but did not hit anything.

Q. How and when was the Hiryu hit?
A. The Hiryu was hit six times during the fourth attack by dive bombers. One on forward elevator. Two just aft of forward elevator. Three just forward after elevator. Lifts damaged. Fire. Many engineering personnel killed. The floor of the lift flopped against the bridge. We were unable to navigate.

Q. When the Hiryu was hit were any planes on board?
A. Very few about 20 planes had come back. They had been launched to attack American carriers after they returned from MIDWAY.

Q. Will you confirm the position of the island in relation to bow of ship?
A. Akagi - port, Soryu - Starboard, Kaga - Starboard.

Q. Did any planes deliver an attack on the Enterprise?
A. Yes, they did attack.

Q. How did they locate the Enterprise?
A. From scout planes about 200 miles off to the East.

Q. Were you attacked by horizontal bombers later that day?
A. It was about sunset the same day after the dive bombers gave us six hits that we got about ten misses from Boeings. I think it was B-17's or something else. It was medium altitude horizontal-bombing. I didn't think they were very high and was astonished at the distance away from the ships when they released bombs.

Q. How many bombs dropped?
A. About ten bunches.

Q. Where did they hit?
A. They didn't hit - bombs landed about 500 meters away.

Q. Were any of the battleships hit at that time?
A. I think that something touched the Kirishima or Haruna in the stern, didn't do much, no difficulty in navigation as a result.

Q. Was that a result of the horizontal-bombers?
A. No, this was the dive-bombing attack. One of them dived and dropped a bomb on the Kirishima but horizontal bombs didn't hit the Kirishima.

Q. How were the other carriers hit?
A. All got hit from the dive-bombers.

Q. How were our torpedo planes shot down?
A. I think it was fighter planes in the main.

Q. How was your ship finally sunk?
A. The fire got to the engine rooms by the next morning and stopped the ship, whereupon a Japanese destroyer was called on to sink it with torpedoes.

Q. How many men and pilots were lost on the Hiryu?
A. About 60 pilots and a total of 500 men of crew of 1500.

Q. Why didn't the occupation force and Grand Fleet continue on to MIDWAY?
A. Because we could not occupy the island having lost our air attack force.

Q. During your retreat did you sight any of our reconnaissance planes?
A. We saw five or six of your planes, on the morning of the 5th, but they didn't attack us.

Q. Did the Hiryu of any of the other carriers or ships have radar?
A. No, not any. As soon as we got back they put them on the carriers. July 1942 both battleships and carriers received them.

Q. How did you control your fighters in the air?
A. At first at MIDWAY we set the coures [sic] on the ships and turned them loose on the first attack. No radio.

Q. Which type of attack did you most fear, dive-bombing, torpedo, or horizontal-bombing?
A. The worst is dive-bombing.

Q. Why?
A. You can't avoid it, but you can avoid torpedoes dropped at long range.

Q. Do you know if they intended to attack MIDWAY again?
A. All hands thought it was no use.

Q. Do you know if the attack on MIDWAY was instigated by the Army or Navy Command?
A. I believe it was a combined general staff decision.

Q. Did the loss of these carriers result in sending their pilots and aircraft into the SOLOMONS as land based planes?
A. Some of the pilots went back to JAPAN, some went to bases in the SOLOMONS, and some were assigned to the Shokaku and Zuikaku in the SOLOMONS area.

Q. Do you know why they continued to send troops, planes, and ships into the SOLOMONS in little groups instead of one big group?
A. There were not enough personnel and equipment at home to throw a big bunch in there, therefore they had to go in small increments.

Q. Do you know what influenced the decision to withdraw from the SOLOMONS?
A. I heard it was because we couldn't supply them, I got very little on plans. Personally thought that Americans were landing too much around us and we should have to give up what we had and go on the defensive. I thought that because we had insufficient number of planes, we couldn't hope to take offensive action. I thought it was defensive holding from that time on.

Q. Do you know if the Navy had planned for a short war or long war?
A. We all thought that if it was a long war, the Navy would be finished, and we thought it would be a long war.

Q. What did you consider a long war?
A. If it was short it would be less than two years, something over five years if it were long.

Q. Was there any improvement in aircraft material or personnel during the war?
A. The pilots got worse but the planes got better. ww2dbase

United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Interrogation of Japanese Officials [OPNAV-P-03-100], courtesy of ibilio Hyperwar Project

Added By:
C. Peter Chen

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