Japanese cruiser Abukuma

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Abukuma cl1941.jpg
Abukuma in 1941, showing Kawanishi E7K1 "Alf" floatplane on catapult, ready to launch
Career (Japan) Japanese Navy Ensign
Ordered: 1918 Fiscal Year
Laid down: 8 December 1921
Launched: 16 March 1923
Commissioned: 26 May 1925[1]
Struck: 20 December 1944
Fate: sunk 26 October 1944
bombed by USAAF B-24 Liberator bombers
off Negros Island, Mindanao Sea
09°20′N 122°32′E / 9.333°N 122.533°E / 9.333; 122.533
General characteristics
Class & type: Nagara class cruiser
Displacement: 5088 tons (standard)
5832 tons (full load)
Length: 163 m (534 ft 9 in)
Beam: 14.8 m (48 ft 5 in)
Draught: 4.9 m (16 ft)
Propulsion: 4 shaft Gihon geared turbines
12 Kampon boilers
90,000 shp
Speed: 67 km/h (36 knots)
Range: 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Complement: 438
Armament: 7 × 140 mm (5.5 in) guns (7x1)
2 × 25 mm anti-aircraft guns,
6 × 13.2 mm machine guns,
8 × 610 mm torpedo tubes (4x2)
48 mines
Armor: 62 mm (belt)
30 mm (deck)
Aircraft carried: 1 x floatplane, 1 catapult

Abukuma (阿武隈 軽巡洋艦 Abukuma keijun'yōkan?) was a Nagara-class light cruiser in the Imperial Japanese Navy, named after the Abukuma River in the Tōhoku region of Japan. She saw action during World War II in the Attack on Pearl Harbor and in the Pacific, before being disabled in the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944, then bombed and sunk by the USAAF off the Philippines.

Background[edit]

Abukuma was the sixth (and final) vessel completed in the Nagara-class of light cruisers, and like other vessels of her class, she was intended for use as the flagship of a destroyer flotilla, and it was in that role that she participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Service career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Abukuma was completed at the Uraga Dock Company on 26 May 1925, its commissioning having been delayed due to the Great Kanto Earthquake. In 1932, it was assigned to the Japanese Third Fleet and assigned to patrols off the coast of northern China after the Manchurian Incident. As the war situation with China continued to deteriorate, Abukuma was assigned to provide coverage for Japanese transports during the Battle of Shanghai, and remained on station patrolling the China coast and the Yangtze River through 1938.

The Pearl Harbor raid[edit]

Abukuma set sail from Hitokappu Bay in the Kurile Islands on 26 November 1941 with Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's Carrier Striking Force. She served as the flagship of Rear Admiral Sentaro Omori's Destroyer Squadron 1 ("DesRon1"), consisting of the destroyers Shiranuhi, Arare, Kagero, Kasumi, Tanikaze, Hamakaze, Isokaze, and Urakaze.

DesRon1 served as the anti-submarine escort for the six aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, Zuikaku), two battleships (Hiei and Kirishima) and two heavy cruisers (Tone and Chikuma) that carried the offensive power of the Carrier Striking Force. Nearly 360 aircraft were launched against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, inflicting heavy damage: sinking four American battleships, damaging three others, destroying more than 100 aircraft, and killing 2,335 American servicemen in one morning.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Abukuma led DesRon1 with most of the Carrier Striking Force on the return to Japan, and received a hero's welcome on 23 December 1941.

Actions in the South Pacific[edit]

In January 1942, DesRon1 escorted invasion fleet for Rabaul, New Britain and Kavieng, New Guinea from its new base at Truk in the Caroline Islands.

In early February, DesRon1 accompanied the Carrier Striking Force in an unsuccessful pursuit of Vice Admiral William F. Halsey Jr's Task Force 8, after the USS Enterprise (CV-6) raided Kwajalein and Wotje in the Marshall Islands. Abukuma was then ordered to Palau, from which it accompanied the Carrier Striking Force on the attack on Port Darwin, Australia.

At the end of February and into April, DesRon1 escorted the Carrier Striking Force in attacks on Java in the Dutch East Indies, and Colombo and Trincomalee in Ceylon and against other targets in the Indian Ocean, including the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. The fleet returned to Singapore on 11 April 1942.

Battle of the Aleutian Islands[edit]

In May, Abukuma and its destroyer squadron were re-assigned to the Northern Force under Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya, and escorted the light aircraft carriers Ryujo and Junyo, supporting the invasion of Attu and Kiska in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands.

In June and July, DesRon1 returned to Japan to escort a convoy of reinforcements to the two freshly captured islands in the Aleutians. After uneventful patrolling in the Aleutian Islands and Kurile Islands, DesRon1 escorted three more reinforcement and supply convoys to the Aleutians in October, November and December.

The Abukuma returned to Sasebo Navy Yard for refit on 12 December 1942, during which time two triple-mount Type 96 25 mm AA guns were installed, and its No. 5 140 mm gun and the quad 13.2 mm machine gun mount in front of the bridge were replaced by a twin 13.2 mm machine gun mount. After refit, Abukuma returned to northern waters to continue reinforcement operations to Attu and Kiska in January, February and March 1943.

Abukuma participated in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands on 26 March 1943. Abukuma was undamaged, but the heavy cruiser Nachi was badly damaged and the Japanese Fifth Fleet was forced to abort its supply mission to the Aleutians. The fleet commander, Vice Admiral Hosogaya, disgraced because he had been forced to withdraw by the weaker American fleet, was forced to retire. Abukuma was then re-assigned to the Japanese Fifth Fleet under Vice Admiral Shiro Kawase.

From April through May 1943, Abukuma underwent refit at the Maizuru Navy Yard, during which time a Type 21 air-search radar was installed, and it was thus not present during "Operation Landcrab", during which US forces recaptured Attu.

In July, Abukuma and DesRon1 provided support for the evacuation of Kiska. On 26 July 1943, the kaibokan Kunashiri collided with the Abukuma, hitting her starboard quarter, but causing little damage. On 12 September 1943, while cruising off Paramushiro, Abukuma suffered slight damage by near misses by bombs from USAAF B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell aircraft.

In dry dock once again from October through November 1943, Abukuma's No. 7 gun mount was removed, and a twin mount of 40 caliber Type 89 127 mm HA guns (unshielded) was fitted, as was a triple-mount Type 96 25 mm AA gun and four single-mount 25 mm AA guns. After refit, Abukuma returned to northern waters in December for antisubmarine patrol off Hokkaidō and the Kurile islands to June.

On 21 June 1944, during yet another refit at Yokosuka, a Type 22 surface-search radar was fitted, together with ten more single-mount Type 96 25 mm AA guns. Five single-mount Type 93 13.2 mm machine guns were also added. Repairs were completed by 13 July 1944.

Battle of Surigao Strait[edit]

Abukuma remained in Japanese home waters through the middle of October, when she was reassigned to sortie with its seven destroyers against the U.S. fleet off Taiwan in October 1944. However, she was re-directed from Mako in the Pescadores to Manila to support Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura against the U.S. Navy in the Philippines. Abukuma was joined by the heavy cruisers Nachi, Ashigara and seven destroyers in a flotilla commanded by Vice Admiral Kiyohide Shima. During 15–22 October, this flotilla was spotted by six different American submarines, but only one was able to maneuver close enough to fire torpedoes: the USS Seadragon (SS-194). The flotilla was cruising at 19 knots (35 km/h) and zigzagging through the Luzon Strait on 22 October. The Seadragon fired four torpedoes through her stern tubes, but all missed. All six submarines reported the flotilla's course, position and speed to American fleet units approaching the area.

On 25 October, Abukuma met her fate in the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the overall campaign of four naval battles collectively referred to as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In the pre-dawn hours, as Shima's force entered the strait, the flotilla was attacked by a squadron of American PT boats. Lieutenant (jg) Mike Kovar's PT-137 fired a torpedo at a destroyer, but it ran deep and passed beneath the target to strike Abukuma at 3:25 AM in the No. 1 boiler room, killing 37 crewmen.

Abukuma was disabled and fell behind the rest of the flotilla, but after emergency repairs, was able to get under way and by 4:45 AM, she was making 20 knots (37 km/h). By 5:35 AM, Abukuma had caught up to the rest of the flotilla. However, she was down at the bow and shipping at least 500 tons of seawater; at 8:30 AM she was ordered to Dapitan for repairs, escorted by the destroyer Ushio.

On 26 October, Abukuma was spotted and attacked repeatedly by B-24 Liberator bombers of the 5th Group, 13th Air Force armed with 500-lb (227 kg) bombs. At 10:06 AM she took a direct hit near the No. 3 140 mm turret; at 10:20 two more hits by B-24 bombers of the 33rd Squadron 22nd Group, 5th Air Force were scored further aft that started fires. The fire spread to the engine rooms and aft torpedo rooms. Power was lost and the ship's speed declined. At 10:37 AM, four Type 93 Long Lance torpedoes in the aft torpedo room exploded with devastating effect. Between 11:00 and 11:30 AM off Negros Island, the crew abandoned ship. At 11:42 AM, she sank by the stern at 09°20′N 122°32′E / 9.333°N 122.533°E / 9.333; 122.533 with 250 of her crewmen. Ushio rescued her captain and 283 crewmen.

Abukuma was removed from the Navy List on 20 December 1944.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Brown, David (1990). Warship Losses of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-914-X. 
  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X. 
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1. 
  • Evans, David (1979). Kaigun : Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7. 
  • Howarth, Stephen (1983). The Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun: The drama of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1895–1945. Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-11402-8. 
  • Jentsura, Hansgeorg (1976). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-893-X. 
  • Lacroix, Eric; Linton Wells (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-311-3. 
  • Whitley, M.J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-141-6. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lacroix, Japanese Cruisers, p. 794

External links[edit]