Personnel interrogated and background of each:
Captain Sonokawa, Kameo, IJN was Flight Leader of Genzan Air Corps, in Genzan Korea from 1 September, 1941 to 1 April, 1942: Flight Leader of Takao Air Corps in Takao, Formosa from 1 April, 1942 to 1 February, 1943; Staff of Naval Air Headquarters Tokyo from 1 February, 1943 to 1 August, 1944; Staff of 23rd Air Flotilla, Kendari from 1 August, 1944 to 20 February, 1945; Attached to the Yokosuka Naval Station in Yokosuka from 20 February, 1945 to 15 April, 1945; Commander of 210 Air Corps in Nagoya from 15 April, 1945 to 3 August, 1945; Staff of 32nd Air Flotilla on Oita from 3 August,
1945 to 30 September 1945.
Where interviewed; Meiji Building Room 238
Interrogator; Commander T.H. Moorer, USN
Interpreter; Lieutenant Commander S, Millstein, USNR
Allied officers present; None.
This interrogation is concerned with the operations of the Japanese naval land-based aircraft during the occupation of British MALAYA. Captain SONOKAWA was commanding officer of the Genzan Air Group and has furnished a detailed and interesting account of the sinking of HMS REPULSE and HMS PRINCE OF WALES.
JAP NAVY AIR FORCE, MALAYAN CAMPAIGN (Contd):
Q- What naval air forces were based in SAIGON area at the beginning of the war?
A- There were three units comprising the 22nd Air Flotilla:
Genzan – 36 BETTYS 12 in reserve
Mihoro - 36 BETTYS 12 in reserve
Kanoya - 27 BETTYS 9 in reserve
Also attached directly to the 22nd Air Flotilla were 18 fighter planes, six in reserve, six reconnaissance planes, Genzan was situated at Saigon, Mihoro located about 20 miles north of Saigon, Kanoya Force established about 60 miles southwest of Saigon.
Q- During the invasion of the PHILIPPINES and the NETHERLAND EAST
INDIES what was the mission of the 22nd Air Flotilla based in SAIGON?
A- We had no participation in the PHILIPPINES Operations. We acted in direct support of the MALAYAN invasion and gave slight support in the BORNEO and JAVA Operations. For operations in the PHILIPPINES and NETHERLAND EAST INDIES, the 11th Air Fleet less than the 22nd Air Flotilla was responsible. The GENZAN Air Group which I commanded later became the 775th Air Squadron.
Q- Was the GENZAN Air Group controlled by the 11th Air Fleet?
A- Yes, all naval air forces at SAIGON were under the 11th Air Fleet at TAKAO.
Q- What was the state of training of GENZAN Air Group?
A- It was the best unit in the 11th Air Fleet, which was manned with very experienced and competent pilots.
Q- What type of attack did you specialise in?
A- Bombing and torpedo attacks against ships; also night operations.
Q-Was special torpedo attack training given?
A- Yes, each pilot was trained with live torpedoes.
Q- Explain the basic torpedo tactics used by you.
A- Although the ordnance department claimed that the torpedoes could be dropped at an altitude of 500-metres, we found by experience that only 10 per cent would run properly at 200 meters and 50 per cent at 100 meters. Consequently, an effort was made to drop at from 20-30 meters. Since the aircraft torpedo was dropped at short range the low altitude afforded protection because of depressing limit of AA guns. Pilots were instructed to attempt to drop the torpedo in such a manner that it struck the ship immediately after it levelled off at set depth. Of course conditions varied but a standard drop was made from a range of 600 to 400 meters, at a speed of 160-170 knots and at altitude of from 20 to 50 meters. The aircraft torpedo was armed immediately after striking the water. It weighed 800 Kg and had a 145 Kg warhead. The above tactics were used by our carrier planes against your LEXINGTON. After the battle of the CORAL SEA the size of the warhead was increased to 220Kg.
NOTE:-The interview now moves directly onto issues surrounding the sinking of HMS Repulse & HMS Prince of Wales.
Q-How were the two ships located?
A- We had previous intelligence reports that the British battleships were probably in the area but did not know for sure. On 8 December the ships were photographed in SINGAPORE Harbor. There were no air searches on 9 December because of bad weather. However, on afternoon of 9 December the ships were sighted by a submarine which gave their position (approximately 7 degrees North – 105 degrees East, course 000 degrees).
Q- Upon learning of the position of the two ships, what action was taken?
A- We received the first sighting report from a submarine at 1600, 9 December. The message was originated at 1400 but not received at the 22nd Air Flotilla Headquarters until two hours later. At that time we were in the process of loading bombs for an attack on SINGAPORE Harbor. We re-armed with torpedoes as quickly as possible. This was not finished until 1800 and although it was getting dark we decided that in spite of difficulties we would attempt a night torpedo attack because it was feared that the REPULSE and PRINCE OF WALES would attack our invasion transports. In order to cooperate with the aircraft and sink any damaged enemy ships, the HARUNA and KONGO were also ordered to make contact if possible. Due to bad weather the aircraft were unable to locate the enemy ships and returned without mishap about midnight. At 0315, 10 December a contact report was received from a second submarine which gave a new position indicating that the ships were heading South and returning to SINGAPORE. At 0600, 10 planes (GENZAN 260 kg bombs) were launched to conduct a sector search for enemy ships. About one hour later the striking force, composed of 88 aircraft (27 bombers – 61 torpedo planes) was ordered to proceed to the best estimated position of the enemy ships. The striking group was organised into 9 plane flights which proceeded south along the 105th meridian, as soon as they rendezvoused. Because of reduced visibility the search planes did not discover the enemy ships until after beginning the return leg. At 1100 hrs the contact was broadcast to the striking group and headquarters.
Q- Describe the method of attack. Who controlled the attack?
A- The attacks were controlled by the flight leaders and were ordered according to the situation. The general plan was to attack continuously, leading off with a bombing attack from 2500 meters by the GENZAN Group. They were followed in turn by the MIHORO and KANOYA Groups as soon as they arrived. The first attack began at 1130.
Q- Approximately how many planes attacked each ship?
A- The planes divided their attack approximately as shown below: