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Japanese cruiser Kuma
IJN Kuma in 1935 off Tsingtao.jpg
Kuma in 1935 off Tsingtao, with Kawanishi E7K1 "Alf" floatplane on catapult
Career Naval Ensign of Japan.svg
Name: Kuma
Namesake: Kuma River
Ordered: 1917 Fiscal Year
Builder: Sasebo Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 29 August 1918
Launched: 14 July 1919
Commissioned: 31 August 1920[1]
Out of service: 10 January 1944
Struck: 10 March 1944
Fate: torpedoed by HMS Tally-Ho
west of Penang
05°26′N 99°52′E / 5.433°N 99.867°E / 5.433; 99.867
General characteristics
Class & type: Kuma class
Displacement: 5,100 long tons (5,182 t) standard
Length: 152.4 m (500 ft 0 in) o/a
Beam: 14.2 m (46 ft 7 in)
Draught: 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
Propulsion: 4 shaft Gihon geared turbines
12 Kampon boilers
90,000 shp (67,000 kW)<
Speed: 36 knots (41 mph; 67 km/h)
Range: 9,000 nmi (17,000 km) @ 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)
Complement: 450
Armament: 7 × 14 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns
2 × 8 cm/40 3rd Year Type naval gun s
8 × 533 mm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes (4x2)
48 mines
Armor: Belt: 64 mm (3 in)
Deck: 29 mm (1 in)<
Aircraft carried: 1 x floatplane, 1 catapult (from 1934)

Kuma (球磨 ?) was a Kuma-class light cruiser in the Imperial Japanese Navy, named after the Kuma River in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan.


After the construction of the Tenryū-class cruisers, the demerits of the small cruiser concept became apparent. At the end of 1917, plans for an additional six Tenryū-class vessels, plus three new-design 7200 ton-class scout cruisers were shelved, in place of an intermediate 5,500 ton-class vessel which could be used as both a long-range, high speed reconnaissance ship, and also as a command vessel for destroyer or submarine flotillas. Kuma was the lead ship of the five vessels in this class which were built from 1918-1921.[2]


The Kuma-class vessels were essentially enlarged versions of the Tenryū-class cruisers, with greater speed, range, and weaponry.[2]

With improvements in geared-turbine engine technology, the Kuma-class vessels were capable of the high speed of 36 knots (67 km/h), and a range of 9,000 nmi (17,000 km) at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h) .[2] The number of 14 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns was increased from four on the Tenryū class to seven on the Kuma class and provision was made for 48 naval mines. However, the two triple torpedo launchers on the Tenryū class were reduced to two double launchers, and the Kuma class remained highly deficient in anti-aircraft protection, with only two 8 cm/40 3rd Year Type naval guns.[2]

Service career[]

Early career[]

Kuma was completed at the Sasebo Navy Yard on 31 August 1920. Immediately after commissioning, Kuma was assigned to cover the landings of Japanese troops in Siberia during Japan's Siberian Intervention against the Bolshevik Red Army. She was subsequently based at Port Arthur, and patrolled the China coast between the Kwantung Leased Territory and Tsingtao.

Kuma was refit in late 1934 with a tripod mast, and an aircraft catapult for launching a reconnaissance floatplane, typically a Kawanishi E7K1 "Alf".[2] As the Second Sino-Japanese War began to escalate, Kuma patrolled the China coast, and covered the landings of Japanese forces in central China. In December 1937, Kuma served as flagship for a squadron of minelaying submarines I-121 through I-124 based out of Tsingtao until fall of 1938.[3]

Invasion of the Philippines[]

On 10 April 1941, Kuma was assigned to Vice Admiral Ibo Takahashi's CruDiv 16 in the IJN 3rd Fleet. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor on 8 December 1941, Kuma was participating in the invasion of the northern Philippines, having departed from its base in Mako, Pescadores Islands with the Ashigara, Maya and destroyers Asakaze and Matsukaze. From 10 December - 11 December, Kuma covered landings at Aparri and Vigan; off Vigan, Kuma was attacked unsuccessfully by five USAAF Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of the 14th Squadron. On 22 December, Kuma covered further landings at Lingayen Gulf, Philippines.[4]

On 3 January 1942, Kuma was re-assigned to Vice Admiral Rokuzō Sugiyama's Third Southern Expeditionary Fleet. She was assigned to patrols around the Philippine islands from 10 January to 27 February 1942.[4]

In March, Kuma was assigned to cover the invasion of the southern Philippines, shelling Cebu harbor on 1 March, and covering the landings at Zamboanga, Mindanao on 3 March. Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF) from Kuma rescued about 80 Japanese nationals who had been interned.[4]

On 9 April 1942, off Cebu, Kuma and the torpedo boat Kiji were attacked by U.S. torpedo boats PT-34 and PT-41. Kuma was hit in the bow by one of eight Mark 18 Torpedoes fired, but it was a dud. PT-34 was destroyed by Mitsubishi F1M "Petes" launched from the seaplane tender Sanuki Maru.[5]

On 10 April, Kuma covered landings on Cebu by the Kawaguchi Detachment's 35th Infantry Brigade HQ and the 124th Infantry Regiment, and on 16 April landings on Panay by the Kawamura Detachment's 9th Infantry Brigade HQ and the 41st Infantry Regiment. On 6 May, Kuma covered the final assault on the American bastion on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Afterwards, Kuma remained on patrol at Manila until 12 August 1942.[4]

Dutch East Indies and New Guinea campaigns[]

After a refit at Kure Naval Arsenal in September, Kuma returned to Manila on 20 September 1942 and was reassigned to Vice Admiral Shirō Takasu's Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet (Dutch East Indies Force). She was sent to Hong Kong to embark troops of the 38th Infantry Division, which she disembarked at Rabaul, New Britain on 10 October. Kuma then proceeded to Makassar, Celebes where she began patrols until 13 April 1943, with occasional embarkation of reinforcements for Rabaul, Kaimana, New Guinea and Kabui, New Guinea.[4]

From late April though the end of May 1943, Kuma was refitted at the Seletar Naval Base Singapore, and afterwards resumed patrols around the Dutch East Indies to 23 June.

On 23 June 1943, while at Makassar with CruDiv 16's Kinu, Ōi, and Kitakami, Kuma was attacked by seventeen Consolidated Aircraft B-24 Liberator bombers of the 319th Squadron/90th Bomb Group (H) of the 5th Air Force. All four light cruisers were straddled by near-misses, but suffered only slight damage.[4]

On 24 June 1943, CruDiv 16's flag was transferred from Kinu to Kuma. Both cruisers then departed Makassar for patrols around the Dutch East Indies until 23 October. From 1 November, Kuma was refit in Singapore. Her No. 5 140-mm gun was removed as were her catapult and derrick. Two triple mount Type 96 25-mm AA guns were fitted. This brought the total number of Kuma's 25-mm AA guns to ten barrels (2x3, 2x2). Refit was completed by 12 November, and patrols/transport runs around the Dutch East Indies resumed, extending occasionally to Port Blair, Andaman Islands, Penang, Mergui, Burma through 9 January 1944.[4]

On 11 January 1944, after departing from Penang with the destroyer Uranami on anti-submarine warfare exercises, Kuma was sighted by Royal Navy submarine HMS Tally-Ho (P317) based out of Trincomalee, Ceylon. Approximately 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Penang, HMS Tally-Ho fired a seven-torpedo salvo from 1,900 yards. Kuma's lookouts spotted the torpedoes' wakes, and although the rudder was sent hard over, Kuma was hit starboard aft by two torpedoes, setting the ship on fire. Kuma sank by the stern in the vicinity of 05°26′N 99°52′E / 5.433°N 99.867°E / 5.433; 99.867 detonating her own depth-charges. Uranami took on survivors, including Captain Sugino, but 138 crewmen perished with the ship.[6]

Kuma was removed from the navy list on 10 March 1944.

The Wreck[]

Kuma's wreck was discovered in March 2004 by Australian diver & photojournalist Kevin Denlay and a group of divers operating off the research vessel Empress, based out of Singapore. The ship was found to be on her starboard side in 155 feet (47 m) of water, covered in fishing nets and snagged fishing lines. The bridge structure was fairly intact, although half-buried in bottom silt, and her funnels had fallen off. The port side waist 5.5-inch gun was intact, save for the top of the mount enclosure, which had disintegrated. The circular rotating base of the forward port torpedo rack was intact, but there were no torpedo tubes mounted on it. The aft mount of the same structure had fallen off. The glass in many of the portholes has been melted and fused due to the fire that raged amidships while the vessel was sinking. The ship's stern was missing completely; all that remained was a jagged edge, but the outboard port propeller was still in place.[4]


  • Brown, David (1990). Warship Losses of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-914-X. 
  • Boyd, David (2002). The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-015-0. 
  • 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. 
  • Gardner, Robert (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.. Conway Marine Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 
  • Goodspeed, M Hill (2003). US Navy – A Complete History. iUniverse. ISBN 978-0883636183. 
  • Jentsura, Hansgeorg (1976). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945. Annapolis, MD: 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. 
  • Morrison, Samuel (2002). New Guinea and the Marianas: March 1944 - August 1944 (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume 8). University of Illinois. ISBN 0-252-07038-0. 
  • O’Connell, John F (2011). Submarine Operational Effectiveness in the 20th Century: 1939 - 1945). iUniverse Publishing. ISBN 1-4620-4257-0. 
  • Stille, Mark (2012). Imperial Japanese Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45. Osprey. ISBN 1-84908-562-5. 
  • Whitley, M.J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-141-6. 

External links[]


  1. Lacroix, Japanese Cruisers, p. 794.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Gardner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921; page 238 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Gardner" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Gardner" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Gardner" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Gardner" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Boyd, The Japanese Submarine Force; page 54
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 [1] Kuma Tabular Record of Movement;
  5. Goodspeed, US Navy; page 413
  6. O’Connell, Submarine Operational Effectiveness in the 20th Century ; page 94

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