IJN Heavy Cruiser Ashigara
The cruiser Ashigara received her name from the Mount Ashigara on the border of Kanagawa and Shizuoka Prefecture and was one of the four ships of the Myoko-class cruisers. Final displacement (more than 15,000 tn) was quite above the limit fixed by the Washington Naval Treaty (10,000 tn).
The cruiser Ashigara was quite active during the pre-war days. She participated in a naval review off Kobe on 26 October 1930 when stack gases caused problems on the bridge, resulting in a lengthening of the forward smokestack by two meters.During the First Shanghai Incident of February 1932, the cruisers escorted the transports conveying elements of the Imperial Japanese Army to the continent. In December 1932, the cruisers were placed in reserve as the new Takao-class cruiser was commissioned. On 10 March 1937, Ashigara was assigned detached duty for a diplomatic mission to Europe for the coronation of King George VI. In the Second Sino-Japanese War cruiser Ashigara was designated flagship of Sentai-5 on 5 July 1937. She led the convoy with the Imperial Japanese Army Expeditionary Army Headquarters to China on 21 August.
The cruiser Ashigara also had good records on providing assistance and rescue missions. On 11 December 1937, the ocean liner SS President Hoover en route from Kobe to Manila ran aground in a typhoon on Kasho-to off Taiwan, and 14 hours later Ashigara and a Mutsuki-class destroyer arrived to assist. Both warships assisted until Hoover’s 330 crew got all 503 passengers and themselves ashore.On 12 December the Clemson-class destroyers USS Alden and USS Barker arrived and Ashigara cleared them to enter Japanese territorial waters. On 13 December the liner SS President McKinley arrived to repatriate about 630 survivors, and on 14 December, Ashigara and her destroyer escort provided flat-bottomed boats to ferry them from the beach to a motor launch and lifeboats that took them out to the liner. On 15 December the liner SS President Pierce evacuated the last 200 survivors, and Alden was allowed to remain to guard Hoover’s wreck until Japanese authorities relieved her on 23 December.
When war started, she provided support to Japanese landing operations in the Philippines, as well as Balikpapan and Makassar in the Dutch East Indies through February 1942. On 10 December Ashigara was in a holding position in the South China Sea at 06 40 N 118 10 East, about 200 miles Northwest (320) from Manila Bay, with heavy cruiser Maya, light cruiser Kuma, and destroyers Ikazuchi and Inazuma. Admiral Takahashi commanded the Philippine Invasion Force. she Sas attacked by PBY-4s but was not damaged.
In the Battle of the Java Sea on 1 March 1942 Ashigara shared in the sinking of the cruiser HMS Exeter and the destroyer HMS Encounter. She became flagship of the Southwest Area Fleet from 10 April 1942, and returned to Sasebo Naval Arsenal for a refit and repairs in June. She returned to Makassar in July to resume her position as flagship of the Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet. In 1943 and early 1944, Ashigara performed guard and troop transport duties and saw no action.
In the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 24 October 1944, Ashigara along with Nachi and eight destroyers entered Surigao Strait on 25 October after Admiral Shōji Nishimura’s First Raiding Force had been destroyed. Ashigara and Nachi fired their torpedoes and retreated (Nachi with damage from a collision with Mogami). Ashigara escaped to Palawan and from there to Brunei. She departed Burnei on 17 November with the battleship Haruna and cruiser Ōyodo, and on arriving in the Spratly Islands the following day became flagship under Vice Admiral Shima. On 20 November, she departed the Spratly Islands, arriving at Cam Ranh Bay, Indochina on 14 December, where Admiral Shima transferred his flag to Hyūga . Ashigara and Ōyodo and the destroyers Kiyoshimo, Asashimo, Kasumi, Kaya, Kashi, and Sugi were assigned to join the Raiding Force on the American beachhead in Mindoro in the Philippines. While approaching Mindoro, the Raiding Force is attacked by B-25 Mitchell bombers. Ashigara was damaged by a direct hit by a 500-lb bomb, but was still able to successfully complete its mission to bombard the American positions with over 200 shells and returned to Cam Ranh Bay on 29 December.
Fate: On 26 January 1945, Ashigara was dry-docked in Singapore to repair bomb damage. On 8 June 1945, Ashigara left Batavia for Singapore with 1,600 troops on board, escorted by the destroyer Kamikaze. In the Bangka Strait the two ships came under attack from three Allied submarines, USS Blueback, HMS Trenchant and HMS Stygian. Trenchant ‘s C.O., Commander fired eight torpedoes at about 12:15. Ashigara was unable to complete the maneuver to escape in time and was hit five times at a range of 4,000 yards (3,700 m). Trenchant then fired two more torpedoes, sinking Ashigara at 12:37 at (01°59′S 104°56′E Coordinates: 01°59′S 104°56′E).Kamikaze rescued 400 Army troops and 853 crewmen, including her captain, Rear Admiral Miura, however over 1200 troops and 100 crewmen went down with the ship.