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  Kuma 球磨 軽巡洋艦
Kuma class light cruiser

5,100 Tons (standard)
152.4m x 14.2m x 4.8m
7 x 140mm guns
2 x 80mm guns
8 x torpedo tubs
48 x mines
1 x floatplane

Sinking History
Built by Sasebo Navy Yard at Sasebo in Japan. Laid down August 29, 1918. Launched July 14, 1919. Comissioned August 31, 1920. Officially designated HIJMS Kuma, named for the Kuma River in Japan.

Wartime History
On December 8, 1941 departed Mako, Pescadores to support "Operation M" the invasion of the Northern Philippines. Between December 10, 1941 to December 11, 1941 covered the Japanese landings at Aparri and Vigan. Off Vigan, Kuma was unsuccessfully attacked by five B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 14th Bombardment Squadron. Afterwards, returns to Mako, Pescadores arriving December 14, 1941.


8/9 April 1942:
Off Cebu. That night, KUMA and torpedo boat KIJI are attacked by Lt (j.g.) Robert B. Kelly's (later SS/2) USS PT-34 and Lt (later Vice Admiral/MOH) John D. Bulkeley's (former CO of SACRAMENTO, PG-19) PT-41 of Bulkeley's Motor Torpedo Squadron 3. KUMA is hit in the bow by one of eight Mark-8 torpedoes fired, but it is a dud. [2]

9-10 April 1942:
Cauit Island, Cebu. PT-34 is bombed, strafed, set afire and forced ashore by four Japanese floatplanes, probably Mitsubishi F1M "Petes", from seaplane tender SANUKI MARU.


Sinking History
On January 11, 1944 Lieutenant Commander Bennington, commanding British submarine HMS Tally-Ho, which was operating out of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) sited Kuma while only her masts were visible on the horizon. Kuma, the lead ship of the Kuma Class of light cruisers had just left the relative safety of Penang Harbour and was putting to sea for a second day of anti-submarine ‘exercises’, accompanied by a F1M2 Pete and the destroyer Uranami. Little did she realize that the exercise was about to become real.

At 9:13am, Tally-ho was in an attack position and fired a spread of seven torpedoes at her unsuspecting quarry. After what seemed an eternity for the submarines crew, two enormous explosions were finally heard “…in rapid succession like violent reverberating metallic hammer blows.” Mortally wounded Kuma sank by the stern, with the loss of 138 lives, while Tally-ho escaped.

On March 12, 2004 MV Empress was conducting an exploratory side scan sonar survey in the northern Malacca Strait off Penang. The vessel recorded a side scan sonar image of a large wreck on her side and anchored above the site overnight.

Kevin Denlay adds:
"I did produce the coordinates that put us in the right area for Kuma this time. (She is a long way from the position given by the sub who sank her and from her JANAC position)."

At the time of the sonar discovery, only a skeleton crew was on board at the time as it was just prior to a regular wreck diving charter that was scheduled for the following week, and Empress had been intent on finding some new wrecks beforehand to add to the upcoming itinerary.

On March 13, 2004 during perfect surface conditions, but relatively poor visibility, a group of divers off MV Empress including Vidar Skoglie, Phil Yeutter and Kevin Denlay dove the new wreck site. However, it wasn’t until the second dive that day that the wreck was positively identified as Kuma, her port waist 5.5” gun abaft the bridge and the location of her forward torpedoes tubes just behind it that, without doubt, confirmed the wrecks identity.

Several more dives were done on Kuma during Kevin’s charter the following week and the wreck further explored. She lies on her starboard side, in 46m/151ft of water approximately sixteen nautical miles west of the island of Penang, Malaysia, missing about twenty or so meters of her stern, the wreck apparently ending abruptly in line with her port outboard propeller. Interestingly, she is over ten nautical miles from the sinking position given by Tally-Ho and almost sixty-three nautical miles from the position given for Kuma after the war by JANAC (Joint Army Navy Assessment Committee).

Along with Kuma, Empress found several new wreck sites on the exploratory expedition including Haguro and modern cruise liner Sun Vista that are also in the same vicinity make for some very exciting diving.

Thanks to Kevin Denlay for additional information

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


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