Oct 12, 1946. Heavy cruiser IJNS AOBA [one of the ships that destroyed HMAS CANBERRA] on the bottom of Kure Harbour - NHHC [US].
5157. Built at the Mitsubishi Shipyard at Nagasaki and completed on Sept. 20, 1927, the 9000 ton eight-inch cruiser IJNS AOBA was therefore a contemporary of the British County Class - a handsome ship with her flared bows, but one initially affected by topweight problems, not resolved until waterline bulges were fitted.
AOBA was to play an important role in the Pacific War, with her endurance and survivability proving remarkable. She was heavily damaged on three separate occasions, repaired at Kure, and returned to war service.
At the outset of the Pacific War, AOBA supported the Japanese invasion of Guam, and then the second invasion of Wake Island. Her cruiser division then supported Japanese landings throughout thre south west Pacific and around New Guinea, before she took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, finally covering the withdrawal of the invasion fleet previously heading for Port Moresby.
The flagship of Admiral Aritomo Goto, AOBA and her group joined Admiral Gunichi Mikawa 's Eighth Fleet force that was to oppose American landings at Tulagi on Guadalcanal, leading to the severe defeat inflicted up US and Australian forces in the night action known as the first Battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942. Caught by surprise and overwhelmed by Japanese 8 inch fire in the opening minutes of the action, HMAS CANBERRA [I] was the first ship lost, wrecked without being able to return fire. The American cruisers USS QUINCY, VINCENNES and ASTORIA were sunk soon after , as Mikawa's force sped down 'The Slot,' raking the confused and disordered Allied forces as it did so. AOBA suffered one hit from an American ship during the attack.
She was to be punished severely however, by American cruisers in the Battle of Cape Esperance, also off Savo Island, on October 11, 1942, suffering forty 8-inch and six-inch shell hits that wrecked her bridge, two main armament turrets and four of her boilers. Admiral Goto - whom, thinking he wass under friendly fire had turned his ship broadfside to the American line - was killed, along with 80 of AOBA'S men in this battle, a kind of revenge for the Savo Island debacle.
Eventually repaired at Kure, AOBA returned to the sothwest Pacific, but was attacked by US B17 Flying Fortresses while moored at Kavieng, New Ireland on April 3, 1943. A direct bomb hit caused two of her 'long lance' torpedoes to explode, setting the ship on fire, and she had to be beached to avoid sinking.
Towed back to Kure she was repaired yet again. Now based in Singapore, on Oct. 23, 1944, AOBA was torpedoed by the submarine USS BREAM, and eventually limped back to Kure with a convoy, only part-repaired. Now declared irrepairable, she was reduced to reserve.
The veteran Japanese cruiser was to be sunk in stages. On April 24, 1945, AOBA was damaged in an air raid and first settled on the shallow bottom of Kure Harbour. Raised, but rather than being repaired again she was fitted with additional AA weapons and rated as a floating AA battery. On July 24, 1945, about 30 planes from US Task Force 38 attacked Kure, and AOBA was bombed again, settling on the bottom a second time. She was again heavily bombed four days later, this time breaking off her stern, and leaving her in the condition seen above.
Few ships can have absorbed such punishment over so long a period, and AOBA's service exemplified the high value the Japanese Navy placed upon its vessels.
AOBA'S wreck was scrapped in 1946-47.
Photo: Collection of RADM Samuel Eliot Morison, Naval History and Heritage Command image NO. 80-G-351754.