( Kitakami keijunyōkan) was a Kuma-class light cruiser in the Imperial Japanese Navy, named after the Kitakami River in Iwate prefecture, Japan.
Kitakami was the third of five vessels completed in the Kuma-class of light cruisers. As with its sister ships, it was intended for use both as a long-range, high speed scout ship and also as a command vessel for destroyer or submarine flotillas.
Kitakami was completed on 3 July 1920 at Sasebo Navy Yard, Nagasaki. Soon after commissioning, it was based at Mako, Pescadores Islands, and assigned to cover the landings of Japanese forces in central China as the Second Sino-Japanese War continued to escalate.
On 25 August 1941, Kitakami returned to Sasebo for conversion to a "torpedo cruiser" with ten Type 92 quadruple torpedo tube mounts for the 61-cm long-range oxygen-propelled Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedoes (a total of 40 tubes), in line with Imperial Japanese Navy plans to create a special “Night Battle Force” of torpedo-cruisers. Modification was complete by 30 September 1941, and Kitakami is assigned to the Japanese First Fleet, CruDiv 9, under Rear Admiral Fukuji Kishi.
Early stages of the Pacific War
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kitakami was escorting the Combined Fleet's battleships from Hashirajima to the Bonin Islands and back to Japan.
From January to May 1942, Kitakami was assigned largely to training duties in Japanese home waters. At the time of the Battle of Midway on 29 May 1942, Kitakami and its sister ship Ōi were part of the Aleutian Screening Force, and return safely to Japan on 17 June 1942.
As a fast troop transport
From August - September 1942, Kitakami and Ōi were converted into fast transports. Their ten quadruple torpedo launchers are reduced to six (a total of 24 tubes). They were equipped with two Daihatsu landing craft (barges) and were fitted with two triple mount Type 96 25-mm AA guns. Depth charge launch rails were also installed. After conversion, Kitakami and Ōi embarked the No. 4 Maizuiru Special Naval Landing Force, which they transported to Truk in the Caroline Islands and Shortland Island in the Solomon Islands by 6 October 1942.
CruDiv 9 was disbanded on 21 November 1942, and the Kitakami was assigned directly to the Combined Fleet. In November, the Kitakami transported troops from Manila to Rabaul, New Britain, and returned to Sasebo by the end of the year.
In January 1943, Kitakami was assigned to the reinforcement of Japanese forces in New Guinea, and escorted a convoy with the IJA 20th Infantry Division from Pusan to Wewak, New Guinea via Palau. In February, Kitakami escorted a convoy with the IJA 41st Infantry Division from Tsingtao to Wewak, again via Palau.
On 15 March 1943, Kitakami was re-assigned to CruDiv 16 of the Southwest Area Fleet under Admiral Takasu, as a guard ship based out of Surabaya. It escorted three troop convoys from Surabaya to Kaimana, New Guinea during April and May.
On 23 June 1943, while at Makassar, the Kitakami, Ōi, Kinu and Kuma were bombed by Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 5th Air Force's 319th Bomb Squadron. None of the cruisers were hit, but some sustained slight damage from near-misses.
After refit at Seletar Naval Base, Singapore in August, Kitakami escorted a troop convoy from Singapore to the Nicobar Islands in early September. Two more convoys were escorted to Port Blair, Andaman Islands in late October.
In late January 1944, Kitakami escorted another convoy to Port Blair. On its return voyage while transiting Malacca Strait, southwest of Penang, Malaya, on 27 January 1944, the Kitakami was hit aft by two torpedoes fired by the HMS Templar (P316). The Kinu took Kitakami in tow to Angsa Bay, Malaya for emergency repairs, followed by extensive repairs at the No. 101 Repair Facility at Seletar Naval Base, Singapore in February. Repairs were not completed until 21 June 1944. However, after departing Singapore to escort the tanker Kyokuto maru, Kitakami began to take on water and had to put into Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines from 12 July 1944 to 26 July 1944. Despite the additional repairs, Kitakami still took on water on its return voyage to Sasebo.
As a Kaiten carrier
From 14 August 1944 Kitakami was repaired and modified at Sasebo into a Kaiten human torpedo carrier with a capacity for eight Kaitens. A 20-ton crane, formerly from the seaplane carrier Chitose, was fitted to raise and lower the Kaiten into the water. The stern was remodeled into an overhanging ramp configuration and the aft turbines were removed as well, and the space used to hold spare parts & repair equipment. The removal of these turbines reduced Kitakami's top speed from 36 to 23 knots. All of Kitakami's armaments were removed and replaced by two Type 89 127-mm AA guns and 67 Type 96 25-mm (12x3 and 31x1) AA barrels, two Type 13 air-search and one Type 22 surface-search radars. Two depth charge launching rails were installed at the stern and two depth charge throwers were also installed. The refit was completed on 20 January 1945, and Kitakami was assigned directly to the Combined Fleet.
On 19 March 1945, American Task Force 58 aircraft carriers USS Essex (CV-9), USS Intrepid (CV-11), USS Hornet (CV-12), USS Wasp (CV-18), USS Hancock (CV-19), USS Bennington (CV-20) and the USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) made the first carrier attack of the war on Kure Arsenal. More than 240 aircraft (SB2C Helldivers, F4U Corsairs and F6F Hellcats) attacked the battleships Hyuga, Ise, Yamato, Haruna, aircraft carriers Amagi, Katsuragi, Ryuho, Kaiyo and other ships. Kitakami sustained no damage.
In July 1945, an additional twenty seven single mount Type 96 25-mm AA guns were fitted to Kitakami. However, on 24 July 1945 about 200 aircraft Task Force 38's USS Essex (CV-9), USS Ticonderoga (CV-14), USS Randolph (CV-15), USS Hancock (CV-19), USS Monterey (CVL-26) and USS Bataan (CVL-29) again attacked the Kure area. Kitakami was damaged by strafing and thirty-two crewmen were killed.
After the surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945, Kitakami was moved to Kagoshima and assigned to the Repatriation Service. She was used as a repair tender for ships on repatriation duties.
Kitakami was removed from the Navy List on 30 November 1945, and scrapped at Nanao from 10 August 1946 – 31 March 1947.