Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Japanese Warhips of the Second World War

Japanese Warships of the Second World War

Data current to 23 March 2021.

 (IJN Photo)

IJN battleship Yamato running machinery trials off Bungo Strait (outside Sukumo Bay) on 20 October 1941.

In December 1941, at the beginning of the Second World War in the Pacific, the Imperial Japanese Navy was the third most powerful navy in the world, and its naval air service was one of the most potent air forces in the world.  During the first six months of the war, the Imperial Japanese Navy enjoyed spectacular success inflicting heavy defeats on Allied forces, being undefeated in every battle.  The Japanese attack on American fleet resting at Peral Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 Dec 1941, crippled the battleships of the US Pacific Fleet while Allied navies were devastated during Japan's conquest of Southeast Asia.  Japanese naval aircraft were also responsible for the sinkings of Britains warships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS RepulseThis was the first time that capital ships were sunk by aerial attack while underway.  In April 1942, the Japanese conducted an Indian Ocean raid that drove the Royal Navy from South East Asia.  After these successes, the Japanese then concentrated on the elimination and neutralization of strategic points from where the Allies could launch counteroffensives against the Japanese onquests.  The Japanese were initially checked during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and were forced to abandon their attempts to isolate Australia.  Their defeat in the Battle of Midway forced them onto the defensive.  The campaign in the Solomon Islands led to furthers losses and the attrition of their forces was decisive in the outcome of the war.

Throughout 1943, the Allies were able to reorganize their forces and American industrial strength.  American forces eventually gained the upper hand through a vastly greater industrial output and a dramatic modernization of its air and naval forces.  That same year, the Japanese redirected their attention to the defensive perimeters of their previous conquests.  Forces on Japanese held islands in Micronesia were directed to absorb and wear down an expected American counteroffensive.  As American industrial power became apparent, the military forces that faced the Japanese in 1943 began to be equipped with overwhelming firepower and equipment.  From the end of 1943 to 1944, Japan's defensive perimeter failed to hold.  The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for Japanese naval air power with American pilots terming it, the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.  The Battle of Leyte Gulf led to the destruction of a large part of the Japanese surface fleet, with the consequences that the Japanese lost control of the Western Pacific theatre of war.  During the last phase of the war, the Japanese resorted to a series of desperate measures, including the implementation of a variety of Special Attack Units, named "kamikaze".  By May 1945, most of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been sunk and the remnants had taken refuge in Japan's harbors.  By July 1945, all but one of its capital ships had been sunk in US Navy air raids.  By the end of the war, the IJN had lost 334 warships and 300,386 officers and men.  Wikipedia.  Dull, Paul S.  A Battle History of The Imperial Japanese Navy (reprint 1978 ed.).  (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2013); Stille, Mark.  The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War.  (Osprey Publishing, 2014). 

Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Battlecruisers

 (IJN Photo)

Haruna in 1934, following her second reconstruction.

Four Kongo-class battlecruisers were built for the IJN just before the First World War.  Designed in the UK, the lead ship of the class, Kongo, was the last Japanese capital ship constructed outside Japan, by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furnsess.  Her sister ships, Haruna, Kirishima and Hiei, were all completed in Japan.  During the late 1920s, all but Hiei were reconstructed and reclassified as battleships.  After the signing of the London Naval Treaty in 1930, Hiei was reconfigured as a training ship to avoid being scrapped.  Following Japan's withdrawal from the treaty, all four underwent a massive second reconstruction in the late 1930s.  Following the completion of these modifications, which increased top speeds to over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph), all four were reclassified as fast battleships.

The Kongo-class battleships were the most active capital ships of the Japanese Navy during the Second World War, participating in most of the major engagements of the war.  Hiei and Kirishima acted as escorts during the attack on Pearl Harbor, while Kongo and Haruna supported the invasion of Singapore.  All four participated in the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal.  Hiei and Kirishima were both lost during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, while Haruna and Kongo jointly bombarded the American Henderson Field airbase on Guadalcanal.  The two remaining Kongo-class battleships spent most of 1943 shuttling between Japanese naval bases before participating in the major naval campaigns of 1944 . Haruna and Kongo engaged American surface vessels during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in late October 1944.  Kongo was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine USS Sealion in November 1944, while Haruna was sunk at her moorings by an air attack in Kure Naval Base in late July 1945, but later raised and scrapped in 1946.

 (IJN Photo)

 Kongo in 1936, on sea trials.

 (IJN Photo)

 Kongo after 1931 reconstruction.

 (IJN Photo)

Haruna undergoes trials after reconfiguration from a battlecruiser to a battleship, 1928.

 (IJN Photo)

Haruna off Katsuriki Cape, 1 Feb 1933.

 (IJN Photo)

Kirishima, 1940.

 (IJN Photo)

Kirishima near Beppu, Kyushu, Japan in mid-October 1932.

 (IJN Photo)

 Hiei, undergoing a full-power trial off Tsukugewan, 1939.

Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Battleships

Two Fuso-class battleships, Yamashiro and Fuso, were built for the IJN before the First World War and completed during it.  Both patrolled briefly off the coast of China before being placed in reserve at the war's end.  In 1922, Yamashiro became the first battleship in the IJN to successfully launch aircraft.

During the 1930s, both ships underwent a series of modernizations and reconstructions.  Fuso underwent her modernization in two phases (1930–33, 1937–41), while Yamashiro was reconstructed from 1930 to 1935.  The modernization increased their armour, replaced and upgraded their machinery, and rebuilt their superstructures into the distinctive pagoda mast style.  Despite the expensive reconstructions, both vessels were considered obsolescent by the beginning of the Second World War, and neither saw significant action in the early years of the war.  Fuso served as a troop transport in 1943, while Yamashiro was relegated to training duty in the Inland Sea.  Both underwent upgrades to their anti-aircraft suite in 1944 before transferring to Singapore in August 1944.

IJN Fuso and IJN Yamashiro.

Fuso and Yamashiro were the only two Japanese battleships at the Battle of Surigao Strait, the southernmost action of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and both were lost in the early hours of 25 October 1944 to torpedoes and naval gunfire.  Some eyewitnesses later claimed that Fuso broke in half, and that both halves remained afloat and burning for an hour, but historian Anthony Tully has made the case that she simply sank after forty minutes of flooding.  Six U.S. Navy battleships and eight cruisers were lying in wait for Yamashiro; she did not survive the encounter, and Vice Admiral Sh?jji Nishimura went down with his ship.  Only ten crewmembers from each ship survived.

 (IJN Photo)

Yamashiro undergoing post-reconstruction trials off Tateyama, Japan.

 (IJN Photo)

Fuso running full-power trials on 10 May 1933 after her first reconstruction.

 (IJN Photo)

Fuso, looking a bit war weary.

Two Ise-class battleships, Ise and Hyuga, were built for the IJN during the First World War.  They were modernized in 1934–1937 with improvements to their armour and machinery and a rebuilt superstructure inthe pagoda mast style.  They later played a minor role in the Second Sino-Japanese War.  Despite the expensive reconstructions, both vessels were considered obsolete by the eve of the pacific War, and neither saw significant action in the early years of the war.

Following the loss of four of the IJN's large aircraft cariers during the Battle of Midway in mid-1942, they were rebuilt with a flight deck replacing the rear pair of gun turrets to give them the ability to operate an air group of floatplanes.  A lack of aircraft and qualified pilots, however, meant that they never actually operated their aircraft in combat.  While awaiting their air group, the sister ships were occasionally used to ferry troops and material to Japanese bases.  They participated in the Battle off Cape Engano in late 1944, where they decoyed the American carrier fleet supporting the invasion of Leyte away from the landing beaches.  Afterwards both ships were transferred to Southeast Asia.  Early in 1945 they participated in Operation Kita, where they transported petrol and other strategic materials to Japan.  The sisters were then reduced to reserve until they were sunk during American airstrikes in July.  After the war they were scrapped in 1946–1947.

 (IJN Photo)

Ise underway after her modernization.

 (IJN Photo)

Ise underway after her first refit in 1927.

 (IJN Photo)

Hyuga running her sea trials on 23 August 1943.

 (IJN Photo)

Hyuga, after her conversion.

Two Nagato-class battleships, Nagato and Mutsu, were built for the IJN during the First World War, although they were not completed until after the end of the war.  The last of Japan's pre-Treaty capital ships, they were the first class to carry 41-cm (16.1-inch) guns, the largest afloat and the first bigger than 15-inch (381-mm).  As the lead ship of the class, Nagato, frequently served as a flagship.  Both ships were modernized between 1933 and 1936 with improvements to their armour and machinery and a rebuilt superstructure in the pagoda mast style.  Nagato and Mutsu briefly participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and Nagato was the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, that began the Pacific War.

Both battleships participated in the Battle of Midway in June 1942, although they did not see any combat.  Mutsu saw more active service than Nagato because she was not a flagship and participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August before returning to Japan in early 1943.  One of Mutsu's aft magazines detonated in June 1943, killing 1,121 crew and visitors and destroying the ship.  The IJN conducted a perfunctory investigation into the cause of her loss and concluded that it was the work of a disgruntled crewmember.  They dispersed the survivors in an attempt to conceal the sinking to keep up morale in Japan.  Much of the wreck was salvaged after the war and many artifacts and relics are on display in Japan.

Nagato spent most of the first two years of the war training in home waters.  She was transferred to Truk in mid-1943, but did not see any combat until the Battle of the Philippine Sea in mid-1944 when she was attacked by American aircraft.  Nagato did not fire her main armament against enemy vessels until the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944.  She was lightly damaged during the battle and returned to Japan the following month for repairs.  The IJN was running out of fuel by this time and decided not to fully repair her.  Nagato was converted into a floating anti-aircraft platform and assigned to coastal defense duties.  After the war, the ship was a target for U.S. nuclear weapons tests during Operation Crossroads in mid-1946.  She survived the first test with little damage, but was sunk by the second test.

  (IJN Photo)

Nagato lies at anchor in Brunei Bay, 21 October 1944, shortly before the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

  (IJN Photo)

Nagato off Yokosuka,1946.

 (IJN Photo)

Mutsu, c1922.

 (IJN Photo)

Mutsu, with large rangefinders.

 (IJN Photo)

Mutsu, at anchor at Yokosuka in Feb 1937.

 (IJN Photo)

Mutsu, c1930s.

Two Yamato-class battleships, Yamato and Musashi, were built and completed as designed for the IJN as the Second World War approached.  A third hull laid down in 1940 was converted to an aircraft carrier, Shinano, during construction.

Displacing 72,000 long tons (73,000 t) at full load, the completed battleships were the heaviest ever constructed.  The class carried the largest naval artilery ever fitted to a warship, nine 460-mm (18.1-inch) naval guns, each capable of firing 1,460 kg (3,220 lb) shells over 42 km (26 mi).

Due to the threat of U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers, both Yamato and Musashi spent the majority of their careers in naval bases at Brunei, Truk and Kure, deploying on several occasions in response to U.S. raids on Japanese bases.

All three ships were sunk by the US Navy, Musashi while participating in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, as part of Admiral Takeo Kurita's Centre Force, lost to U.S. carrier aircraft.  The still incomplete Shinano was torpedoed ten days after her commissioning in November 1944 by the submarine USS Archerfish. The Yamato was also ravaged by carrier planes, in April 1945 during Operation Ten-Go.

 (IJN Photo)

Yamato and Musashi anchored in the waters off of the Truk Islands in 1943.

 (IJN Photo)

Yamato on trials in 1941.

 (IJN and U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 63433, courtesy of Lieutenant Commander Shizuo Fukui)

The Japanese battleship Yamato in the late stages of construction alongside of a large fitting out pontoon at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, 20 September 1941.  The aircraft carrier H?sh? is visible at the extreme right.  The store ship Mamiya is anchored in the center distance. Note Yamato's after 460mm main battery gun turret, and superfiring 155-mm secondary battery gun turret.

 (IJN Photo)

Crewmen do calisthenics on the forward deck of the Japanese battleship Musashi.  The ship's wide beam and upward sloping bow is evident in this photo.  Overview of 18.1-inch forward turrets.

 (Tobei Shiraishi Photo)

The Japanese battleship Musashi leaving Brunei, Borneo, in 1944, possibly on 22 October, when she departed to take part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Photographed by Japanese sailor Tobei Shiraishi from the destroyer Isokaze.

 (Hiroshi Arakawa Photo, via Kure Maritime History Science Museum)

The Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano, during trials in Tokyo Bay in 1944.

Shinano was the largest warship built up to May 1940.  As the third of the Yamato-class battleships, Shinano's partially complete hull was ordered to be converted to an aircraft carrier following Japan's disastrous loss of four of her original six fleet carriers at the Battle of Midway in mid-1942.  The advanced state of her construction prevented her conversion into a fleet carrier, so the IJN decided to convert her into a carrier that supported other carriers.

Her conversion was still not finished in November 1944 when she was ordered to sail from the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal to Kure Naval Base to complete fitting out and to transfer a load of 50 Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka rocket-propelled kamikaze flying bombs.  She was sunk en route, 10 days after commissioning, on 29 November 1944, by four torpedoes launched by the USS Archerfish.  Over a thousand sailors and civilians were rescued and 1,435 were lost, including her captain.  She remains the largest warship ever sunk by a submarine.

Shinano had a length of 265.8 meters (872 ft 1 in) overall, a beam of 36.3 meters (119 ft 1 in) and a draft of 10.3 meters (33 ft 10 in).  She dispalced 65,800 metric (64,800 long tons) at standard load, 69,151 metric tons (68,059 long tons) at normal load and 73,000 metric tons (72,000 long tons) at full load.  Shinano was the heaviest aircraft carrier yet built, a record she held until the 81,000-metric-ton (80,000-long-ton) USS Forrestal was launched in 1954.  She was designed for a crew of 2,400 officers and enlisted men.  The navy decided that Shinano would become a heavily armored support carrier, carrying reserve aircraft, fuel and ordnance in support of other carriers, rather than a fleet carrier.

Shinano was designed to load and fuel her aircraft on deck where it was safer for the ship; experiences in the Battles of Midway and the Coral Sea had demonstrated that the existing doctrine of fueling and arming their aircraft below decks was a real danger to the carriers if they were attacked while doing so.  Much of Shinano's hangar was left open for better ventilation, although steel shutters could close off most of the hangar sides if necessary.  This also allowed ordnance or burning aircraft to be jettisoned into the sea, something that the earlier carriers could not do with their enclosed hangars.

The ship's organic air group was intended to consist of 18 Mitsubishi A7M Repp? (Sam) fighters (plus two in storage), 18 Aichi B7A Ryusei (Grace) torpedo-dive bombers (plus two in storage), and 6 Nakajima C6N Saiun (Myrt) reconnaissance aircraft (plus one in storage).  The remainder of the hangar space would have held up to 120 replacement aircraft for other carriers and land bases.  Wikipedia.