Tag Archive | Imperial Japanese Navy

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: “80 Sen,” or a young Yamamoto’s Italian Stallion

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: 80 Sen

NHHC Collection Photo # NH 83034

Here we see a crooked image from the files of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, likely a quick snapshot taken from the deck of a rented junk, showing the coastal defense ship (formerly classified as an armored cruiser, or junjokan) Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy as she sat at a Hong Kong mooring buoy, in October 1920. Note the Emperor’s chrysanthemum marking on the bow, and inquisitive members of her crew on the side– likely wondering just who was in the approaching small boat with the camera. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but this ship had once gone toe-to-toe with a much larger opponent and come out on top, although with the scars to show it.

If you like that photo, how about another two taken the same day, with her crew’s laundry drying and a picturesque junk added for Hong Kong flavor:

NH 83032

NH 83033

Anywho, you didn’t come here for Hong Kong laundry stories.

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, Nisshin (or Nissin, a name that roughly translates to “Japan”) was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20-knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up-to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister-ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Nisshin and her sistership Kasuga were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Mitra (Yard #130) and Roca (#129), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them Mariano Moreno and Rivadavia.

At some 8,500-tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364-feet long overall and were roughly the same speed and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

[Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.]

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664

Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. Photo credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over sticker shock, leaving the Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

Nisshin photographed at Genoa, Italy in January 1904. This ship was built in Italy by Ansaldo of Genoa and competed on January 17, 1904. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101923

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin (their names are taken from Meiji-period steam warships of the 1860s) set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904. The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, to include a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

From a different angle

Another view

Aft turret of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Starboard 12-pound gun of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Japanese cruiser Nisshin, listed as June 24, 1905, at Kure, which is just a month after Tsushima and may be an incorrect date as she looks almost brand new. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Greatly modified later with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore. She later took Imperial troops to Vladivostok in 1918 as part of the Allied Intervention into the Russian Civil War.

Nisshin during WWI. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

As for Nisshin, she also spent her time as a destroyer squadron leader on the lookout for the Kaiser’s wolves and was later dispatched to the Mediterranean as part of the Japanese 2nd Special Squadron (Suma-class cruiser Akashi, the cruiser Izumo, 8 Kaba-class destroyers and 4 Momo-class destroyers). Deployed in late 1917, the squadron was tasked with riding shotgun over Allied troopships steaming between Malta and Salonica and from Alexandria to Taranto and Marseille.

Photographed at Port Said, Egypt, on October 27, 1917. The early French mixed battery pre-dreadnought Jauréguiberry (1893-1934) can be seen at left background. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101922

In all, the force escorted nearly 800 ships and engaged German and Austrian subs something like 40 times (although without sinking any).
After the Armistice, selected crews from the Squadron marched in the 1919 victory parades in Paris and London.

To close out Japan’s involvement in the Great War, Nisshin returned home with seven captured German U-boats, (U-46, U-55, U-125, UC-90, UC-99, UB-125, and UB-143) after stops in Malta and other friendly ports along the way from England to Yokosuka, arriving there in June 1919. The former German boats went on to an uninteresting life of their own under the Kyokujitsu-ki, used for testing, salvage exercises and floating jetties. While most of these submarines were low-mileage vessels of little notoriety, U-46 (Hillebrand) and U-55 (Blue Max winner Willy Werner) were very successful during the war, accounting for 116 Allied vessels of some 273,000 tons between them.

IJN Nissin at Malta with captured German UC-90 U-boat, via IWM

Nisshin, photographed March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58666

Nisshin, photographed in March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58667

Japanese Cruiser Nisshin U-boats escorting surrendered German submarines allocated to Japan, March 1919, Malta, by Frank Henry Algernon Mason, via the IWM

Disarmed and largely relegated to training tasks, Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Her immediate sister, Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 then later raised and scrapped after the war. Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html

Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

Nisshin’s name was reused for use on a well-armed seaplane/midget submarine carrier that saw extensive action in WWII during the Guadalcanal campaign, where she was lost.  It has not been reused further.

Specs:

Jane 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

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72 years ago today: Fanaticism in a photo

admiral-ugaki-posing-before-his-final-kamikaze-mission-wwii-15-august-1945Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki on 15 August 1945, at age 55, on his last day in the Navy.

Ugaki graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1912, 9th in his class, and went on to serve the Emperor for the next 33 years including as a junior officer on the battlecruiser Kongō during WWI, service in Germany in the 1920s, passing through the Naval Staff College and serving as the Chief-of-Staff of the Combined Fleet under Yamamoto for the first half of WWII.

Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

A smiling Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

Following Yamamoto’s death, Ugaki was given the demotion of commanding the 1st Battleship Division (Nagato, Yamato, Musashi), which largely perished during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, then was transferred to command the kamikaze forces of the IJN Fifth Air Fleet. Spending the last year of the war cheering on barely trained young pilots as they took off in condemned planes with just enough fuel for a one-way flight.

Speaking of which, the day the Emperor announced  the official cease-fire order on 15 August, Ugaki climbed into the backseat of a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” (first image above) and led a failed 11-aircraft attack on the U.S. fleet. His remains were found later by Sailors of a U.S. amphibious landing craft along the beach on Iheyajima Island and buried in the sand, the last kamikaze.

Warship Wednesday December 10, 2014: The Japanese Saratoga

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger.

Warship Wednesday, December 10, 2014: The Japanese Saratoga

IJN Kaga 1930Here we see a wonderful colorized overhead shot of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s aircraft carrier Kaga as she steams in a deep blue sea in 1930. Note the huge twin 7.9-inch turrets up front just under her superimposed flight deck and the meatballs on the wingtips of the early Mitsubishi B1M torpedo bombers. This massive 812-foot long flattop was part of the backbone of Japanese Naval Aviation.

In 1922, the Empire built its first carrier, which was actually the purposely-built ship for that purpose with prior British and U.S. carriers being converted from other ships. This little 9,600-ton flattop, Hōshō, was the cradle of Japanese Naval Aviation much as the USS Langley was to the USN. Then followed two larger fleet carriers, which were actually able to fight. These were the 42,000-ton Akagi (converted from a battlecruiser hull in 1927), and the 38,000-ton Kaga (converted from a battleship hull in 1928). These two ships were comparable to the converted American battlecruisers-cum-carriers Lexington and Saratoga. Then came the experimental 10.500-ton light carrier Ryūjō (comparable to the too-small-for-fleet operations USS Ranger CV-4) whose poor design led to the development of the much better 20,000-ton purpose-built fleet carriers Soryu and Hiryū and follow-on 32,000-ton sisters Shōkaku and Zuikaku (who were roughly comparable in size and operation to the Yorktown-class carriers Yorktown, Enterprise, and Hornet completed at about the same time). A pair of slow light carriers converted from submarine tenders, Zuihō and Shōhō rounded out the Japanese fleet before the start of World War II in the Pacific, giving the Imperial Japanese Navy some 10 flattop-like ships at the start of the war to the American’s 8.

While the Japanese were able to commission another 10 flattops during the war itself (Ryūhō, Hiyō, Jun’yō, Chitose, Chiyoda, Unryū, Amagi, Katsuragi, Shinano and Taihō), these ships by and large were poorly constructed and in many cases never fully operational– a fact contrasted by the dozens of excellent Essex-class fleet carriers that the USN was able to field by the end of that conflict. No, the true flower of the Japanese Navy’s air arm was developed and at sea by December 7, 1941, and its sunrise would soon set.

Model of Battleship Kaga as she would have appeared.

Model of Battleship Kaga as she would have appeared.

Originally laid down 19 July 1920 as a leviathan 45,000-ton battleship that would have carried an amazing ten 16.2-inch guns in five twin turrets and been clad in up to 14-inches of sloping Vickers cemented armor (Japan was a British ally), the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 doomed her and sistership Tosa, both of which had already been launched but were more than a year away from completion, to the scrap heap that was world peace. Tosa was towed out to sea and used an a floating target to test the effectiveness of her new armor and arrangement– which led to lessons in how the later Yamato-class super-dreadnoughts were built. Had these ships been completed as battleships, they would have been at least equal to, if not more powerful than the latest U.S. ships of the day: the Colorado-class.

Kaga fitting out, 1928. Note the rear ducked funnel stack which would br reworked in 1935. Also note the two casemated 7.9-inch guns near the waterline and twin 5-inch AAA guns at maximum elevation near the top of the deck

Kaga fitting out, 1928. Note the rear ducked funnel stack which would be reworked in 1935. Also, note the two casemated 7.9-inch guns near the waterline and twin 5-inch AAA guns at a maximum elevation near the top of the deck

Kaga, the more complete of the two sat at Kawasaki Shipyard, Kobe while the Japanese Navy considered what to do with her. Two of the faster 30-knot Amagi class battlecruisers (Amagi and Akagi), also canceled due to the Washington Naval Treaty, were undergoing conversion to aircraft carriers much as the U.S. was converting their canceled USS Lexington and Saratoga hulls to flattops at the same time. However, an earthquake in Tokyo in Sept. 1923 produced stress cracks throughout the unfinished Amagi and she was hulked. This meant that the Kaga was given a last-minute reprieve from the breakers and completed to take the place of the already treaty-allowed battlecruiser-tuned carrier.

Kaga 1933, note the two distinctive 7.9-inch turrets, one trained out. Also the large mum of the IJN on the bow.

Kaga 1933, note the two distinctive 7.9-inch turrets, one trained out. Also the large mum of the IJN on the bow.

After an extensive conversion and completion process, Kaga joined the Combined Fleet 30 November 1929. She was a big girl, at over 38,000-tons full load. Only the slightly longer Akagi along with the U.S. Lexington and Saratoga were bigger and not by much (42,000-tons). A brace of 8 Kampon Type B boilers powered 4-geared turbines giving her over 127,000 horses under the hood, meaning she could race around at 26-knots if needed. Although capable of carrying up to 100 aircraft, she also had a very decent main gun armament of 10 7.9-inch 3rd Year Type naval guns installed in six casemates with a maximum elevation of 25 degrees limiting maximum range to 22 kilometers and two forward twin turrets with a maximum elevation of 70-degrees thus giving them the same 29 km range as those guns carried by heavy cruisers. Another 16 5-inch guns were carried in her secondary battery, thus giving her the same armament of both a heavy and light cruiser. She still carried an impressive 6-inches of armor belt, which in theory at least meant she could fight it out on the surface against a decent sized cruiser and likely win without having to launch an aircraft.

Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Kaga conducts air operations in 1937. On the deck are Mitsubishi B2M Type 89, Nakajima A2N Type 90, and Aichi D1A1 Type 94 aircraft

Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Kaga conducts air operations in 1937. On the deck are Mitsubishi B2M Type 89, Nakajima A2N Type 90, and Aichi D1A1 Type 94 aircraft

Speaking of aircraft, she had three flight decks, stacked upon one another. This allowed her the very sweet option of launching and recovering planes at the same time from the multiple decks. The topmost deck was covered in 1.5-inches of armor for added protection.

Kaga conducts air operations training 1930. upper deck are Mitsubishi B1M Type 13 bomber and Nakajima A1N Type 3 fighters are on the lower deck. Photo from Kure maritime museum

Kaga conducts air operations training in 1930. upper deck are Mitsubishi B1M Type 13 bomber and Nakajima A1N Type 3 fighters are on the lower deck. Photo from Kure maritime museum

Her first missions saw her fitted with up to 60 aircraft, all biplanes, to include Mitsubishi B1M3 torpedo bombers, Nakajima A1N fighters, and Mitsubishi 2MR reconnaissance aircraft. She participated in the first invasions of China, escorting troops of the Imperial Army to Shanghai.

There on Feb. 19, 1932, three planes from the Kaga took off and were met by U.S. Army Air Force reservist 2nd Lieutenant Robert Short who, flying a Boeing 218 P-12 prototype fighter as a volunteer pilot to the Chinese Air Force, smoked a Japanese plane in combat, killing one Lt. Kidokoro, IJN.

short

Two days later a six-plane stack including three Mitsubishi B1M3 bombers and three Nakajima A1N1 biplane fighters met Short once more and he killed flight leader Lt. Kotani, IJN, disrupting the attack. Regrouping, the two fighters engaged Short and one, piloted by Lt. Nokiji Ikuta, sent the 27-year old American down in flames.

The three successful fighter pilots after the combat on 22 February 1932 Ikuta is on left

The three successful fighter pilots after the combat on 22 February 1932 Ikuta is on left

It was Japan’s first-ever air-to-air victory and would not be the last American life that Kaga would cut short.

The shootdown was widely celebrated in Japan for more than a decade.

“The American pilot, Robert Short shot down over Shanghai, 1932.” Painting by Murakami Matsujiro

While in China, the Japanese realized that Kaga had a crapload of flaws and sent her back to the yard. When she emerged, she only had a single flight deck supplemented by a large hangar deck, had lost her 7.9-inch turrets, had a new funnel arrangement, and picked up an island control tower on her deck. Engineering improvements increased her speed to over 28-knots and her hangar space was improved to where she could carry as many as 103 aircraft although never did.

How she would have looked post-mod

Back in Chinese waters, throughout 1937-38 her air group flew thousands of sorties as the ship covered more than 30,000 miles in constant shuttling up and down the coast to support the Japanese Army ashore.

“Kaga Carrier Aichi D1A1 Dive Bombers in Bombing Operation in China, 1937”. ´Painting by Murakami Matsujiro

During this time, her pilots mixed it up regularly with Chinese pilots flying American Curtis Hawk III aircraft, bagging 10 of the outnumbered fliers.

Kaga after her modifications. Note how the funnel now shifts steam/smoke amidships just abaft of the island

Kaga after her modifications. Note how the funnel now shifts steam/smoke amidships just abaft of the island

On 12 December 1937, three Yokosuka B4Y Type-96 bombers and nine Nakajima A4N Type-95 fighters left her deck to attack a group of Standard Oil-chartered Chinese oil tankers off Nanking. While attacking the merchant ships, the planes also took the 191-foot river gunboat USS Panay (PR-5) of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet’s Yangtze River Patrol under fire, sinking her in shallow water without provocation.

12120505

Storekeeper First Class Charles L. Ensminger, Standard Oil Tanker Captain Carl H. Carlson, and Italian reporter Sandro Sandri were killed, Coxswain Edgar C. Hulsebus died later that night and 43 sailors, and five civilians were wounded.

It would not be the last American lives she would take.

Kaga steams through heavy north Pacific seas, enroute to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa early December 1941. Carrier Zuikaku is at right. Frame from a motion picture film taken from the carrier Akagi. The original film was found on Kiska Island after U.S. recapture in 1943. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Kaga steams through heavy North Pacific seas, en route to attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa early December 1941. Carrier Zuikaku is at right. Frame from a motion picture film taken from the carrier Akagi. The original film was found on Kiska Island after the U.S. recapture in 1943. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

 

Lieutenant Ichiro Kitajima, group leader of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Kaga's Nakajima B5N bomber group, briefs his flight crews about the Pearl Harbor raid, which will take place the next day. A diagram of Pearl Harbor and the aircraft's attack plan is chalked on the deck. Photo Chihaya Collection via Wenger via Wiki

Lieutenant Ichiro Kitajima, group leader of the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Kaga’s Nakajima B5N bomber group, briefs his flight crews about the Pearl Harbor raid, which will take place the next day. A diagram of Pearl Harbor and the aircraft’s attack plan is chalked on the deck. Photo Chihaya Collection via Wenger via Wiki

December 7, 1941, some 73-years ago this week, Kaga was part of an impressive six-carrier striking force laying just off of Oahu, Hawaii Territory. Although a declaration of war had not been delivered, 26 Nakajima B5N Kates typically armed with Type 91 torpedoes modified to run in the shallow water of the harbor escorted by 9 Mitsubishi A6M Zeros from the carrier accompanied the first wave of Japanese aircraft into Pearl looking for American battleships. Soon after that wave, a second was launched consisting of 26 Aichi D3A Val dive bombers armed with 550 lb. general-purpose bombs and 9 more Zeroes that were tasked with attacking aircraft and hangars on Ford Island.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.

The photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. The view looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right-center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.

Of these, 15 did not return, making Kaga‘s air group losses of 31 aviators the heaviest of the Japanese attack. Of the 55 that did make it back, over half were damaged. This is not that surprising as, of the 353 Japanese naval aircraft that attacked Hawaii that day; nearly every fourth one came from Kaga while just over half of the Japanese planes scratched came from the carrier.

kaga air wing Japanese Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber (Val) is examined by U.S. Navy personnel following its recovery from Pearl Harbor

Japanese Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber (Val) is examined by U.S. Navy personnel following its recovery from Pearl Harbor shortly after the attack. This plane was relatively intact, except that its tail section was broken away, and its recovery helped intelligence efforts. It came from the aircraft carrier Kaga

However, they inflicted a terrible price on the harbor on that infamous day. Her Zeros reported strafing more than 20 planes on the ground and her bomber and torpedo planes reported hits made by them on the battleships Nevada, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, West Virginia, and Maryland. While there is no way to know for sure, likely, a large portion of the 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others wounded came from Kaga‘s group as two-thirds of the torpedo planes that attacked battleship row in the first wave came from the flattop.

She then followed up this attack with supporting Japanese attacks in the Dutch East Indies and Australia, with her air group raiding Darwin.

June 1942 found her off Midway Island as part of Yamamoto’s final push to break the back of the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. Along with her old companion Akagi, two other Pearl Harbor veterans, Soryu and Hiryu joined Kaga for the epic naval battle. Of 248 Japanese carrier aircraft deployed, nearly a third flew from the Kaga.

Although her Zeros helped destroy a number of American attack squadrons wholesale, and her Vals and Kates bombed the isolated island, there was a final reckoning in the form of a 25 plane attack of SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the USS Enterprise that caught Kaga and her three companion carriers unaware with her decks full of torpedoes, bombs, aviation gas, and planes out in the open. At 10:22 am on June 4, one 1,000-pound and at least three 500-pound bombs from Enterprise’s VS-6 hit her and within minutes, the chain reaction of secondary explosions had the ship ablaze.


After a nine-hour funeral pyre, the Japanese sank her with a volley of torpedoes in more than 16,000 feet of seawater some 350-miles northwest of Midway. More than half of her complement, including dozens of her unreplaceable veteran aviators, rode her to the bottom of the Pacific.

The destroyers had picked up some 700 of her crew from the debris-clogged waters. These men became a pariah in their own service. Kaga ‘s surviving crewmembers were restricted incommunicado to an airbase in Kyūshū for months after returning to Japan, to help conceal word of the Midway defeat from the Japanese public and were then transferred back to frontline units without being allowed to contact the family.

In 1988, a grove of cedars along with a monument was erected to the carrier in the old Higashiyama Navy Cemetery, now part of Higashi Park in Sasebo City. Parts of her wreckage were found in 1999 by a U.S. Navy survey ship although none was recovered.

As for Lieutenant Ikuta, the Japanese ace who shot down Robert Short over China in 1932, against all odds, he was one of the very minuscule groups of Imperial Naval aviators who survived the war and in 1960; he tracked down Shot’s elderly mother in the United States and begged her forgiveness.

She accepted.

Specs:

Kaga in her final Pearl Harbor-Midway form

Kaga in her final Pearl Harbor-Midway form

Displacement: 38,200 long tons (38,813 t) (standard)
Length: 247.65 m (812 ft. 6 in)
Beam: 32.5 m (106 ft. 8 in)
Draft: 9.48 m (31 ft. 1 in)
Installed power: 127,400 shp (95,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4-shaft Kampon geared turbines
8 Kampon Type B boilers
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Endurance: 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 1,708 (after reconstruction)
Armament: 10 × 200 mm (7.9 in) guns,
8 × 2 – 127 mm (5.0 in) guns,
11 × 2 – 25 mm (0.98 in) AA guns
Armor: Belt: 152 mm (6.0 in)
Deck: 38 mm (1.5 in)
Aircraft carried: 90 (total); 72 (+ 18 in storage) (1936) 18 Mitsubishi A6M Zero, 27 Aichi D3A, 27 Nakajima B5N (+ 9 in storage) (Dec. 1941)

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