Tag Archive | Japanese cruiser

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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Warship Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018: Meiji’s favorite cruiser

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time 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, Jan. 10, 2018: Meiji’s favorite cruiser

Photo by famed Boston Herald cameraman Leslie Jones via The Boston Public Library, colorized by my friend and the most excellent Postales Navales https://www.facebook.com/Postales-Navales-100381150365520/

Here we see the lead ship of her class of Japanese armored cruisers, IJN Asama, leaving Boston harbor for New York, 26 September 1927, during a happier time in Japanese-U.S. relations. She held her head high in three wars, taking on all comers, and in the end, from her award date to the time she was broken, she gave the Empire a full half-century of service.

Ordered as part of the “Six-Six Fleet” in the days immediately after the Japanese crushed the Manchu Chinese empire on the water in 1894-95, Asama (named after Mount Asama) and her sistership Tokiwa were ordered from Armstrong Whitworth in Britain.

Some 9,700-tons and carrying a mixture of Armstrong 8-inch/45cal main guns and Elswick 6″/40 secondaries, these two 21-knot cruisers were meant to scout for the new battleships also ordered from her London ally to counter the growing Imperial Russian Navy’s Pacific fleet– remember at the time the Tsar had just cheated the Japanese out of Port Arthur and was eyeing both Manchuria proper and Korea as well. They were designed by naval architect Sir Philip Watts as an update to his 8,600-ton Chilean cruiser O’Higgins.

Asama shortly on trials, 1899 NH 58986

ASAMA (Japanese cruiser, 1898-1947) Starboard bow view taken in British waters soon after completion in 1899. Description: Catalog #: NH 86665

Completed within six weeks of each other in the Spring of 1899, the two Japanese first-class cruisers were considered a success from the start– Asama made 22.1 knots on trials– and arrived at Yokosuka by Summer. Emperor Meiji himself, the nation’s 122nd, used Asama for his flagship during the Imperial Naval Review in 1900 and the ship was dispatched back to Britain two years later for the Coronation Review for King Edward VII at Spithead.

photograph (Q 22402) Japanese Cruiser ASAMA, 1902. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205262917

When war came she was in the vanguard.

The very first surface engagement of any significance, besides the opening raid on Port Arthur itself, saw Asama and a host of other cruisers under RADM Uryū Sotokichi confront the Russian cruiser Varyag and the gunboat Korietz in Chemulpo Bay, Korea on 9 February 1904.

Nihon kaigun daishori Banzaii! Battle of Chemulpo Bay 1904 Russian protected cruiser Varyag and the aging gunboat Korietz ablaze and sinking. Japanese cruisers Asama (foreground), Naniwa, Takachiho, Chiyoda, Akashi and Niitaka (by Kobayashi Kiyochika)

The action did not go well for the Russians, with both of the Tsar’s ships on the bottom at the end of the fight and no “official” casualties reported by the Japanese.

Asama later engaged the ships of the 1st Russian Pacific Squadron at the Battle of the Yellow Sea in August and the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons (the former Baltic Fleet) in the much more pivotal carnage of Tsushima. In the latter, she traded shots with the Russian battlewagon Oslyabya and came away with three 12-inch holes in her superstructure to show for it. Following the war, Meiji once again used Asama to review his victorious fleet in Tokyo Bay despite more powerful and modern ships being available for the task.

Her next war found Asama searching for German surface raiders and Adm. Von Spee’s Pacific Squadron in August 1914, a task that brought her across the Pacific and in close operation with British and French allies– as well as cautious Americans. In was in Mexican waters on 31 January 1915 that she holed herself and eventually grounded, her boiler room flooded.

Photographed off the Mexican Pacific coast (possibly Mazatlán) from aboard USS RALEIGH (C-8, 1892-1921). The original caption states, “RALEIGH standing by until ASAMA leaves harbor” and also that the ASAMA was aground. ASAMA does appear slightly down by the head here. Description: Catalog #: NH 93394

ASAMA (Japanese cruiser, 1898-1947) Port beam view. Probably taken during salvage operations in mid-1915 after ASAMA had grounded in San Bartolome Bay, California. Catalog #: NH 86657

It wasn’t until May that she was refloated with the help of a crew of shipwrights from Japan and, after more substantial repairs at the British naval base in Esquimalt BC, she limped into the Home Islands that December, her war effectively over until she could be completely refit and given new boilers, a job not completed until March 1917.

After the war, the historic ship was converted to a coast defense vessel to take away her cruiser classification (the Naval Treaties were afoot) with the resulting removal of most of her 8-inch and 6-inch guns. She then was tasked throughout the 1920s and 30s with a series of long-distance training cruises which saw her roam the globe– that is where our Boston picture at the top of the post comes from.

Photo by famed Boston Herald cameraman Leslie Jones via The Boston Public Library, showing Asama in Boston Harbor in front of the Custom House Tower, Sept 1927. This was during Prohibition and several USCG 75-foot cutters are seen in the foreground.

ASAMA (Japanese cruiser, 1898) Photographed during a visit to an American port between the wars. Note Naval ensign, also 8″ guns. National Archives 80-G-188754

ASAMA (Japanese cruiser, 1898-1947) Overhead view taken during coaling operations between 1922 and 1937.NH 86666

ASAMA (Japanese cruiser, 1898-1947) Caption: Starboard beam view took off Diamond Head, prior to 1937. Description: Catalog #: NH 86650

Then came the night of 13 October 1935, when, while operating in the Inland Sea north north-west of the Kurushima Strait, she ran aground again and was severely damaged. Though repaired, her hull was considered too battered to continue her training cruises and she was converted to a more sedate pierside role at Kure as a floating classroom for midshipmen.

When her third war came in 1941, she was used as a barracks ship and largely disarmed, her guns no doubt passed on to equip new and converted escort craft. She avoided destruction by the Allies and was captured at the end of the war, eventually stricken on 30 November 1945.

ASAMA (Japanese training ship, ex-CA) At Kure, circa October 1945. Collection of Captain D.L. Madeira, 1978. Catalog #: NH 86279

The old girl was towed away and scrapped locally in 1947 at the Innoshima shipyard.

Her sister, Tokiwa, was converted to a minelayer and sowed thousands of those deadly seeds across the Pacific. Up armed with batteries of AAA guns and air search radars, she made it through the war until 9 August 1945 when she was plastered by dive bombers from TF38 while in Northern Japan’s Mutsu Bay and beached to prevent losing her entirely. She was scrapped in Hokkaidō at the same time as Asama.

Specs:

ASAMA Port beam view. Probably taken between 1910 and 1918. Ship in background is cruiser TSUKUBA. NH 86654

Displacement: 9,514–9,557 long tons (9,667–9,710 t)
Length: 442 ft. 0 in (134.72 m) (o/a)
Beam: 67 ft. 2 in (20.48 m)
Draft: 24 ft. 3 in–24 ft. 5 in (7.4–7.43 m)
Installed power:
18,000 hip (13,000 kW)
12 Cylindrical boilers (replaced by 16 Miyabara boilers in 1917)
Propulsion:
2 Shafts
2 triple-expansion Humphry’s, Tennant steam engines
1406 tons coal
Speed: 21+ knots (39 km/h; 24 mph), 19 by 1904, 16 by 1933
Range: 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 676-726
Armament:
2 × twin 20.3 cm/45 Type 41 Armstrong naval guns
14 × single QF 6 inch /40 Elswick naval guns
12 × single QF 76mm (12 pounder) 12 cwt Armstrong naval guns
8 × single QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns
5 × single 457 mm (18.0 in) torpedo tubes, (1 bow, 4 beam) (removed 1917)
Armor: Harvey nickel steel
Waterline belt: 89–178 mm (3.5–7.0 in)
Deck: 51 mm (2.0 in)
Gun Turret: 160 mm (6.3 in)
Barbette: 152 mm (6.0 in)
Casemate: 51–152 mm (2.0–6.0 in)
Conning tower: 356 mm (14.0 in)
Bulkhead: 127 mm (5.0 in)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday July 6, 2016: Of British frogmen and Japanese holy mountains

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time 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 July 6, 2016: Of British frogmen and Japanese holy mountains

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

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

Here we see His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Ship Takao, the leader of her class, who would go on to fight giants only to be crippled by midgets.

Beginning in the 1920s, the Imperial Japanese Navy had progressed from their traditional enemies– the Chinese, Russians, and Imperial Germans– to the prospect of taking on the British and Americans in the Pacific. This led to new battleships and carriers.

To screen these ships, heavy cruisers were needed. This led to the eight ships that included the 9,500-ton Furutaka-class, 8,900-ton Aoba-class, and 14,500-ton Myōkō-class heavy cruisers built between 1925-29. Building on the lessons learned from these, the Navy ordered four impressive 15,490-ton Takao-class ships, each mounting 10 20 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns (the heaviest armament of any heavy cruiser in the world at the time) and buttressed by up to five inches of armor plate.

Bow turrets of Takao about 1932. Via Navweaps

Bow turrets of Takao about 1932. Via Navweaps

Capable of making 35+ knots, these were bruisers and if their main guns did not catch you then their eight tubes of Type 90 (and later Type 93) torpedoes would.

Laid down at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on 28 April 1927, class leader Takao was named after the holy mountain in Kyoto which is home to the Jingo-ji temple that dates back to the 9th Century.

She was commissioned 20 May 1932 and soon three sisters followed her into service.

IJN heavy cruiser Takao as published in The Air and Sea Co. - The Air and Sea, vol.2, no.6 1933

IJN heavy cruiser Takao as published in The Air and Sea Co. – The Air and Sea, vol.2, no.6 1933

Japanese heavy cruiser ship: H.I.J.M.S. TAKAO Catalog #: NH 111672

Japanese heavy cruiser ship: H.I.J.M.S. TAKAO Catalog #: NH 111672

May.11,1937 Takao class Heavy-cruiser Takao at Sukumo Bay. Note her extensive bridge and mast location. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

May.11,1937 Takao class Heavy-cruiser Takao at Sukumo Bay. Note her extensive bridge and mast location. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

Proving top-heavy, Takao and to a lesser degree her sisters were modified by having their bridge reduced, main mast was relocated aft, and hull budges added to improve stability.

World War II era recognition drawings, showing the configuration of Takao (1932-1945) and Atago (1932-1944), as modernized in 1938-39. The original print came from Office of Naval Intelligence files. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97770

World War II era recognition drawings, showing the configuration of Takao (1932-1945) and Atago (1932-1944), as modernized in 1938-39. The original print came from Office of Naval Intelligence files. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97770

July 14, 1939 Takao-class Heavy cruiser "Takao" on sea trials at Tateyama after reconstruction. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

July 14, 1939 Takao-class Heavy cruiser “Takao” on sea trials at Tateyama after reconstruction. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter

1939 Yokosuka

1939 Yokosuka

Takao cut her teeth patrolling off the coast of China during military operations there and on Dec. 8, 1941 fired her first shots in anger against Americans when she plastered the shoreline of the Lingayen Gulf on Luzon in the Philippines.

Moving into the Dutch East Indies operating with Cruiser Division 4, she quickly sank five Dutch merchantmen, the British minesweepers HMS Scott Harley and M-51, the Clemson-class destroyer USS Pillsbury (DD-227) with all hands, and the Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra in the first part of 1942.

During the Battle of Midway, Takao and her sister Maya took part in the diversionary task force to capture Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians.

November 1942 found her off Guadalcanal with Adm.Nobutake Kondō’s task force built around the battleship Kirishima, Takao and her sister Atago, light cruisers Nagara and Sendai, and nine destroyers. There they collided with TF-64 under Admiral Willis A. Lee made up of the new battleships USS Washington (BB-56) and South Dakota (BB-57), together with four destroyers.

By Lukasz Kasperczyk

By Lukasz Kasperczyk

IJN Takao in Action

In the ensuing melee, Takao hit SoDak multiple times with shells, knocking out her radar and fire controls and fired Long Lance torpedoes at Washington but missed. Kirishima sank and the battle was a strategic victory for Halsey and the U.S. fleet.

For the next year, she spent her life on the run, hiding from the ever-increasing U.S. submarine force while she helped evac Guadalcanal and hid out at Truk. During the war her armament and sensor package changed a number of times (as evidenced by the plans under the specs section below).

In Nov. 1943 Takao was shellacked by SBDs Dauntless from USS Saratoga, dodged torps from USS Dace the next April, then sucked up two torpedoes from USS Darter that October which left her unable to do much more than limp around the ocean at 10-knots.

By Halloween 1944, Takao was the last of her class. Sisterships Atago, Maya and Chokai were all sunk (two by submarines) within the same week during the Battle of Leyte Gulf/Samar by U.S. forces.

A wreck, by Nov. 1944 she was largely immobile at Singapore, afloat with nothing but a skeleton crew on board and no ammunition for her large guns. Her value strictly as a floating and heavily camouflaged anti-air battery.

Crucero pesado Takao en 1945 - Lukasz Kasperczyk

Crucero Takao en 1945 – Lukasz Kasperczyk

She was joined there by Myōkō, who like Takao and the rest of the available Combined Fleet, had participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf which left her with an air-dropped torpedo in her hull and another, picked up from the submarine USS Bergall as the heavy cruiser staggered off to Southeast Asia, left her irreparable at Singapore without more materials, and impossible to tow to Japan.

Operation Struggle

During the war, the British built a more than two dozen 54-foot long X/XE/XT-class midget submarines. Capable of just a short 24-36 hour sortie, they had to be launched close to their target (think SMS Tirpitz) by a tender ship and, after penetrating an enemy harbor, frogmen would attach demo charges to ships belonging to the Emperor or Der Fuhrer.

diagram_600They carried a crew of four: typically a Lieutenant in command, with a Sub-Lieutenant as deputy, an Engine Room Artificer in charge of the mechanical side and a Seaman or Leading-Seaman. At least one of them was qualified as a diver.

In January 1945, the converted freighter HMS Bonaventure (F139) set sail for the Pacific with six XE-type submarines on her deck, arriving at Brisbane, Australia on 27 April– as the European war ended. The first action these Lilliputian subs saw was in an attempt to cut the Japanese underwater telegraph lines off Borneo.

In Hervey Bay, Queensland, XE3 prepares for trials July 1945

In Hervey Bay, Queensland, XE3 prepares for trials July 1945

Warming up for more daring missions, the Brits launched Operation Struggle in August in which Bonaventure sailed for the coast near Singapore and launched HMS XE1 and XE3 into the waves with a mission to sink the (already busted) Japanese cruisers Myōkō and Takao respectively. Escorted closer by the S-class submarine HMS Stygian, the tiny XE boats took all afternoon and night to penetrate the harbor defenses.

Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser RNR, commanded the three-man crew inside XE-3 when they found Takao, then lying in the Johore Straits to guard the entrance to occupied Singapore, and what he saw was surreal.

The plates of the hull and the rivets of the big cruiser could be seen very clearly through the porthole of XE-3 in the 18-feet of seawater between the bottom of the ship and the mud. One side tank held 2-tons of amatol high explosive, the second one held six 200-pound limpet mines, and Fraser held two “spare” limpets in the casing of the midget sub.

tako attack

After setting all of their charges, Fraser surfaced the tiny sub not too far off from the cruiser so the crew could see the vessel for what they thought was the last time, “I thought they might like to see it,” he said in a post-war interview.

Six hours later the charges tore a gaping hole in the cruiser’s hull, putting her turrets out of action, damaging her range finders, flooding numerous compartments and immobilizing the cruiser for the remainder of the war. She settled six feet six feet deeper into the harbor though her 01 deck was still above water even at high tide and was still technically afloat.

Both Magennis and Fraser gained the Victoria Cross for this hazardous mission, with the other two crew members also decorated ( Sub-Lieutenant William James Lanyon Smith, RNZNVR, who was at the controls of XE3 during the attack, received the DSO; Engine Room Artificer Third Class Charles Alfred Reed, who was at the wheel, received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal).

James Magennis VC and Ian Fraser VC WWII IWM 26940A

James Magennis VC and Ian Fraser VC WWII IWM 26940A

A week later, after aerial recon showed the Takao was still in the harbor– though nearly on the bottom of it– Fraser and his crew were readying a second go round on the ship and the Myōkō that was postponed by the dropping of the A-bomb and then later canceled once the surrender was announced.

This, Fraser said, made him a big fan of the Bomb and left him with a rough attitude towards Japanese.

Both Myōkō and Takao surrendered to the British when they arrived in Singapore in force on Sept. 21 as part of Operation Tiderace, and when the RN got a closer look at the two found out the truth about their condition.

Fraser even returned to inspect the Takao in Singapore himself just after the end of the war. The beaten cruiser, however, would never see Japan again. She was patched up and scuttled 27 October 1946 by British Forces, with the Crown Colony-class light cruiser HMS Newfoundland (59) sending her into very deep water by the judicious use of naval gunfire and torpedoes– likely one of the last time a cruiser used a torpedo on another.

Her crew was repatriated to Japan in 1947.

As for XE-3, she was scrapped along with most of the other British midgets with only XE8 “Expunger” saved and put on public display at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.

For Takao, little remains.

A 1930 1:100 scale builder’s model of the Takao, captured in Japan in 1945, is in the collection of the Naval History and Heritage Command and has been displayed off an on for generations.

Catalog #: NH 84079

Catalog #: NH 84079. Note her original mast and bridge.

Takao has, however, inspired a number of pieces of naval art, mainly for model covers over the past several decades.

39070 14705281 1268706194823 Japanese heavy cruiser Takao

In the UK, the Imperial War Museum has the frogman swim suit worn on by Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis RN, VC when as the diver of the midget submarine XE3 (commanded by Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser RNR) he attached limpet explosive charges to the hull of  ‘Takao‘, as well as a white IJN captain’s field cap recovered from the vessel.

Underwater swim suit Mark III, Royal Navy used in Takao raid

The IWM also has a 1980 interview with XE 3 skipper Lt. Comm. Ian Fraser, V.C., D S.C. that includes his own account of the Takao strike (reel 2 and 3).

He wrote a book about his WWII exploits, which is long out of print but is still very much in circulation.

frogman vc
Specs:

Takao plans via shipbucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/Japan

Takao’s ever-changing plans via shipbucket

Displacement:
9,850 t (9,690 long tons) (standard)
15,490 t (15,250 long tons) (full load)
Length:
192.5 m (632 ft.)
203.76 m (668.5 ft.) overall
Beam:
19 m (62 ft.)
20.4 m (67 ft.)
Draft:
6.11 m (20.0 ft)
6.32 m (20.7 ft.)
Propulsion:
4 shaft geared turbine
12 Kampon boilers
132,000 shp (98,000 kW)
Speed: 35.5–34.2 knots (65.7–63.3 km/h; 40.9–39.4 mph)
Range: 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 773
Armament:
Original layout:
10 × 20 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns (5×2)
4 × Type 10 12 cm high angle guns (4×1)
8 × 61 cm torpedo tubes (4×2)
2 × 40 mm AA guns (2×1)
2 x 7.7 mm Type 92 MG (2×1)
Final Layout (Takao):
10 × 20 cm/50 3rd Year Type naval guns (5×2)
4 × Type 89 12.7 cm (5 in) dual-purpose guns, (4×1)
66 × Type 96 25 mm (1.0 in) AA guns (26×1, 12×2, 24×3)
4 × Type 93 13.2 mm (0.5 in) AA machine guns
Type 93 torpedoes (4×4 + 8 reloads)
depth charges
Armor:
main belt: 38 to 127 mm
main deck: 37 mm (max)
upper deck: 12.7 to 25 mm
bulkheads: 76 to 100 mm
turrets: 25 mm
Aircraft carried:
One Aichi E13A1 “Jake”
Two F1M2 “Pete” seaplanes
Aviation facilities: 2 catapults

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