Yamato: Japan’s Biggest Battleship

August 04, 2017

We spend so much time discussing the American battleships that were destroyed and damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack and those that fought in the Pacific all through World War II that it’s easy to forget that Japan had its own battleships. On December 16th, 1941, only nine days after the Pearl Harbor assault launched by Japanese aircraft, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned a new vessel, a huge battleship known as Yamato. Over 863 feet in length, she was outfitted with nine 46 cm, 45 Caliber Type-94 guns, which, at the time, were the largest ever fitted to a vessel of war.

The Service of the Battleship Yamato

After being commissioned in 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto adopted the Yamato as the flagship of the Combined Fleet, but she didn't join the main battleship group until May 27th, 1942, having spent the first half of 1942 participating in war games. The first battle action of the Yamato was at Midway, a battle that is historically known for being the turning point in the Pacific war and Japan’s biggest defeat.

After the defeat at Midway, Yamamoto returned to Kure with the bulk of the remaining fleet, including the Yamato, before setting sail again in August. During a trek to the IJN base on Truk, Yamato came under fire from the American submarine USS Flying Fish, but the four torpedoes missed their target, allowing the her to continue her service in the Imperial navy.

Throughout the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Yamato remained at Truk due to a lack of munitions and heavy consumption of fuel that the Japanese could not afford. By February of 1943, after a year of seeing very little action, the Yamato was replaced by the Musashi as flagship and it wasn’t until the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Battle of Leyte Gulf that she engaged the American Navy again.

Battleship Yamato

Explosion of the Battleship Yamato April 7, 1945

The Battleship Yamato almost survived to the end of the World War II, but Operation Ten-Go proved to be her final engagement. Just as the Japanese had done at Pearl Harbor, American bombers and fighters released a payload of bombs and torpedoes on the Imperial Navy’s warships. Not long after the American attack commenced, the Yamato suffered her first torpedo strike, followed by at least ten more which, together with six bomb hits, caused her to capsize and explode, claiming the lives of 3,055 of her crew.

Today, the wreck of the Yamato can be found 180 miles southwest of Kyushu, approximately 1,120 feet below the surface of the Pacific.

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