The Ships of the Japanese Striking Force

June 03, 2017

The success of pulling off the attack on the Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 wasn’t a miracle. The Imperial Japanese Navy employed vessels that made up the well-oiled task force that crossed the Pacific to launch the two waves of Japanese fighters and bombers to lay waste to the US Naval Base and the battleships moored there.

In total, the Pearl Harbor Striking Force consisted of six aircraft carriers, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, two battleships, nine destroyers, eight tankers, 23 fleet submarines and five midget subs, and of that force, only four of the mini subs were lost. The luck of the Japanese Navy wouldn't last forever, however, and while the mighty ships returned unscathed from the surprise attack on the unsuspecting American fleet, surviving the course of the war proved far more difficult.

With the US Navy far from permanently crippled, the Japanese were met with heavy resistance in the Pacific Theater that eventually led to the destruction of most of the high-profile vessels that had taken part in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The following ships helped in the success of the Pearl Harbor attack, only to be faced with American force later in the war.

The Lost Ships of Japan’s Navy

Japanese Carrier Hiryu just before sinking

The mighty aircraft carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy transported the bombers and fighters within range of Pearl Harbor, allowing the attack to go off without a hitch. The Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu all met the same fate, crippled and sunk by planes that departed from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise during the Battle of Midway. Of the six Japanese carriers that made up the Pearl Harbor Striking Force, only the Shokaku and the Zuikaku weren’t sunk near Midway Island.

The Tone and the Chickuma were two protected cruisers, part of the Japanese Pearl Harbor task force and, much like the aircraft carriers they accompanied, would not survive the war.


USS Cavalla (SS-244)

American aircraft were busy during the war and were responsible for the sinking of many other Japanese ships, but the battleship USS Washington and the submarines CavallaHarderRedfin, Growler, and Sealion also took part in scuttling many of Japan’s ships. Among the ships destroyed by this pairing of battleships and submarines were the Kirishima, the Arare, and the Urakaze.

Out of the nine destroyers of the Pearl Harbor strike force, all were destroyed by the end of the war, most taken down by American aircraft. The one surviving destroyer was the Ushio, which became known as the only Japanese ship from the Pearl Harbor task force that wasn’t later sunk during the war. In 1948, after the Japanese surrender, the badly damaged destroyer was sold for scrap, effectively removing any trace of the Japanese Pearl Harbor Striking Force from existence.

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