Japanese aircraft carrier Shōkaku

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Japanese aircraft carrier shokaku 1941.jpg
Shōkaku upon completion, 23 August 1941
History
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Japan
Name:Shōkaku
Namesake:翔鶴, "Soaring Crane"
Laid down: 12 December 1937
Launched: 1 June 1939
Commissioned: 8 August 1941
Fate: Sunk by American submarine USS Cavalla on 19 June 1944
General characteristics
Class and type: Shōkaku-class aircraft carrier
Displacement:
  • 25,675 long tons (26,087 t) (standard)
  • 32,105 long tons (32,620 t) (full load)
Length: 257.5 m (844 ft 10 in)
Beam: 26 m (85 ft 4 in)
Draft: 8.8 m (28 ft 10 in)
Installed power:
  • 160,000  shp (120,000 kW)
  • 8 × boilers
Propulsion:
Speed: 34.2  kn (63.3 km/h; 39.4 mph)
Range: 9,700  nmi (18,000 km; 11,200 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement: 1,660
Armament:
Aircraft carried:

Shōkaku (Japanese : 翔鶴, "Soaring Crane") was an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the lead ship of her class. Along with her sister ship Zuikaku, she took part in several key naval battles during the Pacific War, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands before being torpedoed and sunk by a U.S. submarine at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. [2]

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

Aircraft carrier Warship that serves as a seagoing airbase

An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.

Imperial Japanese Navy Naval branch of the Empire of Japan

The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 until 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed after the dissolution of the IJN.

Contents

Design

Shokaku being launched in heavy rain at Yokosuka, 1 June 1939. Shokaku launch.jpg
Shōkaku being launched in heavy rain at Yokosuka, 1 June 1939.

The Shōkaku-class carriers were part of the same program that also included the Yamato-class battleships. No longer restricted by the provisions of the Washington Naval Treaty, which expired in December 1936, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was free to incorporate all those features they deemed most desirable in an aircraft carrier, namely high speed, a long radius of action, heavy protection and a large aircraft capacity. Shōkaku was laid down at Yokosuka Dockyard on 12 December 1937, launched on 1 June 1939, and commissioned on 8 August 1941.

<i>Yamato</i>-class battleship Class of Japanese super battleships

The Yamato-class battleships were battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) constructed and operated during World War II. Displacing 72,000 long tons (73,000 t) at full load, the vessels were the heaviest battleships ever constructed. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, nine 460-millimetre naval guns, each capable of firing 1,460 kg (3,220 lb) shells over 42 km (26 mi). Two battleships of the class were completed, while a third (Shinano) was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction.

Battleship large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns

A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.

Washington Naval Treaty treaty among the major nations that had won World War I

The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was a treaty signed during 1922 among the major nations that had won World War I, which agreed to prevent an arms race by limiting naval construction. It was negotiated at the Washington Naval Conference, held in Washington, D.C., from November 1921 to February 1922, and it was signed by the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy, and Japan. It limited the construction of battleships, battlecruisers and aircraft carriers by the signatories. The numbers of other categories of warships, including cruisers, destroyers and submarines, were not limited by the treaty, but those ships were limited to 10,000 tons displacement each.

With an efficient modern design, a displacement of about 32,000 long tons (33,000 t), and a top speed of 34  kn (63 km/h; 39 mph), Shōkaku could carry 70–80 aircraft. Her enhanced protection compared favorably to that of contemporary Allied aircraft carriers and enabled Shōkaku to survive serious damage during the battles of the Coral Sea and Santa Cruz. [3]

Knot (unit) unit of speed

The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h. The ISO standard symbol for the knot is kn. The same symbol is preferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); kt is also common, especially in aviation where it is the form recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The knot is a non-SI unit. Worldwide, the knot is used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation—for example, a vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels approximately one minute of geographic latitude in one hour.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands battle

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, fought during 25–27 October 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japan as the Battle of the South Pacific, was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. It was also the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the lengthy and strategically important Guadalcanal campaign. As in the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Eastern Solomons, the ships of the two adversaries were rarely in sight or gun range of each other. Instead, almost all attacks by both sides were mounted by carrier- or land-based aircraft.

Hull

In appearance, Shōkaku resembled an enlarged Hiryū, though with a 35.3 m (116 ft) longer overall length, 4.6 m (15 ft) wider beam and a larger island. As in Hiryū, the forecastle was raised to the level of the upper hangar deck to improve seakeeping. She also had a wider, more rounded and heavily flared bow which kept the flight deck dry in most sea conditions. [4]

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Hiryū</i> aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy

Hiryū was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the 1930s. The only ship of her class, she was built to a modified Sōryū design. Her aircraft supported the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in mid-1940. During the first month of the Pacific War, she took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Wake Island. The ship supported the conquest of the Dutch East Indies in January 1942. The following month, her aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia, and continued to assist in the Dutch East Indies campaign. In April, Hiryū's aircraft helped sink two British heavy cruisers and several merchant ships during the Indian Ocean raid.

The carrier's forefoot was of the newly developed bulbous type, sometimes referred to informally as a Taylor pear, which served to reduce the hull's underwater drag within a given range of speeds, improving both the ship's speed and endurance. Unlike the larger bulbous forefoots fitted to the battleships Yamato and Musashi, however, Shōkaku's did not protrude beyond the ship's stem. [4]

Japanese battleship <i>Yamato</i> Yamato-class battleship

Yamato (大和) was the lead ship of her class of battleships built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) shortly before World War II. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 in) Type 94 main guns, which were the largest guns ever mounted on a warship.

Japanese battleship <i>Musashi</i> Yamato-class battleship

Musashi (武蔵), named after the former Japanese province, was one of two Yamato-class battleships built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), beginning in the late 1930s. The Yamato-class ships were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing almost 72,000 long tons (73,000 t) fully loaded and armed with nine 46-centimetre (18.1 in) main guns. Their secondary armament consisted of four 15.5-centimetre (6.1 in) triple-gun turrets formerly used by the Mogami-class cruisers. They were equipped with six or seven floatplanes to conduct reconnaissance.

Shōkaku was 10,000 tons heavier than Sōryū, mainly due to the extra armor incorporated into the ship's design. Vertical protection consisted of 215 mm (8.5 in) on the main armor deck over the machinery, magazines and aviation fuel tanks while horizontal protection consisted of 215 mm (8.5 in) along the waterline belt abreast the machinery spaces reducing to 150 mm (5.9 in) outboard of the magazines [4]

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Sōryū</i> aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy

Sōryū was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the mid-1930s. A sister ship, Hiryū, was intended to follow Sōryū, but Hiryū's design was heavily modified and she is often considered to be a separate class. Sōryū's aircraft were employed in operations during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s and supported the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in mid-1940. During the first months of the Pacific War, she took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Wake Island, and supported the conquest of the Dutch East Indies. In February 1942, her aircraft bombed Darwin, Australia, and she continued on to assist in the Dutch East Indies campaign. In April, Sōryū's aircraft helped sink two British heavy cruisers and several merchant ships during the Indian Ocean raid.

Unlike British carriers, whose aviation fuel was stored in separate cylinders or coffer-dams surrounded by seawater, all pre-war Japanese carriers had their aviation fuel tanks built integral with the ship's hull and Shōkaku was no exception. The dangers this posed, however, did not become evident until wartime experience demonstrated these were often prone to cracking and leaking as the shocks and stresses of hits or near-misses to the carrier's hull were inevitably transferred to and absorbed by the fuel tanks. Following the debacle at Midway in mid-1942, the empty air spaces around Shōkaku's aviation fuel tanks, normally pumped full of inert carbon dioxide, were instead filled with concrete in an attempt to protect them from possible damage. But this did little to prevent volatile fumes spreading to the hangar decks in the event damage did occur, particularly demonstrated when Cavalla torpedoed and sank her. Shōkaku normally stowed 150,000 gallons of AvGas for operational use. [5]

The twenty-eight chief shipbuilders of Shokaku pose at the ship's prow prior to launching (30 May 1939). Shokaku pre-launch.jpg
The twenty-eight chief shipbuilders of Shōkaku pose at the ship's prow prior to launching (30 May 1939).

Machinery

The geared turbines installed on Shōkaku were essentially the same as those on Sōryū, maximum power increasing by 8,000  shp (6,000 kW) to 160,000  shp (120,000 kW). In spite of all the additional armor, greater displacement and a 2.1 m (6.9 ft) increase in draught, Shōkaku was able to attain a speed of just over 34.2  kn (63.3 km/h; 39.4 mph) during trials. Maximum fuel bunkerage was 4100 tons, giving her a radius of action of 9,700  nmi (18,000 km; 11,200 mi) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph). Two same-sized downward-curving funnels on the ship's starboard side, just abaft the island, vented exhaust gases horizontally from the boilers and were sufficiently angled to keep the flight deck free of smoke in most wind conditions. [6]

Flight deck and hangars

Shōkaku's 242 m (794 ft) long wood-planked flight deck ended short of the ship's bow and, just barely, short of the stern. It was supported by four steel pillars forward of the hangar box and by two pillars aft.

The flight deck and both hangars (upper and lower) were serviced by three elevators, the largest being the forward one at 13 m (43 ft) by 16 m (52 ft), the middle and the rear elevators measured 13 m (43 ft) by 12 m (39 ft). [7] All three were capable of transferring aircraft weighing up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) and raising or lowering them took approximately 15–20 seconds. [8]

Shōkaku's nine Type 4 electrically operated arrester wires followed the same standard arrangement as that on Hiryū, three forward and six aft. They were capable of stopping a 6,000 kg (13,000 lb) aircraft at speeds of 60–78 knots (111–144 km/h; 69–90 mph). A third crash barrier was added and a light collapsible wind-break screen was installed just forward of the island. [4]

The upper hangar was 623.4 by 65.6 feet (190 by 20 m) and had an approximate height of 15.7 feet (4.8 m); the lower was 524.9 by 65.6 feet (160 by 20 m) and had an approximate height of 15.7 feet (4.8 m). Together they had an approximate total area of 75,347 square feet (7,000 m2). [7] Hangar space was not greatly increased in comparison to Sōryū and both Shōkaku and Zuikaku could each carry just nine more aircraft than Sōryū, giving them a normal operating capacity of seventy-two plus room for twelve in reserve. Unlike on Sōryū, the reserve aircraft did not need to be kept in a state of disassembly, however, thereby shortening the time required to make them operational. [9]

After experimenting with port-side islands on two previous carriers, Akagi and Hiryū, the IJN opted to build both Shōkaku and her sister ship Zuikaku with starboard-side islands. [4]

In September 1942, a Type 21 air-warning radar was installed on Shōkaku's island atop the central fire control director, the first such device to be fitted on any Japanese carrier. The Type 21 had a "mattress" antenna and the initial prototypes were light enough that no major structural modifications were necessary. Later versions, however, were bulkier and required eventual removal of the fifth fire control director in order to accommodate the larger and heavier antenna. [4]

The presence of this radar however, undoubtedly saved Shōkaku one month later at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, when the ship was bombed by SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers from USS Enterprise; the early detection of the US strike planes by this radar alerted refuelling crews below deck, giving them time to drain and purge the aviation gasoline lines before they were ruptured by bomb hits, thus saving the ship from the catastrophic avgas fires and explosions that caused most of the carrier sinkings in the Pacific theater.

Armament

Shōkaku's primary air defense consisted of sixteen 127 mm (5.0 in) Type 89 dual-purpose AA guns in twin mountings. These were sited below flight deck level on projecting sponsons with four such paired batteries on either side of the ship's hull, two forward and two aft. Four fire control directors were installed, two on the port side and two to starboard. A fifth fire control director was located atop the carrier's island and could control any or all of the heavy-caliber guns as needed. [4]

Initially, light AA defense was provided by twelve triple-mount 25 mm (0.98 in) Type 96 AA guns. [4]

In June 1942, Shōkaku had her anti-aircraft armament augmented with six triple 25 mm mounts, two each at the bow and stern, and one each fore and aft of the island. The bow and stern groups each received a Type 95 director. In October another triple 25 mm mount was added at the bow and stern and 10 single mounts were added before the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944.

Operational history

Shōkaku and Zuikaku formed the Japanese 5th Carrier Division, embarking their aircraft shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack. Each carrier's aircraft complement consisted of 15 Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" fighters, 27 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers, and 27 Nakajima B5N1 or −2 "Kate" torpedo bombers.

Shōkaku and Zuikaku joined the Kido Butai ("Mobile Unit/Force", the Combined Fleet's main carrier battle group) and participated in Japan's early wartime naval offensives, including Pearl Harbor and the attack on Rabaul in January 1942.

In the Indian Ocean raid of March–April 1942, aircraft from Shōkaku, along with the rest of Kido Butai, attacked Colombo, Ceylon on 5 April, sinking two ships in harbor and severely damaging support facilities. The task force also found and sank two Royal Navy heavy cruisers, (HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire), on the same day, as well as the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes on 9 April off Batticaloa.

The Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku under attack by planes from USS Yorktown, during the morning of 8 May 1942. Splashes from dive bombers' near misses are visible off the ship's starboard side as she makes a sharp turn to the right. Shokaku attacked in Coral sea.jpg
The Japanese aircraft carrier Shōkaku under attack by planes from USS Yorktown, during the morning of 8 May 1942. Splashes from dive bombers' near misses are visible off the ship's starboard side as she makes a sharp turn to the right.

The Fifth Carrier Division was then deployed to Truk to support Operation Mo (the planned capture of Port Moresby in New Guinea). During this operation, Shōkaku's aircraft helped sink the American aircraft carrier USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea but was herself seriously damaged on 8 May 1942 by dive bombers from USS Yorktown and Lexington which scored three bomb hits: one on the carrier's port bow, one to starboard at the forward end of the flight deck and one just abaft the island. Fires broke out but were eventually contained and extinguished. The resulting damage required Shōkaku to return to Japan for major repairs.

On the journey back, maintaining a high speed in order to avoid a cordon of American submarines out hunting for her, the carrier shipped so much water through her damaged bow that she nearly capsized in heavy seas. She arrived at Kure on 17 May 1942 and entered drydock on 16 June 1942. Repairs were completed within ten days and, a little over two weeks later on 14 July, she was formally reassigned to Striking Force, 3rd Fleet, Carrier Division 1. [10]

The time required for repairs, combined with the aircraft and aircrew losses incurred by her and Zuikaku, kept both carriers from participating in the Battle of Midway.

Following her return to front-line duty, both Shōkaku and her sister-ship Zuikaku, with the addition of the light carrier Zuihō, were redesignated as First Carrier Division and took part in two further battles in 1942: the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, where they damaged USS Enterprise, but Shōkaku was in turn damaged by dive-bombers of Enterprise, which therefore prevented the bombardment of nearby Henderson Field, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where they crippled USS Hornet (Hornet was abandoned and later sunk by Japanese destroyers Makigumo and Akigumo). At Santa Cruz, on 26 October 1942, Shōkaku was again seriously damaged, taking at least three (and possibly as many as six) 1,000-lb. bomb hits from a group of fifteen Douglas SBD-3 dive bombers launched from Hornet. With ample warning of the incoming American strike, Shōkaku's aviation fuel mains to the flight deck and hangars had been drained down and she had few aircraft on board at the time of the attack. As a result, no major fires broke out and her seaworthiness was preserved. Her flight deck and hangars, however, were left in shambles and she was unable to conduct further air operations during the remainder of the battle. [8] [11] The need for repairs kept her out of action for months, leaving other Japanese defensive operations in the Pacific lacking sufficient airpower.

Shokaku crewmembers fight fires on the flight deck after being hit by American bombs during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands Shokaku Santa Cruz fire.jpg
Shōkaku crewmembers fight fires on the flight deck after being hit by American bombs during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

After several months of repairs and training, Shōkaku, now under the command of Captain Hiroshi Matsubara, was assigned in May 1943 to a counterattack against the Aleutian Islands, but the operation was cancelled after the Allied victory at Attu. For the rest of 1943, she was based at Truk, then returned to Japan for maintenance late in the year.

Sinking

In 1944, Shōkaku was deployed to the Lingga Islands south of Singapore. On 15 June, she departed with the Mobile Fleet for Operation "A-Go", a counterattack against Allied forces in the Mariana Islands. Her strike waves suffered heavy losses from US combat air patrols and anti-aircraft fire, but some survived and returned safely to the carrier. One of her D4Y Suisei strike groups, composed of veterans from the Coral Sea and Santa Cruz engagements, broke through and one plane allegedly struck home with a bomb that damaged the battleship USS South Dakota and caused many casualties, but this group suffered heavy losses themselves. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, she was struck at 11:22 on 19 June by three (possibly four) torpedoes from the submarine USS Cavalla (Commander Herman J. Kossler). As Shōkaku had been in the process of refueling and rearming aircraft and was in an extremely vulnerable position, the torpedoes started fires that proved impossible to control. At 12:10, an aerial bomb exploded, detonating aviation fuel vapors which had spread throughout the ship. The order to abandon ship was given, but before the evacuation had progressed very far, Shōkaku abruptly took on water forward and sank quickly bow-first at position 11°40′N137°40′E / 11.667°N 137.667°E / 11.667; 137.667 , taking 1,272 men with her. The light cruiser Yahagi and destroyers Urakaze, Wakatsuki, and Hatsuzuki rescued Captain Matsubara and 570 men. [2]

See also

Notes

  1. Bōeichō Bōei Kenshūjo, p. 344
  2. 1 2 "Japanese Navy Ships — Shokaku (Aircraft Carrier, 1941–1944)". U.S. Naval Historical Center. 4 June 2000. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  3. Stille, p.17
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Brown, p.23
  5. Brown, p.6
  6. Brown, p.23–24
  7. 1 2 Shokaku aircraft carriers (1941), Navypedia
  8. 1 2 Brown, p.24
  9. Stille, p.18
  10. Stille, p.21
  11. "Japanese Repair Ships". www.combinedfleet.com.

Bibliography

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<i>Amagi</i>-class battlecruiser class of Japanese battlecruisers

The Amagi class was a series of four battlecruisers planned for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as part of the Eight-eight fleet. The ships were to be named Amagi, Akagi, Atago, and Takao, after the mountains Amagi, Akagi, Atago, and Takao. The Amagi design was essentially a lengthened version of the Tosa-class battleship, but with a thinner armored belt and deck and a modified secondary battery arrangement.

The Zuihō class (瑞鳳型) was a group of two aircraft carriers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy before World War II. Both ships were originally built as submarine tenders, but were subsequently converted into carriers. Completed in early 1942, Shōhō supported the invasion forces in Operation MO, the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea, and was sunk by American carrier aircraft on her first combat operation during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May. Shōhō was the first Japanese aircraft carrier to be sunk during World War II. Zuihō played a secondary role in the Battle of Midway in mid-1942 and did not engage any American aircraft or ships during the battle. The ship participated in the Guadalcanal Campaign during the rest of 1942. She was lightly damaged during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands during this campaign and covered the evacuation of Japanese forces from the island in early 1943 after repairs.

Fifth Carrier Division

The Fifth Carrier Division was an aircraft carrier unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy's First Air Fleet. At the beginning of the Pacific Campaign of World War II, the Fifth Carrier Division consisted of the fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku. These two ships participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, using their aircraft to strafe airfields and provide fighter protection for bombers. On the way back to Japan after Pearl Harbor, the 5th Carrier Division was used to protect the main fleet from American submarines suspected of following the fleet.