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Japanese battleship Yamato

The IJN Yamato (大和) was a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She and her sister ship Musashi were the largest battleships ever constructed, weighing 65,000 tons and armed with 460 mm main guns.

Design work began in 1934 and after modifications it was accepted in March 1937 for a 68,000 ton vessel. She was built at a specially prepared dock at Kure naval dockyards from November 4, 1937. She was launched on August 8, 1940 and commissioned on December 16, 1941. There were intended to be four ships of this class, but the Shinano was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction (sunk 1944) and the un-named Warship Number 111 was scrapped in 1943 when around 30% complete. The proposed super Yamato class, with 508 mm guns, was abandoned.

She was the flagship of Isoroku Yamamoto from February 12, 1942. Replaced as flagship by the Musashi she spent much of 1943 in harbor at Truk. The anti-aircraft defences were greatly increased in 1943 at Kure but as she returned to Truk on December 25, 1943 she was badly damaged by a torpedo from USS Skate and was not fully repaired until April 1944. She returned to the conflict and joined the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June) and the Battles of Leyte Gulf and Samar Gulf (October), during which she first fired her main guns. She returned home in November and her AA was again upgraded over the winter. Attacked in the Inland Sea on March 19, 1945 by carrier aircraft from Task Force 58 attacking Kure she suffered little damage.

Her final mission was as part of operation "Ten-Go" following the invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945. She and her escorts were sent to attack the US fleet supporting the US troops landing on the west of the island. The Yamato was to beach herself between Hagushi and Yontan and fight as a shore battery until she was destroyed. Since this was from the start intended to be a suicide mission, the battleship was given only enough fuel for a one-way trip to Okinawa. On April 6 the Yamato, a cruiser and eight destroyers left port at Tokuyama, they were sighted on April 7 as they exited the Inland Sea southwards. The US Navy launched around 400 aircraft to intercept the taskforce and they engaged the ships from mid-afternoon. The navy assembled a force of six battleships and almost thirty escorts to intercept if the air-strikes did not succeed. The Yamato took up to twenty bomb or torpedo hits before, at about 1420 hrs, her magazines detonated. She capsized to port and sank, still some 200 km from Okinawa. Around 2,475 of her crew were lost and 269 survived. Of her escorts four were sunk and five were disabled and forced to return to Japan. US losses were ten aircraft and twelve aircrew.

The wreckage lies in around 300 m of water and has been surveyed in 1985 and in 1999.

For further reading, Yoshida Mitsuru (the only surviving bridge officer) wrote a detailed description of the ship's final voyage entitled Requiem for Battleship Yamato


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