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Imperial Iapanese
Navy Aircraft Carriers
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MARK STILLE is a ret ir ed

c om mande r in the US Navy,
currently working in Naval CARRIER RADAR AND FIGHTER DEFENSE 8
Intelligence. He has had
numerous war games CARRIER NAMES 10
published in the past,
including some concerning
Japanese Aircraft Carriers.
Interested in the navy, in Hosho
particular the Imperial
Japanese Navy, for most of
his Iif e, he devotes much of
his time to researching the Ryujo
IJN and the vessels they used. Soryu dass
Shokaku dass


Shoho dass
Hiyo dass
Chitose dass


Unryu dass
TONY BRYAN is a freelance
illustrator 01 many years' THE ESCORT CARRIERS 40
experience. He initially
qualified in Engineering and T aiyo dass
worked for a number of years Kaiyo
in Military Research and .'
Development, and has a keen
interest in military hardware -
armor, small arms, aircraft
and ships. Tony has produced
many illustrations for BIBLIOGRAPHV 44
partworks, magazines and
books, including a number COLOR PLATE COMMENTARV 45
of titles for Osprey's New
Vanguard series.
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New Vanguard . 109 PUBLISHING

Imperial Japanese
Navy Aircraft Carriers

Mark Stille Illustrated byTony Bryan

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First published in Great Britain in 2005 by Osprey Publishing Author 's note
Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxlord 0X2 OPH, UK
443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, USA Several people have helped in the production 01 this bock, but I would Iike to
E-mail: info@ospreypub thank Richard Wolft for his assistance in translating Japanese and reviewing the
text. I wou ld also like to give a special thanks to Tohru Kizu, Editor-in-chief 01
2005 Osprey Publishing U d. Ships of tne World magazine, lor his permission to use many photographs from
his magazine that appear in this book.
Ail rights reserved. Apart lram any lair dealing for the purpose 01 private study,
research, crtticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act , 1988, no part 01 this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, Artist 's note
electrical , chem ical, mechanical, optical , photocopying, recording er otherwise,
without the prior wrill en permission 01 the cop yright owner. Inquiries should Readers may care to note that the original paintings Irom which the color plates
be addressed to the Publishers. in this bock were prepared are available fer private sale. Ail reproduction
cop yright whatsoever is retained by the Publishers. All inquiries should be
A CIP catalog record lor this book is available frorn the British Library addressed to:

ISBN 1 84176 853 7 Tony Bryan, 4a Forest View Drive, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7NZ, UK

Editor: Katherine Venn The Publishers regret that they can enter into no co rrespondence upon this
Design: Melissa Orrom Swan, Oxlord, UK matter.
Index by David Worthington
Originated by PPS Grasmere Ud ., Leeds, UK
Printed in China thraugh World Print U d.

05 06 07 08 09 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

For a catalog 01 all books published by Osprey please contac t :

Osprey Direct, 2427 Bond Street, University Park, IL 60466, USA


Osprey Direct UK, P.O. Box 140 Weilingborough , Northants , NN8 2FA, UK
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uring th e ope ning peri od of the Pacific War, the Imperialjap an ese
Navy possessed th e most powerful carrier force in th e world. By
virtue of a potent co mbina tion of excellent ships, well-design ed
aircraft, and unsurpassed aviators, the Imperi al Navy's carrie r force
recorded astring of victories fro m Hawaii to th e Indian O cean. Even after
th e crus hing defeat at th e battle of Midway injune I 942,jap an ese carrie rs
co n tin ue d to give a goo d accoun t of themse lves during th e fero cious
battles off Gu adalcanal during th e second half of 1942. Only with th e
even tual elim ination of th e last of th eir highl y train ed aircrews were
th e j apanese carrie rs rendered powerl ess to interfere with th e US Navy's
march to th e j apanese homeland.
This book provides a sh ort account of th e 25 carriers th at saw activ e
servi ce in th e Imperial Navy during th e Pacific War. Those ships that
were not co m ple ted are not covere d . Likewise , seaplan e ca rriers are not
discu ssed. The lat e-war co nversio n of two battIeships into hybrid carriers
is left for an o ther volume in th is series .


The Imperi al Navy's aviation program d eveIoped in broad parallel with
those of th e Royal Navy an d th e United Stat es Navy. By 1913, th e
japan ese were impressed enough with th e potential of naval aviatio n
th at a naval transport, Wakamiya Maru, was fitt ed to carry two seaplanes

The Imperial Navy was t he

first naVy to concentrate
carr iers to increase t hei r
striking power. Shown here are
two of the si x ca rr iers used in
the Hawaiian operation . The
ai rc raft in the fo reground are
D3 A dive -bombers. (US Naval
Hi stori cal Center) 3
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and was used in fleet man euvers. In 1914, afte r j ap an 's en try into World The A6M fi g ht e r was a
War I, airc raft fro m Wakamiya M aru took part in th e J apan ese seizure of f ormidab le ai r superiority
fi ght er, but was les s weil
Ge rman te rrito ries in China. During th e war, Japanese naval observers
suited for fleet air defense.
with the Royal Navy allowed J apan to keep abreast of d evelopmen ts in Here, A6Ms are ready to
th e wo rld 's leading aviatio n navy. launch during the Hawaiian
Th rough their own ex pe rie nce with Wakami)'a Maru and th eir operation. (National Archives)
observatio n o f th e Royal Navy, the J ap an ese reali zed th e importa nce of
aircraft carrie rs and th e requiremen t for a modern navy to incorpo ra te
naval aviat ion. Accord ingly, th e Flee t Programs of both 1918 and 1920
pro vid ed for the co ns tructio n of carriers. In 1920 , th e J apane e asked
th eir British ally for technical assistance in developing their naval
aviat io n pro gram . Between 1921 an d 1923, th e Royal Navy m' ion ent
to assist the J apanese p ro ved ind ispe nsable in th e d evelopm ent of
th e Im perial Navy's carrie r force. All aspects of naval aviation \ re re
adva nced, fro m training and d esign det ails for th e first Japan e carrier
to d esign and co ns tructio n of naval airc raft.
The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 greatly affected J apan carrier
design and co nstru ction , as it imposed a lim it on the size and number of
aircraft carriers allowed. The treaty limited new constructio n hip to a
displacem ent of 27,000 tons. Co nversion of two exi ting capital hips
into carriers was permitted and th ese could be up to 33,000 tons, nder
th e treaty, th e total carrie r tonnage allowed to th e Im pe rial avy was
81,000 to ns; this meant th at th e j ap an ese were placed in a pos ition of
inferi o rity, as th e US and Royal Navies were each permirred 135,000 tons.
Un til th e restric tions were lifted in 1936, th e J apan ese \ .ere co ntinually
scheming to maximize th e utility of th eir allotted tonn e \ rhile also
attempting to ma intain n umerical parity of carriers with the U . 'a\)'.
During th is time , J apanese carrie r d octri n e was also in flux , which
also affected shi p design . The Im perial aw fi t . th e role of its
ca rrie rs as p rovidi ng spotting, reconnaissance , and anti-submari ne
patr ol to the main battle fleet co m posed of the undisputed arbi ters of
4 naval power, the ba ttles hi p. By th e ea rly 1930 , aircraft technology had
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reach ed a p oint where carriers were viewe d as viab le striking pl a tforms

in their own right and were give n a n important ro le in th e Impe rial
Navy's a ttritio nal strategy th a t re qu ire d ligh t units a nd aircraft to re d uce
th e size of th e large r US Fleet before th e d ecisive clash of battlesh ip s
took pIace on equ al te rms. The main target of ca rrie r aircraft was n ow
d ete rmined to be e nemy ca rrie rs. Destruction of th e e nerny's carrier
force wo uld th en allow Japanese carrier aircraft to weak en th e e nerny 's
battle fleet. Beca use ca rrie rs were seen to be very vulnerabl e to attack,
th e esse n tial precondition for ca rrie r co m ba t was that th e Imperial Navy
strike fir st. This acco u n ts for th e great J apan ese e m p h asis o n large
ca r rie r air gro u ps com posed of aircraft uniformly lighte r th an th ei r
o p ponents, giving them greate r range.
As th e importance of carrier co m ba t was recogni zed, th e issue of
h ow th e Imperi al Navy's carriers we re to be used was m uc h debated.
Should th ey be massed fo r greater stri king power an d a greater defensive
capability, or sho u ld th ey be dispersed to en h ance. th ei r survi vabili ty?
Eventually, even though it was feared th at massin g th em in a single force
would expose th emall to a crip pling attack, th e advocates of co nc e n tration
prevailed. In April 194 I , th e First Air Fleet was created, and by Decembe r
of th e same year this force was used to deliver an ambitious pre-emptive
a ttac k agains t th e US Pacific Fleet. The Im perial Navy's carrie r force h ad
been welded into a weap on of u n p recede n ted pow er.


By th e sta rt of th e Pacific War, th e J apanese had six fleet ca r riers in
se rvice su p p o rted by three smaller units. Also in service was a world-
beating ca r rie r fighte r (the A6M, Allied co de n ame "Ze ke"), th e wo rld's
best ca r rier to rpedo aircraft (the B5N , "Kate") a n d a very accu ra te
carrier di ve-b ornber (the D3A, "Val") . These aircraft , co m b ined wit h
well-trained a n d ex perie nced airc re ws a n d deck crews , co mbined to
make th e Impe rial Navy's ca r rie rs in to form idab le striking pl a tforms.
Th e t orped o-a rm ed B5N was a
pot e nt ship-killer. It w as also
The aircraft capacity of J apan ese ca rriers was de te rmi ned by h an ga r
us ed in a horizont al bomber rol e. space. U n like o n US Navy carriers, all aircra ft servicing, re fueling, an d
(US Naval Historical Center) weapons reloading was done in th e hangar. Japanese carriers did not
maintain a deck park of aircraft. This practice, a nd
the fact that only th e B5N had folding wings, m eant
that Japanese ca rrie rs d id not usually poss ess th e
aircraft capacity of US carriers.
Wh en laun ching aircraft, o pera tio ns we re
dir ected by th e Air Operations Offi cer positi o n ed
on a platform on th e rear of th e island . To launch
ai rcraft, th e ca r rie r turned into th e win d a nd
ste a med at fu ll speed. Betwee n 20 a n d 30 seconds
were n eeded for each ai rcraft launch . Lighte r
aircraft were spotted forward to tak e off first, as
th ey needed less of a flight-deck run to become
airborne. An A6M cou ld take o ff in a m ere 230
feet in th e right wind conditions; h eavier airc ra ft
n eeded twice that distance . Un like US a n d Royal 5
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Navy ca rriers, Japanese ca rrie rs were never equip pe d with catap ults to Shokaku ready to launch a strike
during the battle of Santa Cruz.
assist in airc raft launching. Use of cata pults would hav e allow ed a greate r
The A6M fighters are spotted
number of airc raft to be ran ged o n the flight d eck for launch, th us forward with the heavier strike
allowing larger strikes to be flown. Given th e lighter weights ofJapan ese aircraft spotted further aft.
early-war aircraft, th e lack of ca tap ults did not affe ct operati ons until IUS Naval Historical Center)
lat er in th e war, whe n heavier aircraft began to en te r servi ce.
A proficie nt Japan ese carrier co uld recove r a n aircraft every
25-45 seconds. J ap an ese pilo ts were not guide d down to th e sh ip's d eck
with the assistance of a landing signa ls officer, as was th e case for
America n and British ca rrier pil o ts. J ap an ese carriers were equ ip pe d
with a system of ap proach ligh ts that assisted th e pilo t in j udging h is
angle of approach. T hough it was not stabilized to compensate for the
moverne nt of the ship in a heavy sea, it proved successfu l an d was use d
th rough out the war.Japanese fleet carriers had u p to nine arresting wires
placed in the rear portion of the flight d eck. By the start of the Pacific
War, carriers were eq uipped with the Kure Type 4 arresting system
tha t used an eleetric engine and co uld stop an 8,000lb aircraft in
abo ut 130 fee t. Fo rward of the arresting wires was a cras h barri er. T h is
pro tected any aircraft parked on the forwa rd part of the d eck from an
aircraft th at failed to ca tch o ne of the arresting wires. T his innovation
greatly speeded u p aircraft recovery. O nce aboard, ai rcraft had to be
moved quickly d own to the han gar deck for maintenan ce , refueling, an d
re arming; th e size i\nd placem ent of elevators was a key factor in aircraft
handling. J apanese carriers used aircraft elevators d riven by elec tr ic
motors. On fleet carrie rs, th ere were usually three elevato rs, all locat ed
on th e sh ip's ce n te rline (o r just off ce n te rline). Because mostJapanese
aircraft d id n o t have foldin g wings, Japanese aircraft elevators were
large r th an th ose o n carrie rs of the US and Royal Navies.
Hanga rs on J apanese carrie rs were un arrnored, as was th e flight deck.
Most fleet carriers fea tured two han gars, eac h usually be tween 13 and
16ft tall and placed one above th e o ther, Outboard of the hangars were
areas dedicated to aircraft ma in te nance. The sides of J apanese carrier
hangars were designed to vent the force of a bomb exploding on the
bangar deck outwards instead of upwards, which could render the flight
deck useless. In practice, the opposite freq uently occurred, as the result of
a bomb hit on the hangar deck was a ruptured fligh t deck. This design flaw
was apparent throughout the war. Only th e in troduction of two late-war
6 carriers with arrnored fligh t decks addressed this key vulnerability.
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Japanese aircraft carriers This faulty hangar design was worsened by the fa~! that hangars were
received large numbers of not flash or vapor tight. To ventilate the hangar, Japanese carriers used
anti-aircraft guns as the war
intake and exhaust fans. Fires on the hangar deck were an obvious
progressed. Zuikaku , shown here
under attack during the battle of
danger that the Japanese planned to combat with a foam spray system
Leyte Gulf, was equipped w ith using rows of pipes and nozzles on the hangar walls. In addition to the
96 25mm guns, but was still faulty hangar design, aviation fuel handling arrangements on Japanese
overwhelmed and sunk by carriers were dangerously inadequate. Fuel tanks were part of the
air attack. (US Nava l Historical
structure of the ship, which meant that shocks to the hull were also
Ce nter)
absorbed by the tanks, creating possible leaks. Combined with the
inability to vent these fumes from the hangar, the potential for disaster
was obvious.
To make things worse, damage-control training on Imperial Navy
ships was generally poor. Organizationally, damage control was not given
proper priority. These factors, combined with the design flaw of enclosed
hangars and a vulnerable fuel system, meant thatJapanese carriers could
be characterized as ships with great striking power but with limited ability
to take damage.


As the Pacific War developed, the Imperial Navy was increasingly
exposed to air attack. In response, the Japanese greatly augmented the
anti-aircraft protection of their surface ships, carriers included. However,
in spite of the increased number of guns onboard the carriers, the
vulnerability of Japanese ships to air attack increased and proved a
decisive weakness as the war progressed.
Two primary guns were mounted on Japanese carriers for air defense.
The primary heavy anti-aircraft gun was the Type 89 Sin/4-caliber dual
mount that was successfully tested for fleet use in 1931. It was a respectable
weapon and was used on a variety of other surface ships and also as a coast
defense gun in both anti-aircraft and anti-surface roles. The weakness of
this weapon was not its performance, but its fire-eontrol system. The Type
94 fire-eontrol director was very reliant on manual inputs and control and
thus was generally unsuited for tracking fast targets. Compounding this was
the fact that the Japanese never developed any sort of proximity fuse, as
used with great effectiveness by the US Navy againstJapanese aircraft. 7
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Size: 5in
Shell weight: 511b
Muzzle velocity : 2379ft per second
Max elevation: +90 to -8 degrees
Max range: 16,075yds/30 ,970ft max ceiling
Rate of fire: 8 rounds per minute

As undistingu ished as the Type 89 proved to be in se rvice, the

Im p e rial avy's seleetio n of its ligh t an ti-aircraft gu n proved to be a
disaster. T he sta n dard ligh t an ti-airc raft gu n of the Pacific War was th e
Type 96 25mm . In itially, the Type 96 was in trod uced as a do u ble mou n t;
the tripIe m ount versio n e n te re d se rvice in 1941 a n d was foll owed by a
single gu n m ount. Th e 25 m m gu n was a n ad aptation of a Fre nc h
H otchkiss d esign . Un fortu nate ly fo r th e Impe rial Navy, it was a wea po n
with a relatively low rate o f fire a n d which used a proj ectil e with
in suffi cient hitting power to d est ro y in creasingly rugged Am eri can
airc raft. Though it had a n ominal rate of fir e of 200-260 rounds p er
minute , th e re loa d system th at re qu ired ceasin g fir e wh en a 15-round
clip was ex haus te d reduced th e ac tual ra te o f fir e to a p proximate ly 130
ro u n ds p er m inute. Ad d itio nally, th e wea pon h ad a slow training an d
eleva ting speed. The Type 96 co u ld be co n trolled m anually o r by the
Type 95 director, whi ch was co ns idered sta te of th e art when it was
in trod uced in 1936. H oweve r, in service, th e Type 95 p ro ved unabl e to
track m odern airc ra ft, an d when the excessive smoke, muzzle flash , a n d
recoil o f th e Type 96 gu n was co ns idered, Japanese a nti-aircraft gu n nery
was generally in accurate. Th e lack of effective an ti-aircraft p rotecti on
an d a fau lty d octrine for the use of escorting shi ps in defen di ng the
ca rriers m ean t that the b est h ope fo r su rvival of a ca rrie r u nde r air attack
was usu ally th e m aneuve ring skill of its ca ptain.


Size: 25mm
Shell weight: .61b
Muzzle velocity: .' 2953ft per second
Max elevation: +85 to - 10 degrees
I Max range: 8,200yds/18 ,040ft ma~ ceiling "
Rate of fire: 200-260 rounds per rninute (per gun)


T he Imperial Na vy's ra dar p rogram was far less developed th an th at of
the Allies. T he ta rdy introd uc tio n of ra dar a nd its in effective use was
perhaps the single biggest wea kness of the Im pe rial avy d uring the
Pacific War. While th e use of radar greatly strengthened the air defense
of America n sh ips, th e lack of effec tive radar was devastating to J apanese
8 aircraft carriers.
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No Japanese carrier or any other ship began

the war fitted with radar. This made the task of
controlling defending fighters very difficult. In the
early war period, Imperial Navy fleet carriers
embarked a fighter squadron with 18 aircraft.
These aircraft were usually divided into a nine-
aircraft division to accompany outgoing strike
aircraft and another nine-aircraft division to
provide air defense for the ship and its escorts.
With no radar, air defense was accomplished by
conducting standing patrols. However, only a few
Each Imperial Navy fleet carrier aircraft (usually a seetion of three) wou ld be airborne at any time, with
carried a dedicated fi ght er un it the remaining aircraft standing by to be scrambled if adequate warning
equ ipped w ith A6M aircraft. At
was gained. Adding further difficulty to the fighter defense problem
the start of the war, a fighter unit
was assigned 18 aircraft. Th is
was the inferior quality of Japanese aircraft radios which made it
was increased after t he battle of virtually impossible to control aircraft already airborne. Even when carriers
Midway to 27 aircraft. IUS Naval received radar late in the war (the first carrier to receive radar was Shokaku
Historical Cen ter) in 1942 when the ship received the Type 21 radar), the Japanese were
never able to maximize their fighter assets by integrating all incoming
information into what the US Navy called a Combat Information Center.
Two primary types of radar were used on J apanese carriers; however,
the first carrier did not receive any radar until after the disastrous battle
of Midway. The first radar introduced was the Type 21. On carriers with
an island, it was mounted atop the island; on other ships it was p laced on
the flight-deck edge and the control room and radar antenna were
lowe red flush with the flight deck when aircraft operations were under
way. Performance was mediocre, with the ability to detect a group of
aircraft at approximately 60 miles and a single aircraft at about 45 miles.
The Type 13 anti-aircraft radar was mounted on many Japanese ships,
including carriers, as approximately 1,000 were built. Performance was
similar to the Type 21, with the capability to detect a group of aircraft at
60 mi les and a single aircraft at 30 mi les. The Type 13 was light, but lo n g,
and was mounted on the mainmast or radio masts of carriers.

Junyo was equipped with both

Type 21 and Type 13 radar. The
Type 21 is the ma ttress sp ring
ant enna forward of t he st ac k,
and the Type 13 is mounted on
the mainmast aft of the stack.
IUS Naval Historical Center) 9
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Hosho on its speed trials in

CARRIER NAMES November 1922. As completed ,
the ship was equipped with a
J apanese carriers were given poetic names based on flying creatures. small island, but it proved
There were several exceptions, but these were ships that were converted unsuccessful in service and was
removed. The three small stacks
in to carriers and retained their original names.
are shown in their normal
position. When flight operations
were being conducted, they
PRE -WAR-B U I LT CARRIERS were swiveled 90 degrees
parallel with the flight deck.
(Ships of the Wor/d)
Hosho (Flying Phoenix)
Design and Construction. The Im perial Navy's first carrier was not th e
first ship to be designed as a carrier from the keel up, as is often stated.
Hosho was laid down as a mixed seaplane carrier/aircraft ca rrie r
employing both seaplanes and deck-Iaunched aircraft. The ship was
modified during construction and was completed as a full-deck aircraft
carrier based on a light cruiser hull. She was launched in November
1921 and commissioned into service in December 1922. With a narrow
beam and a 300ft hangar, only 21 aircraft could be carried. This was later
reduced to 11 as aircraft got larger.
Service Modifications. The most obvious modification occurred earl y in
Hoshds career. A small starboard-side island was found to impede aircraft
operations on suc h a narrow deck and was removed. Navigation was
now accomplished from two platforms mounted on either side of the
forward edge of the.hangar, During the Pacific War, Hoshowas relegated to
seco ndary duties in horne waters and was therefore only slightly modified.
The fligh t dec k was length ened and widened in 1944 to facilitate its ro le as
a traini ng carrier.

Hosho in October 1945 after its

surrender. The widened and
lengthened flight deck is evident
and now extends weil over the
sh ip 's bow and stern. The
landing-light sys tem can be seen
on both sides of the stern.
Camouflage of both the hu ll and
the f1ight deck can be fai nt ly
10 made out. (Shlps of the Wor/d)
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View from the forecastle of

Hosho after it s surrender,
showing the narrowness of the
flight deck and the general
light standard of construction.
(US Naval Historical Center)

Ar mament. Wh en co m plete d in 1922 , littl e co nside ratio n was given to

anti-aircraft defense , an d th e ship was eq uip ped for defense primarily
against surface attack. Acco rd ingly, four 5.5in gu ns were mounted
outboard of the hangar and two 3in AA guns were positioned on th e
flight d eck. As war neared, on ly th e 3in gu ns rem ained; th ese were
removed at th e sta rt of the war, an d eigh t 25 mm AA guns were fitt ed.
Th e number of 25mm gu ns was in cr eased to 30 by 1944. Wh en
surre ndere d in 1945, only six 25mm gu ns remained.
Akagi in 1929 just after the Operational Hi story. Du rin g th e Sin o-Jap an ese War of 1937-40, Hosho
inst all at i on of the two Bin turrets was active in operations off th e China co ast. Of marginal usefulness by
on the middle flight deck. The
th e opening of the Pacific War in 1941 , Hosho was em ployed in a few
difficulty of flying aircraft off
the lower two flight decks can m inor operations before sh e participat ed in the battle of Midwa y as an
be easily imagined. (Ships of esco rt to th e battleship-heavy Main Body. Afterwards, Hosho returned to
the Wor/cI) th e Inl and Sea and was used as a tr aining carrier for th e remainder of
th e war. Ho sho su rvived th e war an d was used fo r repat riation duties
before being scra p pe d in 1947.


Displacement: 7,470 tons

Dimensions : Length 579ft (1944)
Beam 59ft
Draft 20ft
Maximum speed : 25kts
Radius: 8,680nm
Crew: 550

Akag; (Red Castle - an extinct volcano in the Kanto

area near Tokyo)
Design and Construction . After its expe rie nce with Hosho, th e Imperial
Navy decided it needed carriers with a larger aircraft ca pac ity that had th e
speed to operate with th e fleet. As a resu lt of th e Washington Naval Treaty,
a number of incomplete battlecruisers were slated for scrapping. Their
large hulls and high speed made th em ideal platforms for conversion into
carriers. In 1923, conversion began on battlecruiser A kagi. Wh at emerge d 11
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in 1927 demonstrated the evolving nature of Japanese carrier design.

Akagi possessed a flight deck of 632ft but no island. There were two
hangars; each had its own flying platform forward. This arrangement
allowed 60 aircraft to be carried.
Service Modifications. Not surprisingly, Akagi's multi-level flight-deck
arrangement proved impractical and she was removed from service in
1937 for modernization. This was extensive and saw the removal of
the two lower flight decks and the lengthening of the main flight deck
to 817ft. The hangars were also lengthened (aircraft capacity being
increased to 66 plus 15 reserves) and a third elevator was added. A sm all
island was also added. The formerly complex stack arrangement was
reduced to a single downward-facing stack on the starboard side, a
common design feature on most subsequentJapanese carriers.
Armament. Completed with a total of ten 8in guns, after the 1937-38
reconstruction Akagi still retained six 8in guns mounted in casemates.
Placed low to the water, they were virtually unusable in any kind ofsea.
Anti-aircraft protection was strengthened and now totaled 12 4.7in anti-
aircraft guns in dual mounts (Akagi was the only fleet carrier not to
receive the newer Type 89 5in anti-aircraft guns) and 14 twin 25mm
guns. Akagi maintained this configuration until her lass in 1942. No
radar was ever fitted.
Operational History. The wartime exploits of Akagi made her the most
farnaus Japanese carrier. Akagi served as the flagship of the First Air Fleet
and led the Imperial Navy's carrier fleet during the war's first six months.
During this time , Akagi and its elite air group devastated Allied forces at
Pearl Harbor, Rabaul, the Dutch East Indies, Port Darwin, and Ceylon.
At Midway, onJune 4,1942 American dive-bombers from USS Enterprise
caught Akagi with fully fueled and armed aircraft on its deck. Hit by two
bombs, the resulting fires raged out of control and resulted in the ship
being scuttled the following day.

Akagi in 1939 after

modernization. (US Naval
Historical Center)

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Japanese fleet carriers Kaga (a former province of Japan )

embarked three squadrons: Design and Construction. Earmarke d for scrapping u nde r th e
one dive-bomber, one attack
Washington Naval Trea ty, Kaga received a ne w lease o n life when the
(torpedo), and one fighter. At the
start of the war, Akagi's air unit
battlecruiser A magi, earlier slated for co nversio n to a carrier, was dam aged
was assigned 18 A6M fighters, in the 1923 Tokyo eart hqua ke. Kaga was substituted and work began in late
18 D3A dive-bombers, and 1923. Though th e hull of th e battleship was over 60ft shorter than A kagts,
27 B5N attack planes. Shown upon com pletio n Kaga possessed th e sam e ge ne ra l layout as Akagi. Becau se
here are several fighters
th e hangars were exte nde d and were wider, the same number of aircraft
spotted forward on Akagi before
the start of the war. The port
co uld be carried as on A kagi. Howe ver, th e lar ger beam and less powerful
side island makes the ship ma chine ry o n Kaga result ed in a slower speed th an any o ther Imperial
easily recognizable. (US Naval Navy fleet carrier, only 27.5 kn ots.
Historical Center) Service Modifications. As with A kagi, th e multi-le vel flight-de ck
arran gement proved impractical. After just over four years in se rvice,
Kaga re tu rned to th e yards fr a majo r reconstructio n. This work ac tua lly
occ u rre d before A kagi' s a nd was eve n mo re ex te ns ive. The hull was
lengthened 34ft and underwater protection in cr eased. The two lower
flight d ecks were removed and th e main flight d eck rebuilt so that it
extende d up to the bow for a total of815ft. As with Akagi, a third elevat or
and a small island were ad ded and th e former sta ck syste m was reduced
to a single downward-facin g stack. Airc raft capacity was in cr eased to
72 plus 18 reserves. Kaga returned to se rvice in mid-1 935 and re taine d
this co nfiguratio n until its loss.
Armament. Kaga's original armament was sim ilar to th at of Ak agi but
was signifi cantly upgraded during its 1934-35 mod emization. The carrier

Akagi under attack by US B-17

bombers on June 4, 1942. Note
the large Rising Sun placed on
the forward part of the flight
deck for the Midway operation.
(US Naval Historical Center) 13
Sandini Sammlung

retained its ten 8in guns, but all were mounted in casemates only 15ft Kaga in 1936 after
above the waterline, drastically reducing their effectiveness (assuming modernization. (US Naval
Historical Cen ter)
an 8in gun on a carrier had any utility at all, clearly not the case by 1941).
Anti-aircraft protection surpassed that of Akagi and included eight Type 89
dual mounts. A total of 30 25mm AA guns were also fitted in twin mounts.
Kaga did not carry radar.
Operational History. Together with Akagi, Kaga formed the Imperial Navy's
Carrier Division 1, the elite unit of the First Air Fleet. Kaga's wartime
exploits were similar to Akagi's except that Kaga missed the expedition
into the Indian Ocean in April 1942 because of a grounding incident in
February 1942. Repaired on time for the Midway operation, Kaga was
struck by four bombs from American dive-bombers from USS Enterprise on
June 4, 1942. The resulting fires could not be brought under control and
she sank the same day.


Ryujo (Heavenly Dragon )

Design and Construction. After the construction of Akagi and Kaga, only
30,000 tons remained for additional carriers under the Washington
Treaty. With this remaining tonnage, the Imperial Navy wanted as many
ships as possible, each with a useful number of aircraft and the speed to
operate with the fleet. Under the Washington Treaty, carriers under
10,000 tons were exempted from calculations. Ryujo was designed to
make use of this exemption. Originally it was to be an 8,000-ton ship
carrying 24 aircraft in a single hangar. However, before construction was
begun, it was determined that such a small air group would not be
effective, so a second hangar deck was added which brought aircraft
capacity up to 48. The resulting design resulted in a ship of some 12,500
tons, weil over treaty restrictions.
Service Modifications. After a year in service, Ryujo was returned to the
yards in August 1934 to address stability problems. These were largely
corrected by the addition oflarger bulges, more ballast, and the removal
14 of two of the six Type 89 mounts. After re-entering ervice, additional
Sandini Sammlung

Kaga pictured before the start of problems were found, again related to the ship's stability. Ryujo again
the war. The small size of the entered the yard in May 1936 to have an additional deck built on her
is land is evident, as is the
forecastle to prevent shipping water in heavy seas.
battleship hu ll form . (Ships of
th e World)
Armament. Ryujo entered service with a heavy armament including six
Type 89 mounts and 24 12.7mm machine guns. Two of the Type 89s were
removed in Ryujo's first refit. By the outbreak of the Pacific War, the
machine guns had been replaced with 22 25mm guns in a mix of double
and tri pie mounts. No radar was fitted before the ship was lost.
O p erational Hi stor y. Despite its limitations, Ryujo was employed
extensively during the initial period of the Pacific War, mostly on
secondary operations. Ryujo's aircraft covered the landings in the
Philippines in December 1941 and later the invasion ofJava in Feb ruary
1942. The ship was also part of the Imperial Navy's Indian Ocean raid in
April 1942. She was also present at the battle of Midway, but was assigned
to the Aleutians diversionary attack, th us avoiding the d isastrous de feat
inflicted on the Im perial Navy's main carrier force. Committed to cou nter
the American seizure of Guadalcanal in August 1942, Ryujo was subjected
to attack by aircraft from USS Saratoga during the battle of the Eastern
Solomons and was quickly destroyed by four bombs and one torpedo.


Disp lacement: 10,600 tons

Kaga en route to Pearl Harbor Dimensions: Length 590ft
in December 1941. For the Beam .68ft
Hawaiian operation, Kaga Draft 23ft
carried 18 A6M f ighters, 27 D3A tI,tlaximums pf3ed: 29kt~
dive-bombers and 27 B5N Radius: ... 10,OOOnm
attack aircraft. (US Naval C rew : 924
Historical Center)

Soryu class (Soryu - Deep Blue

Dragon, and Hiryu - Flying Dragon)
Design and Construction. Soryu has the distinction
of being the firstJapanese fleet carrier designed as
such from the keel up. She epi tomized Japanese
carrier design philosophy with a relatively
large aircraft capacity on a fast, light hull. With
some modification, Soryu served as a template
for the remainder of the Imperial Navy's fleet
carrier designs. Laid down in 1934, the ship was
completed in 1937. Two hangars were provided, 15
Sandini Sammlung

giving the Soryu the capacity to operate 63 aircraft with another eight in Ryujo pictured on its full speed
reserve. Three aircraft: elevators were carried. Exhaust gases were vented trials in April 1933. The low
freeboard in the forecastle area
through two downward-venting stacks on the starboard side, and a small
is evident, as is the potential for
island was built weil forward on th e starboard side. Powerful machine ry instability. (Ships of the World)
and a cru iser-type hull , combined with a high bearn-to-wat erline ratio, gave
a very high speed, but proteetion over machinery and magazine spa ces was
en tirely inadequate.
Hiryu was a near siste r of Sory and was laid down in 1936 to an
improved d esign . With an extra 1,400 tons in displacement, so me
important improvem ents were made. Th e hull was stre ng thene d and th e
beam increased for added stability. Additional armor was also fitt ed,
rectifying one of th e design defects on Soryu, but it was still inadequate
against attack by aircraft bombs. Th e single biggest difference between
the two ships was th e portside island mounted am idsh ips on Hi ryu. Like
the portside island on A kagi, it proved a failure in service because of th e
generation of dangerous wind currents aft of th e island and th e fact that
the placement of th e island adv ersely affected aircraft recovery and
parking space. This expe rimen t was never repeated after the completion
of Hiryu. A total of 57 aircraft wer e carried with another 16 in reserve.
Servi ce Modifications. Both ships proved very satisfactory in servic e and
neither saw any significant modification during their relatively short
service lives.
Armament. The weapons fit on both ships was sim ilar. Bot h carried six
Type 89 mounts, three on each sid e just below th e flight de ck. Short-
range anti-aircraft protection was provided by a mix of double and tripie
25mm mounts. or)'u carried 14 double mounts while Hiryu carried
a mix of seven tripIe mounts and five twin mounts. Of note, Hiryu's one
Type 89 mount and three 25mm mounts aft of th e stacks on the
starboard sid e were provided with full shields, another design feature Ryujo under way in September
repeat ed on carriers with downward-venting stac ks. No a rmamen t was 1938 after its second major refit
ad d ed before th eir loss and neith er ship carried radar. to correct stability problems.
Though designed to carry
48 aircraft, in service many
fewer were embarked. At the
battle of the Eastem Solomons,

., only 24 A6Ms and nine B5Ns

-~ .
~ . .

- -
. ~

. -.
were carried. The sh ip's small
flight deck, small elevators, and
-- ..... - unfavorable elevator placement
made aircraft operations difficult
and greatly reduced the sh ip 's
effectiveness. (US Naval
16 Historical Center)
Sandini Sammlung

Soryu projecting an image of Operational History. The two ships form ed th e First Air Fleet's Carrier
speed and power du ring sea Division 2 and saw extensive servi ce before th eir loss early in the war.
trials in January 1938. Soryu's
Both participated in th e Pearl Harbor operation and then were
a ir un it included 18 A6M
f ighters, 18 D3A d ive -bombers,
d etached to su p po rt th e invasion of Wake Island in De cember 1941.
and 18 BSN attack a ircraft. Operating with th e rest of th e First Air Fleet, both su p po rted th e
(Ship s of th e World) invasion of th e Dutch East Indies and participated in th e d evastating
attac k o n Port Darwin, Australia. In ApJiI 1942, Carrier Division 2 took
part in th e J ap an ese raid into th e Indian Ocean, striking Co lombo and
Trineomalee in Ceylon. Both ships met their end in the battle ofMidway.
Soryu was caught by US Navy dive-bombers on the morning ofJune 4 and
was hit by three bombs fro m USS Yorktown aircraft. The ship was soon
abl aze as th e fire spread fro m fu eled and armed aircraft an d after only
20 minutes following th e attac k th e ship was aband o ned . Sh e sank th e
same day with a heavy loss of life. Hiryu escaped th e initial attack and
immediately retaliated against th e American carriers with torpedo and
dive-bomber strikes. These eventually resulted in th e loss of Yorktown.
Later onJune 4, Hiryu was attacked by dive-bombers from USS Enterprise,
resulting in four hits. Although initially able to maintain power and fight
th e resulting fire s, th e ship could not be saved and sh e sank the next da y.


Displacement: 15,900 tons (Hiryu 17,300 tons)

Dimensions: Length 746ft
Beam 70ft (Hiry u 73ft)
Draft 25ft
Maximum speed: 34kts
Radius: 7,680nm (Hiry u 7,670nm)
C rew : 1,101

Shokaku class (Shokaku - Flying Crane, and Zuikaku -

Lucky Crane)
Design and Cons tr uction. With th e expira tio n of the Washington Nava l
Tre aty in December 1936, th e Imperial Navy was free to d esign its first
fleet carrier without restriction. The Japanese desire for a ship with a
high aircraft capacity, high speed, a superior radius of action and good
protection was realized in the Shokaku dass wh ich was laid down in 1937
and en te re d service just in tim e to be included in the Pearl Harbor
operati on. The succe ss of the design was evidenced throughout an
eve ntful wartim e career, and the dass can be easil y co nside re d th e most
successful J apanese carrie r design. The Shokaku dass was su pe rio r to all
its foreign co n te m p ora ries and was not surpassed until the introducti on
of th e US avy's Essex dass in 1943. 17
Sandini Sammlung

The dass was esse n tially an upgrad ed H iryu, being alm ost 100ft Hiryu on trials in April 1939. The
longe r and ap proximately 8,5 00 tons heavier. In spite of thi s increased ship carried an identical air unit
to Soryu: 54 aircraft in three
size, the ships retained a very high speed. This was due to th e fitting of
equal squadrons. (US Naval
the most powerful machinery ever on an Im perial Navy ship an d a new Historical Center)
bulbous bow that reduced underwater drag.
As with the Soryu dass, two han gars were p rovided, which gave an
aircraft: ca pacity of 72 with room for another 12 spa re airc raft. Unlike o n
earlier carriers, these reserve aircraft were n o t sto re d in astate of
disassembly and could be readied fo r operation in a short time. Three
elevators were installed. A small island was place d forward on th e
starboard side.
Service Modifications. During their very eve ntful service lives, neither
ship received a major refit. After Shokaku was lost at th e battle of th e
Phi lippine Sea , due to an aviation fue l fire, Zuikaku h ad the capacity of
its fuel tanks reduced and concrete blisters fitted for added protection.
Both received Type 21 radar that was moun ted o n the island; in fact
Shokaku was the first carrier to receive thi s equipmen t. On Shokaku, a
smaller antenna was used wh ich allowe d the radar to be placed o n to p of
the Type 94 fire -control director; on Zuikaku, the island director was

Hiryu under attack at the battle

of M idway. During the battle,
Hiryu's air unit launched two
strikes on US carriers and
suffered heavy losses. Losses to
the aircrew of the other thrae
carriers' air un its were not
heavy, despite popular belief.
18 (US Naval Historical Center)
Sandini Sammlung

Hiryu taken by an aircraft from

Hosho on June 5 , 1942 after the
ship had been abandoned. The
bomb hits forward have thrown
part of the forward elevator
against the port-side Island.
Fires are still burning in the aft
part of the ship. (Ships of the

removed and a Type 21 mounted in its place. In 1944 , Zuikaku received

a second Type 21, placed on th e portside aft area of th e flight d eck. Both
ships also re ceived a Type 13 radar mounted on th e mainmast.
Armament. The Shokaku dass carried a heavy anti-aircraft suite. A total of
eigh t Type 89 mounts and four Type 94 fire-eontrol systems were fitted.
The sho rt-ra nge an ti-aircraft fit was con tin ua lly in creased throughout th e
war. Wh en co mmissioned, each ship carri ed 12 25mm tripI e mounts. In
June 1942, another four tripIe mounts were added, two forward and two
aft. ByJuly 1943 , another two tripI e mounts were added with ano ther 16
singl e mounts for a total of70 guns. Zuikaku. received add itional protection
after th e battl e of th e Philippine Sea; 26 more single mounts were ad de d
for a total of 96. Of th ese, ten were portable mounts positioned on th e
fligh t deck during periods of no flight op erations. Before Zuikakus final
action , she received six 28-barrel 4.7in ro cket launch ers for short-range
anti-aircraft d efense. T hese weapons were designed to deter dive-bomber
attack as th ey had a vertical range of only 3,300ft. In service, th ey proved
of questionable value.
Opera tional His to ry. Zu ikaku joined Shokaku in O ctob er 1941 to form
Carrier Division 5 of th e First Air Fleet. Together, both would parti cip ate
in every carrier action of the Pacific War, exce pt Midway. Both were presen t
during the Pearl Harbor attack and th en in raids on A1lied forces in New
Guinea and Rabaul. Having missed the First Air Fleet 's attack against Port
Darwin and th e East Indies, their next op eration was the April 1942 Indian
Oc ean raid. The two ships were next assigne d to cover th e J ap an ese
invasion of Port Moresby in New Guinea. This resulted in th e first carrier
action in hist ory in May 1942 in th e Coral Sea, whe re th e rwo sisters
acquitted th em selves weIl. Aircraft from th e j apanese carrie rs san k th e
carrier USS Lexington and damaged USS Yorktoum. In exchange, Shokaku
was hit by three bombs, and at th e condusion of th e battl e only 39 aircraft:
remained from both carriers. With Shokaku under repair and Zu ikaku' s air
group unfit for action , th e Im perial Navy's two most mod em carriers
missed th e fateful battle of Midway,
Foll owin g th e fiasco at Midway, th e Imperial Navy's atten tio n turned
to th e South Pacific, where th e Americans had landed at Gu ad alcanal in
the Solomon Islands. In th e first major a tte m pt by th e J ap an ese to 19
Sandini Sammlung

reinforce th e island, th e two sisters again eng age d US carrie rs on Shokaku after completion in
August 24, 1942 in an in conclusive clash, Shokaku was h it again , suffe ring August 1941. When
commissioned, the ship had an
light damage from bomb fragm ents. In return, three bombs damaged
air group of 18 A6M fighters,
Enterprise. No t until O etober would th ere be anoth er carrie r battl e. This 27 D3A dive-bombers, and
time the result was more favorabl e to th e Japan ese, but was not th e 27 BSN attack aircraft.
decisive victo ry th ey were see king. Again , Shokaku took th e brunt of th e (US Naval Historical Center)
dam age, taking six bomb hi ts, n early sinking he r. In exchange, th e
J ap an ese san k carrier USS Hornet and damaged Enterprise. Repairs to th e
heavily damaged Shokaku prevented th e ship from returning to servic e
until March 1943.
During 1943 and th e first h alf of 1944, the Imperial Navy husbanded
its ca rrier force in preparation for a decisive battle. This ca me in June
1944 when the Am ericans landed o n Saipan in th e Marianas, insid e
j ap an 's inner defense zone. The Imperial Navy reaeted with th e sortie of
a nine-earrier force, led by Shokaku and Zu ikaku. The resulting clash, th e
battl e of th e Philippine Sea, was th e largest carrier battle in histo ry. The
battl e did n ot turn out as th e Japanese had planned; in fact, th eir
decisive defeat resulted in th e virtual en d of th e Imperi al Navy's carrier
force . Aseries of J apanese carrier air stri kes on June 19 were shatte re d
by strong Ameriean defenses. On th e same da y, Shokaku was hit by four
to rp edoes fro m th e submarine USS Cavalla, all in th e fo rward are a of the
sh ip. After h ours of flooding, th e bow was subme rged to th e point where
th e sea wash ed over th e flight deck. As th e cre w gathered on th e aft
porti on of th e flight deck to prepare to aba n don sh ip , th e wat er rea ch ed
the forwa rd eleva tor weil and poured in to the hanga rs. The sh ip qui ckly Zuikaku after completion in
upended and plunged in to the depths with a loss of 1,272 crewmen. The September 1941. After Midway,
next day, the J ap an ese carrier force was subjected to carrier air attac k, the composition of the ship 's air
unit was altered. The number of
and Zuikaku was jnoderately damaged by o ne bomb th at penetrated th e
fighters was increased to 27 and
fligh t deck and started a fire in th e hangar. the number of attack aircraft
Wh en Zuikaku returned to service in Augu st 1944, th e Imperi al was reduced to 18. (US Naval
Navy's carrier fleet was a hollow force with few ex pe rie nced aircrew. In Historical Center)

Sandini Sammlung

Shokaku under attack during the its final action during the battle of Leyte Gu lf, Zuikaku was deployed as
battle of the Coral Sea. During part of a decoy force intended to draw the attention of the US carrie r
this ~ngagement, Shokaku was
fleet while the Im perial Navy's remaining surface forces struck the
severely damaged by three bomb
hits. En route to Japan at high
Am erican landing on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. On October
speed and with a damaged bow, 25 , Zuikaku fu lfilled her final mission, being attacked and sunk by air
the ship took on so much water attack after receiving seven torpedo and nine bomb hits.
that it nearly capsized. (US Naval
Historical Center)


Displacement: 26,675 tons

Dimensions: Length 845ft
Beam 85ft
Draft 29ft
Maximum speed: 34kts
Radius: 9,700nm
Crew: 1,800


Shoho class (Shoho - Happy Phoen ix , and Z u iho - Lucky
Design and Construction. During the I930s, the Imperial Navy created
a shadow fleet of merchant ships and auxiliaries designed to be easily
converted into carriers during war. This was another guise to avoid trea ty
restrictions and was an attempt to alleviate the problem of inadequate
shipyard space should war come. The first result of the program was a
dass of two ships laid d own in 1934-35 originally as high-speed oi lers.
Both were to have their hulls strengthened to facilitate co nversion to
ligh t carriers. Plans were changed and the sh ips were built as submarine
tenders. The first joined the fleet as such in 1939, but the second
was never completed as a submarine tender. With war douds looming,
conversion of the second ship into a carrier commenced inJanuary 1940.
When completed, Zuiho became a template for other auxiliary-to-
carrier conversions to follow. The original diesels were removed and
replaced by destroyer turbines. No armor was fitted. The flight deck was
fitted over the existing structure and two elevators served a single hangar
deck that could hold 30 aircraft. No island was fitted, navigation being
accomplished from a position forward of the hangar. Conversion of the
second ship, Shoho, took only a yea r and was completed in January 1942.
Service Modifications. Shoho received no modifications during its short
service Iife. 21
Sandini Sammlung

Mod ificatio ns to Zuiho, in ad d itio n to weapons

upgrades, inc1ude d th e ad d itio n of a Type 21 and
a Type 13 ra dar. In 1943, the fligh t d eck was
extended forward fro m 590ft to 63 1ft.
Armament. A total of four Type 89 mounts were
carried, two on eac h side with their own Type 94
fire-co ntrol system . T he short-ra nge anti-airc ra ft
fit originally co nsiste d of a n inad equat e four
tripie 25mm mounts. Shoho's wea pons fit was no t
m odified before its loss. During 194 3, Zuiho
received an ad d itio nal six tripie mounts and four
d ouble m oun ts. In july 1944, Zu iho's an ti-airc raft
gu ns were in cr eased to 68 with th e addition of
nume ro us 25mm single m oun ts. Also sh ip pe d
were six 28-barrel 4.7in roc ket lau nch e rs.
Operational History. Shoho had a very short service life and was th e first Zuikaku's crew gathers on the
Imperi al Navy carrier su nk during th e war. Com missione d injanuary 1942 , Iisting flight deck to salute the
naval ensign as it is lowered.
her first co m ba t action was to escort th e invasion fleet during th e Port
With its 1055 in October 1944,
Moresby o peration in May. In the ope ning stages of th e battle of th e Coral Zuikaku was the last of the six
Sea, Shoho was struc k by a re po rted seven torpedoes and 13 bomb hits by Pearl Harbor carriers to be sunk.
aircraft from USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. Only 203 crewmen survived . (US Naval Historical Center)
Zuiho participa ted in a n u mber of actions ane! survived weil into 1944.
The ship took part in the Midway operation . Her next op erati on was with
th ree o ther Imperial Navy carriers in th e battle of San ta Cruz in O ctob er
1942. In this engageme n t, Zuiho suffered ligh t damage when she was hit by
two bombs. Zuiho's next action was at the ba ttle of th e Philippine Sea where
her air group was almos t annihilated but th e ship was undam aged.
Assigned to accompany Zuikaku as part of the diversion ary fo rce at Leyte
Gulf, she was subjected to extensive air attac k and suffere d two to rpedo
hi ts, several bo mb hi ts, and innumerabl e near misses. Progressive flooding
resulted in her loss on O ctob er 25 with a relatively sma ll loss of life.


Displacement: 11,262 tons

Dimensions: Length 712ft
.' Beam 59ft
Draft 22ft
Maximum speed: 28kts
Radius: 9,236nm
Crew: 785

Hiyo class (Hiyo - Fl yi n g F al c o n , and Junyo - Peregrine

Design and Construction. In ad d ition to several auxiliary ships th at
were d esign ed to be quickly co nve rte d into carrie rs, th e Imperial Navy
also subsid ized the building of passenger lin e rs that coul d b e
converted into carriers. T he largest of th ese merchant conversions
became the Hiso c1ass. The Kashiuiara Maru and Izumo Maru, the largest
passenger liners in the japa nese m erch an t fleet, were laid down in 1939.
H oweve r, in res ponse to growing American naval appropriation
22 beginn ing in 1938 an d a desire to main tain carrier parity with S, the
Sandini Sammlung

Shoho in December 1941 before two lin ers were requisition ed in February 1941 and work began o n their
its conversion was complete. co nve rsio n into ca rriers.
Part of the ship's company can
The Hiyo d ass rep rese n ted a different di rectio n for J apanese carrier
be seen mustered on the fli9ht
deck aft of the wind screen. Note d esign. The largest island to d ate was provided, and for the first tim e
the downward-facing stack. Just th e stack was co mbine d with th e island. The stac k was sloped outward at
forward of the stack is a Type 89 26 degrees to keep exhaust away fro m th e flight d eck. During conversion,
anti-aircraft mount and a Type 94 a minimum o f protection was provided so as no t to reduce th e already
fire-control director. (Ships of the
borderline 25.5 kn ots top speed. Only so me two inch es of steel was
provided arou nd th e machinery spaces and o ne inch around the
magazin es. Some addition al watertigh t su bd ivisio n was inco rp orated.
In an attem p t to in crease speed, a hybrid propulsion system was
provided with destroyer-type boilers being mated to me rch an t tu rbines.
The res ult was mac h inery th at pro ved troubleso me and pro vid ed a
marginal speed for fleet use. Two e levato rs were in stalled to service two
hangars. Air cr aft ca pac ity was ra ted at 48 with another five in reserve.
Service Modifications. Junyo received a Type 21 radar in July 1942
mounted on th e island; similar work followed on Hiyo in th e au tumn of
1942. Both ships received a second Type 21 in 1943 and a Type 13 in 1944.
In J une 1944, following th e loss of Hiyo to an aviatio n fue l ex plosion, Junyo
Shoho under attack in the Co ra l had th e spa ces aro un d its fuel tan ks filled with co nc re te .
Sea. She was designed to carry
Armament. Six Type 89 mounts were positioned th ree per side . When
30 aircraft - 21 f ighters and six
attack aircraft with another three
commissioned, eigh t tripI e 25m m mounts were also can ied. In ea rly 1943,
attack aircraft in reserve. When Hiyo received an additional four tripI e 25mm mou n ts. Junyo rec eived
lost, only 18 aircraft were th e sam e incr ease during th e summer of 1943. Before the battle of the
embarked - 12 fighters and six Philippine Sea, both ships received an additional four tripI e 25mm mou n ts
attack aircraft. Even by May
and 12 single mounts. After th e battle , Junyo's anti-air craft armamen t was
1942, the Imperial Navy 's chronic
shortage of carrier aircraft and
increased by an additional three tripIe , two double, and 18 single 25m m
aircrew was evident. (US Naval mounts for a total of 79 25mm guns. Junyo also received the standard
Historical Center) J apanese carrier late-war addition of six 28-barrel 4.7in roc ket launch ers

Sandini Sammlung

mounted three per side along the forward part of

the flight deck.
Operational History. J unya was com missione d in
May 1942 an d H iya in July 1942. J unya quickly saw its
first action as part of the Northern Force assigne d
to occ upy two islands in the Aleutian s as part of th e
Midway operation. H er next action was at the battle
ofSanta Cruz, where her air group helped sin k USS
Harnet while suffering no damage in return . J unya
re mai ne d active in the Sout h Pacific throug hout
J uly 1943. Off the J apanese coast in November
1943, a US submarine hit the carrier with two
torpedoes butJunya\vas towed to port. In the battl e
of the Philippine Sea, Junya was bom bed on June
20 , tak ing two hits around the island. After
repairs, she conducted two tra nspo rt missions to
the Philippines area. While re tu rni ng to J apan
after the second, she was hit by th ree submarine
torpedoes. Despite heavy flood in g, th e sh ip ma de it bac k to J apan but was A well-known shot of Zuiho
never fully repaired. J unya was surrendered and scrapped after the war, under attack during the battle of
Leyte Gulf. Note the f1ight-deck
H iya was active in th e South Pacific early in its career but missed th e
camouflage; though dramatic it
battle of Santa Cruz because of engine problems. In J un e 1943, she was was ineffective. A Type 13 radar
torpedoed by a submarine off the J apanese coast but surviv ed. During can be seen on the lowered mast
the battle of the Phi lippine Sea, she was h it by two aircraft torpedoes. on the port side. Also note the
Pro bable leaking fuel vapor ca use d massive internal explos io ns , buckled flight deck aft, the
result of a bomb explosion o n
resu lting in th e loss of the ship.
the hangar deck. (US Nava l
Historical Center)


24,140 tons
Length 718ft
Beam 88ft
Draft 27ft
Maximum speed: 26kts
Radius: 10,000nm
Crew: 1,224

Ryuho (Dragon Phoenix)
De sign and Cons truc tio n. Another member of th e Im perial Navy's
shadow carrier fleet, Ryuha was the least successful of the five ligh t
carriers converted from auxi liary shi ps. She originally en tered servi ce as
a submarine tender in 1934. Conversion to a ligh t carrier began in
Decem ber 1941 and was completed in Nove mber 1942. Of note, while
u nd e rgoing conversion in Yok osu ka, she was lightly d am aged byaircraft
from the Dooli ttle Raid in Apri l 194 2.
When comple ted , the shi p presen ted th e sa me flush-deck
appearance as the Sh oho dass. T he cus to mary two elevators were fitted ,
but aircraft capacity was only 24, with another seven in reserve. The
original diesels were removed and replaced by destroyer turbines during
co nversio n, but top speed was a relatively slow 26 knots. With its small
fligh t deck, insufficient speed, light construction, and small air group ,
24 Ryuha was considered a second-line unit.
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:t, 'l =

Cl: ... CI! (')

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u .. (11

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1: Type 89 5in anti-aircraft gun 2: Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft

gun (tripie mount)

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1 Rear elevator (13m x 12m) 9 Type 96 25mm tripie gun 15 110cm searchlight
2 Landing guide light mount 16 60c m signal light
(green) 10 Kusho Type 3 cras h 17 Type 94 director
3 Antenna mast barrier 18 Type 95 director
4 No. 2 elevator (13m x 11 Upper aircraft hangar 19 Type 96 25mm tripie gun
12m) 12 Forward elevator (13m x mou nt
5 Type 94 director 16m) 20 Smo ke tunnels
6 Navigation bridge 13 Propeller blast deftector 21 Low er aircraft hangar
7 Kure Type 4 arresting screen 22 Type 89 with smoke
w ires 14 Type 89 5in dual gun shields
8 1sland mount 23 Antenna mast
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GI o
.... .-
:: ~


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';: 0
111 .c:
Q, ';
E 111
" .... N
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Junyo shown after the war. The Service Modifications. In 1943, the flight deck was extended forward
two ships of the Hiyo c lass were from 607 to 660ft to allow th e use of heavier aircraft. In 1944, a Typ e 21
the most elaborate merchant
radar was fitt ed.
conversions completed during
the war. In it ially, a typical air unit Armament. The standard four ligh t-ca r rie r Typ e 89 m qunts were carried ,
for these ships was 12 A6M two on each side with their own Type 94 fir e-control system. The number
fighters, 18 D3A d ive -bombers, of25mm guns was increased in 1943 to 42 and again in 1944 to 61. The
and 18 B5N attack aircraft. By final configuration was ten trip ie, four twin, and 23 single mounts.
1944, th is was modified to
Operational History. Ryuho's career confirmed the low opinion h eld o f
27 f ighters (nine of which
were fighter-bombers ),
her by th ejapanese. The ship was torpedoed offTokyo Bay in Dece m b e r
18 dive-bombers, and six 1942 but survived. For most of her life she was used as an aircraft ferry
attack planes. (US Naval or training carrier. Ryuho's on ly combat action was during the battle of
Historical Center) th e Philippine Sea in which the ship suffered light damage from bomb
near miss es. Ryuho did conduct th e last voyage of an Imperial "Navy
Close-up of Junyo 's island
carrier beyonel h orn e waters when sh e transported 58 Ohka suiciele
showing the slanted stack.
Also note the wood-planked
roc ket bombs to Fo rmosa in Decem be r 1944-jan u a ry 1945. In March
f1ight deck. (US Naval 1945 the ship was attacked anel severely damaged by US ca rrie r aircraft
Historical Center) in Kure . T h e shi p was put into dry dock to re pair flo oelin g , but was n eve r
fu lly repair eel. Ryuho surviveel th e war to be scra p peel in 1946-47.


Displacement: 13,360 tons

Dimensions: Length 707ft
Beam 64ft
Draft 22ft
Maximum speed: 26kts
Radius: 8,000nm
Crew: 989

Chitose class (Chitose - a city in Hokkaido , and

Chiyoda - a city near Tokyo)
Design and Construction. T he two ships of the Chitose dass were th e
final two auxiliaries to be converteel to ligh t carriers. Both were built
originally as h igh-sp eeel seaplane carriers anel saw servi ce ea rly in th e
Pacific War in this capacity. After Mielway, with th e neeel for ca r rie rs
b ecomin g pressi ng, it was elecieled to co nvert both into carriers. Chitose's
co nversion began in j anua ry 1943 a nel was co m p leteel in january 1944;
Chiyoda's was comp leteel in only te n m on th s.
Durin g conversion , large bulges were aeldeel to maintain stability.
T h ese sh ips were the only ligh t carriers to have two hangars, but airc raft 33
Sandini Sammlung

Ryuho shown after the war at

Kure. The ship's only combat
service was at the battle of the
Philippine Sea , during which
it embarked an air group of
21 A6M fighters and nine
attack aircraft. (US Naval
Historical Center)

capacity remained the same as the Shoho dass - 30 aircraft. In all other
respects, the dass was very sim ilar to Zuiho in her late-war configuration.
The re lative ly high speed of this dass combined with their long radius
made them suitable for employment in fleet servic e , working with th e
very similar Zuiho.
Service Modifications. None, excep t armament increas es noted below.
Ar mament. Four Type 89 mounts were carried, two on eac h sid e in the
usuallight-carrier arrangement. Thirty 25mm guns wer e carried in ten
tripI e mounts. In July 1944 , another six tripIe mounts were added for a
final total of 48 25mm guns.
O perational History. During March an d April 1944 , Chiyoda co nd uc ted
two urgent aircraft ferry missions. Both ships were assigned to th e "Van
Force" during th e battle of th e Philippine Sea , where they were escorted
by th e Im perial Navy's most powerful surface units in an attempt to draw
US carrier strikes away from the main carrier force. Despite this , only A ship of the Chifose class
pictured in the Inland Sea in
Chiyoda was damaged during the battle, suffering a single bomb hit on late 1943. The simplicity of the
June 20. Both ships were available for th e last sortie of th e Imperial conversion from its seaplane
Navy's carrier forc e during the battle of Leyte Gulf. Aga in acting as a carrier origin is evident.
diversionary force , both ships were attacked by US carrier aircraft on Designed for a capacity of
30 aircraft, these ships carried
O ctober 25. Chitose was hit by what wer e probably three torpedoes and
21 A6M fighters and nine
sank within an hour. Chiyoda was hit by four bombs. Escort ships wer e attack aircraft during the
unable to rescu e th e cr ew and lat er on th e 25th, Chiyoda came under fire battle of the Philippine Sea.
from US surface forces. The ship sank with no survivors. (Ships of the Wor/ci)

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Another shot of a Chitose-class

unit showing its two port-side
'TYpe 89 mounts and four 25mm
Displacement: 11,190 tons
tripie mounts. The ship's 'TYpe 21
Dimensions: Length 631ft
radar can be seen in the ra ised
Beam 68ft
position on the forward part
Draft 24ft
of the flight deck. (Ships of
Maximum speed: 29kts
the Wor/cI)
Radius: 11,OOOnm
Crew: 1,470 i.


Taiho (Great Pho e n ix )
Design and Construction. Co nst ructio n o n th e "C reat Ph oenix" began
in 1941 . T h is sh ip was th e first J apan ese carrie r d esign ed to receive
d am age and co n tin ue figh tin g. To ac h ieve this, a new d esign feature
was introduced - an armored flight d eck d esigned to with stand I ,OOOlb
bo m bs. Un like th e o n ly o ther arm ored ca rrie rs then in se rvice with the
Royal Navy, Taiho had only an an n ored flight d eck ofbetw een 75mm and
80 m m - th e sid es o f th e hanga r were not arm o re d . A stro ng armored
belt o f u p to 5.9in was also in stalled. Ano the r unique d esign feature was
the e nc lose d bow d esign ed to improve seaworthiness. A lar ge island
sim ilar to that on the Hiyo d ass was built, again usin g a slan te d stac k.
Taiho co u ld also act as a su p po rt carrier, and for thi s purpose she carried
Taiho p ict ured after its arrival at ad d itio nal ordnance and 33 percent more than th e usual supply of
Taw i Tawi anchorage in May
aviatio n fue l.
1944. A number of A6M fighters
and B6N attack ai rc raft can be
Taiho was d esigned on th e basis of th e Shokaku dass. To co m pe nsate
see n on the f1ight deck aft. for th e gr eater upper weight from th e an n o re d flight d eck , th e ship was
(Ships of th e Wor/cI) built with one d eck less than Shokaku to reduce its ce n te r of gravity. On ly

Sandini Sammlung

two elevators were fitted, forward and aft of the armored area of the Katsuragi on trials. The similarity
flight d eck, as it was not desired to weaken the integrity of the armored to the Soryu class is obvious.
(US Naval Historical Center)
flight d eck. Two hangars were provided; on its only com ba t operation,
Taiho e m bar ke d 75 aircraft.
Service Modifications. None .
Armament. Anti-aircraft protection was provided by a new weapon that
h ad b een introduced ea rlie r on the Imperial Navy's new dass of
an ti-aircraft d estroyer. This was the excellent Typ e 98 anti-aircraft gun , a
lOOmm weapon with a maximum range of 21 ,300yds, longer than the
older Type 89 5in gun. Taiho was the only car rie r to use this weapon and
h ad six dual mounts fitted three on each side of the flight deck.
Seventeen tripie 25mm guns were placed around the flight deck and on
th e island. Twenty ad d itional single mounts were also fitted . Two Type 21
rad ars were also car ried , one on th e forward top of th e island and one
on th e lower aft section of th e island.
Operational History. Upon com p le tion in March 1944, th e ship moved to
th e Mobile Fleet's anchorage near Singapore for sea trials and aircrew
training. Taiho was ch osen as th e flagship of th e Mobile Fleet, and much
was expected of her during th e impending decisive battle. On June 15,
Taiho sortied to exe cu te operation "A-Go". On June 19, whil e launching
strike aircraft against the US carrier fleet, Taiho was hit by one torpedo
from USS Albacore. The resulting damage flooded the forward elevator weil
and resulted in a slight bow trim, but this was notjudged to be serious and
the ship maintained 26 knots. However, the single torpedo had cracked
th e aviation fuel tanks in the area of the forward elevator and caused
gasolin e to mix with water in the elevator weil . The crew's response
demonstrated th e uneven standard of damage-eontrol training in the
Imperial Navy. All hangar doors and hatches were opened, increasing the
spread of vapor fumes. The damage-eontrol officer switched on all fans
throughout ship, turning the ship into a floating bomb.Just over six hours
after being torpedoed, a huge explosion took place that buckled the flight
deck upwards an d blew out the sides of the hangar. The explosion also
ruptured th e hull and caused a loss ofpower. Unable to fight the fires, the
ship became araging inferno and sank with a third of its crew.

29,3 00 tons
Leng th 855ft
Bearn 91ft
-Draft 32ft
36 1,751
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Unryu class (Unryu - Heaven-bound Drago n Ri di n g t h e

Clouds , Amagi - an extinct volcano , and Ka tsuragi - a
mountain near Osaka)
Design and Construction . With its final fleet-carrier design, the Imperial
Navy retumed to its pre-war concept of a fast carrier with little protection
and a relatively large air group. With war looming, the Im perial Navy took
steps to construct a large number of fleet carriers. In the construction
programs for 1941 and 1942, six carriers were ordered. To facilitate their
timely completion, th e ships were pattem ed after Hiryu, not the larger and
more complex Shokaku dass or Taiho. The first three ships were laid down
in 1942 and another three in 1943. Ofthese, only three, Unryu, Amagi, and
Katsuragi were completed. Construction of the other three, Kasagi, Ikoma,
and Aso, was suspended in 1945, with the ships only 84 percent, 60 percent,
and 60 percent completed, respectively. Another 11 ships of the dass were
ordered but never laid down. .
The basic hull was almost identical to Hiryu with the same distribution
of armor. T he bigges t difference from Hiryu was the placement of the
island forward o n the starboard side. Only two elevators were fitted
to service the two hangars and a total of 63 aircraft could be carried
(57 plus another six in reserve). In line with battle experience, aviation
fue l capacity was h alved , and the space around the fue l tanks was filled
with concrete. Of the three ships completed, Unryu and Amagi carried
the same machinery as the Soryu dass, providing a top speed of 34 knots.
Katsuragi was completed with two sets of destroyer turbines, but speed
was only slightly re d uced at almost 33 knots.
Service Mo difications. None, except for the armament increases noted
Armament. The weapons fit was simi lar to that on Hiryu. Six Type 89
mounts were fitted, three on each side of the flight deck. However, only
a single fire-con tro l director was provided for all six positions. Short-range
anti-aircraft protection was provided by 16 tripie and three single 25mm
mounts on Unryu and Amagi when completed. Shortly after completion,
another four tripie mounts were added along with another 13 singl e
mounts for a total of 76 guns. This was increased during the final months
of the war to 22 tripie and 23 single mounts for a final total of 89 guns. All

Katsurag; shown after the war in

a damaged condition. Note the
faded flight-deck camouflage
and the buckled f1ight deck.
(US Naval Historical Center) 37
Sandini Sammlung

three sh ips also re ceived six 28-barre l 4.7in ro cke t

laun ch ers for short-range anti-aircraft d efense. Two Type
21 radars were fitted, o ne o n th e island and a second alo ng
th e aft edge of th e flight d eck. Two Type 13 rada rs were
also fitted, one on the mainmast and a seco nd o n one th e
four hinged rad io masts.
Operational History. The th ree co m pleted ships of the
Un ryu dass were destin ed neve r to particip at e in a fleet
action and it is almos t certa in th at none of the ships ever
em barked a full air gro up . Only o ne saw active service
tran sporting airc raft an d h igh-priority cargo to th e
Ph ilip pines. Late in th e war, th e two surviving ships were
laid up in J ap an ese ports because of fue l shortages.
Unrnc was th e first ship to be co m missione d in August
1944. She was assigne d to th e Mobi le Fleet , but with the
shortage of train ed aircre ws, the ship did not accom pany
the Im perial Navy's carrie r for ce on its last mission in the
battle o f Leyte Gulf in O cto ber 1944. In December, Unryu was assigne d the Amagi under attack at Kure on
missio n of taking an eme rgency cargo of Ohkas to Mani la. Unryu e mba rked March 19, 1945. Beyond Amagi
is the escort carrier Kaiyo. Lack
a sma ll aviation d etachment and head ed sout h. O n December 19, th e ship
of fuel, aircraft, and aircrew
was attacked by the submarine USS Redfish. and hit by two to rpe does. The prevented the three completed
second hit th e forward aviation fuel tanks and th e ship explode d and san k ships of the Unyru class
in seven min ut es, taking with her all but 147 of th e crew. from taking any part in fleet
A magi was co m ple ted o nly five d ays after Un ryu. Katsuragi was operations. (US Naval
Historical Center)
co m m issio ne d into se rvice in O ctobe r. Ne ither shi p would leave horne
wate rs bccau se o f fue l, aircraft, and airc rew shortages. Amagi suffe red
light d am age in March 1945 from a US carrier aircraft on Kur e. InJuly
1945, another ra id to ok place o n Kure. H eavily damaged on July 24,
A lllagi finall y san k in Kur e , followin g ad di tio nal dam age suffered in aJu ly
28 raid. She was th e last Im perial Navy carrier su n k in th e Pacific War.
Kat suragi was also d am aged in th e July 24 attack but survi ved to be used
as a repat riati on ship before being scra p pe d in 1946.

Displacement: 17,150 tons (Amagi 17,460 tons, Katsuragi 17,260 tons)
Dimensions : L..ength
,,: ~:;r:
I * MBeam 72ft
:D raft 26ft
'P34 kt s (Katsuragi 33kts)

Shinano (An ancient Japanese province )

Design and Construction. Shinano has the distinction of bein g th e largest
carrier b uilt durin g Wodd War II and re ma ine d th e largest carrier ever
built un til the in tro duction of th e US Navy's su pe r-carriers in the late
1950s. Shinano was origina lly laid down as th e third ship of th e Yamato dass
of super-ba ttleships in May 1940. After th e star t of th e war const ruction on
th e ship slowed; byJ une 1942, she was o nly co m ple te up to th e main deck.
After th e battl e of Midway, even th e Imperial avy could see th at
battleships were no lon ger needed , and plans were drawn up to convert
38 Shina no into a carrier. Following d ebat e withi n the aval Staff o n how to
Sandini Sammlung

employ the sh ip, what emerged was the co ncept of using Shinano as a
sup port carrier. As suc h, it was envisione d that she would ac t as a forward
floating fo rtress able to lan d and refu el/rearm aircraft fro m less pro tected
carriers operating to the rear. In accorda nce with this ro le and because
o n ly a single han gar deck was pr ovided during co nve rsion, she would
operate on ly a small air group (47 aircraft), primaril y for self-protec tion .
T he d esign of Shinano mirro red that of Taiho in many respects.
Shinano featured an armored f1i gh t d eck between the elevators, th is tim e
with j us t over three inch es of armor. As o n Taiho, o n ly two e levato rs we re
fitted. T hese served a single hangar level ; th e hangar area was divided
into two hangars, th e fo rward o ne being o pe n with sh u tters and the rear
area being e nclosed like Taiho. As o n Taiho, a large islan d with a slanted
stac k was fitted.
In ad d ition to th e armored flight d eck, p rotection for the hull was
extensive. T he belt armor thi ckn ess was halved from its battl eship origin ,
bu t was still over eigh t in ch es. An an ti-torpedo bplge was fitred and
anothe r 7.5in of arm o r was Fitted in an an nore d d eck ove r th e machine ry
and magazine spaces. All the an nor brought th e trial displ acem en t o f th e
sh ip to within 2,800 tons of a YrlrnatlKlass battleship.
Service Mo d ifications. None.
Armament. Eight Type 89 m ounts were ca rried, two pai rs fo rward on
each side of th e fligh t d eck , and another two pairs aft in a sim ilar
a rrangement. Eac h pair was p ro vid ed with its own fire-control director.
Shinano was weil su p plied with sho rt-ra nge anti-airc raft p rotect ion ,
having 33 tripie 25mm moun ts. Twelve sho rt-ra nge roc ke t launch e rs
we re also fitt ed , arranged in sets of three in a sim ilar fash io n to th e
Type 89 gu ns . Two Type 2 1 ra da rs we re ca rrie d, one forward o n th e
island and o ne on the aft po rt ion of the island, providing 360-degree
coverage. Two Type 13 radars were also ca rrie d , o ne o n the mai n m ast
and another on th e fo rward po rt side ra d io m ast.
Operational History. Shinano had th e shortes t ca reer of any Imperial
Navy carrier. The sh ip was co mmissio ne d o n Nove m be r 18, 1944. Ten
d ays lat er, she departed Yok osuka and headed sou th to th e port of
Kur e to co m plete fittin g o u t. The sh ip was not fully ready for sea, with
in complete waterproofing and missin g cou n ter-flood ing and damage-
co ntro l pumps. This, co m bine d with th e in experience of its cre w, spe lled
di saster wh en she was struck by four su bm arine torpedoes from USS
A rcherfis h early on November 29. The damage was not co nsidere d to
be fata l and her cap tain co n tin ue d to steam on at 18 kn ots. Co u n te r-
flooding checked th e initial flooding , but Shinano's incomplete co nd itio n
permitted th e flooding to spread. All power was lost when th e boiler
rooms flo oded an d soon th ereafter th e unsinkable Shinano capsized with
over 1,400 of its cr ew.


Displacement: 62,000 tons

Dimensions: Length 873ft
Beam 119ft
Draft 34ft
Maximum speed: 27kts
Radius: 10,000nm
Crew: 2,400
Sandini Sammlung

Taken in November 11 ,1944,

THE ESCORT CARRIERS this is the only known
photograph of Shinano. The
Another co m po nen t of th e Imperial Navy's shadow carrie r program ship has taken a starboard heel
was th e use of passenger lin ers for conversion into carriers. The largest during a ru dder test. The hull
camouflage is just vis ible.
of th ese co nversions becam e the H iyo dass and were considered so
(Ships of t h e Wor /d)
succe ssful by th e Japanese that th ey were typ ed as regular, not auxiliary
ca rrie rs. Before th e two largest lin ers wer e laid down, anoth er five lin ers
were subsidized by th e Imperial Navy for possible co nversio n into
carrie rs. Four of th ese were even tually co nverte d into escort carrie rs,
with th e fifth being lost before sh e could be co nvert ed. In its pla ce , a
Ge rman lin er was requisitioned.
Th e Imperial Navy intended th at th ese co nversio ns would work
with th e Co m bined Fleet. Because th ese sh ips had a fairl y low top
speed (21- 23 knots) , an d lacked cata pu lts, th ey were n ever co ns ide re d
satisfactory for fleet work. As su ch , th ey were used primarily for airc raft
ferryin g operations and aircrew tr aining. Later in th e war, when th e
Imperial Navy realized it co uld no longer ignore co m merce protecti on
and cre ated th e Grand Escort Command, th e remaining esco rt carriers
were utili zed in a convoy protection rol e.

Ta;yo class (Chuyo - Heaven-bound Hawk, Ta;yo - Great

Hawk, and Unyo - a Hawk in the Clouds)
Design and Construction. In 1937, th e Imperial Navy subsidized th e Nitta
Maru d ass of three passenger liners. All were structurally designed to be
converted into auxiliary carriers. The last of th e three ships, Kasuga Maru,
was actually th e first com pleted as a carrier. In 1940, Kasuga Ma ru was
requisitioned while still under construction and conversion to a carrier
begun. Work was not com pleted until September 1941 when th e ship, now
named Taiyo, was commissio ne d. Conversion of the first two ships, Nitta
Ma ru and Yawata Maru, was not com pleted until November and May 1942,
respectively, when th ey eme rge d as Chuyo and Unyo.
The conversions were fairly auste re and took only six months. Wh en
co m pleted, th e sh ips emerg ed as flush-de ck carriers with th e navigation
bridge placed forward under th e flight d eck. In typicalJapanese fashi on,
exhaust gases were ven ted by means of a downward-slop ed sta ck locat ed
amidsh ips on th e starboard sid e. To increas e speed, th e original diesel
engines were re place d with turbines but th e result was an unsatisfactory
21 kn o ts. Two elevators service d a sin gle hangar. Taiyo had th e ca pac ity
to operate 23 aircraft (with four more in reserv e ) and th e o ther two
sh ips co uld carry 30 aircraft.
Service Mo difications. No ne , exc ept for th e armamen t in creases noted
40 below.
Sandini Sammlung

Taiyo pictured w ith five A6M Armament. Wh en complet ed, Taiyo was equip pe d with six of th e older
fighters on deck. The designed 4.7in an ti-aircraft gu ns in sing le mounts and four twin 25mm mounts.
aircraft mix for these ships was
Taiyo's arrna me n t was updated in 1943 with th e fitting of add itio nal 25mm
2 1 f ighters and nlne attack
aircraft. However, when they
guns, and in 1944 when th e 4.7in guns wer e removed and repl aced with
were assigned to the Grand two Type 89 mounts. By 1944, a total of 64 25mm guns were embarked .
Escort Command , only B5Ns The two siste rs co mm issio ne d in 1942 were armed with th e usu al
were carried . (Ships of the World) Type 89 mounts. Chuyo had 14 25mm guns when sunk in 1943; by 1944,
Unyo had 64 25mm guns. All three ships were equipped with a Type 21
radar fitt ed on the fo rward starboard fligh t-d eck edge.
Operational History. All three ships were sunk by submarines. Taiyo was
th e first unit co m m issioned in September 1941 and ac tually co nd uc ted
two ai rcraft fer ry runs before th e sta rt of th e war. In Augus t 1942 , sh e
wo rked briefly with su per-ba ttles hip Yamato during opera tio ns near
Gua da 1canal; this proved to be Taiyo's o nly frontline ap pearance . Sh e was
torpedoed twice by su bmarines between September 1942 and September
1943, but su rvived . In December 1943, Taiyo was transferred fro m th e
Co m bined Fleet to th e Grand Escort Co mmand and assumed h er n ew
ro le of co nvoy esco rt. In thi s capac ity, Taiyo was struck fo r th e final tim e
by one to rpedo fro m USS Rasher ui Augu st 1944. The sh ip's aviati on fuel
ta n ks ex plode d and th e ship san k quickly with fewe r th an 100 su rvivors.
Chuyo was co m missione d in Novem be r 1942 after less than six months
in convers ion . She co nduc ted 13 d epl oyments, carrying airc raft, su pplies,
and passengers. During th e cou rse of th ese missions from December 1942
until December 1943, Chuyo was torpedoed o n three different occasions
by US submarines . The third attack, by USS Sailfish, proved fatal. Though
th e ship 's aviatio n fuel tanks did not blow up, the qui ck sin king of the
ship resulted in the d eath of 1,250 cre w and passengers , including 20 US
pri soners being tra nsported to Japan.
Unyo was commissioned in May 1942 and followed a simi lar career
pattern to its two sister ships. After many ferry runs, sh e was assigned
to th e Grand Escort Command in December 1943 . Unyo was hit by
three su bmarine torpedoes in January 1944 but survived. Hit again by
two torpedoes launched from USS Barb in September 1944 , Unyo san k.

Displacement: 17,830 ton s
Dimensions: Length 591ft
Beam 74ft
Draft 26ft
Maximum speed : 21kts
Radius: 8,500nm
Crew: 850 (Taiyo 747) 41
Sandini Sammlung

Kaiyo (Sea Hawk)

Design and Construction. Kaiyo was the smallest of
the escort carrier conversions. In 1938, construc-
tion began on passenger liners Argentina Maru and
Brazil Maru. The Brazil Maru was sunk before
conversion could be ordered, but in December
1942 the Argentina Maru entered the yards to begin
conversion into a carrier. Work was completed in
November 1943 and was nearly identical to that of
the Chuyo dass. Again , the original diesels were
replaced with turbines, but speed was still only 23
knots. Two elevators serviced a single hangar. Kaiyo
had th e capacity to operate 24 aircraft (nominally
18 fighters and six bombers) .
Service Modifications. None , except for the
armament increases noted below.
Armament. Kaiyo emerged with four Type 89 mounts. Eight tripie 25mm All three Taiyo-class un its were
mounts were fitted, and another 20 single mounts were added later for a sunk by submarines. Here one of
these ships is captured in the
total of 44 guns. Eight depth charges were also carried for anti-submarine
periscope of USS Haddock in
work. A Type 21 radar was added forward on the flight-deck edge. April 1943. IUS Naval Historical
O perational H ist ory. Kaiyo joined the fleet in November 1943 and was Center)
used to ferry aircraft and escort convoys throughout 1944. In 1945, the
ship became a training carrier in the Inland Sea and was used as a target
for kamikaze pilot training. The ship suffered minor damage at Kure in
March 1945. She was later sunk on July 24, 1945 by US carrier aircraft.


!\I!~!!~09 .tons
lf;!l.ength 546ft
"Beam' 72ft
"Draft 2? ft "
. kt~" "
. ,QOOnm

Shinyo (Godly Hawk)

Design and Co nstructio n . Like all the other Imperial Navy escort carrier
conversions, Shinyo was originally built as a passenger liner. In this case ,
she was the German liner Schamhorst. which was serving a Pacific route
when the war began and was unable to return to Germany. The Imperial
Navy purchased the ship with the original intent of using her as a troop
transport, but after the battle of Midway plans were begun to convert
her into a carrier to train new aircrews. Conversion work began in
September 1942 . As the layout of the Schamhorst was similar to Japanese
liners of the Nitta Maru dass, Shinyo's conversion was simi lar to that
of the Taiyo dass with the primary d ifferences being the addition of
external bulges to increase stability and the retention of Scharnhorst's
original turbo-electric drive system. Two elevators were fitted to service
the flush deck, single-hangar carrier, which could operate 27 aircraft
with six more in reserve .
Service Modifications. None, except for the armament increases noted
42 below.
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Armament. Shinyo was commission ed with four Type 89 mounts. A total

often tripie 25mm mounts were originaliy fitted ; inJuly 1944 ad d itio n al
single mounts were added to bring th e final total to 50 25 m m gu ns . A
Type 2 1 radar was added on th e forward edge of th e flight d eck o n th e
sta rboard side .
Operational History. After joining th e fleet in December 1943, Shinso
was assigneel to th e Granel Escort Co m man el. From July 1944 , th e
sh ip esc o r te el co nvoys, provieling air co ver ag ain st submarine a ttac k. In
No vem be r 1944 , whil e escort ing a COl1\'oy bounel for Singapore , Shinso
was struc k by as m any as four torpeeloes from USS Spadefish. Th e poorly
protecteel avia tio n fu el tanks e xp loeleel causing a large fir e that claimed
th e sh ip anel most of h er cre w.

Displacement: 17,500 tons ,"
Dimensions: Length 651ft
Beam 84ft
Draft 26ft
Maximum speed: 22kts
Radius: 8,000nm
Crew: 948

A quick exam in a tio n of eac h o f th e Imperial Navy's principal classes of
carrie rs reveals a mixeel ba g o f success anel failure. As th e Navy's initial
a ttem p t a t flying aircraft from th e elecks of sh ips, Hosho proveel a su ccess ,
as she was useel to suc cessfull y introelu ce a number of n ew technologies
a n el proceelures into fleet service. Akagi anel Kaga must also be seen as
successfu l co nve rsio ns as th ey provieleel th e backbane of th e First Air
Fleet's strikin g power eluring th e initial stages of th e war. The Soryu dass
e p ito m ize d th e Im p e rial Navy's elesire to cre a te a fast ca rrie r with a large
air win g a t th e expen se of protecti on. Soryu anel Hiryu lived up to their
d esign ers ' promise, providing a powerful striking force but proving
unable to survive elamage in th eir only clash with enemy carriers.
In th e Shokaku dass, Japanese ca rrie r d esign reacheel its zenith. Both
ships proved very tough and ca pable units in action. At th e time of their
introduction in la te 194 1, they were th e most weli-balanceel anel powerfu1
ca rrie rs in th e worlel. The wartime-built fleet carriers were not as
suc cessful. Taiho was certain ly a fin e elesign , but was clea rly not one that
co u lel be repeateel in suffi cient numbers to allow th e Imperial Navy to
sustain a ca m paign against th e US Navy, The Unryu dass was a elesign
co nceiveel with ease of construction in minel. However, it was actually a
ste p back , as it possesseel littl e protection , anel by 1944 , th e size o f its air
grou p co m pareel unfavorably with those of the new US Navy fleet ca rrie rs
alreaely in se rvice. The final flee t ca rrie r, Shinano, was a n a n o maly but
o ne th at possesseel consiel erabl e potential. However, by th e tim e o f h er
co m m issio n ing, sh e was irrelevan t. Th e most teliing co m men t regarding
th e Impe rial Navy's fleet ca rrie r co ns truc tio n program was that only
five sh ips e n tereel servi ce . Co m pa re d with th e 17 fleet ca rrie rs built by th e
US Navy during th e war, thi s was clea rly inadequate. 43
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J ap an ese pre-war plans for preparing merchant and aux iliary sh ips
fo r conversion into carrie rs was also a mix ed success. Whil e th e p ro gram
was succ essful in providing 11 ships, th ese were ge ne ra lly not of a
sta ndard to be successful in fleet service. The most useful co nversion was
th e H iyo d ass. For th e Imperi al Navy, th ey were importan t ad d itio ns to
its carrier force , as th ey ca me immediat ely after Midway. Ge nerally, th ese
shi ps o ffere d the ca pability of Hi ryu. but with a lower speed and reduced
pro tecti o n. As th e only sh ips co nverted fro m me rch an ts to ac t as fleet
carrie rs durin g th e war, th ey must be j udged as a successfu l co nversion.
The five sh ips co nve rted fro m auxi liaries into light carrie rs ge nerally
pro ved useful in service with th e excep tio n of Ryuh o. H oweve r, eve n th e
mo re successful co nve rsio ns co uld o pe ra te on ly a small nurnb er of
aircraft, and , whi le man euverabl e , were largely unpro tected.
T he Imperial Navy's five esco rt carriers re n de re d little useful service
aside fro m acting as aircraft ferries. No t su rprisingly, with no catap ults
and insuffici ent speed, th ey were a failure in th eir envisione d rol e as fleet
units. Even used in a more suitabl e rol e as convoy esco rts th ey proved a
failure. The contributions of th e Imperial Navy's five escort carrie rs
co n tras t miserably with th e key rol es played by the over 125 esco rt carrie rs
th at en tered service in th e Royal and US Navies.

Bro wn , David , Aircraft Carriers, Arco Publishing Co m pa ny, Ne w Yo rk ,
Dicksan , W. D., 'T he Shokakus', Warship International, Volurne 1,
Internati onal Naval Research O rgani zati on, H olden, Massachusetts,
Go rdo n , B. G., and A.J. Watts, The ImperialJapanese Navy, MacDonald,
Landon, 1971
Guy, Robbins, TheAircraft Carrier Story 1908-1 945, Cassell, Landon, 2001
Itani ,Jiro, Hans Lengerer, and Tomko Rehm-Takah ara, 'An ti-airc raft
Gu n nery in th e Imperi al japanese Navy', in Robert Gard iner (e d.),
Warship 1991, Conway Maritime Press, Landon , 1991
J entschura, Hansgeorg, Diet er Jung, and Peter Mick el , Warships of the
ImperialjapaneseNa vy 1869-1 945, Naval Institute Press, Annap olis ,
Maryland, 1977
Lengerer, Hans, 'Akagi and Kaga' (three parts), Warship Volume VI,
Co nway Maritime Press, Landon , 1982
Lengerer, Hans and Tomko Rehrn-Takahara, "Th e Japanese Air craft
Ca rriers H iyo andJunyo' (th ree pa rts ) , Warship Volume IX, Co nway
Maritime Press, Landon , 1985
Wells, Linton, ' Pain ting Systems of th e ImperialJapanese Navy
1904-1 945' , Warship International, Volurne 1, International Naval
Research Organizati on, Holden, Massachusetts, 1982
Yoshihide , Yam amoto , Yoshiwara Kannari , Hara Katsuhiro , and Sh ibata
Takehiko, A ll About J apanese Naval Shipboard Weapons, KK Bestselle rs,
To kyo, 2002
Perfeet Gu ide , The Aircraft Carriers of the ImperialJapanese Navy and Army ,
Ga kke n , Tokyo
44 www.combinedflee m
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A : PR E-WAR IM PE RI A L NAVY CARR IERS escorted by six A6Ms . The Japanese attac k was directed
This plate shows the Imperial Navy's first fleet carriers. All at USS Yorktown and succeeded in placing three bomb hits
Imperial Navy ships were painted in a dark navy gray. The on the carrier at the cost of 13 D3As. Now it was the turn of
basic shade was made up of a 75 percent white/2 5 percent Hiryu 's 85Ns, ten of which are shown ranged on the flight
black blend with a blue tint (this is very similar to the deck. One of these is actually from Akagi as indicated by the
current color of modern Japanese Maritime Self-Defense red stripe around the rear fuselage. The six A6M fighters are
Force ships). Each of the major naval depots in Japan first to take off, as they need a much shorter length of flight
unintentionally used a slightly different shade of the basic deck to take off than the torped o-laden 85Ns. Two of these
dark gray co lor. Maizuru was the lightest wi th Kure, are from Kaga , as evidenced by the two red stripes around
Yokosuka, and Sasebo each becomi ng more dark. Later in the rear fuselage.
the war as material shortages increased, the base colo r for Hiryu's torpedo strike attacked Yorktown again, which
all carriers became more silver gray in tint. had gotten under way following repairs of the damag e
Imperial Navy carrier flight dec ks were covered by wood inflicted by Hiryu 's dive-bombers. Of the ten 85Ns, two
planking that was left in its original color. Any area not scored hits. Only five returned to the Hiryu . 8efore Hiryu
covered in wood was painted in the basic dark navy gray could launch a th ird strike with the remnants of its dive-
color, including aircraft elevato rs. The flight deck was bomb er and torpedo squadrons , the-shlp was attacked by
marked to assist in aircraft take-offs and landings. On the dive-bombers from USS Enterprise and hit by four bombs .
forward section of the flight deck on the centerline were six Damage control parties could not contain the resulting fires
white lines radiating out at ten-degree intervals. This was and the ship was abandoned. Hiryu finally sank the next day.
used to determine wind direction with the help of a steam Yorktown was later sunk by a Japanese submar ine attack on
vent located on the torward end of the flight deck. The June 5.
centerline stripe ran the entire length of the flight dec k and Inset 1. An A6M from Hiryu 's fight er squadro n. From
had embedded lights to aid in night landings. The centerline 1941-1943, IJN carrier-based fighters were painted in a light
stripe was usually flanked by tw o other stripes that cou ld be gray color. The cowling was painted in black as an anti-glare
solid or dotted. A distinctive ship identification marking was device. A single tail stripe indicated that the aircraft belonged
painted in white. For most carriers this was located on the to a section leader. The two blue fuselage bands and the tail
rear part of the deck on the port side and cons isted of the code of 811 indicated that the aircraft was from Hiryu , part of
first letter or syllable of the ship 's name rendered in katakana Carrier Division 2. The block of 100 numbers was reserved
figures. Many carriers also had a white circle painted on the for fighter aircraft.
rear section of the flight deck in the area of the rearmost Inset 2. Hiryu 's 85N aircraft were painted in a two-color
arresting wires. This was provided as an aiming point for scheme, wit h black green on the upper sides and light gray
aircraft during recovery. The extreme aft section of the flight on the lower. The aircraft has the same unit and formation
dec k was marked with a number of white and red stripes to markings as the A6M, but in this case it has three tail bands ,
assist the pilot in judging his final approach during landings. indicating that it is a group leader's aircraft (in this case
1. The top view shows Akagi as it appeared at the start of the Lt. Tomonaga who led the strike on USS Yorkto wn). The
Pacific War. Note the small port-side island, one of only two 300 block of numbers was reserved for attack aircraft .
instances of a carrier not having its island placed on the
2. This view shows Kaga in December 1941. The ship This plate shows some of the Imperial Navy's carrier
retained this appearance until its loss, apart from the addition convers ions.
of a large red circle on the f1ight deck for the Midway
operation . As with Akagi , its non-carrier origin is obvious . The
small island has been placed back on the normal starboard
side. Also evident is the heavy anti-aircraft armament and the
casemate-mounted 8in guns aft near the waterline.
3. Shown here is Soryu as it appeared at the start of the war.
As the first Imperial Navy ship designed from the keel up as
a fleet carrier, its sleek lines indicate speed , but also an
inability to carry heavy protection.

This plte shows Hiryu preparing to launch a torpedo plane
strike against the American carrier task force during the
battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. Only hours earlier, the First
Air Fleet's other three carriers had been struck by US carrier
dive-bombers and put out of action. Only Hiryu remained
unscathed and it was now up to her to salvage the battle for Kaiyo c learly showing it s mercantile origin s. Not e t he ra is ed
the Imperial Navy. Immediately after the disastrous strike on Type 21 radar on t he fli ght deck and the port-sid e Type 94
the Japanese carriers, Hiryu launched a strike of 18 D3As fire-control director. (Ships o f the Wor/d) 45
Sandini Sammlung

1. This plate shows Shoho in May 1942 just before its loss. Shinyo in November 1943 durin9 speed tria ls. Note the Type
Note the typ ical light carrier flush-deck appearance with the 21 radar in it s raised position forward of the ma inmast.
downward-facing stack on the starboa rd side. Also note the (Ships of the Wortd)
narrow flight dec k that hindered aircraft operat ions and
limited aircraft capacity to 30. Shoho was commissioned speed was 34 knots ; 26 knots could be attained by using
with a light anti-aircraft fit and a flight deck that ended weil cruising turbin es.
short of the bow . Later on in the war, the four other light When commiss ioned , Zuikaku 's crew was Iisted as 75
carrier conversions received radar, a large num ber of officers , 56 warrant officers , 71 petty officers , and 1,458
additiona l 25mm guns, and had their flight decks lengthened . enlisted men. In October 1942 at the battle of Santa Cruz,
2. This plate shows Hiyo as the ship appeared in June 1944 the actual ship's compl ement was 107 officers (including
before its loss at the battle of the Philippine Sea. The warrants and including the ship's air group) and 1,461
mercantile Iines of the Hiyo are clearly evident as is the large enlisted men and petty officers. Aboard ship , officers were
island with the slanted stack. The ship 's anti-aircraft provided with cabin-Iike staterooms, petty officers had tiered
armament has been increased to 18 25mm tripie mounts . bunks , and enlisted men used hammocks.
Three radars are also fitted including a Type 21 on the island, On the flight deck , in addition to the Type 4 arresting
a second Type 21 in a retract ing position on the aft port side wires located on the aft portion of the deck , two Kusho Type
of the flight deck , and a Type 13 fitted on the mainmast 3 crash barriers were installed in the area of the island. A
behind the island. The four radio masts shown on the flight- windbreak screen was positioned in front of the torward
deck edges aft of the island were lowered during flight elevator. A seven-ton collapsible crane was fitted aft on the
operations . starboard side for handling the ship 's boats and aircraft.
Three elevators were used to move aircraft from the two
0: HIJMS ZUIKAKU hangar decks to the flight deck . Each could move an aircraft
This plate shows Zuikaku in her original configuration as she from the lower hangar deck to the flight dec k in 15 seconds .
appeared during the Pearl Harbor attack and the batt le of the With time to offload an aircraft , a full circuit took 40 second s.
Coral Sea. Zuikaku was the second ship of the Shokaku class The 16ft-high upper and lower hangars were each divided
that was ordered in the Third Replenishment Program in into three compartments. For fire protect ion, each hangar
fiscal year 1937, the same plan that author ized the two cou ld be divided into six or seven subdiv isions by the use of
battleships of the Yamato class . These carriers were roller-type fire curta ins.
designed without treaty restriction , and , Iike the Yamato, The small island had four levels. The first contained the
were intended to have no foreign equal. commanding office r's cabin , the operations room , and a
Zuikaku had a heavy defens ive armament with eight Type ready room . The wheelhouse , radio room and navigation
89 guns fitted in pairs, each with its own Type 94 director. officer's spaces were located on the second level. On the
There were 250 shetls-provlded per gun plus a ready store of third level were the pilot house , captain 's bridge , and the
12 additional rounds. The pair of Type 89s aft of the stack co mmunications office . The fourth level was open and
were provided with smoke shields. Short-range air defense housed the look-outs. Eleven binocu lars and tw o signal
was provided by 12 Type 96 tripie mounts; 2,600 25mm Iights were positioned on this level, in add ition to one of the
rounds were provided per gun plus an additional 100 rounds ship 's four Type 94 directors.
for ready use. Inset 1. Type 89 5in anti-aircraft gun
Ordnance for the ship 's air group includ ed 45 Type 91 Inset 2. Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun (tripie mount)
torpedoes, 60 1,760lb, 60 1,100lb , 312 550lb , 528 1321b, and
48 661b bombs. One hoist was provided for moving the large E: WART IME CARRIER CONSTRUCTION
bombs from the ir magazine to the hangar deck, and another 1. Taiho had a unique appearance with its large island,
was used for the smaller bombs . Magazines were located on slanted stac k, and distinctive enclosed bow. The ship also
either side of the forwa rd elevator and forward of the most aft features an armored flight deck ; it would appear as dark navy
elevator. A total of 496 tons of aviation gas was carried gray instead of wood planking. Because of the armored flight
aboard. Aviation fuel tanks were located deep inside the ship deck , only two aircraft elevators are fitt ed instead of the
in the same areas as the magazines. usual three for a fleet carrier.
Zuikaku was fitted with the most powerful machinery 2. This plate shows Amagi as it app eared in 1945 before
available - it delivered a total of 160,000 horsepo wer on its loss. The ship has a typical late-war appea rance, with
four shafts. Eight boilers were located in eight rooms aligned increased anti-aircraft guns and the add ition of six 4.7in
46 in two rows and connected to four turbines. The ship's top rocket launchers on the forward flight -dec k edge. Radar has
Sandini Sammlung

also been fitt ed, with a Type 21 on island and another the B6N is an attack aircraft from the 601st Naval Air Group .
Type 21 on the flight-deck edge on the po rt side. A Type 13 Note that the hinomaru is now encircled by white .
is mounted on the mainmast. The aircraft and boat crane Inset 2. The D4Y "Judy" dive-bomber was a late-war
shown aft was collapsed into the ht deck during flight replacement for the D3A "VaL" This aircraft was also assigned
operations. The ship is in her Ia e- cam ouflage scheme , to Taiho. It is also from the 601st Naval Air Group, but the
including a disruptive pattern on the flight deck and an numbe r 220 is drawn from the block reserved for dive-
anti-submarine scheme on the h . bombers. Moments before the fatal torpedo hit, one of
3. This plate shows Shinano as it appea red in Novem ber Taiho 's orb iting D4Y "Judy" aircraft , piloted by Flight Warrant
1944. The hull employs an anti- submari ne scheme. The flight Officer Sakio Komatsu , spotted the wakes of the incoming
deck was covered with a cement- ike substance, so it would torped oes. Without hesitat ion, he dove into their path ,
appear as light gray. Note the battleship lines of the hulL successfully exploding one.
Shinano features the largest f1ight deck and island of any
Japanese carrier. Note the tremendou s defensive armament, G: I M P ER IA L NAVY CARRIER CAMOUFLAGE
including numerous tripIe 25mm tripie mounts, eight Type 89 Of all major navies in World War 11, the Imperial Navy had the
5in dual mounts, and twelve 4.7in rocket launcher s. The ship least developed system of warship camouflage. During
has two Type 21 radars fitt ed on the island and tw o Type 13 the early course of the war, a handful of ships , principally
radars (one on the mainmast and the second on the forward light cruisers and auxiliary cruisers, were painted in some
radio mast). variation of disruptive or dazzle camouflage. These schemes
were experimental and were not the result of any coordinated
PHILIPPINE SEA In March 1943, the Yokosuka Navigation School was
This plate shows Taiho as it appeared on June 19, 1944 charged with investigat ing methods of camouflaging aircraft
as the ship was participating in Operation "A-Go." Taiho, carrier flight decks. The con clusion of the invest igating
toget her with Shokaku and Zuikaku, was assigned to Force com mittee was that camou flage of an exposed flight deck
"A". Taiho embarked the 601st Naval Air Group's Hikotai 311 against aircraft was ineffective, but some anti-submarine
with 27 A6M, 30 D4Y dive-bombers, and 18 B6N torpedo camouflage measures were recommended . The resulting hull
bombers. On June 13, tw o of each type were destroyed in scheme was applied to the Imperial Navy's surviving aircraft
a landing accident, but the remainder were onboard when carriers in 1944. The pattern was simple and called for the
Taiho sortied with the rest of the Mobile Fleet. On June 19, the hull to be painted in a bright green base which was over-
Japanese launched their strikes on the US carriers. As the painted with a false silhouette of another smaller ship in an
strike of 48 A6Ms, 53 D4Ys, and 27 B6Ns was being launched olive green shade.
by Force "A," Taiho was being tracked by the submarine USS Between March and July 1944, another committee took
Albacore. At 0810 , Albacore fired six torpedoes at Taiho from up the issue of carrier camouflage. Afte r testing, it was again
2,000yds. One hit Taiho on the starboard side in the area of determined that camouflage would not prevent a carrier from
the forward elevator. This single hit started a chain of events being spotted by aircraft or confused with another type of
that resulted in a fatal internal explosion at 1432. At 1628, the ship. However, on the premise that some camouflage was
Imperial Navy's finest carrier sank in its first engagement. better than nothing, several schemes were prepared for
Inset 1. By June 1944, the B5N had been largely replace d by application to carrie r flight decks. The schemes were
the B6N "JiIL" This aircraft was assigned to Taiho. Command intended to break up the shape of the flight deck and to give
markings have been simplified . The tail code indicated that the impression to attacking US aircraft that the ship being
attacked had gun turrets and other structures and was
therefore not a carrier. Each pattern was unique and included
black , very dark green, dark green, greenish black, and
greenish brown.
1. This plate shows Zuiho as it appeared in the battle of Leyte
Gulf in Octob er 1944. For its last battle , it has been painted
with a flight deck disruptive scheme. The extended flight
deck com pared to its sister ship Shoho is evident. Also
evident are the increased num ber of 25mm guns and the
addition of six rocket launchers along the aft edge of the
flight deck.
2. This plate shows the light carrier Chitose as it appeared
in the batt le of Leyte Gulf. The ship is painted with a flight
deck disruptive scheme and the anti-submarine hull scheme .
Chitose was orig inally a seaplane tend er and its orig inal lines
can still be seen after its conversion into a carrier.
3. This plate shows escort carrier Chuyo in 1944. In add ition
to the camouflage scheme , the ship also shows the late-w ar
changes made to all escort carriers . The older 4.7in mounts
A BSN attack a ircraft takes off showing the flight-deck have been replaced by Type 89 mounts and the numbe r of
markings of this Imperial Navy carrier. (US Nava l 25mm mounts has also been increased. Type 21 and Type 13
Historical Center) radars have also been fitted. 47
Sandini Sammlung

Figures in bold refer to illustrations aircraft ca pac ity 5 Kur e 38, 39,42
aircraft laun ching 5-6
aircraft aircraft recovery 6 Lexington, USS 19, 22
A6M figh ters 4, 5, 6, 9,35,4 1, 45, BI camo uflage 47, G Leyte Gulf, ba ule of (Oc to ber 1944) 7,
B5N carrie r torpedo aircra ft 5, 5, 45, developme nt 3-5 21, 22, 24, 34, 38
47 ,B2 esco rt carrie rs 40-3
B6N carrie r torpedo air craft 35 , FI evalua tion of 43-4 Mari anas 20
D3A d ive-bo rnb ers 3, 5 fuel tanks 7 Midway, battl e of (june 1942) 3, 9, 11, 12,
D4Y dive-hombe rs 47, F2 han gars 6-7 14, 15, 17, 18, 22, 45, B
Albacore, USS 36, 47 ligh t carrier co nversions 2 1-4,33-5 Mobil e Fleet 36, 38, 47
Aleutians 15, 24 p re-war 10-21
anti-aircraft guns rada r 8-9 New Guinea 19
Type 89 7-8, 23, 35 , Dl wartime co nstru ction 35-9 Nitta Maru (passe nge r line r ) 40
Type 95 d irecto r 8 wea po ns 7-8
Type 96 7, 8 , D2 J apa nese carriers (by nam e) Ohka suicide roc ket bombs 33, 38
A rcherfish, USS 39 Akagi, HIJMS 11-1 2, H , 12, 13, 16, Ope ra tio n "A-Go" (june 1944 ) 36
Argentina Ma11l (passenger lin er ) 42 43,45, AI
a rres ting systems 6 Amagi, HIJMS 13, 37-8,38, 46-7, E2 passen ger lin e rs 22, 40, 42
Aso, HIJ MS 37 Pearl Harho r 12, 17, 19
Brav, USS 41 ChitoslKlass 33-5, 34, 35 Phi lipp in e Sea, batt le of th e (lune 1944)
Brasil Ma11l (passenge r line r) 42 Chitose. HIJMS 33-5,47, G2 18,1 9, 20, 22,23, 24, 33, 34, 47, F
Chiyoda, HIJMS 33-5 Ph ilippi nes 15
Cavalla, USS 20 Ch11)'O, HIJMS 40- 1,47, G3 Po rt Darwin 12, 17
Ceylon 12, 17 Hiryu , HIJMS 16-1 7, 18, 19, 43, 44, Po rt Moresby 19, 22
Colom bo 17 45 , B
Combat 1nfonn ati on Centers 9 Hiyo, HIJ~lS 22-4, 44, 46, C2 Rabaul 12,1 9
Co m bine d Fleet 40,41 H osho, HIJ~IS 10-11 , 10, H , 43 radar
Co ral Sea, ba ttle of the (May 1942) 19, Ikoma, HIJMS 37 Type 13 9, 9, 24
21, 22, 23 JW1yO, HIJMS 9, 22-4, 33 Typ e 21 9, 9, 35,45
Kaga, HIJMS 13-14, 14, 15, 43, A2 Rasher. USS 4 1
Doo little Raid (Ap ril 1942) 24 Kaiyo, HIJMS 38,42, 45 Redfis h, USS 38
Dutc h East Ind ies 12, 17 Kasagi, HIJMS 37
Katsuragi, HIJMS 36 , 37-8, 37 Sailfis h, USS 4 1
Eastern Solomons, battl e of th e 15 RYllho, H IJMS 24, 33, 34 , 44 Saipan 20
Enterprise, USS 12,1 4,17,20, 45 Ryuj o, H IJMS 14-15, 16 Santa Cru z, ba ttle of (Oc to ber 1942) 22,
f.ssex-class (US Navy) 17 Shinano, H IJMS 38-9, 40,43, 47, E3 24
Shinyo, HIJMS 42-3, 46 Samtoga. USS 15
fire co n tro l d ireeto rs: Type 94 7, 23, 45 Shoho, HIJMS 21-2, 23, 46, CI Schamhorst (Gennan lin e r ) 42
First Air Flee t 5, 12, 14 Shokaku, HIJMS 6,9, 17-21,20,21, 43 Sino-Japa nese Wa r (193 7-40) II
Carrier Division 2 17 S01)'u, HIJMS 15-1 7, 17, 43, 45, A3 Solomo n Islands 19-20
Carrier Division 5 19 Taiho, HIJMS 35-6, 35 , 39, 43, 46, 47, Spodefish, USS 43
Fonnosa 33 EI, F
Taiyo, HIJMS 40-1 ,4 1 Tri neoma lee 17
Grand Escort Co m ma nd 40,41, 43 Unryu, HIJMS 37-8, 43
Guadalcana l 3, 15, 19- 20,4 1 Unyo, HIJ MS 40- 1 Wakarniya Maru (naval transpo rt) 3-4
Zl1i1lO, HIJ MS 21-2, 24, 47, GI Wake Island 17
Hornet, USS 20, 24 Zuikaku, HIJMS 7, 17- 21, 20, 22, 46, Washi ngton Naval Treaty (1922) 4, 11, 13,
D 14,17
Im pe rialJ apanese Navy: carrier J ava 15
develop ment 3-5 Yamato-class battl eshi ps 38
Ind ia n Ocea n raid (Ap ril 1942) 14,1 7,1 9 kamika ze tra ini ng 42 YalOata Maru (passe nger lin er ) 40
Izumo Maru (passenger lin e r ) 22 Kashhoara Maru (passenger liner) 22 Yo kosu ka 24
Kasuga M aru (passe nger liner ) 40 Yok osu ka Naviga tio n School 47
J ap an ese carriers: ge neral Kom atsu , Sakio 47 Yomtoum, USS 17, 19, 22, 45

Sandini Sammlung

New Vanguard 109

The design, development, o pe ration and histo ry Imperial ]apanese

of the machinery of warfare through t he ages
Navy Aircraft
Carriers 1921-45
The Imperial japanese Navy was
a pioneer in naval aviation,
having commissioned the world 's
first built-from-th e-keel-up carrier ,
the Hosho. Throughout the 1920s
an d 1930s, the IJN experimented
with its carriers, perfecting their
Full color artwerk Unrivaled detail
design and construction. As a
result, by the time Japan entered
World War II and attacked the
United States at Pearl Harbor in
1941, it possessed a fantastically
effective naval aviation force.
This book covers the design,
development, and operation of
IJN aircraft carriers built prior to
and during World War II. Pearl
Harbor, Midwa y, and the battle
of the Coral Sea - the first carrier
Cutaway artworl< Photographs vs carrier battle - are all discussed.

IS BN 1-84176-853-7

www .ospreypublish

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