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9 × 46 cm (18.1 in) (3×3)

12 x 155 mm (6.1 in) (4×3)

12 × 127 mm (5 in)

24 × 25 mm anti-aircraft (8×3)

4 × 13.2 mm AA (2×2)

9 × 46 cm (18.1 in) (3×3)

6 × 155 mm (6.1 in) (2×3)

24 × 127 mm (5 in)

162 × 25 mm anti-aircraft (52×3, 6×1)

4 × 13.2 mm AA (2×2)

Yamato (大和), named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, was a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. Flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet, she was lead ship of the Yamato class. She and her sister ship, Musashimarker, were the largest and heaviest battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load, and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 inch) main guns.

Constructed from 1937 – 1940 and formally commissioned in late 1941, Yamato served as the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto throughout 1942, first sailing as part of the Combined Fleet during the Battle of Midwaymarker in June 1942. Throughout 1943, Yamato continually transferred between Trukmarker, Kure and Bruneimarker in response to American airstrikes on Japanese island bases. The only time Yamato fired her main guns at enemy surface targets was in October 1944, but was ordered to turn back after attacks by destroyers and aircraft of the "Taffy" light escort carrier task groups managed to sink three heavy cruisers during the Battle off Samar. Yamato was sunk in April 1945 during Operation Ten-Go.

Design and construction

Yamato under construction

Yamato was the lead ship of the Yamato class of heavy battleships, designed by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1937. The class of battleship was designed to be capable of engaging multiple enemy targets, as a method of compensating for Japan's incapability to industrially compete with the United States Navy. With the vessels of the Yamato class displacing over 70,000 tons each, it was hoped that the firepower of the constructed battleships could offset American industrial power.

The keel of Yamato was laid down at Kure Naval Arsenal on 4 November 1937, in a specially designed dockyard. Throughout construction, large canvases prevented observation of the construction from elsewhere in the Kure Dockyards. Due to the size of the vessel, upgraded gantry cranes—each capable of lifting 150 and 350 tonnes—had to be designed and built for use during construction. Yamato was launched 8 August 1940, with Captain (later Vice Admiral) Miyazato Shutoku in command.


Yamato s main battery consisted of nine 18.1-inch 40 cm/45 Type 94 naval guns—the largest caliber of naval artillery ever fitted to a warship. Each gun was long, weighed , and was capable of firing high-explosive or armour-piercing shells . Her secondary battery comprised twelve guns mounted in four triple turrets (one forward, one aft, two midships), and twelve guns in six double-turrets (three on each side amidships). In addition, Yamato carried twenty-four anti-aircraft guns, primarily mounted amidships. When refitted in 1944, the secondary battery configuration was changed to six guns, twenty-four guns, and one hundred sixty-two antiaircraft guns, in preparation for naval engagements in the South Pacific.

Combat service

1942: Trials and initial operations

On 16 December 1941, Yamato was formally commissioned at Kure, with Captain (later Vice Admiral) Gihachi Takayanagi in overall command of the ship; she joined fellow battleships Nagato and Mutsumarker in the 1st Battleship Division on the same day. On 12 February 1942, Yamato became the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's Combined Fleet. Following sea trials and war-games, Yamato was deemed fully operational and serviceable on 27 May 1942, and was assigned to Yamamoto's Main Battleship force for the upcoming Battle of Midwaymarker. During the pivotal battle, Yamamoto exercised overall command of the Japanese assault force from Yamato s bridge. Following the defeat of Japan's primary carrier force (four fleet carriers and 332 aircraft destroyed), Yamato and the main battleship force withdrew to Hashirajima.

On 17 August 1942, Yamato departed Kure for Trukmarker. Eleven days later, the American submarine spotted Yamato, firing four torpedoes at the battleship. No hits were scored, and Yamato entered Truk later in the day. Throughout the American naval campaign at Guadalcanalmarker, Yamato remained at Truk, as her high fuel consumption rates prevented feasible use in the Solomon Islands Campaign. In December 1942, Captain (later Rear-Admiral) Chiaki Matsuda was assigned to command of Yamato.

1943: Movement between bases

On 11 February 1943, Musashi replaced Yamato as flagship of the Combined Fleet. Yamato—coming to be called "Hotel Yamato" by the crews of Japanese cruisers and destroyers stationed in the South Pacific—remained at Truk until May 1943, when it departed first for Yokosuka, and then for Kure. For nine days, Yamato was drydocked for both inspection and general repairs. Yamato was again drydocked in July, with her antiaircraft suite, secondary-turret armour, and rudder controls undergoing significant refitting and upgrades. In August, Yamato returned to Truk, joining a large Japanese Task Force in response to American raids on Tarawa and Makin atolls. In November 1943, Yamato joined a larger task-force—six battleships, three carriers, and eleven cruisers—in response to American airstrikes on Wake Island. On both occasions, no contact was made with American forces, and the fleet retired to Truk.

In November 1943, the decision was made to use Yamato and Musashi as transport vessels, due to their extensive storage capacity and armour protection. On 23 December, while transporting troops and equipment to the Admiralty Islandsmarker, Yamato and her taskgroup were intercepted by the submarine . Skate fired a spread of four torpedoes at Yamato, with two striking on the starboard side near Turret #3. Severe failure of the armoured belt flooded the upper magazine of the rear turret, and Yamato was forced to retire to Truk for emergency repairs.

1944: Combat

Line Drawing of Yamato as she appeared in 1944–1945.

On 16 January 1944, Yamato arrived at Kure for repairs and was drydocked until 3 February 1944. While drydocked, Captain Nobuei Morishita—former Captain of the battleship Haruna—assumed command of Yamato. On 25 February, both Yamato and Musashi were reassigned from the 1st Battleship Division to the Second Fleet. Yamato was again drydocked for upgrades to her radar and antiaircraft systems throughout March 1944, with a final AA suite of one hundred sixty-two 1-inch (25 mm) antiaircraft guns and twenty-four 5-inch (13 cm) medium guns. The radar suite was also upgraded to include infrared identification systems, aircraft-search and gunnery-control radar systems. Following a short transport mission to the South Pacific in April, Yamato departed for Linggamarker alongside Jisaburo Ozawa's Mobile Fleet. In early June 1944, Yamato and Musashi departed as troop transports for Biakmarker, with the intention of reinforcing both the garrison and naval defenses of the island.Steinberg (1978), p. 147 When word reached Ozawa's headquarters of American carrier attacks on the Mariana Islandsmarker, the mission was aborted.

From 19–23 June 1944, Yamato escorted forces of Ozawa's Mobile Fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, dubbed by American pilots as "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". Japanese aircraft losses exceeded 400, while three aircraft carriers were lost to submarines and airstrikes. Yamato s only major engagement throughout the operation was mistakenly opening fire on returning Japanese aircraft. Following the battle, Yamato and the Mobile Fleet withdrew to Bruneimarker to refuel and rearm.

From 22–25 October 1944, Yamato joined Admiral Takeo Kurita's Centre force in the Battle of Leyte Gulfmarker, the largest naval engagement in history. While en route, the force was attacked in Palawan Passage by the submarines and . With torpedoes, they sank and (Kurita's flagship), and damaged . This forced Kurita to transfer his flag to Yamato. During the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, Yamato was hit with three armour-piercing bombs from aircraft of the . Her sister-ship Musashi sank after being hit with seventeen torpedoes and nineteen bombs.

On the evening of 24 October, Admiral William Halsey, Jr. was convinced that Kurita's force had been turned back. Halsey took his powerful 3rd Fleet to pursue the decoy Northern Force. Unknown to Kurita, the deception was a success as it had drawn away no less than five fleet carriers and five light fleet carriers with more than 600 aircraft between them, six fast battleships, eight cruisers, and over 40 destroyers. During the darkness, Kurita's Centre Force navigated the San Bernardino Strait, and attacked the small force known as "Taffy 3" of six escort carriers 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts the Americans had left behind shortly after dawn when they were sighted. In the initial stages of the Battle off Samar, Yamato engaged enemy surface forces for the first and last time, hitting several of the American ships. After confirming primary battery hits on , a spread of American torpedoes heading for Yamato were spotted. To avoid them, the battleship steered away from the fighting, and was unable to rejoin the battle. Against large caliber shellfire, the light American surface combatants could only return fire with torpedos and 5 in guns. But when combined with hundreds of Wildcats and Avengers of 16 escort carriers nearby, the American forces caused enough damage and confusion to lead to Kurita ordering his task force to disengage. The Yamato emerged without serious damage, but three of his heavy cruisers were eventually sunk. Nevertheless, the sinking of one escort carrier and three destroyers by gunfire would account for the bulk of American losses in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Following the engagement off Samar, Yamato and the remainder of Force A returned to Brunei. On 15 November 1944, the 1st Battleship Division was disbanded, and Yamato became the flagship of the Second Fleet. On 21 November, while transiting the East China Seamarker in a withdrawal to Kure Naval Base, Yamato s battlegroup was attacked by the submarine , with the battleship Kongomarker and several destroyers lost. Upon returning to Kure, Yamato was immediately drydocked for repairs and antiaircraft upgrades, with several older antiaircraft guns being replaced. On 25 November, Captain Aruga Kosaku was named commander of Yamato.

Yamato under attack off Kure on 19 March 1945.

1945: Final operations and sinking

On 1 January 1945, Yamato, Haruna and Nagato were all transferred to the newly reactivated 1st Battleship Division; Yamato left drydock two days later. When the 1st Battleship Division was deactivated once again on 10 February, Yamato was reassigned to the 1st Carrier Division. On 19 March 1945 Yamato came under heavy attack when American carrier aircraft from , and raided the major naval base of Kure where she was docked. Damage to the battleship, however, was light, due in part to the base being defended by elite veteran Japanese fighter instructors flying Kawanishi N1K1 "Shiden" or "George" fighters. Led by the man who planned the attack on Pearl Harbormarker, Minoru Genda, the appearance of these fighters, which were equal or superior to the F6F Hellcat in performance, surprised the attackers, and several American planes were shot down. Heavy antiaircraft defensive fire and the heavy upper-deck armour plating on Yamato also prevented any significant damage to the vessel. On 29 March, Yamato took on a full stock of ammunition, in preparation for combat off Okinawa in Operation Ten-Go.

Operation Ten-Go was a deliberate suicide attack against American forces off Okinawamarker by Yamato and nine escorts, beginning on 6 April 1945. Embarking from Kure, Yamato was to beach herself near Okinawa, and act as an unsinkable gun-emplacement—bombarding American forces on Okinawa with her 18.1-inch heavy-guns. Yamato carried only enough fuel to reach Okinawa, as the fuel stocks available were insufficient to provide enough fuel to reach Okinawa and return. While navigating the Bungo Straitmarker, Yamato and her escorts were spotted by the American submarines and , both of which notified Task Force 58 of Yamato s position.

At 12:32 on 7 April 1945, Yamato was attacked by a first wave of 280 aircraft from Task Force 58, taking three hits (two bombs, one torpedo). By 14:00, two of Yamato s escorts had been sunk. Shortly afterward, a second strike of 100 aircraft attacked Yamato and her remaining escorts. At 14:23, having taken 10 torpedo and 7 bomb hits, Yamato s forward ammunition magazines detonated. The smoke from the explosion—over high—was seen away on Kyūshūmarker. An estimated 2,498 of the 2,700 crew members on Yamato were lost, including Vice-Admiral Seiichi Itō, the fleet commander.

See also



  • Ballard, Robert (1999). Return to Midway. London. Wellington House. ISBN 0-304-35252-7
  • Chant, Christopher (2001). History of the World's Warships. Regency House Ltd. ISBN 1-55267-158-5
  • Jackson, Robert (2000). The World's Great Battleships. Brown Books. ISBN 1-89788-460-5
  • Johnston, Ian & McAuley, Rob (2000). The Battleships. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7603-1018-1
  • Reynolds, Clark G (1982). The Carrier War. Time-Life Books. ISBN 0-80943-304-4
  • Schom, Alan (2004). The Eagle and the Rising Sun; The Japanese-American War, 1941-1943. Norton & Company. ISBN 2-00201-594-1
  • Steinberg, Rafael (1978). Island Fighting. Time-Life Books Inc. ISBN 0809424886
  • Steinberg, Rafael (1980) Return to the Philippines. Time-Life Books Inc. ISBN 0-80942-516-5
  • Thompson, Robert S. (2001). Empires on the Pacific: World War II and the struggle for mastery of Asia. New York. Basic Books. ISBN 2001036561
  • Wheeler, Keith (1980). War Under the Pacific. Time-Life Books. ISBN 0-8094-3376-1
  • Willmott, H.P. (2000). The Second World War in the Far East. Wellington House. ISBN 2004049199.
  • Wiper, Steve (2004). Warship Pictorial 25 - IJN Yamato Class Battleships Classic Warships Publishing. ISBN 0-9745687-4-0

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