The Biggest Battleships of World War II Belonged to the Imperial Navy
The Japanese anticipating their involvement in war embarked on an ambitious plan to strengthen their navy. Initially the Japanese admiralty was not much convinced of the efficacy of the aircraft carrier and passed instructions to build the heaviest battleships in the world. It is a tribute to Japanese engineering skills that they constructed 3 of the world’s largest warships. They were the Yamato, Musashi and the Shinano. Later the Shinano was converted to an aircraft carrier as the Imperial navy had realized the value of air borne operations in naval warfare.
The Yamato named after a province in Japan was launched on 10 December 1941, a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It became the flagship of the Imperial Navy and displaced 72,800 tonnes when loaded with its full complement of weaponry and stores. It also had the biggest guns on its deck with a diameter of 18.i inch (46cm). These were later converted to radar controlled.
Unfortunately the Yamato’s effect on the naval battles was minimal. It was used during the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944) and was firing its guns at the US fleet, when a monumental error of judgment cost the Imperial navy a certain victory. At that time the Japanese estimated that they were facing the entire US pacific fleet and thus with drew when in reality only US aircraft carrier was in the combat zone.
The Yamato moved back to Japan with instructions to stop a US landing at Okinawa. The ships was sunk south of Kyushu by US carrier borne aircraft on & April 1945 and now rests at a depth of 1400 meters on the bed of the ocean. Despite the relative failure of the Yamato in naval warfare the ship had a formidable arsenal of weaponry. Its naval artillery was the largest and heaviest ever used on ships and could fire shells with a range of 26 miles. It was a formidable battleship, but it appeared on the scene when the era of the battleship had ended.
The Musashi was the sister ship of the Yamato. It was launched on 5 August 1942 and saw some naval activity. But it was sunk by US aircraft on 24 October 1944 at the Battle of Sibuyan Sea due to overwhelming American air power. The Musashi had similar armaments to the Yamato, but its role in the Pacific war was limited. In fact without air cover the battleship was a sitting duck.
The third ship of the Yamato class was converted to an aircraft carrier, but it was too late as the war in the Pacific had already been lost by then. Named after the longest river in Japan, the Shinano was sunk just 10 days after it was commissioned in 1944.
These 3 Yamato class battleships point to an advanced Japanese design technology. In fact the size of the ships took the Americans and British by surprise. Only these ships appeared 2 decades late as the age of the battleship was over.