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  Yamato
IJN
Yamato Class Battleship

71,659 Tons
862'10" x | 121'1" x 32'11"
9 x 18.1"/45
12 (later 6) x 6.1"/60
12 (later 24) x 5"/40 DP
up to 150 x 25mm AA
4 x 13mm AA

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1941
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October 25, 1944
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April 7, 1945

Ship History
Yamato was the largest and most heavily armed and armored battleships ever constructed, with the largest main gun battery armament of 18.1" on any battleship in the world. She and sister ship to Musashi, both the pirde of the Japanese Navy.

On November 4, 1937, the keel of Battleship No. 1 is laid down at Kure Naval Arsenal. Launched on August 8, 1940 and departs for sea trials on August 12.

Battle of Leyte Gulf
Americans largely ignored her and concentrated on other warships and sinking Musashi which was the flagship of the operation. Yamato was bombed on October 25, 1944 in her bow area and took on 3,000 tons of water, but survived the battle.

Kamikaze Mission: Operation Ten-Go
By early April 1945 the American invasion fleet was anchored off Okinawa. Out of desperation, the Japanese Navy sent most of its remaining warships, and Yamato on a kamikaze mission: Operation Ten - Go. The plan was for Yamato to attack the American fleet, and then beach herself on Okinawa, where the surviving crew would join the land defense.

Allied aircraft and submarines patrolled Japanese home waters and was spotted after leaving port. On this mission Yamato flew a large Kamikaze banner from her main mast that read: "Injustice - Fairness - Law - Power - Heaven".

Sinking History
On April 7, 1945, Yamato was attacked by over a thousand US Navy aircraft in three separate waves. The cloud base was low and her anti-aircraft guns were unable to achieve an adequate barrage of fire. Attacking aircraft also had trouble, fifty-three from USS Hancock never found Yamato and even the attacking planes problems because of low cloud cover.

First Wave
At 12.37 the first attack wave descended out of the low cloud base 132 fighters, 50 dive-bombers and 98 torpedo bombers. 2 bombs struck her to starboard, aft of her funnel and level with the after fire control director, 5 minutes later 2 more struck her, one struck just forward of her aft 6 inch turret and the other passed through her after secondary battery control position. Both shells detonated against her 7.9 inch armored deck, there was no damage below this deck, but fires were started that were never extinguished on the deck. These flames spread and detonated the cordite in her 6" turret, the roof blown away in the explosion. The flash doors to her magazine kept this explosion from spreading.

Avengers armed with torpedoes then attacked. Two torpedoes struck her portside amidships. As a result, water leaked into number 8 Fire room and then the port outward engine room, this flooding was at first controlled by pumps. Yamato took a list of 6 degrees, that was was counteracted by flooding her starboard side outboard torpedo protection voids. There are also reports of 2 more hits during this first attack wave- but not proven.

Second Wave
At about 13.00 Yamato was again attacked. No bombs hit her. Torpedo bombers honed in on her port side and 3 or 4 hit her very close to the first 2. Fire room 8 had already been abandoned but now the flooding was spreading to no 12 Fire room aft. The port hydraulic machinery space and the outboard port engine room were also flooded. Most other ships would have capsized. She was now listing at 16 degrees, and the loss of one shaft had reduced her speed to 18 knots. Further counter flooding to her starboard side reduced this list to about 5 degrees. This list was temporarily brought under control by a torpedo strike to her starboard side, which caused flooding to her starboard no 7 fire room.

Third Wave
After a lull of 30 minutes the third attack wave descended out of the clouds towards her, even so, her list was starting to rise again. Three bombs struck her portside amidships; another hit her portside capstan causing her anchor to fall into the sea. Even so, not one of these bombs managed to pierce her armored deck.

Three torpedoes struck her seriously ruptured port side, in fact they passed straight through her open hull side and detonated in her outboard engine room - already flooded, which lead to flooding in her port inner engine room and loss of power to that shaft. Another torpedo struck her starboard amidships, causing the flooding of her starboard outer engine room.

Yamato was now listing back at 16 degrees, and the captain ordered the flooding of the remaining starboard areas, without warning to the crew members stationed there. Hundreds died as a result of this counter flooding. This had no effect and her list climbed to 23 degrees, she was also reduced to 8 knots, by this time flooding was uncontrollable and spreading.

Sinking History
Shortly after 14.00 all power was lost and permission was given to abandon ship, she was on her beam ends and when she did finally roll over at at 14:10 on April 7, 1945 and sank. Yamato suffered an enormous explosion that was seen seen over 100 miles away and it also brought down an American aircraft circling above. This explosion was caused by the fire in her aft 6" turret. After rolling over, the flames traveled down her lift hoists and therefore reached her magazine.

YAMATO’S TORPEDO DEFENSE
The really important point is that her horizontal armor was excellent, not one bomb out of about 8 managed to pierce her armored deck. Forward of no1 turret and aft of no3, YAMATO had no armored deck and this explains why she flooded so badly a year earlier at Leyte Gulf. Her enormous armor plating was concentrated around her central area that encompassed all her vital machinery, if you can imagine a model boat with all the electrics inside a steel box within her hull then you get the picture- a box within a box!

YAMATO’S torpedo bulge was air filled behind this was an inclined armor plated bulkhead that tapered down in size to her keel from 8 inches to 3 inches, inboard of this there were 2 further thinner water tight bulkheads, but these lacked the flexibility to deform without puncturing or cracking, when her main armor plated bulkhead was displaced inwards by an explosion.

Yamato was struck by about 14 torpedoes, 7 confirmed or up to 9 struck her port side amidships within about 150' of each other, to be more precise the spread of these torpedo strikes was equal in length to her superstructure above. These torpedoes were far more powerful than early war models. Yamato was in serious trouble after 5-6 torpedo strikes, by the time the third wave was about to pounce on her, her list had already started to rise again. This third wave merely finished her off,

Did her torpedo defences fail badly? 7 or 9 torpedoes to a relatively small area is quite a lot, even so she was starting to flood after only 2, this is a very subjective point. If these torpedoes were spread out she would probably have survived this attack only to be sunk later by the huge American navy.

YAMATO’S anti-aircraft defenses lacked fire coordination and due to the cloud cover. Americans machine-gunned her decks mowing down her gun crews, and many of guns were already destroyed by the bomb strikes amidships. The Japanese were well aware of YAMATO’S poor AAA this is why they removed her 2 amidships 6inch turrets and replaced them AAA. These guns were not up to the job; far too lightweight they should have been 40mm. YAMATO also fired an air burst/flak type of shell from her main 18.1" guns called 'san shiki' when detonated they released thousands of steel balls all over the immediate area, this though was not effective because her main turrets had such a slow training speed, as did her 5" guns.

Conclusions
The exact number of torpedo strikes she received will never be known, at least 150 were dropped that means only 14 struck her, not many is it, I’m not so sure! When one sees the picture of the wreck apart from the damage to the bulbous bow, the below waterline Visible areas look undamaged. MUSASHI was sunk by more torpedoes roughly 20, if she had been closer to shallow water she could have been beached, and maybe salvaged later. Which is exactly what the Japanese were trying to do when they broke off from the main battle fleet and headed for a nearby island.

Wreckage
The wreck of the Yamato was discovered and explored with an underwater submersible in 1985. She exploded while upside down causing the debris not to spread far. The wreck is under 2,000' of water, in two pieces. The bow section is severed just past her B turret, and is lying on its side, in the middle is the wreckage of her superstructure. On the other side the stern section is lying upside down with a prop missing; the turrets are lying close by. A large slab of her hull keel area is lying also upside down, The wreck is only about 560' due to the crumpled keel area. One of her anchors is missing that fell off after a bomb hit, and there is eveidence of torpedo damage to her bow.

Memorials
Yamato Museum (Kure Maritime Museum) has a 1/10 scale model of the battleship.

References
A Glorious Way to Die covers the history of Yamato and sinking
Yamamoto Wreck Discovered (down as of 2008)
IJN Battleship Yamato: Tabular Record of Movement

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Last Updated
May 26, 2014

 

 

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