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".
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Yamato Museum (Kure Maritime Museum) has a 1/10 scale model of the battleship.
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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February 4, 2018