A Brief History
On April 7, 1945, the biggest and most heavily armed battleship created by man was sunk without ever fighting another battleship!
The Japanese battleship Yamato was the first of a two ship class (Musashi was the second) of battleships designed to survive hits by the guns of British and American battleships, and to sink them with her giant guns.
The 9 main guns of the Yamato fired 2,800 pound projectiles that were 18.1 inches in diameter, the biggest guns ever placed on a ship. By contrast, the German Bismarck had 8 X 15 inch guns, the American Iowa class battleships had 9 X 16 inch guns, and the British King George V class sported 10 x 14 inch guns.
Bigger and more heavily armored than other World War II battleships, Yamato (and her sister ship Musashi) stretched 862 feet long and 127 feet wide, displacing an incredible 73,000 tons when loaded. The American Iowa class battleships were the second largest battleships ever produced, at 861 feet long, 108 feet wide and displacing a maximum of 57,000 tons.
The cracked angle to the story of the Yamato is, despite being built at enormous expense of money and materials that could have been much more effectively allocated to producing aircraft carriers and submarines, Yamato never fought another battleship! Her one and only use of her guns against other ships was when she helped sink an American destroyer and light aircraft carrier.
Yamato spent much of the war staying out of harm’s way as it had become apparent how vulnerable battleships were to attack by airplanes and submarines. Yamato was dispatched on one last mission in 1945, to repulse the American invasion of Okinawa. Given only enough fuel to get there, but not back, the mission would be her last whether successful or not. Her orders were to beach herself if damaged and continue to fight from a stationary position!
Yamato never got the chance to fight her glorious suicidal mission for the Emperor, and was attacked by hundreds of US carrier planes while enroute to Okinawa. Struck by a minimum of 6 armor piercing bombs and 11 torpedoes, the mighty ship rolled over and sank, taking 2498 of her 2767 crewmembers with her.
Battleships had become obsolete, and aircraft carriers had become the capital ships of the world’s strongest navies. No battleships have been built since World War II and it is virtually certain that no giant, big gun, thick armor battleships will ever be built again.
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For more information, please see…
Skulski, Janusz. The Battleship Yamato (Anatomy of the Ship). Naval Institute Press, 1988.