Digital fine art render of the Japanese battle ship Yamato.
Yamato was the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet
Yamato was the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet. By size, she was the biggest battleship ever built. Fully loaded, Yamato outweighed the biggest Allied battleships by more than 20 percent.
Even at this gigantic size, Yamato could reach top speed of 28 knots per hour. This extraordinary performance had much to do with Yamato’s bulbous bow, which jutted out 10-feet (3-meter) waves that cancels out other waves generated by the main part of the ship, greatly reduced drag at the front.To come up with this great design, the Japanese tested 50 different models.
Yamato’s sides could survive 3,000-pound armor piercing projectiles like those from the U.S. Iowa’s guns. At 23,000 tons, Yamato’s steel armor weighed more than 30 percent of her total weight. Armor plates of unprecedented 25 inches (63cm) thick shielded the turrets of her main guns.
Yamato’s nine main guns were the largest to ever crown a warship. Each gun was 69 ft (21 meters) long, weighed 147 metric tons and was capable of firing high-explosive or armor-piercing shells 26 miles (42 kilometers.) The guns fired shells 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter which weighed about a Honda Civic car. And these guns could dangerously strike at an unprecedented range of 25 miles (40 km.) The nine guns were mounted on three turrets. Each of these turrets weighed more than an entire American Fletcher-class destroyer. (3,000 tons versus 2,100 tons.)
Yamato’s secondary guns were also impressive. Her six inch guns – that is, guns firing shells six inches in diameter, had a range of 17 miles (27 kilometers). And her 24 five inch guns, mounted in 12 turrets, could destroy targets nine miles away.
On April 7, 1945, the battleship Yamato faced the whole American fleet practically alone. She headed towards Okinawa. The escorts protected her from submarine attacks, but no airplanes helped her on the air. Yet the Yamato remained her course towards the fifteen-hundred-ship American fleet.
Eight Japanese destroyers and one cruiser, the Yahagi , assisted Yamato to fend off her attackers. By the end of the battle, Yahagi and most of the destroyers were sunk. American pilots concentrated their torpedoes below Yamato’s waterline near her bow and stern where her armor was thinnest. And the attacks were on just one side of the hull.
Yamato took 12 bomb and seven torpedo hits within two hours of battle. The Yamato ‘s 1,000 watertight compartments couldn’t save her. An astounding series of explosions onboard Yamato produced the mushroom cloud. Experts believe that a fire raging in the battleship’s aft secondary magazine caused tons of ammunition to ignite simultaneously, producing the blasts that tore the ship in half and sank her. These blasts were the largest ever to occur at sea.
2,747 men, including Vice-Admiral Seiichi Ito, the fleet commander— went down with Yamato. Only 269 of her crew survived. Surrounding Japanese ships lost an additional 1,467 men.
Yamato puts up a tremendous battle but she was not a match against nearly four hundred attack planes all alone without any air support. The battle was hopeless but she fought valiantly. She settled on the seafloor 1,400 feet down and about 50 miles southwest of Kyushu, Japan.
The sinking of Yamato ended the era of battleships. Aircraft carriers became king of the seas afterwards.