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Japan's Shokaku class fleet aircraft carriers

Photos

Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier
Imperial War Museum MH-5931

Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942
US Navy 80-G-17031
Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier at Yokosuka on August 23, 1941:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier at Yokosuka on August 23, 1941
US Naval History and Heritage Command NH-73066

Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942
US Navy 80-G-17422
Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942
US Navy 80-G-17027

Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier with Zeros on deck during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942
US Navy 80-G-176150
Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942:
Japan's Shokaku fleet aircraft carrier under attack by aircraft from the USS Yorktown on May 8, 1942
US Navy 80-G-17030
Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier on September 25, 1941:
Japan's Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier on September 25, 1941
US Naval History and Heritage Command photograph NH 73067

Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944 when Vice Admiral Ozawa transferred his flag to the Oyodo:
Japan's Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944 when Vice Admiral Ozawa transferred his flag to the Oyodo
US Naval History and Heritage Command NH-95784
Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier during the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 20, 1944:
Japan's Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier during the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 20, 1944
US Navy 80-G-238025
Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944:
Japan's Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944
US Naval History and Heritage Command NH-95784
Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944:
Japan's Zuikaku fleet aircraft carrier at the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25, 1944
US Naval History and Heritage Command NH-95785

Design

The Shokaku and Zuikaku were the first Japanese carriers planned after the Naval Treaties expired. These were ordered under the 1937 Reinforcement Program. Their design was based on the Soryu class with a stronger flight deck and a bulbous bow that was similar to the Yamato.

Flight Deck

The flight deck was made of wood. There were three elevators and two catapults in the flight deck. The elevators were (forward to aft) 42' 6" x 52' 6", 42' 6" x 39' 4", and 38' 6" x 42' 6".

Hangars

There were two hangars.

Defense

The carriers were expected to be able to defend themselves and had 16 5" guns with the mounts at the rear being in fully powered turrets. There were 36 25 mm guns.

By June 1944 they both carried 70 25 mm guns.

In July 1944 the Zuikaku was upgraded to 96 25 mm guns and 168 5" rockets.

Concrete

To help prevent the aviation fuel fires that happened at Midway, the Shokaku and Zuikaku had concrete put into the spaces around the aviation fuel tanks.

Ships

IJN Shokaku, IJN Syokaku , (flying crane)

  • Manufacturer: Yokosuka Navy Yard
  • December 12, 1937: Laid down.
  • June 1, 1939, June 2, 1939: Launched.
  • August 8, 1941: Completed.
  • September 1941 - July 14, 1942, October 1941: Member of Carrier Division 5.
  • December 6, 1941, December 8, 1941: Pearl Harbor.
  • January 1942, January 20 - 22, 1942: Rabaul, Kavieng, Lea, Salamaua, New Guinea
  • February 1, 1942: Patrols in Japan's home waters.
  • April 1942: Indian Ocean raids.
  • May 8, 1942: Battle of Coral Sea. Badly damaged by aircraft from the USS Lexington.
  • July 14, 1942 - June 19, 1944: Member of Carrier Division 1.
  • August 1942, August 24, 1942: Battle of Eastern Solomons. Hit by a bomb.
  • October 1942, October 26, 1942: Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. Heavily damaged by six bomb hits by aircraft from the USS Hornet.
  • May 3, 1944: Training south of Singapore.
  • June 19, 1944: Battle of the Philippine Sea with the Main Body. Sunk. Sunk by four torpedoes from the USS Cavalla 140 nautical miles north of Yap. Lost to aviation fuel catching fire.

IJN Zuikaku (lucky crane)

  • Manufacturer: Kawasaki at Kobe
  • May 25, 1938: Laid down.
  • November 27, 1939: Launched.
  • September 25, 1941: Completed.
  • September 1941 - July 14, 1942, October 1941: Member of Carrier Division 5.
  • December 6, 1941, December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor.
  • January 1942, January 20 - 22, 1942: Rabaul, Kavieng, Lea, Salamaua, New Guinea
  • February 1, 1942: Patrols in Japan's home waters.
  • April 1942: Indian Ocean raids.
  • May 8, 1942: Battle of Coral Sea. Helped sink USS Lexington.
  • July 14, 1942 - August 10, 1944: Member of Carrier Division 1.
  • August 24, 1942: Battle of Eastern Solomons.
  • October 15, 1942: Sank USS Meredith.
  • October 26, 1942: Battle of Santa Cruz Islands.
  • May 1944: Gasoline bunkers lined with concrete to help prevent fires.
  • May 3, 1944: Training south of Singapore.
  • June 19 - 20, 1944: Battle of Philippine Sea. Badly damaged.
  • August 10, 1944 - October 25, 1944: Member of Carrier Division 3.
  • July 1944: Anti-aircraft armament increased to 168 5" rocket launchers and 96 25 mm guns.
  • October 20 - 25, 1944: Battle of Leyte Gulf.
  • October 25, 1944: Sunk. Aircraft from USS Essex and USS Lexington set the Zuikaku on fire 220 nautical miles east-north-east from Cape Engano.

Usage

5th Carrier Division

The Shokaku and Zuikaku made up the 5th Carrier Division.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

During the attack on Pearl Harbor the Shokaku carried 18 Zero fighters, 27 Val dive bombers, and 27 Kate torpedo bombers. The Shokaku and Zuikaku were both new ships with inexperienced crews so their aircraft were given limited roles.

Battle of the Coral Sea

Shokaku and Zuikaku each carried 21 Zero fighters, 21 Val dive bombers, and 21 Kate torpedo bombers. The Shokaku sustained two / three bomb hits and was out of action for two months and missed the Battle of Midway.

Zuikaku's air groups suffered heavy losses and missed the Battle of Midway.

Battle of Eastern Solomons

Shokaku carried 26 Zero fighters, 14 Val dive bombers, 18 Kate torpedo bombers and 1 observation plane.Zuikaku carried 27 Zero fighters, 27 Val dive bombers, 27 Kate torpedo bombers and 1 observation plane.

The Shokaku suffered damage from a single hit from a dive bomber from the USS Hornet. Aircraft from the Shokaku damaged the USS Enterprise.

Battle of Santa Cruz Islands

Zuikaku carried 27 Zero fighters, 27 Val dive bombers, 27 Kate torpedo bombers and 1 observation plane. Aircraft from the Zuikaku sank the USS Hornet and damaged the USS Enterprise.

The Shokaku was damaged by four / six 1,000 lb bombs and went under repairs and modification at Kure for five months.

Battle of the Philippine Sea

The Shokaku was sunk. She sustained three /four torpedo hits from the USS Cavalla which caused an explosion from the fuel tanks. 1,272 of her crew went down with her.

The Zuikaku was set on fire by several bombs and returned to Kure for repairs.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Zuikaku was sunk. She was hit by seven / nine bombs and six / seven torpedos.

Specifications

  Shokaku Class
Crew 1,660, 1,800
Displacement 20,000 tons, 25,675 tons, 26,675 tons
Displacement - Loaded 32,105 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 800', 844' 9", 844' 10", 845'
257.5 m
Length - Water Line 820' 3"
250 m
Length - Between Perpendiculars 774' 3", 774' 6"
236 m, 236.06 m
Beam 85', 85' 4", 85' 6"
26 m
Draft / Height 29', 29' 1"
8.87 m, 8.9 m
Flight Deck 787' x 95', 794' 6" x 95'
240 m x 29 m, 242.2 m x 29 m
Performance  
Speed >30 knots, 34 knots, 34.2 knots, 34.25 knots
Range at 18 knots 9,700 nautical miles, 10,000 nautical miles
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5": 12
5" twin mounts, 5" L/40 twin mounts, 5" Type 89 twin mounts: 8
25 mm triple mounts: 12
25 mm: 42
Anti-Aircraft - June 1942, Summer 1942 25 mm triple mounts: +4
Anti-Aircraft - Late 1942, July 1943 25 mm triple mounts: +2
25 mm: +16
Aircraft 69, 84
B5N torpedo: 27
D3A dive-bomber: 27
A6M fighter: 18
Reserves: 12
Armor  
Belt - Machinery 1.8"
Belt - Magazines 6.5"
Belt - Main 8.5"
Deck 6.75"
Deck - Machinery 3.9"
Deck - Magazines 5.1"
Engines  
Boilers 8
Kampon, Kanpon: 8
Shafts 4
Turbines Geared, Kanpon geared
HP 160,000
Oil 4,100 tons, 5,000 tons, 5,300 tons
  Shokaku
Crew 1,660, 1,800
Displacement 25,675 tons, 26,675 tons
Displacement - Loaded 32,000 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 844' 9", 845'
257.5 m
Beam 85', 85' 4"
26 m
Draft / Height 29', 29' 2"
8.9 m
Performance  
Speed 34 knots, 34.2 knots
Range 9,700 nautical miles, 10,000 miles
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5", 127 mm twin mounts: 8
25 mm triple mounts: 12
Aircraft Fighters: 27
Dive Bombers: 27
Torpedo Bombers: 18
Armor  
Belt 8.5"
Deck 6.75"
Engines  
Shafts 4
Turbines Geared steam turbines
HP 160,000
Oil 5,000 tons
  Zuikaku
Crew 1,660
Displacement 25,675 tons
Displacement - Loaded 32,000 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 844' 9"
257.5 m
Beam 85' 4"
26 m
Draft / Height 29' 2"
8.9 m
Performance  
Speed 34.2 knots
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5", 127 mm twin mounts: 8
25 mm triple mounts: 12
Anti-Aircraft - 1944 5" rocket launchers: 168
25 mm: 96
Aircraft Fighters: 27
Dive Bombers: 27
Torpedo Bombers: 18
Armor  
Belt 8.5"
Deck 6.75"
Engines  
Shafts 4
Turbines Geared steam turbines
HP 160,000

Sources:

  1. Japanese Warships of World War II, A. J. Watts, 1966
  2. The Imperial Japanese Navy, A. J. Watts and B. G. Gordon, 1971
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  5. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
  6. Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers 1921-45, Mark Stille, 2005
  7. The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War, Mark E. Stille, 2013
  8. The World's Aircraft Carriers 1914 - 1945, Roger Chesneau, 1986
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site