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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

Japan's Shōhō class light aircraft carriers

Photos

Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17046

Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17025
Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17047

Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17026
Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17048

Shōhō on December 20, 1941:
Japan's Shoho  on December 20, 1941
Japanese Navy photo
Shōhō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942:
Japan's Shoho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942
US Navy Photo G-17024
Zuihō light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 25, 1944:
Japan's Zuiho light aircraft carrier under attack at Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 25, 1944
US Navy Photo
Zuihō on December 28, 1940:
Japan's Zuiho  on December 28, 1940
Japanese Navy photo

Design

In the 1934 Second Reinforcement Program the Tsurugizaki class of of high speed oilers was ordered. As the Japanese Navy was limited by the naval treaties it wanted ships that could be rapidly converted into carriers once war came. These oilers had reinforced hulls which would facilitate later conversion.

It was decided that the Tsurugizakis would be better as submarine tenders and the designs were changed.

Engines

Originally had diesel engines but these were replaced by destroyer steam turbines.

A funnel was located at the stern and could be lowered during flight operations.

Flight Deck

There were two elevators located in the flight deck. The Shōhō class also had two catapults.

Hangar

The hangar was 350' long.

Ships

IJN Shōhō (happy phoenix)

  • Formerly the Tsurugizaki
  • Manufacturer: Yokosuka Navy Yard
  • December 3, 1934: Laid down.
  • June 1, 1935: Launched.
  • January 15, 1939, January 26, 1942: Completed.
  • January 1942: Member of 4th Carrier Division.
  • June 1942: Part of covering force for Port Moresby Invasion.
  • May 7, 1942, May 8, 1942: Sunk at Battle of the Coral Sea. Torpedoes from aircraft of the USS Enterprise quickly sank her.

IJN Zuihō (lucky phoenix)

  • Formerly the Takasaki
  • Manufacturer: Yokosuka Navy Yard
  • June 20, 1935: Laid down.
  • June 19, 1936: Launched.
  • December 27, 1940: Completed.
  • Early 1942, January - March 1942: Supporting Dutch East Indies invasion.
  • June 1942: Member of Covering Group during Midway operation.
  • June 12, 1942: Took part in attacks on the Aleutians.
  • October 26 - 27, 1942: Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. Heavily damaged by bombs from aircraft of the USS Enterprise.
  • December 1942: Guadalcanal.
  • 1943: Refit. 40 25 mm guns added. Six 25 mm triple mounts added.
  • February 1944: Member of Carrier Division 3.
  • June 1944: Marianas.
  • June 20, 1944: Member of Carrier Division 3 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
  • 1944, July 1944: Refit. Flight deck lengthened to 632', all the way to the bow.
    20 anti-aircraft guns and 168 5" rocket launchers added.
    20 25 mm guns and six 8 barrel rocket launchers added.
  • October 20 - 25, 1944: Member of Main Body at Battle of Leyte Gulf.
  • October 25, 1944: Sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Sunk off Cape Engano by aircraft from Task Force 38 (TF38).

Usage

Battle of the Coral Sea

The Shōhō was carrying 12 fighters and 8 torpedo bombers.

The Shōhō was hit by 13 bombs and 7 torpedoes and had 500 crewman die.

Aircraft from the USS Lexington and USS Yorktown sank the Shōhō 80 miles south of Woodlark Island on May 8, 1942. The Shōhō was Japan's first aircraft carrier lost during World War II.

Battle of Midway

The Zuihō was part of the Covering Group and carried 12 fighters and 11 bombers.

Battle of Santa Cruz Islands

The Zuihō carried 18 A6M Zero fighters and 9 B5N Kate torpedo bombers at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. The Zuihō was damaged by two bombs and had to return to base as the flight deck was damaged.

Battle of the Philippine Sea

The Zuihō carried 21 A6M Zero fighters and 6 B6N Jill torpedo bombers at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Zuihō was sunk by aircraft from the USS Franklin, USS Enterprise, and USS San Jacinto east-north-east of Cape Engano on October 25, 1944.

 

Specifications

  Shōhō class / Zuihō class
Crew 785
Displacement 11,262 tons
Displacement - Loaded 14,200 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 671' 11", 674' 3", 712'
204.8 m, 205.5 m, 227 m
Length - Water Line 660' 9", 660' 11"
201.45 m, 201.5 m
Length - Between Perpendiculars 606' 11", 607'
185 m, 185.02 m
Beam 59, 59' 9"
18 m, 18.2 m
Draft / Height 21' 7", 21' 9"
6.5 m, 6.58 m, 6.64 m
Flight Deck 590' 6" x 75' 6"
180 m x 23 m
Performance  
Speed 28 knots
Range at 18 knots 7,800 nautical miles, 9,236 nautical miles
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5": 8
5" twin mounts, 5" L/40 twin mounts, 127 mm: 4
25 mm: 8
25 mm twin mounts: 4
25 mm triple mounts: 5
Aircraft 30
Armor None
Engines  
Boilers 4
Kampon, Kanpon: 4
Shafts 2
Turbines Geared, Kanpon Geared
HP 52,000
Oil 2,363 tons, 2,500 tons, 2,600 tons
  Shōhō
Crew 785
Displacement 11,262 tons
Displacement - Loaded 14,200 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 672', 712'
204.8 m
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam 59', 59' 8"
18.2 m
Draft / Height 21' 8", 22'
6.6 m
Flight Deck  
Performance  
Speed 28 knots, 28.2 knots
Range 9,236 nautical miles
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5" twin mounts, 127 mm: 4
25 mm twin mounts: 4
Aircraft 30
Armor None
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts 2
Turbines Geared steam turbines
HP 52,000
Oil  
Coal  
Gasoline  
  Zuihō
Crew 785
Displacement 11,262 tons
Displacement - Loaded 14,200 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 672'
204.8 m
Length - Water Line  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam 59' 8"
18.2 m
Draft / Height 21' 8"
6.6 m
Flight Deck 590'
Flight Deck - 1943 631', 631' 11" x 75' 6"
Performance  
Speed 28.2 knots
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft 5" twin mounts, 127 mm: 4
25 mm twin mounts: 4
Aircraft 30
Armor None
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts 2
Turbines Geared steam turbines
HP 52,000
Oil  
Coal  
Gasoline  

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. Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers 1921-45, Mark Stille, 2005
  6. The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War, Mark E. Stille, 2013
  7. The World's Aircraft Carriers 1914 - 1945, Roger Chesneau, 1986
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site