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They were designed to be the best…
they met enemies face to face,
endured tragedies and enjoyed victories…
they went down in history due to the bravery of their crews…
they are the ships that deserve to be called
“Naval Legends!”
In this episode,
watch Yamato
Life and Death of the Legendary Battleship.
By spring 1945, it became clear that only a miracle could save Japan from defeat in World War II.
The Land of the Rising Sun had lost virtually all its naval and air forces,
and US troops were already landing on the Japanese islands.
On the morning of April 6, Japan's legendary battleship Yamato sailed off to fight her last battle.
The last bit of hope the Japanese possessed
rested with this steel giant - the largest and most powerful battleship of the time.
That naval operation in the Pacific, dubbed Ten-ichi-go (Heaven One),
was a dangerous mission. But the faith in Yamato was almost religious,
and the Japanese believed luck would go hand in hand with the ship.
The history of battleship Yamato began 10 years before the ship's legendary last mission.
In October 1935, Japanese engineers put together a first draft of the famous naval giant.
Unlike the Americans, whose ships were limited to a size that could pass through the Panama Canal
nothing restricted the Japanese from building ships of a large size and displacement
and arming them as heavily as possible.
Japanese designers set out to make battleships powerful enough to outmatch all existing foreign counterparts
and any ships that would be built in the upcoming years.
The production facilities behind me were the Kure Naval Arsenal in those days.
Its dockyard saw the birth of battleship Yamato .
Her keel was laid in 1937, and the ship was completed 1941.
Yamato was the heaviest battleship in the world. Back then, the total construction expenses amounted to 130 million yen.
That would be over 1 trillion yen ($8 billion) in today’s prices.
Initially Japan planned to build a total of four Yamato-class ships.
However, the Pacific War began, and after completing the second ship, Musashi,
Japan stopped building the third ship, Shinano,
and never started the fourth one.
Eventually, Shinano was converted to an aircraft carrier.
Yamato is the ancient name for Japan, meaning "great harmony."
Strict secrecy was maintained throughout her construction: a high fence of mats surrounded the dockyard,
all engineers swore a solemn oath of non-disclosure,
and the workers going in and out were compared with their photos.
Japanese shipbuilders certainly had something big to hide...
Total displacement: 72,808 t
Length: 263 m
Beam: 38.9 m
Draft: 10.8 m
Armament Main battery
Three turrets each having three 40-SK Mod. 94 guns
Caliber: 460 mm
Secondary battery
Two turrets each having three Type 3 guns Caliber: 155 mm
Anti-aircraft artillery
Twelve coaxial Type 89 guns Caliber: 127 mm
Fifty triple-barrel and two single-barrel Type 96 automatic cannons. Caliber: 25 mm
Air group 7 seaplanes (reconnaissance planes and spotting aircraft).
Armor Main belt: 270–410 mm
Main turrets: 190–650 mm
Conning tower: 300–500 mm
Power plant
4 Kampon turbines and 12 Kampon RO boilers
Power: 154,000 shp
Maximum speed: over 27 knots
Operational range: 7,200 nautical miles at 16 knots
Yamato's key features are her main turrets, each having three 460-mm guns.
The guns could fire shells weighing almost 1.5 tons with a muzzle speed of 790 meters per second.
A gun turret, including the barbette, weighed 3,000 tons. It could contain over 150 men.
Yamato's main turrets were guided by a fire control system, consisting of a director that provided parameters of fire,
range-finders, and electromechanical calculators (a form of early computers).
It was a state-of-the-art system for the time:
lack of fire control radars for engaging surface targets was compensated for by top-notch grouping of salvoes.
This gave the Japanese firing capability on par with that of the world's leading navies.
The ship's secondary battery consisted of two turrets, each having three 155-mm guns.
The guns featured excellent ballistic characteristics and could penetrate the armor of a typical cruiser;
however, their rate of fire was pretty low.
When commissioned, Yamato had six coaxial 127-mm anti-aircraft guns for long-range engagement,
plus short-range anti-aircraft artillery consisted of eight triple-barrel 25-mm cannons.
The number of AA guns was constantly built up during the war.
The 127-mm anti-aircraft guns and the 25-mm guns had different ranges of fire.
So if an enemy aircraft flew into this gap, neither of the guns was able to effectively intercept it.
Furthermore, the 127-mm guns had relatively low traverse speed and poor elevation and depression characteristics,
while the 25-mm guns failed to fire at the declared rate of 14 rounds per minute if the elevation was high or low.
Yamato enjoyed the heaviest armor in shipbuilding history - its US analog, battleship Iowa
had armor that was on average 100 mm thinner.
The armor belt of the Japanese giant formed a citadel that covered slightly over half of her waterline length.
The most protected part was the ship's conning tower…
The weapon systems became literally giant.
The Japanese built a superbattleship that was like 10 or 15 others put together.
But the problem was that it did not pay off.
You can build one Yamato-class battleship,
but she would still be destroyed when facing 2, 3, or 10 US battleships.
There are still such characteristics as mobility, quantity, quality, salvoes per side...
Yamato was commissioned in late 1941.
In her first mission, the Battle of Midway, Yamato served as the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet.
During the battle, on June 4 through 6, 1942,
Yamato did not fire a single shot and was used only as an HQ ship.
The Japanese military command was definitely saving their two best battleships
for an upcoming major battle against the US fleet.
As a result, Japanese seamen started to feel disappointed with their flagship.
They even made up a saying that the world's three most useless things were
China's Great Wall, the Egyptian pyramids, and battleship Yamato .
It was not until autumn 1944 that the Japanese naval giant fought its first real battle.
Together with her sister ship Musashi, Yamato attacked US landing craft near the island of Leyte.
In that battle, Yamato was only slightly damaged,
demonstrated her power, and recovered the status of an unsinkable giant.
However, the situation in the Pacific theater had changed by that time...
Progress in military technology basically follows the laws of philosophy.
When making a new weapon system, designers and the military usually seek to enhance its specifications:
bigger caliber, thicker armor, etc.
Then they come to a dead end, where they are no longer developing the navy,
but improving a separate weapon type within the existing limits.
A radical change is carrier-borne aviation and, later, missile systems.
Yamato is the peak, the peak in the construction of battleships.
It is not about progress, it is about reaching the peak.
In 1945, World War II reached Japan's home islands.
The command of the Japanese Combined Fleet made a Bushido-style decision:
Yamato, with the help of a light cruiser and eight destroyers,
was to defend the island of Okinawa and prevent the US troops from getting any further inland,
or fight to the end and finish her journey gloriously.
Executing this order, on April 6, 1945,
the legendary Japanese battleship sailed off to fight her last battle....
The United States sent its Task Force 58 to intercept the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet.
The Americans would not miss the chance to destroy the symbol of Japan's naval power.
As early as at 10 a.m., the first US squadrons took off from five heavy and four light aircraft carriers,
located about 300 miles away from Yamato.
A total of 227 aircraft took part in the destruction of the Japanese force.
The battle began at 12:34. Four aerial bombs hit Yamato,
taking out a 127-mm gun and several automatic cannons.
In just 20 minutes, two more bombs struck the battleship, and a torpedo hit her port side.
In response, Yamato fired her anti-aircraft weapons.
At 14:02, the Americans launched the last attack on the wounded, but still combat capable, Yamato…
It was a demonstrative execution:
four torpedoes (three to the port side and one to the starboard side)
destroyed the ship's damage control center.
Yamato stopped moving and started listing to port more and more every minute…
and when this huge ship capsized, a monstrous explosion erupted.
The pride and hope of the Japanese fleet went under.
Together with the ship, 3,000 crew members were lost,
including the commanders of the Japanese force and the ship.
For the Japanese,
Yamato still remains a symbol of the nation's might that fell in battle like a true samurai.
The city where the legendary battleship was built opened a museum,
whose centerpiece is an 26-meter model of Yamato .
The Kure Municipal Museum of Naval History and Science was built 10 years ago to preserve
the rich naval tradition of the city.
Now it is known as the Yamato Museum.
The exhibits reflect the naval history of Kure;
in other words, the history of naval affairs and technologies.
The museum has become quite popular.
Fans of battleships come here from all over the country.
However, we should remember that it was originally dedicated to all kinds of shipbuilding.
The violent explosion that finished the destruction of Yamato
was caused by the detonation of her main battery magazines.
However, there is plenty of debate about the reason for that tremendous explosion.
The answer is probably hidden on the bottom of the ocean:
so far researchers have been unable to lift what is left from the giant battleship...
It is true that Yamato had a number of drawbacks.
Like her sister ship, Musashi, the battleship was sunk as a result of air strikes.
The key reason for that was the ships' fundamental lack of ability to resist massive air attacks.
Yamato remains the largest and most powerful battleship in history.
For every person who takes interest in the history of military ships,
Yamato embodies military might.
Born to terrify and crush enemies,
this formidable steel giant managed to glorify her name even as she was defeated.
She represented a pinnacle in large battleship design, one that will probably never be surpassed,
and in that sense,
Yamato will always remain a symbol and a legend.
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[Naval Legends] Yamato

5622 Folder Collection
楊桓宇 published on January 12, 2016
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