The Yamato sortee was part of the Japanese response to the American invasion of Okinawa, it would prove to be the final important naval action of the Pacific War. Yamato and her sister ship Musashi were built in secret. Yamato was laid down (1937) while the battleship was still seen as the war-winning naval vessel. Buildings were constructed to obstruct views of the shipyards. Like Bismarck and Tirpitz they exceeded naval arms limitations. The Japanese ships were evern larger than the German golithas. They were built to win what both the American and Japanese expected to settle the Pacific War--a climatic big-gun battleship engagement. The Japanese realized that they could not outbuild the Americans in number. So like the Germans they opted for quality. The two Japanese battleshios were the largest ever built. They had phenomenal 18 in guns. The modern American battleships only had 16 inch guns. This gave them a longer range, although not much longer. Range was important because it meant that the Japanese could engage American battkle ships before the Americans could return fire. Of course this was all moot because by the time these ships were on station, the American the carriers could engage Japamese ships at longer distances with bombs and torpedoes. The Japanese held back both Yamato and Musashi for the climatic battle. Unfortunately for the Imperial Fleet, the Japanese began losing battleship in the Solomoms (late-1942), long before the climatic battle that they were planning. They finally committed their fleet in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944). They lost Musachi amd Yamato was damaged. Worse in the Imperial Navy's mind, Adm. Kondo turned the fleet around in the face of the enemy as he was nearing Leyte Gulf and the American transports. This at a time that the Arny was engagong in mass suiside banazi charges and Kamikazee flights. The Yamato sortee was aimed at regaining the Navy's honor. The Americams begam to land on Okinawa (April 1). They were surprised that there was no resistance at the beach. Gen. Ushijima realised that he had no manser to American naval artillery. He would fight inland from carefully prepared defenses and Kamikaze suiside air attacks. The Imperial Navy to remitself from its Ammiral Kondo's withdrawl from Leyte Gulf decided on Operation Ten-go--a spectaculr suicide attack of its own. The Yamato had been repaired and enough fuel scraped toether for a one way sally. Japanese cadets at the Etajima Academy (Hiroshima) were given the honor of helping to crew Yamato. Some 67 cadets of Naval Academy Class No. 74 were posted to the battleship 3 days before Yamato sailed. [Tameichi, p. 277.] American Marines and Army soldiers cut the island in two (April 4). The first important Japanese response came in the form of a 350-gun Kamikaze suiside raid (April 6-7). Part of this effort was the Yamato The plan was after the aerial Kamikaze attacks for Yamato to finish off what was left of the American fleet and thn having used up its fuel, beach itself and provide artillery support to Ushijima's 32nd Army. The Yamato's fate would be the dramatic end of big-gun battleships.
Hara, Tameichi. The Last Sortie: Japanese Destroyer Captain (New York & Toronto: Ballantine Books, 1961).
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