IJN Yamato

IJN Yamato

By early 1945, Japan’s strategic situation was grim. Japanese conquests in the Pacific had been steadily rolled back since the Allied landings on Guadalcanal in August 1942. The Philippines, Solomons, Gilberts and Carolines had all been lost and the enemy was now literally at the gates. Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain was the last bastion before the Home Islands itself. The island was just 160 miles from the mainland city of Kagoshima, coincidentally the birthplace of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

 From: Kyle Mizokami

In early 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy made a difficult decision: it would sacrifice the largest, most powerful battleships ever built to protect Okinawa, the gateway to Japan’s Home Islands. The decision sealed the fate of the battleship Yamato and its crew, but ironically did nothing to actually protect the island from Allied invasion.

Yamato under construction

The battleship Yamato was among the largest and most powerful battleships of all time. Yamato has reached nearly mythical status, a perfect example of Japan’s fascination with doomed, futile heroics. Built in 1937 at the Kure Naval Arsenal near Hiroshima, it was constructed in secrecy to avoid alarming the United States. Japan had recently withdrawn from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited battleship tonnages, and was free to build them as large as it wanted.

Unfortunately for Yamato and its crew, it was obsolete by the time it was launched in 1941. The ability of fast aircraft carriers to engage enemy ships at the range of their embarked dive and torpedo bombers meant a carrier could attack a battleship at ranges of two hundred miles or more, long before it entered the range of a battleship’s guns. Battleships were “out-sticked,” to use a modern term.

At 0800 hours on April 7, scout planes from Admiral Mitscher’s Fast Carrier Force, or Task Force 58, located IJN Yamato, still only halfway to Okinawa. Mitscher launched a massive strike force of 280 fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, and the fight was on.

IJN Yamato

For two hours, the Surface Special Attack Force was subjected to a merciless aerial bombardment. The air wings of 11 fleet carriers joined in the attack—so many planes were in the air above Yamato that the fear of midair collision was real. The naval aviators were in such a hurry to score the first hit on the allegedly unsinkable ship plans for a coordinated attack collapsed into a free-for-all. Yamato took two hits during this attack, two bombs and one torpedo, and air attacks claimed two escorting destroyers.

A second aerial armada consisting of one hundred aircraft pressed the attack. As the Yamato started to go down, U.S. naval aviators changed tactics. Noticing the ship was listing badly, one squadron changed its torpedo running depth from ten feet—where it would collide with the main armor belt—to twenty feet, where it would detonate against the exposed lower hull. Aboard Yamato, the listing eventually grew to more than twenty degrees, and the captain made the difficult decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations, in an attempt to trim out the ship.

Yamato in battle, artist unknown

Yamato had taken ten torpedoes and seven bomb hits, and was hurting badly. Despite counterflooding, the ship continued to list, and once it reached thirty five degrees the order was given to abandon ship. The captain and many of the bridge crew tied themselves to their stations and went down with their ship, while the rest attempted to escape.

At 14:23, it happened. Yamato’s forward internal magazines detonated in a spectacular fireball. It was like a tactical nuclear weapon going off. Later, a navigation officer on one of Japan’s surviving destroyers calculated that the “pillar of fire reached a height of 2,000 meters, that the mushroom-shaped cloud rose to a height of 6,000 meters.” The flash from the explosion that was Yamato’s death knell was seen as far away as Kagoshima on the Japanese mainland. The explosion also reportedly destroyed several American airplanes observing the sinking.

Yamato at the end, artist unknown

When it was all over, the Surface Special Attack Force had been almost completely destroyed. Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi and three destroyers were sunk. Several other escorts had been seriously damaged. Gone with the great battleship were 2,498 of its 2,700-person crew.

Click on images to enlarge.


Military Humor – 






Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Beasley – Athens, OH; US Navy, corpsman

Ainslie Boyd – Marlborough, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7544, WWII & Vietnam, K Force

Francis Drake Jr. – Springfield, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

David Douglas Duncan (102) – Kansas City, MO; US Army, WWII, PTO, combat photographer / Civilian, Korea & Vietnam Wars, Life Mag. photographer

Donald Freeman – Mobile, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Division

Howie Judd – Rensselaer, NY; CIA (Ret.)

Harvel Moore –  Chatham, LA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

James Robinson – Leavenworth, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Mustin

Dee (Berglin) Robinson – Fairmount, ND; VA hospital nurse, WWII

Robert Southall – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII






About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 11, 2018, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 113 Comments.

  1. Wow that’s a lot of men and gruesome way of dying; but at the same time I’m glad the US won

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic piece of history gp, enjoyed that background on the Yamato, two unbelievable facts noted, The Captain sacrificing 300 men, and the fact a couple of observing Allied planes went down with the Yamato’s death.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear.GP Cox.
    Good morning from Japan☺️🌸✨
    I’m busy to look World football Russia 2018 on

    Today’s Very important topic,”国民国家”.

    Nobody foreigners can understand why Japanese fought at the risk of life for Japan ,if you cannot understand the concept called the one-country-one-nation (Nation State).
    A one-country-one-nation=国民国家(Kokumin_kokka)☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some people realize why Japan was fighting, but others still believe the propaganda that FDR dished out. The big miss-understanding came in with the suicides and fighting till the death. The different cultures were misunderstood by the other side and some find it difficult to learn. Today we are lucky enough to have the internet and we can share our different backgrounds and cultures. [But even with all we have these days, I find it difficult to understand why the Arabs hate the Jews and Christians so much and now even bomb their own mosques.]

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know which “bomb”you say , so I will write about Arab and Islam.

        At first,
        “Arab” is a native(motherland launge) of Arabic.
        The Arab world is 22 countries of MENA (Middle East and North Africa).
        Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania, Somalia, Comoros, Cyprus, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Kuwait, Algeria, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Palestine.

        * Syria withdrew?
        Explanation of “MENA” on Wiki and classification of Western countries are Mistakes.

        Turkish is Turkish,
        Iran is Iranian in Persian language,
        Afghanistan means the people of many tribes who lived there,
        Israel is who have Israeli citizenship , “Jewish” and “Palestinian Arabs”

        GCC(Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council)=, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia.


        • Next, Islam.
          People who have faith in Allah and learn Q’ran =Islam are called Muslim (female = Muslima).
          Arab ≠ Islam.
          In Islam, Sunni, Shi’a and Alawi factions. Add, there are( in Africa in particular) “self-proclaimed Muslims”who’s Islam are mixed with “local customs”.
          Because the Quran is written in “Arabic”, so many of them can’t read the Quran properly.
          For example, “Female Circumcision”.
          This is not described in Quran,It is only ” Male circumcision”.
          Men’s circumcision prevents the danger of a man being “strangulated phimosis”.


          • Last,Muslims do not hate Christians and Jewish.

            The faith of Muslim is that Allah is One and only existence, So,Muslim worry about ppl who have faith other(Christ,Budda,Shinto etc..) can Not go to Jannah=Paradise after death.

            “Kafil”. . This means that Muslims hurl abuse at non-Muslims or different Muslims.
            “Takfīr”. . It means convict a lack of faith, Muslims must not condemn other Muslims who are lazy of worship ,fasting etc.


            • This is my personal opinion.
              On the internet there are people who claim “victims” by sending cruel images of women and children being attacked.
              For example,they use women’s Nurse with extreme thought, place her on Front of dangerous zone, she was blown up, and they take “victimized images”.
              Or ,a person with intellectual disabilities or a child, they utilize them for suicide bombs.
              In each case,Their ” sponsors” are different,So, it can not be stated unconditionally.

              Prophet = PBUT = Prophet or successor, they are important to Muslims.
              I think that it is “Impolite Act” to dare draw Prophet “slighting cartoon”.
              It is not a matter of religion, race, etc., it is a matter of morality as a person.


            • I realize the religion is based on peace, but then why do they feel they have the right to rape Gentile women? behead our people? etc, etc. Just living in peace should be enough for anyone.

              Liked by 1 person

              • It is a fact that there is a part of Muslim who has the idea that it is allowed to rape Gentile heathen women.But It is not allowed in Q’ran.
                When traveling, I also have to be careful, so never leave the reliable exclusive guide.

                About behead our people..it means USA,don’t you?

                In the Middle East, a part of US soldiers assaulted and raped civilians. In the Abu Ghraib prison, US assaulted against Muslims etc …
                A Muslims of the Arab area countries have a feeling of resistance against the “outrage” that the US military soldiers did to those etc…
                Also, among American military, there is “discrimination” including Asian group or “Islam” etc…

                People with extreme thought of Islam do suicide blomb and rape with the name “jihad”. Suicide bombing and rape etc..are not permitted in the Q’ran, and the meaning of their ” jihad “is also Mistakes.

                Many of Muslim in Arab area countries are tender and calm.
                And they go to the United States for studying abroad and a trip etc..
                However, “Muslim with Arabic Face” is forced to live under various forms of discrimination.
                Just because,they;Muslim in Arab area countries never kill,rape,etc other ppl.

                Roughly speaking, As a result that a part of white has been performing ” racial discrimination”,I think……mmm…..

                Liked by 1 person

                • Western countries has been discriminating against racial and doing colonial rule.
                  the United States, Britons came and took land from native people, next Britons in US broke down with the home country United Kingdom.

                  After the First World War, in 1919 “colored race”Japan proposed to「Racial Equality Proposal」for the first time.
                  Also in 1919, Russia where defeated to Japan in the Russo – Japanese War formed Comintern.
                  At that time, Comintern will involve Sino (current China) in anti-Japan.
                  Thus,against the presence of Japan appealing for the abolition of the colony,
                  Western, Russia ,now China etc.. started to move “to crush Japan”.
                  But, they defeated to Japan in war, they did not come out before, they took advantage of “America” ​​to fight America vs Japan. This is the Pacific War.

                  United States who crushed Japan in 1945, by the Korean War in 1948,
                  USA realized that true enemies are cominterns such as Russia, China etc, not Japan!
                  However, America that robbed Japanese armed force must defend this area.
                  In the long history, the United States has always been “used” at the forefront of war.

                  The fact that the US military has been dispatched as “world police”
                  “American politician ambition” is the cause.
                  For that reason, American citizens are roped in the battlefields, and consequently being “grudged” from various countries.

                  America crashed Japan, but since the Japanese knows the history for a long term, Japanese also feel more sorry for American and very very love(like) American.
                  Therefore, USA and Japan never battle again, and Japan desperately tell the United States that America is “being deceived” thoroughly .again and again. 😀


                • They take parts of the Q’uran and twist the meaning to suit their own needs and wishes.

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. In the Sixties, there was a Japanese space series whose plot revolved around the Yamato having been raised and turned in to a starship. I would guess they still looked on her with reverence.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read here’s comments with interest, I have nothing left to write about !! XD

    Explanation on this topic is correct, the times had already shifted from ship to fighter plane.
    Battleship “Yamato”, even in Japan “its existence itself” was kept secret.
    Back then, they who manufactured fighter (紫電改;code name ;George, etc..) surprised the appearance of “Yamato”, they were talking so that.

    “YAMATO” …,What is very touching and Beautiful….

    Let’s promise each other Never Battle(Fight) again !!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. From what little I know, other than waving the flag the Yamata accomplished little else from launch date to sink date. Of course, the ship took thousands of men to her doom.

    From a strategic angle – at the least, did the Yamata ever succeed in tying down US naval assets? I wonder.

    All in all, a terrible terrible tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As far as i know Eric, the ‘Yamato’ was credited with sinking the escort carrier ‘Gambier Bay’and the destroyer, ‘Johnston’. In my opinion, she was regaled by the Japanese because of her armor, and thought to indestructible. As much as it took to sink her – they were almost right.
      Thank you for your interest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, so she did sink a couple of allied ships. Thank you for filling in the hole for me. Appreciate it.

        As a kid who devoured all things WW2, I was impressed by the German pocket battleships but that interest did not flow over to the Japanese. Now, I’m playing catch-up, thanks to your blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What a horrendous tragedy! It really highlights the suffering and destruction of life in war.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I say it all the time but its such a horrible way to die drowning in a ship. Massive battle and therefore massive loss of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. In the days of films which use computers for special effects that story is just crying out to be turned into a movie. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fascinating account, I was struck by the Japanese commander’s decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations and then went down with the ship himself – tying himself to his station. It’s hard to even to find an appropriate adjective for these actions; determined, brave, deluded. It shows how different actions taken in wartime are from peacetime and how people will sacrifice themselves and others for a “noble” cause. I can see why there were so many Allied casualties faced with sort of resistance.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So many lives destroyed in the sinking of one ship. What overwhelming decisions had to be quickly made by the captains in an attempt to save their ship if at all possible. Both sides have their stories to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very fascinating – this story of the Yamato.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A spectacular explosion so powerful that the sinking battleship took down a few American planes with her into her watery grave! I guess it must have been all the ammunition that never got a chance to be used in battle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Probably, Peter. There would have been plenty of fuel and ammo going up at the same time. So powerful was the sinking, that the force drew some of the swimming crew back to her. Sad death for a great vessel.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I am just starting to read “The Fall of Japan” by William Craig and the “colossal battleship Yamato” was mentioned in the first 10 pages and here you are with this article. She was sent out as a floating suicide ship in a desperate move to turn Okinawa into a victory for the Emperor but it failed miserably. It’s still sad to read so many lives died even if they were the enemies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed, Rose. I’ve said it so often in these comments, but know no other way to say it, despite her being an enemy ship, she was a grand vessel with an honorable crew. It was a terrible loss in a hopeless situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a terrible loss of Life that was. An incredible battle led by the determination of aircrew to finish off the mighty warship.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Weer zo”n fantastisch artikel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bedankt, Mary Lou. Ondanks dat de IJN Yamato op dat moment een vijandelijk schip was, wilde ik, om de ware geschiedenis van dat tijdperk te leren kennen, graag alle kanten op kijken en was ze een groot schip.


  17. There’ll be all the usual romanticism comments, I guess; about the tragedy and nobility etc etc and such a terrible loss.

    My own sympathies still lie with USS Arizona—and as much as I pity the crews of Musashi and Yamato:

    Thank heavens that’s over, and kudos to the heroes that put them down!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My Dad was part of Task Force 58. The Bombing Group Nine who participated in the sinking of the Yamato. Was a horrific fight.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I visited the Yamato Museum in Kure, Japan, just outside of Hiroshima. It was well put together including a few items carefully selected for salvaging from the sunken wreck.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Excellent post, GP – and the “dealing with Monday” was a bonus!
    FYI – I posted about Yamato here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you did an excellent article for her and her sister ship. I had read it before, but being it was last year, it was good enough to re-read – helps me to remember!!


  21. My daily (weekly?) dose of history. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks for this very interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Three things jumped out at me in this very good post:

    1) “air wings of 11 fleet carriers” – considering what we started with in the Pacific, that’s astounding. Our shipyards must have been cranking.

    2) “the captain made the difficult decision to flood the starboard outer engine room, drowning three hundred men at their stations, in an attempt to trim out the ship.” – I can’t imagine, but given #3, I guess it’s not all that surprising.

    3) “Gone with the great battleship were 2,498 of its 2,700-person crew.” – A different mindset…

    Liked by 1 person

  24. When I was in the Navy, there was a pride with seamen and their ship. The thought of being hit and sunk never occurred to me. But, I wasn’t in any war. WWII stories like this dampen the heart. I can see soldiers trapped and dying and it doesn’t matter the side, I feel sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. David Douglas Duncan, I was amazed to see, just died. What horrors we saw through his eyes. He was one of the best of the combat photographers. RIP DDD.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A hero of yours, Doug? I know that was your job in the service too.


      • Yes, though I don’t think I necessarily was inspired to become a mopic guy in the US Army because of him. I always found the camera guys (still and mopic) in war zones amazing people for how they managed to do their jobs with little protection compared with soldiers.

        There is a thing, too, where you kind of lose yourself in the optics and mechanical aspects of the camera while taking a photograph or motion picture, forgetting the dangers of the surrounding scene.

        I remember one (now) scary moment when I was filming tanks coming off a train car. The lens I selected was a wide angle lens. The tanks looked dramatic and really exciting in my viewfinder…until I realized I was practically getting run over I was so close to the treads! (I got good reviews from the reviewers at the Pentagon for the film, though!)

        There were other instances of that sort.

        Anyway, the historic guys (I believe) got their best shots because they experienced the same distortion of reality that came from viewing a scene through a viewfinder.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Excellent, Doug. People often ask me how they did it or why. This answer though never occurred to me, thanks!


          • There was a film (“Medium Cool”) that shows this odd detachment one feels looking through the viewfinder. The story is incidental to the phenomenon, or perhaps the other way around, but I recall seeing the film many years ago and thinking “Yeah, I know how that is!”

            That said, there still is a lot of personal courage and a sense of invincibility (“They won’t shoot a member of the press, a noncombatant…!”) involved, too. I must admit, there also is a bit of stupid risk taking.

            I also note that when looking through a mopic camera viewfinder, you see a little frame that shows you what part of the view will show on television (at least on the Arriflex camera I used), so you are consciously framing your shot to meet the requirements of showing the scene best.

            You also are thinking: long shot, medium shot, closeup, re-establishing shot (long or medium) – or variations on that because you are trying to create a story edited in camera, where you have all elements that require little or no editing to tell the story. (It’s a lot different than making a movie, where you shoot out of sequence and after long preparation for lighting, actor’s make up and costumes, etc. and can take the same shot as often as needed to get one you like.

            Combat photography, or news photography for that matter, typically is a you either get it or you don’t the first time. That realization further focuses you to a point of detachment from the reality of where you are.

            Liked by 2 people

  26. What terrible beings we are in what we are capable of doing to each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I know it sounds wierd, but there’s a sadness about great ships dying.

    Liked by 5 people

  28. My uncle was sunk three times during WW2, including whilst serving on HMS Barham, in 1941.

    He survived the war, but sadly became a lifelong alcoholic, no doubt traumatised by his experiences. So many men served on the capital ships, their sinking always involved a considerable loss of life.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

    • What awful traumas your father endured. My deepest sympathies. If only WWII could have been the war to finally end all wars, eh? Lives like his could have been so different.
      (The link isn’t working, but I’ll search for it on my own).

      Liked by 2 people

      • It was my uncle, GP, he was married to my Mum’s older sister. He was a regular, having joined the navy in 1935. Sorry the link doesn’t work, I typed in ‘The Sinking of HMS Barham’. (It famously exploded, not unlike the Yamato, which I why I mentioned it.)
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. I know they were the enemy, but what a staggering loss of life, nowhere to hide on a ship.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. “Obsolete when launched” was an especially interesting detail, We tend to think that today’s technological changes, and the obsolescence they bring, are a new phenomenon. But even if the pace of development was slower, some of the same realities were part of that earlier time.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. That was excellent as always. How scary war is

    Liked by 1 person

  32. She was a beauty, she should have had an appropriate death. Thanks, Ian.


  33. Thank you for taking a look at ‘the other side’.


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