Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Figure 1: Kirishima photographed around 1930, following her first major reconstruction. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Kirishima photographed in 1932, with an aircraft embarked. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Kirishima photographed circa 1930, soon after her first major reconstruction. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Kirishima in Sukumo Bay, southern Shikoku, Japan, 1937. Courtesy of Mr. Kazutoshi Hando, 1970. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Kirishima anchored off Amoy, China, 21 October 1938. Photographed from USS Pillsbury (DD-227). The battleship Ise is in the distance, beyond Kirishima's bow. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Kirishima off Amoy, China, on 21 October 1938. Photographed from USS Pillsbury (DD-227). Note the crew on deck, the flared funnel tops, and the Kawanishi E17K and Nakajima E8N floatplanes on the aircraft deck. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Kirishima photographed off Amoy, China, 21 October 1938. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Kirishima (center) heads toward Guadalcanal to bombard Henderson Field on 14 November 1942, along with Takao (background) and Atago (foreground). The battleship was sunk only hours after this photograph was taken. Courtesy: Hara, Tameichi, Japanese Destroyer Captain, Ballentine Books, 1961. Click on photograph for larger image.
Kirishima was a 26,230-ton Kongo class battlecruiser that was built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding at Nagasaki, Japan, and was commissioned in April 1915. The ship was approximately 728 feet long and 101 feet wide, had a top speed of 30 knots, and had a crew of 1,360 officers and men. Kirishima was heavily armed with eight 14-inch guns, 16 6.1-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and numerous smaller caliber anti-aircraft guns.
Twelve years after being commissioned, Kirishima was modernized at Kure, Japan, from 1927 to 1930 and was re-classified as a “fast battleship.” She underwent yet another major reconstruction from 1935 to 1936, which lengthened her hull and gave her much more powerful engines. Although the now larger, 32,156-ton Kirishima looked like a modern battleship, she still had rather light armor protection for a ship her size, a flaw that would prove fatal later on in her career.
Kirishima’s high speed played an important role during the first year of the Pacific War. She escorted Japanese aircraft carriers during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and was used extensively during Japan’s invasion of the East Indies in early 1942. During March and April 1942, Kirishima was part of a large Japanese naval task force that raided British shipping in the Indian Ocean.
During the struggle for the Solomon Islands in late 1942, Kirishima participated in the carrier battles off the Eastern Solomon Islands in August and in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October. She sustained minor damage during the night surface battle off Guadalcanal on 13 November 1942. But two nights later, while serving as the flagship for another large Japanese task force, Kirishima fought an American surface force that included the American battleship USS Washington (BB-56).
In the major battle that followed, Kirishima was badly damaged and disabled by Washington’s larger 16-inch guns. In only seven minutes, Washington fired 75 16-inch rounds and 107 5-inch rounds at various ranges, from 8,400 to 12,650 yards. Washington scored at least nine 16-inch hits on Kirishima, along with approximately 40 hits with her 5-inch batteries, causing major damage to the Japanese battleship. Kirishima’s relatively thin armor protection evidently could not withstand Washington’s large guns. Although Washington was not damaged during the confrontation, another American battleship in the task force, USS South Dakota (BB-57), was hit repeatedly and suffered heavy damage, as well as the loss of 38 men killed and 60 wounded. But South Dakota was able to steam away under her own power and was eventually repaired. Kirishima, on the other hand, was left burning and exploding. She eventually had to be abandoned and was scuttled several miles west of Savo Island.
This was the first of only a few confrontations between battleships during the Pacific War. It proved that American capital ships were definitely tough enough to not only absorb a lot of punishment (as in the case of South Dakota), but also could sink Japanese capital ships (as did Washington). The myth of Japanese naval invincibility was shattered off the coast of Guadalcanal, although the US Navy suffered terrible losses there as well.
Posted by Remo at 8:24 AM