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Japanese cruiser Myōkō
Cruiser Myōkō
Myōkō at Singapore the end of World War II
Career IJN Ensign
Name: Myōkō
Operator: Mount Myōkō
Ordered: 1924
Builder: Yokosuka Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 25 October 1924
Launched: 16 April 1927
Commissioned: 31 July 1929
Struck: 10 August 1946
Fate: Scuttled in the Straits of Malacca, 8 June 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Myōkō-class cruiser
Displacement: 13,300 long tons (13,500 t)
Length: 201.7 m (661 ft 9 in)
Beam: 20.73 m (68 ft 0 in)
Draft: 6.32 m (20 ft 9 in)
Propulsion: 4-shaft geared turbines
12 boilers
130,000 shp
Speed: 36 knots (41 mph; 67 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km) at 14 kn (16 mph; 26 km/h)
Complement: 773
Armament: • 10 × 203 mm (8.0 in) guns (5×2)
• 6 × 120 mm (4.7 in) guns (to 1934) or 8 × 127 mm (5.0 in) guns (from 1935)
• 2 × 13 mm (0.51 in) machine guns
• 12 × 610 mm (24 in) torpedo tubes[1]
Armor: • Main belt: 100 mm (3.9 in)
• Main deck: 37 mm (1.5 in)
• Turrets: 25 mm (0.98 in)
• Barbettes: 75 mm (3.0 in)
Aircraft carried: 2
Service record
Operations: Battle of the Philippines (1941–42)
Battle of the Java Sea (1942)
Battle of the Coral Sea (1942)
Battle of Midway (1942)
Operation Ke (1942)
Battle of Empress Augusta Bay (1943)
Battle of the Philippine Sea (1944)
Battle of Leyte Gulf (1944)

Myōkō (妙高?) was the name-ship of the four-member Myōkō class of heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy — the other ships of the class being the Nachi, Ashigara, and Haguro.

The ships of this class displaced 13,300 tons, were 204 metres long, and were capable of 36 knots (67 km/h). They carried two floatplanes and their main armament was ten 8-inch (203 mm) guns, the heaviest armament of any heavy cruiser in the world at the time.

Myōkō was laid down at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on 25 October 1924, launched and named on 16 April 1927, and was commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Navy on 31 July 1929. She was named after Mount Myōkō in Niigata Prefecture.

Early combat service

During the Second Sino-Japanese War the Myōkō participated in the Amoy Operation from 10–12 May 1938. Also the heavy cruisers Myōkō, Nagara and Nachi participated in the Hainan Island Operation in February 1939 under Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondō. Myōkō was the flagship of the admiral.

The heavy cruisers Myōkō and Nachi formed Cruiser Division Five (CruDiv 5), commanded by Rear Adm. Takeo Takagi, part of the Cover Force for "Operation M" — the invasion of the southern Philippine Islands. The flagship of the Cover Force was the light aircraft carrier Ryūjō, carrying the flag of Vice Adm. Ibō Takahashi. Completing the Cover Force roster were the light cruiser Jintsu and eight destroyers. This force gave cover for the landings at Davao and Legaspi in December 1941.

In a reorganization in late December, CruDiv5 became part of the Attack Force under the Rear Adm. Raizō Tanaka. This included the aircraft carriers Ryūjō and Chitose, the cruisers Nagara and Naka, five destroyers and seven troop transports.

On 4 January 1942 the Myōkō and the other vessels of the Attack Force were attacked by American B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. The Myōkō was hit by one 227 kg (500 lb) bomb. The damage was superficial, but she was drydocked at Sasebo for repairs. In the Battle of the Java Sea on 1 March 1942 the Myōkō participated in the destruction of the last remaining Allied fleet units in the East Indies. At 11:50, the Myōkō, Ashigara and two destroyers opened fire on the damaged British heavy cruiser Exeter and her escort of two destroyers. The 8-inch guns of the Myōkō helped to cripple the destroyer HMS Encounter which had to be scuttled.

Later in March, the Myōkō received a refit at Sasebo. In April, she participated in the unsuccessful pursuit of the Doolittle raid task force. In May, Myōkō was part of the escort for the Tulagi invasion force in the Battle of the Coral Sea, under the command of Rear Adm. Chūichi Hara. This force consisted of the aircraft carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku, the heavy cruisers Myōkō and Haguro, and five destroyers. The Shōkaku was damaged by American aircraft and the Zuikaku lost most of her aircraft in the Battle of the Coral Sea, so the flotilla was forced to withdraw without invading Port Moresby.

In June, CruDiv 5 was part of Vice Adm. Nobutake Kondō's Support Force in the Battle of Midway. The force consisted of the battleships Kongō and Hiei, the heavy cruisers Myōkō, Haguro, Atago and Chōkai, the light cruiser Yura, the light aircraft carrier Zuihō and seven destroyers. The Support Force did not engage the enemy in this battle.

At the end of June, CruDiv 5 supported the reinforcement convoy bound for the freshly captured islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands. The entire task force consisted of the aircraft carrier Zuikaku, the light aircraft carriers Zuihō, Jun'yō and Ryūjō, the heavy cruisers Maya, Takao, Myōkō, Haguro and Nachi, the light cruisers Abukuma, Kiso and Tama, and 15 destroyers.

The Solomon Islands campaign

On 11 October 1942 the Myōkō sailed from Truk as part of the Second Fleet. This force consisted of the battleships Kongō and Haruna, the heavy cruisers Myōkō, Atago, Chōkai and Nachi, the light cruiser Isuzu and 12 destroyers. They were followed by Vice Adm. Chuichi Nagumo's Carrier Striking Force. The mission was the reinforcement and resupply of Japanese troops on the island of Guadalcanal, which had been invaded by American troops in August.

Between 31 January and 9 February 1943 the Myōkō, after a refit at Sasebo, took part in the evacuation of Guadalcanal. The force consisted of the carriers Zuikaku, Zuihō and Jun'yō, the battleships Kongō and Haruna, heavy cruisers Atago, Takao, Myōkō and Haguro, the light cruisers Nagara and Agano, and 11 destroyers. The Japanese transports were successful in evacuating 11,700 troops from the island.

Later campaigns

In May 1943, the Myōkō and Haguro sailed north to assist in the evacuation of Kiska. In June, they returned to Sasebo for another refit. The Myōkō was equipped with four twin Type 96 25 mm anti-aircraft gun mounts, and a Type 21 air search radar set was also installed.

In response to American carrier aircraft raiding in the Gilbert Islands, Myōkō sortied with Vice Adm. Jisaburō Ozawa's fleet to engage the American carriers. The fleet consisted of the aircraft carriers Shōkaku, Zuikaku and Zuihō, the battleships Yamato and Nagato, heavy cruisers Myōkō, Haguro, Tone, Chikuma, Mogami, Atago, Takao, Chōkai and Maya, the light cruiser Agano and 15 destroyers. Despite extensive searches, this force failed to make contact with the American striking force and returned to Truk. On 1 November, the Myōkō and Haguro sailed south from Truk with two destroyers, escorting a supply convoy to Rabaul. From Rabaul, CruDiv5 sailed with the light cruisers Agano and Sendai and six destroyers to escort reinforcements to the island of Bougainville. There were 1,000 Japanese Army troops carried by four fast destroyer transports. The warships sailed ahead of the transports and engaged an American force in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay at 12:50 on 3 November.

The American force of four light cruisers and eight destroyers sank the Sendai with 6-inch (152 mm) gunfire. While avoiding the American gunfire, Myōkō collided with the destroyer Hatsukaze. The Hatsukaze fell behind the task force as it withdrew and was finished off by American gunfire. The Haguro had received minor damage in the action, and the American destroyer USS Foote was crippled by a Long Lance torpedo.

On 17 November, Myōkō arrived at Sasebo for another refit. Eight single-mount 25 mm AA guns were added, bringing the total to 24 guns. In January, CruDiv 5 (with the Tone and two destroyers) made an uneventful transport run from Truk to Kavieng and back. On 10 February, while sailing from Truk to Palau with CruDiv 4's Atago and Chōkai and eight destroyers, CruDiv 5 was attacked by the submarine USS Permit. The submarine fired four torpedoes, but they missed.

In March, CruDiv 5 and the destroyer Shiratsuyu escorted an empty tanker convoy from Palau to Borneo. On 6 April, both cruiser divisions (escorted by two destroyers) were attacked by the submarine USS Dace. She fired all six bow torpedo tubes, but missed. The submarine USS Darter also spotted the task force but was unable to maneuver into position for an attack.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea

In June 1944, CruDiv 5 participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Japanese fleet sailed from its anchorage at Tawi Tawi in response to the American invasion of the Marianas Islands. The Japanese high command was aware that American heavy bombers, based in the Marianas, could eventually reach Japanese factories and shipyards in the Home Islands. This battle was later called the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" by American sailors, because over 300 Japanese carrier aircraft were shot down in a single day on 19 June.

The Battle of the Leyte Gulf

The Myōkō participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf as part of Vice Admiral Kurita's First Mobile Striking Force (Center Force) consisting of four battleships and ten cruisers. As the Center force tried to force a passage through the Sibuyian Sea they were spotted and attached by US Task Force 38. Although most of the airstrikes concentrated on the battleship Musashi, the Myōkō was hit by a torpedo aft on the starboard side. The hit damaged her starboard screws and the Myōkō breaks off and heads for Singapore at a reduced speed of 15 knots, arriving on the second of November 1944. After temporary repairs she departs for Japan with a stop at Cam Ranh Bay. Enroute to Cam Ranh Bay the Myōkō was hit by one torpedo from a spread of six, fired by USS Bergall at 17:35 on 13 December 1944. Myōkō was hit on the aft port side, blowing away her stern, and leaving her unable to steer. She went dead in the water. Despite the extensive damage aft one port screw was operable and she could make six knots. Unable to steer, she was towed by destroyer Ushio (which assisted in damaging Bergall, which survived and returned to Fremantle) and several other ships to Singapore Harbor for repairs, but there were insufficient materials in Singapore to complete the repairs to both Myōkō and Takao, which was also in harbor for repairs. In February 1945, the harbor commander reported that the Myōkō was irreparable at Singapore without more materials, and impossible to tow to Japan. He recommended that Myōkō be kept in Singapore as a floating AA battery. This suggestion was approved and, although both Myōkō and Takao were targeted by British midget submarine attacks on 26 July, Myōkō survived the war. Myōkō formally surrendered to British units on 21 September, and was subsequently towed to the Strait of Malacca and scuttled off at 3°5′N 100°40′E / 3.083°N 100.667°E / 3.083; 100.667Coordinates: 3°5′N 100°40′E / 3.083°N 100.667°E / 3.083; 100.667 Port Swettenham, Malaya (near present day Port Klang, Malaysia) near submarines I-501 and I-502.


  1. Lacroix, Japanese Cruisers, p. 808-809.

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