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IJN Mogami Class Heavy Cruisers

The Mogami class cruisers were initially laid down as ligh cruisers, yet in actual size were larger than most heavy cruisers of the day. All together, six ships were planned, but only four were laid down between 1931 and 1934. The first two ships, the Mogami and the Mikuma suffered from welding problems early on, which were not entirely fixed until a major reconstruction between 1936 and 1938. These modifications, while lending to stablity, increased their weight and slowed both ships down by 2 knots. The fifth ship, the Ibuki, was converted into an aircraft carrier, while the sixth, a nameless No. 301, was cancelled shortly after production began.

Only after a brief period under the categorization as light cruisers, all four ships were equipped with heavier weaponry (10 8in guns replaced previous 6.1in guns) and re-categorized as heavy cruisers in 1939 - 1940. After she received heavy damage in the Battle of Midway, the Mogami had her rear X and Y turrets replaced with an air craft deck. From that point on until her sinking on 25 December 1944, she carried a complement of aircraft that ranged from 6 to 2 airplanes as the war progressed.

None of the ships survived the war. The Mogami was sunk by American torpedo-bombers at the Battle of Surigao Strait. Her sister ships, the Suzuya and Kumano were sunk within a month of each other, the former on 25 October 1944 at the Battle of Samar by carrier borne aircraft and the latter by American bombers in the Dasol Bay, Philippines, on 25 November 1944.

Mikuma, a 11,169-ton light cruiser built at Nagasaki, Japan, was completed in August 1935, and massively rebuilt a year later to repair serious design defects. Originally constructed as a light cruiser with fifteen six-inch guns, she was converted to a heavy cruiser with ten eight-inch guns in 1939. Mikuma played an active role in the early months of World War II in the Pacific, helping to sink USS Houston (CA-30) and the Australian light cruiser Perth in the Battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. On 6 June 1942, during the Battle of Midway, Mikuma was sunk by air attacks from the U.S. aircraft carriers Enterprise (CV-6) and Hornet (CV-8).

After the loss of his carrier striking force on 4 June 1942, Admiral Yamamoto briefly continued the attempt to take Midway by ordering gunfire bombardments of the atoll. Early on 5 June, the Japanese submarine I-168 fired a few shells that did no damage. She was to be followed by four heavy cruisers under Rear Admiral Takeo Kurita, but these were recalled just after midnight on 5 June. About 90 miles west of Midway, the U.S. submarine Tambor (SS-198) was sighted nearby, and the Japanese ships abruptly changed course. Cruisers Mogami and Mikuma collided, badly damaging Mogami and causing a steady oil leak in her sister. Leaving two destroyers as escorts for the slow-moving damaged ships, the rest of the force rapidly steamed west.

During daylight on 5 June Mogami and Mikuma were attacked by planes from Midway, causing additional damage. On 6 June, planes from USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8) made three attacks, further damaging Mogami, hitting both destroyers, and completely wrecking Mikuma. Abandoning the latter to her fate, the other ships painfully limped away.

Later in the day, an Enterprise plane flew by the shattered Mikuma, and took the War's first close-up photographs of a sinking Japanese warship. Mikuma sank about dusk on 6 June, leaving hundreds of her crewmen to die in the water. Three days later, USS Trout (SS-202) found and rescued two survivors and took them to Pearl Harbor.




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