IJN Chitose Class Light Aircraft Carriers
The Chitose and her sister ship the Chiyoda both were laid down, launched, and completed as seaplane tenders prior to the outbreak of war with the United States. A year into the war it was decided to convert the two into light aircraft carriers. The Chitose underwent conversion at the Sasebo Naval Yards and was completed in New Years Day, 1944. The Chiyoda was completed approximately two months earlier at the Yokosuka Naval Yards. Both ships were outfitted with a single hangar and an additional 6 feet 7 inches were added to their beams. The added flight deck was serviced by two lifts.
Both the Chitose and the Chiyoda were sunk at the Battle of Cape Engano, which occurred during the Japanese Navy's "Sho-Go" operation that produced the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In charge of the operation was Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, commander of the operation's northern force. Ozawa's was a desperate mission -- provide an attractive target for U.S. Admiral William F. Halsey's Third Fleet, hopefully pulling the powerful American "fast carriers" north so that Japanese surface ships could slip in and attack U.S. invasion forces off Leyte. His ships were not expected to survive their diversionary employment.
Among Ozawa's ships were the Chitose and the Chiyoda, which steamed south from Japan on 20 October. With two other carriers in the group, they carried only 116 planes, much less than their normal capacity and nowhere close to a match for the aircraft of Halsey's task forces.
Despite their role as "bait", the Japanese carriers sighted Halsey first and launched a strike in the late morning of 24 October. This accomplished nothing, and only a few planes returned to the carriers, leaving them with less than thirty. The Japanese ships tried hard to be conspicuous, and U.S. aircraft finally spotted them in mid-afternoon. Admiral Halsey, believing that his aviators had driven the other Japanese forces away, headed north to attack.
At about 0800 on the morning of 25 October, American carrier planes began a series of attacks and succeeded insinking the Chitose. A second strike came in around 1000 and permanently stopped the Chiyoda, which was later destroyed by a bombing raid.
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