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IJN Furutaka Class Heavy Cruisers

Furutaka, lead ship of a class of two 7100-ton heavy cruisers, was built at Nagasaki, Japan. Commissioned in March 1926, she spent the next five years as a unit of the Fifth Squadron (Sentai), making several cruises to Chinese waters as well as participating in the rigorous combat exercises conducted in peacetime by the Japanese Navy. The other ship was the Kako. Furutaka was in reserve, mainly receiving repairs and alterations, from late 1931 until mid-1933. She then resumed her previous pattern of fleet maneuvers and operations off China, serving with the Sixth Squadron and later with the Seventh. Late in 1936, she was inactivated and early in the next year began a major reconstruction.

When this work was completed in mid-1939, Furutaka had been significantly altered. Her six-gun main battery was now carried in twin turrets instead of the original single gun mounts. Her hull was wider, displacement greater, torpedo battery rearranged and boilers replaced with newer types. Improved gunfire controls and anti-aircraft batteries contributed to her changed appearance. She thereafter served with the Sixth Squadron, which operated primarily in home waters until shortly before the outbreak of the Pacific War.

During the first ten months of the war with the United States and its allies, Furutaka and the rest of the Sixth Squadron traveled widely. They participated in the capture of Guam and Wake islands in December 1941 and were engaged in offensive operations in the New Guinea and Solomon Islands area in March-May 1942. Early in the latter month, Furutaka took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea. When the Allies seized Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August 1942, the Sixth Squadron was sent on a counter-assault mission, forming the majority of Japanese forces engaged in the highly-successful night Battle of Savo Island on 9 August.

Furutaka and her companions served as a covering force for Japanese efforts to retake Guadalcanal during the rest of August and into October 1942. On 11 October they steamed southwards on a mission to bombard enemy positions on that island, not realizing that a strong U.S. Navy cruiser-destroyer force was also in the area. The resulting Battle of Cape Esperance, on the night of 11-12 October 1942, repulsed the Japanese ships. Furutaka was gravely damaged, with her crew suffering heavy casualties. After efforts to control flooding and get underway proved futile, her surviving crew members was taken off. Furutaka sank soon thereafter.

Kako, at 7100-tons and Furutaka's sister ship, was built at Kobe, Japan. She was commissioned in July 1926. Assigned to the Fifth Squadron (Sentai) from then until 1933, she served in Japanese and Chinese waters, participating in fleet maneuvers and combat operations in China. The cruiser was given a major refit in 1929-30, improving her machinery and slightly changing her appearance. Briefly operating with Sentai 6 in 1933, Kako was present for the naval review off Yokohama in late August. She went into guard ship status in November of that year and into reserve in 1934. In July 1936, she began an extensive reconstruction at Sasebo.

Kako returned to service in December 1937 almost completely transformed. Her original six 200mm single gun mounts had been replaced by three twin 203mm gun turrets. She now had new anti-aircraft machine guns and torpedo tubes, improved gunfire control equipment, different boilers, a wider hull and a generally altered appearance. Reassigned to Sentai 6, she operated in Japanese home waters and off China in the years leading up to the Pacific war.

When Japan attacked U.S. and British positions in December 1941, Kako took part in the assaults on Guam and Wake. In March and April 1942, she supported operations against New Guinea, the northern Solomon Islands and the Admiralty Islands. In early May she covered landings at Tulagi, in the southern Solomons, and escorted the carrier Shoho and the Port Moresby invasion force during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7-8 May. After being overhauled at Kure in May and June, Kako was sent to the vicinity of the northern Solomon Islands. When U.S. Marines invaded Guadalcanal and Tulagi on 7 August 1942, she was one of seven Japanese cruisers ordered south to intervene. In the 9 August night Battle of Savo Island, these ships inflicted a serious defeat on a joint U.S.-Australian task force. While steaming toward Kavieng, New Ireland, on 10 August 1942, Kako was torpedoed and sunk by the U.S. submarine S-44 (SS-155).

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:22:53 ZULU