IJN Hosho Light Aircraft Carrier
The Hosho was initially ordered as an oil tanker with the designation Hiryu under the 8-6 Fleet plan, but during construction in 1920 it was decided to redesign the ship as an aircraft carrier.It is believed that the British Semphill Mission, in Japan at the time, influenced the design of the Hosho ('Soaring Phoenix'). Regardless, the Hosho was the first ship completed that was specifically designed from the keel for the role of aircraft carrier. The HMS Hermes designed at the same time was not completed until a year after her Japanese equivalent. A larger sister ship, the Shokaku had been planned for the navy, but was cancelled after Japan signed the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922.
Commissioned in 1922 at Asano Shipbuilding Yards in Tsurumi, the Hosho originally had an 'island' on her starboard side which served as a command deck and flight observation tower. It proved unsatisfactory for both purposes in air trials and by 1923 was replaced with a bridge on the starboard side forward under the flight deck. This also allowed for the flight deck to be widened further. The Hosho was also equipped with three hinged funnels, designed to rest horizontal or vertical depending on the requirements at the time. Eventually the funnels were fixed in an upright position. Other modifications to the Hosho included lengthening the deck from 519 ft to 579 ft and 5 in, in 1944.
The first take off from the Hosho's deck occurred on 22 February 1923 by a Mitsubishi 1MF Type 10 fighter, one of three aircraft specifically designed to operate on the carrier. The other two were the Mitsubishi 2MR Reconnaisance plane, and the 1MT torpedo tri-plane.The first landing on the Hosho was made by a British civilian, a Mr. Jourdan, a day later on the 23 of February. The initial landing system used on the Hosho was based off the British method of longitudial wires running the length of the deck, in addition with the cross deck wire. The system resulted in more annoyance than benefit and was scrapped in favor of the traditonal cross deck arresting cables.
From the date of her commission in 1922 to the completion of the Akagi in 1927, the Hosho served as the most advanced aircraft carrier in the Imperial Navy. In 1933, she was withdrawn from the regular fleet and assigned as a training vessel. She remained in this capacity until the outbreak of the Pacific War and assisted with a compliment of older aircraft in operations along the Chinese coasts in 1940.
At the outbreak of WW II, her high angle guns were replaced by four 25mm twin mount machine guns. Later, the 14cm guns were removed and 25mm double or single mount machine guns were added. During much of the war, however, the Hosho was used primarily for training purposes, but did serve in an air defense capacity at the Battle of Midway in 1942. Three years later, she sustained damage during an American air attack on Kure, Japan.
After the war, the Hosho was used as a repatriation vessel to return Japanese citizens and soldiers home. Upon completing this mission, she was scrapped in 1947.
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