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IJN Kongo Class Battleship

Kongo, first of a class of four 26,230 ton battlecruisers, was built at Barrow-in-Furness, England. The last major Japanese warship to be constructed abroad, she was completed in August 1913. She was active during World War I and afterwards as one of the fastest units of Japan's battle fleet. In 1929-31, Kongo was modernized at Yokosuka Dockyard, and was thereafter rated as a battleship. She was again modernized at Yokosuka in 1936-37, receiving new machinery and a lengthened hull to increase her speed to over thirty knots. This high speed, plus their heavy guns, made Kongo and her sisters uniquely valuable warships, and they were heavily used in World War II combat operations.

At the outbreak of hostilities between Japan and the Western Allies in December 1941, Kongo supported the landings on the Malayan Peninsula. As Japan's great southern offensive progressed, she covered the invasion of Java, fired her 14-inch guns in a bombardment of Christmas Island, and was part of the raid against British shipping in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. In the Battle of Midway in early June 1942, Kongo was part of Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo's Covering Group.

During the fiercely contested campaign over Guadalcanal that began in August 1942 Kongo helped deliver an intense and effective bombardment of Henderson Field on 14 October 1942, took part in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands later in that month and was part of the Japanese aircraft carrier force during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November. She was not in combat during 1943 and the first part of 1944, but participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in mid-June 1944 as part of the Japanese vanguard carrier division.

After the 20 October 1944 invasion of Leyte, Kongo sortied with the rest of the Japanese fleet to make a counter-attack. This resulted in the great Battle of Leyte Gulf, an action that essentially destroyed Japan's Navy as a major fighting force. As part of the Center Force, Kongo survived a submarine attack on 23 October, carrier air attacks in the Sibuyan Sea the next day, the Battle off Samar against U.S. escort carriers and destroyers on 25 October and an Air Force high-level bombing attack as she withdrew from the battle area on the 26th. However, her luck ran out a month later. On 21 November 1944, soon after passing through the Formosa Strait en route to Japan, she was torpedoed by the U.S. submarine Sealion. The resulting fires apparently were uncontrollable, as Kongo blew up and quickly sank a few hours after she was hit. She was the only battleship sunk by submarine attack during the Pacific War.

Hiei, the second of four 26,230 ton Kongo class battlecruisers, was built at the Yokosuka Dockyard and completed in August 1914. Like her sisters, she gradually updated during the "Teens" and "Twenties". However, the London naval limitations treaty of 1930 caused her to be "demilitarized". Stripped of her side armor, many of her guns and some of her boilers, she was converted to a training ship, much like her contemporaries, the American Wyoming and British Iron Duke. While serving in this role, she was used as the Emperor Hirohito's flagship during the Naval Review off Yokohama in late August 1933.

In 1936, after Japan had withdrawn from the naval limitations treaties, Hiei entered Kure Dockyard for an extensive modernization. This completely restored her combatant status and armament, gave her a longer hull and much more powerful machinery for a speed of over thirty knots. She was also used as the prototype for several features later used in the huge battleships Yamato and Musashi.

Now classified as a battleship, Hiei returned to active service in early 1940 and was again the Emperor's flagship at the Yokohama Naval review in October 1940. Her high speed made her very useful as a companion to aircraft carriers, and she was part of the striking force that attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. In April 1942, Hiei took part in the powerful raid that bloodied the British Navy and merchant marine in the Indian Ocean area. She was a unit of the Covering Group during the Battle of Midway in early June and immediately thereafter was sent to the North Pacific to support Japanese operations in the Aleutian Islands.

When the fight over Guadalcanal began in August 1942, Hiei was sent south to operate with other units of the Combined Fleet. She was present during both of the campaign's carrier actions, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in late August and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in late October. On 12 November 1942, Hiei was ordered toward Guadalcanal as flagship of a bombardment force that included her sister fast battleship Kirishima, a light cruiser and more than a dozen destroyers. Soon after midnight on Friday, 13 November, the Japanese were met by an American task force of five cruisers and eight destroyers. The resulting first night action of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was chaotic and bloody. Hiei was badly shot up by U.S. cruiser and destroyer guns, and may have suffered shock damage from torpedoes exploding nearby. While retiring from the battle, her steering failed, leaving her unmaneuverable only a short distance from Guadalcanal's American-held airfield. Through the following day, Hiei's crew struggled to regain steering control, while under constant attack by U.S. aircraft. However, she finally suffered a torpedo hit in the stern that destroyed all hope of escape. Soon after nightfall, her surviving crewmen were taken off and Hiei was left to sink some miles northward of Savo Island. She was the first of ten Japanese battleships lost to enemy action in World War II.

Haruna, a 26,230 ton Kongo class battlecruiser, was built at Kobe, Japan. Completed in April 1915, she operated in the Pacific during the First World War. While in the south Pacific in 1917, she was damaged by a mine laid by the German auxiliary cruiser Wolf. In 1927-28, she was modernized at Yokosuka Dockyard, emerging with only two smokestacks and a new forward superstructure, as well as with improved armament and protection. Reclassified thereafter as a battleship, Haruna was again modernized in 1933-34, this time at Kure Dockyard, raising her standard displacement to over 32,000 tons and giving her a quite up-to-date appearance. More powerful machinery and a lengthened hull gave the reconstructed ship a speed of thirty knots, making her a very useful battleship, though relatively lightly armed and armored.

During the Second World War, Haruna was extensively employed, often in company with aircraft carriers. In December 1941, she covered the invasion of Malaya. The first four months of 1942 saw her supporting the conquest of the Dutch East Indies, participating in a bombardment of Christmas Island, and participating in the Indian Ocean Raid. In June, she was part of the ill-fated Japanese carrier force during the Battle of Midway and was lightly damaged when a bomb nearly hit her stern. The Guadalcanal Campaign that began in August 1942 also brought Haruna into action. With her sister ship, Kongo, on 14 October she delivered a devastating bombardment of Henderson Field, the U.S. airfield on Guadalcanal. Later in the month, she was present during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands and in mid-November operated with the Japanese aircraft carrier force during the climactic Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

Like most of the heavier Japanese warships, Haruna saw no combat during 1943 and the first five months of 1944, though she steamed north to Japan in May 1943 in response to the American landings on Attu and was in the central Pacific later in the year during the invasions of the Gilbert Islands and Bougainville. In mid-June 1944, however, the Japanese fleet was sent to counterattack the U.S. forces then assaulting Saipan. As part of the heavily-defended van carrier group, she took an active role in the ensuing Battle of the Philippine Sea and was hit by a bomb on 20 June. Haruna also participated in the Japanese Navy's final fleet action, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She was damaged by bomb near-misses in the Sibuyan Sea on 24 October 1944, but steamed on to engage U.S. escort carriers and destroyers in the next day's Battle off Samar.

Stationed in Japanese waters by the beginning of 1945, Haruna was damaged at Kure during the U.S. carrier plane raids on 19 March. Still moored near Kure four months later, she was sunk by Task Force 38 aircraft on 28 July 1945. Haruna's wreck was scrapped after the war.

Kirishima, a 26,230 ton Kongo class battlecruiser built at Nagasaki, Japan, was completed in April 1915. After more than a decade of service, she was modernized at Kure between 1927 and 1930 and reclassified as a battleship. Again reconstructed in 1935-36, with her hull lengthened and more powerful machinery installed, Kirishima emerged as a modern-appearing 32,156 ton capital ship, quite fast though comparatively lightly armed and armored.

Her high speed ensured that Kirishima would play an active role in the first year of the Pacific War. She accompanied the Japanese aircraft carriers during their 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and was active during the offensive in the East Indies in early 1942. In March and April, she was part of the powerful force that raided the British in the Indian Ocean. During the Solomons Campaign later in 1942, Kirishima was present during the carrier battles of the Eastern Solomons in August and the Santa Cruz Islands in October. She received minor damage in the night surface action off Guadalcanal on 13 November. Two nights later, serving as flagship of another Japanese surface force, she was engaged by the U.S. battleship Washington (BB-56). Disabled in this encounter, Kirishima was scuttled a few miles west of Savo Island. Her wreck was discovered and examined in August 1992, resting upside down with its forward end blown off some 4000 feet below the surface.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:24:03 ZULU