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IJN Ryujo Light Aircraft Carrier

In 1931, a replenishment plan was authorized the Navy, permitting it to complete construction of the Ryujo ("Galloping Dragon"), a small aircraft carrier of about 10,000 tons laid down in 1929 at Yokohama. She was completed in 1933, her limited deck, only 513 1/2 feet long and 75 1/2 feet wide, was free of an obstructive island. The Ryujo had a speed of 29 knots, carried 36 aircraft, and was armed with 12 five-inch guns.

The original design of the Ryujo called for one hangar, but a second hangar was added to increase her number of aircraft. This addition was done without increasing the size of the ship and as a result, the Ryujo was often unstable and overloaded. Soon afterwards, the Japanese Navy discovered that an entire generation of warships, designed to squeeze a great deal of fighting power into hulls of limited size, were incapable of safe operation in the open ocean. The Ryujo was one of these, and during the mid-1930s she was extensively reconstructed to make her suitable for service.

Though very small for her intended fleet carrier duties, she was actively employed during the war against China later in the decade. The ship was again modified in 1940, when her low forecastle was built up one deck to improve seakeeping.

When the new, large fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku joined the Japanese fleet, Ryujo was relegated to secondary tasks. During the Pacific War's first weeks in December 1941, she supported the effort to capture the Philippines. In February 1942, the carrier participated in the conquest of the East Indies and, in the early April 1942 Japanese raids on the Bay of Bengal, Ryujo's air group sank several ships. In an operation intended to divert American attention from the impending attack on Midway her planes attacked Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on 3 and 4 June 1942.

A few weeks after the 7 August 1942 Allied invasion of the southern Solomon Islands, the Japanese sent a convoy of transports to reinforce their beleaguered troops on Guadalcanal. Ryujo was to cover the convoy and send planes to attack the American airfield on the island, while the larger Japanese carriers operated separately against the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers. Thus, in the 24 August Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Ryujo, isolated from other sources of air support and with most of her planes off on a strike mission, was overwhelmed by a powerful air assault from USS Saratoga. Despite effective maneuvering, she was fatally damaged by several hits and sank after her surviving crewmembers had been removed by escorting destroyers.

She was Japan's fourth aircraft carrier.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:25:10 ZULU