IJN Takao Class Heavy Cruisers
The Takao, designed as improved Nachi class cruisers, were part of the naval expansion program of 1927 and 1931. The first ship in the class, the Takao was laid down on 28 April 1927, and the last, the Chokai, was laid down on 26 March 1928. The ships differed from the Nachi class with a larger bridge structure with armor, the addition of a second upright funnel, and the modification of TT guns that swiveled rather than remain in a fixed position. An interesting feature of the Takao class was the ability of their main armament to fire from a seventy degree angle, which allowed the large guns to be used against attacking aircraft.
Only two ships of the class received further modifications later in life. These were the Takao and the Atago, which underwent a great amount of modernization between 1939 and 1940. The modernization included the equipping of bulges for stability and underwater protection, increasing the secondary armament and torpedo battery to twice its size, and lastly, expanding the bridge structure even further.
None of the Takao class survived the Pacific War. All four ships were organized together as the 1st Flying Squadron under the command of Admiral Kurita. While on their way to Leyte from Brunei they came under attack by American submarines. The Takao had the indignity of surviving two direct torpedo hits, only to be sunk in shallow water by a British midget submarine. The Maya, the Atago did not survive the attack and sunk on 23 October 1944. Their sole remaining undamaged sister ship, the Chokai, was sunk two days later by dive bombing aircraft.
Chokai, a 11350-ton Takao class heavy cruiser built at Nagasaki , Japan , was commissioned in June 1932. After several months of training, she was assigned to the 4th Sentai (Squadron) in December 1932. During the rest of the decade she regularly took part in fleet exercises and operations, frequently off the China coast. In 1939-40, she was flagship the Second China Expeditionary Fleet, conducting combat activities off southern China , and during 1941 took part in further operations in that area and in an intensified war readiness program in Japanese home waters.
When Japan began the Pacific War in December 1941, Chokai supported the campaign to capture Malaya. In January and February 1942, she participated in operations to seize Borneo and the Dutch East Indies . Damaged by grounding on 22 February, she was next in action during the early April 1942 Indian Ocean raid, during which she sank three American and British merchant ships. In June 1942, she was part of the Covering Group during the Battle of Midway and in July was sent to the southern Pacific to become flagship of the Eighth Fleet. In that role, Chokai led the Japanese squadron during the victorious Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942 , receiving shellfire damage that was repaired locally. For the next six months, she participated in the unsuccessful Japanese attempts to retake Guadalcanal . On 14 November, she joined in on a bombardment of Guadalcanal 's Henderson Field, and was somewhat damaged by air attacks while withdrawing.
Chokai continued her role as as Eighth Fleet flagship until just after Guadalcanal was evacuated in early February 1943. Thereafter, she operated from Truk and Rabaul, supporting Japanese attempts to protect their Solomons and New Guinea area bases from the Allied offensive. The cruiser was also briefly refitted in Japan in February-March and more extensively in August and September 1943. To avoid the threat of U.S. carrier aircraft attacks, her base was shifted westward from Truk to the Palaus in February 1944 and in late March to the East Indies area. In June Chokai participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea . When U.S. forces assaulted Leyte in October 1944, Chokai joined the rest of the First Mobile Fleet in the counter-move that produced the great Battle of Leyte Gulf. After surviving submarine attack on 23 October and carrier air strikes in the Sibuyan Sea the next day, on 25 October 1944 she was critically damaged by aircraft bombs during the Battle off Samar . Rendered immobile, Chokai's crew was removed and she was sunk by Japanese destroyer torpedoes.
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