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IJN Tone Class Heavy Cruisers

Like the Mogami class, the Tone class were originally designed as light cruisers. However, after being laid down in the January of 1934 and 1935, the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty ended, and both ships, the Tone and the Chikuma were re-designed as heavy cruisers.

Unique to the ships was the placement of their main armaments foreward of the bridge, which left their quarter decks free for aircraft useage. Despite having the space for six aircraft, only five were carried by either ship. The Tone class cruisers were intended as the "eyes" of the cruiser fleet, a task they performed very well.

The Tone was completed on 20 November 1938 and her sister ship, the Chikuma on 20 May 1939. The ships were equipped on the outboardwith a slopping side armor at a thirty degree vertical angle, which extended to the double bottom as torpedo protection. Neither ships survived the Pacific War, however, with the Tone being sunk by Kure, Japan, by American aircraft and her sister ship, Chikuma being sunk at the Battle of Samar by aircraft and a torpedo hit.

Chikuma, a 11215-ton Tone class heavy cruiser built at Nagasaki, Japan, was commissioned in May 1939. After several months as a unit of the Sixth Squadron (Sentai 6) of the Second Fleet, she was transferred to the Sentai 8 in November 1939. In addition to taking part in regular combat exercises in Japanese home waters, she operated off southern China on three occasions between March 1940 and March 1941.

Chikuma's design provided a large seaplane capacity, fitting her for long-range scouting missions, and she was extensively employed during the Second World War as a consort for aircraft carriers. She accompanied the powerful task force that delivered the 7 December 1941 Attack on Pearl Harbor, and one of her planes flew a pre-strike reconnaissance mission over the target area. On the way back to Japan, she supported the capture of Wake Island. In the first four months of 1942, Chikuma was part of the carrier force during assaults in the Southern Pacific, the East Indies and the Indian Ocean. On 1 March, her guns helped sink the U.S. destroyer Edsall (DD-219) south of Java. She again was with the Japanese carriers when they were decisively defeated in the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942.

During August-October 1942, Chikuma operated with the carriers during the Guadalcanal Campaign, taking part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October. She was moderately damaged by American dive bomber attacks in the latter action and was under repair in Japan until late February 1943. She mainly served in the central Pacific area during the year, but was sent south to Rabaul early in November 1943 to counter the U.S. landings on Bougainville, and was lightly damaged by U.S. carrier planes on the 5th of that month.

Chikuma was transferred to Sentai 7 in early 1944. She participated in a cruiser raid on Indian Ocean shipping in March and in mid-June again accompanied aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, an action that effectively destroyed Japan's seaborne air power. Four months later, in response to the invasion of Leyte, Chikuma steamed to the Philippines to attack Allied forces there. She survived attacks by submarines and aircraft on 23-24 October. On the following day, in the Battle off Samar, she engaged U.S. escort carriers, helping to sink USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), but was soon hit by an aerial torpedo attack and immobilized. Her crew was taken off by the destroyer Nowaki and Chikuma was scuttled in the late morning of 25 October 1944. While withdrawing from the battle area, Nowaki was herself sunk, with the loss of all but one of Chikuma's surviving crewmen.




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