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IJN Wakamiya Seaplane Carrier

The Wakamiya entered the Japanese Navy as a war prize of the Russo-Japanese War, when a Japanese torpedo boat captured the Russian Lethington west of Okinawa. Built in Port Glasglow by Duncan shipbuilders, the Lethington was completed in 1914. After her capture, she was renamed the Wakamiya and put into service as a transport ship.

However, by 1914, she was converted into a sea plane carrier with a complement of two Farman floatplanes which were stored in her holds and two more in reserve. The floatplanes were lowered from the deck of the Wakamiya to take off and land atop the water. Once a mission was complete, they were raised and replaced back upon the deck. Wakamiya aircraft were used in support of a conflict between Japenese and German forces at Tsingtao in China during the first World War. Air units of the Wakamiya also engaged in an attack which purportedly sunk a German minelayer and damaged shore installations, arguably the first air raid in history to result in a success.

In 1920, the Wakamiya was officially classified as an aircraft carrier and outfitted with a take-off deck over her forecastle. The take-off deck was believed to have been experimentation for the future carrier Hosho. The first take-off occurred on 20 June 1920.

The Wakamiya served as a seaplane tender until 1924, when she was replaced by a converted tanker named Notoro. Nevertheless, the Wakamiya has the distinction of being the first aircraft carrier of the Imperial Navy.

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