|Ship Class||Yamato-class Battleship|
|Builder||Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard|
|Laid Down||29 Mar 1938|
|Launched||1 Nov 1940|
|Commissioned||5 Aug 1942|
|Sunk||24 Oct 1944|
|Displacement||65000 tons standard; 72800 tons full|
|Machinery||12 Kanpon oil-fired boilers, geared steam turbines, 4 screws|
|Power Output||150000 SHP|
|Range||7,200nm at 16 knots|
|Armament||9x460mm guns, 6x155mm guns, 12x127mm guns, 35x3x25mm and 25x1x25mm anti-aircraft guns, 4x13mm guns|
|Armor||650mm front of turrets, 410mm side, 200mm deck|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Musashi, the second of two Yamato-class battleships, shared the honor with lead ship Yamato as the largest battleship ever constructed in naval history. During construction of the codenamed Battleship Number 2, special floating cranes of 150 and 350 metric ton capacities were purposely built at Number 2 slipway for this project. Utmost secrecy was maintained during her construction; the entire length of the ship was camouflaged by rope against aerial photography, and urban legend had it that the roofing had consumed the entire supply of rope in Japan. The cover-up was so successful that the Americans were unaware of the construction even though the United States consulate office was essentially just across the bay. The Russians, however, almost discovered it by accident. On 20 May 1938, six Russian-manned TB-3 bombers with Chinese markings flew over Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Sasebo to drop propaganda leaflets and to take pictures; Battleship Number 2 was actually photographed, but the photograph, even after the Americans reviewed it, did not arouse the alarm that the world's largest battleship should have had.
Battleship Number 2 was launched on 1 Nov 1940 in a secret ceremony attended only by a few top naval officials. As soon as she was put into the water, Kasuga Maru (later to be converted to the escort carrier Taiyo) was towed to block Battleship Number 2 from view. She spent the following 18 months fitting out. On 15 Sep 1941, she was under the command of the chief equipping officer Captain Kaoru Arima. On 5 Aug 1942, she was commissioned as the Battleship Musashi, and Arima remained on board as her commanding officer, who would be promoted to the rank of rear admiral shortly after the commissioning. Her commissioning was three months behind schedule due to last-minute requirements for additional communications gear.
After post-shakedown fitting out at Kure, Musashi sailed for Truk in the Caroline Islands on 18 Jan 1943 where she was named Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's flagship; this assignment was the reason why the additional communications gear was required during fitting out. She officially became Yamamoto's flagship on 11 Feb 1943, relieving her sister ship, Yamato. On 23 Apr 1943, ashes of Yamamoto, who was struck down by US Army Air Corps fighters several days prior, were secretly brought aboard via a flying boat. Two days later, Admiral Mineichi Koga came aboard under the pretense of an inspection to take over command of the Combined Fleet. On 17 May 1943, Musashi arrived at Yokosuka in response to the Americans' operations in the Aleutian Islands; the voyage also brought home Yamamoto's ashes. Upon return to Japan, Captain, later Rear Admiral on 1 Nov 1943, Keizo Komura was given command of the ship after Arima was transferred to the Etajima Naval Academy.
After a day of preparations in Yokosuka on 23 Jun 1943, Musashi hosted Emperor Showa and his staff on an inspection on 24 Jun 1943.
Between 1 and 8 Jul 1943, at Kure, four Type 22 fire control radars were installed on the bridge.
Between 5 Aug 1943 and 10 Feb 1944, Musashi remained mostly in port at Truk; the only sortie she embarked upon was the Oct 1943 movement to Brown Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands in response to a possible American invasion of Wake Island and raids against the Gilbert Islands. On 7 Dec 1943, Captain Bunji Asakura assumed command after Komura was transferred to the Third Fleet.
Between 15 and 24 Feb 1944, Musashi was used as a transport to carry one Army battalion, one Special Naval Landing Force battalion, munitions, fuel, and vehicles from Yokosuka to the Palau Islands; en route, the task force encountered a typhoon, and as a result most of the deck load of munitions was lost. The task force arrived at Palau Islands on 29 Feb. On 28 Mar 1944, Admiral Koga moved his flag to land, relieving Musashi of flagship status; this was done due to air raid threats. She departed Palau Islands under the cover of darkness on 29 Mar 1944, but was discovered by American submarine USS Tunny, which damaged her port bow with one of six torpedoes fired at 1744. The hit tore a 19-foot diameter hole, causing minor flooding and killing seven men. Fearful of a follow-up air raid, Musashi continued to sail for Japan at a reduced speed, reaching Kure on 3 Apr. While being repaired at Kure, she was also refitted with heavier anti-aircraft defenses, replacing six of her large 155-mm secondary guns with a large quantity of 25-mm anti-aircraft guns. At this time, her anti-aircraft weaponry included 35x3x25-mm guns and 25x1x25mm guns.
In May 1944, Asakura was promoted to the rank of rear admiral. On 10 Jun, Asakura took Musashi on Operation Kon aimed at relieving Biak off New Guinea, which was abandoned shortly after due to the American invasion of the Mariana Islands. On 18 Jul 1944, Musashi arrived at Lingga near Singapore and joined the Mobile Fleet. On 12 Aug 1944, Captain Toshihira Inoguchi was given command of Musashi. Like his predecessors, Inoguchi was promoted to the rank of rear admiral after the assignment. In Sep, Inoguchi ordered Musashi painted a dark color; the paint might have been Royal Navy in origin. On 18 Oct, her deck was blackened with soot. The camouflaging attempts were all made because of the upcoming Operation Sho-Go which resulted in the naval battles in the area of Leyte Gulf.
On 18 Oct, Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita engaged in Operation Sho-Go by taking a powerful surface fleet that included both of the Yamato-class battleships. The fleet sailed into the Sibuyan Sea west of Leyte of the Philippine Islands, aiming to hit the vulnerable American transports on the other side of the island. At 0810 on 24 Oct 1944, an aircraft from carrier USS Intrepid spotted the fleet. By 1018, Musashi's lookouts reported about 30 incoming hostile aircraft. At 1027, the battle began. By chance, most American aircraft focused on Musashi, whose guns fired in combat for the first time. "I couldn't believe how enormous they were!", recalled SB2C Helldiver gunner Joe Anderlik of carrier Franklin, speaking of the two Yamato-class ships. "[Musashi] was huge!", said gunner Russ Dustan also of Franklin, "I had never seen anything as big in my entire life. It was a magnificent sight". Because the air cover was inadequate, the Japanese ships were left to fend for themselves. Musashi's anti-aircraft weapons helped setting up an intense umbrella of flak above the fleet, while her 18-in guns fired into the water to make huge geysers aimed at knocking down American torpedo bombers. "Running into one of these geysers would be like running into a mountain", recalled TBF Avenger pilot Jack Lawton, "I felt the muzzle blast each time they fired. I could swear the wings were ready to fold every tie these huge shockwaves hit us."
Without adequate air cover, however powerful Musashi was, she was helpless against multiple waves of attacking aircraft. After the final attack ended at 1530, she suffered hits by twenty torpedoes, seventeen bombs, and eighteen near misses. Efforts to correct the worsening list failed, and Inoguchi gave the order to "standby to abandon ship" at 1915; by this time, the list was at 15 degrees. Immediately after this order, Inoguchi retired to his cabin with the intention to go down with the ship; he was never seen again. At 1930, the list to port reached 30 degrees, and abandon ship order was given. At 1936, Musashi capsized and sank. 1,023 lives aboard Musashi were lost on that day.
The Americans only lost 18 aircraft against Musashi.
Sources: Imperial Japanese Navy Page, Inferno, Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.
Battleship Musashi Interactive Map
Musashi Operational Timeline
|5 Aug 1942||Battleship Musashi was commissioned into service at Nagasaki, Japan; she was assigned to Combined Fleet Battleship Division 1.|
|11 Feb 1943||Admiral Yamamoto broke his flag aboard Musashi at Truk, Caroline Islands.|
|25 Feb 1944||Battleship Musashi was reassigned to the Second Fleet.|
|14 May 1944||Musashi arrived at Tawi Tawi, where she would remain for gunnery drills at range of nearly 22 miles with sister ship Yamato through Jun 1944.|
|18 Oct 1944||Musashi's deck was painted black with soot for the intended night operation in the San Bernardino Strait before departing Lingga for Brunei Bay, Boreno in the Dutch East Indies.|
|20 Oct 1944||Musashi refueled in Brunei Bay.|
|24 Oct 1944||Japanese battleship Musashi was lost in the Battle of Sibuyan Sea to overwhelming American air power.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935