Japanese battleship Kongō

Japanese battleship Kongō

"Kongō" (金剛, "vajra" or "indestructible") was the Imperial Japanese Navy's first super-dreadnought type battlecruiser, and the name-ship of her class, which also included the . She was upgraded to a battleship rating in the 1930s and served in several major naval operations during World War II before being sunk by enemy action in 1944.

Design and build

In 1908, the commissioning of the battlecruiser , intended to be the fourth of the . On 29 November 1941 the second section of BatDiv 3 (BatDiv3/2), composed of "Kongō" and "Haruna", was attached to Admiral Kondo Nobutake's Second Fleet, Southern (Malay) Force's Main Body, along with Cruiser Division 4 (CruDiv 4) — —as well as eight destroyers, and departed for Makung, Pescadores. On 2 December, the Main Body arrived at Makung and was notified that hostilities would commence on 8 December.

On 4 December 1941, the Main Body set sail for the South China Sea to provide distant support to the invasion forces. On the afternoon of 9 December, the Main Body was sailing southeast of Indochina near the Poulo Condore Islands when the submarine , and a destroyer escort.

The Main Body sortied for a night engagement with Force Z but was unable to make contact, despite the two forces coming within five miles (8 km) of each other. Later that day, the Main Body and other ships that had joined the search departed after receiving word that the big British ships had been overwhelmed and sunk by air attack by 88 bombers and torpedo-bombers out of Saigon and Thu Dau Mot in French Indochina.

The Main Body spent the next two months covering a number of invasions: supporting the second Malaya convoy while northeast of Natuna Besar Island; covering the landings at Lingayen Gulf, Philippines; and providing distance cover from around Palau for air strikes on Ambon Island in the Dutch East Indies. On 21 February 1942, the Main Body arrived at Staring Bay near Kendari, Celebes and met up with the Carrier Striking Force under Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi, fresh from their 19 February strike on Darwin. Four days later, BatDiv 3/2, "Atago", "Takao" and two destroyers were detached from the Main Body under Vice Admiral Kondo at the start of Operation J, the invasion of the Dutch East Indies. Tasked with hunting shipping attempting to escape Java, BatDiv 3/2 bombarded Christmas Island, , CarDiv 5's and and nine destroyers were assigned to the Emergency Bombardment Force. "Kongō" and "Haruna" bombarded Henderson Field on Lunga Point, Guadalcanal beginning at 0127 on 13 October 1942. BatDiv 3 passed Lunga Point on an easterly course, firing their main armament to the starboard before a 180-degree turn and firing to the port while returning. Six-inch (152 mm) shore batteries responded, but did not have the range to hit the battleships. "Kongō" fired 104 1,378 lb high-explosive Type 3 "Sanshikidan" 14 inch shells, 331 1,485 lb. Type 1 [armour-piercing shell|armor-piercing outside the anchorage. The fleet arrived in Guimaras the next day and left Guimaras on the 15th through the Visayan Sea, spotted again by bearing 60 degrees to port. BatDiv 3 was ordered east to cut off escape but "Haruna", her propellers still damaged from the Battle of the Philippine Sea, soon fell behind. At 0558, Force "A" opened fire on "Taffy 3" (Task Group 38.3), composed of the escort carriers . "Roberts", already hit by rounds (99 Type 3 and 211 Type 1), 347 patrolled to port, while visibility and fairly calm seas with rising winds. Shortly before midnight, Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki was called to the bridge of "Yamato" after enemy radar was detected between 0 and 70 degrees. Without knowing whether the radar was from an enemy plane or submarine, "Yamato" CO Morishita ordered a course of 050 degrees with minimal zigzagging in order to get past the unknown source. The column shifted to the new course as midnight passed and Tuesday, 21 November 1944 began. The unknown radar contact appeared to go to port and astern as the fleet moved on. By 0230, it appeared that the contact was an aircraft, rather than a submarine, in which case the radar would have been expected to stop suddenly as it dived to attack.

The radar contact was in fact the submarine USS|Sealion|SS-315|6, under Lt. Cmdr. Eli Reich. While on patrol off the northern tip of Formosa, radar picked up a three radar pips at the incredibly long range of convert|44000|yd|m|-3, though he had already been detected by "Yamato". Reich was at first convinced that "Sealion" was somehow bouncing radar off the island itself, but at 0048 radar reported the range at 32,000, stating "Two targets of battleship proportions and two of large cruiser size! Course 060 True! Speed convert|16|kn|km/h|0! Not zigging!" (The second "cruiser" was in fact a battleship.) After sending off a contact report to Pearl Harbor, Reich decided to chase and attack on the surface, an unusual decision given the danger of a massive salvo from the battleships if discovered.

"Sealion" went to full speed to get into attack position and by 0146 was to the port of the Japanese force in increasing winds and rougher seas. Radar showed a column of cruiser–battleship–battleship–cruiser (actually "Yamato"). The force was still not zigzagging on course 057 and "Sealion" edged out front to perfect attack position by 0245. Choosing the first battleship as the first target, "Sealion" came in. Noting that the enemy destroyer contacts were overlapping with the others, Reich set the torpedoes to run at eight feet on the off chance that he might hit a destroyer as well.

At 0256, "Sealion" came about to heading 168 and fired six torpedoes at "Kongō" at a range of convert|3000|yd|m|-2 before coming about to fire three torpedoes from the stern tubes at the second battleship, "Nagato", at 0259:30 at convert|3100|yd|m|-2. "Sealion" then escaped due west. At 0301, "Yamato" saw two hits on "Kongō", though "Sealion" reported hearing three. "Nagato" turned hard to port to avoid any other torpedoes and the second salvo went by, only to hit "Urakaze". At 0304, the third torpedo hit "Urakaze" either in a magazine or torpedo tube, causing massive secondary explosions. Blown apart, "Urakaze" sank within two minutes with the loss of all her crew. The loss of "Urakaze" to the starboard of "Kongō" was misinterpreted in the confusion to mean that the attack had come from the east and "Yurikaze" charged there to drop depth charges.

"Kongō" had been hit by two torpedoes: in the port bow chain locker and just aft of port amidships. The second hit had flooded boiler rooms 6 and 8, but she had enough steam pressure to maintain fleet speed of convert|16|kn|km/h|0. However, "Kongō" began to assume a slight list to port. The situation regarding "Urakaze" was confused; so fast had she disappeared that at least some of the fleet did not appear to realize that she was missing. However, the situation on "Kongō" appeared under control. Once "Kongō" reported that she could maintain speed, the decision was made to continue and try to escape the submarine. Some of the crew even returned their bunks to sleep.

At 0405, the fleet began to detect radar from "Sealion". "Sealion" had also not realized that "Urakaze" had been sunk and Reich thought that his low depth torpedoes had perhaps only dented the battleships. He pushed "Sealion" at convert|17|kn|km/h|0 to get back into attack position in worsening seas that were at Force 5 or 6. The fleet could detect "Sealion" and began to zigzag at about 0405.

However, "Kongō" was having its own problems. The decision to continue at cruising speed had led to an inrush of water that continued to crush bulkheads. The charge into high seas also progressively widened the hole in the bow. Despite divers doing perilous repairs in the flooded and torn compartments, "Kongō" was forced to stop zigzagging and then slow to convert|12|kn|km/h|0. As she did, she assumed the last position in the column with "Sealion" still in pursuit. However, the list to port had been checked at 12 degrees and the fleet was guardedly optimistic that damage control was holding its own against the onrushing water. Nevertheless, reports soon came in of leaks causing progressive flooding and the list continued to 14 degrees before checking again. Unsettled, Capt. Shimazaki requested permission to leave the fleet and make for port at Keelung, convert|65|nmi|km away. "Hamakaze" and "Isokaze" were detached to provide protection and the fleet split at 0440, with "Kongō" listing at 15 degrees and making convert|10|kn|km/h|-1.

The crew seemed unaware that the ship was critically damaged, with the Chief Navigator predicting that they would make port in six hours. Soon after leaving the fleet, the list grew to more than 20 degrees and Shimazaki ordered all hands to move to starboard as the list was causing difficulty in maintaining a heading. To make matters worse, the radar contact of "Sealion" showed that it was following "Kongō" rather than the main force. Regardless, "Sealion" was not the main danger. Fifteen minutes after separating, "Kongō" was leaning at 45 degrees. The engine rooms began to flood and by 0518 the ship was going dead in the water. Confirmation that "Kongō" was in fact sinking, if any was needed at this point, came with word that the Deputy Damage Control Officer had committed suicide over his failure. Shimazaki ordered all hands to the deck and to prepare to Abandon Ship. The ensign was lowered as all hands saluted and an orderly was sent to get the Imperial Portrait of Hirohito.

At 0522, Shimazaki gave the order to Abandon Ship and the crew began to go over the side. "Hamakaze" and "Isokaze", ignoring the imminent danger of the approaching "Sealion", approached "Kongō" from the high starboard side to gather as many crew before they went into the high dark seas. Submariners on "Sealion" looked on in amazement as the radar contacts stopped moving. The crew of "Kongō" scrambled off the side as she began to roll and the list grew to more than 60 degrees. Calamity then struck at 0524 as the forward convert|14|in|mm|sing=on shell magazines ignited in four massive explosions throwing parts of ship and men into the sky. Reich wrote "sky brilliantly illuminated — it looked like a sunset at night". The two destroyers were saved from the fragmentation by the high side of the "Kongō", but the explosion sent the remains of the battleship under the waves immediately. The destroyers set about rescuing survivors, unaware that Reich had set off in pursuit of the other battleships rather than try for the lesser destroyers. Helped by the dawn that arrived an hour later, 13 officers and 224 petty officers and men survived from "Kongō". About 1250 had died, including Vice Admiral Suzuki and the CO, Rear Admiral Shimazaki. The Imperial Portrait was not recovered.

"Kongō" was the only battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy to be sunk by a submarine, and the last battleship ever sunk by a submarine. Unusually, a crewmember of the "Sealion" had placed a portable film optical recording machine by the intercom of the conning tower when ordered to battle stations. The result is thought to be the only surviving sound recording of a submarine attack upon warships during World War II. [http://www.hnsa.org/sound/#sealion Sound recording of attack on "Kongo" and accompanying warships by "Sealion"] , Historic Naval Sound and Video]

Commanding Officers

* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Naoe Nakano - 1 December 1912 - 16 August 1913
* Capt. Naoe Nakano - 16 August 1913 - 1 December 1913
* Capt. Shibakichi Yamanaka - 1 December 1913 - 1 December 1914
* Capt. Shuzo Matsuoka - 1 December 1914 - 13 December 1915
* Capt. Chugo Arakawa - 13 December 1915 - 1 December 1916
* Capt. Hansaku Yoshioka - 1 December 1916 - 1 December 1917
* Capt. Kanamaru Kiyotsugu - 1 December 1917 - 9 April 1918
* Capt. Kojuro Nozaki - 9 April 1918 - 20 November 1919
* Capt. Tadatsugu Taijiri - 20 November 1919 - 12 November 1920
* Capt. Kametaro Muta - 12 November 1920 - 20 November 1921
* Capt. Kazu Takemitsu - 20 November 1921 - 1 December 1922
* Capt. Tachiki Seki - 1 December 1922 - 20 November 1923
* Capt. Koichi Kishii - 20 November 1923 - 1 November 1924
* Capt. Saburo Yasumi - 1 November 1924 - 1 December 1925
* Capt. Hajime Matsushita - 1 December 1925 - 1 December 1927
* Capt. Zengo Yoshida - 1 December 1927 - 10 December 1928
* Capt. Kenichi Ikenaka - 10 December 1928 - 1 December 1930
* Capt. Keinosuke Ikeda - 1 December 1930 - 1 December 1931
* Capt. Toshiu Higurashi - 1 December 1931 - 1 December 1932
* Capt. Nobutake Kondo - 1 December 1932 - 15 November 1933
* Capt. Taichi Miki - 15 November 1933 - 15 November 1934
* Capt. Kaneji Kishimoto - 15 November 1934 - 15 November 1935
* Capt. Tamazo Sugikara - 15 November 1935 - 1 December 1936
* Capt. Eijiro Matsuura - 1 December 1936 - 1 December 1937
* Capt. Takeo Kurita - 1 December 1937 - 15 November 1938
* Capt. Yoshio Suzuki - 15 November 1938 - 20 October 1939
* Capt. Shoji Nishimura - 20 October 1939 - 15 November 1939
* Capt. Raizo Tanaka - 15 November 1939 - 15 April 1941
* Capt. Morikazu Osugi - 15 April 1941 - 20 August 1941
* Capt. / RADM Tomiji Koyanagi - 20 August 1941 - 16 December 1942 (Promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 November 1942.)
* Capt. Baron Matsuji Ijuin - 16 December 1942 - 17 July 1943
* Capt. / RADM / VADM* Toshio Shimazaki - 17 July 1943 - 21 November 1944 (KIA; promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 May 1944; posthumous promotion to Vice Admiral.)

Other ships

* The battleship was preceded by the warship|Japanese corvette|Kongō|1877.
* A current Japanese class of destroyers shares the name "Kongō."
* A fictional Constitution-class starship in the "Star Trek" multiverse, NCC-1710, was named after "Kongō."

External links

* [http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/japan/battleships/kongo_page_1.htm Maritimequest.com: "Kongo" photo gallery]

Notes and references

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