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June 23, 2018

Midway Campaign - The Carriers

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Note: Figures in parentheses indicate the year in which construction of the ship began, that in which it was launched, and that in which it was completed for service.

Japan’s first large carrier, Akagi (1920-1925-1927) had been laid down as a 41,000 ton battle cruiser. She was converted to a carrier under the terms of the Naval Disarmament Treaty of 1922. She was fast and rather well protected for a carrier, but could only operate about two-thirds of the aircraft that she was capable of storing. With Kaga she formed Carrier Division One. Akagi saw action in the Sino-Japanese War, and she as flagship of the First Air Fleet she served from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she had to be scuttled after U.S. dive bombers turned her into a burning wreck.

Although sometimes inaccurately called a sister of Soryu , Hiryu (1936-1937-1939) was somewhat larger, had different dimensions, and a greater operating range, with marginally more aircraft operating capacity. Paired with Soryu in Carrier Division Two, she served during the China Incident and with the First Air Fleet from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she took four bombs from U.S. dive bombers which caused extensive fires and forced her to be scuttled. She was the last of the four Japanese carriers to be fatally stricken during the battle, and before she sank her air group accounted for the USS Yorktown .

Originally designed as a battleship, Kaga (1920-1921-1928) was, and was scheduled to be scrapped on the ways under the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty. She was reprieved and converted to a carrier when a battle cruiser hull being converted to a carrier was wrecked abuilding by the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923. More or less a half-sister of Akagi, she was rather slower. Like all older carriers, she was modernized during the 1930s. Kaga took part in operations against China 1932-1939, and with Akagi, she formed Carrier Division One, and roamed the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where U.S. dive bombers put four bombs into her, starting fires which caused her to blow up and sink eight hours later.

Soryu (1934-1935-1937) was a well-designed ship, lightly built and fast, with an aircraft operational capacity equal to that of Akagi or Kaga , both of which were about twice her displacement. She took part in operations against China, 1937-1939, and then, paired with Hiryu, which was sometimes classed as her sister, Soryu formed Carrier Division Two, and served with the First Air Fleet from Pearl Harbor to Midway , where she took three bombs, burst into flames, and blew up.

U.S. Yorktown Class
Arguably the most successful class of warship ever built, and certainly one of the most decorated, the Yorktowns were the model for all future U.S. carrier designs. Relatively large, fast, very sea worthy vessels with excellent protection and large aircraft complements, they played an enormous part in the Pacific War, garnering great distinction in the process. Yorktown , CV-5 (1934-1936-1937). In the Atlantic when Pearl Harbor was bombed, was shortly transferred to the Pacific. She took part in several raids, and then fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea , where she was severely damaged. Rushing to Pearl Harbor, she was partially repaired in order to get her into action in time for the Battle of Midway . At Midway she took several bombs and two torpedoes on 4 June, and was temporarily abandoned. Still afloat the next day, she was taken in tow. On 6 June Japanese submarine I-168 put two more torpedoes into her and she finally went down.

Enterprise, CV-6 (1934-1936-1938) was flagship of the Halsey Task Force at the time of Pearl Harbor, delivering reinforcements to Wake Island . She took part in the early raids on Japanese islands, escorted Hornet on the Doolittle Raid, fought at Midway, Eastern Solomons , and the Santa Cruz Islands, covered numerous landings throughout 1942-1944, and fought on through to the end of the war, suffering frequent damage in action. By the end of the war she was the most decorated ship in American history. Despite a campaign to preserve her as a war memorial, “The Big E” was scrapped in 1958.

Hornet, CV-8 (1939-1940-1941) was laid down after the final collapse of naval limitations. Rather than wait for a new and better design, the Navy decided to repeat the successful Yorktown design. Shaking down in the Atlantic when the war began, she shortly passed into the Pacific. Her first wartime mission was transporting Jimmy Doolittle's B-25s to within bombing range of Japan, in April 1942. She subsequently took part in several raids, fought at the Battle of Midway, the Eastern Solomons , and the Santa Cruz Islands, where on 24 October 1942 she took four Japanese bombs and three aerial torpedoes plus two suicide crashes by damaged Japanese aircraft, which caused considerable damage and engine failure. Since her hull remained sound, she was taken in tow, only to absorb three more Japanese bombs the following morning. As Japanese surface units were known to be closing in, it was decided to scuttle the ship. Despite about 300 rounds of 5-inch shells and nine torpedoes from U.S. destroyers (not all of which detonated), she refused to sink. Abandoned, her burned out hulk was later found still afloat by Japanese surface forces, who finished her off with four 24-inch “Long Lance" torpedoes .

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