of the Combined Fleet
The pride of the combined
fleet, the Japanese Navy was always a pioneer in naval aviation. After
building the first aircraft carrier "Hosho" in 1918, the Combined Fleet
went on the build the largest fleet carrier of her day, the Akagi and Kaga
Following these milestones,
the Japanese naval commanders ordered the construction of the fastest and
most powerful carriers of the 1930's, Hiryu and Soryu. Just before the
great victory at Pearl Harbor, the 2 most advanced carriers to see service
before Midway were commissioned: Shokaku and Zuikaku. After this
attack, the 6 carriers of Admiral Chiuchi Nagumo's 1st air fleet scored
nothing but victory.
However Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto's
promise of 6 months of victory against the USA was realized almost to the
day, when on June 6, 1942 at Midway Atoll, all 4 large carriers currently
in the air fleet; Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu, were sent to the sea floor
by American SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers from the carriers Enterprise,
Hornet, and Yorktown. Shortly thereafter Admiral Yamamoto was killed and
after his defeat in the Solomons, Admiral Nagumo was succeeded by Vice
Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, a post he would hold until May 1945.
After a string of humiliating
defeats, Japan was left with 3 large carriers, Zuikaku, Shokaku, and Taiho.
However the latter 2 were sunk in the Mariana Islands in mid 1944. Zuikaku,
the final veteran of Pearl Harbor, stood alone, as a decoy. She was finally
sunk at Leyte Gulf in October, 1944. In desperation, the Unryu class was
approved as Japan's final carriers. However, the constant air strikes,
and fuel shortages, sunk almost every servicible ship in the Japanese Navy.
After the surrender, only 2 ships had not been sunk or scuttled, Hiyo,
and Hosho, the latter being the eldest carrier ever. So, in the end, Japan's
carriers fought valiantly against an invincible enemy. Today, Japan possesses
2 helicopter carriers, which hold the now famous names of Haruna, and Hiei.
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