This page is a collage of all the fights that Yamato took part in. Quite ironically, even Yamato-class vessels were the most powerful warhips, they didn't really participate that much in fighting. Yamato and Musashi were enormous oil-hogs and were kept at port in Kure the most of the time, since the Japanese wanted to save them for a decisive battle that never came.
In fact, all Yamato-class ships were rather ill-fated. Take Shinano for example, the third Yamato-class warship, that was intended to be a battleship but was then converted to the largest aircraft carrier of its time. Her operational career lasted less than 20 hours. She never launched a plane, never fired a gun, never made a port.
However, Yamato did take part in many operations and was a fearsome weapon for more than three years. Have a look at the important locations during Yamato's career, giving you an idea where her main destinations are battles took place. And make sure you don't miss the action photos from the Battle off Samar, some of those shells may very well be fired from Yamato!
You might also be interested in the collision between Yamato and Musashi.
Yamato often used Truk Lagoon - previously terrotory belonging to Japan - as it's base for refuelling and repairs. Today Truk is called Chuuk and is part of the Federal States of Micronesia.
Truk (Chuuk). Click for exact location.
Americans rallied to Truk during the Operation Hailstone destroying more than 30 vessels making Truk a fascinating dive destination today.
Midway Operation, June 1942
On 29 May Yamato sailed from Hashirajima Bay accompanied by Nagato and Mutsu at the start of the Midway operation, but because of the disposition of the Japanese fleet, the battleships played no part in the subsequent debacle and were unable to prevent the annihilation of the Japanese carrier force by the Americans. On 5 June Admiral Yamamoto ordered the Japanese ships to abandon the operation and retire, the battleships reaching home waters again on 14 June. A month or two later, when US forces invaded Guadalcanal (located at Solomon Islands) on 8 August, heavy Japanese reinforcements were ordered to the defence of the island. Yamato was sailed for the base at Truk, located nearby, on 11 August. She arrived on the 28th but in fact took no part in the subsequent bitter fighting in the confined waters off Guadalcanal, partly because of their confined and poorly charted nature, but also because there was no bombardment ammunition available for her 18in guns, and there was a general shortage of oil. She remained at Truk, being relieved as Fleet Flagship by her sister on 11 February 1943, until 8 May when she sailed for Kure, having been at sea only one day during the intervening period. Japanese felt they could not risk losing an ireplacable treasure and just kept her at port. Sailors joked about being stationed at the 'Hotel Yamato'. No wonder, they were given white rice and a free flow of sake. In the meanwhile, the Japanese navy was losing the war.
May 8, 1943, Sail to Kure
Yamato left Truk the 8th May when she sailed for Kure, having been at sea only one day during the intervening period. Yamato arrived at Kure on 14 May 1943 and moved into the Inland Sea on 21 July. Her stay in home waters was not prolonged and after being assigned to the Battleship Force on 15 August, sailed the next day from Heigun Jima to return to Truk.
Trip to Eniwetok, 17 October 1943
After her arrival on 23 August she was incorporated into the Combined Fleet, Main Body, and re-assumed the role of Flagship, acting in command of operations at sea in which she herself played no part. But in October it was believed that a US assault on Wake Island (near Marshall Islands) was impending and the fleet sailed for Eniwetok (an atoll on Marshall Islands which was later used for nuclear tests) on 17 October; it returned to Truk on the 26th without having made contact with the enemy.
12 December 1943, trip to Yokosuka
On 12 December 1943 Yamato left Truk for Yokosuka (close to Yokohama & Tokyo), covering Transport Operation BO-1, arriving at Yokosuka on the 17th. Her stay here was brief and after embarking stores for Truk she sailed again on 20 December, with orders to transport troop reinforcements to Kavieng and the Admiralty Islands. After sailing from Yokosuka for Truk, she was hit by a torpedo from the US submarine Skate on 25 December, which struck her on the starboard side aft, badly displacing the armour belt and exposing a significant defect in the protective scheme design. More than 3.000 tons of water flooded into the hull, but she managed to reach Truk safely.
10 January 1944, To Kure
After unloading her cargo she effected makeshift repairs and then sailed for Kure on 10 January 1944, arriving on the 16th. During this passage, she was once more in contact with a US submarine and detached the destroyer Fujinami to attack it. After her arrival in Kure, the battleship was put into No. 4 dry dock for inspection.
Preparing for Battle of the Philippine Sea
While in dockyard hands the ship had been assigned to the 2nd Battle Squadron. In mid April, following completion of work, she loaded stores and equipment for transport to the war zone and sailed once more on 21 April. Steaming via Manila, where the stores were disembarked, she reached Lingga Roads (located at eastern Sumatra - see map below on bottom right) on 1 May. Here she was assigned to the Mobile Force and spent the first half of May in working-up before departing on the 11th for Tawi Tawi, the westernmost island of the Sulu Archipelago on western Philippines, where the fleet was presently based. She anchored there on the 14th to join the Mobile Force Vanguard for the A-Go Operation.
This is when the worlds two biggest battleships ever almost had a look which one is stronger. At 4 PM both ships accompanied by many others depart Tawi Tawi at South Pacific. Shortly after departure, a periscope (perhaps the USS Harder's) is sighted and a submarine alert is given. All ships quickly execute "hard left-rudder", but the Musashi turns too late. She closes on the Yamato just ahead. On the Yamato's bridge, near panic reigns! Captain Morishita takes over the helm himself and carries out an evasive turn, but the situation remains critical. Then a lookout reports that the "ship behind us has stopped." All aboard both super-battleships are relieved that a collision between them has been avoided on the eve of battle.
Operation A-Go, the Battle of the Philippine Sea 18-22 June 44
On 10 June Yamato sailed with a force ordered to support the recently invaded island of Biak (the northern coast of Papua , an Indonesian province), but this operation was cancelled consequent upon the activities of US forces in the Marianas, and on 16 June Yamato joined the 1st Mobile Fleet to participate the operation A-Go, or the Battle of the Philippine Sea between June 19th and 23rd. From the Japanese point of view the battle had an embarrasing start and embarrasing finish. In the morning, Yamato spots an airplane approaching at 13.000 feet. This is the fighter unit of Japanese Air Group 601's second strike, but Admiral Kurita has not received information about a friendly overflight so all ships except Musashi (which is able to spot the friendly planes) open fire. Four Zekes are damaged and one ditches. Yamato may have damaged some of the planes, even though the fire was opened from various ships. This incident was to set the course of luck for the days to come.
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was essentially a carrier aircraft battle. It was a decisive victory for the Allies, who lost only 123 planes while Japanese lost 600 planes, 3 crucial carriers (Hiyo, Shokaku and Taiho), 2 oilers, and had 6 ships seriously damaged. Japanese retreated and by 24th June Yamato - having once again taken no part in the fight - was back in the Inland Sea where she remained until 8 July 1944. when, accompanied by her sister Musashi, she sailed for Singapore, arriving in Lingga Roads on the 16th, in preparation for the anticipated US attack on the Philippines. It was this battle of the Philippine Sea that eventually costed Yamato and Musashi their existence. Even Yamato remained unharmed, Japan lost three crucial aircraft carriers, Hiyo, Shokaku and Taiho went all down in this battle which meant absolutely nonexisting aircraft support for the Yamato's desperate mission to come.
Opearation Sho-Go, Leyte Gulf Battle, 22-26 October 1944
On 20 October 1944, U.S. Forces landed on the Island of Leyte, the first of the Japanese-held Philippine Islands to be invaded. In response, the Japanese Navy activated the complex "Sho-Go" Operation, in which several different surface and air forces would converge on the Philippines to try and drive off the Americans. As part of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's Center Force, Yamato moved up to Brunei Bay, Borneo, to refuel and then on the 22nd steamed toward the operational area in company with four other battleships, ten heavy cruisers and numerous other warships. On 23 October, while west of the Philippines, the Center Force was attacked by the U.S. submarines Darter (SS-227 - photo above) and Dace (SS-247) in The Battle of the Palawan Passage. Three heavy cruisers were torpedoed and two sunk, including Kurita's flagship, Atago . The Admiral then moved to Yamato , which served as his flagship for the rest of the operation.
Japanese warships docked in Brunei (left) and leaving Brunei 22nd Oct 1944. (right)
Imperial Japanese Navy plan of attack at Leyte Gulf : From Borneo, VADM Kurita's Centre Force was to strike Leyte Gulf via San Bernardino Strait, north of Samar (Yellow line, including Yamato). Meanwhile Vice Admiral Nishimura's Southern Force Van (Purple) was to attack via Surigao Strait, south of Leyte. The Southern Force Rear (Red) led by VADM Shima would arrive from north to reenforce the Van. Vice Admiral Ozawa's Northern Force (Blue) would be used as a decoy to draw ADM Halsey's Third Fleet away from Leyte Gulf.
If you would like to study more about this fascinating battle, you might want to check out History Channels Battle of Leyte Gulf DVD
Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24th October 1944
The next day, 24 October, as the Center Force steamed through the Philippines' central Sibuyan Sea, it was repeatedly attacked by planes from U.S. aircraft carriers. Battleship Musashi was sunk (see picture where Musashi is under attack) after being hit by a total of 19 torpedo and 17 bombs (up to 500kg each) in seven separate air raids. Like all the other Yamato class ships, Musashi goes down without having caused any real damage to Allied forces. Yamato and several other ships were hit but remained battleworthy. The Americans thought the entire Center Force had retreated, but it transited the San Bernardino Strait under cover of darkness and entered the Pacific.
Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage. (source: Naval Historical Center)
Either Yamato or Musashi manouvering 180 degrees in the Battle of Sibuyan sea, Oct 24, 1944.(source: Naval Historical Center)
Yamato under attack in the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.
Today was to be the closest Yamato was ever going to get into a real sea battle. In the morning of 25 October, while off Samar, Kurita's Center Force encountered by surprise a U.S. Navy escort aircraft carrier task group.
Both of the Yamato's forward turrets open fire at a distance of 30 kilometers miles. (See later Report by VADM Matome Ugaki) Of her six forward rifles only two are initially loaded with armor piercing shells, the remainder with Type 3s. Yamato's F1M2 "Pete" spotter plane confirms that the first salvo is a hit. The carrier USS Gambier Bay starts to smoke. Three six-gun salvos are fired on the same target, then the fire is shifted to the next carrier. It is concealed immediately by a smoke screen made by the American destroyers. At 06:51 AM A charging cruiser emerges from behind the smoke. Yamato engages her from a distance of more than 10 miles and scores a hit with the first salvo. The target is seen burning before it is lost sight of.
In a long running battle, in which Yamato fired her big guns at enemy ships for the only time in her career, one U.S. carrier USS Gambier Bay and three destroyers were sunk. Americans were outnumbered and Vice Admiral Clifton Srague ordered its carriers to flee, but put on an aggressive strategy and started to attack with small destroyers to give time for the carriers to run away and prepare their airplanes. At 06:54 destroyer Heerman fires three torpedoes at Haruna, but miss. Now the torpedoes are heading towards Yamato which now found herself between two torpedoes on parallel courses and for ten minutes she headed away from the action, unable to turn back for fear of being hit. By the time the torpedoes had ran out of fuel, Yamato was too far from taking part anymore.
A salvo of shells from the Japanese heavy cruiser, possibly Chikuma, in the distance - marked by a circle - falls around USS Gambier Bay during the Second battle of the Philippine Sea on October 25, 1944. Chikuma is later sank in the same day. I've heard doubts that image might be manipulated. In the foreground, officers and men of a US Navy escort carrier watch the dramatic action. (from the personal collection of LT (jg) Russell Wood, USNR Composite Squadron VC-4, USS White Plains (CVE 66) )
An American escort carrier of Task Unit 77.4.3 becomes the focal point of Japanese heavy caliber gunfire during the Battle Off Samar on October 25, 1944. (from the personal collection of LT (jg) Russell Wood, USNR Composite Squadron VC-4, USS White Plains (CVE 66) )
Yamato at the Battle of Samar. "At 0644, just before the order to form circular formation was issued, four masts, apparently destroyers, were suddenly spotted bearing 060° to port, 37 kilometers from Yamato ...This was followed by the sighting of three carriers, three cruisers, and two destroyers. It was a surprise encounter since no situation reports had been received since the previous night, and although we had long considered various measures for such an event, the ships, I thought, were extremely slow in reacting because of their lack of enemy information. Measures taken by the fleet headquarters, too, occasionally seemed lacking in promptness. At any rate at 0658 Battleship Division 1 opened fire with its forward guns at a range of 31 kilometers..." (Report by VADM Matome Ugaki, IJN, Commander Battleship Division One, HIJMS Yamato.) (from Bosamar.com) Another battleship is in the left distance, steaming in the opposite direction.
"At about 0700 it was said that there were six carriers. From 0706 we advanced generally on an easterly course and employed our secondary guns at the enemy who appeared from behind the smoke. It was generally about this time that one carrier ( White Plains) was sunk, one carrier ( St Lo) was heavily damaged, one cruiser ( Heol ) was sunk, etc. We were now rapidly approaching the enemy - the range by radar was 2200 meters and visibility was gradually improving from the east. We hoped to destroy the enemy at one blow if he came out from behind the smoke. In the meantime we were attacked by enemy aircraft. Several salvos from medium caliber enemy guns fell near Yamato , and two shells hit the starboard after gallery and outer boat shed..." Report by VADM Matome Ugaki, IJN Commander Battleship Division One, HIJMS Yamato) (from Bosamar.com) Yamato on the foreground photographed from a USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80) plane.
It now seemed like a certain death to Admiral Clifton Srague's remaining ships. Most of his ships were either sank, hit or damaged and it It seemed impossible for his force - the Taffy 3 - to escape total destruction. Japanese force began firing on the other two Taffy groups as they were able to close the range with their superior speed. American small carriers returned fire with the only guns they had, their single stern-mounted five-inch (127mm) anti-aircraft guns. The weapons, loaded solely with anti-aircraft shells, they had little chance of inflicting any damage on even unarmored surface ships. But at 09:20 Kurita suddenly turned and retreated north. He had also lost three carriers (Chokai, Suzuya and Chikuma) and lost his nerve at the important moment. He was distracyed by bad weather and poor intelligence, and was mistakingly thinking that he was against the whole of the American 3rd fleet meaning that the longer he stayed the more air-attacks would occur. Admiral Clifton Strague watches in astonishment how he has escaped his certain doom.
Yamato vs. Iowa - the slugfest of the national prides
This is the topic of a never-ending debate. In a one-on-one fight between the Yamato and USS Iowa, which one would have won? Yamato's gun have longer range but Iowa was faster and had better fire control system. It was here in the Battle off Samar that this scenario was as close as it ever was to be. Had Halsey not bitten the trap by Ozawa's Northern Force and starting to pursue his carriers, a slug-out between the Japanese Yamato, Nagato, Haruna, and Kongo and the American Iowa, New Jersey, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Washington, and Alabama might have resulted. (Read more from USS Iowa at War)
Retiring to Kure, November 1944, and Inland Sea January 1945
Next day Yamato is under heavy air attacks from the planes of USS Wasp and USS Cowpens. Two bombs hit, the first penetrates the forecastle forward and to the right of the main breakwater, demolishing nearby crew's spaces. The second bomb causes slight damage to the side of main gun turret No. 1. Yamato and the Nagato open fire with their main armament using Type 3 "sanshikidan" shells. Their gun crews claim several bombers shot down. The Yamato group is damaged heavily.
Yamato group retires to Brunei for refuelling starts to retire to Kure for repairs with battleships Kongo, Nagato and escorts. They are attacked by submarine USS Sealion II on the 21st November, Kongo and a destroyer Urakaze are sunk. Yamato arrives at Kure on 24th of Novemeber, after which she moved into the Inland Sea on 3rd January 1945. There on 19th March, she was hit again by a bomb during attacks by US Task Force 58, while in Hiroshima Bay. That month it was resolved to deploy the battleship for what was essentially a suicide mission to support the defence of Okinawa.
Yamato under heavy air attack from the Allied Task Force 58 on he 19th March 1945.
Operation Ten-Go,April 1945 - The Final Voyage
Following the invasion of Okinawa on April 1 , 1945, the Japanese tactics became more and more desperate. Short of everything but human lifes, the air force started their infamous kamikaze missions flying their airplanes directly into American ships. From Yamato's point of view, this was happening only one day sail away.
Yamato and her escorts were sent to attack the US fleet supporting the US troops landing on the west of the island. She was to beach herself between Higashi and Yomitan and fight as a shore battery until she was destroyed. The operation was reportedly conceived by the Japanese Imperial Navy leadership in response to a question from Japanese Emperor Hirohito (picture). While briefing the emperor on preparations by the army to defend Okinawa against the allied invasion, the emperor reportedly asked his advisors, "And where is the navy? Aren't they participating in the defense of Okinawa?" This question consequently sealed the fate of over 3,000 members of the Japanese Navy.
This mission was truly doomed from the very beginning. Yamato with a handful of escorts was sent without any aircover against hundreds of ships reaching Okinawa. Everyone knew they would not return. She was supposed to be given only enough fuel for a one-way trip to Okinawa. However, the crews at the fuel depot at Tokuyama defied orders and supplied the task force with much more. Yamato was supposed to fight against the Allies to the very last man. Common sense told even the navy officers that this was a certain death, but then again, if Allies would capture Okinawa, then Japan would certainly lose the war. They refused to see that the war was already lost far ago. Besides since so many pilots were losing their lives for the country, how was it acceptable that the largest ship was doing nothing. Nave decided to sacrifice Yamato in the name of honor.
On 6 April Yamato , the light cruiser Yahagi , and eight destroyers left port at Tokuyama. They were sighted on 7 April as they exited the Inland Sea southwards. The U.S. Navy launched around 400 aircraft from eleven carriers of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher 's Task Force 58 ( Hornet , Bennington , Belleau Wood , San Jacinto , Essex , Bunker Hill , Hancock , Bataan , Intrepid , Yorktown and Langley ), and assembled a force of six battleships ( Massachusetts , Indiana , New Jersey , South Dakota , Wisconsin , and Missouri ), supported by cruisers (including Alaska and Guam ) and destroyers to intercept the Japanese fleet if the air-strikes did not succeed.
See more about operation Ten-Go at the Final Voyage -section.
1 - Kure, Inland Sea, Japan. This is where Yamato was built and where the test trials were made.
[ exact location ]
2 - Truk, nowadays Chuuk, lagoon used to belong to Japan. Today it's part of Micronesia.
[ exact location ]
3 - Eniwetok, also part of Federal States of Micronesia, became later famous for the US nuclear tests.
(I tried my best locating Truk and Eniwetok on the map) [ exact location ]
4 - Lingga Roads, just off Singapore, is an island east of Sumatra. [ exact location ]
5 - Tawa Tawa, the south-western point of Sulu Archipelago, is located in the Western Philippines.
[ exact location ]
6 - Brunei [ exact location ]
7 - Samar and Leyte Gulf are at the Eastern Philippines, this is where Yamato fired her guns at enemy ships for the only time. [ exact location ]
8 - Today Yamato lies at 30-22 N, 128-04 E in the depth of 1.410 feet about 50 miles southwest of Kyushu, Japan.
Only a handful of photographs from Yamato's final hours — many of them taken from attacking aircraft — have survived. View dramatic archival images from the final kamikaze mission of Japan's supership. View the minute-to-minute details of the last 24 hours of Yamato. Have a look how Kazuhiro Fukumoto and 268 other Yamato crewmembers survived one of the biggest naval disaster of all time.
Torpedoes explode against Yamato 's port side as she turns to avoid the onslaught from bombers.
While the Americans' 1,000-pound bombs held fearsome destructive power, as seen in this one exploding off Yamato 's port bow, it was their air-launched torpedoes that ultimately led to the supership's demise. American aviators received orders to drop their torpedoes such that they would penetrate Yamato below the waterline near her bow and stern where her armor was thinnest. They were also instructed to concentrate their torpedoes on just one of Yamato 's sides, an approach most likely to cause flooding and eventual sinking. Note the fire in one of the ship's aft turrets.
Eight Japanese destroyers and one cruiser, the Yahagi , tried to assist Yamato in fending off her attackers. Here, the Yahagi fires its 6-inch guns. By the end of the battle, Yahagi and most of the destroyers were lost.
After a dozen torpedo hits, even the Yamato 's 1,000 watertight compartments couldn't save her, and her lower decks rapidly began to flood. A Curtiss Helldiver bomber like the one seen at right photographed the destruction. At this point, after just a few hours of battle, most of the American pilots returned to their carriers, knowing Yamato 's injuries were fatal. In all, Yamato took 12 bomb and seven torpedo hits within two hours of battle.
An astounding series of explosions onboard Yamato produced the mushroom cloud seen here shortly before she sank. Yamato settled on the seafloor 1,400 feet down and about 50 miles southwest of Kyushu, Japan. Experts believe that a fire raging in the battleship's aft secondary magazine caused tons of ammunition to ignite almost simultaneously, producing the blasts that tore the ship in half and sank her. These blasts were perhaps the largest ever to occur at sea.
One of the final photographs of the supership shows her severely damaged hull burning just prior to disappearing beneath the waves. When Yamato sank, marking the last Japanese naval action of the war, she took 2,747 men with her—all but 269 of her crew. Surrounding Japanese ships lost an additional 1,467 men. Only 10 American aircraft went down in the battle, with the loss of just 12 men.
5 April 1945: Operation Ten-Ichi-Go - ("Heaven Number One"):
1359: A detailed order is received: "The Surface Special Attack Unit is ordered to proceed via Bungo Suido Channel at dawn on Y-1 day to reach the prescribed holding position for a high-speed run-in to the area west of Okinawa at dawn on Y-day. Your mission is to attack the enemy fleet and supply train and destroy them. Y-day is April 8th."
1500: Captain Aruga informs his assembled crew about the sortie.
1730: Sixty-seven naval cadets of Etajima class No. 74,
who arrived three days before, are sent ashore. Then a farewell party is held aboard the YAMATO.
6 April 1945:Operation Ten-I-Go ("Heaven Number One") The Attack on the U.S. Invasion Forces at Okinawa:
At the Mitajiri anchorage. In the early morning, Vice Admiral Kusaka Ryunosuke (former CO of CV AKAGI), Chief of Staff of the Combined Fleet, accompanied by Cdr Mikami Sakuo of the Combined Fleet Staff arrive by a float biplane from Kanoya to confer about the mission with Vice Admiral Ito, Commander, Second Fleet and staff.
This map illustrates well the final voyage of Yamato. On 6th of April, she lefts Tokyama towards Okinawa, where she is supposed to demolish the Allied forces invading the island. The following morning at 8.20 she is spotted by Allied planes from the Task Force 58, who soon return with force. Yamato puts up a tremendous battle but being ill-equipped for aerial combat and being totally without air-support, the battle is hopeless. A bomb hits the ammunition storage of Yamato which explodes and sinks at 2.43 PM on 7th April. Less than 300 men survive out of 2700. Map from Karol Bohm.
The sick and some older sailors disembark. The YAMATO departs Mitajiri for the Tokuyama Oil Depot. The YAMATO takes on 3, 400 tons of fuel oil. (Enough for one way only). The destroyers also refuel.
1520: Departs Tokuyama escorted by DesDiv 43: HANAZUKI, KAYA, MAKI as far as the Bungo Suido where the destroyers detach for port. Vice Admiral Ito, leads the Surface Special Attack Force: YAMATO, DesRon 2's light cruiser YAHAGI, DesDiv 17: ISOKAZE, HAMAKAZE, YUKIKAZE, DesDiv 21: KASUMI, HATSUSHIMO, ASASHIMO, DesDiv 41: FUYUZUKI and SUZUTSUKI. Earlier, two Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" float planes and six submarine chasers are dispatched to search the area.
1830: The Attack Force negotiaties the western channel of Bungo Suido at 22 knots when a patrol plane radios the YAMATO that it has sighted an enemy submarine ten miles from Tsukudajima. The Attack Force changes course to 140 degrees and assumes an anti-submarine formation. To avoid a submarine in the Hyuga-nada, the force changes to a westerly course. The escorting destroyers move ahead and the whole group begins zigzagging. A lookout on the ISOKAZE spots the submarine USS THREADFIN (SS-410) on the surface.
2100: The Attack Force swings to the south to avoid a possible torpedo attack.
2144: The THREADFIN radios a detailed sighting report of the Attack Force's presence in the Bungo Suido to COMSUBPAC at Guam. The report is intercepted by the YAMATO. Later, the USS HACKLEBACK (SS-295) also sights the Attack Force and reports, but neither submarine is able to close the range for an attack.
7 April 1945:
0200: The Attack Force, zigzagging at 22 knots on a southerly course, passes the Miyazaki coast and reaches the entrance to Osumi Kaikyo Channel. Speed is slowed to 16 knots.
0600: The YAMATO launches her Aichi E13A1 Type 0 "Jake" reconnaissance floatplane.
0630: Six Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters of Vice Admiral Ugaki's 5th Air Fleet's 203rd Naval Air Group arrive to provide air cover. For the next three and one-half hours, a total of 14 "Zekes" from the Kasanbara air base on Kyushu, provide cover in small groups. The YAMATO's "Jake" returns to Kyushu.
0657: The ASASHIMO begins lagging behind the force with engine trouble.
0832: The Attack Force is sighted by a searching Grumman F6F "Hellcat" from the USS ESSEX (CV-9).
0840: The Attack Force briefly sights seven "Hellcat" fighters, but they are not seen by the escorting "Zekes".
1014: The Attack Force sights two large Martin "Mariner" PBM flying boats. The Japanese also spot the HACKLEBACK trailing the Attack Force.
1017: The YAMATO turns towards the planes and opens fire unsuccessfully as does the cruiser YAHAGI. While the YAHAGI jams their sighting messages, the YAMATO receives a report from a Japanese scout plane that Task Force 58 has been located east of Okinawa, 250 nautical miles from the Attack Force.
1018: The aircraft are lost behind the clouds. Both ships cease firing.
1022: The Attack Force turns towards Sasebo.
1107: The YAMATO's Type 13 air search radar operator reports contact with a large aircraft formation at his set's maximum range of 63 miles. He reports the formation at bearing 180, heading north, and splitting into two groups. All ships increase speed to 25 knots and commence a simultaneous turn.
1115: A report that had been delayed for 25 minutes by transmission and decoding, is received finally. It says that the Kikaigashima Island lookout station saw 150 carrier planes heading northwest. Just then, eight F6F "Hellcats" appear and begin circling over the force to maintain contact until the main formation arrives. The YAMATO and the YAHAGI open fire, increase speed to 24 knots and commence a series of sharp evasive maneuvers.
Air search reports two groups of aircraft, range 44 miles, closing at high speed. The sky is still overcast and visibility is poor. Then radar reports the closing aircraft have turned towards the force. The Attack Force resumes zigzagging.
1129: The Attack Force turns to course 205, towards Okinawa.
1222: A lookout spots three Japanese troopships on bearing 0250 heading for Amami-Oshima.
1232: A lookout spots American planes 25 degrees to port, elevation 8, range 4,375 yards, moving to port. This is the first wave of 280 aircraft (132 fighters, 50 bombers, 98 torpedo planes) from Task Group 58. 1: USS HORNET (CV-12), HANCOCK (CV-19), BENNINGTON (CV-20), BELLEAU WOOD (CVL-24) and the SAN JACINTO (CVL-30) and from Task Group 58. 3: USS ESSEX (CV-9), BUNKER HILL (CV-17), BATAAN (CVL-24) and the CABOT (CVL-28).
Lagging behind the main force, the destroyer ASASHIMO is attacked and sunk by aircraft from the SAN JACINTO.
1234: The YAMATO opens fire with her two forward main turrets and AA guns.
1235: The YAMATO stops zigzagging and increases speed to 24 knots. Her nine 18.1-inch guns firing "Sanshikidan" beehive shells, twenty-four 127-mm. AA guns and one hundred fifty-two 25-mm AA guns all open fire. The American planes release their bombs and torpedoes and strafe the bridge with machine-gun fire.
1240: The YAMATO is hit by two AP bombs. Smoke rises from the vicinity of the mainmast and a bomb explodes in the same area. The aft secondary battery fire control, secondary gun turret and the air search radar are knocked out.
Yamato fighting the Allied aircraft. (Picture from the movie Otokotachi no Yamatoad
The Attack Force changes course to 100 degrees. "Helldivers" from the BENNINGTON and the HORNET attack from port. At flank speed, the YAMATO commences a right turn but two 1000-lb AP bombs hit her. The first explodes in the crew's quarters abaft the Type 13 radar shack. The second penetrates the port side of the aft Command station and explodes between the 155-mm gun magazine and main gun turret No. 3's upper powder magazine. It starts a fire that cannot be extinguished and rips a 60-foot hole in the weather deck. One "Helldiver" is shot down, another is damaged badly.
1243: A section of five low flying "Avengers" from the HORNET start a torpedo run from the port, bearing 70 degrees. The YAMATO, at 27 knots flank speed, heels to starboard in evasive action. The "Avengers" drop three torpedoes. One strikes her port side near the forward windlass room. One "Avenger" is shot down.
The YAMATO ships 2,350-tons of water. Damage Control counterfloods with 604-tons of water. Fourteen F4U Chance-Vought "Corsairs" from the BUNKER HILL strafe and rocket the YAMATO but cause only minor damage. Hundreds of men are trapped inside when the water-tight compartments are sealed to prevent further flooding.
1245: Thirty-four "Hellcats", 22 "Helldivers" and one "Corsair" attack the YAMATO's escorts. DesDiv 17's HAMAKAZE takes a near miss on her starboard quarter that disables her starboard shaft.
1247: A torpedo strikes the HAMAKAZE starboard, aft of amidships and she jackknifes. The SUZUTSUKI takes a 500-lb GP bomb hit to starboard, abreast her No. 2 gun mount. Two dud rockets hit the FUYUTSUKI.
1250: The first attack wave retires. The destroyer SUZUTSUKI wreathed in black smoke, burns furiously. The light cruiser YAHAGI, without headway, drifts helplessly behind the main force. The YAMATO, despite hits by two bombs and one torpedo, maintains flank speed.
1300: The YAMATO changes course to 180 degrees, due South.
1302: Her remaining air search radar reports the approach of a second attack wave. The Attack Force changes course due south to 180 degrees.
1302: Fifty aircraft from the ESSEX and the BATAAN are sighted approaching from the SSW, range 18.5 miles.
1322: The YAMATO increases speed to 22 knots. A "Corsair" from the ESSEX drops a 1000-lb GP bomb that hits the superstructure in the port bow area. Twelve "Helldivers" claim several hits near the bridge and main gun turret No. 3. Five "Helldivers" are damaged by AA fire.
1333: Another 110 aircraft from Task Group 58. 4: USS YORKTOWN (CV-10), INTREPID (CV-11), LANGLEY (CVL-27) engage the Attack Force. This time all the attacks are concentrated against the battleship. Twenty "Avengers" make a new torpedo run from 60 degrees to port. The YAMATO starts a sharp turn to port but three torpedoes rip into her port side amidships. Her auxiliary rudder is jammed in position hard port.
The YAMATO has taken a total of four torpedo hits. She ships about 3,000-tons of seawater. She lists about seven degrees to port. Damage Control counter-floods both starboard engine and boiler rooms and almost entirely corrects the list.
The YAMATO starts a turn starboard to course 230 degrees. One of her lookouts spots the tracks of four torpedoes approaching. The first torpedoes pass by harmlessly, but the remaining two strike her port amidships. She takes on a heavy list to port and her speed drops to 18 knots. Armor-piercing and other bombs make a shambles of her upper works.
1342: The YAMATO turns hard to port. She continues to throw up a screen of desperate flak fire. One "Avenger" is shot down but her barrage is largely ineffective because each AA battery fires independently without coordination. The escorts cannot defend the flagship either.
1402: Three bombs explode port amidships, five minutes later a torpedo hits her starboard side amidships. Ten minutes later, two more torpedoes strike her port side. The YAMATO's list increases to about 15 degrees and her speed slows to 12 knots.
Executive Officer Nomura Jiro reports to Captain Aruga that his damage control officers are all dead and that the counter-flooding system can no longer correct the list. He suggests that the order to abandon ship be given. The Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Ito, orders the mission cancelled and directs the remaining ships to pick up as many survivors as possible. The Emperor's portrait is removed.
1405: The light cruiser YAHAGI, hit by 12 bombs and seven torpedoes sinks exactly one minute after the last bomb hits. LtCdr (later Captain) Herbert Houck, the leader of 43 TBM Avengers of VT-9 from the YORKTOWN, detaches Lt Thomas Stetson's six Avengers in a final torpedo attack from the ship's starboard side. Stetson's crewmen reset their Mark 13 torpedoes' running depth to 20 feet. Listing heavily to port, the YAMATO's exposed hull is hit by several more torpedoes. She rolls slowly over her port side on her beam ends.
1423: Sunk: The YAMATO's No. 1 magazine explodes and sends up a cloud of smoke seen 100 miles away. She slips under followed by an underwater explosion. The YAMATO sinks at 30-22 N, 128-04 E.
269 survivors are rescued including Rear Admiral Morishita Nobuei, Chief of Staff, Second Fleet (and former YAMATO skipper).
Vice Admiral Ito and the YAMATO's skipper Captain Aruga and 3,063 men are lost. Aruga receives a rare double promotion posthumously to Vice Admiral on the request of Admiral Toyoda. Later that day, the battered destroyers ISOKAZE and the KASUMI are scuttled and sink. 1,187 crewmen of DesRon 2's light cruiser the YAHAGI and the four destroyers are also lost.
The Imperial Japanese Navy ceases to exist as a fighting force. The Americans lose 10 aircraft and 12 crewmen.
Survivals picked by the destroyer
269 crewmembers survived out of almost 3000. Yamato survivor Kazuhiro Fukumoto describes how after the ship was down, he was drawn into the whirlpool from the propeller and struggling powerless. "One propeller blade was five meters long, so just one turn created a huge whirlpool. I started getting short of breath. I couldn't take it anymore, and I swallowed a mouthful of water." He says. "I started to get short of breath and then I began to lose consciousness." He wasn't thinking about getting rescued or what I was supposed to be doing - he was just a step away from death. Nearby destroyer Yukikaze picked almost three hundred horrified, exhausted and oily Yamato survivors from the sea. " We got orders to return to Kure, and I was put on a train. We were held in Kure for a month. So parents who knew about the Yamato sinking didn't see their sons for a month and a half. They gave up, thinking that their sons had died. " says Fukumoto. "But after I was rescued I gained real desire for life. I wanted more than ever to survive. It was the first time I was afraid of war." Read full interview.
Yamato survivor Kazuhiro Fukumoto was picked up from the sea by the destroyer Yukikaze, both pictured on the right.
Why did Yamato sink?
The world's biggest, baddest and strongest battleship ever. Why did it sink? How come such a great structure with the biggest armor, guns, and crew ever, could end up with a defeat in less than two hours? What caused the huge explosions - far more powerful than the blasts of torpedoes - pictured during her last moments?
Yamato gets hit by several torpedoes and starts to list heavily to port, becomes unstable and capsizes. Three 3000-ton gun turrets are ripped from their mountings by their own weight. In the powder magazines, tons of ammunition slam together causing at least three powerful blasts - perhaps the largests explosions ever to occur on sea - and rip the ship in two halves. For the Japanese this was the end of the imperial navy.
In Pearl Harbour, a week before Yamato was commissioned, Japanese themselves demonstrated to the world's navies how a skillful use of aircrafts can overpower even large fleet of battleships. They had destroyed or damaged every American battleship on the Pacific. And yet, they put their fate on building bigger abd better battleships than everone else, believing that being the way to obtain the authority on the seas.
Asking why Yamato sank is like asking why Japan lost the war. Yamato sank because Japan was outproduced by superior resources. For each airplane the Japanese built, the Allied built two. For each ship the Japanese sank, Allied built two more. Allied natural resources and technology to benefit from it outclassed the Japanese, the more and more so towards the end of the war. Yamato sank because Japan had already lost, but the never-give-up mentality didn't let them surrender before the dropping of the atomic bombs. The essential aircrafts were lost in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and Yamato was not a match against nearly four hundred attack planes all alone without any air support. Air dropped torpedoes and bombs eventually sank the greatest ship ever built and put an end of an era of the battleships. After the war, almost all battleships were scrapped since they were now outclassed by carriers.
NOVA, sinking the supership (interview, images) and Bob Hackett's IJN Yamato : Tabular record of movement (final moments in detail) and Karol Bohm's website (map of the final voyage). Naval Historical Center (image of the Yukikaze, combined with image of Fukumoto from Nova)