IJN Katsuragi: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2004 Anthony Tully

15 October 1944:
Runs trials, and placed in commission; assigned to CarDiv 1, Mobile Fleet. The Equipping officer Captain Kawabatu Masahru assigned as Commanding Officer.

October - December 1944:
Throughout this period, vessel never left the Inland Sea, moving between Gunchu, Kure, and Hashirajima.

28 October 1944:
With UNRYU off Gunchu-koh.

15 November 1944:
Assigned to CarDiv 1, Combined Fleet.
This same evening, in the waters south of Goto Island USS BARB and USS QUEENFISH reports sighting "Katsuragi" and three other ships headed north. (This however is almost certainly JUNYO, headed toward home at just that time with the TONE and escorting destroyers. BARB attacked, and is claimed to have fired at SHINYO (also in that vicinity) but the fleet composition and base course don't match HI-81 and fit JUNYO's well).

27 November 1944:
Depart Iwakuni with AMAGI for exercises in the Inland Sea.

10 December 1944:
RAdm Keizo Komura releived by Radm Sueo Obayashi as ComCarDiv 1.

12 December 1944:
Arrives with AMAGI at Matsuyuma roadstead.

21 January 1945:
CarDiv 1 ordered to transport personnel and equipment of the Oita Detachement of the Yokosuka Air Group from Kure and report to Iwakuni to report for duty with said Air Group for torpedo adjustment and attack training.

23 January 1945:
Depart Kure for Iwakuni.

4 February 1945:
Depart Iwakuni for Kure.

10 February 1945:
ComCarDiv 1 RAdm Obayashi hauls down his flag. CarDiv 1 abolished; attached to Combined Fleet. KATSURAGI ordered to Kure.

15 February 1945:
Arrives at Kure roadstead, joining AMAGI. It has been decided to commit their assigned Air Group 601 to land-based use to participate in a counter-attack on the invasion of Iwo-Jima. Commanders of CVs ordered to fashion camouflage for their ships while in the roadstead. KATSURAGI's work begins right away, and is one of the more elaborate. Camouflage includes false sheds on the flight deck, and entire trees planted upon the island and the mainmast wrapped in foliage.

19 February 1945:
The ship's aircraft of Air Group 601 participate in the kamikaze attack on the Iwo Jima covering forces, and are believed to have played a role in the sinking of USS BISMARCK SEA and the severe damage to USS SARATOGA.

19 March 1945:
Air attack in morning at Kure by planes launched from TF 58. While moored near and to the west of KAIYO, attacked by several planes. A bomb (or more likely a 5-inch rocket) skips into the starboard bow eighty feet abaft the prow. Whatever it was, it blew a five-foot diameter hole in the shell plating and the upper deck. The flight and upper hangar decks were damaged by shrapnel from this and near-misses and one man was killed and three wounded. A second rocket hit on the after port side of the flight deck, detonating on impact, and blowing a small hole in it that was quickly repaired. A very near-miss also inflicted damage that floods the air compressor room and # 8 fuel tank.

24 March 1945:
Ordered to take up semi-permanent mooring and undergo camouflage at Mitsuko-jima, and for reasons unclear essentially decommissioned, though sister AMAGI remains operational for the time being.

25 March 1945:
Moves to northeast end of Mitsuko-jima and moored there port side to shore. Preparations for long-term mooring and vastly extended camouflage work commences.

1 April 1945:
Captain Masharu relived by Captain Hiratsuka Shiro as Commanding Officer.

5 April 1945:
Some personnel of KATSURAGI ordered transferred to YAMATO and the 2nd Fleet.

13 April 1945:
By this date, AMAGI has joined KATSURAGI at Mitsuko-jima in semi-permanent mooring. AMAGI takes up position at the southwest end of the same island, and similar, but not identical, camouflaging begins.

20 April 1945:
Reassigned with AMAGI as `special duty' reserve ship of the 4th Kure Naval District. Captain Shiro transfers to take command of sister carrier AMAGI. He is relieved by Captain Miyazaki Toshio as Commanding Officer.

May to July 1945:
KATSURAGI never moves from her semi-permanent mooring at Mitsusko-jima Island in Kure harbor. Moored port side facing the island shore, heavily draped by camoufage nets with foliage and flight deck camouflaged with false "trees" and "houses" with sand poured to simulate roads to complete the effect. Though power and light are furnished from shore, her AA batteries remain ready for action at short notice, and she is fully manned.

3 July 1945:
Deleted from Combined Fleet; re-assigned to Combined Fleet Defense Naval Force.

24 July 1945:
Heavy air-raid on Kure by TF 38 carrier planes. Though AMAGI undergoes fierce attacks and bombing between 0930 and noon, and again in the late afternoon and wrecked, the KATSURAGI at the opposite end of the island escapes much. It is just conceivable she was overlooked by the fast diving planes, as her camouflaging was more elaborate. In any case, only ten to twelve dive-bombers target her, and attack in the face of fierce AA fire skillfully directed by Gunnery Officer Hoashi. . The only damage comes from one 500 pound bomb that almost missed the carrier to port, crashing through an AA gun on the port side of the flight deck opposite the No.2 stack. Very little structural damage is done but the entire thirteen man gun crew is killed instantly, and another five men wounded.

28 July 1945:
Again Mitsuko-jima is bombed during heavy air raid on Kure from TF 38. Though AMAGI is again heavily targeted, this time KATSURAGI undergoes her share of concentrated. At first she again escapes damage, even shooting down a plane that attacked AMAGI, but in the afternoon attack the carrier suffered a devastating direct hit by a massive 2,000 pound bomb. (See Note 1). This bomb hurtled into the flight deck from starboard, just behind the island, striking at a point just to port of the centerline and behind the forward elevator. Crashing thru the flight deck, it failed to reach the upper hangar deck, instead detonating after eight feet in the middle of the open space of the enclosed hangar. The confined blast and resultant pressure wave was incredible. A 20-foot section of the port hangar wall was blown out, the whole flight deck between the elevators bulged up and buckled (in similar fashion as on AMAGI, or on RYUHO on 19 March) and at the center of the blast a 10 meter section the width of the flight deck out was blown right out and fling over to starboard to land across the outboard stacks. Both elevators were rendered inoperable jammed in the `up' position at the time, and the upper hangar deck under the detonation point was actually pushed down some three feet. The walls of the upper hangar deck are bulged and perforated. The bridge is sprayed by fragments and Executive Officer Captain Izumi Fukujiro and twelve other men are killed with another twelve wounded. Somewhat surprisingly, no fire broke out, the strength deck had held, and no underwater damage is suffered. KATSURAGI remains seaworthy.

10 September 1945:
Designated ship of 4th Reserve Fleet.

25 September 1945:
Kure yard ordered to report on availability and prepare KATSURAGI for sortie.

2 October 1945:
Designated a `Special Transport Ship'. The next day, Captain Miyazaki Toshio is re-instated as Commanding Officer; taking the ship back from Kure.

13 October 1945:
Kure assigns KATSURAGI to repatriation duty; orders appropriate repairs to be undertaken. At the time, the crew had been reduced to ten officers, two special duty officers, 1 warrant officer, and 40 petty officers and men.

23 November 1945
Inspected on this day by NavTech analysis team while undergoing medium repairs in drydock. It is found that 50% of the flight deck and 40% of the upper hangar deck and both elevators would have required repairs before flight operations could be resumed. However this is unnecessary; even so damaged the carrier will make a valuable transport, capable of carrying some 5,000 men in her larger spaces. The bomb damage of 28 July is sealed enough to make the flight deck watertight against rain and spray, but little else is attempted. The buckled flight deck is not realigned, nor the elevators repaired. To help ventilate the hangar decks for the hundreds of passengers foreseen, scores of large ventilator scoops are installed through the flight deck.

18 December 1945:
Depart Kure on first Repatriation voyage to return Japanese personnel to the Homeland. Trip includes stops at Minami-Daito-jima, Rabaul, then swings by Australia before returning home to Japan. Upon return, find further repairs to make rain and spray-tight are necessary

15 January 1946:
Repairs are completed. Depart Kure for Wewak via Saeki.

28 February 1946:
At Rabaul. Embarks Japanese pows for repatriation back to Japan.

Spring 1946:
KATSURAGI makes an unclear number of voyages, repatriating home Japanese troops and refugees. In all, a total of about 12,000 souls were brought back to Japan by the carrier before this final duty ended.

April 1946:
At Kurihama on standby.

15 November 1946:
Removed from Navy list.

20 November 1946:
Transferred to the Naval Ministry.

22 December 1946:
Removed from service, scrapping at Sakurajima Hitachi Zosen at Osaka commences, completed by 30 November 1947.

Note 1: Captain Miyazaki's report believed that the mass damage had been done by two 1,000 pound bombs striking close together at nearly the same time. However, when NavTech forensically examined the damage in November 1945, they found no bomb holes in the upper hangar deck. They located the primary hit in the same place as the Japanese, but found that the evidence pointed instead to a remarkable hit by a 2,000 pound bomb (filled with some 1,000 pounds of TNT!) going off after 0.01 second delay after penetrating the flight deck. Exploding in the middle of the hangar space, this bomb did not rip a hole in the upper hangar deck, nor was there any trace of another hit to port and slightly forward at the same time as reported by the IJN. It seemed they simply underestimated the size of the bomb that did hit. A similar monster caused comparable damage to AMAGI.

Remarks: Though records are meager, it appears KATSURAGI was considered the "least ready" of the Unryus, due to her later completion date. According to Captain Miyazaki when interviewed by NavTech, the KATSURAGI never operated her own aircraft. The UNRYU herself was sunk in December 1944, and it appears that of the two commissioned ones left, AMAGI was the one retained in service the longest. Ironically, the KATSURAGI would be readily prepared for sea in the repatriation work post-war. Though one of the UNRYU class, KATSURAGI was part of a `sub-set', with KASAGI as her twin.


Special Thanks to Sander Kingsepp for information on commanding officers.

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