(Shoho at Yokosuka 22 December 1941 - Colorized picture by Irootoko Jr.)
IJN Shoho: Tabular Record of
© 1999 Anthony P. Tully
Revised Enhanced Edition:
© 2014 Anthony P. Tully and Gilbert Casse
3 December 1934:
The Japanese Naval Staff includes in the shipbuilding programmes three large, fast submarine tenders, later named TAIGEI, TSURUGISAKI and TAKASAKI, which would accompany the submarine flotillas to sea and direct operations.
Yokosuka. Laid down at the Yokosuka Naval Yard with a flexible design that could be completed as an oil tanker, submarine tender, or aircraft carrier as needed.
1 June 1935:
Launched as a 9,500-tons submarine tender and named TSURUGISAKI.
September 1935: The Combined Fleet's Great Maneuvers:
Exercises are conducted in the NW Pacific between Japan and the Kuriles. Submarine tender TAIGEI is attached to the Fourth Fleet in the “Red Fleet”.
25 September 1935: The "Fourth Fleet Incident”:
Hokkaido. The fleet departs Hakodate and steams into the NW Pacific where it encounters a major typhoon. Light carriers HOSHO and RYUJO, several cruisers and destroyers suffer damage to their flight decks and superstructure, the latter also suffers the flooding of its hangar. TAIGEI inclines more than 50 degrees, and seawater leak into the vessel. As a result, one of the electric motors is broken and the vessel becomes temporally uncontrollable. TAIGEI also have some wrinkles on some of the plates on the deck in front of the bridge. 54 men are killed among the different ships.
E September-October 1935:
A hearing on the event results in recommendations for structural changes on a number of Japanese ships. Efforts are made to stabilize the ships by reducing weight above the waterline. Also, the newly adopted practice of electric welding hull seams is cancelled on all new Japanese warships.
7 October 1935:
Following TAIGEI design shortcomings, work is slowed down on TSURUGISAKI. Captain (Vice Admiral posthumously) Otsuka Miki (39) (former CO of Fleet oiler HAYATOMO) is appointed Chief Equipping Officer (CEO).
1 December 1936:
Captain Otsuka is relieved by Captain (Rear Admiral posthumously) Higuchi Ko (40) as CEO.
E November 1938:
Undergoes trials off Tateyama and obtains a maximum speed of 29 knots.
15 December 1938:
Captain Higuchi is relieved by Captain (later Rear Admiral) Fukuzawa Tsunekichi (41) (former CO of 18th and 30th SubDivs) as CEO.
15 January 1939:
TSURUGISAKI is finally completed, four years after being launched and commissioned that same day in the IJN as a submarine tender. Her armament consists of two twin 12.7-cm (5.0”)/40 Type 89 gun mounts and six twin 13-mm Type 93 MGs. Three floatplanes are embarked. Captain Fukuzawa is appointed Commanding Officer (CO).
5 February 1939:
Attached to Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Takasu Sanjiro’s (37) (former CO of battleship ISE) SubRon 2, 2nd Fleet.
15 November 1939:
Captain Fukuzawa is relieved by Captain (Rear Admiral posthumously) Ito Jotaro (42) (former CO of Fleet supply ship NOJIMA) as CO. TSURUGISAKI is assigned that same day to SubRon 1, 1st Fleet.
15 November 1940:
Captain Ito is relieved by Captain (later Rear Admiral) Jojima Takatsugu (40) (at the same time CO of carrier SHOKAKU) as CO. TSURUGISAKI is detached that same day from SubRon1, 1st Fleet and reduced to a reserve ship class status. Decision is made to convert her to an aircraft carrier as soon as Yokosuka Naval Yard dock, currently occupied by fitting-out light carrier ZUIHO (ex-submarine tender TAKASAKI), will become available.
1 January 1941:
Renamed SHOHO (“lucky” or “auspicious phoenix”). Enters Yokosuka Naval Yard dock to start conversion.
8 August 1941:
Captain Jojima is relieved by Captain (later Rear Admiral) Obata Chozeamon (43) (at the same time CO of battleship YAMASHIRO) as CEO.
Initial Command Structure:
1 October 1941:
Under conversion. Her removed superstructure is replaced by a flightdeck with a single hanger for her aircraft below. Captain Obata is relieved by Captain (later Rear Admiral) Izawa Ishinosuke (43) (former CO of the Genzan Kokutai) assigned as CEO fitting-out officer.
30 November 1941:
SHOHO’s flightdeck is 180-m (590.6 feet) long. The ship is designed with a single hanger, served by two octagonal centerline aircraft elevators. She has arresting gear with six cables but is not fitted with an aircraft catapult. No island superstructure is installed; her navigating and control bridge is located under the forward part of the flight deck.
The ship's primary armament consisted of eight 40-caliber 12.7 cm Type 89 anti-aircraft (AA) guns in twin mounts on sponsons along the sides of the hull. SHOHO is also initially equipped with four twin 25 mm Type 96 light AA guns, also in sponsons along the sides of the hull.
SHOHO can accommodate 30 aircraft (fighters and attack planes) but has no Air Group currently aboard.
Commissioned at Yokosuka. Captain Izawa is appointed CO Ishinosuke assigned as commanding officer. Listed Registered as a Special Duty Ship.
The conversion is completed. SHOHO has now a length of 205.5-m (674.2 feet) overall. Displacement at standard load is 11,443-tons. Her original diesel engines are replaced by a pair of destroyer-type geared steam turbine sets each driving one propeller. Maximum speed is 28 knots. The boilers exhaust through a single downturned starboard funnel.
22 December 1941:
At Yokosuka. Assigned to Vice Admiral (Admiral posthumously) Nagumo Chuichi’s (36) 1st Air Fleet, in Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kakuta Kakuji’s (39) CarDiv 4 also consisting of light carrier RYUJO .
4 January 1942:
4 February 1942:
SHOHO’s Air Group, consisting of 12 fighters and 12 carrier attack planes, begins its training at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Departs Yokosuka for Truk, Central Carolines, escorted by destroyer HOKAZE with on board six unassembled Mitsubishi Type 0 A6M2 “Zeke” fighters that are destined to the soon to be created 4th Air Group (Kokutai).
10 February 1942:
Arrives at Truk. That same day, The 4th Air Group (Kokutai) is officially created and based at Rabaul, New Britain.
13 February 1942:
Departs Truk for Rabaul, escorted by HOKAZE still with the six A6M2 fighters.
17 February 1942:
22 February 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul and unloads the A6M2 fighters.
Departs Rabaul for Truk, still escorted by HOKAZE.
26 February 1942:
Arrives at Truk.
7 March 1942:
Departs Truk with HOKAZE.
10 March 1942:
Returns to Truk.
6 April 1942:
Departs Truk, still escorted by HOKAZE.
11 April 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka. Enters Naval Yard dock for maintenance. Her light AA armament is probably upgraded from four twin 25 mm Type 96 to four triple 25 mm Type 96 light AA guns.
18 April 1942: The First Bombing of Japan:
Led by Lt Col (later General/MOH) James H. Doolittle, 16 Army B-25 "Mitchell" twin-engine bombers of the 17th Bomb Group take off from Captain (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher's (USNA ’10) carrier HORNET and strike targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Kobe. At Yokosuka, a North American B-25 “Mitchell” damages carrier RYUHO in a drydock while undergoing conversion from former submarine depot ship TAIGEI. At the time SHOHO was training in Tokyo Bay and some reports claim she briefly engaged with her AA. That same afternoon SHOHO is ordered to depart Yokosuka with CruDiv 4 ATAGO, TAKAO, MAYA and CruDiv 5 MYOKO and HAGURO in a futile attempt to engage the enemy TF. As the carrier is unready, the night is spent in frantic preparations.
Vice Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey's (USNA ’04) Task Force 16.2's USS HORNET (CV-8) with two cruisers and four destroyers and one oiler accompanied by Task Force 16.1's ENTERPRISE (CV-6) with two cruisers and four destroyers and one oiler approach the Japanese home islands. The carriers and cruisers come to within 668 nautical miles of Japan.
19 April 1942:
0415 Departs Tokyo Bay. Her aircraft fly out and land aboard her and she proceeds to overtake and join the cruisers which had departed earlier.
20 April 1942:
2130: The pursuit is cancelled.
22 April 1942:
Returns to Yokosuka escorted by ARASHI and NOWAKI.
24 April 1942:
Departs Yokosuka. Her Air Group is still incomplete due to shortages of both pilots and aircraft and only consists of 12 fighters (Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zeke” and Mitsubishi A5M4 “Claude”) and 6 Nakajima B5N1 “Kate” attack planes. In addition, SHOHO carries on board unassembled A6M2 fighters.
29 April 1942:
Arrives at Truk to join Coral Sea operation with only destroyer SAZANAMI as escort.
30 April 1942:
"MO" Operation: the invasion of Tulagi and Port Moresby
Departs Truk in Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Inoue Shigeyoshi's (37) (former CO of HIEI) Fourth Fleet's Main Body Support Force for "MO" Operation, the invasion of Port Moresby, sailing with Rear Admiral’s (Vice Admiral posthumously) Goto Aritomo’s (38) Crudiv 6 (RAdm Goto) heavy cruisers AOBA, KINUGASA, FURATAKA, and KAKO, and destroyer SAZANAMI.
2 May 1942:
3 May 1942:
One A6M2 ditches. The pilot is KIA.
The Main Body Support Force arrives at the Queen Carola anchorage near Buka, Bougaiville. Departs later that day and about 120 miles of Tulagi, Solomons, launches six aircraft (3 fighters and 3 attack planes) to cover the landings at Tulagi. The mission is successful. Aircraft recovery completed, the carrier heads back to Queen Carola.
4 May 1942:
That same day, Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher's (USNA ’06) Task Force 17 attacks Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Shima Kiyohide's (39) (former CO of light cruiser OI) Tulagi Invasion Force. Douglas "Dauntless" SBD dive-bombers and TBD “Devastator” torpedo-bombers from carrier YORKTOWN (CV-5) sink a destroyer, three minesweepers and damage four other ships.
Later in the day, the Main Body Support Force departs Queen Carola towards Guadalcanal in response to reports of YORKTOWN's raids on Tulagi.
5 May 1942:
At 1600, Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi's (39) Port Moresby Invasion Force departs Rabaul towards the Jomard Pass in the Louisiade Archipelago with DesRon 6's light cruiser YUBARI, DesDiv 29’s OITE, ASANAGI, DesDiv 30’s MUTSUKI, MOCHIZUKI and YAYOI and a patrol boat escorting Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Abe Koso's (40) Transport Force of IJN SHOKA, MOGAMIGAWA, GOYO, AKIBASAN and CHOWA MARUs and IJA MATSUE, TAIFUKU, MITO, CHINA and HIBI MARUs, tanker HOYO MARU, minelayer TSUGARU, minesweeper W-20, auxiliary minesweepers HAGOROMO MARU, NOSHIRO MARU No. 2 and FUMI MARU No. 2 and fleet salvage and repair tug OJIMA (OSHIMA). The convoy’s cruising speed only is 6.5 knots. The Transport Force is carrying the bulk of the 3rd Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF), the 10th Naval Construction Unit and the South Seas Detachment consisting of the 144th Infantry Regiment.
Rear Admiral Goto’s Main Body Support Force is ordered to escort and cover Rear Admiral’s Abe Transport Force. SHOHO and her escort head South, heading to Port-Moresby. Later in the day, CruDiv 6 is detached and arrives at the Shortland anchorage to refuel from fleet oiler IRO.
Fletcher's force turns to engage Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Takagi Takeo's (39) (former CO of MUTSU) Carrier Strike Force: Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hara Chuichi's (39) (former CO of TATSUTA) CarDiv 5's SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, Takagi's CruDiv 5's MYOKO and HAGURO, DesDiv 7’s USHIO and AKEBONO, DesDiv’27 ARIAKE, YUGURE, SHIRATSUYU and SHIGURE and auxiliary oiler TOHO MARU.
6 May 1942:
Coral Sea. At 0830 (JST), 4 Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortresses” attack the carrier without scoring any hit. Later that day, they attack CruDiv 6 at the Shortland anchorage, again unsuccessfully.
7 May 1942:
CruDiv 6 departs Shortland and effects a rendezvous at sea with SHOHO and SAZANAMI. At 0515 (JST), a VB-5’s “Dauntless” spot two cruisers NW of Rossel Island. Those are KINUGASA and FURUTAKA, part of SHOHO’s escort. At 0615, the SBD reports “two aircraft carriers escorted by four cuisers” about 200 nautical miles from TF-17, N of Misima Island. Meantime, about 0630 Kawanishi E7K2 “Alf” floatplanes scouts spot TF-17 and report its position, SE of Rossel Island.
Shortly before 0730, 50 aircraft (10 F4Fs, 28 SBDs and 12 TBDs) from USS LEXINGTON (CV-2) and 43 (8 F4Fs, 25 SBDs and 10 TBDs) from USS YORKTOWN (CV-5) begin to take-off and head towards the reported position. However, the SBD scout returning from mission only reports having actually spotted “four light cruisers and two destroyers”. Fletcher is about to recall his airborne strike when, at 0822, he gets a report from Port Moresby that two hours earlier a B-17 had reported a large force including a carrier, 10 transports and 16 other ships just S of the false carrier report. Information is passed to the airborne strike which redirects to the new position reported.
Battle of the Coral Sea
Sunk: About 0830 (JST), 4 A6M2 and 1 B5N1 return from their long range CAP mission over the Transport Force and come nearby SHOHO. Captain Izawa intends to attack the US carriers reported S of his position after launching a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) consisting of 1 A6M2 and 2 A5M4. The CAP aloft and after having recovered the escort mission’s planes, SHOHO alters her course and heads to NW. At 0850, lookouts report approaching enemy planes. Captain Izawa orders evasive maneuvers to be taken and additional CAP fighters to be launched.
At 0855, while attempting to cover the Tulagi and Port Moresby invasion forces, SHOHO is attacked by the US airstrike. Turning hard to port, the carrier dodges the first three bombs. The next three attacking SBDs are engaged by 2 A5M4 and abort their attack. One SBD is shot down. At 0917, 3 A6M2 take off and head to the next US attacking planes: 15 VB-2 SBDs. One 1,000-lb bomb hit the carrier just in front of the aft elevator. A second bomb hits SHOHO near the same location. Next to attack are VT-2 TBD: a torpedo hits the carrier’s stern at starboard destroying the steering gear; a second one hits amidships port side; then a third one, near the bow. In quick succession SHOHO is hit by another two torpedoes. She goes dead in the water and is devastated by several fires. US aircraft losses account for one “Dauntless” from YORKTOWN and two from LEXINGTON. SHOHO’s six CAP fighters lose three aircraft including 1 A6M2 , the other three make ditch landings off Deboyne Island’s seaplane base carrier torpedo and dive-bombers from USS LEXINGTON and USS YORKTOWN. In total, the light carrier is overwhelmed, and struck by a reported total of seven torpedoes and thirteen bombs in the space of twenty-three minutes. At 0931, ‘Abandon ship’ is ordered. At 0935 still listing only moderately to starboard she plunges bow first on a nearly even keel, taking down with her 631 officers, petty officers and men. Captain Izawa Ishinosuke is washed off the bridge and among the fortunate 131 officers and men and seventy-two wounded rescued by the SAZANAMI. Another survivor is Asahi Shinbun newspaper’s reporter, Tendo Akira who later writes an article relating SHOHO’s sinking.
20 May 1942:
Removed from Navy List.
REMARKS & NOTES:
 This A6M2 is the first “Zeke” shot down by a USN pilot in aerial combat.
 SHOHO is the first Japanese aircraft carrier sunk in the Pacific War.
 Quoted herein by courtesy of Michel Ledet’s “Samourai sur porte-avions”.
“I then felt the ship shaking whole. While we were on the bridge, fragments of what we supposed broken wood were projected before us. Then, the ship was like surrounded by a tremendous noise…This is not possible, I thought, all could not take place as bad as all that! That is coming from enemy planes’ engines just shot down by our MGs upon us. I tried to convince me, but then have to face facts. Noises weren’t coming from enemy aircraft; a bomb has just destroyed our rudder.
Enemy pilots had to jump for joy at seeing our paralyzed carrier. They pounced on us again and harassed us with renewed vigor, approaching very close to release their bombs. They came again and again just above our heads. We thought they were going to fall into the sea but suddenly they pulled up in roaring. They were not the drunks U.S. which we spoke in Japan!
it must be the third or fourth bomb that hit us when a huge shock, and the breath of a huge explosion shook the bridge ...
"You bastards!" I turned around stunned at the voice of blood drunken rage and saw a quartermaster with the cheek torn. He held it while the blood flowed through his fingers. The sailor who was standing near him had his arm nearly severed. Another sailor was recovering and horrified, I looked at his leg and thigh meat was shredded and you could see the bone. He stood in front of the telescope, trying to show nothing and then he began to report what he saw! In the present circumstances, he would have found dishonorable to collapse.
Bombs and torpedoes continued to hit us. When a torpedo reached its goal, it made the ship pitching in a crash reminiscent of an earthquake...Suddenly I had the impression of being hurt myself. I looked at my leg: bloody! Was I clear my of my blood? My first reaction was to go down to the sick bay to get treated, but what I saw around dissuaded me. Men more seriously injured than I retained their stations. I remained there. The blood continued to flow into my pants but I only saw a knee scratch. "It's nothing" I said to comfort me, and I remained on the bridge.
Finally the ship began to sink by the bow. I left the Command Bridge and head to the Flag Station. Our photographer, Yoshioka, kept taking pictures of enemy aircraft that continued to attack us.
"Well, journalists, get off, it's dangerous!" The gunnery officer was concerned for us, but we do not listened, watching a plane that released its torpedo. "Still alive?" We shook hands. "Let's go together!" But where would I go, I thought. If we must die, let’s die together. Already the bridge was flooded and waves were crushing on the ship. While we were on the verge of sinking, sailors were still at their stations, ready to receive orders.
Most refused to leave the board. The bow of the ship plunged into the sea, the stern lifted high. The propellers were still turning frantically in the air. The machines fulfilled their task to the end.
A quartermaster climbed to the top of a mast which was sinking. In this desperate act, I realized he was trying to take a friend to save him. Suddenly, he disappeared into the waves, along with the ship...
Apart from war correspondents, there were three on board non-combatants: the barber, the cook and launderer. They took care of the sailors seriously injured and provided relief. Like others, they died at their stations. "(eg Asahi Shinbun archives).
Special thanks are due to Gilbert Casse in preparing this TROM, and Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, Jim Sawruk, Bill Somerville, and Allyn Nevitt for entries derived from their works.
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