January 25, 2009

The Sole Survivor.

On December 7th, 1941, the strongest navy in the world was undoubtably the Nihon Kaigun of Japan.  Foremost in this powerhouse were the fleet's 10 aircraft carriers.  Carrying the best, most experienced pilots, flying the best fighter and torpedo bomber and a dive bomber that was very nearly the equal of the best, this striking force ran roughshod over the Pacific Ocean.

By the end of the war, however, all of the carriers in the fleet at the beginning had been sent to the bottom of the ocean by the "Big Blue Blanket" of the US Navy.  All, that is, except for one... the Sole Survivor.  Ironically, it was the smallest, slowest, oldest, least capable of Japan's flattops, the Hosho.

The Hosho was also the first ship ever built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier, commissioned on December 27th, 1922, 13 months before the HMS Hermes, the first ship designed as a CV, took to the water.

As the first carrier in the Japanese navy, it was influential in many ways, serving as a testbed for experimental methods that later became standard operational procedures for the fleet.  Experience gained from the Hosho's construction and service influenced the conversion of the Kaga and Akagi, and led directly to the design of the Ryujo

By the time of Pearl Harbor, however, the Hosho was only just barely able to operate with the rest of the fleet.  She was too small and slow to be able to handle the modern Zero, Kate and Val planes, and was only just able to fly the A5M Claude off her deck in the best of situations (fresh headwinds with a relatively calm sea).  As this combination was rare at best, and the Claude was obsolete as a whole and rapidly retired, this quickly left the Hosho without a fighter it could carry.  During the Battle of Midway, where she gave the battleships of Yamamoto's Main Body a tiny organic air capability, the Hosho was carrying eight B4Y Jean torpedo bombers.

It was one of these planes that took the famous picture of the burning Hiryu after she had been pummeled by Dauntless bombers at Midway.

After Midway, the Japanese fleet was desperate for carrier decks.  Despite this, the Hosho was removed from active duty as a combatant on June 20th, 1942.  She was then used exclusively for landing exercises and carrier training in the Inland Sea of Japan.  She very nearly escaped the war unharmed.

On March 19th, 1945, while operating near the battleship Yamato in the Inland Sea, the Hosho was attacked by seven planes.  She suffered either a small bomb or a rocket hit that punched a few small holes in her flight deck, losing six crewmen in the process.  The war revisited the Hosho on July 24th, 1945, when she was attacked in harbor on July 24th, 1945, and she reportedly took one hit for scant damage.

After the war ended, she was used as a troop carrier to bring Japanese soldiers home from Wotje and Jaluit.  Struck from the list in 1946, she was finally broken up for scrap on May 1st, 1947.

Hosho, the Sole Survior, was no more.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 533 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Seems to be fleet week: you and Brickmuppet.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 26, 2009 12:21 AM (+rSRq)

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