Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō

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Japcv12-ryuho.jpg
Ryūhō in 1945.
Career (Japan)
Name: Ryūhō
Namesake: Japanese for Dragon Phoenix
Ordered: 1920
Laid down: 12 April 1933
Launched: 16 November 1933 as submarine tender Taigei
Commissioned: 31 March 1934
Reclassified: 30 November 1942 as light aircraft carrier Ryūhō
Struck: 30 November 1945
Fate: Scrapped in 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Ryūhō-class aircraft carrier[1]
Displacement: 16,700 tons full load
Length: 215.6 m
Beam: 23 m
Draught: 6.7 m
Propulsion: Steam turbines
4 boilers
52,000 shp
2 shafts
Speed: 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h)
Range: 9,700 nmi. at 18 knots
(18,000 km at 33 km/h)
Complement: 989
Armament: 4 × 5 inch (127 mm) guns
38 × 25 mm anti-aircraft guns
Aircraft carried: 31

The Ryūhō (龍鳳?, "Dragon phoenix") was a Japanese light aircraft carrier. Sole ship of her class, she was converted from a submarine tender. During World War II she operated mainly as an aircraft transport but did participate in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Conversion and commission[edit]

The Ryūhō started life as the submarine depot ship Taigei (大鯨?), and was taken out of service in December 1941 for conversion into a light aircraft carrier. During conversion at Yokosuka, the Ryūhō gained the distinction of being the only major warship damaged in the Doolittle Raid on 18 April 1942. She received one direct hit from a 500 lb (227 kg) bomb on the bow, plus several small incendiary bomb hits. This delayed her launch.

On 30 November, conversion and repairs were complete and the Ryūhō joined the 3rd Combined Fleet under the command of Captain Soma Nobishiro. On her first mission on 11 December, she was sent to the great naval base at Truk escorted by the destroyer Tokitsukaze. Her normal aircraft complement consisted of 15 Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighters and 16 Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers, but for this mission, she was carrying 20 light bombers with their pilots and crews on a ferry mission.

Routine missions[edit]

At 9:10 am on 12 December, the Ryūhō was hit by a single torpedo on the starboard side from the submarine Drum. She was forced to return to Yokosuka for more repairs. On 19 March 1943 she began a series of uneventful aircraft ferry missions to occupied islands in the South Pacific. On 11 June, the Ryūhō embarked the marooned survivors of the air group of the Hiyō, which had been damaged by an American submarine. When the Hiyō completed repairs in August 1943, those aircraft and crews were returned to her.

In October, the Ryūhō was sent on another aircraft ferry mission to Singapore, returning to Kure on 5 November 1943. On 25 November, she departed with the Hiyō and escorts on a long circular patrol and training mission, sailing to Manila, then to Singapore, then to Tarakan, then Palau, then Truk, then Saipan, and finally returning to Kure on 2 January 1944.

After two more uneventful patrol and training missions between Japan and the Marianas Islands, Ryūhō was sent to the Japanese anchorage at Tawi Tawi in May 1944 to join the Combined Fleet. From there, she sailed with the Combined Fleet to participate in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea. On 19 June, she launched an air strike against Task Force 58, but scored no hits; nearly all of the Ryūhō's aircraft were shot down by the swarms of American F6F Hellcat fighters and the anti-aircraft guns of the American fleet. At 6:10 pm on 20 June, as part of "Force B" (with Hiyō, Junyō, Nagato, Mogami and eight destroyers), the Ryūhō was attacked by four TBF Avenger torpedo bombers from the Enterprise, which were loaded with 500 lb (227 kg) bombs. She suffered only slight damage from near misses.

The Ryūhō engaged in several more patrol and training missions near Japan. On 25 October 1944, with the Kaiyō, the Ryūhō set sail from Sasebo on another aircraft ferry mission to Keelung, Taiwan. They were escorted by the destroyers Momi, Ume and Momo. They returned to Kure on 2 November. From 7 November to 15 November, Ryūhō briefly flew the flag of the Commander of the Mobile Fleet, Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa.

The final mission[edit]

On 31 December 1944, Ryūhō sailed for Taiwan with a load of 58 Ohka kamikaze planes. Accompanying her were nine empty oil tankers bound for Singapore, and the destroyers Hamakaze, Isokaze, Yukikaze, Shigure and Hatakaze.

Light aircraft carrier Ryūhō photographed by US Navy aircraft at Kure in September 1945, showing damage to elevators.

Upon reaching Taiwan and unloading her cargo, Ryūhō was among the targets of a major series of American carrier-based air raids all over the island. Twelve TBF Avengers attacked her but none scored a hit, and Ryūhō's gunners shot down one of them. Ryūhō departed for Japan on 2 January 1945 escorted by Isokaze; when she arrived at Kure on 18 January, Ryūhō also gained the distinction of being the last Japanese aircraft carrier to venture outside the home waters of Japan.

Ryūhō was attacked by Task Force 58 aircraft on 19 March near Kure, suffering hits by three 500 lb (227 kg) bombs and two 5.5-inch (140 mm) rockets. The damage was severe: the flight deck bulged upward between the two elevators, the No. 1 boiler was punctured by a bomb fragment, the stern settled six feet (2 m) into the water, and a raging fire broke out. Twenty crewmen were killed and 30 were wounded. Upon returning to Kure on 1 April, Ryūhō was considered to be a total loss. She was struck from the Navy List on 30 November and scrapped in 1946.

Armament notes[edit]

Light AA increased to 54 x 25 mm and 6 x 13.2 mm in 1943; to 61 x 25 mm, 21 x 13.2 mm and 6 28-barrel AA rocket launchers in 1944.

References[edit]

  1. ^ In the official document of IJN, Ryūhō-class aircraft carrier does not exist. Ryūhō belongs to Shōhō-class aircraft carriers.