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Fuso Class BB

Fuso on trials in the Bungo Straits, 1933 - note the pagoda tower structure
Fuso on trials in the Bungo Straits, 1933 - note the pagoda tower structure
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Fuso Kure, DY 11 Mar 12 28 Mar 14 8 Nov 15 Lost 25 Oct 44
Yamashiro Yokosuka NY 20 Nov 13 3 Nov 15 31 Mar 17 Lost 25 Oct 44

As designed

Displacement: 29,326 tons/29,795 tonnes (standard); 35,900 tons/36,474 tonnes (full load)
Length: 673ft/205.13m (oa); 630ft/191.96m (pp); 665ft/202.69m. (wl)
Beam: 94ft/28.65m
Draught: 28ft 6in/8.62m (mean)
Machinery: twenty-four Miyabara boilers; 4-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines
Bunkerage: 5,022 tons coal, 1,026 tons oil
Performance: 40,000shp = 22.5kts
Range: 8,000nm at 14kts
Protection: main belt 12in tapering to 4in; casemates 6in; blkhds 12in max.; deck 1.25in-2in; barbettes 8in; turrets 12in max.; CT 13.75in
Guns: twelve (6x2) 14in; sixteen (16x1) 6in; twelve (12x1) 3in Torpedo tubes: six 21in (submerged)
Aircraft: nil Complement: 1,193

As modernised, 1930-5
Displacement: 34,700 tons/35,255 tonnes (standard); 39,154 tons/39,780 tonnes (full load)
Length: 698ft/212.75m (oa); 689ft/210m (wl)
Beam: 100ft5in/30.64m
Draught: 31ft 9in/9.69m (mean)
Protection: See text
Guns: 12, 14in (6x2); 14, 6in (14x1); 8, 5in DP (4x2); 16,25mm.
Torpedoes: Nil
Aircraft: 3, catapults 1
Complement: 1,400

With the introduction of the 13.5in-gunned 'Super Dreadnoughts' of the 1909 Programme Orion-class by the Royal Navy, the 12in gun was effectively reduced to second rank and in consequence Japan's 1911 Programme battleships, Design A-64, adopted the same calibre to maintain her standing alongside the great powers, in the same way as had the Kongo-class battlecruisers of 1911. In keeping with the relative concepts of battlecruiser and battleship of the period, the battleships were slower than the former by about four knots, but more heavily armoured. Their designed displacement was greater than that of the Kongos but the hull was shorter and had a narrower beam. Less powerful machinery required less hull space and had a direct effect on the armament layout, although the continued retention of midships turrets continued to disrupt internal layout. They were the first major modern warships to be constructed in Japan using indigenous materials and weapons.

Design

The protective scheme was a development of that of the first Japanese dreadnoughts, the Kawachi class. The main waterline belt was 12in VC armour, stepped down to 4in at its lower edge which covered the machinery spaces and magazines. Outside this it reduced to 8in and, at the extreme ends, 4in. Above the main belt was an 8in VC strake which protected the citadel and secondary battery, with a 6in VC strake reaching to the upper deck. The main horizontal armoured deck comprised two layers of 0.6in nickel steel which was flat across the ship. The weather or upper deck had two layers of 0.7in high-tensile steel. Barbette armour was 8in, the turrets had 12in faces and the conning tower 14in maximum. Total weight of armour as completed was 8,588 tons or about 29 per cent of displacement.

The main machinery consisted of a four-shaft direct-drive Brown-Curtis steam turbine layout developing 40,000shp for a maximum speed of 23 knots. Twenty-four boilers were installed, mixed-firing being adopted. Fuso made 23 knots on her official trials on 29 August 1915 with a displacement of 30,662 tons.

The main armament was increased by 50 per cent in comparison with the Kongos, which was made possible by the reduced space required by the lower-powered main machinery. This gave them a heavier armament than their US and British contemporaries of the 1911 programmes which shipped ten guns. The US ship, Nevada, had a superior arrangement in that there were no midships turrets, but one of this pair retained the out-moded reciprocating machinery whereas the Japanese had already gone over to turbine propulsion. The 14in guns were identical with those of Kongo, being the 41st Year Type, but the turrets were more heavily armoured. Both midships turrets were centre-line mounted, but their arcs of fire were obviously restricted. The secondary armament of 6in guns was also the same as that of the earlier battleships, disposed in a single battery on each beam with all guns casemate-mounted. Four 3in AA in single mountings completed the gunnery outfit. There were six submerged 21in torpedo tubes.

Modifications

Yamashiro was fitted with a flying-off platform on No. 2 turret in 1917, which was retained into 1922. In 1923-4 the foremast was built up, numerous control platforms being added, fore-shadowing the pagoda-like mast structure adopted later by all Japanese construction, and a fingernail-type smoke cowl added to the forefunnel. Torpedo net defence booms were retained until 1926. Fuso was taken in hand for modernisation from 19 April 1930 to 12 May 1933 when the main machinery was completely replaced by a modern power plant which included six Kampon oil-fired boilers in lieu of the original twenty-four, and new Kampon turbines of 75,000shp, thereby almost doubling the installed power. This, taken together with the lengthening of the hull by the expedient of adding 25 feet to the hull at the stern more than compensated for the increase in beam from the addition of bulges so that the maximum speed was raised by nearly two knots. Their average speed after modernisation was 24.75 knots with 76,889shp. Armour protection was improved at the same time, the opening up of the machinery spaces facilitating the increasing of horizontal armour thickness over these spaces to 2.6in NVNC on nickel steel. Outboard of the machinery spaces, the original 1.25in nickel steel was reinforced by .75in high-tensile steel. The lower ends of the funnel uptakes were given 7in VC armour. An extra longitudinal bulkhead, 1.5in-2.5in thick, was worked in outboard of the machinery space longitudinal bulkhead, the space between this and the double bottom plating being utilised as oil bunkers or left void. The original double-bottom spaces, carried up to meet the underside of the armoured deck, were used similarly. The hull was bulged by two blisters, the upper of which was the narrower and shallower of the two, extending from the top of the 8in belt to the bottom of the 4in lower belt edge. It was at least partially filled with crushing tubes. The lower blister extended out from the base of the upper blister and was continued to the bottom of the hull. The beam at the waterline was thereby increased to 118 feet with the maximum beam at 127 feet. Increases to the protective scheme at this time raised the allocated protection weight to 12,199 tons or by 42 per cent. This was in part compensated by a reduction of 1,930 tons achieved by the installation of modern machinery. Few changes were made to the armament except that the elevation of the 14in guns was increased to 43° and that of the 6in to 30°. But the heavy AA battery was improved by the shipping of four twin 5in DP, two abeam abreast the bridge structure at No. 2 gun level and two aft abreast the mainmast on the reconstructed after control position, almost at the height of the navigating bridge. The foremost two 6in were landed and the casemates plated over. Sixteen 25mm AA in twin mountings were added and the torpedo tubes removed. Considerable change was made to the appearance in that the reduction in the number of boilers allowed one funnel to be removed, the foremast tripod was replaced by a heavy pagoda tower and the after control position greatly enlarged and heightened. Fuso was fitted with a catapult on the roof of No. 3 turret and allocated three Nakajima 90-11b floatplanes. She rejoined the fleet again on 12 May 1933, but further work was required and she went into dock again, on 16 September 1934, completing on 19 February 1935. A further period from 26 February 1937 to 31 March 1938 was also spent in dockyard hands at Kure. Yamashiro's modernisation followed similar lines except that her bridge structure was extended further aft, necessitating the stowed position of No. 3 turret to be aft. Her catapult was fitted on the starboard side of the quarterdeck and a collapsible derrick was fitted on the port side. Her refit began on 18 December 1930 at Yokosuka and completed on 30 March 1935, following which she assumed the role of Flagship, Combined Fleet. She had a further refit from 27 June 1937 to 31 March 1938, also at Yokosuka.

At the start of the Pacific war, the 25mm outfit was increased to twenty, but the restricted use of these ships during the war led to few further modifications until 1944 when the 25mm guns were increased to thirty-seven.

Plans to convert these two ships to battleship-carrier hybrids on the lines of Ise were not pursued.

Service

By 1941 the two ships, despite their modernisation, were considered obsolete and too slow, so they took no part in the initial operations off Malaya and in the Dutch East Indies, remaining in the Inland Sea as a strategic reserve, which in the event was not needed. They formed the 2nd Division, 2nd Battle Squadron.

In November 1941 Fuso was serving with this division, attached to the Main Force at Saeki in the Inland Sea, and forming part of the Anchorage Defence Unit. After the Main Force had completed their attack on Pearl Harbor, she sailed from Hashira Jima on 8 December to cover its withdrawal, returning there on 13 December. She remained in the Inland Sea, mostly based at Hashira Jima and Kure, in early 1942, being attached to the Screening Force of the Main Fleet on 9 February. Apart from the occasional training sortie she spent most of her time at anchor, but on 18 April sailed to attempt to intercept the US forces which had just launched the 'Doolittle' raid on Tokyo from the carrier Hornet but was recalled and returned to Agneshio on the 22nd. She remained at Hashira Jima until 29 May 1942 when she sailed to support the Aleutian/Midway campaign, operating in the northern and eastern Pacific as part of the Screening Force together with the whole of the 2nd Battle Squadron, two old light cruisers and twelve destroyers. The attack on the Aleutians misfired and was called off when the associated actions in connection with the assault on Midway Island were defeated. Fuso returned to Yokosuka on 17 June. On the 22nd she sailed again for Hashira Jima, arriving two days later, and lay at anchor there, apart from a few training sorties and a docking period at Kure 1-9 September, until the end of the year. She was not committed to the Guadalcanal campaign mainly because of oil shortages. There was little change to this routine in 1943, the ship being held in reserve for training duties in the Inland Sea. From 1 May she was assigned to the Main Force and from 16 August to the Battleship Force. She sailed for Truk and the war zone on 17 August, reaching Truk lagoon on the 23rd, and remained there at operational readiness until 17 October when she sailed for Eniwetok, arriving two days later. Her stay there was brief and by the 26th she had returned to the main anchorage at Truk. She remained here into 1944, joining the Battleship Force, Shikashima Force, on 1 February on which date she sailed for Palau arriving on the 4th. Here she carried out further battle training before leaving on the 16th for Lingga Roads, arriving on the 21st. On 1 March she was assigned to the Mobile Force of the Combined Fleet but remained at Lingga engaged on battle training until 8 April when she sailed for Singapore. Here Fuso underwent a period in dry dock, completing on 25 April, then sailed for Lingga again on the 27th. On 11 May she sailed for Tawa Tawa in the Sulu archipelago to participate in the A-Go Operation to defend the strategic island of Saipan in the Marianas (which would eventually lead to the Battle of the Philippine Sea). This operation began on the 20th but Fuso lay in readiness at Tawa Tawa until 30 May when she moved to Davao as part of the Diversion Force, Kon Force, arriving there on the 31st. On 2 June she sailed for Biak to execute the Kon Operation (the defence of the line Marianas-Palaus-New Guinea-Dutch East Indies) but upon its cancellation was recalled to Davao, being engaged on the return passage by US B24s but suffering no damage. After reaching Davao on 5 June she was attached to the Stand-by Force on the 13th and at the end of May to the Mobile Force, Striking Force. Fuso sailed from Davao on 1 July, escorted by the 4th Destroyer Division, bound for Tarakan, having a brush with an enemy submarine en route. She reached Tarakan next day, and on the 8th left for Kure with the 4th Destroyer Division. On 14 July she shelled a surfaced submarine and evaded three torpedoes; she reached Kure on the 15th. After a refit she was assigned to the First Training Force from the 20th. As a consequence of the US offensive in the Philippines she was committed to the defence of Leyte Gulf and sailed from home waters south to Lingga Roads to join the Main Body in preparation for the forthcoming operation (SHO-1). Fuso and her sister formed the core of Force C (Yamashiro as Flagship) which was to act as the Southern Force, sailing via the Suriago Straits to join Admiral Kurita's Force A off Leyte. On 18 October Force C sailed from Lingga Roads for Brunei Bay, then left there on the afternoon of the 22nd, screened by the heavy cruiser Mogami and four destroyers. In the forenoon of the 24th, the force was attacked by aircraft, when all Fuso's floatplanes were destroyed by fire. They were then attacked by thirty-nine US PT-boats at the entrance to the straits that night and in the early hours of the next day by the destroyers of Desron 54. The first attacks were made by Remey, McGowan, Melvin, McDermut and Monssen, whose torpedoes struck Fuso at 0207 hrs, where-upon she caught fire, exploded and broke in two, with both parts remaining afloat for a while.

In November 1941 Yamashiro was with the Screening Force of the Main Force, First Fleet, 2nd Battle Squadron, at the Hashira Jima anchorage in the Inland Sea. The beginning of the Pacific war saw no change in her employment until 18 April 1942 when she made a brief foray against the US force which had just raided Tokyo, but she returned again on the 22nd without having made contact with the enemy. On 20 May, however, she sailed with her sister to participate in the Aleutian campaign as a component of the Support Force. From 8 June she was assigned to support the Northern Force and returned to Yokosuka on the 17th. No contact was made with enemy forces. A few days later she sailed from Hashira Jima once more. She continued to be employed on training duties in the Inland Sea until 1 February 1943 when she sailed for Yokosuka where she was similarly employed. On 1 September she was assigned to the Surface Training Force and on the 4th sailed for Hashira Jima again. She was used as a gunnery training ship, trials ship for new radar, and for cadets from the academy at Etaguchi until 8 October 1943 when she was assigned to T-3 Transport Force. After loading stores and army personnel, she sailed for Truk on 15 October, arriving on the 20th. After all stores has been disembarked she sailed for the Inland Sea on 31 October, reaching Tokuyama on 5 November. A submarine attack en route was evaded. After 10 November she was once again attached to the Surface Training Force. On 29 December Yamashiro sailed for Yokosuka and from the 31st was based there again on training duties. From 1 March, as a unit of the 2nd Battle Squadron, she was used as a training ship for various naval schools until events in the south-west Pacific forced the Imperial Navy to commit all their resources into the defence of the Philippines. She accompanied her sister to Lingga Roads and then to Brunei Bay with Force C. Yamashiro survived the night passage of the Suriago Straits, but, after the loss of Fuso, in the course of a second attack by the destroyers Hutchins, Daly, Bache, Killen, Beale and the Australian Arunta, two of the Japanese destroyers were sunk, one damaged and Yamashiro was hit. She was then struck by another torpedo which reduced her to a crawl and knocked out three 14in turrets, then by further torpedo(s) at 0311. In the meantime, at 0251 hrs, she and her remaining consorts had been taken under fire by three heavy and five light cruisers of Admiral Oldendorf's force, before five of his battleships, (West Virginia, California, Tennessee, Maryland and Mississippi) joined in at 0310 hrs. Overwhelmed, Yamashiro was shelled to a blazing wreck, being finally sunk by a torpedo from the destroyer McDermut at about 0319 hrs. On the Japanese side, only the destroyer Shigure survived.

Fuso 1933
Fuso 1933
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Fuso
Fuso
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Fuso
Fuso
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Yamashiro, January 1935
Yamashiro, January 1935
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