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  Hiei 比叡
Kongō-class battlecruiser

36,600 Tons
728' 4" x 101' 8" x 31' 10"
Armament (as built)
8 x 14"/356mm guns (4x2)
16 x 6"/152mm guns (16x1)
8 x 3"/12 pounders
4 x 6.5mm MG
8 x torpedo tubes submerged (4x2)

Armament (after 1935 refit)
8 x 14"/356mm guns (4x2)
16 x 6"/152mm guns (8x2)
8 x 127mm guns (8x1)
20 x 25mm AA guns (10x2)
2 x E8N Dave floatplanes
2 x E7K Alf floatplanes

IJN September 1939

Ship History
Built by at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal at Yokosuka. Hiei was the second Kongō-class battlecruiser designed by Vickers naval architect Sir George Thurston. The Kongō-class battlecruisers included Kongō, Hiei, Kirishima, and Haruna. Laid down November 4, 1911. Launched November 21, 1912. Fitted out during December 1913 with Captain Shichitaro Takagi assigned as equipping officer. Completed August 4, 1914 and assigned to the Sasebo Naval District then attached to the 3rd Battleship Division (3rd BatDiv).

World War I
In early October 1914 departed Sasebo with Kongo bound for Tsingtao but recalled and instead sank target ship Iki (formally Imperator Nikolai I). During April 1916 patrolled the coast of China with Kirishima, and Haruna. For the remainder of the war operated from Sasebo and patrolled off Korea and China.

In March 1919 patrolled the coast of China. On October 13, 1920 placed in reserve. In September 1923 participated in rescue efforts after the Great Kanto earthquake. On December 1, 1923 to Kure for a refit that allowed the main gun batteries to elevate to 33° plus a new foremast. In 1927 Crown Prince Takamatsu (brother of Emperor Hirohito) was assigned as a crew member.

During October 1927 to Sasebo for a minor refit adding E1Y floatplanes but without catapults. In late March 1928 departed Sasebo to patrol off Chusan Islands then to Port Arthur the next month. In October 29, 1929 entered drydock at Kure for demilitarization training ship under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty removing her rear 14" gun, all 6" guns, submerged torpedo tubes, armor belt and boilers to reduce her top speed. In November 1929 reclassified as a reserve ship.

On April 24, 1930 reconstruction ceased due to the terms of the London Naval Treaty that further restricted battleships. In July 1931 conversion work resumed at Sasebo.

During December 1932 assigned to a training squadron until Japan withdrew from the League of Nations and also ended the terms of the Wasington Naval Treaty and London Naval Treaty. Starting in May 1933 upgraded and used as the Emperor's observation ship for the the Navy Review. In early 1934 the rear 14" gun turret was reinstalled. In November 1935 used by Emperor Hirohito for an official visit to Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyūshū.

In 1937 reconstructed to match her sister ships in the Kongō-class with new boilers, turbines and was lengthened 26' to increase speed and fire control systems added to each main gun. Fourteen 6" guns were refitted plus 25mm Type 96 anti-aircraft guns with higher elevation angles plus seaplane catapults and ramps for two E8N Dave and two E7K Alf floatplanes. Hiei had upgraded armor with the armor belt reinstalled with uniform thickness of 8" plus turret armor, magazine armor and deck armor. Also her superstructure was rebuilt and was a prototype for the style that would be used on Yamato and Musashi. The reconstruction was completed by January 31, 1940. When tested, the vessel was capable of speeds up to 30.5 knots, faster than other Japanese battleships and was reclassified a fast battleship.

On October 11, 1940 anchored at Yokohama for the annual fleet review. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto welcomed Emperor Hirohito plus members of the royal family for an inspect aboard Hiei for a review of the Combined Fleet in Tokyo Bay ceremonially escorted by Takao, Kako and Furutaka.

In November 1940, reassigned to the 3rd Battleship Division (3rdBatDiv). Assigned to Captain Kaoru Arima. On September 10, 1941 assigned to Captain Masao Nishida and assigned to the First Fleet based at Hashirajima in Hiroshima Bay under the command of Vice Admiral Takasu Shiro as part of BatDiv 3 with Kongō, Haruna and Kirishima.

On November 17, 1941 departs Kisarazu bound for the Kurile Islands and four days later arrived at Hitokappu Bay on Etorofu Island four days later.

On November 26, 1941 Hiei departs the Kurile Islands as part of BatDiv 3, Section 1 along with Kirishima plus Vice Admiral Mikawa's support force from CruDiv 8 and DesRon 1, Supply Group No. 1 and Supply Group No. 2 escorting the "Kido Butai" First Air Fleet Striking Force of five aircraft carriers.

Hiei was designated the task force communication center but to prevent any accidental signals disables her radio transmitters and takes up position at the rear of the formation steaming eastward at 13 knots. On December 2, 1941 while at sea 940 miles north of Midway, the formation receives the signal "Niitakayama nobore" to proceed with the attack against Hawaii

Wartime History
On December 7, 1941 at 6:30am the battlecruisers including Hiei launch their E8N Dave floatplanes to patrol to the south. The first wave of carrier aircraft launched at 7:55am for the attack against Pearl Harbor and Oahu. At 8:40am the second wave of carrier aircraft launched. Afterwards, the force departed westward back to Japan arriving December 23, 1941 at Hashirajima.

In early 1942 departs for Truk with the 3rd BatDiv. On January 17, 1942 departs Truk to support Operation R against Rabaul and Kavieng. During February 1942 sortied in response to the U. S. Navy (USN) raids against the Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands. In March 1942 supports carrier raids aginst Java with Kirishima and Chikuma. The three battleships engaged USS Edsall but Hiei failed to score any hits despite firing 210 x 14" shells and 70 x 6" shells at the destroyer that was damaged by D3A Vals then sunk by gunfire.

In April 1942 participated in the raid against Colombo on Ceylon. On April 8, 1942 the carrier aircraft attacked Trincomalee and carrier aircraft sank several British warships and HMS Hermes. Afterwards, the force retired back to Japan.

On May 27, 1942 departed Japan as part of the force bound for Midway. After the Battle of Midway, the surviving Japanese force withdrew He back to Japan.


On November 12, 1942 Hiei was Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe's flagship leading the bombardment force with Kirishima to conduct a shore bombardment of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal escorted by Akatsuki. At 10:30am the force is spotted by a B-17 Flying Fortress that reports their position.

At 3:30pm, Abe's force rendezvous with Tamotsu's destroyer sweeping unit including Asagumo, Harusame, MURASAME, Samidare and Yudachi. In formation together, Abe orders the destroyers to form a tight double half ring against enemy submarines. While Nagara with escorting destroyers are in column further to the rear. Together, the entire force makes 18 knots and proceeds southward down the "Slot" to their target.

Hiei launches her floatplane into stormy weather and reports more than a dozen warships off Lunga Point but is unable to return due to the weather and flies back to Bougainville instead. At 11:00pm, Abe ordered the force to reverse course and slow to 12 knots due to the weather.

On November 13, 1943 by 4:00am the rain storms ended and the force was ordered to return to course and proceeded to the target area. At 1:10am, Abe ordered the main guns loaded with high explosive type 3 shells with incendiary submunitions for shore bombardment.

At 1:42am off Savo Island, the lead destroyers report enemy warships 9,000 meters away and Abe ordered the main guns loaded with Type 0 armor piercing shells as the force enters Iron Bottom Sound at the start of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal).

At 1:50am, Hiei and Akatsuki turn on their searchlights to illuminate USS Atlanta (CL-51) and commence gunfire. At 1:53am in response USS Laffey (DD-459) releases five torpedoes and USS Cushing (DD-376) launches six torpedoes at Hiei, one hits exploding but the others either miss or fail to explode or arm.

USS Laffey (DD-459) passes within 20 feet of Hiei while firing and machine gun fire that hits the bridge wounding Abe and killing his Chief of Staff, Captain Suzuki Masakane. After nearly colliding passes to the stern and was sunk by gunfire from the Hiei's 14" main guns.

During the furious night action, Hiei is hit by thirty 8" shells fired by USS San Francisco (CA-38) and USS Portland (CA-33) plus 5" shells fired by USS Sterett (DD-407) that also fires four torpedoes with two impacting. Aboard Hiei, the damage knocks out her fire control system for both the main and secondary batteries and sets the superstructure on fire.

At 1:54am Abe orders Kirishima to head northwards and by 2:00am abandons the bombardment mission and begins withdrawing.

Overnight, Kirishima takes Hiei under tow and withdraws westward along with Nagara and escorting destroyers. Due to damage, Hiei's aft steering compartment flooded and the port rudder jammed in the full starboard position and becomes unsteerable and circles at 5 knots.

At 6:10am, Hiei spots damaged USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) under tow by tug Bobolink and fires several 14" shells at the destroyer but misses. At 6:15am attacked by by TBF Avengers from VMSB-131 and SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Enterprise CV-2. Defending herself, Hiei fires sanshiki-dan AA shells but it hit by a 1,000 pound bomb and torpedoes that cause further damage and more flooding.

At 8:15am Abe orders Kirishima to tow Hiei to Shortland, orders the rest of his force to withdraw and transfers his flag to destroyer Yukikaze.

At 11:10am targeted by eleven B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 11th Bombardment Group that drop bombs on Hiei and is hit by at least one 500 pound bomb. Abe cancels the plan to tow Hiei and orders the battlecruiser beached at Kamimbo Bay on Guadalcanal. At 11:20am attacked by six SBDs from VMSB-132 and hit by three more 1,000 pound bombs.

At 11:30am attacked by four TBF Avengers from USS Saratoga CV-3 Torpedo Squadron 8 plus two TBF Avengers VMSB-131 and hit by two more torpedoes, one midship and one at the port bow.

By 12:35pm Captain Nishida attempts to save the battlecruiser instead of beaching, until Abe orders the crew to abandon ship.

Damaged and during the daylight hours, assisted by Teruzuki.

Sinking History
On November 14, 1942 during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal) sunk north of Savo Island into Iron Bottom Sound.

The wreck of Hiei was located by RV Petrel including a team of researchers funded by Paul G. Allen and was first reported on social media on February 5, 2019. The shipwreck was located upside down at a depth of 2,952' / 899.8m.

Combined Fleet - IJN Hiei: Tabular Record of Movement
Instagram - rv_petrel: New R/V Petrel discovery! Battleship IJN HIEI February 5, 2019
USNI News "Wreck of First Japanese Battleship Sunk By U.S. Navy in WWII Found" February 6, 2019

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


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