Tosa-class battleship converted to aircraft carrier
38,813 Tons (standard)
812' 6" x 106' 8" x 31' 1"
10 x 200mm guns
8 x 2 127mm AA guns
12 x 2 25mm AA guns
Aircraft: 72 + 18 stored
IJN September 15, 1928
IJN December 1941
Built by Kawasaki and the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal at Yokosuka. Laid down July 19, 1920. Launched November 17, 1921 and originally intended to be one of two Tosa class battleships but on November 21, 1923 Kaga was converted under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty into an aircraft carrier. Completed March 31, 1928. Commissioned November 30, 1929 into the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Kaga. Named after the Kaga Province (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan).
On December 1, 1931 Kaga was assigned as the flagship of the First Carrier Division under the command of Rear Admiral Takayoshi Katō. On January 29, 1932 the First Carrier Division with Kaga and Hōshō departed for China as part of the 3rd Fleet to support Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the "Shanghai Incident". Kaga supports the operations with A1N2 and B1M3 torpedo bombers flying missions over Shanghai from both the carrier and a temporary base at Kunda Airfield in Shanghai. Until February 1932 Kaga aircraft flew missions in support of Japanese forces.
On February 22, 1932 three of Kaga's Nakajima A1N2 fighters, including one piloted by future ace Toshio Kuroiwa, escorted three B1M3 torpedo bombers, scored the Imperial Japanese Navy's first air-to-air combat victory by shooting down a Boeing P-12 flown by an American volunteer pilot. Afterwards, Kaga returned to Japan with the declaration of a cease-fire on March 3, 1932 and resumed fleet training with the rest of the Combined Fleet.
On October 20, 1933 Kaga went into reserve status. On June 25, 1934 began a second major reconstruction when her two lower flight decks were converted into hangars and the flight deck was extended to the bow. Other improvements included an increased top speed, improved exhaust system with a downward facing funnel to point the exhaust towards the sea to disperse and extinguish the smoke. Also changes were made to the flight deck to accommodate heavier modern aircraft. In 1935, Kaga returned to service and was assigned to the Second Carrier Division.
Second Sino-Japanese War
On July 1937, Kaga was in Japanese waters, then proceeded with Hōshō and Ryūjō to the East China Sea as part of the 3rd Fleet to support Japanese operations along the central China coast near Shanghai.
Operation Z - Attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu
On November 17, 1941 Kaga, under the command of Captain Jisaku Okada, loaded 100 torpedoes at Saeki Bay, Hiroshima; these torpedoes were specially designed for use in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. For the operation, Kaga had an aircraft compliment of 18 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, 27 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers and 27 Aichi D3A dive bombers, plus three crated aircraft of each type.
On November 19, 1941 Kaga and the rest of the Combined Fleet's mobile strike force Kido Butai under the command of Chuichi Nagumo comprised of six fleet carriers from the First Carrier Division, Second Carrier Division and Fifth Carrier Division all assembled in Hittokappu Bay off Etorofu Island. On November 26, 1941 the fleet departed Etorofu and followed a course across the north-central Pacific Ocean to avoid commercial shipping lanes.
On December 7, 1941 from a position 230 nautical miles north of Oahu Kaga carrier aircraft participated in both the first strike and second strike against Pearl Harbor and Oahu. In the first strike, 213 aircraft, including 26 Kaga B5N1 carrier attack bombers attacked American ships in Pearl Harbor with bombs and torpedoes, escorted by nine A6M2 Zeros. In the second strike of 170 aircraft, including 26 Kaga D3A dive bombers targeted Luke Field on Ford Island while nine A6M2 Zeros escorted and strafed parked aircraft.
A total of five B5N, four Zeros and six D3A from the ship were lost during the two strikes, along with their aircrews, a total of 31 personnel. Kaga bomber and torpedo aircraft claimed hits on USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS West Virginia (BB-48), and USS Maryland (BB-37). The ship's fighter pilots claimed to have shot down one US aircraft and destroyed 20 on the ground. Upon completion of the attack, the entire force withdraws to Japan.
On December 23, 1941 arrives at Hashirajima with Akagi, Shokaku and Zuikaku then two days later arrives at Kure. On January 5, 1942 departs Kure and that same day arrives at Iwakuni. On January 9, 1942 departs Iwakuni for Truk arriving six days later and joins Akagi.
Operation R - Invasion of Rabaul and Kavieng
During January 1942, with the rest of the First Carrier Division and Fifth Carrier Division staging out of Truk to attack New Ireland and New Britain. On January 20, 1942, Kaga aircraft attacked Rabaul with 27 bomb-carrying B5N Kates and 9 A6M Zeros. Lost was B5N piloted by Sugihara shot down by anti-aircraft fire and the loss of the crew.
On January 21, 1942 Kaga launched nine A6M2 Zeros and sixteen D3A1 Vals attack Kavieng without any losses.
On January 22, 1942 Kaga D3A Vals and A6M2 Zeros again attack Rabaul and two dive bombers made emergency landings, but both crews were rescued. One A6M2 Zero was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while strafing Vunakanau Airfield. After recovering her aircraft, departs northward boudn for Truk.
On January 27, 1942 arrives at Truk. On February 1, 1942 the carriers cancel a plan to move to the Celebes and instead departs with Akagi and Zuikaku in pursuit of the U. S. Navy carrier for that attacked the Marshall Islands, but the pursuit is ended and the carriers instead proceed to Palau.
On February 8, 1942 arrives at Palau with
Akagi and Zuikaku. On February 9, Kaga hit a reef while changing mooring positions and sustains damage the forward bilges and temporary repairs are made but leaks below the bow reduce her maximimum speed to 18 knots. On February 15, 1942 departs Palau bound for the Timor Sea to attack Darwin.
On February 19, 1942 Kaga with the First Carrier Division and Second Carrier Division at a point 100 nautical miles southeast of the eastern tip of Timor launch air strikes against Darwin. Kaga aircraft include 27 B5N Kates armed with bombs, 18 D3A Val dive bombers and 9 A6M2 Zeros. The attack caught the defenders by surprise and results in the loss of eight ships were sunk, including the destroyer USS Peary (DD-226) plus fourteen others damaged, at a cost of only two Kaga aircraft: B5N Kate and D3A1 Val 3304.
On February 21, 1942 the force arrives at
Staring Bay on Celebes then departs four days later to support the invasion of Java.
In March 1942, Kaga, based out of Staring Bay cover the invasion of Java. On March 5, 1942 Kaga contributed 27 B5N Kates escorted by 9 A6M2 Zeros to attack Tjilatjap including bombing AA batteries, warehouse and merchant ships in the harbor and eight are sunk without loss.
On March 15, 1942 departs northward bound for Japan for repairs and seven days later arrives at Sasebo for repairs. Meanwhile, her aircraft fly to Tateyama Airfield for training and maintenance. On March 27, 1942 enters drydock. The repairs are a top priority so the carrier can participate in the upcoming Operation MO against Port Moreby but repairs are still ongoing. On May 4, 1942 the repairs are completed and leaves dry dock and proceeds to Hashirajima.
Operation MI - Battle of Midway
On May 8, 1942 departs for training at Kagoshima. On May 23, 1942 arrives Oita and the next day A6M2 Zeros from the 6th Kokutai are assigned to Kaga, to be based at Mindway Airfield when it is captured. On May 26, 1942 arrives Hashirajima and the next day departs the Inland Sea fir Operation MI the invasion of Midway as part of Admiral Nagumo's First Mobile Force, Carrier Strike Force. On May 28, 1942 joins the refueling supply group for refueling at sea which is completed by June 3, 1942. For the Midway operation, Kaga has 18 A6M2 Zeros, 18 D3A1 Vals and 27 B5N2 Kates plus 9 A6M2 Zeros from the 6th Kokutain and two spare D3A1 Vals.
On June 4, 1942 at dawn the Battle of Midway begins with the Japanese fleet was 250 nautical miles northwest of Midway Atoll whien 18 D3A1 Vals took off from Kaga escorted by 9 A6M2 Zeros on a strike against Midway. Meanqwhile, Kaga's B5N1s were armed with torpedoes in case enemy ships were spotted. Over the target, D3A1 Val and one A6M2 Zeros were shot down by anti-aircraft fire and another four D3A1s were damaged. Kaga's Zero pilots claimed to have shot down 12 US aircraft over Midway. One Kaga B5N1 was launched to augment the fleet's reconnaissance of the surrounding area with two A6M2 over the carrier for Combat Air Patrol (CAP).
At 7:00am another five Zeros reinforced her CAP. At 7:10am they helped defend the Kido Butai from the first US aircraft attacking from Midway Airfield. Unknown to the Japanese, the US Navy had broken Japanese codes and knew the plans for Operation MI and had prepared an ambush using three carriers to the northeast.
07:15 Admiral Nagumo ordered the B5N1s aboard Kaga and Akagi rearmed with bombs for another attack against Midway. This process was limited by the number of ordnance carts used to handle the bombs and torpedoes and the limited number of ordnance elevators. Thus, the torpedoes could not be struck below until after all the bombs were moved up from their magazine, assembled and mounted on the aircraft. This process normally took about an hour and a half; more time would be required to bring the aircraft up to the flight deck and warm up and launch the strike group. Around 07:40 Nagumo reversed his order when he received a message that American carriers had been spotted. At 07:30 Kaga recovered three of her CAP.
Kaga's four remaining fighters were in the process of landing when around 7:55am 16 Marine SBD Dauntless dive bombers from VMSB-241 led by SBD Dantless 2129 piloted by Lofton R. Henderson took off from Midway Airfield and attacked Hiryu without result. At 8:15am five Zeros were launched and three intercepted a dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses from Midway attempting to bomb the three other carriers from 20,000', but only limited damage was inflicted on the bombers, although all the bombs they dropped missed. Five D3As also joined the CAP around this time. At 8:30am another three Zeros were launched as Kaga began landing the returning Midway strike force around 08:35 and was finished by 08:50am. One Zero pilot died after crash landing.
The five Zeros launched at 08:15 were recovered aboard at 09:10 and replaced by six more Zeros launched at 09:20. At 9:22am they intercepted the first US carrier aircraft to attack by TBD Devastator of VT-8 from USS Hornet and shot down all 15, leaving only a single survivor, George H. Gay, Jr., treading water.
Shortly afterwards, 14 TBD Devastators from VT-6 from USS Enterprise led by Eugene E. Lindsey were spotted and the CAP, reinforced by another six Zeros launched by Kaga at 10:00, shot down all but four and the carrier dodged the torpedoes they released.
Soon after the torpedo plane attacks, American carrier dive bombers arrived over the Japanese carriers almost undetected and began their dives. At 10:22, 25 SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Enterprise, led by C. Wade McClusky bombed Kaga scoring a hit with one 1,000 lb bomb and at least three 500 lb bombs.
The first 500 lbs bomb landed near her rear elevator and set the berthing compartments on fire, and the second 500 lbs bomb hit the forward elevator and penetrated the upper hangar, setting off explosions and fires among the armed and fueled planes on her hangar deck. The third 500 lbs bomb hit the bridge killing Captain Okada and most of the senior officers. The 1,000 lbs bomb hit amidships and penetrated the flight deck to explode on the upper hangar. The explosions ruptured the ship's gas lines, damaged both her port and starboard fire mains and the emergency generator powering her fire pumps, as well as knocking out the carbon dioxide fire suppression system. Fueled by the avgas bgan pouring onto the hangar deck and fires detonated 80,000 lbs / 36,000 kg of bombs and torpedoes on the hangar deck during multiple explosions that blew out the hangar sides. Meanwhile, other SBD dive bombers also hit and fatally damaged Akagi and Sōryū.
Fates of the Crew
A total of 811 Kaga crew died in the attacks, mainly aircraft mechanics and armorers stationed on the hangar decks and the engineers. Among those killed were 21 aviators.
Unable to contain the fires, between 2:00pm to 5:00pm the surviving crew were rescued by destroyers Hagikaze and Maikaze. One of the surviving crew, Ensign Takeshi Maeda, an injured Kaga B5N aircrew member rescued by Hagikaze, described the scene: "My comrade carried me up to the deck so I could see the last moments of our beloved carrier, which was nearby. Even though I was in pain tears started to run down my cheeks, and everyone around me was crying; it was a very sad sight."
On June 4, 1942 at 7:25pm scuttled by two torpedoes fired by Hagikaze at roughly Lat 30°20′N Long 179°17′W and sank stern first.
In May 1999, the Nauticos Corporation, in partnership with the U. S. Navy (USN) located some wreckage from Kaga. They employed the research vessel Melville during a survey of a fleet exercise area with the USN's recently modified SEAMAP acoustic imaging system. In September 1999, a follow-up search by the USNS Sumner located the wreckage and took photographs of it. The wreckage included a 50' long section of hangar bulkhead, two 25mm anti-aircraft gun tubs, and a landing light array. These artifacts were at a depth of 17,000' / 5,200m.
In February 2000, the photographs were studied by a three historian consultants: A. P. Tully Jon Parshall and David Dickson and the wreckage was positively identified as parts of Kaga.
During October 2019, RV Petrel conducted weeks of grid searches for the shipwreck of Kaga that included 500 square nautical miles within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Aboard was Robert Kraft, director of undersea operations and Frank Thompson, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHC). On October 18, 2019 the discovery of Kaga was reported by MV Petrel. The shipwreck is at a depth of 17,717' / 5,400m upright with the hull partially buried with most of the flight deck missing.
Combined Fleet IJN Kaga: Tabular Record of Movement
Combined Fleet - Wreckage from Japanese aircraft carrier sunk at Battle of Midway identified! July 22, 2000
Associated Press (AP) "Deep-sea explorers seek out sunken World War II ships" by Caleb Jones October 18, 2019
YouTube "Deep-sea explorers hunt for sunken WWII ships" October 17, 2019
Facebook - RV Petrel has discovered Kaga October 18, 2019
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October 23, 2019