Built at Yokosuka Dockyard at Yokosuka. Laid down December 12, 1937. Launched June 1, 1939. Commissioned August 8, 1941 as Shōkaku meaning "soaring crane or "flying crane", the lead ship of the Shōkaku class aircraft carrier in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attached to the Kure Naval District.
On August 23, 1941 departs Yokosuka for a shake down cruise to Ariake Bay off Kyushu arriving two days later and becomes the flagship of the 1st Air Fleet. On September 1, 1941 assigned to Carrier Division 5 and five days later departs Ariake Bay arriving Yokoska two days later.
On September 10, 1941 becomes the flagship for Carrier Division 5. On October 4, 1941 departs Yokosuka for Oita Bay arriving two days later. On October 8, 1941 arrives Kure to joins Zuikaku for the first time and operates around Kure, Oita and Saeki.
On October 12, 1941 arrives Saeki Bay then two days later Sukumo Bay and six days later Terajima Strait. On October 28, 1941 arrives Sasebo then departs the next day via Ariake Bay arriving two days later at Oita Bay.
On November 2, 1941 departs Oita and the next day at Ariake Bay then two days later departs Ariake. On November 7, 1941 arrives Oita Bay and departs two days later for Kure arriving the same day. On November 14, 1941 becomes the flagship for Carrier Division 5 and three days later departs for Saeki Bay arriving the same day. On November 18, 1941 departs Saeki for Oita Bay arriving the same day.
On November 19, 1941 departs Oita with Zuikaku northward arriving three days later at Hittokappu Bay the secret assembly point for Operation Z. On November 26, 1941 departs Hittokappu Bay crossing the north Pacific Ocean. On December 2, 1941 the force receives the signal "Niitakayama nobore 1208" (Climb Mt. Niitaka 1208)" and despite rough seas and bad weather the force reaches their designated position. The Shōkaku air group includes 72 aircraft including 18 x A6M2 Zeros, 27 x D3A1 Vals and 27 B5N1 Kates.
Operation Z - Pearl Harbor and Oahu Attack
On December 7, 1941 at 6:00am launches aircraft for the first wave including 26 x B5N1 Vals led by Lt. Cdr. Kakuichi Takahashi plus 5 x A6M2 Zeros led by Lt. Tadashi Kaneko. Lost is one Val for the attack against Pearl Harbor and Oahu. At 7:15am launches the second wave including 27 x B5N1 Kates armed with bombs led by Lt. Ichihara Tatsuo without loss. Afterwards, withdraws westward with the Japanese force.
On December 23, 1941 arrives at Hashirajima then departs via Saeki arriving two days later at Kure. On January 3, 1942 departs Kure with Zuikaku arriving two days later at Hiroshima Bay, then departed with Zuikaku four days later for Hashirajima. On January 8, 1942 departs with Nagumo's Strike Force bound for Truk arriving on January 14, 1942.
Operation R - New Britain and New Ireland
On January 16, 1942 departs Truk as part of Operation "R" against Rabaul. On January 20, 1942 the Kido Butai launches a 90 plane strike against Rabaul, including 19 D3A Vals from Shōkaku and suffers no losses.
On January 21, 1942 Shōkaku, Zuikaku with Chikuma and destroyers Akigumo, Kasumi, Kagero, Shiranuhi proceed to launch separate carrier aircraft raids against targets in New Guinea. Shōkaku A6M2 Zeros led by Lt Tadashi Kaneko strafe Salamua and five Zeros strafe three Junkers G 31 trimotors parked at Bulolo Airfield. Afterwards, withdraws northward to Truk.
On January 25, 1942 operating 100 miles south of Truk embarks sixteen A5M4 Claudes from Chitose Kokutai. On January 27, her aircraft are transported and land at Rabaul, afterwards returns to Truk two days later and departs the next day for Yokosuka.
On February 3, 1942 arrives at Yokosuka and remains in the vicinity during the month, entering dry dock from February 27 to March 5, and two days later departs for Marcus Island to search unsuccessfully for American forces, returning March 16 to Yokosuka.
Operation C - Indian Ocean
On March 17, 1942 departs Yokosuka to join Operation C. She joined the Indian Ocean raid along with Akagi, Zuikaku, Sōryū, and Hiryū attacking Colombo on Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and helped to extensively damaging support facilities on April 4, 1942. That task completed, the task force found and sank the British carrier Hermes, and two cruisers: Cornwall and Dorsetshire.
Battle of the Coral Sea
During early May 1942, participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Her aircraft helped to sink USS Lexington CV-2, but was severely damaged by carrier aircraft from USS Yorktown CV-5.
After repairs, Shōkaku took part in two further 1942 battles including the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, where they damaged USS Enterprise, and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where her aircraft sank the USS Hornet CV-8 but Shōkaku was again seriously damaged by SBD Dauntless dive bombers.
Repaired in 1943 under the command of Captain Matsubara Hiroshi. She was assigned to a counter-attack against the Aleutian Islands, but the operation was canceled after the Allied victory on Attu Island.
For the remainder of 1943 she was based at Truk. During 1944 she was based at Lingga near Singapore.
On June 15, 1944 for the counterattack against the Mariana Islands Operation A-Go, Shōkaku was assigned to the "Mobile Fleet".
On June 19, 1944 at 11:23am during the Battle of the Philippine Sea while refueling aircraft, hit by three (or possibly four) torpedoes fired from a spread of six fired by USS Cavalla (SS-244). The torpedoes cause fires that were impossible to control. At 2:08pm an aerial bomb exploded detonating aviation fuel aboard and caused Shōkaku to quickly sink at roughly Lat 11°40′N, Long 137°40′E. Aboard, 1,272 of her crew were killed or missing in the attack and sinking.
Yahagi, Urakaze, Wakatsuki, and Hatsuzuki rescued Captain Matsubara and 570 of her crew.
Combined Fleet - IJN Shokaku: Tabular Record of Movement
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January 18, 2020