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  Zuikaku 瑞鶴
Shōkaku Class
Aircraft Carrier

25,675 Tons (standard)
32,000 Tons (full)
844.1' x 85.4' x 29.1'
5 x 2 127mm guns
46 x 25mm AA guns
22 x 13.2mm MG
Aircraft: 85

Click For Enlargement
IJN Sept 25, 1941

Click For Enlargement
IJN December 1941
Ship History
Built at Kawasaki Yard at Kobe. Laid down May 25, 1938. Commissioned in September 1941. On September 30, 1939 named Zuikaku 瑞鶴 meaning "happy crane" as the second ship of the Shōkaku Class aircraft carrier, sister ship to Shōkaku. By November 27, 1939 the hull was completed to the hangar deck and launched for fitting out. On November 15, 1940 Captain Yokokawa Ichibei is assigned as Chief Equipping Officer. The same day, assigned to the 1st Air Fleet, Kure Naval Base and departs Kobe.

On September 26, 1941 arrives at Kure. During October 1941, moves between Kure, Oita and Saeki. On October 7, 1941 departs Kure for Oita Bight arriving the next day and joins Shōkaku.

Operation Z: Attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu
On December 7, 1941 participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu.

Operation R: Attack on Rabaul
On January 20, 1942 as part of Operation R the Kido Butai launches her planes on a strike against Rabaul.

Operation MO: Battle of the Coral Sea
During early May 1942 participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea with Shōhō and Shōkaku.

On May 8, 1942 aircraft from Zuikaku helped disable USS Lexington (CV-2) and damaged USS Yorktown (CV-5). During the Battle of the Coral Sea, many Zuikaku aircraft were lost in combat, depleting her air groups and forcing her to withdraw to Japan and did not participate in the Battle of Midway.

On June 15-23 escorted by Oboro from Kure to Ominato.

Battle of the Eastern Solomons
During late August 1942, Zuikaku participated in Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24, 1942.

Battle of Santa Cruz Islands
On October 26, 1942 participates in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (Battle of the South Pacific). At 8:10am launches three Zeros on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and a strike force of twenty D3A Val dive bombers under the command of Lt. Seki Mamoru escorted by five A6M2 Zeros. After take off, one Val aborts the mission and returns to the carrier. At 8:40am the carrier's radar detects enemy aircraft 78 miles, the strike from USS Hornet comprised of 15 SBDs, 6 TBFS escorted by 8 Wildcats.

At 9:00am as the Hornet planes approach, her strike is approaching their carrier. At 9:27am while steaming northward at full speed, ten SBDs from Hornet attack from astern with 3-4 missing and the rest score hits with their 1,000 pound bombs and is heavily damaged with fires and damage to the flight deck. The nearly empty hangers are devestated by the bomb blasts but there is no signifigant damaged below the waterline and the carrier continues to make 30 knots. The rest of the U.S. planes fail to find the carrier. After five hours, her damage control is able to extinguish the fires but crew losses are high.

away and twenty-three Zeros are readied to intercept.

Operation Ke
On January 29, 1943 Zuikaku aircraft including D3A Vals and thirty-six A6M2 Zeros under the command of Lt. Kenjiro Notomi were flown from Truk to Rabaul then to Kahilli Airfield (Buin) on Bougainville to support "Operation Ke" the Japanese evacuation from Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. During Operation Ke, Zuikaku Zeros participated in three aerial cover sorties over western Guadalcanal.

On February 1, 1943 nineteen land based A6M2 Zeros from Zuikaku took off from Kahili Airfield (Buin) led by Lt. Kenjiro Notomi on a mission to escort eighteen D3A Vals from the 582 Kokutai led by Lt. Tensai Kitamura with three aborting after take off. Also escorting were twenty-one A6M Zeros from the 582 Kokutai led by Lt. Saburo Shindo. Over Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal, the D3A Vals score hits sinking USS De Haven (DD-469). Returning from the mission, the formation is intercepted by USMC F4F Wildcats. Losses included five Zeros plus three damaged including two from Zuikaku A6M2 6544 pilot Tanaka and A6M2 pilot Chiba.

On February 4, 1943 land based A6M2 Zeros from Zuikaku took off from Kahilli Airfield (Buin) on a mission to cover the Japanese evacuation from Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal. Lost is A6M2 Zero pilot Shigemi (MIA) and A6M2 Zero pilot Naito (MIA). On February 17, 1943 he remaining Zuikaku Zeros returned to Truk.

Operation I-GO
During early April, Zuikaku aircraft participated in Operation I-Go with 27 Zeros and 18 Vals left the carrier at Truk flying southward to operate land based from Rabaul. Afterwards, these aircraft staged to Buin Airfield (Kahili).

On April 7, 1943 all 27 A6M Zeros and 17 D3A Vals attacked shipping off Tulagi. Three D3A Vals were lost on the mission.

On April 11, 1943 fourteen D3A Vals armed with 60kg bombs escorted by Zeros attacked shipping in Oro Bay. Inbound to the target, D3A Val piloted by Takahashi (C.O.) aborted the mission, landing at Gasmata Airfield. The rest of the formation plus eight D3A Vals and A6M Zeros from Hyio attacked, claiming two ships sunk. In fact, they damaged HMS Hanyang, MV Noora (S-136) and HMAS Pirie (J189).

During June 19-20, 1944 Zuikaku participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Zuikaku was damaged but was soon repaired.

In late October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte, Zuikaku led the remaining Japanese carriers serving as bait to divert U.S. carrier planes away from the surface forces attempting to attack U.S. ships off Leyte.

Sinking History
On October 25, 1944 during the Battle off Cape Engano northeast of Luzon the four Japanese carriers were repeatedly hit by U.S. Navy (USN) carrier bombs and torpedoes. All four including Zuikaku were sunk.

Kodochosho, Zuikaku Kōkūtai, February–April 1943
Combined Fleet - IJN Zuikaku ("Happy Crane"): Tabular Record of Movement
Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1932-1945 pages 48 (Feb 4, 1943), 333 (biography WO Shigemi), 391 (pilot losses Feb/4/43: WO Katsuma Shigemi and PO2c Hitoshi Naito)
Operation KE pages pages 230 (flight from Rabaul to Truk), 240-241 (February 4, 1943)

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Last Updated
November 19, 2021
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