Heavy cruiser Atago


The Japanese cruiser Atago (愛宕) was the second vessel in the Takao-class heavy cruisers, active in World War II with the Imperial Japanese Navy. These were the largest and most modern cruisers in the Japanese fleet, designed with the intention to form the backbone of a multipurpose long-range strike force. Her sister ships were Takao, Maya and Chōkai.

cruiser Atago in the art-box of model kit 1/700 waterline series

An illustration of the cruiser Atago in the art-box of model kit 1/700 waterline series

The Takao-class ships were approved under the 1927 to 1931 supplementary fiscal year budget, and Atago, like her sister ships, was named after a mountain. In this case, she was named after Mount Atago, located outside Kyoto.

Atago was laid down at Kure Naval Arsenal on 28 April 1927, launched on 16 June 1930, and commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Navy on 30 March 1932. AlthoughTakao was the lead ship in the class, Atago was actually completed a day earlier.

All of the Takao-class were assigned to the Yokosuka Naval District, forming Sentai-4 of the IJN 2nd Fleet, and trained as a unit during the 1930s. Atago cruiser is famous in the history of Japan because on 14 May 1932, the day before he was assassinated, Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi made a tour of inspection of the new cruiser. From 26–28 May, Atago hosted Emperor Hirohito on a cruise fromKobe to Etajima and back on the Inland Sea, and the emperor presided over a naval review at Kobe on his return. Atago was commanded by Captain Ibō Takahashi from December 1932 to November 1933, and by Captain Seiichi Itō from April 1936 until he was relieved from 1 December 1936 to 12 July 1937 by Captain Aritomo Gotō.

During this time, issues with their stability and seaworthiness due to the top-heavy design became evident. Takao and Atago were rebuilt, resulting in an improved design: the size of the bridge was reduced, the main mast was relocated aft, and hull bulges were added to improve stability.  After rebuilding was completed, Takao and Atago patrolled off the coast of China in 1940 and early 1941.She was commanded by Captain Tomiji Koyanagi from October 1940 to July 1941.

From 11 August 1941, Atago was commanded by Captain Matsuji Ijuin, and on 29 November was made flagship of Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondō’s Sentai-4, along with sister ships Maya, Chōkai, and Takao.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Atago had sortied from Mako Guard District in the Pescadores Islands to provide support for Japanese landings in the invasion of Malaya and in the invasion of the Philippines.From July–October 1944, Atago was flagship of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita‘s First Mobile Striking Force, which comprised the major remaining surface force of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The force consisted of seven battleships, eleven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 19 destroyers, and was based at Lingga Roads near Singapore. The force sortied on 22 October in what would be the last major naval engagement of the war, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.Atago served as flagship for what the Allies termed the “Center Force”, and was a part of Sentai-4, along with Chōkai, Takao and Maya. The next day two submarines that had been shadowing the force attacked in the Palawan Passage. Atago was one of the ships hit. Four torpedoes fired from the submarine USS Darter struck the Atago, setting her ablaze. She capsized at 05:53 in about 1,800 m (5,900 ft) of water at 09°28′N 117°17′E.Of Atago’s crewmen, there were 529 survivors, including Vice Admiral Kurita, but 360 were killed. CoS Rear Admiral Tomiji Koyanagi and Atago’s skipper Rear Admiral Araki and 355 crewman were rescued by Kishinami; 171 others were rescued by Asashimo.

 


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