The last battle of the Battleship Musashi

The last battle of the Musashi Battleship


The Battleship Musashi was the most advanced and large warship in her era together with the Battleship Yamato, her twin. In the last mission, the Battleship Musashi took part in the last battle of her history. During 5 hours and 20 minutes the Musashi faced a successive series of six aerial attacks by U.S. naval planes. The number of bomb and torpedo hits were unbelievable for the coetaneous ships. Hereafter there are the historical facts and reports of the last battle of the Musashi Battleship.


Musashi departed Lingga, not far from Singapore, at midnight during the night of 21-22 October 1944. Upon departure, the Musashi was fully loaded, drawing almost 36 feet. The Musashi was a unit of the Japanese Second Fleet which proceeded directly to an operating area in the central Philippines. During this passage Musashi burned about 1000 tons of fuel oil, and transferred another 800 tons to accompanying destroyers. On the morning of her day her draft was about 34.5 feet.The Musashi crew was exceptionally well-trained by Japanese standards. The Musashi regular routine included two daily drills for the purpose of instructing the crew how to set a proper and complete condition of closure.

At 0600 on 24 October, the crew went to General Quarters and the ship was made ready for action. A condition of complete closure was reported set. Speed was 20 knots. Heavy air attacks were expected during the day. The Executive Officer was at his battle station on the third level, behind the conning tower. The Chief Engineer was in the port inboard engineroom control booth- the control engineroom.


The first attack at 1000

Shortly after 1000, the first U.S. aircraft were sighted. Speed of the formation was increased to 22 knots. The first attack started about 1030 and continued for four or five minutes. The Musashi was bracketed by near miss bombs but received no bomb hits. Two small forward peak tanks in the vicinity of frame 20 were flooded. Three torpedoes were reported by both captains to have struck the Musashi on the starboard side.

The first was in the vicinity of frame 130, in way of no.11 fireroom. There was considerable leakage into this space which was controlled for a time. This hit was classed as certain. The second torpedo reported to have struck at about frame 140, in way of the starboard hydraulic machinery room just forward of the outboard starboard engineroom. The third torpedo was reproted to have hit about frame 150, in way of the starboard out board engineroom. But no flooding in either space was known to either officer. Furthermore, the initial list after this attack was reported by both officers to have been small, not more than 3 degrees starboard, as read from inclinometers. If three torpedoes had hot one side, even without penetration of the torpedo defense system, the list certainly would have been of the order of 8 to 10 degrees starboard. Accordingly, only the hit at frame 130 is assessed as certain – the other two seem hardly worth classifying even as possible.

According to the reports, speed was not affected by the previous attack. Counterflooding of port voids reduced the list to 1 degree starboard. In this condition, with a slight trim by the bow, the Musashi received the second attack.


The second attack at 1140

About 1140, an hour or so after the first attack, the second developed, lasting for four or five minutes. Near miss bombs did not damage. Two bombs did strike the ship, however. The first was a dud, striking the flying deck at frame 15 port and passing down and out through the port shell above the waterline. There was no flooding. The second bomb struck the 01 level at frame 138, some six or eight feet to port of the smokepipe.
It pierced two decks before detonating. There was no sustained fire, but there was considerable damage. The port inboard engineroom filled with steam, forcing its abandonment. It never again was manned. The Chief engineer moved to the starboard inboard engineroom.

Three torpedo hits again were reported, this time all on the port side. The first struck near frame 143, close to the bulkhead separating the port outboard engineroom and the port hydraulic machinery room. The latter space started to flood at a rate somewhat beyond control, but not instantly. Minor leakage into the engineroom occurred, but this was not serious. This undoubtedly was a hit.

The points of impact of the other two torpedoes were reported at about frame 80 (in way of no. 1 turret), and about frame 110 (at the forward bulk-head of the forward port outboard fireroom). There was no damage or inboard flooding insofar as the two officers were aware. The list after this attack was negligible to port (it had been 1 degree starboard). It is considered that three torpedoes could not have struck the ship on the port side without causing a most noticeable port list. Counterfloording of a few starboard vois removed the small port list.

At the conclusion of the second attack the most serious matter aboard Musashi was the loss of the port inboard engineroom. R.P.M. on the other three shafts were increased, and formation speed was maintained  with little effort.


The third attack at 1215

About 30 minutes later, at 1215, the third attack developed and continued for four or five minutes. No bombs hit the ship, but fragments from a close near miss astern damaged the airplanes crane. One torpedo  hit at about frame 60, starboard, forward of the torpedo defense system, flooded several large storerooms. The beam was relatively narrow this far forward, and only a neglegible starboard list developed. the Musashi changed
trim by the bow more than 2 meters (6.5 feet), however, according to both officers. This is considered a certain hit.

The Musashi battleship thus escaped serious damage hit in the third attack. Up to this time it is considered that only three torpedoes had struck her, one on each side in the middle one-half and one well forward. The Musashi was not seriously damaged at all.


The fourth attack at 1250

The fourth attack developed at 1250, about 30 minutes after the third. Four bombs hit the ship. The first, at frame 45 port, penetrated three decks prior detonating in a crew’s space. There was no fire, end no damage which permitted any flooding. The second struck at frame 65 port, somewhat forward of the armored citadel. It penetrated two decks and detonated in a living space. Again there was no fire. The third hit at frame 70 port, penetrated two decks and detonated slightly forward of the sloping armored bulkhead, do-deck, well outboard of the smokepipe and detonated upon impact. It knocked out some light AA weapons. None of these bombs did sinking damage. Each was well identified and located by  the Executive Officer.

During the fourth attack, four torpedoes were reported to have struck the Musashi battleship. The first was at about frame 70 port, in way of storerooms, many of twhich were flood. The second also hit at about frame 70, but on the starboard side. As a result of these two torpedoes, plus the one at frame 60 starboard from the third attack, the Musashi was almost completely flooded across the ship from bulkhead 54 back to the armored citadel.

The third torpedo hot at about frame 138 starboard, instantly flooding the starboard hydraulic machinery room. The Executive Officer expressed the opinion that this torpedo hit in the same location as did one in the first attack. As pointed out in the
description of the first attack, it is problematical, to say the least, if a torpedo
struck in this location during the first attack. The fourth torpedo was thought by the two officers to have hit in way of the starboard forward outboard fireroom near frame 110, but again there was no inboard flooding. List at the conclusion of this attack was only about 2 degrees starboard, indicative of not more than one unbalanced hit to starboard in the middle one-half length. Therefore, it is concluded that only the torpedo at or near frame 138 actually struck in the middle half-length. This, plus the two forward at frame 70, gives a total of only three torpedo hits for the fourth attack.

Trim by the bow, however, was a most serious matter. The waterline at the stem was almost to the upper deck. Speed was reduced to about 16 knots and the Musashi dropped out of formation. Port voids were counterflooded and the small starboard list was removed.


The fifth attack at 1315

Some 20 minutes after the end of the fourth attack, making the time about 1315, a fifth attack occurred, but now damage was inflicted. Musashi limped northward. Three enginerooms, and nine firerooms (No.11, due to damage from underwater attack, and two inboard firerooms, because of blocked access from bomb damage, were not steaming)
were in operation. Speed was further cut to 12 knots as safety precaution made necessary by the heavy trim forward. There was little list or progressive flooding. However, no attempt was made to remove water from the voids which had been flooded for the list correction purposes, although each was fitted with a connection to steam eductors with rated capacity of 200 tons of water per hour. This failure to gain buoyancy was a fatal error.

At this time she had received six certain bomb hits, non of which had caused flooding damage. Six certain torpedo hits had been received. Three of these were in the middle one-half length, two to starboard and one to port. The other three were all in the unprotected bow structure, two to starboard and one to port. Musashi was not fatally damaged or necessarily in jeopardy unless additional damage was received. Almost all outboard voids on both sides had been flooded, however, and there was little freeboard remaining at the bow. Much of the AA battery also was dead.

The deadly sixth attack at 1520

The sixth and most vicious attack came two hours after the futile fifth attack, at about 1520. It was completed in a matter of minutes. In this attack ten certain bomb bits were received which made a shambles of some upper areas. None caused any damage below the armored deck, however, or punctured the sides above the waterline to any great extend.

The details are as follows: Frame 75, starboard, hit top of no.1 turret. It did not penetrate. Frame 62, port, it added to damage of main and forecastle decks caused in fourth attack.
Frame 79, starboard, it detonated in wardoom on main deck. Two at frame 115, starboard. These bombs fell close together, detonating on impact with the flying deck and extensively damage topside structure.Frames 108 and 115, port. These two bombs, detonating in main deck spaces, destroyed all radio rooms in the vicinity.

Frame 120,port. This struck the 08 level of the forward tower, detonating on impact with the port side. Frame 120, centerline. This struck the top of the forward tower, detonating
with very short delay. It gravely wounded the commanding officer. Frame 127, centerline. This struck the after part of the tower structure, close to the 02 level. It did little damage.

Fatal damage was done by torpedoes. Both captains reported ten hits. Two of these were reported as duds, striking at frame 140 port. While identifying a dud torpedo hit in the midst of a heavy air attack offers grounds for speculation, the matter was not pressed beyond determining that they had been reported presumably by eyewitnesses. No flooding
inboard of the holding bulkhead was reported, in any event.

Of the remaining eight torpedoes, four were quite well identified by flooding reported by the Chief Engineer and Executive officer. The first was at frame 75 port, in way of turret No. 1 magazines. Magazines on the two lower levels were flooded. This hit was reported by the Executive officer to have hit in the same area as a hit in the fourth attack (which was not assessed as a hit because no flooding was known to either officer). The second certain hit was near frame 125 port, flooding no. 8 fireroom immediately. No. 12 fireroom was flooded more slowly. The third certain hit was near frame 145 port, flooding the port cutboard engineroom quite rapidly, although personnel escaped. Again, the Executive Officer believed this hit to be in the way of a previous hit from the second attack (which was not assessed as a hit because no inboard signs of damage were recalled by the Chief Engineer). The fourth certain hit was near frame 105 starboard, in way of AA magazines immediately forward of the machinery spaces. Magazines on two levels were reported to have flooded.

Neither officer could recall any specific damage or flooding from the other four torpedo hits from this attack, although the Executive officer had the locations entered in his notebook. This lack of information is understable, perhaphs, although it is pointed out that about four hours elapsed between the end of the attack and Musashi’s sinking. Nonetheless, they are assessed as possible hits in the following location: About frames 40 and 60, port. About frame 60, starboard and frame 165, port.

At the end of this attack Musashi had a noticeable list to port, estimated by both officers as about 10 to 12 degrees. The trim forward was serious, with the waterline at the stem in the vicinity of the flying deck. Three certain torpedo hits were on the port side and one of the starboard side. The reported list thus is reasonably consistent with the number of hits assessed as certain. It is difficult to assess the possible hits in terms of either trim or list,
inasmuch as the certain hits are consistent with conditions and possible hits, had they occurred, could reasonably be expected to have produced a much heavier list (three possibilities were well forward). Actually trim by the bow increases only one deck height. It is considered doubtful that they occurred.

Speed was down to six knots, not sufficient for steerageway. Only the two starboard enginerooms and seven firerooms were still in operation. To attempt to improve trim and list simultaneously, large storerooms on the starboard quarter were had ordered flooded. These were not equipped with sea valves, however, and not enough fire pumps remained in operation to flood them from the firemain. The attempt was given up. On his own
initiative, the Chief Engineer flooded the remaning outboard starboard firerooms (it is not clear if no. 11 fireroom had flooded completely following the first attack, but it had not
been steaming for some time). This checked the list at about 12 degrees port, but did not right the ship. The bow continued to settle, indicative of progressive flooding forward, despite damage control efforts to establish flooding boundaries. The list continued to increase slowly. By 1800 all power was lost and by 1900 the situation was hopeless. Although list still was not more than 12 degrees to 15 degrees port, the flying deck forward was submerged back to No.1 turret.

“Abandon ship” was ordered and removal of the crew by destroyers was begun. At abou 1920 the list began increasing at an alarming rate. At 1930 it was greater than 30 degrees and the rate was increasing. At 1935 a sharp lurch to port occured and the Musashi battleship turned bottom-side up. She slide under, bow first. The excutive officer swm off from one of the upper levels in the tower. He saw the propellers as Musashi disappeared. The chief engineer climbed over the side amidships as Musashi lurched to port. He walked and scrambled around the girth against the roll, climbing over the bilge keel. Finally, he was throw off into the water and sawm away to port. There were no explosions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>