Aircraft Carrier Zuikaku “Auspicious Crane”
Aircraft Carrier Zuikaku history and naval operations
The Zuikaku “Auspicious Crane”. The Zuikaku was the name of the second carrier of the Shokaku-class. She was the last survivor of the initial fleet composed of six carrier that attacked Pearl Harbor.She was laid down in 25 May 1938 and launched in 27 November 1939. She was later commissioned in 25 September 1941. The Zuikaku formed the Carrier Division 5 together with the sister Shokaku in 1941. The operation that led to the Pearl Harbor attack and declared the war againts the U.S. started on 26 November 1941, when the Zuikaku and the rest of the Combined Fleet left Japan.
Once the war started, the Fifth division was the active and saw combat in many places in the pacific. Zuikaku also attacked the Australian bases at Rabaul on 20 January 1942 and Lae in New Guinea on 21 January and participated in a vast operation in the Indian Ocean to attack the British interests and bases on Ceylon. During these operations carried out in April 1942, several capital ships from the Royal Navy were sunk: aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and cruisers HMS Cornwall and Dorsetshire.
Battle of the Coral Sea. The Battle of the Coral Sea was a tactical victory for Japan but ended in a strategic defeat since the major operation for landing troops had to be aborted. The Japanese forces led by the Fifth Division, Shokaku and Zuikaku, sun the Lexington, however, the CVL Shoho was sunk and the Shokaku was also hit by three bombs. Although the Zuikaku was not hit, the carrier lost many planes and crews and had to return to Japan for resupply and her participation in the Midaway operation was cancelled.
Guadalcanal Campaign. During the Guadalcanal campaign, the Zuikaku planes participated in many operations. On August 1942, during the Eastern Solomons battle, her planes managed to damage badly the USS Enterprise. Later, on October 1942, again the Zuikaku hit severely the repaired Enterprise and also hit deadly the USS Hornet, which was sunk later by Japanese destroyers. The Japanese side also suffered severe losses, with serious damage in Shokaku and Zuiho. Many crews were lost for the Zuikaku too. Only two thirds of the aircraft could return to the Zuikaku.
Philippine sea Battle. Singapore was the new base for the Zuikaku in 1944. She participated in the Battle of Philippine Sea were the Japanese forces suffered severe losses: Taiho and Shokaku carriers were lost. Even the Zuikaku was hit later by a bomb but the crew could manage the situation.
Operation Sho-Go 1. In 14 October 1944, the Captain Kaizuka Takeo was promoted to Rear Admiral and commanded the Zuikaku, as the flagship of Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s decoy Northern Force in Operation Shō-Gō 1. This operation was aimed to oppose the Allied landings on Leyte.
By joining forces with light carriers Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda (Third Carrier Division) the mixed aircraft forces launched an attack againts the U.S. Third Fleet on 24 October. Although the striking force lost many places, Zuikaku’s planes made kamikaze attacks which led to sink the light carrier USS Princeton. Other survivor planes landed in Philippines air bases. When the Battle of Cape Engaño occured, she launched her few remaining aircraft for combat air patrol, search to be based on land-bases on Luzon.
Severe damage and sunk. Soon later, the Zuikaku suffered a major attack and was hit by seven torpedoes and nine bombs. Ozawa had to shift his flag to the light cruiser Ōyodo and ordered to abandon ship was issued at 13:58 and the naval ensign was lowered. Zuikaku rolled over and sank stern-first at 14:14. Although 862 officers and men were rescued, the Rear Admiral Takeo and other 842 members of the brave crew of Zuikaku were lost.
Aircraft carrier Zuikaku images
Zuikaku Aircraft carrier technical data:
Name: Zuikaku “Auspicious Crane”
Laid down: 25 May 1938
Launched: 27 November 1939
Commissioned: 25 September 1941
Struck: 26 August 1945
Fate: Sunk by air attack in the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 25 October 1944
Class & type: Shōkaku-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 29,800 normal tons, 32,000 tons full load
Length: 257.5 m (844 ft 10 in)
Beam: 26 m (85 ft 4 in)
Draft: 8.9 m (29 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: Kampon geared turbines,
160,000 hp (119 MW),
Speed: 34.5 knots (63.9 km/h)
Range: 7,581 mi (6,588 nmi) at 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h) Fuel: 4100 tons
16 × 5 in (127 mm) Type 89 guns
36 (last 96) x 25 mm Type 96 anti-aircraft guns
72 (+12 spares)
7 December 1941:
18 × Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zero”
27 × Aichi D3A1 “Val”
27 × Nakajima B5N2 “Kate”