Death of the Japanese Fleet – Part II

Death of the Japanese Fleet – continued

Sarawak’s 2nd attempt

On March 19th, Sarawak was loaded with diesel oil. She joined a convoy of 5 other ships and 6 escorts. There were 3 tankers, and other ships loaded with supplies. They began bravely, but just outside Singapore, Sarawak -in the main channel near Horsaburg light, struck another mine, which put a hole in the engine room. Towing began, but she sank on the way and was total loss. Thus, not one of that convoy of 10 ships sent from Japan ever returned. And as for the rest of that convoy – not one of the ships wver arrived in Hong Kong. All, tankers, cargo ships, and escorts, were sunk off the coast of Indo-China. It was the last convoy from Singapore.

A USS INTREPID (cv-11) *EPILOG

Militarily speaking, the Japanese continued to do a considerable amount of damage to American ships all during the rest of the war, by far the greatest part of it accomplished by the suicide craft. *For example, on Octoer 29th, the carrier Intrepid was hit, and on the 30th the Franklin and Belleau Wood both suffered serious damage from Kamikazes. A month later, 4 American carriers were badly damaged by suicide planes.

The Third Fleet continued to harry Japanese shipping (and when it was not the Third Fleet it was the Fifth Fleet – same ships and same planes, but different fleet commanders). It was the Third Fleet that caused the almost total destruction of Captain Kawamura‘s convoy in January in Formosan waters. And they were doing the same everywhere they could. Here is a paragraph from the carrier reports of January 12, 1945, which gives some indication of what was happening in Asian waters.

” No major ships of the enemy were found, but the air strikes of 12 January on the French Indo-China coast achieved more shipping destruction. One enemy convoy was entirely destroyed and 2 others severely mauled; the shipping tally totalled 41 ships (127,000 tons) sunk and 28 (70,000 tons) damaged; among ships sunk were 2 cruisers, 1 Japanese (Kashii) and 1 French (Lamotte Picquet), partially dismantled, at Saigon; docks, oil storage, and airfield facilities were heavily damaged; 112 enemy planes were destroyed, the Indo-China coast was left a shambles. Air opposition was negligible, the CAP destroyed practically all of 50 enemy reinforcing planes ferried in on the afternoon of the 12th…”

On January 13th and 14th the Americans destroyed 38,000 tons of Japanese shipping.

On January 16th the planes destroyed 88,000 tons of shipping. They hit Formosa again, but they noticed that when they came within the inner Empire or fought off the Philippines where the Japanese were still puting up strong aerial resistance, the Americans took a series of blows from the Kamikazes.

On January 21st the fleet hit Formosa and destroyed 200 Japanese planes. This was of course felt in the Philippines. It narrowed the pipeline through which planes were ferried. But the Kamikazes got to Ticonderoga and Langley and the destroyer Maddox, and Ticonderoga and Maddox had to be sent back to the base at Ulithi for repairs.

On January 22nd, Third Fleet became Fifth Fleet with the advent of Admiral Spruance as commander, but the destruction of Japanese ships and navy went on. Fifth Fleet – Third Fleet; that is the way it alternated until the end of the war, and little by little, one by one, the carrier groups and land-based air-power sought out the remnants of the Japanese fleet, and destroyed those ships one by one.

Many of the Japanese ships fell to submarines. One big Japanese ship to go that way was Shinano, the world’s super-carrier, a ship on which the optimistic among the Japanese still managed to place an almost miraculous hope for the future of ending the war.

Shinano was first planned as a superbattleship of the Yamoto class. But after the Battle of Midway, when Japan lost 4 big carriers, Admiral Yamamoto and others of the air admirals persuaded the navy to change over the design and plan to produce the supercarrier. That was in 1942.

What with the change in plans and the exigencies of war and shortages of steel that began building up with the success of the American submarine effort, Shinano was not finished until November 1944. She was everything promised: with a special flight deck and a capacity of 70 planes, she displaced 71,000 tons and bristled with machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. Her flight deck was compositon of steel and concrete tht was supposed to resist any aerial attack, no matter how strong or prolonged.

On November 11th – Armistice Day – ironic as it may seem  – Shinano was launched in Tokyo Bay, and although usually several months were devoted to fitting out a carrier, or any other ship, she was quickly commissioned and thrown together with a green crew, many of whom had not been to sea before in any vessel. The admirals were grasping at straws. Perhaps this great carrier, impervious, they said, to air attack, could sail bravely out and engage the terrible American task force that now had its way around the Japanese islands when it appeared. Perhaps Shinano could sink Halsey and Spruance and Mitscher and all the rest of those hate Americans, sink them and send them to the bottom forever to rot among the sands.

…continued with Part III (Was Shikoku prepared?)

Source: THE CARRIER WAR, Author: Edwin P. Hoyt – Avon Books

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