Death of the Japanese Fleet – Part III

Death of the Japanese Fleet – continued

Was Shikoku prepared?

Even before she had loaded all her equipment, Shinano was dispatched to Shikoku, which was the central training center of the Combined Fleet. She was trained, or they siad she was, and was made ready to rush into battle. With Yamato and the lesser ships that could be assembled, and with Ise and Hyuga (which were under repair), Japan theoretically cold mount a formidable fleet, particularly if the enormous threat of Shinano was added. No one knew what she might do in battle.

On the evening of November 28, Shinano set out, accompanied by 3 battle-weathered destroyers, on her maiden voyage. She was only traveling from Yokosuka to Osaka Bay. Three years ago, even one year ago, this had been sacrosanct water, and an American submarine that dared enter risked the life of every man without much hope of accomplishing any thing in exchange. But times had changed; American submarines were everywhere, it seemed, and an American submarine found Shinano and her escorts. The submarine was the Archerfish, and her captain was Comd. J. F. Enright, who was stationed on lifeguard patrol to aid and comfort the B-29s that were flying from the Marianas over Japan these days. He was basically stationed 100 miles south of Tokyo Bay, but on this day he had been given a holiday (no bombing raids scheduled) and he was roaming around looking for excitement.

Shinano, and destroyers Hamokaze, Isokaze, and Yukikaze were steaming out on this cold evening under a bright chilled moon when just before 9 pm they were sighted by Archerfish. They were nervous enough already; an hour before there had been a submarine alert, and the ships were zigzagging and alert. This was no accident, no carelessness, but the confrontation of 2 deadly weapons, the carrier and the modern submarine of the day.

Commander Enright surfaced and chased the fast-moving gorup – they were making at least 20 knots and the only reason he could keep up and then gain was that they were zigzagging on a base course, which cut down their forward speed.

And then the submarine alert ended, and the group resumed its southern course – with a change that brought it right into the tubes of Archerfish. Capt. Toshio Abe could not have been more unlucky. Captain Enright could not have had better luck.

On they came to a point 1,400 yards away from Archerfish, which only had to lie there and shoot, then dive deep to escape the expected depth-charging.

Four torpedoes struck home, tearing a great hole in the Shinano‘s center on the port side. No pumps could stop the water, no mattresses or shoring could rebuild that shell. And then, although she could and did steam south at 20 knots for a way, the watertight compartments gave way, or were not dogged properly, or leaked – because Shinano settled and listed, and it became apparent that she was going down.

Lieutenant Sawamoto heard the order to abandon ship, but instead of rushing to the side he took the Emperor’s portrait from the captain’s quarters and gave it to a seaman in the water. Lieutenant Sawamoto was not seen again.

Captain Abe stayed on his bridge, and near him stayed Tadashi Yasuda, the top graduating man in his class of 1943 at the naval academy. Both went down on the bridge.

It was just as well for Captain Abe, because he had believed too well what the designers told him about the carrier’s unsinkability. He might have made port and saved his ship, but he did not believe she could sink – until 8 hours after the torpedoing, on the morning of November 29th, when she went down, carrying him and 500 men who did not get off. Shinano never launched a single plane.

And then there was Junyo, that survivor of the Marianas turkey shoot. Just after mdnight on December 8, 1944,the U.S.S. Redfish, a submarine, was chasing a convoy and was sighted by one of the escort vessels. Sea Devil was on the other side and apparently firing, because Redfish heard 2 explosions just efore the time came to move away. The chase of the destroyer was not long, but by one o’clock in the morning Redfish was far enough away that only a zig by the convoy would help put her in position to fire torpedoes.

 …continued with Part IV (Redfish Records)

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

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