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The most powerful battleships of WW2

The Yamato


The Yamato was part of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in WW2. The Navy served the Imperial Japanese Empire - it was established in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration. The Navy was in service during the First World War where the Japanese took over the famous German port of Tsingtao, the Sino-Japanese War which - surprisingly - Japan beat Russia in, and in WWII during Japan's mass expansion.


Each of the Yamato's main batteries (guns/turrets) weighed more than a destroyer; she was the pride of the Japanese Navy and where the Combined Admiral of the Fleet Isoroku Yamamoto conducted battle with the Allies. Her presence normally led to victory at sea, only in the Battle of Midway - a rare occasion - did they lose against the Americans. The Japanese lost all four aircraft carriers involved: Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu and the Akagi. The Yamato, meanwhile, wasn't actually fighting but rather was in the mists defending the task force waiting in reserve. Her sister ship, Musashi, sank in 1944 - one year before their surrender. Yamato sank in 1945 while sailing in Operation Ten-Go and trying to destroy the American Fleet which was landing in Okinawa.


The Bismarck


The Bismarck - named after Otto von Bismarck - was commissioned by Adolf Hitler himself. In 1939, she launched into battle and her sister Tirpitz followed soon after. Her most famous battle was her last - she and the Prinz Eugen sailed around the coastline of Norway before breaking off towards Iceland. In Iceland, they met with the HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales where there was a massive battle and a single shot fired by the Bismarck brought shock-waves throughout the British Empire. The Bismarck’s shot meant that the HMS Hood had a massive shell impaled in its boilers, causing an explosion which broke the ship in two. Consequently, the Bismarck was being hunted by the entire Royal Navy, so Prinz Eugen went ahead while the Bismarck turned back towards her base in France. Soon after her encounter with the Prince of Wales, numerous Swordfish planes from the HMS Ark Royal rushed through, aiming their payloads at the ship. One torpedo managed to jam the rudders, and while the crew repaired one the other remained jammed. The Bismarck was now going round in circles and was obviously nearing the end. Finally, on the 27th of May, 1941, the Bismarck was destroyed.


HMS Prince of Wales


After the Bismarck sank in 1941, the Royal Navy realised that the Empire of Japan was occupying territories in East Asia such as Hong Kong, and that it was rapidly expanding towards Malaya. Therefore, they sent two ships to Singapore: the HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales. They journeyed down the coast of Africa (war in the north restricted access to the Suez Canal) and they arrived with the Invasion of Malaya already in action. Imperial Japan hammered Malaya, so the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse were ordered to go north up the coast of East Malaya as ‘Force Z’. But, they were intercepted by Japanese torpedo bombers and took critical, unrepairable hits to the hull. One feature of the HMS Prince of Wales was a super-strong armour belt just underneath the waterline to prevent flooding but, on this occasion, the torpedoes went too low and struck underneath the belt. This brought the other side of the ship higher and left the steel of the ship a sitting duck, waiting to be blown off causing water to seep into the ship. This kept happening before both ships capsized and plunged into the abyss below the water.


USS Lexington


It's early 1942 and the Japanese have already hit the Dutch East Indies (nowadays Indonesia and the whole of Borneo); Japan has occupied New Guinea, but is failing to invade Papua; bombardments on Darwin, Australia are taking place. The IJN was now planning an attack in the Coral Sea, but the Americans were prepared, with the USS Lexington and USS Yorktown having been sent down to protect their supply line with Australia. But the Japanese had sent two of their own carriers down to attack to devastating effect. The USS Lexington was destroyed, as were the two Japanese carriers. Lexington didn’t sink due to bombing but rather scuttled itself as gases leaking on the Lexington after the attack meant that if a single bomb hit the runway, the ship would turn into a fireball on the ocean. Miraculously, not a single person went down with the ship - everyone was evacuated to Pearl Harbour. USS Yorktown, on the other hand, had to be towed back from the Coral Sea to Pearl Harbour - a journey of nearly 7000 kilometres.


Overall, the Yamato was the most powerful ship during WWII. But, what people don’t know is how much of an effort the Allied Air Forces made to bring down the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy. On the 2nd of September, 1945, the IJN was unofficially decomposed into a defensive force rather than an attacking one.


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