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Death ride of the battleship
on August 16, 2000
At the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington D.C. Southeast among the captured war booty and static displays you will find one rather odd looking display, a giant twisted and tortured looking piece of iron that looks like a modern art sculpture. This section of metal is not an artwork, it is a piece of armor plate taken after the war from the shipyard in Japan that built the warship Yamato, the largest battleship to ever to roam the seas. It is distorted because the Navy wanted to see what US Navy 16" guns would do to the armor plate which was used to protect the Yamato and her two sister ships Musashi and Shinano. Like many countries in the 30's and early 40's in Japan the Imperial Navy was the dominant military force, as such the Imperial Navy wanted to deploy the most powerful ships in the world, at that time the battleship was still viewed as the king of the seas. Three ships were taken under construction in the Kure naval yard, they were to be the most heavily armed and defended battleships ever, larger by far than the German Bismark, British Prince of Wales and Hood and even larger than any battleship ever built by the United States, these warships were to sport giant 18" guns that could devastate any opponent that they should face. Very quickly after the start of hostilities it became clear that the role of the battleship would have to be re-thought, the destruction of the Prince of Wales, The Bismark, the Italian fleet at Taranto and several American battleships at Pearl Harbor by (or at least largely in part due to) airpower and the advent of the submarine force made these once unapproachable ships vunerable. After the Battle Of Coral Sea construction of the last of these three giant ships was halted and changed in mid-stream...Shinano would go on to become the worlds 1st "Super Carrier". Yamato and Musashi went into service as battleships, both saw combat. At the Battle Of Leyte Gulf in Oct 1944 Yamato was able to claim a role in the sinking of several American warships, including an escort carrier (USS Gambier Bay) but more telling was the fate of Mushasi, attacked by US Navy aircraft this seemingly invincible ship was sunk after taking 13 torpedos and an undetermined number of bombs. Yamato retreated to Japan to re-arm and repair her combat damage. As the fortunes of the Japanese Empire went on a steady downward slide the presure to send Yamato back into combat grew. The Battle Of Leyte Gulf is famous for one other 1st, the first major use of Kamikaze aircraft, the Imperial Navy decided to deploy the Yamato in his role after the invasion of the island of Okinawa. This book is the story of that mission. Mr. Spurr has interviewed participants on both sides, he became very familiar with suvivors from the crew of Yamato and I think he has created a very educational and entertaining book. I will not divulge the outcome of the mission any further, most people who will look for this book already know what happened. It is an exciting bullet for bullet and shell for shell account, plenty of graphic first hand accounts to be sure. If you ever are in DC and have in interest in this matter please visit the Navy yard and see with your own eyes the section of metal I mentioned earlier, it will answer all questions as to what it must have been like on Yamato. For those interested in the fate of Shinano, it was sunk by the American sub Archerfish on a shakedown/fitting out cruise, once again emphasising the changing role of these giant ships.