These ships can really claim to be the best Japanese light cruisers. And in the world table of ranks, they would have taken a fairly high place. The only thing that overshadows everything - these cruisers turned out to be very unlucky in reality.
But these ships had one interesting difference, which is discussed below.
Initially, these cruisers were planned as scout scouts, but in the end they were repurposed as destroyer leaders. This affected the final appearance of the ships, the design of which was based on the classic 5500-ton cruisers, but by the time work began, the ships in service with the Imperial Japanese Navy were completely and irrevocably outdated. Modern destroyers became faster and had a long cruising range, so we had to pay attention to modern destroyer support ships.
Therefore, as soon as Japan withdrew from the London Agreement, the Admiralty immediately began to create cruisers of a new type, fortunately, there were no restraining factors left. As a result, between 1939 and 1945, 13 new cruisers with a displacement of about 6,000 tons were supposed to enter service, and almost all entered, but it was not easy. The shipyards were heavily loaded with military orders.
So, in the second half of the thirties in Japan, work began on the creation of new 6000-ton light cruisers. In general, light cruisers in Japan were divided into two classes, "A" and "B". The "A" type cruisers carried stronger weapons, the main caliber was 155mm guns, the "B" class, which was closer to the destroyer leaders, was armed with 140mm guns.
The new type of ships was supposed to replace the light cruisers of the Mogami class, which, by replacing the towers, turned into heavy cruisers armed with 203-mm guns. And the escaping 155-mm guns could be used to arm the ships in shift. Very logical, isn't it?
So "Agano", which was based on the work of Captain Fujimoto on the cruiser "Yubari". The ship was supposed to have a high speed and cruising range, which was quite satisfactory for the Admiralty. It was originally planned to equip it with 155-mm guns in the towers from "Mogami", but this led to a significant increase in displacement and an increase in the size (width) of the ship.
Therefore, they decided to abandon the 155-mm guns, and arm the ships with 152-mm guns, designed by the Vickers company from Great Britain and produced under license. Such weapons were part of the armament of battlecruisers of the "Congo" class as anti-mine artillery.
On the "Agano" it was decided to install eight such guns in four twin-gun turrets. But since the cruisers were supposed to become scouts and destroyer leaders, the number of towers was reduced to three, but the torpedo armament was strengthened by installing two four-tube torpedo tubes instead of three-tube ones.
And this became the final weapons design.
The construction of the ships began in 1940, with the laying of the lead Agano. Construction proceeded at a very slow pace, with priority given to heavy cruisers and aircraft carriers.
The length of the hull of the Agano-class ship was 172 m at the waterline, and the maximum was 174.5 m. The width was 15.2 m, the draft was 5.63 m. The standard displacement was 6 614 tons, and the total displacement was 8 338 tons.
Reservation of light cruisers, traditionally for Japanese designers, was just easy.An armored belt 60 mm thick covered the engine room and boiler room, protecting against 140-mm shells at a distance of up to 20 cables (almost 4 km).
The ammunition cellars were protected by sheets of armor 55 mm thick, the tiller compartment was protected by armor sheets of 16, 20 and 30 mm, the conning tower was armored for the forehead - 40 mm, side - 30 mm, top - 20 mm, rear - 16 mm.
The barbets of the turrets of the main caliber were 25 mm thick, the turrets were 25.4 mm thick, the armored deck was 20 mm, and the bevels of the armored deck were 20 mm.
The ship was driven by a power plant of six steam boilers and four Kampon-type turbo-gear units, which rotated four propellers.
The power of the power plant was 104,000 hp, which easily made it possible to reach a speed of 35 knots. The fuel reserve was 1,900 tons of oil, which, according to calculations, was enough for 6,300 miles, but actually 5,820 miles with 18 cruising knots.
Crew and habitability
The total crew size for the project was supposed to be 649 people, however, as practice has shown, on all Japanese ships the crew size was significantly higher than the design one. Mainly due to the increase in the number of anti-aircraft artillery crews. So on the "Agano" itself the number of the crew was 700 people, and on the "Sakawa" - 832 people.
The main caliber consisted, as already mentioned, of six 152 mm guns. These Vickers cannons fired shells weighing 45.4 kg at a maximum distance of 21 km. Combat rate of fire 7-10 rounds per minute.
The two-gun turrets provided an elevation of the barrel up to 55 ° and it was possible to conduct defensive anti-aircraft fire. Such towers were used only on the Agano-class cruisers.
Auxiliary / anti-aircraft artillery
As auxiliary artillery, four of the newest 76 mm Type 98 guns were used in two-gun Mod. "A", also not used anywhere else.
Small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery was represented by six 25-mm Type 96 machine guns and four 13, 2-mm Type 93 machine guns.
Naturally, the number of machine guns changed over the course of the war. At the beginning of 1944, the cruisers already had 26 25-mm barrels each, in July 1944, the two ships that remained in service already had 52 25-mm barrels, and the final anti-aircraft armament figure was 61 barrels: 10 three-barreled installations and 31 single-barreled.
All ships except Agano received radars.
Mine torpedo and anti-submarine weapons
On the Agano-class cruisers, two four-tube 610-mm torpedo tubes were installed, one on board, which were loaded with Type 93 torpedoes. The devices had a quick reloading system, so the stock of torpedoes was 24 pieces.
In addition to torpedoes, each cruiser had hydrophones for detecting submarines and two bomb releases with 36 depth charges.
Each cruiser had a standard Type 1 # 2 Mod.11 catapult and two Kawanishi E15K Type 2 seaplanes.
The set of weapons was not typical for ships of that time. The Agano-class cruisers were significantly stronger than the usual Japanese light cruisers, which had 6-7 140-mm guns, which, moreover, could not all participate in an onboard salvo.
True, the combat service of these ships cannot be called successful.
Combat service "Agano" began in December 1942, when, together with the cover group of the aircraft carrier "Zuno", he escorted a convoy with troops to capture the islands of New Guinea. The islands of Vevek and Madang were eventually captured by the Japanese.
Then "Agano" took part in the evacuation of the Japanese army from Guadalcanal.
In November 1943, "Agano" took a direct part in the defense of Rabaul and in the battle in the Gulf of Empress Augusta. The Japanese were then defeated, losing the cruiser Sendai and the destroyer Hatsukadze.
After the battle, returning to Rabaul, November 7, 1943, "Agano" miraculously did not fall victim to a raid from aircraft carriers "Saratoga" and "Princeton", but eventually fought back.
On November 10, the Americans repeated their visit, which was more successful: a torpedo from the Avenger hit the stern of the Agano, pretty much disrupting the steering and engine rooms. As far as repairing the damage, "Agano" went in a convoy to Truk Island, where a large base of the Japanese fleet was located, in order to get up for repairs.
Again, no luck. The Agano was attacked by the American submarine Scamp. After the explosion of the torpedo, the cruiser completely lost speed. Another American submarine, the Albacore, was operating in the area, which tried to finish off the cruiser, but was driven away by escort ships.
“Agano” was taken in tow by the sister ship “Noshiro” and nevertheless dragged to Truk on November 16.
It turned out that there was no way to repair the cruiser on Truk. And once again patching up the ship and putting it on the move, "Agano" was sent to Japan to be seriously repaired there.
Did not work out. First "Agano" received two torpedoes from the American submarine "Skat". The ship again lost speed, and the Americans planted two more torpedoes in the cruiser. Perhaps, if not for the strongest fire, the crew could have defended the Agano. However, in fact, the disfigured and flaming wreck of the cruiser was abandoned by the crew, which boarded the destroyer Fumizumi.
Again, no luck. A few hours later, American torpedo bombers flew into the destroyer and sank the ship with all the crew and guests from the Agano. No one survived.
In general, it is worth noting that the Agano was a totally unlucky ship.
After commissioning, the cruiser was appointed leader of the 2nd destroyer flotilla of the Second Fleet. From 23 August 1943, "Noshiro" was based on Truk and was mainly engaged in patrolling.
The baptism of fire took place on November 5 in Simpson Bay, where, as part of a squadron of ships, he tried to resist the American invasion. The crews of aircraft from the aircraft carriers Princeton and Saratoga bombed the cruiser very well, which received several holes from bomb explosions near the sides.
The cruiser went to Truk for repairs. However, on November 10, "Noshiro" ran into the already mentioned submarine "Scamp", the crew of which fired six torpedoes at the cruiser at once. However, luck was on the side of "Noshiro" and only one torpedo caught up with the cruiser, but exploded prematurely, causing additional damage, however. A small storm that began further allowed the crippled cruiser to escape from the submarine.
On November 15, 1943, the Noshiro arrived at Truk, where, having undergone repairs, continued to patrol the islands in the central part of the Pacific Ocean. On November 21, the cruiser went to sea to provide assistance to the tanker "Terukawa Maru", which was torpedoed by the Americans, but did not have time, and the tanker sank.
In early 1944, the cruiser took part in the evacuation of Japanese troops from Kavienga. There he was captured by aircraft from the aircraft carriers Bunker Hill and Monterrey. The "Noshiro" was hit by a bomb in the area of tower No. 2, on the starboard side, damaging the skin and causing a leak. The cruiser had to be sent for lengthy repairs.
In June 1944, the cruiser took part in the Battle of the Mariana Islands. Nominally. The Nosiro's guns did not fire a single shot, the seaplanes did not take off, and the torpedoes were not fired. Such a strange participation.
After repair and modernization, "Noshiro" was sent to Admiral Kurita's First Saboteur Strike Force. In October he took part in the battle of Fr. Samar, in which a 127-mm projectile from an American destroyer disabled the stabilized aiming post on the starboard side.
On October 26, 1944, in the Strait of San Bernardino, the compound of Admiral Kurita comes under attack from aircraft from the aircraft carriers Wasp and Copens. The first attack on the Noshiro damages the steering. During the second attack, the cruiser receives a torpedo in the stern and completely loses control and loses speed. Further, the third attack turns into simply finishing off a stationary target. The torpedo bombers who arrived from the aircraft carrier Hornet hit the stationary Noshiro five times with torpedoes.The crew does not give up and simply works wonders, fighting for survivability, despite the fact that the engine and boiler rooms are flooded with water.
Two hours later, during the fourth attack, Noshiro receives another torpedo. An hour later, the cruiser sinks to the bottom, taking with it 328 crew members.
It entered service on December 29, 1943, but the process of re-equipping, equipping and training the crew dragged on indecently for a long time. The Yahagi entered the First Mobile Fleet only in May 1944.
Baptism of fire took place in the Battle of the Mariana Islands. "Yahagi" took a direct part in the battle in the form of a target, like other ships on both sides of the front. The cruiser was not damaged and took part in the rescue of the crew of the Shokaku aircraft carrier.
September 29, 1944 "Yahagi" is part of the Second Night Battle Group of Vice Admiral Suzuki of the First Subversive Strike Force of Vice Admiral Kurita. Convoys convoys between Singapore and Fr. Luzon.
On October 24, "Yahagi" was in the battle near the island of Sibuyan. At first, it was perforated with bombs by American aviation very qualitatively, causing numerous floods and leaks. The crew coped with the problems, but the speed dropped to 20 knots.
Even in this state, the next day, "Yahagi" drowns the American destroyer "Johnston" with artillery fire. In response, he receives a 127-mm projectile in the bridge and a 250-kg bomb next to the starboard torpedo tube.
Repair was required and the cruiser left for Kura for repairs and upgrades.
Further, "Yahagi" was assigned to the cover detachment of the battleship "Yamato". On April 5, she took part in joint firing with the battleship according to the radar data, and on April 6, "Yahagi" goes on her last cruise.
"Yahagi" went to sea on April 6, 1945 to participate in Operation Ten-Go. The last major operation designed by the Japanese Naval Headquarters. A detachment of ships led by the battleship Yamato was supposed to break through to Okinawa, attack the American amphibious fleet, inflict maximum damage on it, and threw itself into shallow water to turn the ships into stationary batteries.
The detachment was tiny: battleship Yamato, light cruiser Yahagi, 8 destroyers. The entire power of the American fleet aviation was thrown against the detachment. The result is known: "Yamato", disfigured by torpedoes and bombs, went to the bottom.
Operation Ten-Go ended there.
The Yahagi, hit by 4 torpedoes and 12 bombs, sank 15 minutes after the first bomb hit.
The cruiser sank before the Yamato, at 14.05. Killed 445 crew members "Yahagi".
The cruiser entered service on November 30, 1944 with standard armament, and on December 7, 1944, she headed the 11th destroyer flotilla of the Combined Fleet.
Based in Singapore, where in early 1945 he transported more than 700 soldiers evacuated from Penang. Sakawa did not go to sea for a long time due to poor crew training.
On March 26, 1945, the cruiser escorted the convoy to Kam Ran, and on 8.04 goes to Maizuru, where the cruiser was partially disarmed by dismantling the catapult and unloading the 152-mm guns. After that, "Sakawa" was included in the air defense of the Naval region of Maizuru.
On July 28, during a raid by American aircraft, the cruiser received minor damage due to close bomb explosions. Sakawa met the surrender of Japan in Maizuru.
After the surrender of Japan, Sakawa is engaged in the transportation of repatriates from Singapore to Nagasaki. This ship was occupied until June 1946, after which the Sakawa was transferred to the American Navy.
On February 25, 1946, Sakawa is part of a squadron of ships that planned to use it as targets in Bikini Atoll.
In March 1946, the ship was transferred from Yokoski to Eniwetok by an American crew of 165 sailors and officers, together with the battleship Nagato. After ten days of passage, being 560 km from Enewetok Atoll, the battleship failed, the steam boiler began to take water and a list appeared on the starboard side. The Sakawa took the battleship in tow and they reached Enewetok on April 1, 1946.
It is noteworthy that the crew of the cruiser raised a real riot.American sailors, not accustomed to the Spartan conditions on Japanese ships, and even there were 165 of them instead of 325 according to the regulations, rebelled and ruined a large amount of equipment on the ship.
Sakawa and Nagato became the first atomic suicide ships. On July 1, 1946, the Nagato and Sakawa, together with the American battleships Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arkansas and New York, experienced the power of atomic weapons.
The Able bomb exploded 450 meters above the cruiser's stern. The explosion caused numerous fires, the blast wave destroyed the superstructure and broke the stern. The cruiser burned for more than a day. They wanted to tow the ship in shallow water for study, but after the start of towing, the Sakawa began to sink and almost dragged the tug along with it.
As a result, on July 2, 1946, the former cruiser Sakawa finally disappeared under water.
What can be said as a result? The Agano-class cruisers turned out to be very fast, well-armed and, most importantly, strong ships. The fact that their use was somehow frankly unsuccessful, with the exception, perhaps, of the "Yahagi", which sank the destroyer, otherwise it was somehow quite depressing.
Most likely, the ships have nothing to do with it. Towards the end of the war, the training of the crews of Japanese ships steadily declined, since the imperial fleet simply did not have time to train replacements for those leaving. Building a ship is only half the battle, a well-trained crew is much more difficult.
But in fact, the Agano-class cruisers were the final development of the family of Japanese light cruisers and, according to their data, could have left behind many classmates from France, Italy, Germany and the United States.