Like the lotus flower from the farewell poem of a Japanese naval pilot who became a kamikaze, the last three Japanese light cruisers of the 5500-ton Sendai series have gone down in history.
On these ships, the construction of cruisers with a displacement of 5,500 tons has ended. The Japanese naval command got carried away with the construction of heavy cruisers, so the Sendai class became the last light cruisers built before the outbreak of World War II.
Since the Sendai project was based on the same type of Tenryu, the cruiser did not differ much from its predecessors internally. The location of the boilers was changed, four pipes appeared, each of which was connected to its own boiler room. The turbines could be serviced by any group of boilers, which increased the combat survivability of the power plant.
The hull in the bow was reinforced for operation in arctic waters. The armored belt served as both armor protection and an anti-torpedo bulkhead. The bow superstructure was made of light alloys.
The ships differed somewhat in the shape of the stem. "Sendai" and "Yuntsu" had a sharp nose, and the later "Naka" had a stem, more like the noses of heavy cruisers. But this is a separate story, which I will tell you below.
The armor belt on the Sendai-class cruisers was 76.8 m long, 4.9 m high and 64 mm thick. Below the waterline, the belt was 25 mm. The ammunition cellars were protected by 32 mm of armor. The main turrets were 20 mm thick, and the conning tower was 51 mm thick. The upper armored deck is 28.6 mm, in the area of the ammunition cellars 44.6 mm.
In general, the old 102-mm guns of the American destroyers were enough to protect against fire, the shells of the 127-mm guns easily pierced the armor.
The cruisers were equipped with four TZA type "Gijitsu Honby" located in four engine rooms. The steam for the turbines was generated by twelve mixed heating boilers consisting of: 6 large Kanzei Honby oil feed boilers, 4 Kanzei Honby medium oil boilers and 2 Kanzei Honby small mixed feed boilers.
The total power of the power plant was 90,000 hp, which allowed the cruisers to reach speeds of 36 knots. The fuel stock was 1200 tons of oil and 300 tons of coal. The cruising range is 7800 miles at 10 knots and 1300 miles at 33 knots.
Crew and habitability
The total number of the crew is 450 people according to the project, in fact, after the commissioning of 440 people, since 1943 - 510 people. The living conditions were like on the cruisers "Nagara".
The armament of the main caliber remained unchanged - seven 140-mm Type 3 guns, located in single-gun turrets. Everything is like the previous type "Nagara". The stock of shells per gun was: 120 shots for guns located in the center plane of the ship, 105 shots for onboard guns.
Auxiliary / anti-aircraft artillery
Anti-aircraft artillery initially consisted of two 80mm Type 3 guns and two 6, 5mm Type 3 machine guns.
Mine torpedo armament
Four twin-tube 610-mm torpedo tubes, two per side and ammunition load of 16 torpedoes. In addition, each cruiser carried 80 mines of barrage.
According to the project, the cruiser carried a seaplane hangar at the stern and a take-off platform above the gun turrets, but in reality aircraft on cruisers appeared only in 1932, when normal catapults were installed as part of the modernization.
During the service, the ships were repeatedly modernized, but the most significant change in armament occurred in 1943.
On all three ships, one main battery turret was dismantled and a turret with two 127-mm universal guns was installed instead. The final version of the weapon looked like this:
- 6 x 140 mm guns;
- 2 x 127 mm guns;
- 10 x 25 mm anti-aircraft guns;
- 4 x 13, 2 mm machine guns.
In addition, the configuration of the mine and torpedo armament was changed.
- 2 x 2 torpedo tubes 610 mm (stock of 8 torpedoes);
- 2 bomb throwers (36 depth charges);
- 30 min of the barrage.
- 2 x 4 TA 610 mm (stock 16 torpedoes);
- 2 bomb releasers (36 depth charges).
Installed radar detection of air targets Type 21 Mod.2.
- 2 x 2 torpedo tubes 610 mm (stock of 8 torpedoes);
- 2 bomb releasers (36 depth charges).
Installed radar detection of air targets Type 21 Mod.2.
By the end of their service, the cruisers had up to 44 (on the Sendai) barrels of 25-mm anti-aircraft guns in various designs (from 1 to 3 barrels in the installation).
An interesting shot of the Sendai cruiser. You can see 25-mm anti-aircraft guns and another interesting nuance: the ends of the tubes of the torpedo tubes are painted white. This is to prevent the torpedo heads from overheating.
After entering service in 1923, the cruiser was engaged in standard crew training, went on various campaigns, in September 1935 it was badly damaged by a typhoon and lost a seaplane.
Combat service began in 1937 with support operations for the army occupying Hong Kong.
On the eve of Japan's entry into World War II on November 20, 1941, the cruiser arrives in Samakh on about. Hainan, and on December 7-8 supported the landing and assault on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. The cruiser fired artillery, and his plane adjusted the fire of the ship and attached destroyers.
Further "Sendai" was included in the group of ships that were supposed to fight the British "Connection Z", but the aircraft managed on their own.
On December 18, 1941, the Sendaya plane damaged the Dutch submarine O-20 with a bomb, the submarine could not submerge, and then the crew of the plane directed the escort destroyers Ayanami and Yugiri to the boat by radio.
In January 1942, the cruiser was on patrol in the Singapore area in order to intercept British ships. The Sendai further supported the invasion of Endau and the assault on Mersing and Mutok.
In a short night battle on January 27, the cruiser Sendai and the destroyers Asagiri and Fubuki sank the British destroyer Tenet with artillery fire.
Then there were operations to capture the islands of Palembang, Sabang, Penang and the Andaman Islands. The Sendai took part in the Battle of Midway, but did not excel in anything special.
The next operations were the landing of troops on Shortland and Guadalcanal, the shelling of the Henderson Field airfield.
On the night of November 15, the cruiser took part in the third battle at Gualadcanal and with her fire incapacitates the American destroyers Preston and Valke, which eventually sank. After the battle, the cruiser provided assistance to the damaged battle cruiser Kirishima.
Throughout 1943, the Sendai escorted convoys between the islands of New Britain, New Guinea and New Ireland and the Solomon Islands.
On November 1, 1943, the cruiser heads the strike force of Rear Admiral Omori to counter the Americans who landed on the island. Bougainville. On November 2, the formation engages in battle with a detachment of American ships covering the landing. At the beginning of the battle, Sendai successfully fired a torpedo salvo, hitting the destroyer Foot and tearing off its stern.
On this, luck turned away from the Sendai. The American light cruisers Cleveland, Columbia, Montpellier and Denver, using more modern radars, successfully focused their fire on the cruiser and literally stuffed it with their 152-mm shells. More than 30 shells hit the Japanese cruiser in an hour of battle. "Sendai" lost control, fires began on the ship, which eventually caused the detonation of ammunition.The cruiser sank very quickly.
The next day, Japanese submarines RO-104 and RO-105 picked up 38 people from the water.
The cruiser entered service in the Imperial Navy in 1925. And in 1927 he "distinguished himself" on night maneuvers near the Jizosaki lighthouse, ramming and sinking the destroyer "Varabi".
It was after this incident, which cost the life of the cruiser captain (captain Keiji Mizushiro passed away after committing seppuku), that the cruiser received a different nose, widening instead of a pointed one.
In 1928, "Yuntsu" was sent to cover the landing of Japanese troops in Shandong province during the Jinan incident. And with the outbreak of the next Sino-Japanese conflict in 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War, "Yuntsu" constantly covered the landing of the Japanese army in China.
With the outbreak of World War II, the cruiser was based in Palau and was involved in operations to capture Mindanao, Davao, Legazpi and Holo. After the capture of the Philippines, "Yuntsu" was transferred to the Dutch sector to counter the ships of the Dutch fleet.
In early 1942, Yuntsu accompanied invasion transports to Sasebo, Mendo, Ambon, Timor and Java. Here the account of the air victories of the cruiser was opened: the ejection "Alpha" (Kawanishi E7K2) shot down the light bomber "Hudson". True, the "Alpha" did not return to the ship, it was also shot down.
On February 27, 1942, the cruiser took part in the battle in the Java Sea, which ended in the defeat of the allied formation of ships. "Yunets" was credited with a decisive participation in the sinking of the British destroyer "Elektra".
In May 1942, the cruiser took part in the Battle of Midway, her participation was reduced to repelling the attacks of American B-17s.
In August 1942, the battles near the Solomon Islands became another test. Everything there was sad, "Yuntsu" received a very unpleasant hit of a 227-kg bomb in the area of the cellars, a fire started, and the artillery cellars had to be flooded. The cruiser went to be repaired.
After repairs, already in 1943, "Yuntu" took part in the evacuation of the remnants of the Guadalcanal garrison. Then there were transport operations between Truk, Roy and Kwajalein.
On July 13, 1943, Yuntsu took part in the Battle of Kolombangara. The cruiser, as part of a group of ships (one light cruiser and five destroyers), accompanied reinforcement transports for the garrisons of Kolombangar and at night stumbled upon a detachment of three light allied cruisers (two American and one New Zealand) and ten American destroyers.
The commander of the Japanese detachment, Admiral Isaki, gave the order for a night attack by the enemy ships. "Yuntsu" was supposed to illuminate enemy ships with a searchlight to make it easier for their ships to aim. This was done, but it turned out to be a very bad idea: the entire allied squad was shot at the Yunets.
"Yuntsu" received more than a dozen hits by 152-mm shells (the author of the unsuccessful decision, Admiral Isaki was killed) and, to top it off, a torpedo came from the American destroyers. One of the destroyers removed the crew from the Yuntsu, after which the cruiser sank.
But the Japanese did not give up. After reloading the torpedo tubes, the destroyers fired another salvo. As a result, the American destroyer Gwynne sank after being hit by a torpedo, and all three cruisers from the allied squad received their torpedoes. The Honolulu and St. Louis were out of action for several months, and the New Zealand Linder until the end of the war. Two came to Honolulu, but one, fortunately for the Americans, did not explode.
But the main thing: transports with troops and equipment safely reached Kolombangar and delivered reinforcements. So, in principle, the operation ended successfully.
21 people from the crew of the cruiser "Yuntsu" were rescued.
When Japanese torpedo bombers staged hell at Pearl Harbor, the Naka was on its way to the Philippines with the 4th destroyer flotilla and invasion transports. There, the cruiser was tested by American aviation. But if the bombs from the B-17 did not cause much damage, then the R-40 with their large-caliber machine guns did a good job of perforating the wheelhouse, confirming that the armor on Japanese light cruisers is very light.
In January 1942, the Naka escorted transports with the invasion forces in the Dutch East Indies.Participant in the landings in Balikpapan, Makassar, Sulawesi, East Java.
An unpleasant incident occurred in the operation at Balikpapan: a submarine of the Dutch fleet K-18 fired four torpedoes at the cruiser, but missed. While the Naka and the destroyers were driving the submarine, four American destroyers approached the convoy and sank a patrol boat and three troop transports.
Then, together with "Yuntsu", "Naka" took part in the battle in the Java Sea. The cruiser fired 8 torpedoes, another 56 were launched by the destroyers of his detachment, but all the torpedoes missed their targets. Then guns were used, here the Japanese were more fortunate.
On March 14, 1942, the Naka became the flagship of the Christmas Island invasion force. The invasion force consisted of three light cruisers (Naka, Nagara, and Natori) and eight destroyers. During the battles accompanying the landing of Japanese troops on the islands, the Naka was attacked by the American submarine Seawulf. However, all 4 torpedoes passed by. The next day, April 1, 1942, the Americans repeated the attack with two torpedoes, and this time one hit the boiler room area.
The explosion made a hole 6 x 6 meters, and only the insane work of the crew saved the ship from death. Not only did the Naka stay afloat, the Natori also carried it to Singapore, where the Naka was patched up and then sent to Japan for major repairs. The renovation took almost a year.
On April 5, the Naka returned to the Navy and continued her service, escorting convoys to the Marshall Islands and Nauru Island.
In October-November 1943, the cruiser got into unpleasant situations several times. On October 23, the American submarine Shad fired 10 torpedoes at the cruiser and her charges, but did not hit a single one. Arriving from convoys in Kavieng, on November 3, the cruiser came under attack from a crowd of land B-24s. Carried away, the cruiser escaped with very minor damage. Two days later, on November 5, "Naka" arrived in Rabaul, where the Americans immediately flew in and destroyed half the city. And again a bomb hit, and again very minor damage.
Nak had good patrons in heaven …
The luck ended in February 1944. The Naka left Truk harbor to assist the torpedoed cruiser Agano. Shortly after the cruiser left the port, about two hundred American bombers flew in. The Americans flew three times with the entire 58th Air Force and eventually sank 31 transport ships, 2 cruisers, 4 destroyers and 4 auxiliary ships, about 200 aircraft were destroyed on the ground and about 100 were damaged. The Japanese could not oppose anything to this nightmare.
The Americans captured the Naka 45 miles west of Truk. The cruiser repulsed two non-flights, but on the third, when the ammunition for anti-aircraft guns had already begun to run out, the cruiser received a bomb in the bridge, and then a torpedo in the side. The ship capsized and sank. 240 crew members were killed, 210 were saved by other ships.
When you think about it well as a bottom line, all of these Tenryu sequels have proven to be very useful ships. Yes, they were frankly weak in terms of armament compared to the same American Clevelands (7 x 140 mm versus 12 x 152 mm), but they had other advantages: speed, cruising range, torpedo armament. They were really useful ships. Yes, the main victims of these cruisers were destroyers, but as leaders of destroyer flotillas, these cruisers proved to be more than worthy.