JAPANESE CARRIER IDENTIFICATION – FROM 1944 RECOGNITION JOURNAL

JAPANESE CV’S COME OUT TO FIGHT

Through October 1942 the Japanese had proved themselves good carrier men. The handled their ships skillfully and with great imagination. Co-ordination between their recco and attack aircraft was amazingly well developed.

But for the last two years the Japanese carrier fleet has been playing it cozy. Until the recent battle off Saipan no Japanese carrier had been seen in fleet action, not even in defensive operations. Having lost seven carriers and had four badly damaged, the Japanese threw their entire reliance on their land-based aircraft, used their carriers merely as supply ships to ferry in planes to replace those blasted by U.S. forces.



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In this foreshortened view, Shokaku closely resembles the U.S. CVE’s and CVL’s

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Zuiho Class (top) and Chitose Class carriers (bottom) are evidently being used as plane ferries. Note the cluttered decks. The Chitoses, originally seaplane tenders, were converted to CVL’s in 1943

Though hard hit, the ships remaining to the Japanese, plus their new construction, form a threatening fleet in being. The Shokakus have repeatedly proved themselves to be fast, sturdy and efficient craft. Hayataka Class ships are still good fleet weapons.

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Under attack in the Coral Sea, Shokaku looks long and low, note the narrow flight deck

Because of the nature of Japanese carrier construction, their ships do not break down to identical ships in large classes. A proportion of them are conversions of warship and merchant hulls. Their keel-up construction has been limited to classes of two or three units each. Though both fleet and escort types are generally similar within each class, each ship has distinctive features. The pictures on these and the following two pages should, then, be regarded as typical rather than as specific for large numbers of ships.

Fortunately, however, Japanese ships have pronounced national characteristics. The Japanese like clean flight decks. Smoke pipes are always carried through the carriers’ sides, eliminating stacks above decks at the expense of space below. By usually placing the bridge below the forward edge of the deck they reduce or eliminate islands. The flight decks on most ships taper forward and are beveled aft. The signal platforms jut out from the after end of the flight deck, the sides of which are relatively less indented than those of American and British ships.

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Japanese Escort Carriers Ferry Planes to Island Bases, Keep Japan in Battle for the Pacific



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Japan’s oldest carrier is the Hosho, one of the first keep-up carriers ever built (1922). The most recent reports indicate that her age and small size have relegated her to supplementary service as a training carrier. She has three short stacks just forward of amidships and no island. Her uniquely shaped flight deck is smoothly rounded at the aft end and tapers to little more than hull width at the bow.

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Probably called Kaiyo by the Japanese, this ship is one of the newest Japanese CVE’s. Completed in 1943, it is a conversion of the liner Argentina Maru built just before the war for South American trade. Like Otaka class she has the new Japanese feature of control platforms built out from her fantail. Her flight deck might cause confusion with U.S. CVE’s, but note particularly the long taper at forward end.

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Akitsu Maru (center) was built originally as an escort carrier, but in operation it proved to be too small. It was then converted into a MLC (Landing Craft Carrier) and was used to transport these small craft, barges, and other bulky equipment. In distant overhead views, the Akitsu Maru bears a striking resemblance to a CV. The afterdeck has been cut away, however, and a boat crane mounted on the stern.

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CVE Otaka was converted from the passenger liner Kasuga Maru in 1941. The second ship in this class was completed a year later. It is a wartime conversion of the liner Yawata Maru, renamed the Unyo. Both liners displaced 16,600 tons in peacetime, so the Unyo may be about the same size as the Otaka, although it may differ in detail. The control platforms at the fantail are a distinctive Japanese feature.

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