How Did IJN Yamato Sink?
Weighing 72,800 tons and outfitted with nine 18.1-inch guns. The battleship Yamato was Japan’s only hope of destroying the Allied fleet off the coast of Okinawa.
Moreover, U.S. naval intelligence knew the details of the operation almost before senior Japanese navy commanders. And before the skippers of Yamato, the light cruiser Yahagi, and the eight destroyers that would escort Yamato on a one-way suicide mission as the “Surface Special Attack Force”—without air cover.
Those same skippers argued vociferously against the mission, believing it would be futile and wasteful. Or as Captain Tameichi Hara of Yahagi stated, “like throwing an egg against a rock.”
However, in the end, every one of those skippers executed their orders to the best of their ability.
How many planes did it take to sink Yamato? Nearly 400 US aircraft found her (above) and her escort ships without air cover.
Struck by 19 American aerial torpedoes. Yamato sunk, drowning 2,498 of its crew.
With the advance warning, U.S. commanders Admiral Raymond Spruance (Fifth Fleet). Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher (CTF 58), and others were ready. U.S. submarines picked up Yamato as she exited the Inland Sea and tracked her all night. U.S. scout planes from the TF 58 carriers, and Mariner flying boats operating from a tender at Kerama Retto (southwest of Okinawa). Knew where to find her and tracked her all morning.
At 1000 on 7 April, five fleet carriers and four light carriers of TF 58. Launched a first wave of 280 fighters, dive-bombers, and torpedo bombers.
Not long afterward, three fleet carriers and one light carrier launched 110 more aircraft.
Although 53 aircraft from the first wave didn’t find Yamato in the difficult cloud conditions, it didn’t matter.
The Japanese force put up a valiant fight. And Japanese skippers demonstrated their extraordinary skill at avoiding bombs and torpedoes through maneuver; but the great volume of anti-aircraft fire was also wildly inaccurate. Cumulative damage took its toll on Yamato. And, by the end, both she and Yahagi had become torpedo and bomb sumps.
For the loss of ten aircraft and 12 men, the aviators of TF 58 sank Yamato, Yahagi, and four destroyers (two sunk, two scuttled). And one of the surviving destroyers had to steam backwards to Japan without her bow. As a result of the operation, about 4,240 Japanese sailors, 3,055 from Yamato alone. Gave their lives for the emperor and to defend their homeland. Lastly, they knew their mission was doomed from the start. However, they did their duty anyway.
However, like their kamikaze brothers, they made a statement. That they would never quit, no matter the odds. In addition, they were prepared to fight to the death.