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Imperial Japanese Battlecruiser/Fast Battleship Kirishima

Imperial Japanese Battlecruiser/Fast Battleship Kirishima

World War 2 / Battleships
Kirishima moored at Sasebo in December 1915

A very underrated battlecruiser/fast battleship which should be known for more than just her sinking.

Named for a volcanic mountain range in Japan, was ordered in 1911. At 728 feet long and displacing over 36,000 long tons she was an immense ship when she finally became commissioned in April of 1915.

Kirishima being launched, 1 December 1913

Kirishima patrolled on occasion off the Chinese coast during World War I, and helped with rescue efforts following the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake.

Kirishima in 1932, following her first reconstruction

From 1934, a second reconstruction completely rebuilt her superstructure, upgraded her engine plant, and equipped her with launch catapults for floatplanes. As a result, now fast enough to accompany Japan’s growing carrier fleet, she was reclassified as a fast battleship. 

Kirishima and the fast carrier Akagi off Sukumo, April 1939

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Kirishima acted primarily as a support vessel and troop transport, moving army troops to mainland China. 

On the eve of World War II, she sailed as part of Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s Kido Butai as an escort for the six carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. 

Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Kirishima at Tsukumowan, Japan.

As part of the Third Battleship Division, Kirishima participated in many of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s early actions in 1942, providing support for the invasion of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and in the Indian Ocean raid of April 1942. 

During the Battle of Midway, she provided escort to Nagumo’s four carriers, before redeploying to the Solomon Islands during the Battle of Guadalcanal. She escorted Japanese carrier fleets during the battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands, before sailing as part of a bombardment force under Admiral Nobutake Kondō during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. 

Takao (center) and the Kirishima steaming for Guadalcanal, 14 November 1942

However, on the evening of 13 November 1942, Kirishima engaged American cruisers and destroyers alongside her sister ship Hiei. On the night of 14/15 November, in one of only two battleship duels of the Pacific War, Kirishima attacked and damaged the American battleship USS South Dakota disabling her before being fatally crippled in turn by the battleship USS Washington and eventually scuttled by Admiral Nobutake Kondō after seeing that she was unable to be saved by opening the Kingston valves.

For more on the night of 14/15 November see our piece: Battleship Vs Battleship

Written by Harry Gillespie

Imperial Japanese Battlecruiser/Fast Battleship Kirishima

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Imperial Japanese Battlecruiser/Fast Battleship Kirishima

World War 2 / Battleships