Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Akagi served the Japanese Empire through the assault on Pearl Harbor but sunk later in the Battle of Midway

The IJN Akagi was born from a battlecruiser class design consisting of the Akagi and the Amagi. These cruisers were under construction by the time of the end of the First World War and the Washington Naval Treaty signed enacted after that conflict limited naval production throughout the globe. As such, construction of these battlecruisers was stopped and considerations were made to dismantle them. The Imperial Japanese Navy, however, proceeded to transform the Akagi and Amagi battlecruisers into a full-fledged fleet carriers (the Amagi would later be destroyed in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923).

The Akagi was ordered in 1920 and laid down later that year. The vessel was launched five years later and fully commissioned in 1927.

  She featured two hangar decks with stacked flight decks. The thinking behind this design was to allow the fighters to be able to scramble directly from their hangars and land on the top-most flight deck when returning. On paper this seemed like a sound idea but when put into practice, the results were not as effective. As such, the Akagi was taken back in for some re-working from 1935 up to 1938. In this new effort, the additional flight decks were eliminated which allowed for more space to carry more aircraft (). A more contemporary island superstructure was also added to the design, though this was placed in the not-so-traditional port side of the vessel.

With the Akagi fully ready, she was put into action in the sudden attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 torpedo, dive bombers and fighter planes at the island chain. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid taking off the deck of the USS Hornet caused quite a stir in Japan, showing the Empire that it was not immune to the reach of the American military. The Akagi was sent in, unsuccessfully, to find and destroy the carrier. Shortly thereafter, the Akagi was called to take part in the invasion of the island of Java and several actions against British Royal Navy cruisers off India by 1942.

The Akagi's involvement in the Second World War came to an abrupt end at the Battle of Midway on June 4th, 1942. Facing off against the USS Intrepid, the Akagi was assaulted by American navy warplanes and struck once - thought critically - by dive bombers. The explosion ignited an inferno aboard her hangar decks (containing fuel and fully-laden aircraft ready for take-off). A second American bomb landed externally - though close enough - to jam her rudder and the Akagi became a helpless vessel burning through the night. By morning, with most of her crew evacuated to other ships, the Akagi was ordered sunk by her own destroyers and was eventually torpedoed. Some 260 personnel perished with her.



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