Shiny the aircraft carrier from clay feet

(To Mario Veronesi)

The Japanese Imperial Navy began the Pacific War with 10 aircraft carrier, at the time the largest and most modern fleet of its kind in the world. Although some Japanese aircraft carriers, according to the limitations imposed on the Navy by the Washington and London Naval Conferences, were small. At the beginning of the hostilities the United States possessed 6 aircraft carriers, of which only 3 operated in the Pacific, while the United Kingdom owned 3, of which only 1 operating in the Indian Ocean. The Japanese aircraft carriers, like the Shokaku and Zuikaku, exceeded every other aircraft carrier in the world in performance and capability until the US development of the class during the war Essex.

Following the Battle of the Midway, in which four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk, the Imperial Navy suddenly found itself short of this type of ship and began a series of ambitious projects to convert military and commercial vessels into escort carriers. The biggest work of transformation in the Japanese aircraft carrier program was that of the giant Shinano, originally the third supercorazzata, after the Yamato and Musashi.

The whole story of the Shinano it is reduced to a monstrous error and to an equally wasted effort. The design of this unit underwent a substantial change, given that originally it was to be an air support vessel without a set of own equipment, intended only to transport fuel and ammunition for the aircraft of other units, as well as workshops to repair them. Later the idea was changed and the unit had a flight bridge with an aircraft hangar, but their number was very limited. In fact, it was 47, that is, how many could carry light aircraft carriers that displaced 15.000 tons. Because of the rhythm of arrests and resumed work, the hull of the Shinano it had been completed up to the main deck. Statistically it was the largest aircraft carrier to be built in the years of the Second World War, surpassed only in the 1955 by the Class Forrestal American that displaced 75.900 tons, but able to carry well 100 airplanes. Externally it was similar to the Taiho, having an island on the right side, with inside a chimney tilted 26 ° outwards. However, it was a good 9 meters longer and this caused a sharp reduction in speed to 27 nodes, even though it had the same engine Taiho which instead developed well 33 nodes. The armored armor had the thickness of 203 mm, the flight deck was protected by plates of the thickness of 101 mm, the ammunition deposits had a walled protection of 178 mm, finally the boilers and the propulsion machines were those of the class Yamato.

At the end of the 1944 the imperial navy lacked the fuel and mostly aviators were missing, these factors made of the Shinano a colossus of the sea completely useless and its end has something unreal and pathetic.

The November 28 of the same year sailed to the waters considered more secure than Kure, in the Inner Sea. The armament was completed here and the ship would receive the expected number of fighter jets and bombers. It was an almost perfect night for the journey that the ship began, escorted by destroyers Hamakaze (Photo) Yukikaze e Isokaze. The commander had requested a postponement of the departure date, motivating his request to the high command of the Imperial Navy. In fact, due to the urgency with which the set-up work had been completed, some boilers of the ship were incomplete: only eight out of twelve were currently in operation and this reduced the speed from 27 to 20 knots. Finally, most of the 1.147 watertight compartments of the ship had not been tried and the crew had received only minimal training. But nevertheless the commander's request was rejected and - as if that were not enough - he was informed that there would be no air cover for his ship.

She was at sea for less than 24 hours, she had not even left the coast, when she was surprised by the American submarine Archerfish (photo below) and centered by four torpedoes. The coded orders of the American submarine were said to cross off the Tokyo Bay, southeast of the island of Honshu. The attempt to keep the most absolute secret on the Shinano he was therefore successful. The US Navy recognition manual did not even mention it, on the contrary the existence of its twin units was known. Taken contact with the Japanese units, theArcherfish he set off on a course of approach, arrived in an optimal position and launched his torpedoes.

At the 3.17 the first torpedo ripped the hull of the Shinano and in the next 30 seconds another three torpedoes pierced the big ship. The explosions had not caused major damage, but - because of the speed that the Shinano maintained - the sea water broke through the hull, crossing it from one compartment to the other, causing more devastation by its pressure. Towards the 5, when the inclination touched the 18 degrees, the evaporation of fresh water stopped working and at 7.05 the machines stopped due to lack of steam. The three escort fighters arranged themselves along the sides of the ship and began to collect the wounded and the men at sea. At the 10.38 the commander gave permission to leave the ship, greeted his officers and informed them that he would remain on board.

The hull of the Shinano reached the vertical position, with the bow facing the sky, remained suspended for a moment, while the sea water flooded the remaining space, then emitted a kind of plaintive roar before sinking into the Pacific. Down with the aircraft carrier went the commander, the buried alive, the dying and - with the backwash - hundreds of men clinging desperately to the hull and bridges. At 14, when the Shimano lying on the bottom of the Pacific for more than three hours, the searches of the survivors ceased and the destroyer Hamakaze a message was sent to the command of the Imperial Navy: "The portrait of the Emperor is safe on board the Hamakaze, survivors of the Shinano 1.080 men, all the secret documents sunk with the ship ". La Shinano, the world's largest aircraft carrier, had sunk during its maiden voyage. When Japan signed the surrender, theArcherfish was one of the submarine 12s that entered the bay of Tokyo with the fleet, at the ceremony held on the battleship Missouri. For the sinking of the Shinano the commander, frigate captain Enright, was awarded the Navy Cross.

La Shinano, born as a hybrid from an armored hull, would have had to increase the small number of heavy aircraft carriers that Japan owned in the 1944 (Taiho, Shokaku e Zuikaku). It was characterized by the impressive armor and at the same time due to the low number of aircraft housed. In theory it should have been the most armored and protected aircraft carrier of the time, even if the low number of aircraft available made it offensive.

Shinano was a province of Japan, in what is today the Nagano Prefecture. The ancient capital was located near the modern city of Matsumoto, which became an important city in the province. Because of its large size, Shinanoduring the Sengoku period, it was often divided into several fiefs and several castle towns developed in it. The aircraft carrier Shinano took its name from this province; however, it will go down in history for its enormous size and for the gigantic dimensions of its flight deck.

Data Sheet:

Built in Yokosuka's Arsenal Shipyard

Set the 4 May of the 1940

8 October 1944 range

Entry into service on 19 November 1944

Displacement: 62.000 tons

Length 290 m

Width: 40 m

Immersion: 10,29 m

Speed: 27 nodes

Protection: up to the floating 400 mm

Engine apparatus: 4 turbine units, 12 boilers, 4 propellers 150.000 Horsepower.

Fuel: 8904 tons

Autonomy: 10.000 miles to 18 nodes

Airplanes: 42 aircraft ready; 5 reserve aircraft

Armament: sixteen cannons from 147 mm

145 anti-aircraft machine guns from 25 mm

twelve rocket launchers at 28 rods from 127 mm

Crew: 2400 men