Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō


Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō

The nihongo|"Ryūhō"|龍鳳, "Dragon phoenix" or "Chinese commander and " from Three Kingdoms was a Japanese naval vessel which started life as the submarine depot ship "Taigei", and was taken out of service in December 1941 for conversion into a light aircraft carrier. During conversion at Yokosuka, the "Ryūhō" gained the distinction of being the only major warship damaged in the Doolittle Raid on April 18 1942. She received one direct hit from a 500 lb (227 kg) bomb on the bow, plus several small incendiary bomb hits.

On November 30, conversion and repairs were complete and the "Ryūhō" joined the 3rd Combined Fleet under the command of Captain Soma Nobishiro. On her first mission on December 11, she was sent to the great naval base at Truk escorted by the destroyer "Tokitsukaze". Her normal aircraft complement consisted of 15 Mitsubishi A6M fighters and 16 Aichi D3A dive bombers, but for this mission, she was carrying 20 light bombers with their pilots and crews on a ferry mission.

Routine missions

At 9:10 AM on December 12, the "Ryūhō" was hit by a single torpedo on the starboard side from the submarine USS "Drum" (SS-228). She was forced to return to Yokosuka for more repairs. On March 19 1943 she began a series of uneventful aircraft ferry missions to occupied islands in the South Pacific. On June 11, the "Ryūhō" embarked the marooned survivors of the air group of the "Hiyō", which had been damaged by an American submarine. When the "Hiyō" completed repairs in August 1943, those aircraft and crews were returned to her.

In October, the "Ryūhō" was sent on another aircraft ferry mission to Singapore, returning to Kure on November 5, 1943. On November 25, she departed with the "Hiyō" and escorts on a long circular patrol and training mission, sailing to Manila, then to Singapore, then to Tarakan, then Palau, then Truk, then Saipan, and finally returning to Kure on January 2, 1944.

After two more uneventful patrol and training missions between Japan and the Marianas Islands, "Ryūhō" was sent to the Japanese anchorage at Tawi Tawi in May 1944 to join the Combined Fleet. From there, she sailed with the Combined Fleet to participate in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea. On June 19, she launched an air strike against Task Force 58, but scored no hits; nearly all of the "Ryūhō's" aircraft were shot down by the swarms of American F6F Hellcat fighters and the anti-aircraft guns of the American fleet. At 6:10 PM on June 20, as part of "Force B" (with "Hiyō," "Junyō", "Nagato", "Mogami" and eight destroyers), the "Ryūhō" was attacked by four TBF Avenger torpedo bombers from the USS "Enterprise", which were loaded with 500 lb (227 kg) bombs. She suffered only slight damage from near misses.

The "Ryūhō" engaged in several more patrol and training missions near Japan. On October 25, 1944, with the "Kaiyō", the "Ryūhō" set sail from Sasebo on another aircraft ferry mission to Keelung, Taiwan. They were escorted by the destroyers "Momi", "Ume" and "Momo". They returned to Kure on November 2. From November 7 to November 15, "Ryūhō" briefly flew the flag of the Commander of the Mobile Fleet, Admiral Ozawa.

The final mission

On December 31, 1944, "Ryūhō" sailed for Taiwan with a load of 58 "Ohka" kamikaze planes. Accompanying her were nine empty oil tankers bound for Singapore, and the destroyers "Hamakaze", "Isokaze", "Yukikaze", "Shigure" and "Hatakaze".

Upon reaching Taiwan and unloading her cargo, "Ryūhō" was among the targets of a major series of American carrier-based air raids all over the island. Twelve TBF Avengers attacked her but none scored a hit, and "Ryūhō's" gunners shot down one of them. "Ryūhō" departed for Japan on January 12 1945 escorted by "Isokaze"; when she arrived at Kure on January 18, "Ryūhō" also gained the distinction of being the last Japanese aircraft carrier to venture outside the home waters of Japan.

"Ryūhō" was attacked by Task Force 58 aircraft on March 19 near Kure, suffering hits by three 500 lb (227 kg) bombs and two 5.5-inch (140 mm) rockets. The damage was severe: the flight deck bulged upward between the two elevators, the No. 1 boiler was punctured by a bomb fragment, the stern settled six feet (2 m) into the water, and a raging fire broke out. Twenty crewmen were killed and 30 were wounded. Upon returning to Kure on April 1, "Ryūhō" was considered to be a total loss. She was struck from the Navy List on November 30, and scrapped in 1946.

Commanding Officers

As Submarine Tender

* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Tamazo Sugikara - 20 October 1933 - 23 March 1934
* Capt. Tamazo Sugikara - 23 March 1934 - 15 November 1934
* Capt. Sanjiro Takasu - 15 November 1934 - 16 November 1936
* Capt. Shinichi Moizumi - 16 November 1936 - 1 December 1936
* Capt. Chugo Minowa - 1 December 1936 - 15 November 1937
* Capt. Tokuji Mori - 15 November 1937 - 25 May 1938
* Capt. Ryuji Nakazato - 25 May 1938 - 15 December 1938
* Capt. Kaku Harada - 15 December 1938 - 15 November 1939
* Capt. Motoji Nakamura - 15 November 1939 - 10 April 1941

As CVL

* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Tamesaburo Okura - 10 April 1941 - 20 October 1941
* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Tatsuo Kiyama - 20 December 1941 - 23 April 1942
* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Shinshiro Soma - 23 April 1942 - 1 November 1942
* Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Yoshio Kamei - 1 November 1942 - 30 November 1942
* Capt. Yoshio Kamei - 30 November 1942 - 16 March 1944
* Capt. Yoshi Matsuura - 16 March 1944 - 20 January 1945
* Capt. Chojuro Takahashi - 20 January 1945 - 20 April 1945
* Capt. Kiyoharu Sasaki - 20 April 1945 - 15 August 1945

Armament notes

Light AA increased to 54 x 25 mm and 6 x 13.2 mm in 1943; to 61 x 25 mm, 21 x 13.2 mm and 6 28-barrel AA rocket launchers in 1944.

References

* Tully, Anthony P. " [http://www.combinedfleet.com/Ryuho.htm IJN Ryuho: Tabular Record of Movement] " (Retrieved January 19, 2007)
* " [http://homepage2.nifty.com/nishidah/e/stc0211.htm Ryuho aircraft carrier] " (Retrieved January 19, 2007)


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