Akagi (1925)

Akagi underway in the Summer of 1941. Note the port-side island superstructure, unusual in carrier designs. Imperial Japanese Navy photo, in the collections of the U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation.

Laid Down

Laid down 6 December, 1920, as the second of the planned Amagi-class battlecruisers, Akagi quickly fell afoul of the Washington Naval Treaty, and was to be scrapped. However, she and her sister Amagi were saved by the allowance of two ships to be converted to aircraft carriers. Amagi was wrecked in 1923, but work on Akagi was completed in 1927. As completed, she had three flight decks forward, in a staggered configuration, to allow aircraft to be rapidly launched from her two hangar decks. As aircraft became heavier through the 1930s, these became more impractical, and were rebuilt into a single deck in her 1935 modernization. Also added at the time was an Island superstructure on the port side of the deck, which she had lacked until then. After her 1935 refit, Akagi became more involved in fleet maneuvers, training with the other carriers to conduct massed air strikes at long range. Part of the 1st Carrier Division of the First Air Fleet, or Kido Butai, Akagi and the other carriers began combat operations off China in support of the Second Sino-Japanese War, where their doctrine was fine-tuned. Akagi served as flagship of Admiral Nagumo Chūichi during the opening of World War II in the Pacific, leading the attack on Pearl Harbor, only losing a single fighter in the attack. She remained Nagumo's flagship for the next six months, and moved to the southwest Pacific, supporting the invasions of Rabaul and New Ireland. In February, she was one of three carriers that raided Darwin, Australia, and provided limited support for the invasion of the Dutch East Indies. In April, Akagi led the raid into the Indian Ocean, which crippled the Royal Navy's ability to contribute to the Pacific War until 1943. Upon her return, Akagi was assigned to the invasion of Midway Island, in an attempt to draw out and finish off the remaining American carriers. The first strike against Midway on 4 June went well, and Akagi easily weathered the first American air strikes, but the carrier-based dive bombers found their mark. Akagi was hit by a single bomb from a SBD Dauntlass from the carrier Enterprise, detonating armed and fueled aircraft on the flight and hangar decks. Akagi burned uncontrollably, and was abandoned that night. She was scuttled the next day by torpedoes from four destroyers. The wreck was located in October, 2019, in surprisingly good condition, resting upright on the seafloor.

Bonus Photos

Akagi as completed. This image gives a good view of the triple flight deck forward. Imperial Japanese Navy photo.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Future commander of the Combined Fleet Yamamoto Isoroku was the captain of Akagi from December, 1928, to November, 1929. When he ordered her scuttled at Midway, he reportedly told his staff "I was once the captain of Akagi, and it is with heartfelt regret that I must now order that she be sunk."