Hiei (1912)

Hiei on maneuvers in Tokyo Bay, 12 July, 1942. Note the built up pagoda mast, a prototype design for the Yamato-class battleships. Imperial Japanese Navy photo, now in the collections of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Ship Class
Laid Down

The second Kongō-class battlecruiser, and the first of the four to be built in Japan, Hiei was commissioned 4 August, 1914. Hiei was used for patrol duty off China and Korea during World War I, and was placed in reserve in 1920. In 1923, she supported relief operations after the Great Kanto Earthquake, then entered a refit in December. In 1929, Hiei was demilitarized and converted into a training ship, to avoid having to scrap her in compliance with the Washington Naval Treaty. She served in this role from 1932 until she was reactivated in 1937. Hiei was rebuilt into a fast battleship, along the lines of the rest of her class, and rejoined the fleet in January, 1940. Hiei was one of the escorts of the Pearl Harbor Strike Force, and continued escorting carriers during the early war, including the Indian Ocean raid in April. She was part of the Midway Invasion Force in May-June, 1942, and was committed to the Solomons campaign in August, escorting the carriers during the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. In November, 1942, she was tasked with bombarding the American airfield on Guadalcanal. In company with her sister Kirishima, Hiei moved to attack the airfield on the night of 12 November. The Japanese force was ambushed by an American cruiser squadron, and, after a fierce engagement at point-blank range, Hiei was disabled. She was subjected to air attacks the next day, and, after attempts to take her under tow failed, was scuttled as dusk approached.