Kaga (1921)

Kaga, date unknown. Photograph published in a US War Department identification manual, released December, 1941.

Laid Down

Laid down in 1920, Kaga was originally going to be the second Tosa-class dreadnought, in the Imperial Japanese Navy's updated 8-8 plan for naval construction. However, due to the Washington Naval Treaty, the two were cancelled, and scheduled to be disposed of. However, Kaga was spared by nature. When the battlecruiser Amagi was wrecked in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Kaga was converted to an aircraft carrier in her place. Commissioned in 1929, Kaga's conversion was very similar to that of the battlecruiser Akagi, with three flight decks forward. This, along with the two serving in the same division for most of their careers, has led some to mistakenly call them sister ships. Kaga was soon deployed to China, where she supported the Japanese Army during the 1932 Shanghai Incident. During this time, her fighters scored the IJN's first air-to-air victory. Kaga had several teething issues, and was taken in for reconstruction in 1934. Her flightdecks were replaced with a single, longer deck, her hull was lengthened, and a completely new powerplant was installed, so that Kaga could match Akagi's speed. Kaga rejoined the fleet in 1935, and was back in action off China in mid-1937. Her fighters performed well, but her bombers suffered heavy losses. After her aircraft attacked the USS Panay in December, 1937, Kaga was again taken in hand, with upgrades to her aviation facilities and arresting gear. After a full overhaul, Kaga rejoined the fleet in November, 1940, and joined Akagi in the First Carrier Division. Kaga participated in the strikes against Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, and moved into the southwest Pacific to support the invasion of Rabaul in January. She hit a reef in early February, but still managed to strike Darwin, Australia, and the Dutch East Indies, before she returned home to repair her damage from the reef. Kaga missed out on the Indian Ocean Raid as a result, but was back in service in early May. She rejoined Akagi for the operation to lure out the remaining American carriers in June, which worked a little too well. After striking Midway Island at dawn on 4 June, Kaga was subject to several air attacks, but easily avoided damage until surprised by dive-bombers from the USS Enterprise. Kaga was hit by at least four bombs, which set off aviation fuel and munitions. Worse, they disabled all of Kaga's fire fighting equipment, making it impossible to save the ship. Her survivors were taken off in the afternoon, and Kaga was scuttled that evening.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: During the day of 4 June, 1942, Kaga was hit by a dud torpedo from the submarine USS Nautilus. When some of her crew jumped over the side, they found the back half of the torpedo still afloat, and used it as a makeshift raft.

Bonus Fact: During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kaga lost fifteen aircraft; half the total IJN losses of twenty-nine.