Kirishima (1915)

Kirishima at Sasebo in December, 1915, a few months after her commissioning. Note the relatively small superstructure and three funnels, features that would quickly disappear from the ship. Sasebo Naval Arsenal photo, now in the collection of the Kure Maritime Museum.

Ship Class
Laid Down

Third of the Kongō-class battlecruisers, Kirishima commissioned in April, 1915. During World War I, Kirishima made a few patrols off the coasts of China and Korea, but saw no action. In 1923, she provided relief in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake, but spent the next few years in low activity. Like the rest of the Kongo-class, Kirishima was extensively rebuilt in the interwar years. From 1927-30, she received new boilers, now burning oil instead of coal, increased armor, and anti-torpedo bulges. From 1934-36, she was further modernized, with a completely new power plant, and general improvements to her armament. Reclassified as a fast battleship, spent the next few years off the coast of China, supporting the army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Kirishima served much the same role as her sister Hiei in World War II, escorting carriers from the attack on Pearl harbor through the Battle of Midway. She was committed to the Solomons Campaign around Guadalcanal in August, joining with the carriers again during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and operating with the vanguard during the Battle of Santa Cruz. She was with Hiei on the first night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, but remained undamaged. She returned two nights later (14-15 November) to attempt another attack on the airfield. However, she was engaged by the new American battleships Washington and South Dakota. Kirishima badly mauled South Dakota, but was fatally damaged by Washington. She capsized and sank at about 03:25 on the morning of the 15th.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Official US Navy records state that Kirishima was scuttled, but other research states that she is more likely to have been sunk outright by damage from heavy gunfire.

Bonus Fact: In 1992, Robert Ballard (of Titanic fame), found the wreck of either Hiei of Kirishima in Ironbottom Sound. She is believed to be Kirishima, based on the position.