Zuikaku (1939)

Zuikaku in September, 1941. Photo in the collection of the US Naval Historical Center.

Nation
Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down
1938
Launched
1939
Commissioned
1941
AD/BC
AD
History

Zuikaku was a Shōkaku-class aircraft carrier, laid down 25 May, 1938. Commissioned 25 September, 1941, she had barely two months of training before departing to attack Pearl Harbor. Zuikaku's aircraft concentrated on Kaneohe and Hickam airfields, and the battleships Maryland and California. At the end of January, 1942, she launched strikes against Australian bases in the southwest Pacific, then headed into the Indian Ocean in April. During the raiding there, she sank the British ships Hermes, Dorsetshire, and Cornwall, with her sister Shōkaku. The pair was assigned to the invasion of Port Moresby, which resulted in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Zuikaku escaped damage, but her air group took heavy losses, meaning she missed the Battle of Midway. During the Guadalcanal campaign, Zuikaku was the only Japanese carrier to escape damage during the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. She covered the evacuation of Guadalcanal in February, 1943, but spent most of her time at Truk or Singapore, until June, 1944. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Zuikaku escaped with minor damage, though most of her air group didn't return. In October, she was committed to the Northern decoy force in the Philippines, luring Halsey's carriers away from Samar. Zuikaku was sunk on the 25th, after taking seven torpedo and nine bomb hits. She was the last of the carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor to be sunk, and the only IJN fleet carrier to be sunk by allied torpedo bombers.

Bonus Photos

Zuikaku during the Battle of Cape Engaño, during which she was sunk. Note the camouflage pattern on her flight deck. US Navy photo.