Mutsu (1920)

Mutsu at sea, before her first rebuild. Note the rounded bow, straight fore funnel, and relatively light "pagoda"-style foremast. Photo in the collection of the Kure Maritime Museum.

Ship Class
Laid Down

The second of the Nagato-class battleships, Mutsu barely managed to escape execution by the Washington Treaty, being spared partially because she was funded by donations from Japanese schoolchildren. She had a fairly quiet career, undergoing her first rebuild in 1924, when the fore funnel was rebuilt into an s-shape to try and prevent fumes clouding the bridge. Placed in reserve in 1925, Mutsu was reactivated shortly after, and served as Emperor Hirohito's flagship during the 1927 and 1933 annual naval maneuvers. From 1933-36 Mutsu underwent a major reconstruction which rebuilt her bridge, replaced her main battery, and removed her fore funnel, among other modifications. Soon after completion, Mutsu was assigned to Chinese operations, landing troops at Shanghai in August, 1937, while her floatplanes bombed the city. Mutsu spent another year in reserve, from December, 1938 to November, 1939, and underwent her final refit in early 1941. On 8 December, Mutsu sortied to provide distant cover for the return of the Pearl harbor Strike Force, and served as a target tug for the new battleship Yamato in January. Mutsu again saw no action as part of the Main Body during the Battle of Midway, and was deployed to Truk in July, where she did very little. Her only action of the war was to fire four shells at American recon planes on 27 August. She remained in rear areas until January, when she returned to Japan, and remained there permanently. On 8 June, 1943, Mutsu's No.3 Magazine exploded, sinking the ship with a loss of 1,121 crew and visiting cadets. Part of the wreck has been salvaged and scrapped (some parts on display, including turret 4), but the portion from the bridge to turret 1 is still on the bottom.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Mutsu's loss was attributed to everything from enemy agents to midget submarines (the initial assumption) to a disgruntled crewman setting a fire to unstable Type-3 AA Shells (causing them to be offloaded from all battleships temporarily). The IJN's official report blamed the disgruntled crewman.