Nagato (1919)

Nagato, after her funnel rebuild in 1924. The shape of the funnel is to keep exhaust smoke from blowing into the forward superstructure, but it was of limited effectiveness. Imperial Japanese Navy photo in the collection of the Kure Maritime Museum.

Ship Class
Laid Down

Ordered in May, 1916, Nagato was the lead ship of Japan's final class of superdreadnoughts. Upon commissioning in November, 1920, Nagato joined the 1st Battleship Division. She saw lots of use in ceremonial roles, showing the flag and hosting diplomats, including the future King Edward VIII of England. Several refits during the 1920s and 1930s continually improved Nagato's performance, except that her speed dropped from 26.5 to 25 knots. She helped suppress an attempted coup by the Imperial Japanese Army in February, 1936, and supported the fighting in Shanghai later that year. As the flagship of the Combined Fleet from December, 1938, Nagato didn't leave port very often. Admiral Yamamoto gave the orders to commence hostilities with the United States and British Empire from her in December, 1941, and she deployed with other ships to chase the USS Hornet after the Doolittle Raid in April, 1942. During the Battle of Midway, Nagato was deployed with the Main Body, but saw no action. After that, Nagato spent the next two and a half years loitering at various bases in the Pacific, until she was deployed with the Center Force to oppose the American landings in the Philippines. Unimpeded by the air attacks on 24 October, 1944, Nagato engaged the destroyers and escort carriers of Taffy 3 on the 25th, suffering light damage during the Japanese withdrawal. Despite a lack of repairs, and being subjected to repeated air attacks in home waters, Nagato survived the war as the only Japanese battleship still afloat. She was handed over to the Americans as a prize of war in September, 1945. She was used as a target in the 1946 Bikini Atomic tests, surviving the air burst on the 1st of July with little damage. She slowly flooded after the underwater blast on the 25th, and sank on the night of 29-30 July.

Bonus Photos

Nagato anchored in Kure, c.August, 1942. Photo in the collection of the Kure Maritime Museum.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Nagato apparently wanted nothing to do with the Americans, and ran out of fuel and broke down en route to the Bikini tests. This resulted in the loss of a tanker with all hands in a storm, and required Nagato to be towed and repaired (including pumping several hundred tons of water out, and then repairing her hull) before she could be used as a target.