Heavy Cruiser Warship
Surviving most of the grand Pacific battles of World War 2, IJN Takao was knocked out of action in 1944 by the submarine USS Darter.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
When the Imperial Japanese Navy undertook its massive shipbuilding programs in the lead-up to World War 2 (1939-1945), it understood the importance of long distance travel playing a part in its conquest of the Pacific. As such the Takao-class series of long range heavy cruisers were developed to succeed the Myoko-class to which four ships made up the new group - IJN Tako, IJN Atago, IJN Maya, and IJN Chokai. The class was launched during a small window spanning May of 1930 to April of 1931 and immediately formed a powerful floating arm for the IJN. While there inevitably proved some limitations in their design during the war to follow, their firepower and armor protection was excellent for the period and they stood as the most powerful of the IJN cruisers available. Of the four completed, three were ultimately lost during the ocean-going campaigns of World War 2. The Takao-class was itself succeeded by the Mogamo-class which began appearing in the mid-1930s.
IJN Takao (named after Mount Takao) was built at the Yokosuka Navy Yard with her keel being laid down on April 28th, 1927. She was launched on May 12th, 1930 and formally commissioned on May 31st, 1932. Compared to the preceding Myoko-class ships, Takao and her sisters featured a larger bridge superstructure more akin to that as found on prevailing battleships. Her torpedo armament was also broadened from the former design which added a deadly ranged capability against other surface warships. Primary armament (as built) included 10 x 8" /50 caliber 3rd Year Type main guns paired across five turrets - three concentrated ahead of the bridge and the remaining two aft (Turret 3 suffered from a limited firing arc when compared to the others). There were also 4 x 4.7" Type 10 guns fitted to four separate turrets. She carried 8 x 24" torpedo tubes for Type 90 torpedoes . Armament was rounded out by the inclusion of 2 x 40mm Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns with a single gun fitted to a pair of turrets.
Takao was powered by 12 x Kampon boiler systems feeding four geared turbines driving 4 x shafts while outputting at 132,000 shaft horsepower. This provided the vessel with a maximum sea-going speed of up to 35 knots in ideal conditions with an operational range out to 8,500 nautical miles. Dimensions included a running length of 668.5 feet with a beam of 67 feet and a draught of 20.7 feet. Armor protection was up to 127mm thickness at her main belt with main decks covered up to 37mm, her bulkheads up to 100mm, and her turrets donning 25mm of armor. Overall displacement was 15,500 tons when under a full load.
Her profile was conventional with her superstructure held at amidships. Her silhouette showcased a pair of funnels (the fore one angled rearwards) as well as a fairly identifiable bridge tower, twin masts (fore and aft), and a service crane for management of aircraft and resupply. Her forecastle and stern deck sections were relatively clear of obstructions. For over-the-horizon work, Takao could carry up to three IJN floatplane aircraft though typically a pair of Aichi E13A1 "Jake" or Mitsubishi F1M "Pete" floatplanes. These aircraft were fitted to a pair of catapult launchers aft of the superstructure.
Well armed and armored while possessing the speed and range favored by the IJN, Takao and her sisters were formidable warships. Her first service was as part of Sentai-4, IJN 2nd Fleet (Yokosuka Naval District) where she joined her sisters in training. It was during these early years that the design was found to be "top heavy" due to her oversized bridge and slim hull so plans were laid down to have her and IJN Atago revised for improved stability and survivability. This meant that she was docked again at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal from 1938 to 1939 where the two vessels were given smaller bridges and had hull bulges added. Her main mast was also moved further aft. Following this work, she was back in service and the assigned to general patrols off of the Chinese coast from 1940 onwards.
With plans made to take the Philippines and attack the United States fleet at Pearl, Takao was assigned to provide fire support for the former as Japanese troops landed at Luzon under her guns (and that of her sisters) on December 8th, 1941. A day earlier, another IJN force tackled Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. With the Pearl Fleet reeling (though the American carriers remaining safe), the Philippines fell to the Japanese and Allied forces there either surrendered or evacuated. The Philippines campaign ended in May of 1942 as a decisive Japanese military victory.
Takao was then based now out of Palau and handed the task of intercepting any escaping vessels around the Dutch East Indies from February of 1942 onward. She managed to sink a Dutch freighter and capture another while also sinking the British minesweeper HMS Scott Harley. She then sank the American destroyer USS Pillsbury without taking prisoners and further actions resulted in more captures and sinking of enemy ships. Even her onboard aircraft were used in the light bombing role to good effect. Takeo formed part of the force attempting to thwart the Doolittle Raids on Japan - the successful raid becoming a psychological boost early on for the Americans.
In June of 1942 her guns were used in anger once more as Japanese forces landed at the Alaskan Aleutian Islands in an attempt to divert American attention northward. With her work done, Takao returned to Ominato in northern Japan by the end of the month.
The Battle of Guadalcanal began on August 7th, 1942 and would span until February 9th, 1943. Takeo played a part in the reinforcement initiative where she and some of her sisters fought in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (August 24-25, 1942). While the battle proved a draw tactically it was an Allied strategic success and the Battle of Guadalcanal as a whole marked another strategic Allied victory. During the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands (October 25-27, 1942), Takao's guns were part of the melee that resulted in the loss of the American carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) - a major blow to Allied strength in the Pacific. Her guns were then unleashed on Allied positions at Henderson Field and she managed to land several direct hits on USS South Dakota before returning to Truk by the end of the year.
With Guadalcanal falling to the Allies, an evacuation campaign was authorized and warships like Takao serving in the cover/support role. In July of 1943 she was sent back to Yokosuka where she took on more AA guns as Allied air power became an ever-increasing threat. She reinforced Rabaul on August 27th by delivering fighting forces and supplies before forming the defense around several key IJN carriers in an effort to meet the American carrier force head-on. This task force failed to find the American group which led to Takao sailing for Truk to await her next orders.
On November 5th, 1943, Takao took damage from American dive bombers while refueling at Rabaul. Her controls were damaged and 23 of her sailors killed as two bombs found their mark. Her damage proved extensive enough that she was ordered back to Yokosuka for repairs, which were lengthy, and she did not sail again until January of 1944. During this time, engineers added more AA guns and a radar fit which attempted to put her on par with the American and British warships in the theater.
In action once more, Takao survived an American torpedo attack in April of 1944 before forming part of the defense force in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She was present at the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot which saw hundreds of Japanese warplanes downed (as many as 645 stated in some sources). Actions there forced the vessel to take on even more AA guns in June and her radar was upgraded. Her finalized layout included the aforementioned 8" and 4.7" guns but her aircraft defense network now numbered 66 x 25mm Type 96 guns in one-, two-, and three-gun turrets as well as 4 x 13.2mm Type 93 heavy machine guns. Her torpedo armament remained and a depth charge function added to combat enemy submarines making their mark against Japanese surface ships in the war.
She then supported operations at Singapore and Brunei during October and took two torpedoes from USS Darter (SS-227) on October 23rd. These strikes damaged two of her four propeller shafts and flooded key machinery areas though she managed to escape a complete demise. Her sisters, IJN Atago and IJN Maya, were not as fortunate and sunk. Back in Singaporean waters, it was decided that Takao's damage was too severe to make the return trip to Yokosuka for repairs and she became a stationary floating gun battery used to defend the Seletar Naval Base for the foreseeable future. A small crew was assigned to her.
Nevertheless, to the Allies the vessel still posed a serious threat in the theater and a daring surprise attack by way of midget submarine was launched by the British. Six mines blew a hole in her hull which added to her damage though she remained afloat nonetheless. She remained on station until the end of hostilities in August of 1945 before being surrendered to British forces on September 21st. She was then sunk as a target on October 19th, 1946 and her name officially struck from the Naval Register the following year. IJN Atago had been torpedoed and lost on October 23rd, 1944 along with IJN Maya. IJN Chokai followed on October 25th, 1944 during the Battle of Samar (Leyte Gulf, Philippines).