Yamato and Musashi Internet Photo Archive
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Operation Ten-ichi-go, April 6-7, 1945 
The Light Cruiser Yahagi in happier times.

The Yahagi was one of the newest and most modern anti-aircraft equipped cruisers in the IJN in 1945. She also carried 2 float planes - one of which could not return to Japan due to a broken engine, giving her pilot the opportunity to fulfill his wish to fight (and die) with his crewmates. Also see later photos of this plane floating amongst the wreckage of Yahagi.

How ironic then, that this ship, which was to serve as the cornerstone of Yamato's anti-aircraft defense ring, was immobilized by bomb and torpedo hits within the first half hour or so of the first attack.

Here is an excerpt from legendary destroyer Capt Tameichi Hara's book "Japanese Destroyer Captain" containing his speech to the men of light cruiser Yahagi (his last command) as they embarked on their final mission with Battleship Yamato on April 6 1945. (quoted from p. 284):

"As you know, hundreds of our comrades have flown bomb-laden planes on one-way missions against the enemy. Thousands more of these flyers are standing by at every airfield. Hundreds of our comrades are ready in submarines to man one-way torpedoes. Thousands of others will drive explosive torpedo boats or crawl the bottom of the sea to fasten explosive charges against enemy ships.

Our job in this mission is part of the same pattern. Our mission appears suicidal and it is. But I wish to emphasize that suicide is not the objective. The objective is victory.

You are not sheep whipped to a sacrificial altar. We are lions released in the arena, to devour the enemy gladiators. You are not to be slain merely as sacrifices for the nation.

Do not hesitate to come back alive. We must force our way against any enemy effort to intercept our mission. But you must not give up your lives cheaply. Once this ship is crippled or sunk, do not hesitate to save yourselves for the next fight. There will be other battles. You are not to commit suicide. You are to beat the enemy!"

Colorized photo courtesy of the IJN in Color Photos website linked on the index page.