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All of the archive photos in this gallery were obtained by various researchers from the National Archives of the United States, and the US Navy Archives, and are in the Public Domain.
These will be of interest to all Yamato, Musashi, IJN, & warship fans:
THE ROBERT LUNDGREN HISTORICAL RESOURCE For a serious historical Pacific War discussion site, run by renowned historian Anthony Tully, co-author of "Shattered Sword - The Untold Story of The Battle of Midway", go here: Finally, there are 3 indispensable books for any Yamato enthusiast: A good reconstruction of Yamato as she appeared during her Final Sortie in April 1945 can be found at:
For a serious historical Pacific War discussion site, run by renowned historian Anthony Tully, co-author of "Shattered Sword - The Untold Story of The Battle of Midway", go here:
Finally, there are 3 indispensable books for any Yamato enthusiast:
A good reconstruction of Yamato as she appeared during her Final Sortie in April 1945 can be found at:
However, the Johnston's time finally runs out. After firing her torpedoes as Japanese cruisers, sinking one, Johnston enters into a squall, as she emerges from the squall, she is directly in the sights of Yamato's guns. Yamato opens fire with her forward batteries. The very first salvo connects - Johnston is battered as 3 18" shells strike her with such force that she is literally pushed into the water on her side before popping back up. The impact is later described by a crewmember as akin to a puppy being shaken in the jaws of a bulldog. A fourth 18" shell probably hit below the water line, passing through the ship without exploding. Seconds later, 3 6" shells from Yamato's forward secondary battery also strike Johnston. On board Yamato Adm Kurita cables Tokyo: "I have just sunk a cruiser!" Johnston keeps fighting with her one remaining 5" gun for another 40 or so minutes before sinking, a testimony to her designers and to the efforts of her crew. She was hit by the most powerful single salvo in Naval History, yet remained afloat for another hour. Yamato gets credit for her kill. More on this engagement from the INJ records - "0651hours: A charging cruiser emerges from behind the smoke. YAMATO engages her from a distance of more than 10 miles and scores a hit with the first salvo. The target is seen burning before it is lost sight of." Source: IJN Yamato Record of Tabular Movement, linked on index page.
Shortly afterward, Yamato is forced to take evasive action to avoid torpedoes launched by US destroyer Hoel, but not before delivering the killing blows on Hoel from her secondary 6" guns.
after taking 10 minutes to outrun Hoel's torpedoes, she turns back into the battle and sinks the carrier Gambier Bay with an 18" shell to her engine room, described under an earlier photo of what appears to be the exact hit described.
A note is in order here about the effectiveness of Yamato's guns.
Many history accounts (almost gratuitously, in my view) state that the Yamato failed to make any hits with her 'fabled 18" guns' during this, her lone engagement with American warships.
The above citations, which draw upon Japanese military records of the battle, tell a different story. Robert Lundgren' definitive account of the Battle, "The World Wonder'd - What Really Happened Off Samar", out in 2014 and now available from Amazon - link on Index Page - corroborates the Japanese accounts and essentially confirms that Yamato's fire control direction that morning was truly outstanding, hitting 4 targets, crippling one escort carrier (White Plains), and sinking another (Gambier Bay) as well as the destroyers Johnston and Hoel. The latter 3 ships were hit by fire from multiple Japanese ships, but it appears almost certain that Yamato delivered the "kill shots" on all three of them.
Now for some interesting commentary on the effectiveness of pontoon spotter planes, of the kind used by Japanese battleships and launched from Yamato's rear dual ramps. One of Yamato's spotter planes was shot down early in the engagement, and there is no record as to whether they contributed to Yamato's targeting on that day. The following is commentary the subject of spotter planes elicited on Modelwarships.com in 2009 or 2010 - before Robert's book dispelled the doubts about Yamato's gunnery at Leyte Gulf:
[Chuck: A comment on the remarks about Yamato's fire - The IJN record which suggests Yamato scored a hit with her first 18" salvo at a distance of 19 miles, and again with her 6" guns at 10 miles, seems too good to be true. The longest range confirmed hit in naval history was scored after many tries at only 15.8 miles. Yamato's fire control would have to be vastly superior to those of any other battleship to stand a reasonable chance of scoring a hole in one at 19 miles. So far everything I've seen says her fire control equipment were good, but had nothing really exceptional. Also, hitting a destroyer with a hole in one at 17000 yards also seems beyond the capability of WWII fire control... Spotter planes observes the fall of the salvo and calls out correction back to the firing ship, and also alert the firing ship to any changes in the target's course before those changes can become clear to observers on the firing ship. So spotter planes would help improve the accuracy of each successive salvo, but will do nothing for the opening salvo.
Sauragnmon: Much as it might easily be discredited, there are situations where raw, blind chance wins the day. Remember, the longest shot was made by Warspite, a ship that was rather long in the tooth at the time she pulled it off. Sure, the Yamato didn't have the massive uberness of using blindfire control, but she did have the spotting plane, and did have some rather good, if not screaming noteworthy, control equipment. Combine that with the fact she was in essence the Imperial Flagship, and thus likely to have the best crew they could have on board, I would lean as well in favour of the shot being a hit, even if a lucky hit.
I would beg to differ with regards to the spotting plane not having an effect on the first salvo, as they can much more effectively report things such as the target heading and speed, which combined with the element of surprise, lending to the enemy NOT shifting their heading or speed, would provide a much better firing solution on the first barrage, Chuck. If you can get the best reports of windage, heading and speed, then even your first shot is more accurate compared to a relative guess.
Chuck: I am not inclined to believe a shot so far superior to all other shots ever documented was likely to have been made, and doubly suspicious of the claim that 2 such hits were made by a single ship in a single engagement. We can go into where Japanese fire control systems falls short, and why as a result Yamato requires very high level of crew training just to perform at par, where as the much more highly automated British Admiralty fire control table used on Warspite can be expected to perform near par regardless of crew training so long as the crew has been minimally trained, so the training and quality of Yamato's crew is unlikely to raise her fire control performance so far above that of Warspite, which despite her age was fully modernized and had the most modern fire control and the famously accurate British 15"/42 gun, not to mention the assistance of radar.
The problem with using spotter to improve the first shot is without radar or a stationary marker like a waterspout from a shell hit, an aerial observer in WWII has no means of accurately determine the speed of a ship, certainly no means to determine it as accurately as could the Yamato herself, even from 19 miles away, with her fire control optics and gunnery plotting system. The aerial observer also has no means of accurately determining the course of the enemy to anything better than "NNE" or "WSW". Again this is much less than what Yamato herself could do through her fire control plots. So no, a spotter plane will not significantly improve Yamato's chances to score a hit at long range with her first salvo. But once the first salvo is fired, a spotter can use any near miss as a reference to clock the speed of the enemy ship, can observe the pattern of the misses and call out corrections back to Yamato, and can use curvature in the wake of the enemy to alert the Yamato to enemy course changes. But keep in mind that even during this battle, the US force, such as it was, still had air superiority, and the spotter did not have the freedom to take up the most ideal position to perform her spotting work.
Sauragnmon: If I am not mistaken, the Japanese gunnery crews were drilled heavily towards long range training. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I would imagine that they knew full well that ranges of combat was quite planned for long range, and they sought long range with Yamato, part of which was involved in the high positioning of her equipment, to optimize performance at longer ranges - this is also what made her such a target, because she was so tall in the design.
As to the commentary on a spotter plane. You have your own flight compass, so you can match, relatively, Your heading relative to the differential degree of your target. From that data, either you or the ship can then go further towards plotting the velocity of the target - If he's moving at X heading, and we know he is at Y distance, then we can derive his velocity from how far he moves within a specific time frame. If we can get an idea of the wind velocity and heading, we can take an estimate on how the shot will shift in flight - shorter, longer, directional differential. We can also take our time, relatively, because we have not, and this is the key part - we have not betrayed our position with the first salvo.
Chuck: All major navies between wars expected and trained for battle beyond 30,000 yards, which is why everyone went through great expense to increase the elevation of their guns to beyond 35 degrees. USN, IJN, and DKM particularly had very high expectation of achieving decisive hits at those ranges. USN had expectations of 30,000 yard battles way before the Japanese, back in 1920. All three trained intensively for it. But the fact remains that those expectations were unrealistic with available technology even out to the middle of WWII. And Japanese surface fire control development effectively stopped by 1941.
By and large, the theoretical capabilities of the Japanese gunnery fire control system was equal to those of American at the beginning of WWII. But to achieve the theoretical capability was much easier with US systems than with Japanese systems. The automation in the state of the art fire control in US, British and German navies in WWII is such they can achieve near maximum performance with just a total crew of 5-6, out of which only two or three highly trained operator is needed, and these only need to do their own jobs well, and do not need to coordinate amongst themselves well. The Japanese fire control system, on the other hand, requires large staff of highly trained operator, and majority of them must coordinate perfectly to achieve maximum performance. 7 men working in perfect coordination is needed to ensure proper operation of just the fire control computer alone. At least 6 more men with great eye hand coordination is needed to manually track the ship's pitch and roll and continuously enter that data into the fire control computer where as the same function is done automatically with higher precision and reliability using gyros in the US system. So long training can only be taken as evidence that Japanese may be able to achieve world class performance when fresh and motivated, not that they could surpass it. I would say hole in one at 19 miles considerably surpasses world class performance in 1944.
BTW, Yamato's tower bridge was not particularly tall. The director on top was roughly the same height above water as those on US, German and French warships.
(Re: Spotter Planes): You have your compass, but you are not flying directly over the top of the ship you are observing, and when you are flying some distance from and at an angle to the ship you have no instrument to map the observed course of the ship to the face of the compass while accounting for parallax. So you can only estimate the enemy course by eye and experience, and by moving your eye back and forth from a slant view of the ship to a direct view of the compass, achieving a precison no better than "South by South West".
As to speed, you have no fixed reference. Your plane is moving, the ship is moving, the white caps are moving, there is no battleship quality fire control instrument onboard a spotter to integrate own speed and course with a optical instrument aimed at the enemy. So you basically have no better means of estimating the enemy speed then "Damn, that's a big wake, he must be making 30 knots!".]