The Yamato-class ships were the IJN's 72,800 ton giant battleships constructed during the interwar period. The Yamato-class battleships consisted of the Yamato and the Musashi. The IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) laid the first blueprints for the battleships in 1934, and construction commenced at the Kure Naval Dockyard in 1937.
During the Yamato's construction, Kure Naval Arsenal enlarged the dockyard so that it could fit the battleship. They expanded the gantry crane at the dockyard to 100 tons. The naval dockyard was also covered to make sure that new class of battleship under construction remained a secret.
By 1940, the IJN had built the Musashi. By then they had added a considerable arsenal to the battleship. The Yamato included Type 94 naval guns, mounted in three turrets, that fired armor-piercing shells. Added to that was a secondary armament that consisted of four triple 6.1-inch guns which carried 13-mm machine guns and 250 mm guns. The ship also had a range of some 25 miles.
However, despite its substantial arsenal and great range, the Yamato remained largely in port whilst they constructed the Musashi. The IJN added the Musashi to their fleets in 1942. As they designed the Musashi in much the same way, it was almost identical to the Yamato. However, the Yamato had a marginally heavier overall displacement.
These battleships were largely for surface fleet support during battles such as the Battle of Midway. They played no active part in any naval battles up to 1944. However, a U.S. submarine intercepted the Yamato on one trip to Truk. The submarine fired a torpedo at the battleship, but despite leaking tons of water the ship still remained afloat. As this was a ship that had more than 1,000 watertight compartments the Allies required a bit more than a few torpedoes to sink it.
Another U.S. submarine also intercepted the Musashi in 1944. With its torpedoes the submarine tore a 19-foot hole in the battleship. That much ensured minor flooding aboard the ship, but it continued sailing to Japan for further repairs. When in port the IJN refitted the Yamato with a larger number of anti-aircraft guns to shoot down Allied planes.
U.S. Marines landed in Leyte later in 1944. To defeat the Allied landings in Leyte, the IJN included both the Musashi and Yamato as part of the Center Force sent to wipe out the invasion fleet off the coast of Samar. They sailed to Samar through the Sibuyan Sea, and it was there that U.S. aircraft located the Japanese fleet.
Having located the Japanese fleet, the U.S. aircraft showered the warships with bombs. Multiple waves of the U.S. aircraft targeted the Musashi with their torpedo-bombs. The Musashi gradually flooded with water, and as the battleship slipped beneath the sea the orders were given to abandon ship.
The IJN had lost the Musashi, but the Yamato still remained afloat. The Center Force continued to sail for Samar where they reached Taffy 3. As the Third Fleet had moved further northwards they were left short of notable air cover, and their lightweight ships were not a great match for Japan's battleships. During the Battle off Samar the Center Force wiped out the escort aircraft carrier Gambier Bay. However, Taffy 3 boldly held firm, and the Japanese fleet later withdrew from the battle.
After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Yamato returned to port. When the Battle of Okinawa began, in 1945, the IJN sent Yamato out for a final operation to provide further naval support during the battle. The plan was for the battleship to beach itself ashore the beaches of Okinawa as a shore battery. However, as it sailed without any air cover, there was little chance of the battleship reaching Okinawa.
U.S. submarines were the first to detect the Yamato before it reached the Van Diamen Strait. However, the Allies fired nothing at the battleship until after U.S. search planes spotted it. Then Task Force 58 launched waves of aircraft to intercept the Yamato. The planes dropped a multitude of aerial torpedoes towards the battleship. Other bombs set the battleship's deck ablaze, and the ship flooded with water. The remainder of its crew abandoned ship as it went down.
The Allies had defeated the Yamato-class battleships. They remain the largest class of battleships that any navy has constructed. What has been salvaged from the wrecks of the battleships can be found at the Yamato Museum.