Japanese aircraft carrier Ryujo
Ryūjō ( "prancing dragon") was a light aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 of the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

. She was laid down by Mitsubishi
The Mitsubishi Group , Mitsubishi Group of Companies, or Mitsubishi Companies is a Japanese multinational conglomerate company that consists of a range of autonomous businesses which share the Mitsubishi brand, trademark and legacy...

 at Yokohama
is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo and most populous municipality of Japan. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu...

 in 1929, launched in 1931 and commissioned on 9 May 1933. Her final design resulted in a top-heavy unstable vessel and within a year she was back at Kure Naval Yard for modification. With her stability sufficiently improved, Ryūjō was returned to service and employed in operations during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. Early on in the Second World War, she participated in subsidiary operations in the Philippines, Java Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Aleutian Islands before being sunk by American carrier aircraft at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons (also known as the Battle of the Stewart Islands and, in Japanese sources, as the , took place on 24–25 August 1942, and was the third carrier battle of the Pacific campaign...

 on 24 August 1942.


Ryūjō was originally planned as a seaplane tender
Seaplane tender
A seaplane tender is a ship that provides facilities for operating seaplanes. These ships were the first aircraft carriers and appeared just before the First World War.-History:...

 to replace the aging Wakamiya
Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya
Wakamiya was a seaplane carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the first Japanese aircraft carrier. She was converted from a transport ship into a seaplane carrier and commissioned in August 1914. She was equipped with four Japanese-built French Maurice Farman seaplanes...

, but this was later changed to a conventional aircraft carrier of around 9,800-ton standard displacement. Her light displacement was intended to exploit a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty
Washington Naval Treaty
The Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was an attempt to cap and limit, and "prevent 'further' costly escalation" of the naval arms race that had begun after World War I between various International powers, each of which had significant naval fleets. The treaty was...

 of 1922. Under the Treaty, Japan's total tonnage of aircraft carriers was limited to 81,000-tons, but aircraft carriers under 10,000-ton standard displacement were not regarded as "aircraft carriers".

While Ryūjō was under construction in 1930, the London Naval Treaty
London Naval Treaty
The London Naval Treaty was an agreement between the United Kingdom, the Empire of Japan, France, Italy and the United States, signed on April 22, 1930, which regulated submarine warfare and limited naval shipbuilding. Ratifications were exchanged in London on October 27, 1930, and the treaty went...

 finally closed the above mentioned loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty; consequently, Ryūjō was the only light aircraft carrier of her type to be completed by Japan.


Because of the need to keep Ryūjōs weight under 10,000 tons, no armor could be included, though some protective plating was added to the outer hull where the machinery and magazine spaces were located, thereby providing a modest degree of defense against horizontal fire. She was also designed with only a single hangar, which would have left her with an extremely low profile (there being just 4.6 m (15.1 ft) of freeboard amidships and 3 m (9.8 ft) aft). Between the time the carrier was laid down in 1929 and launched in 1931, however, the Navy doubled her aircraft stowage requirement to 48 in order to give her a more useful air group. This necessitated the addition of a second hangar atop the first, raising freeboard to 15 m (49.2 ft). Coupled with the vessel's light displacement and narrow beam, the end result produced an unacceptable degree of instability in rough seas, a common flaw amongst many treaty-circumventing Japanese warships of her generation.
Even the addition of Sperry active stabilizers failed to compensate for the inherent instability of the new design and in 1934 Ryūjō was taken in hand for extensive modification. Changes included strengthening of the keel, the addition of enlarged bulges to either side of the hull and the removal of two twin 127mm AA gun mountings to reduce her top weight. In 1940 the ship's general seakeeping was improved by raising her forecastle 3.1 m (10.2 ft) (one deck higher) which reduced the tendency of her bows to dig water in heavier seas.


Ryūjōs machinery consisted of two sets of geared turbines (similar to those of the Takao-class heavy cruisers) connected to two shafts. Six oil-fired boilers provided steam power. Total horsepower generated was 65000 shp giving the carrier a top speed of 29 knots (15.8 m/s) during trials. She carried approximately 2900 tons of oil fuel enabling her to cruise 10000 nautical miles (18,520 km) at 14 knots (7.6 m/s). The boiler uptakes were trunked to the ship's starboard side, approximately amidships, and exhausted horizontally just below flight deck level through two small downward-curving funnels, the ends of which were supported by heavy bracing. This arrangement served to keep the flight deck clear of smoke and fumes.

Flight Deck & Hangars

Ryūjō was a flush-deck carrier. In place of an island structure, her navigating and control bridge was located just under the forward lip of the flight deck in a long glassed-in "greenhouse". The hangar box was set back 23 m (75.5 ft) from the ship's stem, giving Ryūjō a distinctive open bow. Her 156 m (511.8 ft) flight deck extended well beyond the aft end of the hangars and was supported by twin steel pillars. Six transverse arrester wires were installed on the flight deck and later modernized in 1936 to stop a 6000 kg (13,227.7 lb) aircraft.

Two elevators serviced the upper and lower hangars and connected them with the flight deck. The forward platform was the largest at 11 m (36.1 ft) long by 15.7 m (51.5 ft) wide. The aft platform was much narrower, just 7 m (23 ft) and, by 1940, as larger and more modern carrier aircraft entered service, was only capable of fitting a Nakajima Kate torpedo plane if spotted at an angle with wings folded. This effectively made Ryūjō a single-elevator carrier and considerably hindered her ability to rapidly transfer aircraft in and out of the hangars for rearming and refueling during combat operations. As a result, though she had stowage for 48 aircraft, her normal operating capacity was closer to 37.


As completed, Ryūjōs primary AA armament comprised six twin 127 mm (5 in) dual-purpose guns mounted on projecting sponsons, three on either side of the carrier's hull. In 1934, two of these mountings were removed, resulting in a savings of approximately 60 t (60,000 kg) top-weight and improving the ship's overall stability. Two twin 25 mm (0.984251968503937 in) AA guns were added at a later date as well as twelve 13.2 mm (0.519685039370079 in) Hotchkiss machine-guns. The light machine-guns were replaced in 1942 with six triple-mount 25 mm (0.984251968503937 in) AA guns.

Operational history

In August to December 1937, Ryūjō supported land operations of the Japanese Army in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 as flagship of Carrier Division 1. Her aircraft complement consisted of 12 Nakajima A4N
Nakajima A4N
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Mikesh, Robert C. and Shorzoe Abe. Japanese Aircraft, 1910–1941. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-840-2....

 fighters and 15 Aichi D1A
Aichi D1A
|-See also:-External links:*...

 dive bomber
Dive bomber
A dive bomber is a bomber aircraft that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop...

s. After her less than satisfactory performance there, Ryūjō received extensive reconstruction.

In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Ryūjō was commanded by Captain Kato Tadao and was the flagship of Carrier Division 4. The presence of large fleet carriers meant that she was initially assigned to secondary tasks. Her reconstruction proved successful and the performance of her air group, as well as the ship herself in high seas, was satisfactory.

In December 1941 Ryūjō supported the invasion of the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, providing air cover for the landings at Davao
Davao refers to several closely related places in Mindanao in the Philippines. The term is used most often to refer to the city.*Davao Region, an administrative region*Davao del Norte province*Davao del Sur province*Davao Oriental province...

 on 20 December at Jolo
Jolo may refer to:* Jolo Island* Jolo, Sulu* Jolo, West Virginia* Jolo is also the nickname of Swedish author Jan Olof Olsson....

 on 25 December. Her aircraft complement consisted of 22 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters and 16 Aichi D3A
Aichi D3A
The , Allied reporting name "Val") was a World War II carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy . It was the primary dive bomber in the Imperial Japanese Navy, and participated in almost all actions, including Pearl Harbor....

 "Val" dive bombers. In January 1942 she supported the conquest of Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

 and in February 1942 she attacked American-British-Dutch-Australian
American-British-Dutch-Australian Command
The American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, or ABDACOM, was a short-lived, supreme command for all Allied forces in South East Asia, in early 1942, during the Pacific War in World War II...

 forces around Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

. On 1 March 1942 she took part in the Battle of the Java Sea
Battle of the Java Sea
The Battle of the Java Sea was a decisive naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, that sealed the fate of the Netherlands East Indies....

, assisting in the sinking of . In the same month, she operated against the Andaman Islands
Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a group of Indian Ocean archipelagic islands in the Bay of Bengal between India to the west, and Burma , to the north and east...

 and along the coast of Burma.

In early April, as part of the Indian Ocean raid
Indian Ocean raid
The Indian Ocean raid was a naval sortie by the Fast Carrier Strike Force of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 31 March-10 April 1942 against Allied shipping and bases in the Indian Ocean. It was an early engagement of the Pacific campaign of World War II...

, Ryūjō attacked shipping in the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

. Together with the cruisers Chōkai, Kumano
Japanese cruiser Kumano
Kumano was one of four Mogami-class heavy cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was completed at the Kawasaki Shipyard in Kobe on 31 October 1937. She displaced with a length of and a beam of , and had a top speed of...

, Suzuya, Mogami
Japanese cruiser Mogami
was the lead ship in the four-vessel Mogami-class of heavy cruisers in the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was named after the Mogami River in Tohoku region of Japan. The Mogami class ships were constructed as "light" cruisers with 5 triple 6.1" DP guns...

, Mikuma
Japanese cruiser Mikuma
was the second vessel in the four-vessel Mogami-class of heavy cruisers in the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was named after the Mikuma river in Oita prefecture, Japan.-Background:...

, Yura
Japanese cruiser Yura
The was the third of the six vessels completed in the Nagara class of light cruisers, and like other vessels of her class, she was intended for use as the flagship of a destroyer flotilla. She was named after the Yura River near Kyoto, Japan.-Early career:...

, and four destroyers, she sank 23 merchant ships. On 6 April she launched air strikes against Cocanada and Vizagapatam in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...


In June 1942 Ryūjō was part of the Northern Force that attacked the Aleutian Islands
Battle of the Aleutian Islands
The Aleutian Islands Campaign was a struggle over the Aleutian Islands, part of Alaska, in the Pacific campaign of World War II starting on 3 June 1942. A small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, but the remoteness of the islands and the difficulties of weather and terrain meant...

. Ryūjō's planes struck Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island
Unalaska Island
Unalaska is an island in the Fox Islands group of the Aleutian Islands in the U.S. state of Alaska, at . The island has a land area of . The city of Unalaska, Alaska, covers part of the island and all of neighboring Amaknak Island where the Port of Dutch Harbor is located...

 on 3 June and 4 June 1942. The strike on the Aleutian Islands is often seen as a diversion for Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, but recent publications by historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully had made strong arguments that Operation AL was meant to be a concurrent operation instead of merely a diversion. During this operation, one of the Zero fighters from the Ryūjō, flown by Petty Officer Tadahito Koga, crash landed on the island of Akutan. Koga was killed in the crash due to a broken neck, but the aircraft remained largely intact. The aircraft, later dubbed the Akutan Zero
Akutan Zero
The Akutan Zero, also known as Koga's Zero and the Aleutian Zero, was a type 0 model 21 Mitsubishi A6M Zero Japanese fighter plane that crash-landed on Akutan Island, Alaska Territory, during World War II. It was captured intact by the Americans in July 1942 and became the first flyable Zero...

, was the first intact Zero fighter to fall into the hands of U.S. military intelligence.


The sinking of four of Japan's six fleet carriers in the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 made Ryūjō much more important to the Japanese Navy. In August 1942 she was reassigned to Carrier Division 2, and with Shōkaku
Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku
Shōkaku was an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the lead ship of her class. Along with her sister ship , she took part in several key naval battles during the Pacific War, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands...

 and Zuikaku
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku
Zuikaku was a Shōkaku-class aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Her complement of aircraft took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor that formally brought the United States into the Pacific War, and she fought in several of the most important naval battles of the war, finally being sunk...

 she was dispatched to the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

. Ryūjō's role in the operation was to support a convoy of transports that were to reinforce and resupply Japanese troops on Guadalcanal
Guadalcanal is a tropical island in the South-Western Pacific. The largest island in the Solomons, it was discovered by the Spanish expedition of Alvaro de Mendaña in 1568...

, and to attack the Allied air base at Henderson Field. This force was commanded by Rear Admiral Chuichi Hara in the cruiser Tone. Meanwhile, the fleet carriers operated against the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

's aircraft carriers. This operation resulted in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons The naval Battle of the Eastern Solomons (also known as the Battle of the Stewart Islands and, in Japanese sources, as the , took place on 24–25 August 1942, and was the third carrier battle of the Pacific campaign...


On 24 August 1942, Ryūjō, escorted by the cruiser Tone and the destroyers Amatsukaze
Japanese destroyer Amatsukaze
Amatsukaze was a of the Imperial Japanese Navy. During the first year of the Pacific War, the destroyer was under the command of Tameichi Hara and participated in the Battle of the Java Sea, Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, in...

 and Tokitsukaze
Japanese destroyer Tokitsukaze
was the tenth vessel to be commissioned in the 19-vessel destroyers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the late-1930s under the Circle Three Supplementary Naval Expansion Program .-Background:...

, launched a strike against Henderson Field on Guadalcanal from a position 161 km (100 mi) north of Tulagi
Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida Island. The town of the same name on the island Tulagi, less commonly Tulaghi, is a small island (5.5 km by 1 km) in the Solomon Islands, just off the south coast of Florida...

. The first wave, launched at 12:20, consisted of six Nakajima Kate attack planes armed with general-purpose bombs and an escort of six Mitsubishi Zero fighters. A second wave of nine Zero fighters was launched at 1248. By 14:00, Rear Admiral Hara's airmen radioed they had successfully bombed the airfield, losing two fighters and three bombers to enemy fire (one other bomber crash-landed on Ndai Island).

Early in the afternoon, the task force was approached by two B-17 bombers, although these aircraft were chased off by anti-aircraft fire and the launch of six Zero fighters. At approximately 15:50, while beginning launching operations, she was attacked by twenty-nine dive bombers and five torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

s from the , and was hit by four bombs (sources differ as to how many) and one torpedo. The torpedo hit flooded the starboard engine room and jammed the ship's rudder, causing Ryūjō to turn in circles and begin listing to starboard. She was soon on fire along her entire length and her engines eventually stopped.

As Amatsukaze went alongside to assist in damage control, two B-17 bombers emerged from the clouds and made an unsuccessful attack against Ryūjō. Though her fires had been brought under control, efforts to contain flooding caused by the torpedo hit proved fruitless and the order to abandon ship was given. By 20:00 the carrier capsized and sank along with approximately 120 of her crew and four aircraft (two Kates and two Zeros) still on board in the hangars. Her remaining survivors, including Captain Kato, had been taken off by her escorts.

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