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Aerial photo of Chuyo while dead in the water after torpedo hit, morning of 4 Dec 1943; note collapsed forward flight deck

Caption     Aerial photo of Chuyo while dead in the water after torpedo hit, morning of 4 Dec 1943; note collapsed forward flight deck ww2dbase
Photographer    Unknown
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Chuyo   Main article  Photos  
Photos on Same Day 4 Dec 1943
Added By C. Peter Chen
Licensing  The source of this work has not yet been determined. Because it has been about 81 years since the creation of this work, WW2DB is operating under the assumption that this work is now in the public domain.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
28 Aug 2009 09:03:40 AM

This is not the Chuyo (1943)! It is the Kaiyo (1945) after being attacked in the Inland Sea by Royal Navy aircraft
2. CR says:
1 May 2010 09:57:21 PM

The assertion that this photo shows Kaiyo instead of Chuyo intrigued me, as I want to make a diorama based upon this photo, and I want to get the correct ship... though both carriers were very similar, there were enough differences that someone who knows their ships would spot immediately if I use the wrong vessel!

Of course, the photo isn't of the greatest quality, but I felt there are enough clues (placement of AA tubs relative to parts of the flight deck, antenna masts, the positions of the elevators, the position of the funnel) that one should be able to make a positive ID. Admittedly, in the photo, the amount of the ship's bow sticking out from under the collapsed flight deck seems a little short, but I couldn't be sure if this was due to damage to the bow, slight foreshortening due to viewing angle (in spite of the photo being taken from nearly above), or a combination of the two.

Though my research wasn't exhaustive, I spent a couple hours looking at old books as well as photos from various websites of both the Kaiyo and the Taiyo class (of which Chuyo was a member). I compared the above photo posted here with as many side views as I could find, as well as top & side diagrams. (A good source for diagrams of both ships is in Jentschura, Jung & Mickel's Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1869-1945, English translation, pages 58 & 59.)

It was still difficult to make a definitive ID until comparing the position of the two ships' funnels. The Kaiyo's funnel was located almost directly amidships, while Chuyo's was just slightly forward of that position. The photo in this post shows the ship's funnel to be in the area Chuyo's had been. (It's very hard to see, but the smoke coming from it indicates the position... what looks like a funnel just forward of THAT is actually an area of the ship the housed a motor launch, and may actually be a launch itself I had originally mistaken that for the funnel until I started my search!)

No disrespect is intended toward the anonymous poster who claimed this photo shows Kaiyo, of course. In fact, if there were some corroborating evidence (better quality photo, some written war records from Japan, US National Archives photo identification, whatever) to prove that it's Kaiyo instead of Chuyo (or vice-versa), I'd be interested in seeing it! (I'll keep looking on my own, of course. This is actually rather fun!) Thanks to anyone who finds this interesting, and advanced thanks if anyone else can help confirm this ship's identity.
3. CR says:
2 May 2010 08:13:47 AM

One more observation & a question about the photo posted above, though this has little to do with the ship's identity...
Notice the collapsed flight deck at the ship's bow, as pointed out by the WW2DB editors. There appears to be wreckage of some kind there, which--combined with the photo's quality--makes seeing the bow details difficult also, part of the patchy smoke (or cloud) that's just forward of the ship might also be hiding details in that area.
At any rate, Chuyo had a couple AA tubs at the bow, and perhaps some of the wreckage detail there is one or both of them. But to my eye, it almost looks as though some of the wreckage might be a plane. I realize that indistinct blobs of light and shadow can play tricks on an observer, so I'm NOT definitively claiming that it IS a plane, but the possibility is interesting. Does anyone else know if there might be a wrecked plane at the bow?

A couple of things to point out:
Planes were sometimes carried near the front of the flight deck, as evidenced in other photos of ships in the Taiyo class. If one was in such a position when the flight deck collapsed, it may have ended up in a crumpled heap at the bow (assuming it didn't fall completely overboard).
The 'plane' in the photo (if, indeed, it is a plane) is on the port bow, a wing pointing forward, and the tail hanging over the port side.
Thanks once again for any help with this topic!
4. CR says:
10 May 2010 02:59:45 PM

Sorry to hog the comments, but I wanted to share something I've found out...

The more I looked at the photo, the more I became convinced that the bow area is obscured by smoke or a cloud, and that what resembled an aircraft was just a trick of light & shadow.
I stumbled across a web page that shows a similar photo of Chuyo, but from a slightly more oblique angle, and it shows that Chuyo's bow WAS actually missing! Not only that, but that photo clearly shows the ship steaming in reverse, as evidenced by the wake it left.
It's possible that the photo here at WW2DB was taken not long after the other one, and that what I thought was a cloud was the remnants of Chuyo's wake bubbling away. (The other photo has no smoke coming from the ship's funnel, and shows a very pronounced wake, so I suspect that at least a few minutes had passed between the two photos being snapped, if indeed they were taken in sequence.)
I don't know if it's OK to post links to other web pages here, so I'll leave that off for now, but I'm thankful it posted that photo (which, along with some brief text, had been compiled from a web discussion forum).
5. Anonymous in Kanazawa says:
5 Jun 2010 06:31:53 AM

This is not a photo of Chuyo but that of Unyo. For further details of this foto, read the article in Japanese.(http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~ma480/senki-1-kuubotyuuyounosounan-katura1.html)
At the time of sinking, the weather is so bad -that caused the high toll -, but this foto shows little gale. Additionally, according to the article, the crew said Chuyo fitted with 4 ×2 12.7cm AA guns, but Unyo and Taiyo fitted with single mount 12.7cm AA guns. Crew said they did not sight an aircraft the day when she finally sank.

Unyo is torpedoed by US submarines many times, so as Taiyo and Chuyo. According to the article, Unyo was torpedoed circa noon 19/1/S19(1944)off Saipan when she headed toward Japan with CVL Zuiho. She sustained 2 torpedoes hit fore and the foreward deck downed. She slowly proceeded to Saipan. After receiving temporarily repairs, she left Saipan on 27/1 for home. According to the crew, shortly before reaching Yokosuka, she encounterd a storm, and already-damaged area of the bow repaired temporarily was further damaged,and collapsed. She found the cruise very difficult. But somehow she limped into Yokosuka. This foto might have been photographed circa 4/2 from an aircraft flown by Furukawa Shosa(Lt.commander). He was then Hikocho of 452 Kokutai stationed in Tateyama,Tokyo bay.
6. CR says:
13 Jun 2010 09:09:27 PM

Wow, that's certainly an interesting revelation! I've not had much time to go through the article that Anonymous in Kanazawa summarized (on 5 June 2010), but I did make two translations online--both of which differ slightly from each other--and the information they contain seems to match the above summary. (Mind you, I've only skimmed the translations they are a bit difficult to read, given how Japanese-to-English is a great example of what "lost in translation" means, but I digress...)
Anyway, interesting point about the surface of the sea in the photo not being as stormy as other sources suggest it was. Also, I wonder if there are other versions of the photo that are more clear, to better confirm the presence of single-mounted versus double-mounted AA guns... those mounts seem to be a crucial factor in determining this ship's identity.

Speaking of photos, my earlier post (10 May 2010) referred to a second photo of the carrier underway, in reverse. That can be found at http://www.ijn.dreamhost.com/IJN%20Lore/Volume%201/1c%20Chuyo%20bow%20damaged.htm along with some brief explanatory text. It's definitely the same vessel, as all the aircraft & equipment on deck are in the exact same positions, and the bow damage is the same. Some small dots are in different positions... crewmen that have moved around.

Well, whichever ship these photos show, at least the diorama I want to make is of the Taiyo class. I find it interesting that two carriers of the same class both suffered similar bow damage I don't know many details about Unyo's damage, and now wish to do more research into that vessel, too.
7. CR says:
26 Jun 2010 01:48:53 PM

While looking up info on the Chuyo during my May 2010 posts, I came across an article about an American POW who, along with 20 of his shipmates from the sub USS Sculpin, was aboard Chuyo when it was sunk. In that article, the Japanese crew was described as lashing several planks of timber together to make rafts... I'm assuming that the 'grid-like' groups of stuff on the flight deck in this photo (around the aft elevator) are such timbers/rafts. Rafts are also mentioned in the article linked to by Anonymous in Kanazawa, but I struggled through those translations well after I'd read the American article.

I don't know if the crew of Unyo did something similar when that ship was torpedoed in January 1944, but given that vessel's condition as it limped back to port, I wouldn't be surprised. None of this raft info helps ID the ship, but I thought it was an interesting detail pertaining to the photo nonetheless.

Anyway, I once again found the link to the Sculpin POW's Chuyo article, and thought I'd share it here since it describes that sinking from an interesting point of view. http://donmac.org/590files/191.htm
8. CR says:
29 Jul 2010 11:59:04 AM

Hey, another update. I've acquired a copy of the Japanese magazine Maru Special #38, published in 1980, which has the above photo in its section about the Chuyo, along with two other photos taken around the same time! (The pics appear on page 56 of the publication.) In those photos, the sea doesn't look calm as it does here in this digital copy, but rather choppy not gigantic swells, mind you, but rough enough to make swimming survivors have a tough time.
One of the photos shows a destroyer alongside the carrier, but that pic is just a little too blurry to make a positive ID of just which destroyer it is.
The pics appear in the magazine's specific section about Chuyo it is interesting to note that if incorrect, then even Japanese sources have misidentified the carrier.
9. Anonymous in Kanazawa says:
7 Aug 2010 08:51:32 PM

Your comment is right. The fotos have long been publicised in Japan. (I saw these fotos for the first time in '70s). It was long believed that this CVE was Chuyo. But some posed the argues of this identification, And after around the turn of this century, it is widely considered not Chuyo. You may pay more attention to a fact that survivors did not sight any aircraft during the day when Chuyo sank. But the fotos are taken from a Japanese Aircraft. This single fact only indicates that this CVE is not Chuyo, I think.
10. CR says:
6 Jun 2011 11:19:17 PM

I've seen another online source that notes how the photo of Unyo has been misidentified for years as Chuyo. It also pointed out the AA gun arrangement as evidence... sadly, I was not on my own computer and failed to make note of just where I'd seen the claim. (I THINK it was an English translation of a Japanese note and/or site... I'm sorry I don't have the info!)

Once again, if anyone has current information about this photo (and others like it, such as appeared in that Maru Special I mentioned several posts ago), I hope that they can post something here. I'm very interesetd in getting as much detail as possible for my model project (which has been on hold since this mystery got revealed to me here).

Thanks in advence, and thanks to WW2DB for posting & keeping these comments!
11. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
18 Sep 2013 07:53:01 PM

CR Thanks for all the information. I'm putting my two cents worth.

The carrier is the Chuyo, damaged and sunk on Dec 12, 1943. Photo shows heavy damage around the ships bow. Check out the stern, her engines are in reverse, reversing the ships directions helps to reverse the inrush of water into the bow.

In a second photo I have a technical drawing of the ship, was overlaid over the original photo using the position of the two aircraft elevators to align the two images the ship has lost its
bow which would pass the front of the flight deck.

Reference: Ships of the World, Vol. 126, page 84


Chuyo was torpedoed by the US Submarine USS Sailfish(SS-192)southwest of Honshu sinking after taking four of the five torpedoes.


The Sailfish didn't know it at the time, that the Chuyo was carrying twenty-one survivors from the
USS Sculpin(SS-191)twenty out of the twenty-one went down with the ship. Lost at sea when the carrier went down, she took 1,250 men.
One hundred and sixty survivors were picked up along with one US POW from the Sculpin by the Japanese destroyers Sazanami and Urakaze.

Chuyo started out as the Commercial Japanese Liner Nitta Maru. In 1942 she was converted into
an escort carrier. As an escort carrier, Chuyo was too slow and too small for front-line carrier action, she was used as an aircraft/ferry/troop and supply ship operating between Japan and its Pacific land bases.
Chyuo delivered both Army and Navy aircraft of various types from fighters, trainers, light bombers and twin-engine fighters. Looking at the file photo its difficult to identify what type of aircraft are on the flight deck, but I'm guessing here.
Aircraft could be Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar or Ki-27 Nate I'll throw in Manshu Ki-79 two-seat or single-seat trainers, Mitsubishi A5M4 Claude single-engine fighters.


Aircraft with wings folded, look like Yokosuka B4Y1 Jean, its wings folded reward along the fuselage other aircraft are to damaged to identify. Chuyo was capable of carrying/ferry as many as fifty-four aircraft. If anyone has more information post it here....
12. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
19 Sep 2013 06:45:45 PM


Wartime photographs are the most fleeting of all. Some photos taken at a certain time and place fail to get credit or lack the identification necessary for posterity.


Some photos are used to interact with a certain wartime photo, after awhile being published so many times, they are taken as truth.
Leaving my comments here at ww2db I've always tried to identify many of the wartime photographs on file. Having a library and reference material covering the 1939-1945 period. I've always been free to share this information...
13. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
20 Sep 2013 07:19:00 PM

OOPS! made a mistake the Chuyo was not sunk on Dec.12,1943 but on Dec.4,1943 sometime I type to fast and forget to proof read.
14. Tommy Engels says:
22 Feb 2014 05:39:29 AM

We need to keep in mind that this photo may be of the UNYO in the first week of February 1944. She took a torpedo to her bow, stopped at Saipan for what repairs she could get and then proceeded to Yokosuka.enroute she encountered severe weather and had to proceed in reverse in order to lessen the strain on her bow bulkheads.
15. Anonymous says:
26 Dec 2014 07:26:15 PM

The object on the bow looks to me like an airplane, upside down atop the wrecked bow. Those two dark discs are in the perfect position to be the underwing insignia. To have such symmetrically placed spots on the negative is unlikely.

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