Contributor: C. Peter Chen
This article refers to the entire Kongo-class; it is not about an individual vessel.
ww2dbaseThe Kongo-class ships, originally classified as battlecruisers, were designed by the British firm Vickers-Armstrong, and the ships in this class were essentially upgraded versions of the British battlecruiser Lion. Sir George Thurston was the head of the engineering team at Vickers-Armstrong responsible for this project. The first ship of the class, Kongo, was built in the United Kingdom, and was the last capital ship to be built outside of Japan. While Hiei, the second ship in the class, was built in Japan, the third ship, Haruna, was the first to be done with all Japanese-made parts. The fourth ship, Kirishima, was also built with all Japanese-made parts.
ww2dbaseAs battlecruisers, these four ships of the Kongo-class carried relatively light protection in terms of armor, but this characteristic also made them the fastest Japanese capital ships at the time at the maximum speed of 27.5 knots. They were originally planned to carry 12-inch guns, just as contemporary British battlecruisers, but ultimately the design's armament was upgraded to 14-inch guns, making them the largest gun platforms afloat at the time. The decision to upgrade the primary guns was partially because the Japanese had learned that the British battlecruiser Lion was to carry 13.5-inch guns, and they wished to out-do the Royal Navy. Secondary armament of the Kongo-class ships were 16 6-inch guns in casements. The numerous secondary guns reflected the Japanese concern for destroyer attacks on capital ships. Like other Japanese heavy ships, but unlike ships of other navies, Kongo-class battlecruisers were equipped with submerged torpedo tubes.
ww2dbaseThe Kongo-class ships took on major modernization efforts during the inter-war years that resulted them being classified as battleships. Some of the upgrades done include additional armor, removal of torpedo tubes, replacement of boilers (fewer but more powerful), and addition of anti-aircraft weapons. Although now classified as battleships, compared to other battleships, they were considered lightly armed and lightly armored. This was partly due to their battlecruiser origins and partly due to their age.
ww2dbaseAt the beginning of the Pacific War, Kongo and Haruna covered the invasions at Malaya and the Philippine Islands, and then they moved on with the invasion fleet to Java, providing distant cover. Meanwhile, Hiei and Kirishima covered the carrier force. In Mar-Apr 1942, all four ships gathered to escort the carrier force during the major raid into the Indian Ocean; this was the only time during WW2 that all four ships of the Kongo-class served together. During the Battle of Midway, Kongo and Hiei sailed with the invasion force, with Haruna emerging from the battle lightly damaged. All four ships were active in the Solomon Islands, participating in major battles such as Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz and performing major bombardment raids on American positions such as Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. All four ships were sunk during WW2. Hiei was sunk by aircraft, and Kirishima by USS Washington's guns. The remaining two ships sank later. Kongo was attacked by submarine USS Sealion II and sank after being struck by torpedoes, and Haruna sank in shallow water near the end of the war when she was attacked by American dive bombers.
ww2dbaseSource: Imperial Japanese Navy Battleships 1941-45.
Last Major Revision: Sep 2008
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945