The Japanese battleship Yamato, built in the shipyards at Kure in 1941, was 263 meters long, with 12 Kanpon boilers turning four turbine screws 6 meters (20 ft.) in diameter, at 27 knots (50Km/h) and displaced an astonishing 72,800 tonnes of water. Along with her sister ship the Musashi, she was the largest, heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed.
Sent to “fight until destroyed” while protecting Okinawa, the battleship never made it that far, and its great size may have hindered it when it was spotted by American air forces. The massive ship was bombed by American planes in April 1945. As the ship rolled over and began to sink, the ships explosives detonated and the blast created a mushroom cloud over 4 miles high, visible from 100 miles away. The Yamato lost most of her crew, some 3,055 out of 3,332 sailors.
The sinking of the Musashi (in 1944) and the spectacular sinking/explosion of the Yamato in 1945, represented a major psychological blow to the Japanese. Both ships had represented the apex of Japanese naval engineering, and were potent symbols of the power of the empire itself. Today the story of the Yamato, serves as a sort of shorthand metaphor for the ending of the Japanese empire itself.
The Battleship Yamato Museum, dedicated to the ship and her history, is located by the harbor in Kure, near Hiroshima, and opened in 2005. It features a 26.3 meter long scale model of the battleship, and other fascinating items including a Japanese Type 62 Zero aircraft and a “Kaiten,” a one-man human driven torpedo, used by the Japanese as a suicide weapon.
The battleship has also inspired much in Japanese pop culture such as an anime series about a space battleship Yamato, and models and robots from that series are on display in the museum.
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