|Yamato and Musashi anchored in the waters off of the Truk Islands in 1943. (Source)|
As an amateur historian, I am constantly reminded that there are two sides in every conflict. One can despise the cause, the leadership, and/or the principles of one (sometimes both) of the combatants. Atrocities are committed by both sides, sometimes as a matter of policy, sometimes in the heat of combat. But in wartime, bravery also exists, on both sides.
While I can (and do) despise many of the actions of the Empire of Japan in World War II, there is no denying that the average Japanese soldier, sailor, and airman displayed great fortitude and courage during that conflict.
The common men and women of a nation do not start wars. Yes, they may support the war and its objectives, though often they really have no say in the matter, one way or the other. While Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. may have coined the phrase, "Our country – In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right, and always successful, right or wrong.", the citizens of many nations have no doubt shared and expressed that sentiment over the years. It is the timing and location of one's birth that determines one's loyalties.
All that aside, Yamato was a magnificent warship, though in truth she was obsolete from the day her keel was laid down, warfare had changed. Yamato and her crew would experience that fact first hand.
Yamato (大和) was the lead ship of the Yamato class of Imperial Japanese Navy World War II battleships. She and her sister ship, Musashi (武蔵), were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tons at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 inch) 45 Caliber Type 94 main guns. Neither ship survived the war.
Named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, Yamato was designed to counter the numerically superior battleship fleet of the United States, Japan's main rival in the Pacific. She was laid down in 1937 and formally commissioned a week after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941. Throughout 1942, she served as the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet, and in June 1942 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto directed the fleet from her bridge during the Battle of Midway, a disastrous defeat for Japan. Musashi took over as the Combined Fleet flagship in early 1943, and Yamato spent the rest of the year, and much of 1944, moving between the major Japanese naval bases of Truk and Kure in response to American threats. Although present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, she played no part in the battle.
As the final step before their planned invasion of the Japanese mainland, Allied forces invaded Okinawa on 1 April. The Imperial Japanese Navy's response was to organize a mission codenamed Operation Ten-Go that would see the commitment of much of Japan's remaining surface strength. Yamato and nine escorts (the cruiser Yahagi and eight destroyers) would sail to Okinawa and, in concert with kamikaze and Okinawa-based army units, attack the Allied forces assembled on and around Okinawa. Yamato would then be beached to act as an unsinkable gun emplacement and continue to fight until destroyed. In preparation for the mission, Yamato had taken on a full stock of ammunition on 29 March. According to the Japanese plan, the ships were supposed to take aboard only enough fuel for a one way voyage to Okinawa, but additional fuel amounting to 60 percent of capacity was issued on the authority of local base commanders. Designated the "Surface Special Attack Force", the ships left Tokuyama at 15:20 on 6 April.
Yamato's crew were at general quarters and ready for anti-aircraft action by dawn on 7 April. The first Allied aircraft made contact with the Surface Special Attack Force at 08:23; two flying boats arrived soon thereafter, and for the next five hours, Yamato fired Common Type 3 or Beehive shells at the Allied seaplanes, but could not prevent them from shadowing the force. Yamato obtained her first radar contact with aircraft at 10:00; an hour later, American F6F Hellcat fighters appeared overhead to deal with any Japanese aircraft that might appear. None did. Wikipedia
While there are some historical inaccuracies in the clip, the portrayal of men at war rings true. In any language.
Ladies and gentlemen, the last battle of Yamato, not for the faint of heart...