Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū - 'Dragon Flying in Heaven'
Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū - 'Dragon Flying in Heaven'
Operators: Imperial Japanese Navy
Laid down: 8 July 1936 Yokosuka,Japan
Launched: 16 November 1937
Commissioned: 5 July 1939
Struck: 25 September 1942
Fate: Sunk by air attack in the Battle of Midway on 5 June 1942
Class & type: Modified Sōryū-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 17,300 tons (standard), 20,165 tons (full load)
Length: 222.0 m (728 ft 5 in, waterline) 216.9 m (711 ft 7 in, flight deck)
Beam: 22.3 m (73 ft 2 in)
Draught: 7.74 m (25 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: Geared steam turbines, 113 MW (153,000 hp), 4 screws
Speed: 63.9 km/h (34.5 knots)
Range: 7,670 nmi (14,200 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)
Complement: 1,103 + 23 officers for Carrier Division 2 headquarters
Armament: 12 × 127 mm (5 in) guns, 31 × 25 mm anti-aircraft guns
Aircraft carried: 57(+16) 18 Mitsubishi A6M Zero, 18 Aichi D3A Vals, 18 Nakajima B5N Kates (Dec. 1941)
Hiryū 飛龍?, 'Flying Dragon' was a modified Sōryū-class aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was one of the carriers that began the Pacific War with the attack on Pearl Harbor. After being heavily damaged by air attacks 4 June 1942 at the Battle of Midway, Hiryu sank on 5 June 1942.
The ship was built within the specifications of the Washington Naval Treaty that was in place at the time, which placed limits on its tonnage and armament. As a result, the Sōryū and Hiryū were relatively small as fleet aircraft carriers compared to their contemporaries during World War II, carrying around 70 aircraft. Compared to her near sister Sōryū, Hiryū was almost four feet greater of beam, 2,000 tons heavier, and had her island superstructure placed on the port side and farther aft on her flight deck.  The Hiryū was also built with the deficiencies of the Ryujo in mind,  which suffered from topweight problems as well as a small flight deck that delayed flight operations. Compared to the Ryujo, the Hiryu had a larger flight deck, hull and an endurance distance extended by nearly 3,000 miles (4,800 km). The port side island was an unusual arrangement; the only other carrier to share this feature was the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi. The Akagi and the Hiryū were intended to work in a tactical formation with starboard-sided carriers, in order to improve the flight pattern around the formation, but the experiment was not continued beyond those two carriers. 
In 1941, commanded by Captain Tomeo Kaku, Hiryū was assigned to Carrier Division 2. On 7 December 1941 she was with the Strike Force in the attack on Pearl Harbor. She launched one wave of planes against the island of Oahu: ten Kates targeted Arizona, California, eight Kates targeted West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Helena and six Zeros attacked US air bases at Wheeler Field and Barbers Point.
From 21 December to 23 December she launched air strikes against Wake Island. In January 1942 she supported the invasion of Ambon in the Moluccas. On 19 February 1942, together with her sister ship Sōryū she launched an air strike against Darwin, Australia.
In March 1942 she took part in the battle of the Java Sea and attacked Allied shipping at Tjilatjep and Christmas Island. On March 5 she sank the Dutch freighter Poelau Bras with approximately 340 people on deck, many of whom died.   In April 1942 she took part in the Indian Ocean raid, striking Royal Navy bases at Colombo and Trincomalee Ceylon and helping to sink the cruisers Cornwall, Dorsetshire, the aircraft carrier Hermes, and her escort destroyer Vampire.
On 19 April 1942 she pursued the US carriers Hornet and Enterprise after they launched the Doolittle Raid, but failed to catch them.
In May 1942, Hiryū sailed on her final mission. Her aircraft complement consisted of 21 Mitsubishi A6M 'Zero' fighters, 21 Aichi D3A 'Val' dive bombers, and 21 Nakajima B5N 'Kate' torpedo bombers.  On 4 June 1942 she took part in the battle of Midway. At 4:30 am she launched a strike against Midway Island, destroying planes and damaging installations. An American carrier-plane attack around 10:25 am disabled IJN carriers Kaga, Sōryū and Akagi but left Hiryū untouched. She proceeded to launch two waves of planes at 10:50 am and 12:45 pm against the American carrier Yorktown, heavily damaging her with bombs and torpedoes and leaving her dead in the water (she was sunk the next day by Japanese submarine I-168). 
By 4 pm, Admiral Yamaguchi decided to launch a third strike against the American carriers at dusk (approximately 6 pm), though at this point in the battle Hiryū had only four air-worthy dive-bombers and five torpedo-planes left. She also retained nineteen of her own Zero fighters on board as well as a further thirteen Zeros on combat air patrol (a composite force left over from the carriers Akagi, Kaga and Sōryū). 
While preparing to launch a third strike, Hiryū was attacked at 5:03 pm by 13 SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Enterprise and hit with four 1000 lb (453.6 kg) bombs, three on the forward flight deck and one on or near the forward elevator. The explosions started fires among the aircraft on the hangar deck. The forward half of the flight deck collapsed into the hangar bay while part of the elevator was hurled against the ship's bridge. 
Although Hiryū's propulsion was not affected, the fires could not be brought under control. At 9:23 pm her engines stopped, and at 1:58 am a major explosion rocked the ship. The order to abandon ship was given shortly afterwards and the survivors were taken off by the destroyers Kazagumo and Makigumo. Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi and Captain Kaku remained on board as Hiryū was scuttled at 5:10 am by torpedoes from Makigumo. She sank at 9:12 am, taking 35 men down with her (another 350 or so had been killed by the bombs, fires and explosions). Thirty-five were rescued by the US Navy and taken prisoner. Admiral Yamaguchi's insistence on going down with his carrier robbed the Japanese of one of their most experienced and aggressive carrier admirals.
- Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Takatsugu Jojima - 10 August 1938- 15 December 1938
- Chief Equipping Officer - Capt. Ryuzo Takenaka - 15 December 1938 - 1 April 1939
- Capt. Ryuzo Takenaka - 1 April 1939 - 15 November 1939
- Capt. Ichibei Yokokawa - 15 November 1939 - 15 November 1940
- Capt. Shikazo Yano - 15 November 1940 - 8 September 1941
- Capt. RADM* Tomeo Kaku - 8 September 1941 - 5 June 1942 (KIA at Midway)
Archive photo's featuring the Imperial Japanese aircraft carrier Dragon Flying in Heaven - 飛龍
Archive Japanese Naval photo showing the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu moored Japan 1939
Description 日本海軍航空母艦「飛龍」横須賀軍港にて工事完了後の写真。 Date 1939 年(昭和14年)7月5日。 Source 広島県呉市海事歴史科学館所蔵品。 Photo from the Archives of the Kure Maritime Museum.
Archive photo showing the Japanese carrier Hiryu still burning Battle of Midway 5th Jun 1942
The burning Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu, photographed by a plane from the carrier Hosho shortly after sunrise on 5 June 1942. Hiryu sank a few hours later. Note collapsed flight deck over the forward hangar. Date 5 June 1942 Source U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 1996.488.037.014; also US Navy photo NH 73065 from . Author U.S. Navy (Donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970)
Running speed trials on 28 April 1939. Donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.
Archive USN photo showing the Japanese carrier Hiryu under B-17 attack Battle of Midway 4th Jun 1942 01
Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu maneuvers to avoid three sticks of bombs dropped during a high-level attack by USAAF B-17 bombers, shortly after 8AM, 4 June 1942. U.S. Air Force Photograph.
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Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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This webpage was updated 14th January 2017