Stories and Battle Histories of the IJN's Carrier Fleet

(Updated 31 October 2018)

By Anthony Tully

Discussion & Questions

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April 10, 1941 marked a pivotal moment in naval aviation history. On this date, the Imperial Japanese Navy formed the First Air Fleet, composed of all seven of Japan's fleet and light carriers. At the time, with 474 aircraft, the First Air Fleet was the single most powerful grouping of naval aviation power in the world. The Japanese had thus taken a step that no Western navy had yet made -- the concentration of its core air power into a single tactical formation. With this revolutionary innovation the groundwork for the true carrier task force had been laid, a battle group which could travel long distances and bring decisive combat power to bear in its chosen theatre of operations.

Later, with the addition of Carrier Division 5 (Shokaku, Zuikaku), the six large carriers of First Air Fleet -- Carrier Division 1 (Akagi, Kaga), Carrier Division 2 (Soryu, Hiryu) and Carrier Division 5 -- would form the core of Kido Butai, the Mobile Striking Force which Admiral Yamamoto would task with carrying out the raid against Pearl Harbor. This marked the pinnacle of Japanese carrier operations; a bold operation, daring in concept and expertly carried out by crack air crews.

What follows is a set of operational histories for the ships that composed the core of the Imperial Japanese Navy's striking power -- her aircraft carriers. Compiled by Anthony Tully, these vignettes bring out the day-to-day operations, and also the little-known facts, surrounding these great vessels. In most cases, the starting point for the service timelines will be 10 April 1941, the birth date of the First Air Fleet. However, pre-WW II careers will be posted in revisions coming this spring as available.

Japanese Carriers: Special Features
The special features include "close-up" narrative and action studies of individual IJN aircraft carriers in more detail, and include links to the War Maps and summaries as well as a "deluxe illustrated" format. The deluxe format - also to be introduced into the author's "Mysteries/Untold Sagas" section - is part of an effort to continue to present first-class research products on Nihon Kaigun and the Internet. Revisions to posts to be indicated by date.

Please feel free to post and discuss questions and facts of Japanese carriers on my discussion board above.

June 4 2007 Update Notice:

Given our book "Shattered Sword" about the destruction of much of Kido Butai at Midway, today's 65th anniversary of the Battle of Midway appropriately sees the start of an extensive series of updates and revisions to my carrier pages. Due to time constraints in the writing and the follow-up response and engagements from our book and other writings these planned updates have lagged. However, the time has been well spent, in that some inconsistencies have cleared up and more fuller details been unearthed. In some cases the revisions will be minor, in others, like Shokaku, it will change markedly. For all CVs an extensive effort has been undertaken to check times and make sure all match Tokyo time for consistency and there will be some expansion of action content. - Tony

The sinking of the Shokaku: An Analysis posted 10/19/98.

Star-Crossed Sortie: Last Voyage of the Unryu and Desdiv 52 posted 5/16/98.

Japanese Carriers: Tabular Records of Movement (TROMs)

(Class types link to Jon Parshall's specification summaries)


Hosho (Revised 4/14/2014)


Kaga (posted 9/10/2000, updated 3/23/2015)

Akagi Class

Akagi (posted 6/2/98, updated 11/15/2013)


Ryujo (posted 1/10/2000)

Soryu Class

Soryu (posted 1/10/2000, updated 11/8/15)
Hiryu [posted 4/24/2000]

Shoho Class

Shoho (revised 7/15/2014)
Zuiho (posted 11/15/2001)

Chitose Class

Chitose (Posted 10/5/2001)
Chiyoda (Posted 7/25/98)

Shokaku Class

Shokaku (revised 06/19/07)
Zuikaku (posted 10/6/98)


Ryuho (posted 4/6/2001)

Hiyo Class

Hiyo (revised 4/5/2013)
Junyo (revised 6/1/2013)

Taiho Class

Taiho (revised 06/19/2007)


Shinano (posted 5/7/2001

Unryu Class

Unryu (Revised 7/7/17)
Amagi (Revised 7/8/17)
Katsuragi (posted 11/5/04)

Escort Carriers

Taiyo (revised 6/4/2007)
Chuyo (revised 6/4/2007)
Unyo (posted 1/22/2001)
Kaiyo (revised 9/14/2015)
Shinyo (Revised 3/10/2018; posted 7/20/02)

Seaplane Carriers

Mizuho (revised 10/31/2018)
Nisshin (posted 5/18/03)
Akitsushima (posted 9/18/04
Chitose (revised 19/5/14)

Bibliography of sources

About the Author

Anthony Tully is a naval historian/researcher and with Jon Parshall the co-author of the new best-selling "Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway" from Potomac Books. He is also the author of an unpublished manuscript on the last battles of the IJN, some of which is published in the "Mysteries" articles. He is a member of and has written articles for the International Naval Research Organization (aka "Warship International") , and the United States Naval Institute. Other research activities include Roman and Byzantine History, Theological Studies, Volcanism, and the Medieval Period. Some writing projects and interests include Science-Fiction, Philosophy, and Psychology. He can be contacted at:

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