In the space of a short half a century, Imperial Japan was catapulted from a closed feudal society to a world power that had bested one of the greatest empires of Europe. When the Imperial Japanese Fleet destroyed the Imperial Russian Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905, Japan was recognized by all to be a world power with a comparatively small but first class navy. To the extent that her finances would permit, Japan expanded her navy with the construction of ever larger and more powerful battleships. While Britain jumped the main guns from 12-inches to 13.5-inches in her battleship construction race with Germany, Japan and the United States upped the ante to an even 14-inches in their own building race.
In the short span of 14 months (January 1911 through March 1912) Japan laid down five capital ships armed with 14-inch guns, the four Kongo Class battlecruisers and Fuso. In that same time period the USN responded with the New York and Texas with Nevada and Oklahoma being laid down in the fall of 1912. It wasn’t until October 1913 with the Pennsylvania that the USN laid down a battleship that matched the twelve 14-inch gun armament of the Fuso. During the construction of Fuso and Yamashiro, Japan had been studying ways to improve the next class. In May 1915 the two ships of the follow on design were laid down, Hyuga on May 6 and Ise on May 10.
The Hyuga Class was ten feet longer, slightly heavier, one knot faster with the same main armament but twenty 5.5-inch secondary guns instead of sixteen 6-inch guns. However, the most obvious difference with the Fuso Class was the layout of the two amidships turrets. Instead of being placed with one to the fore and one to the aft of the stack as in Fuso, with Hyuga they were placed together just aft of the second funnel with one in a superfiring position. This was clearly more economical placement than the preceding design. While the USN was satisfied with a standard 21-knot fleet speed, which standardized USN designs for 10 years, the battleships of Japan stressed ever higher speeds. With their 23 ½ knot maximum speed, the Hyuga Class carried through with the Japanese preference of having ships with slightly less armor protection, if they could be faster than those of their likely opponent, the USN.
After the First World War and as a signatory on the Washington Treaty, Japan could no longer build battleships. Instead, the fleet prepared designs to dramatically improve their existing vessels. With the Hyuga and Ise it started modestly enough with the addition of four single mounted 3.1-inch AA guns but by 1930 it was time for a major refit. It was then that numerous platforms were added to the tripod foremast that created the pagoda appearance of the superstructure that was so characteristic of World War Two Japanese battleships. They still retained two stacks with forward receiving the curving cowl found on most Japanese battleships in the 1930s. Although no catapult was fitted, a derrick was added for handling seaplanes. The catapult was added in 1933.
The great rebuilds of both ships occurred in the mid-1930s. From November 1934 to September 1936 Hyuga was almost completely rebuilt with Ise following August 1935 to March 1937. When other powers dramatically rebuilt their older battleships, their speeds tended to drop, as in the case of the British Queen Elizabeth Class but not so with Japanese rebuilds. In keeping with their desire for ever greater fleet speeds, the Japanese rebuilds increased speed. An additional 25 feet was added to the hull at the stern of the Hyuga Class and the ships were completely re-boilered with fewer but better boilers and re-engined with new turbines. With fewer boilers there was no need for two stacks so the fore funnel was removed. The horsepower of the battleships leaped from 45,000 shp to 80,000 shp. With the new power, coupled with a better underwater hull form from the lengthening of the hull, the maximum speed jumped to over 25 knots in spite of the additional 6,000 tons displacement that the ships acquired in the rebuild.
The pagoda superstructure was enlarged and heightened with more modern range finders placed higher in the new design. Additional armor was added and the ships were given anti-torpedo bulges. The elevation of the main guns and hence their range was increased to 33 degrees and later to 43 degrees for the first four turrets. Four forward 5.5-inch guns were landed and AA guns greatly augmented with four twin 5-inch/40 shielded mounts as well as a greatly increased smaller AA fit. Lastly a catapult and crane were added to the quarterdeck and the battleships carried two or three Type 95 Nakajima "Dave" seaplanes stored on trolleys on the open quarterdeck.
Although they were now capable of 25 knots, the Japanese Navy still considered them too slow to act as escorts for their fast fleet carriers. That job was left to the four ships of the Kongo Class, which in their rebuilds went from 27 knot, lightly armored battlecruisers to 30 knot more heavily armored fast battleships. When the Japanese strike force departed the Kurile Islands in November 1941 to strike Pearl Harbor, Hyuga and Ise remained in Japanese home waters.
Their first sortie came on December 8, 1941 when they departed to provide support for the returning carrier strike force. In March 1942 they left in an attempt to intercept a US carrier force, probably TF17 with Yorktown but of course were unsuccessful. The next month the Tokyo raid by Doolittle’s B-25 force, stirred them into action again. From April 18 through 22, the Hyuga and Ise fruitlessly sought Hornet and Enterprise but they were long gone. On May 29, 1942 they left to support the diversionary operation against the Aleutian Islands, while the main operation was directed against Midway, which resulted in a Japanese disaster. After returning to home waters in June for the next nine months they stayed in the Inland Sea. One can only wonder what their presence during the Guadacanal Campaign could have meant for the Japanese fortunes, instead of their considerable abilities being wasted by swinging at anchor in the sheltered home waters.
As a direct result of the Japanese fiasco at Midway, on April 28, 1943 Hyuga went into another major refit, which lasted from May to November 1943. Ise had preceded her in this refit from February to August 1943. This time they were rebuilt into curious battleship/carrier hybrids. With the removal of the last two turrets, the aft 40% of the ship was greatly built-up by incorporating a hangar 60 meters long and flight gear for 22 13-Shi D4Y4 Suisei "Judy" wheeled dive bombers. The bombers could not fly from or land on the flight deck, which was primarily used for handling, preflight operations and storage. Two new catapults were added just aft and on either side of the forth turret. Using the turntables and rails on the nonfunctional flight deck, the bombers would be loaded onto the catapults to be launched and would have to be recovered at a land strip or fully functional carrier.
In any event, the Judys were not available so Hyuga received 14-Shi Aichi E16A1 "Paul" floatplanes instead of the planned Judys. In addition Ise appears to have received some Aichi D3A1 "Val" bombers, while running trials in August 1943. All of the original 5.5-inch secondary guns were landed and the 5-inch AA gun fit increased to sixteen. Light AA also jumped up to 57 25mm guns. Because the weight of the removed turrets was greater than the additional fittings, to balance the ship, the flight deck received an 8-inch layer of concrete. Lastly, in a belated effort to keep pace with the ever-increasing edge that the USN enjoyed in technology, Ise was fitted with Type 21 radar and Hyuga with Type 22 radar. Throughout 1944 the pair received greater numbers of light AA guns. In June 1944 the total was 108 25mm guns, organized in 31 triple mounts and 15 single mounts. September saw a new addition. Six mounts, each of which contained 28 4.7-inch rocket tubes were added to the aft end of the flight deck with three mounts on sponsons on each side. Since by that time the twins had no operational aircraft, extra AA was mounted on the flight deck and the two catapults were landed to improve the arc of fire of turret numbers three and four.
After completion of the refit Hyuga initially served as a training ship until being assigned to Carrier Division 4 in May 1944. Since Ise finished her refit three months earlier, she spent some time serving in the Transport Force, moving supplies and army personnel to Truk. Ise joined Carrier Division 4 in April 1944. Their next action was as part of Admiral Ozawa’s diversionary force in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, in Operation SHO-1.
Hyugaand Ise sailed with all of the remaining Japanese carriers, Zuikaku, Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda with the mission of luring the US surface forces away from the landing area of Leyte Gulf, so that the surface forces of Admirals Kurita and Nishamura could move in for surface attack. The carriers had only 108 planes total and the hybrids had none. Ozawa was the only force commander to successfully complete his part of SHO-1. After arriving to the northeast of Luzon without being spotted, Ozawa had to send his few planes to attack the US fleet and use his radio in an effort to attract the American Fleet. Finally on October 25, 1944 the force was spotted and as predicted, Halsey took the bait. The American Fleet Carriers and fast battleships went charging north, leaving the transports at Leyte Gulf protected by Escort Carriers and Admiral Oldendorf’s force of old Pearl Harbor veterans.
All four carriers were sunk as well as the old light cruiser Tama. The Hyuga and Ise fought furiously under American air attack. They even used their 14-inch main guns to fire special AA shells. The pair poured out so much firepower that at times they looked like they were on fire. The new rocket batteries were especially spectacular, as they fired off their 168 rockets on each ship. No aircraft were apparently lost to the rocket batteries but their impressive appearance caused US airmen to use more discretion in attacking them. Although Ise had almost 30 near misses, neither battleship was significantly damaged in the air attacks that sank the carriers. There is one further irony in this engagement. Halsey was 45 miles short of making surface contact with Ozawa’s force, when he belatedly swung south to come to the aid of the Jeep Carriers that had been under surface attack by Kurita’s battleships and cruisers. Kurita was gone by the time Halsey returned to the San Bernadino Straits. If Halsey had continued north after Ozawa, it is likely that the last battleship versus battleship duel would not have been at Surigao Strait but instead would have been the Iowa, North Carolina and South Dakota Classes against the two lonely hermorphodites, Hyuga and Ise.
As it was the pair returned to home waters on October 28 and they were subsequently rebased in Singapore where they had access to fuel oil. They were recalled to home waters in February 1945, loaded with aviation fuel and other desperately needed resources. With no fuel source in Japanese home waters and no aircraft, they were made floating AA batteries protecting Kure. On March 19, 1944 Hyuga was attacked by American carrier aircraft and hit twice. In a second attack on her on July 24, she was hit a dozen times and her stern settled on the bottom. A third attack on July 28 found her a derelict and further hits completed the job of four days earlier. She settled completely on the bottom in shallow water with everything aft of her first turret flooded. The hulk of Hyuga was broken up in July 1946. Ise suffered a similar fate in these July raids except at the start of the July 28 raid, she was still capable of some minimal resistance from some of her 5-inch AA, 25mm guns and number 2 turret. She also sank in shallow water to be broken up after the war. (Bulk of the history on Hyuga is from Battleships of World War Two - An International Encyclopedia by M.J. Whitley)
The Hasegawa Hyuga (New Tooling)
As far as I can tell, none of the parts from the old Hyuga kit are reissued with the new kit. All are new designs with far greater and vastly more accurate detail. The kit comes with 304 detailed plastic parts on eleven sprues, three decal sheets and instructions. Not only do you get a mass of parts but a comparison of the new kit with the old kit of the Hyuga is like comparing a new Dodge Viper with an old Ford Model T. The difference in detail and quality is that great.
Instead of a one-piece hull, the new kit’s hull comes in five major pieces, two hull sides, waterline bottom and two major deck pieces. The quality of all the parts are also light years ahead. The 14-inch main guns have individual separate barrels with well done blast bags with the secondary guns also having blast bags. The main turrets are crammed with detail instead of the old smooth top and sides found in the earlier kit. The smaller guns are appropriately thin and delicate with no unsightly telephone poles masquerading as AA guns. Virtually every part is new and is of the highest standard in the styrene, injected plastic industry.
The kit reviewed is of the Hyuga as a pure battleship before her transformation into a BB/CV. Hasegawa gives you eight floatplanes, which is far more than she carried. However, they give you 2 each of the Alf, Dave, Pete and Jake floatplanes, so you can decide her aircraft complement depending upon which year you wish to portray Hyuga. Some of the spare floats are used to stock a seaplane parts storage area in the aft superstructure. The deck detail is far greater than the almost barren decks found on the old kit.
Hasegawa has truly thought out how to appeal to the new modeler who just wants to build the kit out of the box and the experienced modeler who wants to build the ship with all of the bells and whistles available in the current marketplace. The prime example involves the lattice searchlight towers that surround the stack. In the old kit they were part of the stack. If you wanted to use photo-etch brass available from Gold Medal Models or Toms to portray this beautiful ironwork, you would have to throw away the funnel parts and scratch-build a new funnel. With the new Hyuga the stack parts are separate from the latticework, as well as having separate platforms to rest on top of the lattice towers. It is extremely simple to replace the solid plastic lattice towers with photo-etch. Simply assemble and attach the stack to the hull, add the photo-etch towers and place the platforms on top. I personally urge everyone to use one of the available Japanese battleship photo-etch sets as open brass towers are so much nicer parts to use than the solid plastic ones provided in the kit. Hasegawa intentionally designed their new Hyuga to allow this simple and painless replacement. They provide the stock plastic towers for the youngsters who are just starting out and for whom photo-etch is an alien and frightening prospect. However, for anyone with any experience with photo-etch, using the substitute brass parts for the towers, catapult, cranes and other smaller items is very strongly recommended.
The instructions are much better as well. Of course they are in Japanese with some English sub-text but Hasegawa uses a series of well done drawings to allow the modeler to sequentially go through the assembly. The front page has a well-done multi-gray tone plan and profile that is also used as a painting guide. The paint colors are identified by the Imperial Japanese paint description. Although Sasebo and Maizuru Naval Arsenal grays are mentioned in the painting key, the Hyuga is in an overall Kure Naval Arsenal Dark Gray according to the painting diagram. Hasegawa must use the same painting key for their other kits because the Sasebo and Maizuru grays are not indicated in the painting guide. Most of the decals are for the seaplanes but you also receive flags and jacks and name decals for the stern of the ship.
The Hasegawa Hyuga (New Tooling) is available along with the other Japanese new tooled 1:700 scale kits from Pacific Front.