Hiryu (Flying Dragon)

The Hiryu was a slightly larger and improved version of the aircraft carrier Soryu. Like the Soryu she was lightly built but fast and capable of operation a large air group – a total of 73 aircraft could be carried, of which either 57 or 63 (sources differ) were operational.

The Hiryu was launched just before work on the Soryu was completed. She was slightly heavier, with most of the extra weight coming in a limited amount of extra armour or in efforts to improve her stability. She was one of only two Japanese carriers to have a port side island mounted amidships – this location caused dangerous wind currents at the rear of the flight deck area and was not repeated. Like the Soryu, the Hiryu was given two hangers and three elevators.

The Hiryu and the Soryu operated together in Carrier Division 2. They saw service at Pearl Harbor, and on the way back to Japan were used to support the second attack on Wake Island (22-23 December 1941). In January 1942 the Soryu and the Hiryu supported the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies, attacking Ambon on 24 January and Laha airfield on the following day. On 19 February the Hiryu was one of four carriers that took part in the attack on Darwin (northern Australia), and in April was one of five carriers in Admiral Nagumo’s main fleet during the raid on Ceylon.

Midway Pictures
Hiryu burning, at Midway

The Hiryu was the only one of the four Japanese carriers to survive the American attack on the morning of 4 June. In the aftermath of that disaster Rear-Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, the commander of Hiryu decided to launch a counterattack. Sixteen D3A1 Aichis and a smaller force of A6M2 Zeros were sent out at 10:45, as a first wave, while work continued on arming another nine aircraft with torpedoes. This small force attacked the Yorktown, and inflicted damage that left her vulnerable to the torpedo attacks that would sink her.

This still left the Enterprise and the Hornet intact, and on the afternoon of 4 June they sent off an attack made up of aircraft from VS-6, VB-6 and VB-3 from Enterprise and VS-8 and VB-8 from the Hornet. According to Captain Susumu Kawaguchi, the Air Officer on Hiryu, she was hit by six bombs during this attack. The bombs caused fires that eventually spread to the engines. With no power, and with the rest of the fleet retreating, it was not possible to save her, and on the following the destroyer Makigumo was ordered to torpedo the burning Hiryu.

Displacement (standard)

17,300t

Displacement (loaded)

21,900t

Top Speed

34.3kts

Range

7,670nm

Armour – deck

1in (machinery)
2.2in (magazines)

 - belt

3.5in (machinery)
5.9in (magazines)

Aircraft

64 operational
73 maximum

Length

745ft 11in max

Armaments

12 5in/40 Dual Purpose guns in double mountains
31 25mm AA guns

Crew complement

1,101

Launched

16 November 1937

Completed

5 July 1939

Sunk at Midway

5 June 1942

Midway: Dauntless Victory, Fresh Perspectives on America's Seminal Naval Victory of World War II, Peter C. Smith. A very detailed and well researched account of the battle of Midway and of the historical debate that still surrounds it, supported by a mass of original documents and interviews with participants. An invaluable look at this crucial battle. [see more]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2008), Hiryu (Flying Dragon) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hiryu.html

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