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.

Hiryu on speed trials, 1939
Hiryu on speed trials, 1939

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)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed




Armour – deck

1in (machinery)
2.2in (magazines)

 - belt

3.5in (machinery)
5.9in (magazines)


64 operational
73 maximum


745ft 11in max


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

Crew complement



16 November 1937


5 July 1939

Sunk at Midway

5 June 1942

The Aircraft Carrier Hiryu, Stefan Draminski. An excellent study of the carrier Hiryu, combined a good history of her with very impressive plans. Makes very good use of 3D illustrations, which are placed alongside the detailed 2D plans so we can see what the element being show on the plans looked like as well as having the accurate details of the plan. Especially effective for deck plans and cross sections, where it gives us an idea of just how crowded these carriers could be (Read Full Review)
cover cover cover
Soryu, Hiryu & Unryu Class Aircraft Carriers in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, Lars Ahlberg & Hans Lengerer. A detailed examination of the Soryu and Hiryu and the closely related Unryu class medium carriers, with good sections on the reasons for their construction, their physical layouts, their aviation facilities, where they fit in the overall history of Japanese carriers, and for those that actually had one their combat careers. Very detailed, with some very technical sections, but generally readable, and providing a good operational and design history of these important Japanese carriers (Read Full Review)
cover cover cover
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

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

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

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy