Shoho (Happy Phoenix)

The small aircraft carrier Shoho and her sister ship the Zuiho were the result of a Japanese attempt to avoid the restrictions imposed on naval construction by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. They were originally planned as fast oilers designed to be easily converted into aircraft carriers. By the time work began they had been changed into submarine support ships, still with the ability to be turned into carriers.

Shoho under attack, 7 May 1942
Shoho under attack, 7 May 1942

The Shoho was completed as a submarine support ship, the Tsurugisaki, and was commissioned in this role at the start of 1939. Her sister ship, the Takasaki, which had been laid down six months after her, and launched a full year later, was never completed as a submarine support ship, and instead was converted into a small aircraft carrier, the Zuiho. This conversion was completed on 27 December 1940.  

Work on turning the Shoho into a carrier began late in 1940, and was completed on 26 January 1942. Internally the original diesel motors were replaced by turbines designed for destroyers. A single hanger, capable of carrying thirty aircraft, was built into the existing structure of the ship, and the flight deck was built over the top of the superstructure. Two elevators were installed. The front part of the 590ft 6in long flight deck was supported on four legs, and the ship was controlled from a bridge built into the original superstructure under this flying deck. 

The Shoho had a very short operational life. She was commissioned on 26 January 1942, and was then assigned to the covering force for the planned invasion of Port Moresby. During the battle of the Coral Sea the covering force was attacked by aircraft from the USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. Most of these aircraft attacked the Shoho, which was struck by seven torpedoes and at least eleven bombs. She sank soon after 11:35 on 7 May 1942, with the losses of all but 203 of her crew.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed









660ft 9in at waterline


Eight 4in/40 DP (4 double mountings)
Eight 25mm anti-aircraft guns (four mountings)

Crew complement



1 June 1935


26 January 1942 (as carrier)

Sunk at Coral Sea

7 May 1942

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 November 2008), Shoho (Happy Phoenix) ,

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