Taiho (Great Phoenix)

The Taiho was the only purpose built Japanese fleet carrier constructed during the Second World War that was finished in time to take part in any of the great carrier battles. She was approved as part of the 1939 Fourth Supplementary Programme, although construction work did not begin until 1941. She was launched in April 1943 and completed less than a year later, in March 1944.

Taiho from Above
Taiho from Above

The Taiho was the first Japanese fleet carrier to be built with an armoured flight deck, designed to withstand 1,000lb bombs. She was otherwise similar to the Shokaku class carriers, themselves considered to be the most effective Japanese carriers of the Pacific War.

In order to compensate for the extra weight of the armoured flight deck the Taiho was built with one less deck than the Shokaku. She had a large island similar to that on the Hiyo, with the smoke stack built into the island. She also differed from other Japanese carriers in having a fully enclosed bow (most Japanese carriers had an open area underneath the front end of the flight deck).

The Taiho was the only carrier to be armed with the Type 98 anti-aircraft gun, a 3.9in/100mm gun carried in twin mountings. The Taiho had six of these dual mountings and seventeen triple and twenty single 25mm gun mountings.

Taiho, Shokaku and Nagato at Singapore
Taiho, Shokaku and Nagato at Singapore

Taiho seen from above-right
Taiho seen from above-right

During the battle of the Philippine Sea the Taiho was the flagship of Admiral Ozawa’s A Force. Early on 19 June 1944, while the Japanese strike force was taking off from the carriers, the Taiho was hit by a torpedo from the American submarine USS Albacore. The damage was not immediately fatal, but the petrol system was damaged, allowing fumes to gather. In the middle of the afternoon the ventilation system was turned on in an attempt to expel the fumes, but instead they were spread around the ship. At 15:32 a spark triggered a massive explosion, and it quickly became clear that the ship was doomed. Ozawa was forced to transfer his flag to the cruiser Haguro, and the order to abandon ship was given, but only 500 of the crew had been rescued before another explosion capsized the Taiho

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed




Armour – flight deck


 - lower hanger deck


 - belt

2.2in (machinery)
5.9in (magazines)


53 operational
84 maximum


855ft max


12 3.9in/64 anti aircraft guns in double mountings
51 25mm anti aircraft guns

Crew complement



7 April 1943


7 March 1944

Sunk during battle of the Philippine Sea

19 June 1944

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2008), Taiho (Great Phoenix) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_taiho.html

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