Yamato Today - Memorials, Wreck, Movies & Books

Yamato's myth has built more on the role on being the symbl of national prestige than a practical weapon. There is plenty of interesting Yamato-stuff going on still today. She has inspired various writers and even a couple of film-makers, resulting to four books worth of mentioning. And you must have heard about the Japanese blockbuster movie, Otokotachi no Yamato , but did you know there is also another movie about Yamato filmed alrready in 1953?

The Yamato wreck has been inspected in 1985 and 1999, and various interesting photos have been taken. Two memorials exist, one for the whole Yamato-class in Kure as part of the Yamato-museum, and one for Yamato individually in the southwest part of the small island of Tokunoshima. Also have a look at the reconstruction diorama, which shows how the hull has been torn into two, laying now in 1.400 feet below water close to Japan.

One of the most amazing things about Yamato is that even more than 60 years after she was built, it is still a major contender for the world's largest ship ever! And needless to say, it is the biggest and the baddest battleship in history. Have a look how she compares to other superships of today, for example to gigantic Knock Nevis!.

In Memoria


In Kure, where Yamato was built, there is a Yamato Class memorial monument that imitates the bridge and the mast of the battleship Yamato. The shells for the battleship Nagato and the Yamato are exhibited in the right and left of the monument.

The Battleship Yamato Memorial Tower was erected in April 1968 on Cape Inutabu, located in the southwest part of the small island of Tokunoshima. Yamato sunk in the East China Sea about 200 miles northwest of Tokunoshima (Yoshida 1985, 152). A sign in front of the tower gives the official name as "Memorial Tower of Special Attack Fleet with Battleship Yamato as Flagship," so the memorial honors the men killed in all ships that sunk. A memorial service is held annually at the tower on April 7. According to a sign next to the tower, 3,721 men from this Japanese task force lost their lives that day. This number is inconsistent with that provided by Spurr (1981, 308), who indicates that 4,250 men lost their lives (3,063 from Yamato and 1,187 from escort ships). Yamato's sinking was one of the worst marine disasters in history - however still comparably smaller than the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff.

The Yamato Wreck

Today Yamato lies at 30-22 N, 128-04 E in the depth of 1.410 feet about 50 miles southwest of Kyushu, Japan. Two expeditions to research her remainings have been made, first in August 1985 and second in August 1999. All accounts had agreed that at the moment of sinking at 1423 on 7 April 1945, that the YAMATO had first capsized more than 90 degrees to port, then exploded violently, allegedly as a result of a raging fire touching off "C" turret magazine. However, discovery and submersible exploration of the wreck, particularly a series of surveys in 1999 have shed new light and revealed a somewhat different sequence, sometimes surprising.

Location of Yamato wreck
The wreck location as seen from Google Earth

These surveys show that Yamato ended up in two major halfs in a depth of 1,400 feet. The surprising thing is that it turned out that she had first turned over to port, and while turning, `vomited' out the huge 18.1 inch gun turrets and their barbettes in their entirety. Immediately after, came the huge explosion seen, but it was not "C" turret at all, but rather apparently "B" turret magazine that first exploded. Though this contradicted all prior assumptions, ironically, this matched the testimony of Yamato' s XO Nomura who had all along reported seeing a red light flash for No.1 magazine just before the capsize.

Even so, it seems that it was No.2, not No.1 that went first. In any event, the explosion of forward main magazines was sufficient to sever meters of the bow section clean off the ship. Further, immediately following, apparently the aft 6-inch magazine exploded and tore a large hole in the bottom on the port side of the ship, about level with the mainmast. Both halves subsequently plunged to the bottom, the bow landing upright, and the bulk of the ship landing flat upside down, the bridge superstructure crushed to the side. The rear half is the longest, some 180 meters, and is keel up. The bow half is 90 meters long, with the break just abaft No.1 barbette. The bow half lies upright less than 50 meters to `starboard' of the aft section, pointed at an angle to its midships. (source: http://www.combinedfleet.com/atully08.htm)

Yamato at the bottom of the sea
The impressive bow crest was put only into the most important ships of the Imperial Navy.

Yamato at the bottom of the sea
Another image of the symbol of glory as seen today.

Yamato at the bottom of the sea
One of the the propellers. Each blade was about three times the height of a man.

Equipment lifted from the wreck Equipment lifted from the wreck
Equipment picked from the seafloor

Equipment lifted from the wreck Equipment lifted from the wreck
A gun turret upside down (left) and equipment.

Main artillery ammo at the bottom of the sea
Main artillery ammo

Images from http://www.warship.get.net.pl

A diorama shows how the remainings of Yamato are positioned today.

Wreck of "Yamato" by J. Skulski as per August 1985. Skulski is also the author of Anatomy of Battleship Yamato.

The Movie : Otokotachi no Yamato 2005

Today part of the ship is reconstructed in the shipbuilding docks of Hitachi Zosen corporation in Onomichi-city, Hiroshima. The total construction cost of this big set is 600 million yen. This set was completed in March, 2005, and filming was done there until June. Then, this movie set is opened to the public from July 17, 2005 to March 31, 2006.Official website of the movie is here which, like the movie, is quite impressive,

Otokotachi no Yamato - the Movie
Otokotachi no Yamato - the Movie

Yamato model
Part of the ship reconstructed 1/10 scale for filmmaking.

The Movie : Senkan Yamato, 1953

There is also another movie about Yamato called Senkan Yamato (Battleship Yamato) made directed by Yutaka Abe already in 1953. It's based on o book called Senkan Yamato-no Saigo (Requim for Battleship Yamato, see Books below), by Yoshida Mitsuru, a surviving officer on Yamato.

Ship scenes are split between a modestly sized model in a tank with small electric motors kicking up a wake, huge painted backdrop murals on a stage set, and a small section of Yamato's mid-ship profile bult on an existing ship of some type.  The movie is about an hour and a half long, with the first two thirds devoted to character development in a rather static setting.  The characters (ranging from fanatical dead-enders and philosophical fatalists) then spend the last 40 minutes or so getting killed off one by one (with one survivor).  I suppose you'd have to know Japanese to pick up on any particular themes or messages.  (text by Doug Hallet)

The movie : Rengo Kantai, l98l

The inhuman side of combat is emphasized in this film Rengo Kantai that deals with navy officers and their decisions concerning the great fleet, including Yamato, that they must manage. In order to put the human drama of separation and death in full relief, that drama is played against scenes of nature (ocean waves, cherry blossoms, falling snow) that convey a sense of impermanence and ephemeral tranquility. (Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide )



Requiem for Battleship YamatoFour books are worth of mentioning about Yamato. Requiem for Battleship Yamato by Yamato's junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, translated by Richard H. Minear (University of Washington Press, 1985 (hardcover) / Naval Institute Press, 1999 (paperback) ) has 152 pages.Yoshida writes in a terse style, depicting nearly all events from his survivor viewpoint as a Yamato crewmember. As a consequence, the book gives limited historical background and does not provide the American perspective. This book focuses more on the human side than the military details of Yamato 's doomed mission to Okinawa. Yoshida provides both touching and harsh personal vignettes. In a story that illustrates the Imperial Japanese Navy's severe discipline, Yoshida relates how a higher-ranking officer hits him in the face for failing to discipline physically a sailor who failed to salute, "an offense that normally would call for five blows of the fist" (p. 21). The book was also converted into a movie in 1953.
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A Glorious Way to DieA Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato, April 1945 is written by Russell Spurr (Newmarket Press) in 1981 and has 341 pages. Russell Spurr did extensive, in-depth research with both Japanese and American sources in order to write this dramatic narrative of the final days of Yamato . He served with the Royal Indian Navy during World War II, and he worked as a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and the London Daily Mail . The main narrative covers the period from March 28 to April 7, 1945, but Spurr weaves in historical background throughout the book. The book switches back and forth between different locations on both the Japanese and American sides, such as Yamato , Japanese Combined Fleet headquarters, U.S. Fifth Fleet, kamikaze headquarters at Kanoya Air Base, and U.S. planes attacking Yamato. A Glorious Way to Die has numerous fascinating details not found in these other works. For example, the story does not stop after Yamato has been sunk, but rather goes on to describe American planes spraying the sea with machine-gun fire and to tell about survivors struggling against bullets, exhaustion, Yamato 's undertow, cold, and spilled oil.
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Warship pictorial 25IJN Yamato Class Battleships is written or collected by Steve Wiper, published by Classic Warship Publishing. The book provides pictures and illustrations from Yamato, Musashi and Shinano, and is supposed to even contain material not found in the other books. The most detailed information is usually found from the Japanese books, but Classic Warships Publishing is one of the few Western publishers that attempts to bridge that gap between English and Japanese materials by offering its readers as much previously unknown information as possible. (Histories and TROMS courtesy of Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp).

64 pages, ISBN: 0-9745687-4-0

Anatomy of the shipAnatomy of the ship : The Battleship Yamato

This book seems to be a must for all the detail loving yamatologists out there. User reviews from Amazon.com say "This is undoubtedly a book for modellers, serious historians or people who love technical drawings for their aesthetic value. I loved it, but it is definitely not for everyone." and " Every single detail represented in exquisite drawings right down to cutaways of the different ammunition carried. Whether youre building a model of the ship or just interested in the Yamato, this is the ultimate reference work. " The 'Anatomy of the Ship' series aims to provide fine documentation of individual ships and ship types. It has a complete set of well executed line drawings, both the conventional type of plan as well as explanatory views, with fully descriptive keys. These are supported by technical details and a record of the ship's service history. Written by Janusz Skulski, a polish modelmaker with passion for accuracy.

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Yamato compared to today's biggest ships

Even Yamato was built more than 60 years ago, it still competes with the title of being one of the biggest ships of all time. While Titanic's displacement was less than 50.000 tons, Yamato's was more than 70.000. But things have obviously changed since the days of Titanic, and today the world's biggest passanger ship is the RMS Queen Mary II which at the time it was launched in 2003 was in every dimension the largest passanger ship ever built. With displacement of 76.000 tonnes, she does beat Yamato by about 5.000 tonnes. She is quite much longer (345m compared to 263m) but even being 60 years newer, her 157.000 horsepower engine beats Yamato's 153.500 horsepowers only barely. And with 11 meter draft Yamato beats the QM2 by a meter. However, Queen Mary II has one unbeatable advantage: it's still in service.

It must also be pointed out that exactly at the time of writing in early May 2006, a new even bigger cruiseship called Freedom of the Seas was launched. Being built in Turku, Finland, it's 15 meters wider than QM2, but 6 meters shorter.

If we stick into warships only, Yamato lost the title in 1961 to USS Enterprise, a world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier with length of 336 meters. It was intended to be a first ship of her class of six, but was so expensive that the rest were never built. Later, the Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carriers built by the US Navy between 1972 and 2003 reached the size of USS Enterprise representing today the largest warhips ever built. For example the USS Ronald Reagan, launched 2001, has a displacement of 101.000 tonnes and length of 333 meters. Its draft is 11 meters, same than Yamato's, but it's about 50 meters longer and its two state-of-the-art nuclear reactors, 4 shafts and 4 steam turbines produce 260.000 horsepowers. With all that, it can go just 3 knots faster than Yamato. However, due to its nuclear powering, the USS Ronal Reagan can sail about 20 years before refuelling! So Yamato is definately outclassed by the new era of aircraft carriers, but it still is and probably will forever remain as the biggest battleship ever built.

But the biggest vessels in the world are not passanger cruisers or nuclear powered aircraft carriers. MS Berge Stahl, "steel mountain", built in 1986, is a 364.000 ton 343 meter bulk gargo vessel so big that it can tie up to only two ports in the whole world. (Ponta da Madeira in Brazil and Europort in Rotterdam). It's the biggest dry bulg cargo ship in the world, but the supertankers carrying oil across the oceans are still larger. Among them there is the king of the kings, the largest of them all, the ultimate superheavyweight champion, formerly known as the Seawise Giant, Happy Giant and Jahre Viking. Today this enormous supertanker is named Knock Nevis. It is 69 meters wide and 458 meters long, equal to five football fields. It is now moored in the Qatar Al Shaheen oil field in the Gulf of Arabia, operating as a floating storage and offloading unit. It's size is enormous, but the ship runs with relatively small crew of 40 and a small engine of just 50.000 horsepowers. It has only one propeller, with five blades and a diamter of ten meters.

Comparsion of various ship lengths.

Knock Nevis has a dead weight of 564,763 tonnes and a summer displacement of 647,955 t when laden with nearly 650,000 m³ (4.1 million barrels - valued 307 million US$ on May 06) of crude oil . She sits 24.6 metres in the water when fully loaded, which makes it impossible for her to navigate even the English Channel, let alone man-made canals at Suez and Panama. Like Yamato, also Knock Nevis was built in Japan. It is the largest vessel ever constructed and it's unlikely that anything beyond her size will be built, unless the floating city project Freedom Ship is shown a green light. It's unlikely to happen any time soon if ever.

Yamato model

There is a decent Yamato model available for around $1000 from Tamiya, but the real enthusiasts choose the fine art 1:192 model for $16.000.

Other Yamato Sites

Acorazado Yamato (in Spanish) includes lot of detailed illustrations not seen elsewhere
Space Cruiser Yamato A site with an excellent section on Naval Battleship Yamato
Warship.get.net.pl, Great site on battleships with a good Yamato image gallery
Combinedfleet.com, the Imperial Japanese Navy Page

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