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Opening Salvo: War at Sea
Part 9 - Yamato


The largest battleship ever built, the Yamato was the lead ship of her class. While four more ships were intended to be built only one was completed as a battleship (the Musashi) and a second as a carrier (Shinano). In 1934 the Japanese gave noticed they intended to withdraw from the Washington Naval Treaty, and began designing the Yamato. After they had officially withdrawn from the treaty construction of the Yamato commenced. The ship was built in the utmost secrecy at the Kure Naval Yards on a ship intended to outgun anything the United States could make. The Yamato had nine 460mm (18.11 inches) guns, and many innovative features.

Flagship of the IJN
The Yamato was commissioned in 1941; just one week after the Pacific War began. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto took the Yamato as the flagship of the Combined Fleet. Though the Yamato was present at the Battle of Midway, it didn’t engage directly in combat. In later December of 1943 an American submarine, the USS Skate (SS-305) damaged the Yamato, forcing her to return for repairs. Admiral Yamamoto then transferred to the Musashi, taking it as the new flagship. While the Yamato was being repair she received a fairly substantial antiaircraft refit, including search radar.

Battles in the Philippines
At the Battle of Leyte Gulf Admiral Kurita took the Yamato as his flagship after his cruiser was sunk by submarines. From there he commanded the Second Fleet. The ship came under attack by aircraft in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea several times, but would never come into contact with any enemy battleships. During the course of these battles the Yamato’s sister ship, the Musashi, would be sunk by American aircraft.

In the Battle off Samar the Yamato, as part of the Centre Force, attempted to pass through the San Bernardino Strait and came into contact with the American force, Taffy 3. The Japanese force consisted of the battleships Yamato, Nagato, Kongo, and Haruna, the cruisers Haurgo, Chokai, Jumano, Suzuya, Tone, Chkuma, and Noshiro, and several destroyers. The American Taffy 3 force consisted of the escort carriers USS Fanshaw Bay, Saint Lo., White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, and Gambier Bay, along with many destroys escorting them. The USS St. Lo would later join the battle. The escort carriers, such as the Saint Lo, and destroyers came under attack by the Yamato’s massive guns. The Yamato was hit by torpedoes from the Heermann, a Fletcher-class destroyer; causing the Yamato to retreat. Despite having such a powerful force the Japanese sunk only two of the escort carriers and a few destroyers, losing three of their heavy cruisers in the process and having three more heavily damaged.

Operation Ten-Go
After the battles in the Philippines the Yamato returned home to Japan and underwent repairs. While there aircraft from ask Force 58 attacked the naval base at Kure causing minor damage to the Yamato. She would soon be ready to go on her final mission – Operation Ten-Go. Along with their attack, Japanese kamikaze attacks began. The intent of the operation was to attack the American fleet supporting the US troop landings on Okinawa. The ships were to fight their way in and interdict the craft – the Yamato and her escorts had only been given enough few to reach the battle, and were never intended to return. If one of the Japanese ships were destroyed the crews were supposed to join the fighting on the land, making the Americans pay for every inch of the island. Many of the commanders thought the entire operation a waste of resources and life but it went ahead. However the suicidal mission would never even reach Okinawa, as the Yamato and her handful of escorts were spotted long before arriving. They would never even engage in surface combat as the American carriers sent massive waves of aircraft at them from eleven carriers. The ships were simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of planes and the Yamato was destroyed. The Japanese fleet had no air cover and had to rely solely on their AA emplacements which only managed to shoot down a handful of aircraft. Additionally, if the air strike did not succeed the US Navy had the battleships USS Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, along with several cruisers and destroyers at the ready. However they were never needed as all put four destroyers were sunk. This would prove to be the last major operation for the Imperial Japanese Navy


In the War at Sea, the Yamato is the biggest and most expensive battleship available. She has the highest armor and vital armor of any ship and is tied for the most hull points with the USS Iowa. Her guns are powerful and numerous, she has extended range, and benefits from torpedo defense.

With an armor value of ten, most gunnery attacks will be highly ineffective against the Yamato. In fact even other battleships may have difficultly with that number at long or medium ranges. A ship needs about fifteen attack dice on its gunnery to stand a good chance of hitting the Yamato. This means for ships like the USS Tennessee and the HMS Hood they need to close in to at least range one to be effective. Meanwhile the Yamato can blast away with more than enough dice up to range four. The high vital armor value on the Yamato will be extremely hard for most ships to hit, and even the powerful USS Iowa requires a lucky roll. This means that in battleship duels, the Yamato will be able to slug it out with the advantage of firepower and armor.

The Yamato’s main gunnery is nearly the same powerful attack as the USS Iowa’s, with only one less die at range two. However, unlike the Iowa, the Yamato also has a secondary gun with decent range and dice, allowing it to pick off destroyers and harm cruisers. With a flagship rating of two you should have a decent chance at winning the initiative and be able to position the Yamato where it needs to be. Always make sure to make use of Extended Range while you can, even if it’s to deter your opponent from moving into certain sectors. It might be more useful to have the Yamato stay back with an escort and cover two objectives than have it go full speed to one, but lose sight of your opponent’s ships behind any terrain. Regarding objectives, the Yamato makes for an interesting pseudo-objective. As long as you are able to take one objective, which the Yamato should have little problem doing, your opponent can only score 100 points from the other objectives. This means that not only does he have to engage your fleet, but he has to sink the Yamato to win – since the rest of your force is less than the fifty points needed to win. If your fleet manages to secure two objectives then it will simply be much easier for you to win, but may not make as much of a difference to your opponent since he needs to take out the 70 point Yamato anyway.

For all its strengths, which are not insignificant, the Yamato has some weaknesses too. It’s very costly, and still needs an escort. It can’t hurt submarines so when building a fleet around her, you need to include some of your own ASW units. Her anti-aircraft value of seven isn’t terrible, but when considering that a carrier fleet will throw everything they have at her, or compared to other battleships, it’s just not good enough. You may be able to abort an aircraft with an attack rating of seven, and even occasionally destroying one, but your fleet needs to be destroying them otherwise it will be whittled down all too quickly. Despite torpedo defense, torpedoes are still a problem for the Yamato since they completely bypass its outstanding defense. Enemy submarines can prove to be a nuisance if you have supporting units to deal with them, or a deadly threat if you have none. For these reasons it’s usually best to have a destroyer escort for the Yamato. An escort carrier and supporting aircraft may prove to be too expensive to use properly with the battleship.

The Yamato is similar in many regards to Axis & Allies Miniatures’ King Tiger, being the most powerful unit in the game, but at the same time it can be much more vulnerable to units such as aircraft or submarines. While the Yamato is fairly forgiving if you simply rush into battle, she’s not invincible and it pays to remember that. Unlike a fleet using a less expensive battleship and perhaps a heavy cruiser or two, the Yamato can only cover so much territory, and your fleet is heavily dependant on her performing well. As long as your fleet covers her weaknesses though, she should do well for you.

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