Magazine article Sea Classics

Japanese Amphibious Ships

Magazine article Sea Classics

Japanese Amphibious Ships

Article excerpt

Early in WWII, the Japanese devised a primitive version of today's amphibious landing ships

The first real amphibious assault ships were introduced by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1939. The Imperial Army, always wanting to embarrass the Imperial Navy, conceptualized and planned two major ships in the mid-1980s. The first of two which became the IJN Akitsu Maru was completed in January 1942, and like its sister was a rebuilt ocean liner. The Army had simply taken two ocean liners in mid construction from the Nippon Kaiun K.K. Passenger Line.

Like today's amphibious assault ships, the Japanese Army version had such innovative attributes as a flight deck to send lightweight fixedwing aircraft (Kokusai Ki 76 Stella) to the target area, and a well deck with rear opening doors to launch landing craft such as the Toku Daihatsu (58-ft long, 35-tons, and capable of carrying 100 troops or a Type 97 15.6-ton tank).

The IJN Akitsu Maru's sistership, the IJN Nigitsu Maru, was completed in March 1943. What became the Akitsu Maru-class was propelled at up to 20-kts by two geared turbines which were oil fired, and put out 7500-shp. Plans were made to build barracks on the flight deck for troops, but the feature of landing and taking off small aircraft would have been eliminated.

This class displaced 11,800-tons, and was defended by two 75mm (2.9-in) machine guns, ten 75 field guns, 20 small aircraft, and whatever small armed landing craft were aboard.

The IJN Akitsu Maru spent its career near the home islands. …

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