Yamato, named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, was the lead ship of the Yamato class of battleships that served with the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 inch) main guns. Neither ship survived the war.

Laid down in 1937 and formally commissioned a week after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941, Yamato was designed to counter the numerically superior battleship fleet of the United States, Japan's main rival in the Pacific. Throughout 1942 she served as the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet, and in June 1942 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto directed the fleet from her bridge during the Battle of Midway, a disastrous defeat for Japan. Musashi took over as the Combined Fleet flagship in early 1943, and Yamato spent the rest of the year, and much of 1944, moving between the major Japanese naval bases of Truk and Kure in response to American threats. Although she was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, Yamato played no part in the battle. The only time she fired her main guns at enemy surface targets was in October 1944, when she was sent to engage American forces invading the Philippines during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On the verge of success, the Japanese force turned back, believing they were engaging an entire US carrier fleet rather than the light escort carrier group that was all that stood between In April 1945, in a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, Yamato was dispatched on a one way voyage to Okinawa, where it was intended that she should protect the island from invasion and fight until destroyed. The task force was spotted south of Kyushu by US submarines and aircraft, and on 7 April 1945 she was sunk by American carrier-based bombers and torpedo bombers with the loss of most of her crew. During the 1930s the Japanese government adopted an ultra-nationalist militancy with a view to greatly expand the Japanese Empire. Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1934, renouncing its treaty obligations. After withdrawing from the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited the size and power of capital ships, the Imperial Japanese Navy began their design of the new Yamato class of heavy battleships. The class design was not finalized until 1937. When the class was finally laid down, a great effort was made in Japan to ensure that the ships were built in extreme secrecy to prevent American intelligence officials from learning of their existence and specifications. As part of the secrecy, the Japanese referred to their armament as 40 cm guns. It was not until the end of the war that her true displacement and the calibre of her weaponry were known. Yamato was the lead ship of the class. Planners recognized that Japan would be unable to compete with the output of naval shipyards of the United States should war break out, so the vessels of the Yamato class were designed to be capable of engaging multiple enemy battleships at the same time. They displaced over 70,000 tons each, and it was hoped that their firepower would offset American naval production capabilities.

Yamato's keel was laid down at the Kure Naval Arsenal, Hiroshima, on 4 November 1937, in a dockyard that had to be adapted to accommodate her enormous hull. The dock was deepened by one metre, and gantry cranes capable of lifting up to 350 tonnes were installed. Fearful that the United States would learn of the vessel's characteristics, the Japanese erected a canopy over part of the slipway to screen the ship from view. Yamato was launched on 8 August 1940, with Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Miyazato Shutoku in command.

Yamato's main battery consisted of nine 46 cm (18.1 in) 45 Caliber Type 94 naval guns - the largest caliber of naval artillery ever fitted to a warship, although the shells were lighter than the British 18-inch naval guns of World War I. Each gun was 21.13 metres (69.3 ft) long, weighed 147.3 tonnes (162.4 short tons), and was capable of firing high explosive or armour piercing shells 42 kilometres (26 mi). Her secondary battery comprised twelve 155-millimetre (6.1 in) guns mounted in four triple turrets (one forward, one aft, two midships), and twelve 127-millimetre (5.0 in) guns in six twin mounts (three on each side amidships). These turrets had been taken off the Mogami class cruisers when those vessels were converted to a main armament of 8 inch guns. In addition, Yamato carried twenty-four 25-millimetre (0.98 in) anti-aircraft guns, primarily mounted amidships. When refitted in 1944 and 1945 for naval engagements in the South Pacific, the secondary battery configuration was changed to six 155 mm guns and twenty four 127 mm guns, and the number of 25 mm anti-aircraft guns was increased to 162.

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