CA Maya



Maya was one of four Takao-class heavy cruisers, active in World War II with the Imperial Japanese Navy. These were the largest and more modern cruisers in the Japanese fleet, and were intended to form the backbone of a multipurpose long-range strike force. These ships were fast, powerful and heavily armed, with enough firepower to hold their own against any cruiser in any other navy in the world. Her sister ships were Takao, Atago and Chōkai.

Chokai was assigned to take part in the April 1942 Indian Ocean raid as the flagship of Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo’s Mobile Force. In June 1942, both Atago and Chokai were assigned to the abortive Midway operation, while Takao and Maya took part in the Japanese seizure of two Aleutian Islands.

At the start of the Pacific War, Maya was based at Mako Guard District in the Pescadores Islands together with Atago and Takao. Atago and Takao sailed first to provide support for Japanese landings in the invasion of the northern Philippines. Maya remained at Mako in reserve until 8 December, when she sailed as part of Vice Admiral Ibō Takahashi’s IJN 3rd Fleet, together with Ashigara and Kuma to support Japanese landing at Vigan and at Lingayen Gulf. On 31 December, she provided cover for the Third Malaya Convoy, and assisted in the seizure of the Natuna islands. In January 1942, Maya was assigned to patrols from Palau, covering operations in the southern Philippines. In February, she provided distant cover for the Bombing of Darwin Australia. From the end of February, she based at Staring-baai in the Celebes, and was involved in operations to hunt down and destroy shipping attempting to escape from the Dutch East Indies. On 2 March, Maya’s floatplanes spot the HMS Stronghold, and Maya with the destroyers Arashi and Nowaki closed on the old destroyer/minelayer and expended 1270 rounds of ammunition on her before she finally sank. Survivors were picked up by captured small steamer Bintoehan, and later transferred to Maya. Later the same night, Maya and Atago also sank the destroyer USS Pillsbury (DD-227). On 3 March, Maya was present at the sinking of the gunboat Asheville south of Java.

On 4 March, Atago, Takeo and Maya, together attacked a convoy which had departed Tjilatjap for Fremantle, Australia, and sank the Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra (U77) after a 90 minute battle, along with the British tanker Francol, depot ship Anking, and British minesweeper 51. Maya returned to Staring-baai on 7 March, and back to Yokosuka on 18 March. While dry-docked at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal an additional two Type 96 twin-mount AA guns were installed abreast the forward funnel.

In April 1942, Maya was part of the fleet assigned to the unsuccessful pursuit of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Task Force 16.2 after the Doolittle Raid. In June 1942, Takao and Maya supported the invasion of the Aleutian Islands, protecting the convoy for Kiska and providing fire support for landings on Attu. Two reconnaissance aircraft from each cruiser were attacked by USAAF P-40 Warhawks from Umnak on 3 June, with two destroyed and two heavily damaged on 3 June. Maya returned to Ōminato Guard District on 24 June.

In August 1942, Maya was assigned to “Operation Ka”, the Japanese reinforcement during the Battle of Guadalcanal, departing Hashirajima with Atago and Maya on 11 August for Truk. The cruisers were in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August from a distance, and did not see combat. On 15 October, Maya, together with Myōkō and Isuzu participated in the first bombardment of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Maya fired 450 Type-3 incendiary and Type-91 armor-piercing shells during the operation. Maya was also at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands participating in night combat operations resulting in the sinking of the American aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8). On 3 November, Maya and Chikuma were sent to reinforce the IJN 8th Fleet at Shortland Island and participated in the second bombardment of Henderson Field on 14 November. On the return from the mission, Maya‍ ’​s task force was attacked by the submarine USS Flying Fish, which missed the cruiser with six torpedoes. Later, a USN Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber from VB-10 on the USS Enterprise (CV-6) dropped at 500-lb bomb astern of Maya. The near miss causes no damage, but the wing of the Dauntless clipped Maya’s mainmast, and the plane crashed into the port side of the cruiser, igniting 4.7-in shells and killing 37 crewmen. Maya was forced to jettison her torpedoes as a precaution while putting out the fires, and was forced to return to Yokosuka for repairs at the end of the year.

Maya returned to Yokosuka for repairs and refit in January 1943, and was then reassigned to operations in northern waters, supporting supply missions to the Kurile Islands and the Aleutian islands. On 26 March, Maya participated in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, off Kamchatka Peninsula. The cruisers USS Richmond, Salt Lake City, and four destroyers of Rear Admiral Charles H. McMorris’ Task Group 16.6 engaged the cruisers Nachi, Maya, Tama, Abukuma and two destroyers of Vice Admiral Hosogaya’s IJN Fifth Fleet, escorting a convoy with troops and supplies for the isolated garrison on Attu. Maya catapulted her spotter aircraft and launched Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedoes, but scored no hits. In a four-hour running gun battle, Salt Lake City and destroyer Bailey were damaged by gunfire. Maya and Nachi were also damaged in the exchange of fire and the Japanese were forced to abort their resupply mission.

After repairs again at Yokosuka, Maya returned to the Kuriles in late April, and became flagship of the IJN Fifth Fleet, assisting in the evacuation of Kiska after the loss of Attu to the Americans in August 1943.

After refit in Yokosuka during which two additional twin-mount Type-96 AA guns (bringing its total to 16 barrels), Maya accompanied Chōkai back to Truk, arriving in late September, and started shuttling troops and supplies between Truk and Rabaul. ON 5 November, Maya was attacked by SBD Dauntless dive bombers from the carrier USS Saratoga during the Carrier Raid on Rabaul. A bomb hit the aircraft deck portside above the No. 3 engine room and started a major fire. Seventy crewmen were killed. Emergency repairs were made at Rabaul, and Maya returned to Yokosuka at the end of 1943. During this repair, a major change was made in Maya’s armaments, transforming her into an anti-aircraft cruiser, with her No.3 turret and aircraft hangar removed, and replaced by thirteen triple mount and nine single mount Type 96 AA guns, and six twin-mount 127-mm guns, as well as 36 Type 93 machine guns. Her twin torpedo launchers were upgraded to quadruple launchers, and a Type 22 surface-search radar was installed. The overhaul was completed on 9 April.

At Kure, Maya embarked two Aichi E13A1 “Jake” long-range scout planes, troops and materials. A monkey, donated to Maya by the Kure Zoo, was also embarked. During the voyage, the aircrew taught the monkey to salute the officers, much to their annoyance.

From April to June 1944, Maya supported other units in the defense of the Philippines, culminating in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, in which she was damaged slightly by near-misses. During this battle, on 20 June, the scout plane from Maya spotted Task Force 58 at a distance of 300 miles. Maya went into a ring formation with Kongō, Haruna, Asashimo and other escorts to protect the aircraft carrier Chiyoda. However, the formation was attacked by over 50 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers from USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) USS Monterey (CVL-26) and USS Cabot (CVL-28).

On 20 June, Maya retired with the remnants of the fleet via Okinawa to Yokosuka, arriving 25 June where the aircrew and their pet monkey disembarked and an additional 18 Type 25 single-mount AA guns were installed. On 14 July, Maya transported units of the IJA 28th Division to Miyako-jima from Kure, and then continued on to Singapore. She rendezvoused with the fleet at Brunei on 20 October.

On 22 October, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Maya was assigned to Sentai-5 with sister ships Atago, Takao and Chōkai together with the battleships Yamato, Musashi and Nagato. At 05:33 on 23 October, during Battle of the Palawan Passage, Maya‍ ’​s sister-ships Atago and Takao were torpedoed by the submarine USS Darter. Atago sank in approximately 18 minutes. Twenty minutes later, submarine USS Dace fired six torpedoes at Maya, mistaking it for a Kongō-class battleship; Maya was struck by four torpedoes portside: one in the forward chain locker, another opposite No. 1 gun turret, a third in No. 7 boiler room and the last in the aft engine room. Powerful secondary explosions followed immediately, and by 06:00 Maya was dead in the water and listing heavily to port. She sank five minutes later, taking 336 officers and men to the bottom, including her captain (09°27′N 117°23′ECoordinates: 09°27′N 117°23′E).

Akishimo rescued 769 men, and transferred them to the battleship Musashi, which was sunk the following day; 143 of Maya‍ ’​s crewmen were lost with Musashi. Thus, from the final crew of 1,105 crewmen, 479 were lost. She was removed from the navy list on 20 December 1944.

Other Takao-class heavy cruisers

Chokai was assigned to take part in the April 1942 Indian Ocean raid as the flagship of Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo’s Mobile Force. In June 1942, both Atago and Chokai were assigned to the abortive Midway operation, while Takao and Maya took part in the Japanese seizure of two Aleutian Islands.

Continuing in her role as a fleet flagship, Chokai was assigned to the Eighth Fleet in August 1942. As the flagship of Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, she played a central role in the Japanese victory at Savo Island, although she also received the most damage of any Japanese ship present – American cruisers achieved several hits, killing 34 crewmen. Throughout the campaign, Chokai was a regular visitor to the waters around Guadalcanal, and on 14 October she and Kinugasa bombarded Henderson Field. On November 3, the other three ships of Sentai 4 departed Truk to reinforce the Eighth Fleet. Later, on November 13, Maya and Chokai left Shortland anchorage to conduct a night bombardment of Henderson Field alongside Suzuya. After hitting the airfield with 989 shells, the cruisers were attacked during their withdrawal by aircraft from the carrier Enterprise. Kinugasa was sunk, Chokai slightly damaged, and Maya more heavily damaged when a dive-bomber struck the ship’s mainmast and crashed into her port side, igniting fires. Maya’s torpedoes were jettisoned to avoid a disaster and she was sent back to Japan for repairs.

After her repairs, Maya was assigned to the Fifth Fleet and took part with Nachi in the March 1943 battle of Komandorski Islands, as already recounted. Later that year, Takao, Atago, Maya, and other heavy cruisers were forward-deployed to Rabaul with the aim of launching a massive cruiser attack on the American invasion forces at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville. To forestall such an operation, the Americans hastily mounted a carrier air attack on the cruisers on November 5, while the Japanese vessels were still anchored in Rabaul Harbor. Takao was hit by a bomb near No. 2 turret, killing 23 men; she departed the same day with Atago for Truk. Atago suffered three near misses that caused flooding in the boiler and engine rooms. Maya was heavily damaged when a dive-bomber hit the aircraft deck above the No. 3 engine room and started a major fire in the engine room itself that killed 70. Maya returned to Japan in December 1943 and underwent major repairs and conversion.

The entire Takao class participated in the Philippine Sea operation. Maya was slightly damaged by near misses from carrier air attack. Leyte Gulf, however, was the death knell of the IJN’s finest class of cruisers. All four were assigned to the First Diversionary Attack Force. On October 23, the force was ambushed by two American submarines in the Palawan Passage. Darter sank Atago with four torpedoes and hit Takao with two others, setting her afire and stopping her dead in the water. Dace sank Maya with four torpedoes, killing 470 of 1,105 crewmen. Takao was able to get under way and arrived in Singapore on November 12. The cruiser was deemed irreparable and was moved to join Myoko in Seletar Harbor as a floating anti-aircraft battery.

Plans for modernizing the Takao class were complete by April 1938, but the approach of war meant that only two ships in the class were fully modernized: Takao at Yokosuka from May 1938 to August 1939 and Atago from April 1938 to October 1939. Chokai and Maya received only limited modernization before the war, including modifications to handle the Type 93 oxygen-propelled torpedo, heavier catapults, and the standard fit of 13mm and 25mm light anti-aircraft guns.

During the modernization, the anti-aircraft armament was increased, though the projected fit of the Type 89 5in twin guns did not begin until after the start of the war: Atago and Takao received theirs in May 1942; Chokai retained the single 4.7in guns until she was lost in 1944; Maya kept hers until reconstruction as an anti-aircraft cruiser began in November 1943. The light anti-aircraft armament was standardized and in the autumn of 1941 the two twin 13mm mounts were replaced with two 25mm mounts. The torpedo armament was augmented by the substitution of quad mounts for the existing double torpedo mounts.

The largest change was to the bridge structure, which was rebuilt to reduce topweight. When completed, the bridge was much smaller in appearance and was the primary feature for distinguishing Atago and Takao from their sisters Maya and Chokai. The bridge accommodated new fire-control equipment and featured the placement of an almost 20ft rangefinder in a separate tower immediately aft of the Type 94 firecontrol director.

The other primary change was the alteration of the aircraft-handling facilities and the area of the hangar. To do this, the mainmast was moved 82ft aft. Two heavier catapults were also fitted and moved forward. As on the Myoko class, larger bulges were fitted to increase anti-torpedo protection and stability.

During the war, modifications were made to the ships’ radar and light anti-aircraft fit. In July-August 1943, Atago and Takao received the foremast-mounted No. 21 radar and two triple 25mm guns, making their total light anti-aircraft fit six twin and two triple mounts. Maya and Chokai received the No. 21 radar and two twin 25mm mounts between August and September, making their total anti-aircraft fit eight twin mounts.

In November 1943-January 1944, Atago and Takao were fitted with No. 22 radars and eight 25mm single guns. Chokai could not return to Japan during this period, but was given ten single 25mm guns at Truk. After receiving severe damage in November 1943, Maya returned to Yokosuka in December 1943 for repair and conversion into an anti-aircraft cruiser. Her No. 3 8in gun turret was removed, as were all her twin 25mm mounts, the single 4.7in mounts, and her old twin torpedo tubes. In their place were fitted six twin Type 89 guns with two Type 94 directors, plus 13 triple and nine single Type 96 guns. In addition, 36 13mm machine-guns on moveable mounts and four quadruple torpedo mounts with no reserve torpedoes were fitted. A No. 22 radar was added, and the No. 21 radar received a larger antenna.

Another round of modernization began after the battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. All four units received a No. 13 radar and Chokai finally received a No. 22 set. In June 1944, Atago and Takao received four triple and 22 single 25mm guns. Maya received another 18 single guns, while Chokai received 12 more single mounts. Plans were made to convert her as Maya, but since she did not return to Japan until June 1944, these was never carried out.

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