Japanese cruiser Furutaka

Furutaka (古鷹 重巡洋艦, Furutaka jūjun'yōkan) was the lead ship in the two-vessel Furutaka-class of heavy cruisers in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The ship was named after Mount Furutaka, located on Etajima, Hiroshima immediately behind the Imperial Japanese Navy Academy. It was commissioned in 1926 and was sunk 12 October 1942 by USS Salt Lake City and Duncan at the Battle of Cape Esperance.

Heavy cruiser Furutaka in 1926
Empire of Japan
Name: Furutaka
Namesake: Mount Furutaka
Ordered: 1923 Fiscal Year
Builder: Mitsubishi shipyards, Nagasaki
Laid down: 5 December 1922
Launched: 25 February 1925
Commissioned: 31 March 1926[1]
Struck: 20 December 1944
General characteristics
Class and type: Furutaka-class heavy cruiser
Length: 185.1 m (607 ft 3.4 in) (o/a)
Beam: 16.55 m (54 ft 3.6 in)
Draught: 5.56 m (18 ft 2.9 in)
Installed power:
  • 12 Kampon boilers
  • 102,000 shp (76,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 shafts; 4 geared steam turbines
Speed: 34.5 knots (63.9 km/h; 39.7 mph)
Range: 6,000 nmi (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 625
  • Belt: 76 mm (3.0 in)
  • Deck: 36 mm (1.4 in)
Aircraft carried: 1–2 × floatplanes
Aviation facilities: 1 × catapult (from 1933)


Furutaka and her sister ship Kako were the first generation of high speed heavy cruisers in the Japanese navy, intended to counter the American Omaha and British Hawkins-class scout cruisers. They developed the experimental design pioneered in the cruiser Yūbari. Although there were attempts to minimise weight and protection was only designed to be proof against 6 inch shells, the displacement was seriously overweight.[2]

The two ships were "scout cruisers", designed with aircraft facilities. The lack of catapults, however, necessitated launches from water until a major refit in 1932/3.

Service history

Inter-war period

Furutaka was initially assigned to Cruiser Division 5 where she remained until reduced to reserve in December 1931. Furutaka underwent a series of significant refits in the 1930s. She was reconstructed and modernized at Kure Naval Base in 1932-33, receiving anti-aircraft guns upgraded to 4.7 inch, aircraft catapult and an E4N2 floatplane. She was recommissioned into Cruiser Division 6.[2]

Further extensive work started in April 1937. The six-single mount 7.9 inch guns were replace by three dual mount and re-bored 8 inch guns installed in improved mountings (allowing 55° elevation) with two turrets forward, and one aft, fire control changed, light anti aircraft weapons augmented and eight new 24 inch Type 93 torpedo tubes were installed. Facilities were upgraded for two E7K2 floatplanes. New oil-fired boilers were installed and there was a general overhaul of machinery. In the light of the added top weight, an attempt was made to maintain stability by increasing the ship's beam - not entirely successfully.[2]

World War II

In late 1941, Furutaka was assigned to Cruiser Division 6 Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto in the First Fleet with the cruisers Aoba, Kako and Kinugasa. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the division was engaged in support for the invasion of Guam.

After the failed first invasion of Wake Cruiser Division 6 was assigned to the larger second invasion force, and after the fall of Wake, returned to its forward base in Truk, Caroline Islands.

From 18 January 1942, Cruiser Division 6 was assigned to support Japanese troop landings at Rabaul, New Britain and Kavieng, New Ireland and in patrols around the Marshall Islands in unsuccessful pursuit of the American fleet. In March–April, Cruiser Division 6 provided support to Cruiser Division 18 in covering the landings of Japanese troops in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea at Buka, Shortland, Kieta, Manus Island, Admiralty Islands and Tulagi from a forward base at Rabaul. While at Shortland on 6 May 1942, Furutaka was attacked by four Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, but was not damaged.

Battle of the Coral Sea

At the Battle of the Coral Sea, Cruiser Division 6 departed Shortland and effected a rendezvous at sea with light aircraft carrier Shōhō. At 11:00 on 7 May 1942, north of Tugali Island, Shoho was attacked and sunk by 93 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers and Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers from USS Yorktown and Lexington.

The following day, 46 SBDs, 21 TBDs and 15 Grumman F4F Wildcats from Yorktown and Lexington damaged the aircraft carrier Shōkaku severely above the waterline and force her retirement. Furutaka and Kinugasa, undamaged in the battle, escorted Shōkaku back to Truk.

Furutaka returned to Kure on 5 June for repairs, and returned to Truk on 7 July. In a major reorganization of the Japanese navy on 14 July, Furutaka was assigned to the newly created Eighth Fleet under Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa and was assigned to patrols around the Solomon Islands, New Britain and New Ireland.

Battle of Savo Island

In the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942, Cruiser Division 6, the heavy cruiser Chōkai, light cruisers Tenryū and Yūbari and destroyer Yūnagi engaged the Allied forces in a night gun and torpedo action. At about 23:00, Chōkai, Furutaka and Kako all launched their reconnaissance floatplanes. The circling floatplanes dropped flares illuminating the targets and all the Japanese ships opened fire. The heavy cruisers USS Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes were sunk and HMAS Canberra was scuttled. Heavy cruiser USS Chicago was damaged as were the destroyers USS Ralph Talbot and Patterson. On the Japanese side, Chōkai was hit three times, Kinugasa twice, Aoba once and Furutaka was not damaged and returned to Kavieng on 10 August.

In late August, Cruiser Division 6 and Chōkai departed Shortland to provide distant cover for the Guadalcanal reinforcement convoys. That same day, a Consolidated PBY Catalina of VP23's "Black Cats" unsuccessfully attacked Furutaka in daylight. Furutaka shuttled between Kieta and Rabaul as needed to refuel and resupply through mid-September. The submarine S-47 attacked Furutaka south of New Ireland on 12 September, but did no damage.

Battle of Cape Esperance

So alerted, the American heavy cruisers USS San Francisco and Salt Lake City, and light cruisers USS Boise and Helena—all equipped with radar—and five destroyers steamed around the end of Guadalcanal to block the entrance to Savo Sound.

At 22:35, Helena's radar spotted the Japanese fleet, and the Americans successfully crossed the Japanese "T". Both fleets opened fire, but Admiral Goto, thinking that he was under friendly fire, ordered a 180-degree turn that exposed each of his ships to the American broadsides. Aoba was damaged heavily, and Admiral Goto was mortally wounded on her bridge. With Aoba crippled, Captain Araki of Furutaka turned his ship out of the line of battle to engage Salt Lake City. Destroyer USS Duncan launched two torpedoes toward Furutaka that either missed or failed to detonate. Duncan continued firing at Furutaka until she was put out of action by numerous shell hits. At 23:54, Furutaka was hit by a torpedo that flooded her forward engine room. During the battle, about 90 shells hit Furutaka and some ignited her Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes, starting fires.

At 02:28 on 12 October, Furutaka sank stern first at 09°02′S 159°33′E. Captain Araki and 514 survivors were rescued by the destroyers Hatsuyuki, Murakumo and Shirayuki. Thirty-three crewmen were killed and 110 were later counted as missing. The Americans took 115 of Furutaka's crew as prisoners of war, including her Operations Officer, LtCdr. Shotaro Matsui. Most of these surviving crew were imprisoned at the Featherston prisoner of war camp in New Zealand.

Furutaka was removed from navy list on 10 November 1942.


The wreck of Furutaka was discovered on 25 February 2019 by the research vessel, RV Petrel in 600 metres (2,000 ft) of water. The ship rests in two pieces with the bow broken off and laying on its port side and the rest of the ship sitting upright.[3][4]


  1. Lacroix, Japanese Cruisers, p. 794
  2. Whitley, M J (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Arms and Armour Press. pp. 167–170. ISBN 1-85409-225-1.
  3. "RV Petrel". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. "Imperial Cruisers". www.combinedfleet.com. Retrieved 21 October 2019.


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  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
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