Name: Kishū, after the historic province on Honshū
Type: Yamato-class battleship
Primary Armament: 3 × twin 51 cm naval guns
Secondary Armament:
4 × triple 15.5 cm guns
6 × twin 12.7 cm guns
8 × triple 25 mm AA guns
2 × twin 13.2 mm machine guns
Propulsion: 4 steam turbines driving 4 shafts; 27 knots top speed; 16 knots cruising speed; 13,300 km range
Complement: 3,067

Laid down at Kure Naval Arsenal on 7 November 1940, Kishū was the third and final Yamato-class battleship completed (not counting the Shinano, converted into an aircraft carrier before commissioning), and the one about which the least information is available. Indeed, some sources claim it was cancelled in March 1942 (when about 30% complete) and broken up in place. This appears to be confusion caused by conflating the Kishū with the canceled Ibuki-class heavy cruiser Kashū, which was laid down around the same time and canceled in March of 1942 and would have been visually quite similar on the slipway.

Several differences characterize the Kishū with regard to her sisters. The first and most significant is her armament: rather than the 46 cm main guns that were typical of the class, Kishū mounted 51 cm guns in modified turrets. These were test guns initially constructed for the cancelled Design A-150 (“Super Yamato“) battleships; by installing them and marshaling all available test ammunition from the naval proving grounds, the construction process was able to be accelerated considerably. This allowed the ship to launch in mid-1943, though the exact date is open to some conjecture.

Also open to conjecture is the ship’s ultimate fate. It is not recorded in any American reconnaissance images after summer 1944, and Kishū was not present at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea or Operation Ten-Go. The deliberate destruction of Japanese naval records after the surrender further obfuscates matters. Some naval historians believe that an unidentified battleship reported as torpedoed and sunk by the USS Dugong in late 1943 was the Kishū, but the information is sketchy and incomplete. Dugong‘s patrol route in the sub-Antarctic also seems to make an encounter with a battleship unlikely.

In any event, Kishū was not formally struck from the Naval Register until December 1945, as part of the general postwar cleanup and decommissioning of damaged, missing, and under-construction ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. As this action was taken under occupation authorities, some sources do not accept it, and some Japanese far-right nationalist groups continue to regard the ship as still in commission and missing–a naval equivalent, perhaps, of a holdout like Hiroo Onoda.

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