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Yahagi Monument
Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture

The light cruiser Yahagi, commanded by Captain Tameichi Hara, accompanied the battleship Yamato with eight destroyers on a special (suicide) attack mission toward Okinawa. On April 7, 1945, American carrier-based planes repeatedly attacked Yahagi, which sank at 2:05 p.m. after being hit by 7 torpedoes and 12 bombs. Yahagi lost 446 men in the attack, and the battleship Yamato and four destroyers also sank.

In 1969 on April 7, the anniversary of the light cruiser's sinking, a monument to Yahagi crewmen who died was erected in Sasebo City. The ship had been built at Sasebo Naval Arsenal and was commissioned on December 29, 1943. The monument stands in Higashi Park, which includes about 60 war monuments and the former Higashiyama Navy Cemetery, which has over 400 gravestones erected before the end of the war.

A plaque to the right of Yahagi Monument explains the monument's origin:

Here spirits of the dead now sleep. As courageous men of the warship Yahagi, you lost your lives in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, and you went down west of Tokunoshima with the battleship Yamato and other ships in the Okinawa Special Attack Operation with the country's fate on the line.

On this day on April 7, 1945, Yahagi was defeated in battle. Now, 24 years after going that difficult way, the world is at peace. At this time, at last there is a suitable opportunity to honor the memory of the spirits of the war dead and to pray that the tragedy of war will not be repeated.

We erect this memorial monument in this sacred ground of Higashiyama facing our home port. Spirits, rest in peace forever.

Departing ships never to return
On the hill petals falling in the wind

April 7, 1969
Yahagi Association and Supporters

Bronze bas-relief image of light cruiser Yahagi
on plaque next to Yahagi Monument

The back of the plaque to the right of Yahagi Monument briefly summarizes the light cruiser's history:

Warship Yahagi

At the end of December 1943, the warship Yahagi was completed at Sasebo Naval Arsenal as a state-of-the-art cruiser. The ship participated in several naval battles such as the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea.

On April 6, 1945, Yahagi weighed anchor off Tokuyama with fuel for one way to Okinawa. On the next day of April 7 on the sea west of Kagoshima, the ship met carrier-based planes from the U.S. carrier fleet. The crewmen fought bravely but in vain against continuous attacks from those planes, and Yahagi blew up and sank together with Yamato and other ships in the sea west of Tokunoshima.

Light cruiser Yahagi about ready to sink after
persistent attacks by enemy planes (April 7, 1945)

The former Navy cemetery in Sasebo City has a small visitor's center with displays related to the Imperial Japanese Navy such as photographs, ship models, and maps. There is a also a free color brochure in Japanese with a cemetery map, photos and descriptions of several monuments, and a history of the cemetery. Just inside the entrance of the visitor's center is a large model of the light cruiser Yahagi.

Model of light cruiser Yahagi inside
visitor's center at Higashi Park in Sasebo City

Right before Yahagi departed for Okinawa, Captain Tameichi Hara (1961, 284) read a special message from Admiral Soemu Toyoda and then gave the crewmen the following speech:

As you know, hundreds of our comrades have flown bomb-laden planes on one-way missions against the enemy. Thousands more of these flyers are standing by at every airfield. Hundreds of our comrades are ready in submarines to man one-way torpedoes. Thousands of others will drive explosive torpedo boats or crawl the bottom of the sea to fasten explosive charges against enemy ships.

Our job in this mission is part of the same pattern. Our mission appears suicidal and it is. But I wish to emphasize that suicide is not the objective. The objective is victory.

You are not sheep whipped to a sacrificial altar. We are lions released in the arena, to devour the enemy gladiators. You are not to be slain merely as sacrifices for the nation.

Do not hesitate to come back alive. We must force our way against any enemy effort to intercept our mission. But you must not give up your lives cheaply. Once this ship is crippled or sunk, do not hesitate to save yourselves for the next fight. There will be other battles. You are not to commit suicide. You are to beat the enemy!

Yahagi Monument at Higashi Park in Sasebo City

The light cruiser Yahagi had the front position as the fleet of ten ships moved toward Okinawa during the special attack mission. At 12:46 p.m. on April 7, 1945, the first torpedo hit Yahagi and caused the ship to go dead in the water. Yahagi sank at 2:05 p.m. after hits by a total of 7 torpedoes and 12 bombs. About three or four hours later, three remaining destroyers from the special attack fleet picked up Yahagi survivors. Fuyutsuki, Yukikaze, and Hatsushimo rescued respectively 276, 156, and 57 Yahagi crewmen from the sea. The destroyer Hatsushimo picked up Captain Tameichi Hara, who after the war's end wrote Japanese Destroyer Captain, which describes his wartime service including his final sortie as Yahagi's commander.

The historical information on this web page comes from Abe (2005, 77-100) and Hara (1961, 275-304).

Sources Cited

Abe, Saburō. 2005. Tokkō Yamato Kantai (Yamato Special Attack Fleet). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Hara, Tameichi, Fred Saito, and Roger Pineau. 1961. Japanese Destroyer Captain. New York: Ballantine Books.