6: The Small Ships


While the big ships with the big guns would get so much of the publicity during the interwar years the Japanese, more than most, put a huge emphasis on smaller classes of ships. They looked at these smaller classes of ships as a way of making up for the fact that they would always be at a disadvantage in capital ships due to the Washington agreements. In this episode we will discuss 4 different types of ships: submarines, destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers. In each of these classes the Japanese would try in different ways to make up for their capital ship deficiency, and each was shaped by the idea that they were subservient to the capital ships. Their design goals were to do what they could to support the big ships in the expected massive climactic battle that would theoretically end a war in the Pacific. Some of this support would be at the tactical level, supporting other ships in the moment of battle, but others would be a more distant support, applying attrition to an enemy fleet as it tried to move out of its based and then through the vast areas of the Pacific that would have to be traversed before the two fleet would be able to meet.


  • From Maham to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States by Sadao Asada
  • The Imperial Japanese Navy In the Pacific War by Mark E. Stille
  • Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941 by David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie
  • Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941 by Mark R. Peattie
  • The World’s Aircraft Carriers 1914-1945 by Roger Chesneau

Become a Patron to Access this Episode!