Kongō-class Battleship, Hiei (1942) - The Emperor's Favorite

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Kongō-class Battleship, IJN Hiei (1942)




Sub Category: 高速戦艦 / Fast Battleship

Class: 金剛型 / Kongō-class


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The first Dreadnought-like battleship class built in Japan were the two ships of the Kawachi-class, constructed from 1909 to 1912. The Japanese still had to obtain the main armament from Great Britain. This marked a change in Japanese shipbuilding. Previously all Japanese capital warships were built in England until just after the turn of the century. Japan was able to expand their ship building capabilities and the size of their shipyards. While these two ships were under construction, Japan’s first dreadnought style battlecruisers were laid down. As originally conceived, they were to be equivalent to the British Invincible-class battlecruisers, mounting 305-mm main guns. The then new British Lion-class, with their 343-mm main guns caused the Japanese to want a more advanced design. Since this new design didn’t have any of the political restrictions of the Royal Navy, the creator, Sir George Thurston, was free to devise a layout that proved to be better than all previous British designs.

The original design was a ship of 19,000 tons displacement mounting twin 305-mm gun turrets in a similar midship offset pattern as in the British Invincible-class. With the advent of the Lion, the new design displacement rose to 27,500 tons. A new 356-mm main gun was designed by Vickers at the insistence of the Japanese. Also incorporated into the new design was an additional strake of 76-mm armor below the main belt, an item learned from experience during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.

The lead ship of the class, Kongō, was constructed at the Vickers Armstrong Shipyard in Great Britain while the other three sisterships were built in Japan. About 30% of the materials for Hiei were delivered from England, but the remainder, and all of the materials for Haruna and Kirishima were from Japan. The boilers, machinery, and armament for Hiei, Haruna, and Kirishima, were all built under license in Japan. This was a great accomplishment for the Japanese to build three of the worlds most advanced capital ships, considering Japan started their first capital ship only two years earlier.



Hiei under construction in 1912.

IJN Hiei was the second ship of the Kongō-class battlecruisers (after the second refit - fast battleships).

She was laid down as a battlecruiser on 4 November 1911 at the Yokosuka Navy Yard. Hull was launched on 21 November 1912. The ship was commissioned on 4 August 1914. She was named after Mount Hiei, lying on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures.


Hiei’s launching in 21 November 1912.

Reconstruction to convert her into a training battleship as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty began in mid-October 1929 at the Kure Navy Yard and was completed on 31 December 1932. From 1 April 1937 to 31 January 1940, the ship underwent a second modernization, as a result of which she was remilitarized and transformed into a fast battleship.

Hiei is a pretty famous battleship on the Pacific Theater. She took part in many military campaigns, both in World War I and World War II: patrolling the Chinese coast in 1916-1918; took part in the air-raid on Pearl Harbour in 1941; the air-raid on Port Darwin in 1942; the invasion operation of Dutch East Indies in 1942; the Indian Ocean Raid in 1942; the Battle of Midway in 1942; the Battle of Santa Cruz; the Battle of the Eastern Solomon Islands. Later, in the night action of the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 13 November 1942, she was seriously damaged by gunfire, torpedoes and aerial bombs, as a result she at the end was scuttled by her escort.

Role in World War I


Battlecruiser Hiei in 1914.

On 4 August 1914, Hiei was formally commissioned and assigned to the Sasebo Naval District, before being attached to the BatDiv 3 of the First Fleet two weeks later.

On 23 August 1914, Japan declared war on the German Empire, occupying the former German colonies in Palau and in the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands.

In Autumn 1914, Hiei departed Sasebo alongside Kongō to support Imperial Japanese Army units in the Siege of Tsingtao, but she was recalled on 17 October.

On 3 October 1915, Hiei and Kongō participated in the sinking of the target ship Iki (ex-Imperator Nikolai I), a Russian pre-dreadnought that was captured in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War.

On 9 April 1916 she departed Sasebo in the company of Haruna and Kirishima to patrol off Chinese coast.

From 1917 to the end of World War I, Hiei remained primarily at Sasebo, patrolling the Chinese and Korean coasts with her sisterships on several occasions.

Interwar Period


Battlecruiser Hiei in 1926.

On 29 July 1927, Crown Prince (later Emperor) Hirohito’s younger brother Prince Nobuhito Takamatsu, a Sub-Lieutenant and graduate of the Etajima Naval Academy, took up duty aboard Hiei.

Routine service of the ship continued until 1929, and to avoid having to scrap Hiei under the terms of the Washington Treaty, the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to convert her into a demilitarized training ship. Conversion work began on 15 October 1929 and completed on 31 December 1932. Her turret №4 and all torpedo tubes are removed. Her armor belt is removed. 25 of her 36 Yarrow boilers are removed. Her speed is reduced to 18 knots. All aircraft equipment is landed. The number of her funnels is reduced from 3 to 2. All of her demilitarized equipment and armament is preserved and carefully stored.

From 31 May 1933 to 20 July of this year, Hiei received upgrades that allowed her to perform regular duties for the Emperor Hirohito and became an Imperial service ship. She served as the Emperor’s observation ship for the Imperial Naval Review three days later. In November 1935, Hiei served as the Emperor’s ship for his official visit to the Kagoshima and Miyazaki Prefectures.


Hiei as a training battleship in 1933.

Unfettered by the Washington and London Treaties restrictions, the Imperial Japanese Navy decides to remilitarize Hiei and transform her into a fast battleship. Her second modernization began at Kure on 1 April 1937 and ended 31 January 1940. She received 8 new oil-fired “Kanpon” boilers and 4 new geared turbines. Her aft 356-mm turret №4 was refitted and a new fire-control system was installed. Her speed was increased to 30 knots. The thickness of the horizontal armor over Hiei’s magazines and machinery spaces was increased. Torpedo-bulges are added to her hull. The elevation of her 356-mm guns was increased to 43-degrees. She received a new bridge structure that is a prototype for the Yamato-class battleships then under design. A catapult and rails for three Nakajima E8N1 Type 95 “Dave” and Kawanishi E7K1 Type 94 “Alf” seaplanes are installed aft of her turret №3.


Hiei as a fast battleship after the second modernization.

After the completion of the work, Hiei was assigned to the BatDiv 3, First Fleet.

Combat path in World War II


Hiei in drydock on November 1941. This photo is unique in that here you can easily see the new superstructure of the ship.

On 10 September 1941, the final deployment of the ships of the Imperial Navy was determined in case of war. Hiei became part of the First Fleet. In early November, the formation of “Kido Butai” for the attack on Pearl Harbor entered its final phase. Hiei and Kirishima were assigned to the Support Force.

On 18 November, the transition from the Kisarazu Naval Base to the Hitokappu Bay on the Kuril Islands took place.


Japanese battleship Kirishima, carrier Kaga, and battleship Hiei at Hitokappu Bay, Etorofu, Kuril Islands, 23 November 1941.

From 26 November to 6 December, in very difficult conditions with a constant storm, she took part in the transition to the takeoff point of the aircraft. On 2 December, the fleet received a radiogram “Climb Mount Niitaka 12.08” from the Combined Fleet. The decision about the war was made. On 7 (8) December, she was a member of the ships that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, then took part in the second attempt to capture Wake Island.

On 23 December, Hiei returned to the Hashirajima raid. On this raid, the battleship’s crew met the new year.

On 8 January 1942, Hiei, as part of the Carrier Striking Force, made a transition from the waters of the metropolis to Truk and on 14 January arrived at Truk Lagoon. On 17 January, the battleship went to sea. She joined the forces assigned to Operation R (capture of Rabaul and Kavieng). The battleship provided cover for the operation and on 27 January returned to the base at Truk. On 1 February, Hiei, as part of the Carrier Striking Force, sortied to sea in search of enemy forces of Vice Admiral Halsey and Rear Admiral Fletcher, who attacked the Japanese garrisons on the islands.

The first half of February was spent for Hiei in numerous inter-base crossings, escorting aircraft carriers. By the middle of the month, the ship was on the raid in Palau. On 19 February, Hiei escorted Japanese carriers whose aircraft attacked the Australian port of Darwin. During this air-raid, the destroyer USS Peary (DD-226) and seven transports were sunk, nine allied ships were damaged, including the seaplane tender USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) and 15 aircraft were destroyed, including nine US Curtiss P-40E “Warhawk” fighters.

On 21 February, the carrier strike group at Staring Bay. Soon, the ships of Vice Admiral Kondo arrived there. It’s the last time all four Kongō-class battleships were on the same raid.

From 25 February to 1 March, Hiei escorted aircraft carriers that took part in the landing operation in Java. After the defeat of the allies in the battle in the Java Sea, a “cleansing” of the area was carried out. It was attended by Hiei, Kirishima, Tone and Chikuma. On 1 March, at 15:50, Akagi’s aircraft discovered the old US destroyer USS Edsall (DD-219). During the entire pursuit, Hiei used up 210 shells of the main caliber and 70 shells of a secondary caliber. The destroyer sank at 17:31 at the point with coordinates 13°45’S/106°47’E.

USS Edsall (DD-219) sinking.

On 11 March 1942, after the completion of the Java campaign, Hiei arrived in Staring Bay as part of the force. The period of inactivity dragged on, the crews had the opportunity to rest, but the headquarters were already completing the development of the next operation - a raid to the Indian Ocean… From 26 March to 10 April, Hiei escorted aircraft carriers of Vice Admiral Nagumo during Operation “C” (Indian Ocean raid).


The Japanese carrier task force steaming in the Indian Ocean in March 1942, photo taken from the carrier Zuikaku. Ahead are four Kongō-class battleships and three aircraft carriers. Immediately ahead is the Kongō. This was the first and the last time that the four Kongō-class battleships operated as one unit during WWII.

On 27 May, Hiei sortied to sea as part of the main force to participate in Operation MI (occupation of Midway Island). After the disastrous failure of Operation, Hiei and Kirishima were assigned to the formation involved in Operation AL (occupation of the Aleutian Islands). Since 7 June, the ship was on patrol awaiting the arrival of the US fleet. On 11 June, the battleship arrived in Yokosuka for repair and modernization.

On 14 July, 1942, Hiei (flagship) and Kirishima were assigned to the new BatDiv 11. Rear Admiral Abe became its first and last commander. The new division became part of the Third Fleet. These battleships also received the E13A and F1M seaplanes.

On 16 August, a carrier strike group left Yokosuka at sea. This group included battleships Hiei and Kirishima, aircraft carriers Shokaku, Zuikaku and Ryūjō, heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma, light cruiser Nagara and 11 destroyers. They headed for Truk Lagoon. Later, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet Isoroku Yamamoto ordered not to enter the atoll, but to go to Guadalcanal. On 24 August, the battleships took part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomon Islands. On 30 August, the BatDiv 11 arrived in Truk Lagoon.

On 10 September, a strong attack force of the Japanese fleet went out to sea on patrols north of the Solomon Islands. There was no engaging with the enemy. In the period from 15 September to 17 September, the ships replenished the supply of fuel, after which they approached the Solomon Islands and then went to Truk, arriving in the lagoon on 23 September. The next exit to the sea took place on 11 October. Rear Admiral Abe commanded the vanguard forces. It included two battleships of the BatDiv 11, heavy cruisers Suzuya, Tone, Chikuma, light cruiser Nagara and eight destroyers. Soon there was a meeting with the aircraft carriers of Rear Admiral Kakuta: aircraft carriers Hiyō and Jun’yō, and also two destroyers Hayashio and Kuroshio. They were followed by the main forces of Vice Admiral Nagumo. On 14-15 October, the BatDiv 11 provided distant cover of the battleships Kongō and Haruna, which bombarded Henderson Field.

On 23 October, the Japanese ships were 650 miles north of Espiritu Santo. The vanguard forces were spotted by the American “Catalina” reconnaissance aircraft. The next day passed calmly. On 25 October, another “Catalina” was sighted. Two F1Ms took off from Kirishima’s catapult and attacked the plane, but it, despite the damage, managed to escape. During the day, the vanguard forces were attacked by American B-17 bombers. They tried to bomb Kirishima, but not a single bomb hit her. On 26 October, another battle of aircraft carriers took place, which went down in history as the Battle of Santa Cruz. The Hiei was not damaged again, she was mainly engaged in repelling enemy air-raids. On 30 October, the ship arrived at Truk Lagoon.

The final battle and sinking of the ship

At the beginning of November, the Japanese Staff finished the development of an operation for the next bombardment of Henderson Field. At the same time, Vice Admiral Nagumo left his post and departed to command the Sasebo Naval Base. His place was taken by Vice Admiral Ozawa.

On the night of 13 November, the Japanese fleet engaged with the US one. This battle was named the First Battle of Guadalcanal. The way to the battle area passed through a zone of heavy rains. On leaving it, Abe ordered to prepare Type 3 “San-Shiki” shells for bombardment of the Henderson Field. After detection of the US fleet, Abe ordered to deliver Type 1 armor-piercing shells to the turrets. The crew successfully completed his order.

At 01:50, the battleship Hiei and the destroyer Akatsuki turned on the searchlights, and the AA cruiser USS Atlanta (CL-51) got in their searchlights.

At 01:53 the Japanese battleship was attacked by destroyers USS Laffey (DD-459) and USS Cushing (DD-376), which fired a total of 11 torpedoes, one of which hit the battleship, but didn’t explode. The others either miss or are too close to arm and fail to explode.

Very soon the battle turned into a messy dump. Shortly after the start of the battle, both American admirals were killed, and Abe lost control. This is evidenced by the fact that when USS Laffey (DD-459) passed along the side of Hiei, Laffey opened fire on Hiei’s bridge with main caliber and machine-guns. Vice Admiral Abe and skipper Captain Nishida are wounded and Chief of Staff Captain Suzuki Masakane is killed. Soon USS Laffey sank. US heavy cruisers USS San Francisco (CA-38) and USS Portland (CA-33) opened fire on Hiei.

The most serious damage was the damage of the steering in the tiller compartment. Her rudder jammed in the full starboard position and her aft steering compartment flooded. At 02:00, Abe canceled the bombardment of the airfield. Japanese ships began to withdraw from the battle. The Japanese destroyers Akatsuki and Yuudachi sank in this battle. US losses as result of this battle were more serious: 2 cruisers and 4 destroyers.

But the fate of Hiei had not yet been decided. She slowly left the battlefield. Hiei’s spotters sighted damaged destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) 14-miles away under tow by tug Bobolink. Hiei fired several 356-mm shells, straddling Aaron Ward repeatedly, but didn’t hit her.

At 06:15, Hiei was attacked repeatedly by US Marine torpedo planes TBF “Avenger” of VMSB-131 at Henderson Field, TBFs and dive-bombers SBD “Dauntless” from USS Enterprise (CV-6). Hiei used Type 3 AA “San-Shiki” shells to fire on the attacking aircraft. Hiei, receiving 1000-lb bombs and torpedoes, took on more water.

At 08:15, Rear Admiral Abe signaled Kirishima to tow Hiei to Shortland that night and ordered the rest of the Vanguard Force to retire. Then he transferred his flag to the destroyer Yukikaze.

At 11:10, Hiei was hitted by one of fifty six 500-lb bombs dropped by fourteen USAAF B-17 bombers of the 11th Heavy Bombardment Group from Espiritu Santo. Abe abandoned his towing plan and ordered Hiei beached at Kamimbo Bay, Guadalcanal.


Japanese battleship Hiei with leaking oil evading aerial bombing, north of Savo Island, Solomon Islands. Seen from a B-17 aircraft of US 11th Bombardment Group. 13 November 1942.

At 11:20, six SBD “Dauntless” from VMSB-132 at Henderson Field attacked Hiei. She got three 1000-lb bomb hits. At 11:30, Hiei was attacked by four TBF “Avenger” of 8th Torpedo Squadron from USS Saratoga (CV-3) and by two TBFs from VMSB-131 at Henderson Field. Hiei got two torpedo hits, one amidships and one on the port bow. The air-raids continued one after the other, and with each of them the situation of Hiei worsened.

At 12:35, Captain Nishida, rather than following Abe’s beaching order, tried to save Hiei. Later, Abe canceled the order, but ordered Nishida to evacuate Hiei’s crew.

At 17:45, because of continuous attacks by US planes, Captain Nishida ordered to scuttle Hiei. The Emperor’s portrait was removed. Captain Nishida and other surviving crew were rescued by Shigure, Shiratsuyu, Yugure and Teruzuki, but 188 crewmen were lost and 151 wounded.

At 18:38, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto ordered Abe not to scuttle Hiei, but it was too late.

From the night of 13 November to 14 November, at 19:00-01:00, Hiei sank at 09°04’S/159°45’E. Hiei’s luck was clearly not on her side, as a result of which she became known as the first Japanese battleship that sank in WWII…

On the next day, 15 November, during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, her sistership Kirishima and the destroyer Ayanami were sunk.

On 20 December 1942, BatDiv 11 deactivated, Hiei and Kirishima were removed from the Navy List.

More historical photos:

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Launching of Hiei in 1912.


Battlecruiser Hiei in completion, January 13, 1913. Side armor hasn’t yet been installed.




A scene in the major naval manoeuvres of 1924 taken from battleship Nagato. In her wake is the battleship Mutsu, while the three identical ships seen near the horison are, from left to right, Kongō , towing an observation balloon, the Kirishima and the Hiei.


Hiei in 1927.





Main caliber of Hiei in 1930s.


Cadets and Hiei. On this photo Hiei is still a training battleship.



Hiei in mid-1930s.


Kaga, Hiei, and Nagato during the annual naval review at Yokohama, Japan, 25 August 1933.


Hiei on gunnery training exercises. 31 January 1940.


This photo was taken on 10 November 1941, during a fleet exercise. This is one of the very few images from the mast of any Kongō-class.



Battleship Hiei goes across the sea in 1942.


The four Kongō-class battleships in April 1942, when they participated in the carrier operation in the Indian Ocean. From the forefront are the Kongō, Haruna, Kirishima and Hiei.

P.S. It’s my favorite photo.

Appearance and design:



Hiei’s designs on 1940, 1941 and 1942 respectively.


Changes to the Hiei’s superstructure during upgrades.

Important! In this suggestion, internal layout and armor schemes are given based on the example of the Hiei’s sisterships - Kongō and Haruna, due to the lack of schemes and drawings for the Hiei.

Therefore, it’s very important to take into account that the armor of these ships differs in some places (for example, Kongō and Haruna have protection near steering gear after their modernizations in WWII), but in general those ships are quite similar.


  • Main belt: 203-mm (Low edge - 76-mm)
  • Middle deck belt - 152-mm
  • Upper deck belt - 152-mm
  • Armored bulkhead:
    • Fore MD - 152-mm
    • Fore LD - 127-mm
    • After MD - 152-mm
    • After LD - 203-mm
  • Deck protect:
    • Lower deck - 19-mm + 76-89-mm
    • FC deck - 38-mm
  • Underwater protect:
    • Torpedo-bulge - 76-102-mm
  • Magazine:
    • Deck flat - 19-mm + 102-127-mm
    • Deck slope - 19-mm + 70-mm
    • Side - 19-13-mm
    • Floor - 25-19-mm
  • Conning tower:
    • Side - 254-mm
    • Upper - 76-mm
    • Floor - 76-mm
    • Com. tube - 178-102-mm
  • Turrets:
    • Front - 254-mm
    • Side - 254-mm
    • Rear - 254-mm
    • Upper - 152-mm
    • Barbettes - 229-76-mm + 76-mm + 127-64-mm
  • Casemate:
    • Gun shield - 38-mm
    • Bulkhead - 51-mm
  • Funnel tube - 203-mm

Internal layout and armor:


Side view on internal layout of Kongō after commissioning and in mid-WWII:


Next two images - schemes of Kongō’s internal layout after commissioning:



Next two images - schemes of Haruna’s internal layout in WWII:



Next two images - Kongō’s armor after her commissioning:



Next two images - Kongō’s armor in mid-WWII:



Technical component:

  • Crew: 1265
  • Standard displacement: 32.165 tons
  • Trial displacement: 36.645 tons
  • Full-load displacement: 39.062 tons
  • Max length: 222,047 metres
  • Max beam: 31,968 metres
  • Mean trial draft: 9,29 metres
  • Mean full-load draft: 9,89 metres
  • Main boiler: 8x “Kanpon-Ro” Oil-burning boilers
  • Main engine: 4x “Kanpon” shafts
  • Power: 136.000 SHP
  • Speed: 30 knots
  • Catapult-launched aircraft: 1x Reconnaissance Seaplane E13A “Jake” & 2x Reconnaissance Seaplane F1M “Pete”

Layout of armament:

  • 4х2 - 36-cm/45 (14") Type 41 Gun
  • 14x1 - 15-cm/50 (6") Type 41 Gun
  • 4x2 - 12.7-cm/40 (5") Type 89 Gun
  • 10x2 - 25-mm/60 (1") Type 96 AA MG
  • 2x4 - 13-mm/76 (0.52") Type 93 AA MG

36-cm/45 (14") Type 41 Gun (356-mm):




15-cm/50 (6") Type 41 Gun (152-mm):


I didn’t find any schemes for 152-mm gun with 50 calibre (found only for 40 calibre). Therefore, I will attach photographs of the Kongō with the necessary guns:


Amidships of battlecruiser Kongō in 1929. The 152-mm guns are in casemates along the side.


152-mm secondary battery on Kongō. Photo taken during her first modernization.

12.7-cm/40 (5") Type 89 Gun (127-mm):




25-mm/60 (1") Type 96 AA MG:



13-mm/76 (0.52") Type 93 AA MG:



Reasons, why all Kongō-class battleships and specifically IJN Hiei should be added to the game:

  • Kongō-class battleships are very famous. They were much more active than other battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. They took part in many combat operations and accompanied aircraft carrier strike groups.
  • All four battleships of this class have differences in the design (for example, after second refit, Hiei has a unique experimental superstructure) and in the composition of AA weaponry.
  • Kongō-class battleships will be very useful in Enduring Confrontation due to their high speed and powerful main artillery.

All resources:

  1. Imperial Battleships
  2. http://japanese-warship.com/battleship/hiei/
  3. https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/比叡_(戦艦)
  4. Naval Guns of Japan - NavWeaps
  5. Warship Pictorial No. 13 - IJN Kongo Class Battleships - by Steve Wiper. 2001.
  6. Warship Profile 12: IJN Kongo, Japanese Battleship 1912-1944 - by Masataka Chihaya & Yasuo Abe. January 1971.
  7. Paul S. Dull. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. — Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1978.
  8. Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II Hardcover – by William H. Garzke Jr. , Robert O. Dulin Jr. November 27, 1985.
  9. 圖解日本帝國海軍全艦船1968-1945 第1卷-戰艦/巡洋戰艦