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The Japanese Navy built Yamato shortly before WWII as the lead ship of her class of battleships.
Musashi was the name of her sister ship. Together with Yamato, they were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed. At full load they weighed 72,800 tonnes and no less than nine 46cm Type 94 main guns armed them – the largest guns ever mounted on a warship.
Japan’s main rival in the Pacific was the United States who numerically had a superior battleship fleet. Thus, the Japanese built Yamato, named after the ancient Yamato Province, and she was formally commissioned a week after Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Throughout 1942, she served as the flagship of the Combined Fleet until Musashi took over in 1943. Yamato spent the rest of the year, and much of 1944, moving between major Japanese naval bases in response to American threats.
October 1944 was the only time in which Yamato fired her main guns at enemy targets. The Japanese sent Yamato to engage American forces who had invaded the Philippines. While threatening to sink American troop transports, they encountered a light US Navy escort carrier group. However, the Japanese turned back after American air attacks convinced them they were engaging a powerful US carrier fleet.
In 1944, Japan lost naval power in the Pacific. By early 1945, its fleet was much depleted and badly hobbled by fuel shortages in the home islands. In a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, the Japanese sent Yamato on a one-way mission to Okinawa in 1945. She had orders to beach herself and fight until destroyed, thus protecting the island. US submarines and aircraft spotted the task force. Finally, on 7 April 1945 American bombers sunk the Yamato, with the loss of most of her crew.