Anatomy of the Ship Heavy Cruiser Takao

Author: Janusz Skulski
Publisher: Conway Maritime
Year: 1994 (Reprinted 2004)
Reviewer: Daryl Carpenter

When they entered service with the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1932, the four ships of the Takao-class, Takao, Atago, Maya, and Chokai, were probably the most powerful heavy cruisers in the world. Mounting 10 8-inch guns along with 16 (later 24) of the devastating "Long Lance" torpedoes, and with a top speed of 35 knots, the Takao class were more than a match compared to their foreign contemporaries.

Takao herself had a long, rather interesting career. Having participated in almost every major campaign of the Second World War, Takao was almost sunk by two torpedoes fired from the submarine Darter during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Towed to Singapore, she was deemed too heavily damaged to be repaired, and spent the rest of the war as a floating anti-aircraft battery. Takao was further damaged by limpet mines laid by British commandos on July 31, 1945. After the war, the Allied occupation forces used Takao as a communication, repair, and accommodation base, eventually scuttling the ship in the Malacca Straight on October 27, 1946.

Originally published in 1994 and republished in 2004, The Heavy Cruiser Takao is divided into three main sections and follows the same format as the other books in the Anatomy of the Ship series. The 2004 reprint has a plan and profile of the ship as built on the inside of the cover. The first section is a 17 page text introduction covering a large number of topics related to Takao's life and design, including a full chronology of the ship's history. No less than 28 tables are included in this section, showing the specifications of the floatplanes, guns, and torpedoes, weight distribution statistics, hull characteristics, stability data, and information on searchlights and radars, machinery, armor layout, fire control installations, and hull design. The second section features 48 photographs of the ship fitting out, undergoing refits and trials, and "in action." Many of these photographs are murky and show their age, but since they're so rare I really can't complain.

The Takao was unique among WWII-ea Japanese warships in that it survive the war, had a long, well-documented history, and was extensively studied after the war by members of the American Naval Technical Mission to Japan. Takao and her sisters weren't built in complete secrecy, and the postwar destruction of plans and drawings apparently weren't a priority. That's not to say this book contains a full internal analysis of the ship's interior. If you're expecting detailed views of the steam pipe arrangements, or of, say the hull structure at Frame 216, you might be disappointed. However, detailed plans of each deck, and multiple sections of the hull, make up somewhat for this unfortunate deficiency.

The plans section occupies 210 pages, more than 4/5th of the book. Since Takao underwent a number of refits during her 12 year career, most notably a major reconstruction 1944, this volume is larger than most of the series. Skulski is careful to note the ship's changing configuration in his external plans, focusing on the ship as commissioned, in August 1937, after her 1939 reconstruction, and her final configuration at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Section A opens with plan and overhead views of the ship at 1/450 scale, at the four critical junctures noted above. Also included are a longitudinal section of the ship and plans of the middle, lower, and store decks at the same scale, 16 1/400 scale transverse sections (11 "as built" and 5 after the reconstruction), two 1/200 scale sections showing the midships hull structure, and plans of the powder magazines and double bottom compartments. Section B features very sharp sheer and half breadth plans of Takao, followed by 1/64 scale body plans of the ship as built, and at 1/100 scale in 1939, showing the enlarged anti-torpedo bulges.

Section C focuses on the ship's impressive castle-like bridge tower, which had nine levels and stood 70 feet over the forecastle deck. The structure is depicted at 1/125 scale, with plans of the port side, front, rear, and top as they appeared in 1932, 1937, 1939, and 1944. Plans of several of the tower decks are included as well, along with "scrap views" showing minor modifications. Takao's forward and after funnels are also illustrated in exhaustive detail. The structures are shown in multiple 1/100 scale views, including sections through the funnels, and details of their steel plate joints and internal structural details. The hangar superstructure in 1932 and 1937 is also covered.

Section D details foremast and tripod mainmast and their ever-changing configuration at 1/150 scale, and the crane jib at 1/100 scale. Section E s the book's largest and most detail chapter. The first 16 pages focus on the 8-inch guns and their mountings, with additional drawings of their structural joints, the aerial masts atop the superfiring turrets, cross-sections showing their inner workings, and details of the different ammunition types carried. The rest of the section focuses on the remainder of the ship's armament. These include the 12 cm Nendo Shiki and 12.7 cm 89 Shiki guns, the 40mm Shiki Kiju machine gun, and the famous 25mm machine gun used aboard all Japanese fighting ships, along with the torpedo launchers, torpedo stowage, and plans of the upper deck torpedo facilities, which round out the chapter.

Section F illustrates the fire control assemblies, ranging from the 4.5 meter rangefinder atop the tower bridge, down to the small lookout posts and machine gun control positions that dotted her superstructure. Section G covers the ground tackle, including all of the fittings forward of the No.1 turret. Section H details the fittings aft of turret No.1, and includes 1/200 scale plans of the forecastle, platform, and high-angle gun decks and their changing configurations. Modelers will appreciate the focus on minor details such as skylights, watertight doors, guardrails, rope reels, the degaussing cable, ladders, boat booms, life buoys, deck ventilators, searchlights, and hatches.

Section J shows the aircraft deck rails and turntables, catapults, and three view-drawings of the six types of floatplanes carried onboard between 1932 and 1945. Section K, on boats, is similarly arranged, with detailed plans of the 11 meter motor boats, 12 meter motor launch, 9 meter cutter, and 6-meter and 8-meter sampans. The final page shows the proper dimensions of Takao's four main flags.

I've always been on the lookout (bad pun) for a good set of ship plans that won't break my bank account. I'm a sucker for detail, and lots of it. Some of the other books in this series, especially John Robert's book on the Battleship Dreadnought and John McKay's on the Flower-class Corvette, are impressive works in their own right. But Janusz Skulski's work is perhaps the finest naval drafting I've ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on, and his fastidiousness for detail is oftentimes absolutely mindblowing. Almost no rivet goes unnoticed, and his usage of shadow and shading makes what could have been boring drawings come alive.

The only thing really missing is decent set of drawings showing the ship's structure, hull plating, and machinery. The General Arrangement plans are nice by themselves, but don't say a whole lot about how the ship was put together. Sure, I now know where the Soy Sauce was kept (the lower deck, between Frames 11 and 16), but it would be nice to know how they dealt with the structural weakness around the forward main turrets, or why fuel capacity was sacrificed for increased speed.

The Heavy Cruiser Takao is a superb entry in the "Anatomy of the Ship" series, and it would have been even better if it had more information on internal arrangements. Like most of the series, it's getting harder and harder to find a copy (the cheapest "new" copy on Amazon currently goes for $45), and increasingly sought after. With the recent release of Aoshima's 1:350 model kit of the Takao, this is a reference that no serious modeler should go without.


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