IJN Heavy Cruisers at War: Myoko and the new Chikuma
The old protected cruiser Chikuma was not the last warship to bear that name. One of the last heavy cruisers ever built by Japan was a further development of the standard set by Myoko and also carried the name Chikuma. IJN heavy cruiser Chikuma would fight, as would Myoko, in some of the fiercest naval engagements of the Second World War.
Myoko demonstrated her prowess in the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. This battle, really a series of naval engagements off modern day Indonesia, destroyed the last Allied naval force in the western Pacific with virtually no loss to the Japanese. During a series of engagements the Dutch light cruisers De Ruyter and Java were sunk, the Australians lost light cruiser HMS Perth, the Royal Navy lost heavy cruiser HMS Exeter - a veteran of the battle to destroy the Graf Spee - and the US Navy lost the heavy cruiser USS Houston.
Chikuma's war movements took her from the Indian Ocean all the way up to Alaska. Heavy cruiser groups dueled off the Aleutian Islands during the Japanese occupation of Kiska and Attu during the war, and Chikuma was used on at least one occasion to patrol the area. But her primary contribution came during one of the many naval battles around Guadalcanal, when her scout plane spotted the American carrier USS Enterprise and vectored an air attack onto her. This attack nearly destroyed the American ship and put her out of action for a spell.
Chikuma and Myoko both fought in numerous battles both as part of cruiser divisions and as escorts to carriers. Both suffered significant damage that was repaired in time for them to participate in the 1944 battles over the Philippines. And here both met their fates. Chikuma was hit by torpedoes during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and sank. Myoko was hit by a torpedo fired from a submarine and had to be towed back to Singapore where she spent the remainder of the war as a floating anti-aircraft battery, since no supplies were available to repair her.
But although these ships were lost in the end, they represent major contributions by Japan's advanced heavy cruisers to her war effort.