The Yamato class was built after the Japanese withdrew from the Washington Naval Treaty at the Second London Conference of 1936. The treaty, as extended by the London Naval Treaty of 1930, forbade signatories to build battleships before 1937.
Design work on the class began in 1934 and after modifications the design for a 68,000Ã¯Â¿Â½ton vessel was accepted in March 1937. Yamato was built in intense secrecy at a specially prepared dock to hide her construction at Kure Naval Dockyards beginning on 4 November 1937. She was launched on 8 August 1940 and commissioned on 16 December 1941.
Originally, five ships of this class were planned. Yamato and Musashi were completed as designed. The third, Shinano, was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction after the defeat at the Battle of Midway. The un-named Ã¯Â¿Â½Hull Number 111Ã¯Â¿Â½ was scrapped in 1943 when roughly 30% complete, and Ã¯Â¿Â½Hull Number 797Ã¯Â¿Â½, proposed in the 1942 5th Supplementary Program, was never ordered.
Plans for a Ã¯Â¿Â½Super YamatoÃ¯Â¿Â½ class, with 20Ã¯Â¿Â½inch (508Ã¯Â¿Â½mm) guns, provisionally designated as Ã¯Â¿Â½Hull Number 798Ã¯Â¿Â½ and Ã¯Â¿Â½Hull Number 799Ã¯Â¿Â½, were abandoned in 1942.
The class was designed to be superior to any ship that the United States was likely to produce. Her 460Ã¯Â¿Â½mm main guns were selected over 406Ã¯Â¿Â½mm (16Ã¯Â¿Â½in) ones because the width of the Panama Canal would make it impractical for the U.S. Navy to construct a battleship with the same caliber guns without severe design restrictions or inadequate defensive arrangement. To further confuse the intelligence agencies of other countries, YamatoÃ¯Â¿Â½s main guns were officially named 40.6Ã¯Â¿Â½cm Special, and civilians were never notified of the true nature of the guns. This worked so well that as late as 1945, the U.S. believed the Yamato had 16Ã¯Â¿Â½inch (406Ã¯Â¿Â½mm) guns and a 40,823Ã¯Â¿Â½tonne displacement, comparable to the Iowas. Funding for the Yamato class was also scattered among various projects so the huge costs would not be immediately noticeable.
At the Kure Navy Yard, the construction dock was deepened, the gantry crane capacity was increased to 100Ã¯Â¿Â½tonnes, and part of the dock was roofed over to prevent observation of the work. Many low-level designers and even senior officers were not informed of the true dimensions of the battleship until after the war. When the ship was launched, there was no commissioning ceremony or fanfare.
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