Yamato, lead ship of a class of two 65,000-ton (over 72,800-tons at full load) battleships, was built at Kure, Japan. She and her sister, Musashi were by far the largest battleships ever built, even exceeding in size and gun calibre (though not in weight of broadside) the U.S. Navy's abortive Montana class. Their nine 460mm (18.1-inch) main battery guns, which fired 1460kg (3200 pound) armour piercing shells, were the largest battleship guns ever to go to sea, and the two ships' scale of armour protection was also unsurpassed.
Commissioned in December 1941, just over a week after the start of the Pacific war, Yamato served as flagship of Combined Fleet commander Isoroku Yamamoto during the critical battles of 1942. During the following year, she spent most of her time at Truk, as part of a mobile naval force defending Japan's Central Pacific bases. Torpedoed by USS Skate (SS-305) in December 1943, Yamato was under repair until April 1944, during which time her anti-aircraft battery was considerably increased. She then took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October. During the latter action, she was attacked several times by U.S. Navy aircraft, and fired her big guns in an engagement with U.S. escort carriers and destroyers off the island of Samar.
Yamato received comparatively light damage during the Leyte Gulf battle, and was sent home in November 1944. Fitted with additional anti-aircraft machine guns, she was based in Japan during the winter of 1944-45. Attacked by U.S. Navy carrier planes in March 1945, during raids on the Japanese home islands, she was again only lightly damaged. The following month, she was assigned to take part in the suicidal "Ten-Go" Operation, a combined air and sea effort to destroy American naval forces supporting the invasion of Okinawa. On 7 April 1945, while still some 200 miles north of Okinawa, Yamato was attacked by a massive force of U.S. carrier planes and sunk.
After the war, the great battleship became an object of intense fascination in Japan, as well as in foreign countries. Yamato's remains were located and examined in 1985 and again examined, more precisely, in 1999. She lies in two main parts in some 1000 feet of water. Her bow portion, severed from the rest of the ship in the vicinity of the second main battery turret, is upright. The midships and stern section is upside down nearby, with a large hole in the lower starboard side close to the after magazines.