The Japanese Cruiser Maya

The cruiser was accepted by a naval commission on June 30, 1932, and registered at the Yokosuka Naval Station. She was maintained as the first reserve ship, so that her crew would undergo training. On December 1, 1932, all four “Takao” class units were assigned to the 4th Cruiser Division (Sentai 4) of the Second Fleet (Kantai 2) as replacement of the “Myōkō” class cruisers. In 1933, ships of the Squadron participated in gunnery exercises, took part in Special Great Manoeuvres and in the Naval Review off Yokohama. On September 12, cruiser Maya was dry-docked at Yokosuka. During the overhaul, the wireless equipment was replaced, new secondary battery directors were mounted and improvements were made to the main battery command installation. Huge air intakes were installed in the rear section of the bridge tower. The work on the 4th Squadron vessels was completed on February 2, 1934, and on the same day they left Tokyo Bay, heading for the area off Kyushu for a two-month training. By the end of October, the Squadron returned to Yokosuka for refitting. Their steering gear installation was improved, which in the case of the Maya lasted from October 22 until December 20. At that time the ship received, a new, three-seat Kawanishi E7K1 “Alf” reconnaissance floatplane. In March-April, 1935, the Squadron operated in the waters of the East China Sea. In August-September, the 4th Cruiser Squadron again participated in Great Manoeuvres. On December 1, the Maya and the Takao were again assigned to the 4th Cruiser Squadron of the Second Fleet, and the former became the Squadron’s flagship. The ship received new, two-seat Nakajima E8N1 “Dave” reconnaissance floatplanes, which replaced the E4N2 ones. In the period between March 27 and April 6, 1937, both cruisers left Sasebo and, as part of a routine training, headed for mainland China. Due to the fighting in Shanghai, since August 20, the cruiser Maya, along with the 5th Cruiser Squadron and lighter units took part in the redeployment of the troops from Nagoya to Chusan Islands (at present Zhoushan, China). Between December 8, 1937, and January 14, 1938, the Maya was slightly modified at Yokosuka. Her donkey boiler installation was replaced, cruising modification on four shafts was adopted, the foremast was shortened, searchlights replaced by new, stronger ones and light anti-aircraft artillery was replaced. Both Chōkai and Maya were scheduled to undergo a similar refit as their sister ships from January 1941. However, since the preparations for war had already begun and the ships had to be ready in June 1941, the modernization program for them was cancelled on November 15, 1940. Between March 11-28, the ships participated in warlike manoeuvres off southern Kyushu and returned to Yokosuka on March 30. All the units of the Division were dry-docked; in the case of Maya, this took place from April 2 until 10, at the Yokohama shipyard. It is possible, that following the refit, the cruiser, similarly to other units of the class, took part in manoeuvres, sailing around Kyushu and Shikoku. Maya was again dry-docked, between September 2 and 9, at Kure, where she was stationed with Chōkai, being prepared for war. The characteristic degaussing cables may have been installed on both units at that time. On November 5, final war preparations had begun and the ships started loading stores, fuel and ammunition. Then they sailed to their respective staging bases. The cruiser Maya, prepared for war, was at Hashirajima anchorage in Kure, awaiting orders. On November 12, she was joined by her sister ship Atago and on November 25, both units steamed to Saeki, arriving there on November 27. They were joined by the cruiser Takao. Two days later, the ships left the bay and headed for Mako, where they arrived on December 2. On that day, commander of the Second Fleet, Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondō, who became the commander of the South Area Force, hoisted his flag on the Takao. While stationed there, the ships received the order, transmitted from the high command of the Combined Fleet, which set the date of the attack against the Allied forces on December 8 (Japan time). The objective of the South Area Force was to reinforce and secure the invasion of Malaya and the Philippines (M and L Operations). The cruiser Maya was attached to the main force, however, on December 4, the cruiser detached and headed back to Mako. Three days later, she joined Vice Admiral Ibō Takahashi’s Third Fleet, the Philippine Seizure Force.

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 The war, December 1941 to July 1942