8-inch Coastal Defense Guns
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann
The Origin of the Guns

As so often in Micronesia, the mythology about the 'Singapore'-guns also engulfed the 8-inch guns. As the guns on Eneen-Kio were identified by aircraft reconnaissance as British technology, wartime assessments first feared and then believed such guns might have been transplanted from Singapore (OPNAV 1945a: 54). The same is purported by Cohen’s book on Wake Island (Cohen 1982:103), where he also confuses them with 7-inch guns. In the same volume the same guns are reported to have come from HongKong (Cohen 1983:95).


Figure 13. Eight-inch gun at Toki ('Pigeon') Point, Eneen-Kio Atoll, just after the Japanese surrender (National Archives #80-G-346846)

The reality is that the guns came from obsolete Japanese naval vessels, which had been purchased from the U.K. and Italy in the years before World War I (see Background Notes nº 4). The following manufacturers have been identified as having produced 8-inch guns, which are possibly emplaced in Micronesia:

• W.G.Armstrong-Mitchell & Co./ W.G.Armstrong-Whitworth & Co. (Elswick Ordnance Company), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K.

• Stabilimento Armstrong–Pozzuoli, Italy.

• Vickers Maxims Ltd, Sheffield, U.K.

• Kure Naval Yard, Kure, Japan;

• Nihon Seiko Sho (Japanese Steelworks), Muroran, Japan.

Eight inch guns are mainly a heavy cruiser weapon favoured by the Japanese [1]. The British Navy used 9.2-inch guns instead, and completely ignored the 8-inch caliber, except for coastal defense installations. (such as in Australia, see below)..However, British armament manufacturers, namely W.G.Armstrong-Whitworth and Vickers, Sons & Maxims, manufactured such guns for ships built on foreign contracts in the UK, as well as in overseas factories where they held a share, such as Armstrong-Pozzuoli and Vickers-Terni in Italy and the Japanese Steelworks in Muroran, Japan[2] .

Eneen-Kio Guns

No manufacturing details on the Eneen-Kio Guns were available at the time of writing.


Figure 14. Eight-inch gun at Peacock Point, Eneen-Kio Atoll, in the 1970s. Note the absence of the concrete revetment (after Cohen 1983:103)

Chuuk Guns

In addition to British and to British-designed but Japanese-built guns, there are some British-designed guns emplaced in Micronesia which have been manufactured in Italy by Stabilimento Armstrong-Pozzuoli. Some of the 8-inch guns of this kind are emplaced on Sapuk, Moen, Chuuk (pers. observations).

The origin of the Italian guns is easily explained. Facing a shortage of naval vessels after the Sino-Japanese war, the Japanese Navy not only ordered vessels at the British and other European shipyards, it also bought existing orders and recently completed ships from other navies. Two cases in point are the Kasuga (ex-Bernadino Rivadavia, ex-Mitra) and the Nisshin (ex-Mariano Moreno, ex-Roca), both of which were obtained for £760,000 from the Argentine Navy at the end of 1903 or early 1904. Both vessels had initially been built for the Italian Navy in 1902 to 1904 as the Garibaldi-class cruisers Mitra and Roca by the Italian shipyard Giovanni Ansaldo & Co., Siesti Ponente /Genoa. Both vessels had been armed with 8-inch 45 caliber guns (plus other pieces) manufactured by Armstrong–Pozzuoli [3].

The 8-inch guns were carried in single turrets. In 1924 both vessels were disarmed, following the arrangements of the Washington Treaty of Naval Limitations of 1922. In 1933 the Kasuga was rearmed with 2x 8 inch and 4x 6-inch guns of unspecified caliber. In 1942 the vessel was totally disarmed and hulked. Sunk in 1945 it was broken up in 1948. The Nisshin was disarmed in 1922, used in 1927 as a training ship and sunk in 1936 as a target ship, then raised and broken up[4] .

Betio Guns

Of the Betio guns, one located at the S.E. battery (Temakin) carries the breech block number 'B.L. 8 In. V.S & M. 1905. No. 1158A' which makes it a product of the British company Vickers, Sons & Maxims.< The two southeastern guns are reported to be of Armstrong-design (CinCPac-CinCPOA 1945a; ISSMD/JICPOA 1943.).

It appears that this would account for four single turreted guns in Micronesia, two of which are emplaced on Sapuk. The question arises, therefore, where do the other guns come from?

Asama and Toiawa were two armed cruisers laid down by W.G. Armstrong-Whitworth and Co., at Elswick between 1896 (Asama) and 1898 (Tokiwa). Both had 8'/40cal guns as their main armament and both were completed in 1899. The Asama was disarmed in 1922 as a result of the Washington Treaty and re-armed in 1936 (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 72). It is probable that the same guns were replaced then. The Tokiwa was recommissioned as a minelayer in 1922 and had two of her 8-inch guns removed. The Tokiwa was sunk in August 1945 while the Asami survived the war and was broken up in 1947.

Izumo and Iwate were two cruisers built between 1898-1901 (Izumo) and 1899 and 1900 (Iwate) by W.G. Armstrong-Whitworth, at Elswick. Both were armed with 4 x 8'/40cal. guns, and in 1924 were rearmed with lesser calibers. In 1931 the Iwate was rearmed with 4 x 8'/40 cal., while the Izumo was likewise rearmed in 1935. Both sank in 1945 at Kure and were broken up in 1947 (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 74; Jane 1990, p. 169).

Eight-inch guns carried afloat

Before we jump to conclusions, however, let us briefly look at the 8-inch guns available to the coastal defense planners. In comparison to the 6-inch guns, of which there were plenty to choose from, the 8-inch guns were far less common in the Imperial Japanese Navy’s arsenals.

Single 8-inch turrets remained common armament on Japanese cruisers until the introduction of twin-turrets with the Aoba and Kinujasa in 1916, the first vesels of the improved Furataku class. Other single turret vessels were modified in the years to come.

40 caliber guns

Takasago.—Built 1896-1898 by W.G.Armstrong–Mitchell & Co, at Elswick. Armed with 2x8'/40 cal. Sunk by a mine 12/13 December 1904 off Port Arthur (Jentschura et al. 1977: ,p.100; Jane 1990, p. 211). Azuma.—1898-1900 Societe des Cantiers de la Loire, St. Nazaire. Launched on 24 June 1899, the vessel carried 4 x 8'/40cal. Canet guns. Disarmed in 1922 it was rearmed in 1930 with 4 x 8 inch of unspecified caliber. Stricken in 1941 it was hulked [5].

Yakumo.—Built 1898-1900 at AG Vulkan, Stettin (launched 8 July 1899). Armed with 4 x 8'/40 cal. Krupp guns, it was disarmed in 1922. In 1930-33 it was rearmed with (Japanese-built) 4 x 8'/50cal guns. It survived the Pacific War and was broken up in 1947 (Jentschura et al. 1977, p.74; Jane 1990, p. 170).

Table 3. Compilation of Japanese vessels carrying 8- inch guns
VesselYears builtno. gunscaliberNotes
Takasago1896- 9828'/40Single
Azuma1898- 190048'/40Canet
Izumo1898- 190148'/40 
Yakumo1899- 48'/40 
Iwate1899- 190148'/40 
Kuruma1905- 0988'/45Twin Turrets
Ibuki1906- 1088'/45Twin Turrets
Furataku1922- 2668/50modernised in 1936, guns resited in twin turrets
Kako1922- 2668/50 
Aoba1924- 2668/50 
Kinugasu1924- 2668/50 
Nachi1924- 28108/50 
Myoko1924- 29108/50 
Haguro1925- 29108/50 
Ashigara1925- 29108/50 
Takao1927- 32108/50 
Atago1927- 32108/50 
Maya1928- 32108/50 
Hokai1928- 32108/50 

45 caliber guns

Kurama.—Built 1905-1911 at the Kure Naval Yard, Japan and armed with 8 x 8'/45cal. Launched on 21 October 1907, the vessel saw service from 1911 onwards, but was disarmed in 1922 and broken-up the year later (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 78; Jane 1990, p. 167).

Iwami.—Laid down in 1900 and launched on 19 July 1902 at the Franco-Prussian Works, St.Petersburg armed with 12' and 6' guns. The vessel was heavily damaged by gunfire at the battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905 and was surrendered on 28 May 1905 at Liancourt Reef. Repaired in Kure in 1907 it rejoined the fleet later that year rearmed with 6x 8'/45cal Armstrong pattern guns. The Iwami saw service until April 1922, when it was disarmed and struck of the active service list (September 1922). It was sunk in July 1924 off Mizuru as a target for aircraft (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 21; Jane 1990, p. 168).

Ibuki.—Built 1905-1911 at the Kure Naval Yard, Japan and armed with 8 x 8'/45cal. Launched on 21 November 1907, the vessel saw service from 1911 onwards, but was disarmed in 1922 and broken-up the year later (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 78; Jane 1990, p. 167).

Aso.—Built between 1899 and 1903 at Forges et Chantiers de la Metiterranie, la Seyne, Toulon. Completed in 1903, for the Russian Navy (as the Bayan), the vessel was sunk on 8 December 1904 at Port Arthur, fell in Japanese hands on 2 January 1905, was raised in late 1905, repaired in 1906 and 1907 and joined the fleet as the Aso in 1908. Originally it carried 2 x 8'/45 cal. Canet guns, was refitted with 2 x 8-inch Armstrong pattern guns, which were removed in 1913 and replaced with 6-inch pieces. In 1910 the vessel was converted to a mine layer and sunk as a target ship in 1932 (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 76; Jane 1990, p. 169).

Kasagi.—Built 1896-1898 by Wm.Kramp Ironworks & Sons, Philadelphia, USA. Armed with 2 x 8'/45 acl. QF. Wrecked in 1916 in the Tsugaru Straits and abandoned (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 100-101; Jane 1990, p. 191).

Chitose.—Built 1896-1898 by Union Ironworks, San Francicso, USA. Armed with 2 x 8'/45 cal. QF. Disarmed in 1921 and sunk as a target ship in 1931 (Jentschura et al. 1977, p. 100-101. 2x 8”/40 cal. according to Jane 1990, p. 171).

50 caliber guns

After the Washington Naval Limitations Treaty of 1922 the 8-inch caliber guns became the main cruiser weapon, and Japanese models of the weapon became more and more the rule (table 3).

In 1931 (to 1937) the Mogami class of cruisers was built with 6.1 inch guns instead of 8-inch gun. The 8-inch guns (8 x 8/50cal) were reinstalled in the next class of cruisers, with Tone and Chikuma being the only vessels of that class (Jentschura et al 1977:87). In 1938-40 all vessels of the Mogami class were rearmed with 10 x 8/50 guns in twin turrets (Mikuma, Susuya, Kumano) with the exception of the Mogami which had only 6x 8/50 (Jentschura et al. 1977:84-85).

None of these, however, can have been emplaced in Micronesia as all post 1922 vessels were in service in World War II with their armament intact. Thus the guns which have been identified so far, must have come off ships which had seen refits before 1922 r which had been scrapped as part of the 1922 Washington Naval treaty.

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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000). 8-inch Coastal Defense Guns. British, Italian and Japanese Naval Guns and their Emplacements in Micronesia.
URL: http:/marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/Sapuk/Sapuk.html

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au