The Furutaka was the first of her heavy cruiser class. Launched on February 25, 1925 and commissioned on March 31, 1926 at the Mitsubishi Shipyard at Nagasaki, she was the first Japanese heavy cruiser built to meet the requirements of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. Displacing 7,100 tons standard and 8,450 tons at her trials, she had a maximum speed of 34.5 knots. Her power plant included 12 boilers and four steam turbines that generated 102,500 horsepower and drove four propellers. The cruiser’s main armament included six 8-inch guns mounted in six single-mounted turrets. She also carried four 3-inch AA guns, two machine guns, 12 24-inch torpedo tubes, and one aircraft.
She joined the Fifth Squadron that made several sorties in Chinese waters and conducted combat-readiness exercises with the fleet. From late 1931 until mid 1933, the fleet held the cruiser in reserve while she underwent repairs and alterations. During that time, the Navy replaced her 3-inch guns with four 4.7-inch AA guns, added eight 13.2-mm AA guns, and replaced her aircraft launching platform with a catapult. The Furutaka rejoined the fleet and operated off the Chinese coast first with the Sixth Squadron and later the Seventh Squadron. In late 1936, the Navy deactivated her and sent her to the Kure Naval Yard for a major renovation.
She emerged in mid-1939 as a different ship. The Navy mounted her six main guns in three twin turrets, changed her fixed torpedo tubes with rotating mounts, and added bulges to compensate for the added weight. Her displacement increased to 8,700 tons standard or 10,341 tons at her trial, and her maximum speed fell to 33.5 knots. In addition to her six 6-inch and four 4.7-inch guns, she now carried eight 25-mm AA guns, four 13.2-mm AA guns, and eight 24-inch torpedo tubes in two 4-tube mounts, and two aircraft. The cruiser then served in the Sixth Squadron and operated in home waters until just before the Pacific War began.
The Sixth Squadron served in many places against the Allied naval forces for the first ten months of the war. During March-may 1942, it supported the capture of Guam and Wake Islands and conducted offensive operations in the Solomons and New Guinea areas. The Furutaka was part of the Japanese forces at the Battle of the Coral Sea in late May. After the Americans invaded Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August 1942, the Sixth Squadron was part of Mikawa’s fleet that defeated the Americans and Australians at the Battle of Savo Island. From that time until October 1942, the Furutaka and other Japanese cruisers and destroyers covered the Japanese abortive efforts trying to recapture Guadalcanal.
On October 11, the Japanese met a powerful force of American cruisers and destroyers at the Battle of Cape Esperance. The Americans stopped the Japanese and heavily damaged the Furutaka. Her crew sustained heavy casualties. The survivors tried to save her and futilely attempted to get the hopelessly crippled cruiser moving again. They had no choice but to abandon her. The Furutaka sank a short time later.