Launched on May 18, 1912, the battlecruiser Kongo was the first of her class. Built at Barrow-in-Furness, England, she was the last Japanese capital ship constructed outside Japan. Like her sister ships (Hiei, Haruna, and Kirishima), she went through two rounds of modernizations in 1929-1931 and 1936-1937 and reclassified as a battleship. Her higher speed of 30.5 knots plus her 14-inch guns made her a valuable asset for the Japanese Navy during World War II combat missions.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, she supported the landings on the Malayan Peninsula. As the Japanese conquests continued, the battleship covered the invasion of Java, fired her 14-guns on Christmas Island, and raided British shipping in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the Kongo was part of Vadm. Nobutake Kondo’s Covering Group.
During the Guadalcanal campaign, the Kongo and her sister ship, Haruna, bombarded Henderson Field on October 14, 1942. She participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands later that month. The battleship was part of the carrier force during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November. She had no combat missions during 1943 and early 1944. In mid-June 1944, she was in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in the Japanese vanguard carrier division.
Responding to the American invasion of the Philippines in October 1944, she sortied with the rest of the Japanese fleet to force the Americans to abandon their attack. This resulted in the greatest naval battle ever fought — the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She had many close calls during that fight by escaping a submarine attack in the Palawan Passage, surviving carrier aircraft attacks in the Sibuyan Sea, battling the American escort carriers and destroyers during the Battle off Samar, and eluding an American Air force bombing attack.
One month later, the Kongo’s fortunes dramatically changed for the worst. On November 21, 1944, the American submarine Sealion torpedoed her as the battleship steamed through the Formosa Strait. In just a few hours after the assault and on fire, she blew up and quickly sank. She was the only Japanese battleship the Americans sank by submarine attack during the Pacific War.