The only other Shokaku-class carrier, the Zuikaku completed construction on September 9, 1941 at Kawasaki, Kobe. Like her sister ship, she was part of the Pearl Harbor attack force. During late 1941 and early 1942, the big carrier’s aircraft attacked Rabaul, the Netherlands East Indies, and British and Australian Indian Ocean bases.
At the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Zuikaku’s aircraft inflicted crippling damage on the American carrier Lexington (CV-2) and heavily damaged the Yorktown. Nevertheless, the carrier’s air group suffered extensive losses that prevented her from being with Adm. Nagumo at Midway.
She was an important part of the Combined Fleet’s operations at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October. There were no carrier battles until the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Imperial Japanese Navy lost three carriers at that conflict, hundreds of planes, and hundreds of its irrepacable experienced, trained pilots. The American victory rendered Japanese naval aviation completely impotent. While the Zuikaku also sustained damage at Philippine Sea, she returned to Japan for repairs and went to sea again in time for the climatic Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Under the command of Vadm. Jisaburo Ozawa, the carrier was part of a force that had the assignment to lure the American carriers away from Leyte. While successful in that mission, American carrier aircraft found Ozawa’s force and sank the Zuikaku and three other Japanese carriers on October 25, 1944 at the Battle off Cape Engaño. After that, Japan ceased to be a naval power.