WWII Color Footage of Japan’s Battleship Yamato Discovered; Citizen Group from Oita Prefecture Makes Historic Discovery

Courtesy of the Toyo-no-kuni Usa-shi Juku
The battleship Yamato makes a right turn during an air raid by U.S. forces on March 19, 1945. The battleship appears black in the image.

Color footage of the World War II battleship Yamato, which was sunk in the final phase of the war, has been found for the first time in the U.S. National Archives Museum.

The 263-meter-long battleship, one of the largest battleships ever, was built in 1941 at the naval munitions factory in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture. It became the flagship of the former Imperial Japanese Navy before it was sunk on April 7, 1945, while on a suicide mission to Okinawa. No video footage of the Yamato, including footage taken by Japan, had ever been found.

Courtesy of the Yamato Museum
The battleship Yamato photographed in 1941

The color footage was discovered by the “Toyo-no-kuni Usa-shi Juku,” a citizen group headed by Soei Hirata in Usa, Oita Prefecture, and the announcement was made on Sunday. The group obtained from the museum footage that was taken by the U.S. military during air raids and other military action and analyzed it before releasing it. The video will be shown to the public at an event in Usa on May 18.

The footage is believed to have been taken by a U.S. naval aircraft positioned several kilometers away from the Yamato on March 19, 1945. For 16 seconds, the battleship can be seen sailing off the coast of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, turning to the right, trailed by columns of water and mist caused by an air raid.

Even though the image of the battleship is small, the unique characteristics of the Yamato, such as its remarkable length from bow to bridge and distinctly high bridge, are said to be visible in the footage.

The group determined that the footage is authentic based on the ship’s wake and the position of the water columns in the video, which match the photographic record, as well as U.S military records.

“The location, date, and other factors make us certain it’s the Yamato. There are plenty of photographs, but I’m surprised there’s also a video,” said Kazushige Todaka, director of the Kure Maritime Museum — also known as the Yamato Museum — in Hiroshima Prefecture. “This is a historically important and valuable discovery.”

Yusuke Orita, a 37-year-old military history researcher involved with the group who analyzed the video, said: “I really wanted to find footage of the Yamato. I’ll be happy if it turns out to be useful for future military history research. I’ll continue to look for clearer images.”