'Nagato' (Named after the Nagato province) was a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy; the lead ship of her class. She was the first battleship in the world to mount 16 inch (actually 16.1 inch, or 410 mm) guns, her armour protection and speed made her one of the most powerful capital ships at the time of her commissioning. Nagato was laid down at the Kure Naval Arsenal on August 28, 1917, launched on November 9, 1919 and completed on November 15, 1920.
She underwent a major refit in 1936, replacing her coal-burning boilers and upgrading her armor and anti-aircraft guns. Following the refit she was able to achieve a top speed of 27 knots. At the outbreak of the Pacific war, the Nagato was flagship for the Combined Fleet. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto issued the signal "Niitaka yama nobore" (Climb Mount Niitaka) December 2, 1941 from the Nagato at anchor at Hashirajima to signal the Carrier Strike Force in the North Pacific to proceed in its attack on Pearl Harbor, committing Japan to the Pacific War. On December 7, she sortied for the Bonin Islands, (known in Japan as the Ogasawara Group) as flagship of the battle fleet, along with her sister ship Mutsu of Battle Division 1 and Hyuga and Ise of Battle Division 3. The force returned to the Combined Fleet's anchorage at Hashirajima on December 12, 1941 and remained there until a March 4 raid against the Japanese base on Marcus Island (Minari Tori Shima), 1,200 miles off the coast of Japan, by Halsey and his Task Force 16 caused the IJN to sortie out in search of the American raiders. Halsey had steamed away at high speed once he recovered his aircraft and the Japanese were unable to make contact. April saw Halsey return, this time steaming within 650 miles of the Japanese home islands along with the Hornet of Task Force 18 to launch the Doolittle Raid. Once again Nagato and the elements of Combined Fleet sortied in chase, but Halsey and his group slipped away before the IJN could engage him.