Shōkaku (Japanese: 翔鶴 shōkaku meaning "flying crane") was an aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the lead ship of her class. Along with her sister ship Zuikaku, she is most famous for taking part in many key engagements of the World War II Pacific Theatre, including the battles of Pearl Harbor and the Coral Sea.
Shōkaku and her sister ship Zuikaku, forming the Japanese 5th Carrier Division, acquired their aircraft shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack and were ready just in time for it. Her aircraft complement consisted of 15 Mitsubishi A6M fighters, 27 Aichi D3A dive bombers, and 27 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers.
In the Indian Ocean raid of March 1942, she joined the aircraft carriers Akagi, Zuikaku, Sōryū, and Hiryū in raiding Colombo. There Admiral Chuichi Nagumo succeeded in extensively damaging support facilities.
That task completed, the task force found and sank the British carrier Hermes, and two cruisers (Cornwall and Dorsetshire), prior to moving on to the Coral Sea. Here she helped to sink USS Lexington, but was herself severely damaged by USS Yorktown's aircraft in return.
After repairs, Shōkaku took part in two further 1942 battles, both in concert with her sister: the battle of the Eastern Solomons, where they damaged USS Enterprise, and the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where they sank USS Hornet but Shōkaku was once again seriously damaged by dive bombers.
In 1943 under the command of Captain Matsubara Hiroshi, she resumed her role as one of the Japanese Navy's most important fleet carriers. She was assigned to a counter-attack against the Aleutian Islands, but the operation was cancelled after the Allied victory at Attu. For the remainder of 1943 she was based at Truk.