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Haguro was the last of the four-member Myōkō class of heavy cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was named after Mount Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture. The other ships of her class were Myōkō, Nachi, and Ashigara.

The ships of this class displaced 13,300 tons, were 201 m (661 ft) long, and were capable of 36 kt (67 km/h). They carried two aircraft and their main armament was ten 203 mm (8 in) guns in five twin turrets. At the time they were built, this was the heaviest armament of any cruiser class in the world.

Haguro was laid down at the Mitsubishi shipyard in Nagasaki on March 16, 1925, launched and named on March 24, 1928, and was commissioned into the Imperial Navy on April 25, 1929. Her service in World War II started in the Dutch East Indies, where she engaged the enemy off Makassar on February 8, 1942. She played a key role in the battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942, and was involved in the sinking of HMS Exeter and the Dutch flag ship Hr Ms De Ruyter, and of Encounter in another action off south Borneo on March 1, 1942.

On May 7, 1942 she participated in the battle of the Coral Sea, moving on to the Solomon Islands where she took part in the battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24, 1942, the evacuation from Guadalcanal at the end of January 1943, and took light damage in the battle of Empress Augusta Bay on November 2, 1943. On June 19, 1944 she survived the battle of the Philippine Sea, and on October 23–25, 1944 she took light damage in the battle of Leyte Gulf.
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