May 25, 1938-The keel of the Zuikaku is laid in the Kawasaki shipyards.
November 27, 1939-The Zuikaku is launched.
September 25, 1941-The Zuikaku is commissioned. upon commissioning, the ship joins the First Air Fleet, Carrier Division 5. In October, the carrier is sstationed near Oita.
November 26, 1941-The Zuikaku leaves Hittokapu Bay in the Kuriles as part of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's carrier strike force ('Kido Butai') in the raid against Pearl Harbor ('Hawaii Operation').
December 7, 1941- Two waves of aircraft are launched from the Zuikaku, and the carrier begins to withdraw as its planes are returned.
December 23, 1941-The Akagi, Kaga, Shokaku, Zuikaku return to Hishirajima.
January 5, 1942-The Zuikaku leaves for Hiroshima Bay.
January 16, 1942-The Zuikaku leaves Truk as part of Operation "R" (January 14 through January 24).
January 21, 1942-The Zuikaku launches strikes on Lae after an attack against Rabaul the previous day.
January 29, 1942-The Zuikaku arrives at Truk.
February 1 to February 8, 1942-The Zuikaku departs Truk with the destroyers Shiranuhi, Kasumi, and Urakazi to chase the carrier force that was assaulting the Marshall Islands. Goes to Palau afterwards.
February 9, 1942-The Zuikaku leaves for Yokosuka, after becoming a part of Air Force under the Combined Fleet, Carrier Division 5.
March 10, 1942-The Zuikaku joins Striking Force, Screening Force, Main Body and remains there until the 15th.
March 26, 1942-The Zuikaku leaves Staring Bay for "Operation C", just two days after arriving, which would lead to the sinking of the Royal Navy carrier Hermes. The carrier departs as a unit of the First Air Fleet Carrier Division 5, Striking Force, Air Attack Force.
April 9, 1942-Zuikaku attacks Trincomalee, Ceylon, four days after attacking Colombo.
April 19, 1942-Departs Mako, after arriving the previous day, to participate in Operation MO (the Battle of the Coral Sea). Operations begin on the 20th.
April 25, 1942-The ZuikakuArrives at Truk.
May 7 through the 8th-The Zuikaku is a participant in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Using a rain squall as protection, the carrier manages to escape, but has suffered substantial aircraft losses which would put the ship in port while the Shokaku is repaired.
May 15, 1942-The Zuikaku returns to Truk, then leaves for Kure on the 16th, arriving at its destination on the 21st of May.
June 25, 1942-The Zuikaku joins the Number 2 Striking Force, 1st Air Fleet, Carrier Division 5.
June 26, 1942-The Zuikaku departs for Japan after two days at Ominato.
July 14, 1942-The Zuikaku is reassigned to Striking Force, 3rd Fleet, First Air Fleet, Carrier Division 5 around Hashirajima-Kure area.
July 30, 1942-The Zuikaku is drydocked in Kure, and would remain until August 12.
August 16, 1942-The Zuikaku joins Main Body, Striking Force, 3rd Fleet, Carrier Division 1, and leaves Kure to initiate Phase 2 of battle of the Eastern Solomons.
August 24, 1942-The Zuikaku participates in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
September 1942-The Zuikaku joins as a unit of the Support force, Striking force, Main Body (3rd fleet, Carrier Division 1). This force remains in the Truk area.
October 11, 1942-The Zuikaku departs Truk for operations in Guadalcanal.
October 26, 1942-The Zuikaku participates in the. While the carrier is attacked, it suffers no major damage.
October 30, 1942-The Zuikaku returns to Truk, then departs for Kure (arrives November 9). After a brief stay, the ship again departs, this time for Yokosuka (arrives December 28). The carrier then departs for Truk (arrives January 4, 1943), then sails back to Japan (arrives January 12). Once again, the Zuikaku is ordered to Kure, then again to Truk (arrives January 23).
January 29 to February 8, 1943-Operation KE (Evacuation of Guadalcanal) commences. Leaves Truk and heads toward Ontong Java Island, north of Guadalcanal, with the carriers Zuiho and Junyo to aid in the withdrawal of ground forces. On January 29, after a brief stay in Truk, Zuikaku and Zuiho broke off from the Advanced Group, and leave for Rabaul to cover evacuation. Upon completion, during which over 12,000 Japanese soldiers were successfully evacuated, the carrier returns to Truk.
May 3, 1943-The Zuikaku leaves Truk for Yokosuka, arriving on the 8th.
May 15 to June 2, 1943-The Zuikaku anchors off Kisarazu with Carrier Division 1, after leaving Kure in response to the US Forces landing at Attu. On May 21, the cruisers Mogami, Kumano, Suzuya depart from Tokuyama. One May 22, the battleships Musashi, Kongo, and Haruna arrive. Carriers Junyo and Hiyo, along with cruiser escorts Tone and Chikuma arrive the same day. All ships arriving on May 22 were from Truk, and returned because Attu fell before forces could leave for the Aleutians.
June 11,1943-The Zuikaku enters drydock at Kure. The carrier is ready for duty again, on June 19. On July 10, the carrier departs for Truk (arrives July 15).
September 18, 1943-The Zuikaku leaves Truk for Brown Island (Eniwetok) as part of Vice Admiral Ozawa's Combined Fleet (Ozawa had tactical command) in an effort to respond to US Task Force 15 raiding Tarawa and Makin. The carrier returns to Truk after completion of these duties a week later.
October 17, 1943-The Zuikaku departs Truk for Brown Island (Eniwetok) as part of Admiral Koga's Combined Fleet in an attempt to respond to US Task Force 16 raiding Wake Island. The carrier again returns to Truk after completion nine days later.
October 30, 1943-The Zuikaku leaves Truk for Rabaul with carriers Shokaku and Zuiho, with the light cruiser Agano as part of Operation RO (Reinforcement of Rabaul). The force stopped 200 miles from Rabaul and the Zuikaku launched and 24 fighters each day to reinforce Japanese land forces already at Rabaul. The forces return to Truk upon completion, arriving November 13.
December 7, 1943-The Zuikaku departs Truk for Kure (arrives on December 12).
January 8, 1944-The Zuikaku enters drydock at Kure (ready for service on January 17). The carrier then departs on February 6 for Singapore (arrives February 13). Next, the carrier is transferred on February 20 for Kure, arriving a week later. On March 8, the Zuikaku leaves again, returning to Singapore (arrives on March 15), followed by Lingga (arrives March 20). The carrier is next ordered to return to Singapore again (arrives March 25). The Zuikaku enters drydock upon arrival, being ready for service again on May 6. Then, on May 12,the carrier departs for Tawitawi (arrives May 15).
June 19, 1944-The Zuikaku is the only remaining carrier of Carrier Division 1 as the carrier Taiho is sunk by torpedoes. The Shokaku is torpedoed as well, forcing the Zuikaku to accomodate as many of sunken Shokaku's aircraft as possible. This was made easier because the Zuikaku had suffered massive damage to it's air forces during the Battle of the Marianas.
June 20, 1944-The Zuikaku recieves one bomb hit just aft of the control island, which penetrated the flight deck and ignited a fire in the hangar bay. There were a further 5 near misses, and no torpedo damage to the carrier. The fire is extinguished after a false order to abandon ship is corrected. Zuikaku moves under its own power still, with moderate damage.
June 24, 1944-The Zuikaku returns to Hashirajima and enters drydock at Kure on July 14, being ready again for active duty on August 2. Eight days later, the carrier joins the 3rd Fleet, Carrier Division 3.
September 13, 1944-The Zuikaku arrives at Oita, departing on October 20 for "Sho Operation" as a part of Vice Admiral Ozawa's decoy force.
October 24, 1944-The Zuikaku is sunk after receiving 7 torpedo hits and 9 bomb hits. The order to abandon ship is given at 1:58 p.m, and the flag is lowered. The bow of the Zuikaku slipped beneath the waves at 2:14 p.m. Captain Takeo, 48 officers, and 794 petty officers were lost. However, 47 officers and 815 petty officers were rescued by the destroyer Wakatsuki and 2nd class destroyer Kuwa. The destroyer Hatsuzuki, charged with protecting the rescue effort, was also sunk.