But Strefs, I hear you think, here you are, you have written an article. Yes. That I have. Let’s not sweat the details. I am just glad to be back in action.
Let's jump into the topic today. We'll be having a look at a ship that is quite dear to me. It's the Kagerou and it's sister ships. We’ll be exploring what led to their design, their service time, and what fate befell them.
Our story starts, not in Japan, but in London. In Late April 1930, the London Naval treaty was signed by the UK, the Empire of Japan, Italy, France and the US. It contained very specific limitations to be upheld whilst conducting shipbuilding and submarine warfare. In particular, noted weight and armament calibre limitations for Destroyers. No destroyer was to weigh more than 1,850 metric tons and carry guns larger than 130mm (5.1 inches). These limitations were to be respected until 1937, whereby the treaty would have expired. The 5 Powers, the victors of the Great War, are to hold a second disarmament conference in 1936, but two out of five, Italy and Japan, refuse. At this point, rising militarism in Japan pushes the decision onto the government. In 1937 the Kokkai, or National Diet passes the 3rd Naval Armaments Supplement programme. Already in 1934, it is evident, that many Japanese naval vessels are compromised due to weight limitations and flawed construction. 66 new vessels are to be built. Among these, 22 destroyers, Type-A, are to be constructed. Within days, the first three ships are laid down, chronologically, number 18, Shiranui (on 30.8.37), number 19, Kuroshio (on 31.8.37) and number 17, the lead ship of the class, Kagerou (on 3.9.37). Ship numbers 23 and 22, Hatsukaze and Natsushio, follow in early December. By the end of 1940, 12 out of 19 destroyers are completed. The last 7 will be finished in 1941. You might be wondering at this point, what about those other 3 ships? The programme specifically stated 22. This is true. However, 3 of the Kagerou destroyers were “faked” to conceal the Yamato programme’s budget. Therefore, in reality, we only have 19 ships.
The Kagerou-class of ships had a standard weight of 2,000 tons and a battle weight of 2,500 tons, 118.5m long and 10.80m in width. They were equipped with 3 Kampon tube boilers and 2 Kanpon impulse boilers, creating 52,000 shaft horse power. On speed trials, Kagerou ships reached 35.5 knots maximum speed. The Destroyers had a crew complement of 240 hands.
Type A destroyers were armed with weapons for surface and submarine warfare. Each ship carried 2×4 610mm Type 92 Torpedo tubes, able to hold 8 type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes plus 8 in reload. Japanese torpedoes were arguably, for the majority of the war, the best in their class, their ability to be fired from a range of up to 40km the took Allies by surprise.
Each Kagerou-class destroyer was also armed with the Type 3 Mod. C 12,7 cm (5 inch) twin Naval guns. Two on the aft in super-firing position and one in front of the bridge superstructure. The 32 ton heavy, full enclosed, gas, weather and splinter-proof housings were the first of their kind when introduced on the Fubuki-class. The guns were able to elevate to 55° degrees and depress down to -7°. the decrease of elevation from model B to C by 20° somewhat compromised the AA capability of these naval guns, though the gun could only be loaded at an acute angle of 5-10°, which seriously cut into the rate of fire anyway, rendering it quite ineffective. Nevertheless it was a true dual purpose mount. Depending on the arc a shell had to be fired at, the Type 3s were able to dish out around 5-10 rounds per minute.
By late war, the 5 inch guns of the Imperial Japanese navy carried 4 types of ammunition. 2 types of HE, 1 type of Anti-aircraft shrapnel and 1 flat-headed anti-submarine round. All rounds weighed in at approximately 23kg, with only the anti-submarine shell being slightly lighter by 2kg.
Type 3 guns were able to engage targets up to 18km (while submarine warfare shells were only effective up to 4km) and had a muzzle velocity of 915m/s.
Each Kagerou-class ship was equipped with 25mm type 96 DP AA guns, a home made variant of the 25mm Hotchkiss AA gun. These mounts had an effective range of 6.8km with a rate of fire of 200-260 rounds per minute. Initially each ship carried 4 of these guns. By late war it became apparent that this was not enough. After the war, it was noted that Yukikaze, had in fact been upgraded with 27 of these AA guns.
Due to the rise of submarine warfare, each Kagerou carried 18 type 95 depth charges. Type 95 depth charges carried an explosive charge of 100kg and were set to detonate at 30, 60 and later 90m depths. Regulation of depth was done using a water inlet fuse. By late war, some of these were replaced by type 2 and 3 depth charges, which had an increased sink rate, but lower effective depth.
The only thing lacking on Type A destroyers was surface radar, and relatively bad sonar, which was evident on most of the Japanese destroyer designs at the time, only to be later remedied from the beginning on the Akizuki-class of destroyers. otherwise they were very capable little ships, on par, if not better than it’s contemporary adversaries. Only 1 ship survived the war, Yukikaze, but more on her later.
The lead ship of the Kagerou class, was, unsurprisingly, Kagerou. She was completed and commissioned during late Autumn 1939. She was the second ship to bear this name, the first one being a ship Murakumo-class in 1899. The literal translation of her name is heat haze. Early during the war, Kagerou was assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Squadron, 18th Destroyer division of the 2nd Fleet, together with her sister ship, Shiranui. She escorted the Nagumo’s Strike force during the attack on Pearl Harbour. She continued to provide escorts for carriers and warships, and conducting special supply runs. She participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, Guadacanal and Tassafaronga. On May the 7th 1943, Kagerou hit a naval mine at Vila, and was subsequently sunk by allied bombers. Ship 19, Kuroshio and ship No. 20, Oyashio, also hit mines leaving Vila, and both sunk. Towards the end of the Pacific war, Kagerou-class ships were the first to be fitted with radar, Hamakaze (ship 19) being the first out of all Japanese destroyers to receive this equipment. Amatsukaze, Ship 25, was used as a testbed for the Shimakaze-class prototype destroyers.
The most notable ship out of the Kagerou-class must be Yukikaze though. Yukikaze was the last Kagerou destroyer still afloat at the end of the war. Yukikaze was there during the sinking of the Yamato and escaped undamaged, she also participated in escorting the Japanese Supercarrier Shinano which was sunk by USS Archerfish. Due to her sheer un-sinkability, Yukikaze was called the unsinkable ship at home. She was one of three pre-war destroyers to survive the war.
After the war, Yukikaze was transferred to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and became the Flagship Dan Yang. In 1953 she was refitted with open air mounted guns and had her torpedo tubes scrapped. In 1966 she was decommissioned and completely scrapped in 1970, only her rudder and one anchor was repatriated to Japan, which is still on display today at the Navy Academy museum.