The Japanese Destroyer Kagero


Kagero’s first “Tokyo Express” mission took place on August 16–18, following which she took part in the shelling of American installations on the island. In the last days of the month Kagero took part in operation Ka, the Japanese effort to reinforce the Guadalcanal garrison and to destroy any intervening U.S. Navy carriers. The Japanese move led to a massive sea-air battle of the Eastern Solomons. This time Kagero was not escorting Shokaku and Zuikaku (which were involved in a direct engagement with the U.S. Navy carriers), but instead joined the task force commanded by Rear Admiral Tanaka Raizo. The force consisted of a light cruiser, eight destroyers and transport ships. On the night of August 23/24 Kagero, Isokaze, Kawakaze, Mutsuki and Yayoi opened fire on Henderson Field3. On August 25 the Japanese force was attacked by U.S. aircraft, which sank one of the transports and the destroyer Mutsuki. Tanaka’s flagship, the light cruiser Jintsu was also hit by a U.S. bomb, which wounded the Admiral himself. Tanaka transferred to Kagero and the battered convoy set course for the Japanese base at Shortland. The Japanese carrier force did not fare much better: the Imperial Navy did manage to inflict serious damage to USS Enterprise, but lost the light carrier Ryujo in the process.
In late August Kagero assisted the destroyer Shirakumo on her way to base following serious damage she had suffered in a U.S. air strike. During September Kagero performed more “Tokyo Express” missions and only occasionally fired her guns at U.S. installations on Guadalcanal. On September 21 the destroyer sustained minor damage in an air raid and docked at Truk for essential repairs, thus missing an opportunity to take part in the battle of Cape Esperance on the night of October 11/12. The Japanese sank a U.S. Navy destroyer in the battle for a cost of one of their own destroyers and a heavy cruiser. Once again the clash did not produce a clear winner with both sides disengaging with bloodied noses. The Japanese made one more offensive effort in late October, but it too quickly ground to a halt. The Japanese land offensive against Henderson Field was a complete fiasco, but the Americans did lose USS Hornet off Santa Cruz Islands, while USS Enterprise was once again seriously damaged. The battle came at a hefty cost to the Imperial Navy, which lost many of its aircraft and aircrew. In addition, two of the IJN carriers sustained battle damage. For the Japanese forces this may have been a tactical victory, but certainly a strategic defeat. During the fighting Kagero along with destroyers Harusame, Murasame, Oyashio, Samidare and Yudachi was tasked with providing protection for the support force commanded by Vice Admiral Kurita Takeo, which included battleships Kongo and Haruna.
The Guadalcanal campaign finally came to an end in mid November with a series of surface battles between American and Japanese battleships. During the decisive engagement on the night of November 14/15 the Americans sank the fast battleship Kirishima and forced the Japanese to retreat. From that moment on the U.S. forces would fight the battle on their own terms. In those final stages of the campaign Kagero was part of the support force and performed escort operations for troop convoys, which, once again, was a rather wasteful way of employing a destroyer. The November fighting was all about night-time surface battles, an ideal environment for a Kagero class vessel. Despite being relegated to escort duties Kagero launched a torpedo attack against the battleship USS Washington (at least according to some of the available sources), but failed to hit the American warship.