The Japanese Destroyer Shimakaze

The Imperial Naval Staff demanded the development of a destroyer project with owerful weaponry and capable of reaching speed of 40 knots.

The project was approved and marked with the symbol “F52”, it was included in the financial plan of 1939 “Maru Yon”. According to the project, the armament was to consist of three two-barrel 127 mm gun turrets, and two seven-tube torpedo launchers. Due to the heavy weight of the tubes and the inability of emergency manual control of the launchers, this idea was abandoned. In connection with this, a project was prepared and the construction of the Japanese destroyer with the number 125later nam, ed “Shimakaze” commenced.
The keel laying took place on 8 August 1941 at the Naval Shipyard, Maizuru. Launching was carried out on 18 July 1942. “Shimakaze” was constructed on the basis of the extended hull of the Kagerō destroyer. Increasing the size of the ship, and thus her displacement, was used primarily to strengthen the torpedo equipment and to install a much more powerful engine, working at higher pressure, which allowed to achieve very high speed (during trials - 40.9 knots). The low priority of experimental ships combined with technical problems encountered during construction (mainly the engine room) made the work very slow. In the programme of 1942, the construction of another 16 vessels of this type was scheduled (named Arashikaru, Asahikari, Chugao, Hikugumo, Hikushio, Hitonozi, Kaosame, Karuyuki, Kitakaze, Natsukaze, Nishikaze, Nobikaze, Shimushio, Soragumo, Yugachio, Yugao, numbered 733-748), however, due to the difficult situation of the industry (problems with the production of turbines and boilers) and the dynamically changing situation on the front, they were eventually abandoned and only the prototype was completed. The ship was named “Shimakaze” after the previous destroyer of the Minekaze type, meaning “Island Wind”.

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The Shimakaze destroyer had typical architecture for Japanese destroyers: her profile was similar to the Kagerō and Yūgumo types, but she was longer and on board, in the plane of symmetry there was a small superstructure and a third torpedo device. The second distinguishing feature was that instead of a stretched S-shaped stem that was characteristic of Japanese ships, she had an arched bow, inclined strongly forward, giving the silhouette a dynamic appearance, and better for developing high speeds (similar to “the Atlantic” shape of the bows of the great destroyers - German and French). The hull had an elevated bow deck at less than 1/3 of its length. On the foredeck there was one, two-barrel gun turret, followed by a short, tower-type superstructure. The superstructure was a three-floor construction with an enclosed glass-covered wheelhouse on its upper level and a fire-control post behind it. The front wall of the superstructure was slightly bent, as in the Yūgumo type. A characteristic element for the Japanese destroyers were life boats on the sides of the fore superstructure, so was also on “Shimakaze”. The drive consisted of boilers, which were located in two boiler rooms, and further steam turbines (linear arrangement of the power unit). The flue gas from the boilers was discharged through two funnels, the first of which was wider. The radar equipment was located on a three-legged fore mast and consisted of Type-22 radar. After modernization in 1944, it was supplemented with Type-13 radar located on the rear mast placed on the aft superstructure. The aft deckhouse was relatively short due to the space occupied by the third torpedo device.

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The “Shimakaze” had a powerful gun weaponry, identical to the parallel-built Yūgumo type ships. It consisted of 6 universal 127 mm calibre guns in new “D” type turrets, with an angle of elevation of 75°. They were able to fire planes at higher altitudes, although this was ineffective due to the low guidance and loading speed. On the foredeck there was one two-barrel turret. The others were placed on the stern, the second on the aft superstructure, and the third on the aft deck. Torpedo armament in the form of 15 torpedo tubes cal. 610 mm in three Type 0 devices, placed amidships (the first was located on the pedestal between the funnels in the longitudinal axis of the ship, the second torpedo device was placed on the deck behind the second funnel and the third between the reflector platform covering the ventilation pipes and a low aft superstructure). All devices could fire at both sides. This armament was the most powerful in the world on the ship of this class, both in terms of the number of tubes and torpedo parameters. The anti-aircraft armament of the ship constituted two twin 25 mm Type 96 cannons, placed on both sides of the second funnel and a twin 13.2 mm machine gun on the platform by the bow superstructure. Due to the growing importance of aviation in the Pacific conflict, at the beginning of 1944 the ship was modernized, thus increasing anti-aircraft armament. The scope of work included:
−    replacement of two twin 25 mm Type 96 guns (on both sides of the platform behind the second funnel) with two triple 25 mm calibre Type 96 guns
−    addition of two triple 25 mm Type 96 guns (on both sides of the reflector platform)
−    addition of fourteen single barrel 25 mm Type 96 guns
−    replacement of 13.2 mm machine guns with one twin 25 mm gun

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Operationl history 
The “Shimakaze” was commissioned on 10 May 1943, she became part of the 11th Destroyer Squadron of the First Fleet. The first skipper was Commander Hirose Hiromu. On 5 July, having sailed from Kure, she arrived at Paramushiro. On 10 July she was assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Squadron of the Second Fleet. Between 22 July and 1 August she participated in the second evacuation of the troops from Kiska (Aleutian Islands), as the flagship of the 21st Squadron of Commander Amano Shigetak. On 26 July she damaged the destroyer “Wakaba” in the the collision. In 3-6 August 1943, she escorted the “Maya” cruiser from Paramushiro to Yokosuka, where at the shipyard she underwent renovation. Shee was part of the escort of the cruisers “Chokai” and “Maya” during the cruise from Yokosuka to the island of Truk (15-20 September). From 21 to 26 September, she escorted “Chuyo” and “Taiyo” escort aircraft carriers during a cruise from Truk to Yokosuka. She escorted the “Chuyo” escort carrier during her return to the island of Truk (4-10 October) in October there was a change at the post of the skipper, Hirose was replaced by Commander Uwai Hiroshi. She then escorted the main fleet during its dislocation from Truk to Eniwetok atoll for fear of the air strikes from American aircraft carriers (17-26 October). She served as an escort of tankers on a trip from Truk to Rabaul (2-5 November). On the return trip to Truk, she protected the “Suzuya” and “Mogami” cruisers (5-8 November). She returns to Yokosuka in the escort of the cruisers “Atago” and “Takao” (11-15 November). She escorted the aircraft carriers “Shokaku” and “Chitose” during a cruise to Truk (26 November – 1 December). In the period from December 1943 to February 1944 she participated in the convoys of tankers between the islands of Truk, Saipan and Palau. On 8-17 January 1944, along with the destroyer “Hayanami”, she escorted a convoy of tankers from Balikpapan to Truk during which two of the three tankers, “Nippon Maru” and “Kenyo Maru” were sunk. On 4-14 March she escorted the “Akitsushima” seaplane tender from Palau to Yokosuka.

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Between 6 and 16 July, she escorted troop transports to strengthen the garrison in Okinawa. On 23-25 October ​​the battle for the Leyte Gulf. On 24 October she took over the survivors of the sunk “Musashi” battleship from the “Maya” cruiser. Slightly damaged after the attacks of American planes and collision with the destroyer “Akishimo” on 31 October she sailed to Manila from Brunei with troops on board transport. On 4 November she became the flagship of the  commander of the 2nd Destroyer Squadron, Vice Admiral Mikio Hayakawa. On 9 November she sailed in the escort of TA3 convoy from Manila to Ormoc.

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On 11 November the convoy was attacked by an aircraft from the TF38 aircraft, during the attack the “Shimakaze” was hit by bombs and began to burn. The ship drifted for some time and exploded and sank in the afternoon at 10’50 N and 124’35 E. The exact number of survivors is unknown, probably 131 men (including survivors from the destroyer “Wakatsuki”). Among them was the commander of the ship Uwai. Vice Admiral Hayakawa died during the raid.

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