inaba no oto ni
itsusu no ie o
ide ni keru kana.
|Drawn by the sound|
of the autumn wind
in the rice fields,
I shall leave
the five houses.
|Waka recited by the deceased Emperor Horikawa (1086-1107) in a dream to the courtier Minamoto no Kuninobu, as related to Fujiwara no Munetada [Jacqueline I. Stone, Right Thoughts at the Last Moment, Buddhism and Deathbed Practices in Early Medieval Japan, Kuroda Institute, University of Hawai'i Press, 2016, pp.215-216].|
Japanese destroyers, starting with the Fubuki, began the state of the art destroyer design for World War II. With enclosed, double turrets and heavy gun and torpedo armament, the Fubukis and their successors, the "special type," set the standard for all later design -- although the Japanese desire to pack as much as possible onto the ships tended to make them top heavy. With the design also went the tactics.
As the means of protecting capital ships from torpedo boats, the kind of ship originally called the "torpedo boat destroyer" eventually, with Japanese tactics (first in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905), came into its own as the successor to the torpedo boats. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN, Nippon Teikoku Kaigun, ) had excellent torpedoes, and they planned how to use them. Japanese torpedoes had very long ranges; but the best shot for torpedoes is always as close as possible, and the best circumstances for close shots are at night. The Japanese navy thus drilled and planned for night combat. Only the British Royal Navy had a similar emphasis, after their mortifying experience of the Germans escaping in the night at the battle of Jutland in 1916.
The Royal Navy would use its night training to devastate the Italian navy at the battle of Matapan in 1941, but then the Japanese would frequently use their night training to devastate both the British and United States navies in 1941, 1942, and 1943. The campaigns in Indonesia, culminating in the battle of the Java Sea, 27 February 1942, and then the long campaign in the Solomon Islands from 1942 to 1943, provided many opportunities for Japanese torpedo and night combat training to pay off. On the other hand, the United States Navy was dominated by a group, derisively called the "Gun Club," that emphasized tactics based on gunnery. American torpedoes, poor in themselves, were actually removed from cruisers. There would be hell to pay for this bias.
The supreme achievements of Japanese torpedo and night combat were the battles near Guadalcanal of Savo Island, 9 August 1942, and Tassafaronga, 30 November 1942. The Savo Island force, ironically, consisted entirely of cruisers, except for a single pre-Fubuki destroyer, the Yunagi, trailing along. But the destroyers would get their chance. Indeed, as attrition mounted off Guadalcanal, and then the battleships Hiei and Kirishima were sunk there in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 November 1942, Japan gave up seriously contesting the waters, and used destroyers for such actions as were necessary -- combat and both to supply the troops on Guadalcanal and then finally to take them off.
In the course of one such operation, a very superior American force surprised Japanese destroyers in the battle of Tassafaronga. Turning away and filling the water with torpedoes, the Japanese force only lost one ship, while sinking or seriously damaging several American heavy cruisers. For the time being, that all but knocked the American cruisers, like the Japanese, out of the war; and, mercifully, it was about the end of the line for the "Gun Club." American destroyers finally came into their own with victory in the battle of Vela Gulf, 6/7 August 1943. In subsequent battles in the Solomons, the Japanese were without all of their previous advantages, and their reliance on destroyers to carry the brunt of supply as well as combat actions simply meant a terrific attrition in the destroyer force.
Besides their excellent design and combat history, perhaps the most striking thing about Japanese destroyers are their names. They were named after phenomena of weather, sea, and sky, with several groups based on wind (), snow (), rain (), clouds (), waves (), mist (), frost (), tides (), and moons (). In compounds, the unvoiced initial consonants of these are often voiced, e.g. gumo for kumo or zuki for tsuki. Seldom have so many poetic names been bestowed on such devices of violence, although characteristic of the Japanese moral aestheticism that made war and death things of art and beauty. The first element of the names, although exhibiting great variation, does feature some common references, such as the seasons -- spring ( haru), summer ( natsu), autumn ( aki), and winter ( fuyu) -- or times of day -- morning ( asa), evening ( yû), -- etc. The suffix maru, , "circle," is commonly seen in the name of Japanese ships. But this is not used with warships.
The "London Treaty" refers to the London Naval Treaty of 1930, under whose limitations two classes of ships were built. The subsequent "cruiser" types, like the Yugomo, were built free of the limitations of naval treaties, which had been repudiated. They therefore represent the most advanced thinking of the Japanese naval architects. The final "anti-aircraft" class of large destroyers is the only attempt made in this direction comparable to the American anti-aircraft light cruisers, like the Atlanta and Juneau (both tragically sunk when improperly deployed into surface combat around Guadalcanal).
There are several landmarks in the history of building a ship. A ship is (1) ordered, (2) laid down, (3) launched, (4) completed, and (5) commissioned. "Laid down" means, of course, that construction is started. When the hull is complete enough for the ship to float, it is launched. Much of the construction of a ship is thus subsequent to launching. Once the ship is completed, it can be tested at sea. Not until the tests are completed is a ship "commissioned," which means it is accepted into active service, with a crew and commanding officer. A commissioned ship has a watch on duty at all times, in port or at sea. A ship that is laid up in reserve, with no crew, has been "decommissioned." The following table gives dates for (4) completion.
Several ships given here have some hinagana syllabic signs -- such as -- written with their names. These are part of the dictionary rendering of the words, but the names themselves customarily are given in just characters, without hiragana -- although on Japanese warships the entire name was usually written in hiragana below the characters on the stern. Since the pronunciation of Chinese characters in Japanese is often ambiguous, the display of the proper reading would have helped prevent possibly dangerous confusions. The hiragana here can be recognized because no Chinese prounciation is given below it. On pre-War Japanese destroyers, the name of the ship was often written in large katakana letters on the sides. Katakana is the other Japanese syllabary, and it is used as the equivalent of italics in the Latin alphabet, i.e. for foreign names and words or for emphasis. However, since the forms of katakana are in a more squarish shape than hinagana, unlike italic writing, which is more cursive than the default forms, katakana was perhaps used on the sides of destroyers as the equivalent of block capitals in the Latin alphabet.
|Special Type, Initial Group,|
Fubuki Class, Model-I
|10 Aug 28||12 Oct 42, Battle of Cape Esperance, 11/12 Oct|
|18 Dec 28||2 Mar 43, Battle of the Bismark Sea, 2-5 Mar|
|Hatsuyuki (First Snow)||30 Mar 29||17 July 43|
|Miyuki (Deep Snow)||29 June 29||29 June 34, Sunk in collision|
|Murakumo (Cloud Masses)||10 May 29||12 Oct 42, Battle of Cape Esperance, 11/12 Oct|
|Shinonome (Daybreak)||25 July 28||18 Dec 41|
|Usugumo (Fleecy Cloud)||26 July 28||7 July 44|
|Shirakumo (White Cloud)||28 July 28||16 Mar 44|
|Isonami (Surf)||30 June 28||9 Apr 43|
|Uranami (Breaker)||30 June 29||26 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Intermediate Group, Model II||completed||lost|
|Ayanami (Twill Wave)||30 Apr 30||15 Nov 42, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 Nov|
|Shikinami (Chasing Waves)||24 Dec 29||12 Sept 44|
|Asagiri (Morning Mist)||30 June 30||28 Aug 42|
|Yûgiri (Evening Mist)||3 Dec 30||25 Nov 43, Battle of Cape St. George, 25 Nov|
|Amagiri (Sky Mist)||10 Nov 30||23 Apr 44|
|Sagiri (Thin Fog)||31 Jan 31||21 Dec 41|
|Oboro (Hazy/Misty)||31 Oct 31||16 Oct 42|
|Akebono (Dawn)||31 July 31||13 Nov 44|
|Sazanami (Rippling Waves, Ripples)||19 May 32||14 Jan 44|
|Ushio (the Tide)||14 Nov 31||scrapped|
|Latter Group, Model-III||completed||lost|
|Akatsuki (Dawn)||30 Nov 32||13 Nov 42, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 Nov|
|Hibiki (Crash/Peal)||31 Mar 33||to USSR|
|Ikazuchi (Thunder)||15 Aug 32||13 Apr 44|
|Inazuma (Lightning)||15 Nov 32||14 May 44|
|London Treaty group, First Class,|
|Hatsuharu (Early Spring)||30 Sept 33||13 Nov 44|
|Nenohi (Hour of the Rat, Midnight)||30 Sept 33||4 July 42|
|Wakaba (Young Foliage)||31 Oct 34||24 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Hatsushimo (First Frost)||27 Sept 34||30 July 45|
|Ariake (Daybreak)||25 Mar 35||28 July 43|
|Yûgure (Evening/Twilight)||30 Mar 35||20 July 43|
|20 Aug 36||15 June 44|
|Shigure (Autumn or Winter Rain Shower)||7 Sept 36||24 Jan 45|
|Murasame (Passing Shower)||7 Jan 37||6 Mar 43|
|Yûdachi (Sudden/Evening Shower)||7 Jan 37||13 Nov 42, Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 Nov|
|26 Aug 37||8 June 44|
|Samidare (Early Summer Rain)||29 Jan 37||26 Aug 44|
|Umikaze (Sea Breeze)||31 May 37||1 Feb 44|
|Yamakaze (Mountain Wind)||30 June 37||25 June 42|
|Kawakaze (River Breeze)||30 Apr 37||6 Aug 43, Battle of Vella Gulf, 6/7 Aug|
|Suzukaze (Cool Breeze)||31 Aug 37||26 Jan 44|
|Cruiser Type, First Class,|
|31 Aug 37||3 Mar 43, Battle of the Bismark Sea, 2-5 Mar|
|Arashio (Rough Tide)||20 Dec 37||3 Mar 43, Battle of the Bismark Sea, 2-5 Mar|
|Ooshio (Big Tide)||31 Oct 37||20 Feb 43|
|Michishio (High Tide)||31 Oct 37||25 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Asagumo (Morning Cloud)||31 Mar 38||25 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Yamagumo (Mountain Cloud)||15 Jan 38||25 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Minegumo (Ridge/Summit Cloud)||30 Apr 38||6 Mar 43|
|Natsugumo (Summer Cloud)||10 Feb 38||12 Oct 42, Battle of Cape Esperance, 11/12 Oct|
|Kasumi (Haze)||28 June 39||7 Apr 45, Battle of Okinawa/Sinking of Yamato, 7 Apr|
|Arare (Hail)||15 Apr 39||5 July 42|
|Second Class, Kagero Class||completed||lost|
|Kagerô (Heat Haze)||6 Nov 39||8 May 43|
|Shiranu(h)i (Bioluminescence)||20 Dec 39||27 Oct 44|
|Kuroshio (the Black, Japan Current)||27 Jan 40||8 May 43|
|Oyashio (the Kurile Current)||20 Aug 40||9 May 43|
|Hayashio (Fast Current)||31 Aug 40||24 Nov 42|
|Natsushio (Summer Current)||31 Aug 40||8 Feb 42|
|Hatsukaze (First Wind)||15 Feb 40||2 Nov 43, Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, 2 Nov|
|Yukikaze (Snow Wind)||20 Jan 40||to China|
|Amatsukaze (Celestial Wind)||26 Oct 40||6 Apr 45|
|Tokitsukaze (Peaceful Reign)||15 Dec 40||3 Mar 43, Battle of the Bismark Sea, 2-5 Mar|
|Urakaze (Bay Wind)||15 Dec 40||21 Nov 44|
|Isokaze (Rocky Beach Wind)||30 Nov 40||7 Apr 45, Battle of Okinawa/Sinking of Yamato, 7 Apr|
|Hamakaze (Sandy Beach Wind)||30 June 41||7 Apr 45, Battle of Okinawa/Sinking of Yamato, 7 Apr|
|Tanikaze (Valley Wind)||25 Apr 41||9 June 44|
|Nowake (Autumn Typhoon)||28 Apr 41||26 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Arashi (Stormy Wind)||27 Jan 41||7 Aug 43, Battle of Vella Gulf, 6/7 Aug|
|Hagikaze (Reedy Wind)||31 Mar 41||7 Aug 43, Battle of Vella Gulf, 6/7 Aug|
|Maikaze (Dancing Wind)||15 July 41||17 Feb 44|
|Third Class, Yugumo Class||completed||lost|
|Yugumo (Evening Cloud)||5 Dec 41||6 Oct 43, Battle of Vella Lavella, 6 Oct|
|Akigumo (Autumn Cloud)||27 Sept 41||11 Nov 44|
|Makigumo (Rolled Cloud)||14 Mar 42||1 Feb 43|
|Kazagumo (Wind Cloud)||28 Mar 42||8 June 44|
|Naganami (Long Wave)||30 June 42||11 Nov 44|
|Makinami (Rolled Wave)||18 Aug 42||25 Nov 43, Battle of Cape St. George, 25 Nov|
|Takanami (High Wave, High Sea)||31 Aug 42||30 Nov 42, Battle of Tassafaronga, 30 Nov|
|Oonami (Big Wave)||29 Dec 42||25 Nov 43, Battle of Cape St. George, 25 Nov|
|Kiyonami (Clear Wave)||25 Jan 43||20 July 43|
|Tamanami (Jade Wave)||30 Apr 43||7 July 44|
|Suzunami (Cool Wave)||31 July 43||11 Nov 43|
|Fujinami (Purple Wave, Waves of Wisterias)||31 July 43||27 Oct 44|
|Hayanami (Early Wave)||31 July 43||7 June 44|
|Hamanami (Beach Wave)||15 Oct 43||11 Nov 44|
|Okinami (Open Sea Wave)||10 Dec 43||13 Nov 44|
|Kishinami (Shore Wave)||3 Dec 43||4 Dec 44|
|Asashimo (Morning Frost)||27 Nov 43||7 Apr 45, Battle of Okinawa/Sinking of Yamato, 7 Apr|
|Hayashimo (Early Frost)||20 Feb 44||26 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|11 Mar 44||13 Nov 44|
|Kiyoshimo (Clear Frost)||15 May 44||26 Dec 44|
|Umigiri (Ocean Mist)||never ordered|
|Yamagiri (Mountain Mist)||never ordered|
|Tanigiri (Valley Mist)||never ordered|
|Kawagiri (River Mist)||never ordered|
|Taekaze (Faint Wind)||never ordered|
|Kiyokaze (Clear Wind)||never ordered|
|Satokaze (Country Wind)||never ordered|
|Murakaze (Fitful Wind)||never ordered|
|Experimental 40 Knot|
|Shimakaze (Island Wind)||10 May 1943||11 Nov 1944|
|Akizuki (Autumn Moon)||13 June 42||25 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Teruzuki (Shining Moon)||31 Aug 42||12 Dec 42|
|Suzutsuki (Cool Moon)||29 Dec 42||breakwater|
|Hatsuzuki (First Moon)||29 Dec 42||25 Oct 44, Battle of Leyte Gulf, 24-26 Oct|
|Niizuki (New Moon)||31 Mar 43||6 July 43, Battle of Kula Gulf, 6 Jul|
|Wakatsuki (Young Moon)||31 May 43||11 Nov 44|
|Shimotsuki (Frost Moon)||31 Mar 44||25 Nov 44|
|Fuyuzuki (Winter Moon)||25 May 44||breakwater|
|Haruzuki (Spring Moon)||28 Dec 44||to USSR|
|Yoizuki (Evening Moon)||31 Jan 45||to China|
|Natsuzuki (Summer Moon)||8 Apr 45||to UK|
|Michizuki (Full Moon)||incomplete||broken up|
The Shiratsuyu, , bears the name of a Chinese Solar Term, "White Dew." Other names, like the Akishimo, , "Autumn Frost," contain elements that can be found among the Solar Terms. For all the meteorological names among the destroyers, Shiratsuyu is the only one named for a dew, .
One combination we do not see in ship names is , "clouds and rain," because this is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. The reversal of the characters, , although it can simply mean "rain cloud" (amagumo), is also not used, perhaps because it is too much like the former and in Chinese may sometimes actually mean the same thing.
Another unused combination is , "Floating Cloud," an expression from Confucius, Analects VII:15, despite the many names we see based on kinds of clouds, . Why it is not used is a matter of some curiosity. First, one wonders how it would be pronounced. It could possibly be rendered Ukikumo -- but then in pronunciation the "i" would drop out (giving Ukkumo), and that seems to be something avoided for these names. So we might try Ukigumo, where the voiced "k" preserves the vowel and the syllable. As it happens, ukigumo actually is a word in Japanese, glossed as meaning, "a cloud drift, a floating [drifting] cloud" or "the transience of human life" [Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, Tokyo, 1974, p.1913]. Now, "drifting cloud" sounds exactly like the sort of thing we find in the destroyer names; but "the transience of human life" may be exactly what precludes this. While, for the old Japanese ethos, battle certainly embodies the transience of life, this may be rather inauspicious when applied as the name of a warship. And the associations of "floating," , with prostitution (, ukareme, "floating woman," is actually a prostitute) may really help put it off the table. However, , ukishiro, "floating castle," actually can mean "battleship."
A name that it is rather a shame not to see is , Akikaze, "Autumn Wind," which certainly is a possible name, even as it figures in the epigraph to this page, which is a waka poem reportedly recited by the deceased Emperor Horikawa, who died at the age of 29, in a dream experienced by a courtier after his death and recorded in a diary. The Emperor had had a difficult time in his final illness, and there was some question about his post-mortem fate. The dream was taken as evidence that he had left the world of the five elements and been reborn in the Pure Land, .
Other missing combinations are and . The former, "harbor wave," in Japanese is tsunami, a tidal wave. A tsunami is a thing of great power and so might be a good name for a warship; but since Japan itself has often been its victim, and so has contributed its own word for the phenomenon to international scientific discourse, perhaps this would strike too close to home, or be regarded as ill omened, as the name of a Japanese ship. The latter expression, "dragon roll," read tatsumaki in Japanese, which can also be in Chinese ("dragon roll wind"), is a tornado or waterspout. I don't hear much about tornadoes in Japan, or about damage from waterspouts, so perhaps this phenomenon just did not suggest itself to the ship namers.
A notable incident in the New Georgia campaign in the Solomon Islands was the ramming and sinking of torpedo boat PT-109 by the destroyer Amagiri, on 2 August 1943. Since PT-109 was commanded by John F. Kennedy, who was credited with heroism, this became part of the story of his Presidency. The Amagiri was subsequently lost when it hit a mine while operating out of Singapore on 23 April 44. Mines in that area were often laid from American submarines operating out of Fremantle, Australia. My late father-in-law was actually in charge of mine-laying on such submarines. After the War, he would follow the shipping news; and if a vessel hit an old mine around Indonesia, he would quip, "Got another one." Perhaps he had already gotten the Amagiri.
It is no accident that destroyers were frequently named in groups of four, e.g. four "-gumos" or "-shimos." Such groups of four ships would then later operate as single destroyer squadrons. Several squadrons, as in the following tables, would then be collected into a destroyer flotilla commanded by a Rear Admiral, who would fly his flag in one of the older cruisers.Such cruisers were so lightly armed that by World War II they were little better than large destroyers, which is how they were used -- the equivalent of what would have been called a "destroyer leader" elsewhere.
|Destroyer Flotilla (DF), 2 to 4 Squadrons, commanded by a Rear Admiral (RA) in a Light Cruiser (CL)||Destroyer Squadron (Division), 4 ships, commanded by a Senior Officer|
|Destroyer Squadron (Division), 4 ships, commanded by a Senior Officer|
In December 1941, there were six destroyer flotillas in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The following table lists the six flotillas with their station, flagships, and, in the case of the Pearl Harbor Strike Force, the destroyers in them.
|First (Battle) Fleet & Strike Force, Hiroshima Bay||DF 1, RA Omori in CL Abukuma, with Pearl Harbor Strike Force||Kasumi, Arare, Kagero, Shiranuhi, Urakaze, Isokaze, Hamakaze, Tanikaze, Akigumo|
|DF 3, CL Sendai|
|Second (Scouting) Fleet, Hainan||DF 2, CL Jintsu|
|DF 4, CL Naka|
|Third (Blockade & Transport) Fleet, Formosa||DF 5, CL Natori|
|Fourth (Mandate) Fleet, Truk||DF 6 CL Yubari|
The Pearl Harbor Strike Force
The Treaty Cruisers
A Guadalcanal Chronology, 7 August 1942 - 6 March 1943
Philosophy of History, Military History
Philosophy of History