History of the IJN Yugumo

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History of the ship

IJN Yugumo (夕雲, Yūgumo, literally: Evening Clouds) was the lead ship of her class (夕雲型駆逐艦, Yūgumo-gata kuchikukan, also called Third class) laid down on June 1940 at the Maizuru Naval Arsenal (located in the Kyoto Prefecture), launched on 16 March 1941 and completed on 5 December 1941.

Soon after commissioning on 18 April 1942 she took part in an intercept in an attempt to engage the U.S. fleet group which launched the Doolittle Raid, however, all attempts to locate any of the hostile ships failed. In June 1942 Yūgumo took part in the Battle of Midway as a principle defender to the aircraft carrier Hiryū, and later on, took part in rescuing a number of survivors from the battle (although not from the Hiryū herself). In August she took a part in the battle of the Eastern Solomons as the screen for the Fleet Carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku, and two months later in the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands as a part of the Vanguard group lead by the battleships Hiei and Kirishima. After the battle, she took part as the rat transport (or as it was nicknamed by US forces: Tokyo Express) moving supplies and troops into the Guadalcanal Island while brining back wounded soldiers. It continued till Operation Ke when Japanese retreated from the island. During the retreat, The Yūgumo rescued all 237 survivors of her sister-ship Makigumo after it struck a naval mine while executing a manoeuvre to avoid torpedos from a pursuing U.Ss PT boat. Yūgumo continued in a troop and supply transport role between Pacific islands till May 1943 when she docked to the Yokosuka port at the home island, where she received maintenance and an additional crew training. In June she sailed north to the Kuril Islands and then to the Aleutians, evacuating Kiska island with 479 men returned safely to Japan.

The final battle

The Yūgumo's final encounter was the Battle of Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands on October 6. Here, during a night encounter shrouded with poor visibility and terrible weather conditions, Commander Matsuji Ijuin failed to identify U.S. ships in the local area and sailed his formation of four destroyers right into their line of fire. At 20:55, upon finally realizing the error of the predicament, both sides released torpedoes, with Japanese ships turning hard to the starboard (right) and opened fire with their deck guns. Yūgumo being the closest to the enemy received the bulk of the gunfire and soon started burning. At 21:01 Yūgumo's torpedo hit USS Chevalier (DD-451, Fletcher-class) detonating the forward magazine and tearing her bow off all the way to the superstructure. Despite this brutal blow, the Chevalier still stood afloat and fired torpedoes back at Yūgumo, resulting in a direct hit at 21:05. Unthinkable, only five minutes later at 21:10, the Yūgumo sunk, while surprisingly Chevalier was still afloat. Unable to be saved, at 23:26 Chevalier's captain gave the abandon ship order, followed by scuttling by a torpedo from the USS La Vallette. Later, the detached, still-floating bow of the Chevalier was found approximately mile away and also scuttled with depth charges. After the Yūgumo's sinking several sailors were rescued by her sister ship Kazagumo, however, a number of Japanese sailors were captured by the U.S. PT boats. There are two accounts of the events following the sinking, with one reporting a story of a captured U.S. lifeboat from the wrecked Chevalier, while the other reports a raft made of Yūgumo's remains. Either way, over 20 sailors made it back to the Japanese-controlled Bougainville island after refusing a rescue from one of the PT boats.

Out of the 241 man crew at the time of her sinking most died at the sea that fateful day.

History of the class

Yūgumo-class was built under the Maru 4 Programme (マル4計画) as an improved version of the Kagerō class. Within the Maru 5 Programme it was planned to be succeeded by the 16 Shimakaze-class destroyers, however, due to rapid escalation of war a new plan was adopted, the Maru Kyū Programme (マル急計画) which lead to its cancellation and order of additional eight Yūgumo-class destroyers (built with the side numbers 340-347), while only a single, experimental, one-off successor was built, the Shimakaze herself.

Yūgumo was built due to deficiencies of the Kagerō-class which failed to exceed the speed of 35 knots. As a result, a number of modifications were made to the stern of the ship to increase the ship's efficiency at the high speeds. Further modifications increased the size of the superstructure, made some modifications to the interior layout, changed onboard generators from DC to AC, main gun turrets changed from C-type to D-type with new rangefinders, among other changes.

The class had a number of modifications added over the years as subsequent vessels were launched, however, due to lacking photographic documentation of the class to survive to this day there are only a few known examples. Notably:

  • Makigumo and Kazagumo (No. 117 and 118) had a Kagerō-style rear mast, as opposed to the one typical for Yūgumo
  • Naganami (No. 119) and subsequent ships had a modified main column on the rear mast
  • Hayanami and Hamanami (No. 340 and 341) had a separate platform added for the 22-GO Radar
  • Okinami (No. 342) had additional anti-fragmentation protection to the bridge and the E27 Type-3 radar detector added
  • Kiyoshimo (No. 347) had an increased anti-aircraft armament to the total of 4 triple-mount and a single dual-mount 25mm cannons supplemented by a number of Type 93 machine guns.
  • From late 1943 destroyers of the class had 22-GO radar added, with photographs from 1944 suggesting it was supplemented by the addition of the 13-GO air search radar.