IJN Mutsuki Class Destroyers
The Mutsuki class destroyers were an improved upon design of the Kamikaze class, also known as the Kiyokaze class, destroyers and were part of the 1923 Building Program. The destroyers were laid down over a period of two years beginning in 1924 and the Mutsuki, originally named No. 19 was completed a year later. In all, twelve destroyers were completed, the last in 1927. The class had to wait a year before receiving proper names in 1928. At the start of the Pacific War, the entire class was re-outfitted as fast transports. None of the destroyers survived the war.
Mutsuki, name ship of the class of 1315-ton first-class destroyers, was built at Sasebo, Japan. Completed as (Destroyer) Number 19 in March 1926, she was renamed Mutuski in 1928. Prior to World War II, she took part in the arduous exercises that helped prepare the Japanese Navy for war and was also present during combat operations in China. On 11 December 1942, a few days after Japan began the Pacific War, Mutuski participated in the initial attempt to capture Wake Island, an effort repulsed with heavy casualties by U.S. Marine Corps gunners and aviators. In May 1942, she was part of the Port Moresby Invasion Group during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
On 24 August 1942, as the Japanese made their first major attempt to recapture Guadalcanal, Mutuski briefly bombarded U.S. Marine Corps' positions at Henderson Field. The next day, she went alongside the disabled transport Kinryu Maru to rescue that ship's crew and troops. While so immobilized, a formation of U.S. B-17 bombers appeared. Aware of the poor accuracy of high-level bombing, the destroyer's captain elected to continue his rescue efforts. However, in a rare event, the bombers scored well and Mutuski was sunk. Her captain, hauled from the water with his ship's other surviving crewmen, is said to have remarked "even the B-17s could make a hit once in a while!".
Nagatsuki, a 1315-ton Mutsuki class destroyer built at Tokyo, Japan, was completed as (Destroyer) Number 30 in April 1927. She was renamed Nagatsuki in 1928. In the years before World War II she participated in the normal activities of the Japanese fleet, including the realistic exercises that gave that navy a high degree of readiness for night combat.
On 10 December 1941, a few days after the Pacific War began, Nagatsuki participated in the landings at Aparri, at the northern end of Luzon. Later in the month, she took part in the main invasion of Luzon, at Lingayen, and was lightly damaged by an air attack at that time. During the East Indies Campaign, in the first months of 1942, she was part of the force that put troops ashore in western Java, and in early April assisted the cruiser Naka after that ship had been torpedoed by a U.S. submarine.
In early February 1943 Nagatsuki assisted with the evacuation of Guadalcanal, which brought an end to the long and bitter Guadalcanal campaign. In the war's next phase, the fight for the Central Solomons, she served as a fast transport, bringing troops to threatened Japanese bases. While so employed on the night of 5-6 July 1943, Nagatsuki was lightly damaged by U.S. warship gunfire in the Battle of Kula Gulf. At the close of that action, she ran aground north of Vila. After her forward ammunition blew up when she was bombed on the morning and afternoon of 6 July, Nagatsuki was abandoned where she lay, just off the shore of Kolombangara Island.
Number 31, a 1772-ton destroyer, was built at Maizuru Dockyard, Japan. Completed in November 1926, she received the name Kikuzuki in 1928. On 4 May 1942, while supporting the Japanese occupation of Tulagi, Solomon Islands, she was attacked by aircraft from USS Yorktown (CV-5) and was sunk near shore in Halavo Bay, a few miles east of Tulagi. Shortly afterwards, she slipped into deeper water and was completely submerged.
In mid-1943, the U.S. Navy undertook the salvage of Kikuzuki, in an effort to gain intelligence about Japanese weapons and other capabilities. Later in 1943, after salvage work was largely completed, she was moved into nearby Purvis Bay and allowed to settle in shallow water. Her wreck remains visible to this day, though it is now much deteriorated.
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