The Shimakaze-class stood to make a greater impact in World War 2 fighting had it been available in useful numbers at the start of the conflict.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The destroyer warship was developed along the lines of fleet defender and also used in the escort role for lesser ships (namely merchants) as needed. They were planned as agile, fast vessels capable of deep/blue water service and exhibited good range for their size. Armament and armor was typically balanced with the former becoming a collection of guns coupled with torpedo launching facilities - allowing for an appropriate response to be given against any potential target.
The naval powers of World War 2 (1939-1945) understood the value of such compact warships even as aircraft carriers, battleships, and submarines remained the call of the day. The Imperial Japanese Navy, remembered more for its commitment to a large carrier fleet and ultra-powerful battleship types, placed an emphasis on destroyer types as well and, in 1939, ordered an all-new experimental "super destroyer" named IJN Shimakaze. Originally some seventeen total ships were planned for the class but only Shimakaze was to be completed as Japanese industry (particularly during wartime) lacked the resources and capabilities to see the program through. The Maizuru Naval Arsenal was charged with her construction, which began on August 8th, 1941, and she was launched on July 18th, 1942. Shimakaze saw her commissioning on May 10th, 1943.
Shimakaze was unique in several aspects of her design. Her main battery (as built) was made up of 6 x 5" (127mm) /50 caliber Type 3 Dual-Purpose (DP) main guns which gave her considerable baseline firepower. 6 x 25mm Type 96 guns served in an Anti-Aircraft (AA) role and these were further backed by 2 x 13.2mm AA heavy machine guns. To this was added 15 x 24" (610mm) torpedo tubes arranged as five triple launchers - the vessel could engage with surface guns or fire spread of torpedoes against possible targets at range. 18 x depth charges were also carried to help in neutralizing enemy submarines.
Beyond her impressive armament fit, Shimakaze held an experimental high temperature/high pressure steam engine powerplant. This consisted of 2 x Kampon impulse geared steam turbines fed by 3 x Kampon water-tube boiler units developing up to 75,000 horsepower while driving 2 x shafts under stern. In ideal conditions the ship could make headway at just over 40 knots if pressed and held a range out to 6,000 nautical miles. With both speed and range, the Shimakaze held the makings of a stellar warship.
Her profile was made up of a typical configuration which saw the elevated bridge superstructure fitted well ahead of midships. Smoke funnels were featured at midships. The primary gun turrets were set about the design to offer the best advantage in a full broadside attack but also set to maintain some value in attacking targets head on or from another direction relative to the warship's position. The ability to deliver a considerable torpedo spread was important in that an enemy vessel would be given little time to react to a wave of torpedoes headed to it. Her finalized dimensions included a running length of 424.9 feet, a beam of 36.8 feet and a draught of 13.6 feet. The crew numbered 267 personnel.
IJN Shimakaze was given ship number 125 while the rest in her proposed class were to span 733 to 748. The Navy's intent was to eventually field as many as thirty-two such warships across four destroyer squadrons. Shimakaze was first placed into action during June of 1943 where she participated in the evacuation of Japanese troops from Kiska Island (as part of the Aleutian Islands campaign - Alaska). In early 1944 she was given a refit which saw her main battery reduced to 4 x 5" guns.16 x 25mm AA guns now made up her local air defense prowess and her depth charge inventory numbered 36.
From there she formed part of the Japanese fleet in Philippine waters during the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944). The battle proved a decisive American victory which sent the Japanese reeling once more (three fleet carriers were lost and over 600 aircraft destroyed). During the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944) - another decisive victory for the Allies - Shimakaze did not use her guns in anger but was instead pressed into service as rescue ship for survivors of the IJN Musashi (the second of two Yamato battleships completed).
By November 1944 Shimakaze was serving as flagship of Destroyer Squadron 2 and kept the role until attacked and sunk by American warplanes on November 11th as part of the Battle of Ormoc Bay (the Philippines Campaign). The battle ranged from November 11th until December 21st, 1944 and ended as another American naval victory of the war.
With that, the tenure of Shimakaze's reign of the high seas had come to an end and her class was never grown beyond the lead ship. The design proved simply too complex and expensive to be had in the numbers required - especially as Japanese infrastructure was pressed beyond its limits during the Grand War.