AKIZUKI Class Notes
by Allyn Nevitt
Displacement: 2,700 tons Dimensions: 440 (length) by 38 (beam) by 13.5 (draught) feet Machinery: 2-shaft geared turbines: 52,000 SHP; 33 knots Radius: 8,300 miles at 18 knots Armament: 8 x 3.9"/65 cal. DP guns (4 x 2); 4 x 25 mm. AA guns (2 x 2); 4 x 24" torpedo tubes (1 x 4); 6 depth charge throwers; 72 depth charges Complement: 263
The largest, most handsome, and, in the Japanese estimation, most successful destroyers in the Imperial fleet were those of the AKIZUKI class. Known as the "Type B," these ships were designed primarily as antiaircraft escorts for the carrier force. As originally conceived, they would not even have carried torpedoes, but a later desire to add an offensive capability saw the inclusion in the design of a quadruple 24" torpedo mount amidships.
The main features distinguishing this class from other Japanese destroyers were their size and innovative armament. Some 50 feet longer and 700 tons heavier than the preceding KAGEROs and YUGUMOs, the AKIZUKIs were able to carry a fourth main-battery turret without suffering any topweight problems as a result. These turrets were large, fully-enclosed and power-operated, and each mounted twin 3.9" high-velocity guns. Though designed as AA weapons, their high rate of fire and range of 20,000 yards made them at least the equal of their American 5" counterparts. From 1943 on each destroyer was also equipped with fifteen to fifty-one 25 mm. machine guns, the number increasing as the war progressed, and a full array of Types 21 and 22 radars.
The ships of the AKIZUKI class were built concurrently with those of the YUGUMO class, with the first six ordered under the 1939 Program and another ten, known as the SHIMOTSUKI group, under the 1941 Program. Of the latter, four were never built, MICHIZUKI being broken up on the stocks in March 1945 to make way for suicide craft, while HAZUKI, KIYOTSUKI and OZUKI were all cancelled. A large number of succeeding vessels, hull numbers 777-785 of the 1942 Program and 5061-5083 of the Modified 1942 Program, proved nothing more than expressions of wishful thinking.
Twelve AKIZUKIs were actually built, most of them serving in the 41st and 61st Destroyer Divisions. Six survived the war, but four of those, YOIZUKI, HARUZUKI, HANAZUKI and NATSUZUKI, were completed too late to see action outside of Japanese home waters. Though favorite targets of U.S. submarines, only one ship of the class was actually sunk by one. Two were lost to air attack and three in surface actions -- an interesting breakdown considering their original design as antiaircraft escorts.
Their swept-back lines and large single funnel made the AKIZUKIs very similar in appearance to light cruiser YUBARI, and in fact U.S. forces would consistently misidentify these ships as cruisers. And that appreciation was not so wide of the mark, considering their frequent employment in place of cruisers as squadron flagships. Their bridges were actually a bit too cramped for the addition of an admiral and his staff, and their turn of speed inferior to that of most of their contemporaries. But the AKIZUKIs continued as favorites in the role of destroyer-leader, and three were lost while so employed.
All in all, the AKIZUKI class represented an excellent, versatile design, and the vessels turned in solid performances. Lead-ship AKIZUKI herself compiled the most impressive record, fighting from Guadalcanal to Leyte Gulf with but one significant break in service due to damage. And TERUZUKI surely dealt her enemies some terrible blows one bloody night in Ironbottom Sound. But the most notable action of any of the class was HATSUZUKI's last fight off Cape Engano, an exhibition of such tenacity and selflessness as to rank with that of the American destroyers off Samar.