MATSU Class Notes
by Allyn Nevitt

Displacement:   1,262 - 1,289 tons

Dimensions:     328 (length) by 30.5 (beam) by 11 (draught) feet

Machinery:      2-shaft geared turbines:  19,000 SHP; 28 knots

Radius:         4,680 at 16 knots

Armament:       3 x 5"/40 cal. DP guns (1 x 2, 1 x 1); 24 x 25 mm. AA guns (4 x
                3, 12 x 1); 4 x 24" torpedo tubes (1 x 4); 36 - 60 depth

Complement:     211

While the big new YUGUMOs and AKIZUKIs joining the fleet during 1942-43 were fine ships, they could not make up for the heavy destroyer losses being suffered in the Solomons and elsewhere during the same period -- all too many of which were taking most of their experienced crewmen down with them. It was therefore necessary for Japan to return to the concept of loading as much armament and capability onto as small and cheap a hull as possible. New construction destroyers would primarily have to be quick to build and easy for under-trained crews to operate, while still being up to the requirements of fleet as well as mercantile escort duties.

The resulting MATSU class encompassed all of the above requirements in a most robust and successful, if Spartan, design. Usually referred to as "escort destroyers" and named (after trees) as 2nd-Class Destroyers, their displacement of over 1,000 tons nonetheless earned them the Empire's rating of 1st-Class Destroyer.

While similar to Allied destroyer-escorts in form and function, the MATSUs were both 50-70' longer and more heavily-armed, especially in the AA role, with 5" guns that could be elevated to 90 degrees and scores of 25 mm. machine-guns. A quadruple bank of the deadly Long-Lance torpedo tubes and Types 13 and 22 radar outfits were also shipped.

Very important in these times of deteriorating fortunes for the Empire were their sturdiness and survivability: a unique boiler-engine, boiler-engine power plant arrangement helped insure that no single hit would be crippling. Their top speed of just under 28 knots was less than desired, but adequate for most tasks assigned.

Reduced to bare essentials and designed for mass-production using electric arc welding, the MATSUs could be built in about six months as opposed to over a year for the larger destroyers. Twenty-eight units with hull numbers 5481-5509 were ordered under the Modified 1942 Program, but only the first 18 were completed to the original design. Hull numbers 5510-5522 of the same program were built to an even more basic plan, with further simplified hull and a modified foremast, and designated the TACHIBANA group. Another 100 of the latter were planned under the 1943-44 and 1944-45 War Programs, but of these only the first ten were laid down before the orders were cancelled in March 1945.

(Many authorities refer to the TACHIBANA group as a separate class. For ease of identification, the 14 units completed to this design were: ENOKI, HAGI, HATSUUME, HATSUZAKURA, KABA, KAKI, KUSUNOKI, NASHI, NIRE, ODAKE, SHII, SUMIRE, TACHIBANA, and TSUTA.)

Most of the MATSUs served in the 43rd, 52nd and 53rd Destroyer Divisions, the remainder seeing out the short duration of the war under various training and/or local escort commands. While most of the original MATSUs ranged as far and wide as possible within the shrinking confines of the Empire, none of the TACHIBANAs saw duty outside of home waters. Ten of the 32 were lost in combat: four to air attack, three in surface actions, two to mines and one to a submarine. Many of the rest had to prove their sturdiness by surviving varying degrees of damage.

TAKE was the star of the class, operating as far afield as Palau and the Philippines, sinking an enemy destroyer and possibly a submarine, and surviving the war to tell about it. Ironically, it was one of the sunken ships, the NASHI, which ended up serving Japan the longest. Refloated, repaired and renamed WAKABA after the war, she served the new Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in a variety of roles until finally being deleted in 1972.