The Real Kamikaze

Last year, around October, a number of ships were added into the game files; among them were the Japanese destroyers Fujin and Kamikaze. Fujin was soon announced as a special Halloween ship, but mysteriously there was nothing to say about Kamikaze. There was, actually, quite a lot of confusion when it comes to the two ships, as Kamikaze is a real vessel, while Fujin is a WG-created clone of Kamikaze with a different coat of paint.

Naturally there was a small uproar – a bit of a storm in a teacup – about the “fake” ships. It gets even trickier, because Kamikaze was the name of two Japanese ships, one built in 1905, and the other in 1922.

Japanese destroyer Yunagi
Kamikaze’s sister, Yunagi

The one we’re gathering up all these pearls for is the 1922 lead ship of her class, and one of the few Japanese warships to survive WW2.

Kamikaze started her career in late 1922 simply as “Destroyer No. 1.” It wasn’t until 1928 that her proper name was applied.

She and her class were designed as improved versions of the Minekaze-class destroyers, which has led to some confusion in WoWs. Minekaze and Kamikaze are very similar, the latter isn’t simply a clone of the former. You can tell just by looking at the model used in-game that, yes, Kamikaze is based on her 1922 namesake, and isn’t simply a new paintjob and set of stats for an existing ships – like the game’s many Omaha-class cruiser variants.

Japanese destroyer Kamikaze
Kamikaze as she appears in-game

Most of her time in the war was spent as an escort. Perhaps this is true to her name, as over the course of those years she traveled from the Aleutians to Singapore, rescuing hundreds of sailors from the cold seas. That isn’t to say, of course, that she didn’t see any action herself.

While early on in WW2 her aft armament – her No.4 gun turret and both torpedo tubes – were removed to make space for anti-submarine weapons and more anti-air guns, she still had some teeth left to bite at surface vessels, and got an opportunity quite late into the war to exercise them.

In May 1945, Kamikaze and the heavy cruiser Haguro were steaming from Singapore to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, in order to both re-supply the Japanese garrison there and to evacuate them to the fortress of Singapore. Understandably, the British dearly wanted two of their most important Pacific ports back. After they had intercepted Japanese intelligence and figured out what the plan would be, the Royal Navy sent part of the Eastern Fleet to meet and destroy the two ships. The Japanese figured out that they were getting into danger, and stayed in port at Singapore for the time being.

About a week later, Kamikaze and Haguro tried again, and this time broke out into the South China Sea, aiming to pass through the Strait of Malacca in order to reach the Andaman Islands south of Burma.

This, in the dark hours of the morning, is where the British caught them.

The two ships were intercepted by the Royal Navy’s 26th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of five ships: lead ship HMS Saumarez, along with HMS Verulam, Venus, Vigilant, and Virago.

Early in the battle, Venus nearly had Haguro will a straight-on torpedo strike, but the angle settings on her torpedoes were incorrect and the opportunity was lost. As it happens, however, this only sealed Haguro‘s fate, as she steered away from Venus, under the impression that the destroyer had launched torpedoes. This brought her only closer to the rest of the flotilla.

Saumarez now faced Haguro to port and the unexpected arrival of Kamikaze to starboard, having only just now appeared out of the darkness. Kamikaze was, again true to her name, clearly on a collision course with Saumarez at 3000 yards and closing, and so Saumarez focused on her with her main and secondary guns while moving to evade. This gave Haguro a clear opportunity to smash the British destroyer with a broadside, but her shots straddled Saumarez, and this proved to be ultimately fatal.

Haguro scored only minor damage on her attackers, her shells failing to explode even as they struck her boiler room. Just minutes later, Haguro was struck by torpedoes from Saumarez and Verulam. An explosion shortly thereafter, caused most likely by the collision of two British torpedoes, caused confusion amongst the sailors, who thought that Kamikaze had, too, been struck. In truth, she had managed to escape despite the damage she took from Saumarez‘s guns.

Over the next hour, Haguro was hit by successive torpedoes and gunfire from the whole flotilla, and at last sank. Casualties and damage suffered by the British side were minimal, especially compared to the loss of 927 men, most of Haguro‘s crew, including Vice Admiral Hashimoto and Rear Admiral Sugiura. Of her full complement, only 320 were saved the next day by Kamikaze.

This marked the last major battle between surface ships during the war, and it hardly could have been a more stellar victory for the British.

Two of Kamikaze‘s later escorts in the war, of the heavy cruiser (and sister to Haguro) Ashigara and the tanker Toho Maru, ended with the sinking of the escorted ships. Thankfully Kamikaze was able to rescue more survivors than she did after the attack on Haguro.

She managed some success as the war wound to a close, and when the Japanese finally surrendered at Singapore, she was handed over to the British. They used her as a demilitarized vessel to repatriate Japanese soldiers to their homeland from the Southeast Asian regions Japan had occupied and fortified during the war; it was during one of these operations in 1946 that she attempted to help another escort ship, Kunashiri, when she ran aground on the coast of Japan. As it happens, Kamikaze also ran aground, her career at last coming to an end.

Cape Omaezaki, where Kamikaze and Kunashiri ran aground. They hit land around the lower part of the cape pictured here.

In the end, she was unceremoniously scrapped in 1947.

Kamikaze didn’t have an exciting military career like some other warships she would have worked alongside, but she managed to valiantly save the lives of many hundreds of men who would have otherwise drowned. For this, she deserves recognition as more than just a copy of the Minekaze. She’s a naval legend in her own right, perhaps.

I look forward to steaming around in her when she’s finally released – that is, if I can manage to get 260 pearls!

Thank you for reading this; I’d definitely like to do more historical articles like this in the future. It was actually pretty fun to write.



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