IJN destroyer Oite during inter-war period.
This Kamikaze-class destroyer was laid down in June 1923, and commissioned in October 1925. She had no sufficient distinctions from her sisterships. She had 4 120-mm guns, 3x2 533-mm torpedo tubes, several 25-mm AA-guns and naval mines. She had armoured bridge to protect officers from stray bullets and splinters. Her speed was almost 37 knots. Kamikaze-class became obsolescent early, in 1928. That year first Fubuki-class destroyers were commissioned. Fubuki ([link]
)was superior class, and his appearance forced all sea powers to develop and build new destroyers and scrap those already built. But nobody intended to scrap Kamikazes. They participated in WWII abreast of destroyers of new types, and they fought well.
Originally Kamikazes had no names, only numbers. Oite originally was just “Destroyer No. 11”. It was assigned the name Oite (Tail wind) on August 1, 1928. It seems that nothing interesting happened during inter-war period with this ship. Before the war Oite, as well as her sisterships Hayate, Yunagi and Asanagi, was assigned to DesDiv 29 of Desron 6 in the IJN 4th Fleet.
First battle, in which Oite participated, became fail. On December 11, 1941 4th Fleet attacked Wake Island. Wake was strategically important island on the line San-Francisco – Pearl-Harbor – Wake – Manila. Island had to be well-defended, but High Command didn’t attend this question. Despite of this circumstance, small garrison did their job well. Coastal artillery sunk Oite’s sistership Hayate after only two salvoes, and slightly damaged Oite herself with 14 crewmen injured. Also artillery damaged the flagship, light cruiser Yubari. 4 Wildcats damaged light cruisers Tatsuta and Tenryuu. One of the Wildcats also succeeded in sinking destroyer Kisaragi by dropping a bomb on her stern where the depth charges were stored. USN relief attempt failed, and on December 23 4th Fleet returned with reinforcements – several heavy cruisers and two aircraft carriers. Wake was occupied and fortified. Shigematsu Sakaibara was appointed garrison commander of the Japanese occupation force. He ordered to execute with a machine gun 98 captured American civilian workers remaining on the island. One prisoner escaped, but it was impossible to leave the island. Sakaibara beheaded him with katana.
Meanwhile Oite continued operations. On January 23, 1942 provided cover for Japanese forces during invasion of Rabaul, New Britain. Australian garrison fled into the jungle when Japanese landing forces arrived. Most of the Australians were captured later. Rabaul became the most important Japanese base in the region. In March Oite provided cover for Japanese forces during the invasion of Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea. Australian garrison retreated, but then Allies started surprising combined air attack on the invasion forces. Warplanes from USS Lexington, USS Yorktown, Port Moresby and Townsville, Australia sunk several transports, and damaged Yubari, Yunagi, Asanagi and several auxiliary ships. Oite was lucky that time. After repair in Sasebo, Oite was assigned to Port Moresby invasion force. But after the battles of Coral Sea and Midway operation was cancelled.
Oite was reassigned to the Solomon Islands sector, patrolling from Rabaul and escorting an airfield construction crew from Truk (IJN base on Caroline Islands) to Bougainville and Guadalcanal. When US forces landed Guadalcanal in August 1942, Oite made a “Tokyo Express” troop transport run to Guadalcanal, but at the end of the month was reassigned to cover troop landings on Nauru and Ocean Island.
From September 1942 to September 1943 Oite made patrols in the central Pacific, and escorted troop convoys from Palau to the Solomons. In September 1943, while escorting a convoy from Truk to Yokosuka, she was torpedoed, but torpedo was a dud. Until February 1944 Oite escorted convoys between Japan and Saipan, and between Saipan and Rabaul. More and more freighter ships were sunk by US submarines.
Oite’s fate was inextricably intertwined with the fate of another IJN ship, light cruiser Agano ([link]
). Agano was assigned to the squadron of vice-admiral Sentarou Omori ([link]
), which tried to prevent the landing of US forces on Bougainville. In the followed battle of Empress Augusta’s bay Japanese were defeated. When Squadron returned to Rabaul, Americans started air attack. Grumman TBF Avenger hit Agano’s stern. Agano went to Truk for repair, but en route she was torpedoed by American submarine USS Scamp. The USS Albacore also attempted to attack but was held off by Japanese depth charge barrage. Agano was taken under tow by its sister ship, Noshiro and arrived back at Truk on November 16, 1943.
After 3 months of repair, 2 screws of Agano became operable. On February 15, 1944 she went to Japan, escorted by Oite. 260 km north of Truk Agano was struck by two torpedoes from the USS Skate, which set the ship ablaze. Of her crew of 726 men, some 523 survivors were rescued by Oite. When destroyer returned to Truk, Americans started operation Hailstone, massive air attack on Truk. TBF Avenger torpedoed Oite. She broke in half and sank almost immediately with loss of 172 of 192 crewmen and all 523 survivors of Agano.