Yūdachi, the Nightmare of Solomon

Hi again everyone, Lance here (^_^) Ealier this week, the folks at Goodsmile have just released Yūdachi Kai Ni up for preorder till the 16th of March this year,  and boy is it pretty. Kahotan's blog goes into greater detail about the figure itself so be sure to check it out if you’re interested.

In commemoration of this release, I’ll be briefly talking about Yūdachi’s more infamous exploits during the Second World War, specifically at the first Naval Battle of Guadacanal which her Kai Ni form is likely based on.

The Solomon Islands Campaign 

In the December of 1941, after a dispute with the United States over Japan's actions in China and French Indochina, and wanting to establish its much vaunted Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attacked the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and simultaneously began its attack on American and British colonies in Southeast Asia. In just 6 months, the Japnese have managed to occupy the Allied colonies of Philippines, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Wake Island, New Britain, the Gilbert Islands, and Guam.

As part of creating a defensive barrier for its empire and in an attempt to cut of supply lines between Australia and the US to prepare for a potential future invasion, the Japanese advanced to capture Port Moresby in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. After failing to capture Port Moresby at the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese began to garrison and fortify their positions in the Solomon Islands, among them the island of Guadacanal.

After the US Navy’s decisive victory over the IJN in the Battle of Midway, the Americans began their Solomon Islands campaign in their push towards mainland Japan and the liberation of its colony in Phillipines. As part of the campaign, on 7 August 1942 US forces landed on Guadacanal and seized the Japanese airfield on the Island. The Japanese attempted to recapture the island in few failed attempts at delivering reinforcements via ship. On the 13th of November 1942, the Japnese tried another attempt to land 7000 infantry while simultaneously bombarding the US forces on the Guadancanal. Learning of the coming attack, the Americans quickly resupplied the base from sea and moved their nearby fleet to intercept.

The Naval Battle of Guadacanal

The IJN taskforce, led by Vice Admiral Abe Hiroki, approached Guadacanal on the early morning of November the 13th under the cover of an intense rain squall. During their approach, between the storm, darkness, and confusing orders from Abe himself, the Japanese taskforce had their formation split into several groups.

Approaching the stretch of water between the Island of Savo and Guadacanal known at the time as ‘Sealark Channel’, Admiral Abe ordered Squadron 4 (Asagumo, Murasame and Samidare) to scout ahead, though unbeknownst to him Squadron 4 they had ended up straggling Behind the main fleet by 9000 yards due to the earlier confusion. When the storm ended, visibility cleared but with a slight haze. Since Abe hadn’t received any reports of enemy activity from his scouts, he had ordered his battleships Kirishima and Hiei to load High explosion fragmentation rounds to prepared for the bombardment of the airfield on Guadacanal.

On the American side, as the IJN was entering Sealark Channel, the American fleet of 5 cruisers and 8 destroyers with their new superior SG radar picked up the leading ships of Squadron 10 (Yūdachi, Amatsukaze and Teruzuki) how had inadvertently ended up at the front of the IJN taskforce. Rear Admiral D. Callaghan, the commander of American task group, ordered his ships into a single column and attempted to cross the T of the Japanese fleet, but miscommunication and confusion on their own side caused the order to be delayed and the maneuver failed.

With the American column bearing towards in straight ahead in the darkness and haze, the Yūdachi was completely caught off guard and swerved to avoid a collision with the leading ship USS Cushing and sounded the alarm to the rest of the Japanese fleet trailing far behind her. Vice Admiral Abe was shocked at the development, trying to reorganize the fleet to engage the enemy (and probably wondering wtf his scouts were doing). On the other hand the USS Cushing had to maneuver to avoid collision with the Yūdachi and the American column disintegrated as they tried to avoid collision with other ships in their own column. Amidst all the confusion and lack of orders from their admirals, both fleets approach each other as they awaited the order to open fire, leading to a situation like this:

At 0148, Akatsuki and Hiei turned on large searchlights and illuminated the USS Atlanta only 3,000 yards away, almost point-blank range for the ships’ main guns. Several ships on both sides spontaneously began firing, and the formations of the two adversaries quickly disintegrated as the battle begun in earnest. As the ships from the two sides intermingled, they battled each other in the darkness with searchlights and gunfire going every which way, an utterly confused and chaotic short-range melee likened to "a barroom brawl after the lights had been shot out” by an officer of the USS Monssen. In such a pitched night battle, superior Japanese optic sights and well-practiced night drills gave the IJN an initial edge.

During the early moments of the engagement, with the Yūdachi and Akatsuki attracted much gunfire as the ships in lead positions closest to the port and starboard sides of the American column (or whatever zig-zag shape it was at the time). During the battle, the cruiser USS Portland was torpedoed by either Inazuma, Ikazuchi, or Yūdachi (depending on different accounts), damaging her rudders and forced her to move in a circle for the rest of the battle.

ソロモンの悪夢、見せてあげるI'll show you the nightmare of Solomon
The Japanese flagship, the battleship Hiei, with her nine lit searchlights, huge size, and course taking her directly through the U.S. formation, became the focus of gunfire from many of the U.S. ships, wounding Vice Admiral Abe and killing keys members of his staff. Unable to fire her main guns at the destroyers swarming her at close range, Hiei instead concentrated on the US flagship USS San Francisco. With repeated hits from  Hiei, Kirishima, Inazuma, and Ikazuchi, the USS San Francisco was badly damaged and Admiral Callaghan was killed in the exchange.

During this exchange, the Yūdachi and Amatsukaze independently charged back into the thick of the fighting, at the rear five ships of the US formation as they saw their flagship under fire.. Together, they immediately sunk the USS Barton and crippled the USS Juneau, taking them out tof the fight. The Yūdachi returned for a second charge into the, exchanging gunfire with USS Aaron Ward and USS Sterett, then withdrew to reload her torpedo tubes.

Later on, the Yūdachi once again encounters the USS Sterett, but this time mistakes it for the friendly ship Harusame, which had just hit her with friendly fire just 5 minutes ago. Flashing her recognition signals the Yūdachi immediately came under fire from the USS Sterett and USS Aaron Ward, damaging her boiler room and left her without power. Left stranded in the water, Captain Kikkawa Kiyoshi ordered the crew to ‘raise the sails’ using hammocks as a way to raise morale, as they continued the battle while immobile. Her crew was later picked up by the Samidare as the battle ends, but was not successfully scuttled before their retreat.

ふわぁぁ! ハンモックを張ってでも、戦うよ!
Argh! I'll fight it out, with a hammock as a sail if I have to!
After nearly 40 minutes of brutal, close-quarters fighting, the two sides broke contact and ceased fire at 0226. Admiral Abe had one battleship (Kirishima), one light cruiser (Nagara), and four destroyers (Asagumo, Teruzuki, Yukikaze, and Harusame) with only light damage and four destroyers (Inazuma, Ikazuchi, Murasame, and Samidare) with moderate damage. The US had only one light cruiser (USSHelena) and one destroyer (USSFletcher) that were still capable of offering any resistance. The way was now clear for the IJN to bombard Guadacanal and finish off the US naval forces in the area, but not knowing how many US ships were left and expending all his HE fragmentation shells during the battle, the wounded Abe had cautiously decided to call a retreat. This ultimately lead to a US strategic victory in protecting the Island despite heavy losses, and the Japnese ultimatrly lost control of Guadacanal and the Solomon Islands. The crew of the Yūdachi was later picked up by the Samidare as the battle ended, but was not successfully scuttled before their retreat.

In the aftermath of the battle, at 0630 the USS Portland, still running in circles, spotted the empty remains of the disabled Yūdachi. Perhaps offended due to her fighting on despite raising what was perceived as a white-flag or some other reason, the captain of the Portland ordered her crew to  "sink the S.O.B."

もしかして・・・これって、沈んじゃうっぽい? 吉川艦長また会えるか
Don't tell me... I'm sinking? Captain Kikkawa... I can... see you again now... right?

After the battle, Sealark Channel was given the name "Ironbottom Sound" by Allied sailors because of the dozens of ships and planes that sank there during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1943. Including this battle and others before and after it, The IJN and US Navy lost a total of 50 vessels of all types. The area is now considered sacred by many Navy sailors and strict silence is observed as ships cruise through. Every year on the battle's anniversary, a US ship in the area cruises into the waters and drops a wreath to commemorate those who lost their lives there.

In Kancolle

In the game Kancolle, the Yūdachi Kai Ni’s appearance and title the 'Nightmare of Solomon' reflects her accomplishments in the Guadalcanal Campaign, where she assisted in sinking two converted transports (in an earlier battle), preventing the US Navy from crossing the T of her fleet (which would have been devastating to any fleet), and later damaging and/or sinking  a few cruisers before being sunk herself. According to her artist Ichiso Kujou, her slightly unkempt hair, red eyes, and the dog-like ‘flaps’ on her hair was to reflect her "ferocious hound (狂犬)"-like history during her final battle. Her signature white scarf represents the hammocks she raised during the battle and the two Sakura pins on her lapel are possibly in memory of Captain Kikkawa Kiyoshi.

In game, she was also given firepower comparable to most Heavy Cruisers for her remarkable achievements (especially for a destroyer, but also for any ship in general in the IJN as they were losing for the most part after the events at the Solomon Islands).

All right, that’s it for today, thanks for reading my (overly long) article ^_^, until next time poi~!


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