Pit Road 1/350 IJN Yugumo
KIT #: WB-09
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            While the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy ceased building destroyers following the First World War through the mid-1930s since they had so many constructed during that conflict, the Imperial Japanese Navy set the standard for destroyers during that same period.  The Imperial Navy’s General Staff determined that heavily-armed destroyers would be crucial to their intended defeat of the western navies in night actions.  While the destroyers built in the 1920s were good, it was with what is called the Fubuki class that first appeared in 1931 that the IJN created the type of ship that would give nothing but grief to the U.S. Navy during the Second World War.  The Fubukis were followed by several other classes of destroyers which gave incremental improvement over the original design in terms of range and seaworthiness. 

As compared with western destroyers, these Japanese ships were a continuation of the original “torpedo boat” design that became the destroyer.  But not only were they incredibly dangerous as torpedo boats since they were the only destroyers that had the ability to perform a torpedo reload during battle, and were armed during the war with the deadly Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedo, they were also among the most heavily-armed destroyers in the world with their three turrets each carrying three 5" 50-caliber weapons.  With their magazines below the gun mounts, ammunition was passed to the guns by hoists which  gave them a decided edge in rate of fire over other destroyers which had open or partially shield mounts dependant on ammunition passers carrying ammunition to them. The U.S. Navy didn’t add that to their designs until the Benson class, and really didn’t match the Japanese destroyers until the advent of the Sumner class in 1944, by which time most of the Japanese ships had been sunk.

            The last class of Japanese destroyer created was the Yugumo class, built between 1941-44. While the earlier classes had nine torpedo tubes in three triple-tube mounts, the Yugumos had two four-tube mounts, which lightened them and gave better sea-keeping ability.  Additionally, their main gun armament could be elevated to 75 degrees, making them effective anti-aircraft weapons.  While they were originally equipped with an anti-aircraft armament of two Type 93 13mm machine guns, the ships eventually carried as many as 25 25mm anti-aircraft weapons in multiple-gun mounts and sacrificed the 5" X mount to provide additional anti-aircraft armament after 1943.

            Along with the other Japanese destroyers, the Yugumo class gave a good account for themselves in the battles in the Solomon Islands in 1942-43.  As the tide of battle turned against the Japanese, the destroyers became the lifeline to Japanese island garrisons, providing food and ammunition during nightly runs down “the sllot” and eventually evacuating most of the survivors of the Japanese Army from Guadalcanal and other islands and the battles moved up the island chain.            

            The destroyer Amagiri nearly changed the course of world history when she rammed and sank PT-109 under the command of Lt.(j.g.) John F. Kennedy in Blackett Strait on August 2, 1943. Her captain, Lt. Commander Kohei Hanami, attended Kennedy’s inauguration as Presdient in 1961.

             Following the successful American invasion of New Georgia and the IJN defeat in the Battle of Vella Gulf, the Japanese determined that they must evacuate the garrisons in the central Solomons. Operating from a base at Horaniu on the north tip of Vella Lavella, destroyers and barges were used for these evacuations.  By October, 600 soldiers remained.  On October 6, nine destroyers — Fumizuki, Matsukaze, Yunagi, Akigumo, Isokaze, Kazegumo, Yugumo, Shigure, and Samidare departed the base under the command of Rear‑Admiral Matsuji Ijuin to rescue them.

             By this point in the Solomons campaign, the Americans felt they had taken the measure of the Japanese in night battles and that their radar-directed gunfire could overcome the Japanese superiority in night fighting tactics and the Long Lance torpedo.  On the night of October 6-7, 1943, they learned the Japanese could still bite.

             After successfully escorting the barges and withdrawing the troops, Yugumo, first in line, spotted an American force composed of the destroyers Selfridge, Chevalier, and O'Bannon, commanded by Captain Frank R. Walker approaching Vella Lavella from Vella Gulf at 2230.  Unknown to the Japanese at the time,  the destroyers Ralph Talbot, Taylor, and La Vallette were operating off the west coast of Vella Lavella.

             At 2245, Walker’s three destroyers managed to pick up radar targets against the island backdrop.  Walker didn’t wait for the second division to reinforce him but attacked immediately. Both sides launched torpedoes and opened fire at 2300.

             Yugumo was hit several times in the opening minutes of battle, but she charged the Americans and launched all her torpedoes, one of which hit Chevalier in her forward magazine just as she got her torpedoes away. In the confusion, O’Bannon collided with Chevalier and the two destroyers were locked together.  Attacking alone, Selfridge fired at Yugumo at 2306, only to be struck herself by a torpedo fired by another Japanese ship immediately after firing her torpedoes.  Two torpedo hits, one from Chevalier and one from Selfridge, knocked out Yugumo’s steering.  In the meantime, O’Bannon was able to open fire on Yugumo despite being entangled with Chevalier.  Yugumo went down at 2310 under fire from O’Bannon, taking 138 of her crew with her, including her captain, Commander Osako.

             The second division of American destroyers was still 15 minutes from contact with the Japanese force.  Admiral Matsuji ordered combat broken off with the three damaged American ships after spotting the three oncoming destroyers which were misidentified as U.S. light cruisers. The eight Japanese destroyers successfully disappeared into the darkness, with U.S. radar unable to pick them up against the return from the islands in the vicinity.

             U.S. PT boats ultimately rescued 78 Yugumo survivors, while 25 Japanese reached Japanese-held territory in an abandoned U.S. lifeboat.

             Unable to contain the damage of Yugumo’s torpedo, Chevalier could not be saved and was sunk at 0300, October 7, The three month campaign in the central Solomons had resulted in the lost of six American ships, while the Japanese had lost 16.


            The 1/350 Yugumo was released by Pit Road several years ago and is no longer in production, but probably can be found through kit collectors and such.  It was probably not widely produced, and in fact kits of Japanese Second World War destroyers are a rare breed indeed, with the only other kit in 1/350 - the Yukikaze - having been produced by Hasegawa in 2008 and also no longer in production, but is available at Sprue Brothers among others.

            Since I have both kits, with Yukikaze languishing these past four years in the “to do” pile, I can say that this kit is far simpler, with fewer parts on only four sprues.  It differs from the Hasegawa kit which is a full-hull model divided vertically in halves by being the more traditional division at the waterline, with an upper and lower hull allowing for a waterline model to be built.  No photoetch is provided in the kit.


            Construction was simple.  I glued the upper and lower hull together, then proceeded to paint.  Japanese ships are easy to paint, since they are overall grey with deck brown.  Tamiya has bottles of Sasebo and Kure greys as used by those two shipyards, as well as a bottle of “Deck Color,” which is the shade of brown used for the linoleum.  I painted the lower hull Hull Red, then painted the linoleum areas, masked them off and then painted the rest Sasebo Grey (I have no idea if that is specifically accurate; it was the paint I had on hand). 

            With everything painted, I proceeded to assemble the simple superstructures, the turrets, the stacks, etc.  The entire model was done over the course of a weekend from opening the box to sitting it completed on its base. 

           I used left-over photo-etch railing (never throw away anything!) but did not fully rig the masts.


            I for one did not know as much about Japanese destroyers before I started this project than I do now, though I was aware they were tough opponents in the Solomons campaign.  This is an easy kit to build that presents no problems.  If you can find it, it would be an excellent first ship kit for a modeler.

Tom Cleaver

September 2012

Review kit courtesy of my wallet.

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