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  Akikaze (秋風)
Minekaze class destroyer

1,234 Tons (standard)
1,367 (loaded)
319' 11" x 336' 7" x 29' 3"
4 x 120mm guns
6 x 21" torpedo tubes
2 x 7.7mm MG
16 x mines
IJN circa 1923
AWM March 18, 1943

Ship History
Built by Mitsubishi shipyards at Nagasaki. Ordered 1918. Laid down on June 7, 1920. Commissioned on September 16, 1921. Named Akikaze (秋風) "Autumn Wind".

Wartime History
This destroyer participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War. At the start of the Pacific war, the Akikaze departed Takao Harbor to provided air-sea rescue during the initial attacks on the Philippines during December 7-12, 1941.

Execution of civilian prisoners
After departing Rabaul the Akikaze moved to Wewak from March 8, 1943 to deliver medicine and supplies, then to nearby Kairuru Island.

On March 15, 1943 the Navy garrison loaded Divine Word missionaries including Bishop Loerks, six priests, 14 brothers, 18 sisters and another woman with her two children were loaded onto Akikaze. The passenger were treated with dignity, even given a rear cabin and tea, water and bread. Their sea sickness treated by the ship's doctor. The destroyer proceeded northward and anchored off Lorengau on Manus Island overnight. On March 17, 1943 twenty more civilians were brought aboard from Manus including German missionaries, one Hungarian missionary and Chinese civilians including six woman. Now there were a total of sixty prisoners aboard the ship.

On March 18, 1943 Akikaze briefly anchored off Kavieng and accepted a message, then departed bound for Rabaul. While at sea, Captain Lt. Commander Sabe assembled all officers, and informed them that 8th Fleet HQ ordered them to dispose of all the prisoners. He commented that the order was regrettable, but must be carried out because it was an order. While steaming to Rabaul, all the civilian prisoners were moved to the forward cabin. With the destroyer steaming at full speed, a white sheet, to avoid alerting the other POW of their pending fate. Each POW was removed from the cabin and hung by their wrists from a rope and pulley, then shot. Since the ship was moving, the wind then knocked the body overboard, minimizing blood staining on the deck, and the noise of steaming at full speed avoided any undue suffering. The men were executed first, then the woman. Two Chinese children were taken from their mother's arms and thrown overboard. The execution took approximately three hours to complete. Captain Sabe then ordered a funeral service for the executed and instructed the crew not to mention the execution to anyone. Akikaze arrived at Rabaul around 10:00pm.

Sinking History
On November 1, 1944 departed Mako, escorting Junyō and Kiso bound for Brunei. Spotted by USS Pintado (SS-387) and torpedoed 160 miles west of Cape Bolinao, Luzon (16-48 N, 117-17 E). The number of survivors, if any, is unknown, but captain Lt. Commander Yamazaki was killed in action.

War Crime Investigations
Survivors of Akikaze (unknown if aboard during sinking, or served prior) were interrogated in conjunction with the investigation of the POW executions in January - April 1946.

Hidden Horrors pages 171 - 178
Madang page 147
"On 15 March 1943, the Bishop, six priests, 14 brothers, 18 sisters and another woman with her two children were herded onto an old Japanese destroyer, Akikaze, which proceeded to Manus Island where it took another 13 on board. On 17 March, off Kavieng all were slaughtered, the bodies being cast into the sea. Bishop Loerks was the first to die."
Combined Fleet - IJN Akikaze: Tabular Record of Movement

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019



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