Equipped with eight dual-purpose 100mm guns, Teruzuki was designed to provide anti-aircraft support for transports and capital ships. She was sunk in operations off Guadalcanal in December 1942.
On 31 August 1942, Teruzuki was completed at Nagasaki; her first captain was Commander Orita Tsuneo. In mid-October she steamed from Yokosuka and joined the fleet north of the Solomons, engaged in the long-running battle for Guadalcanal. On 26-27 October, Teruzuki took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz, escorting Admiral Nagumo’s Striking Force. A near-miss from a bomb from a PBY caused some hull damage and killed seven crew.
During the long night of 12-13 November, she partipicipated in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Escorting Admiral Abe’s Bombardment Force, Teruzuki claimed hits on all seven enemy ships engaged, including one sinking.
In the early hours of 13 November, in the opening of the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, American destroyers — Cushing, Laffey, Sterett, and O’Bannon — hurled themselves at Abe’s flagship Hiei, and from only three hundred meters away, they fired 5-inch and smaller guns into the battleship. USS San Francisco added her weight to the battle, and her gunners fired again and again into the Hiei, wrecking her communications and steering gear. But the four destroyers were caught in the middle of the Japanese fleet.
Searchlights picked up Cushing, close-range fire from destroyer Teruzuki quickly reduced her to a wreck, and with seventy men dead she was abandoned. Laffey was next. Having nearly collided with Hiei, Laffey’s machine gunners raked the battleship’s bridge, killing most of the bridge personnel, and wounding Rear Admiral Abe. But a 14-inch salvo, plus a torpedo from Teruzuki, sank the destroyer. There was a big explosion and Laffey sank, taking most of her crew down Iron Bottom Sound. Terutsuki assisted crippled battleship Hiei during the day of 13 November.
Throughout the last months of 1942, the naval struggle for Guadalcanal centered on Japanese efforts to re-supply their forces on the island. Merchant ships (“marus”) and barges proved to be easy targets for the Americans, so the IJN adopted the desperate expedient of using destroyers to tow supplies in oil drums, which could be cut loose and recovered by Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal.
The fourth of these supply runs came in 11 December, and Tanaka himself led this one in his speedy Teruzuki. 21 U.S. bombers attacked at about sunset but scored no hits. Tanaka’s destroyers shot down two fighters covering for the bombers, and the Japanese steamed on. Teruzuki patrolled beyond Savo Island while the others dropped some 1,200 drums of supplies off Cape Esperance and then headed north again.
All available PT boats were out to greet them. Lieutenant John Searles, skippering PT-109 for the evening, was the first to spot the incoming Japanese. He was patrolling near Cape Esperance about 2330, when he spotted Tanaka’s destroyers and radioed “Caesar passing through Rye.” The Japanese ships came within range of three other PT-boats: Lieutenant Lester Gamble’s PT 45, Stilly Taylor’s PT 40, and Ensign Williams Kreiner’s PT 59. As the Japanese dropped 1,200 their supplies, the three PT-boats closed to 1,500 meters and fired torpedoes. While the PT-boats were pulling away — still undetected — two explosions rocked Admiral Tanaka’s flagship Teruzuki, and the torpedoes from PT 45 destroyed a propeller and the rudder, ignited an oil fire, and injured the admiral, knocking him unconscious. The fires on Teruzuki raged and defied the crew’s efforts to suppress them — Teruzuki was doomed. The wounded were transferred to destroyers Naganami and Arashi. Teruzuki’s skipper, the destroyer division commander, and 154 other sailors managed to reach Guadalcanal in boats. The Teruzuki herself burned for nearly three hours until flames reached her depth charge magazines and she exploded and sank.
SPECIFICATIONS (per contemporary USN Naval Recognition Manual)
Length – 405′ overall
Beam – 37′
Draft – unknown
Displacement – 2300 standard tons
Eight 5-inch guns
Anti-aircraft machine guns
Three 21″ torpedo tubes
Maximum speed – 34 knots
Note: These specifications were estimated from photographic material and design trends.