The navy recognized Kimura's outstanding leadership qualities when he received command of 3rd Destroyer Squadron in the South Pacific on 14 February 1943. At the end of that month, his eight destroyers escorted eight Japanese transports carrying reinforcements to Lae, New Guinea. Allied aircraft discovered the Japanese convoy soon after it left Rabaul on 28 February. On 3 March, Allied bombers attacked and sank two of the transports. Kimura then detached two destroyers to pick up survivors and rush them to Lae. He and the remaining six destroyers continued doggedly on course at the best speed the transports could make. On 4 March, U.S. and Australian aircraft again attacked, this time at low level, strafing and skip-bombing and sinking the six remaining transports and four of the destroyers. Over 3,000 Japanese died in what became known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Kimura himself was among the many wounded.
Kimura's failure was not held against him. When he recovered from his injuries, he assumed command of 1st Destroyer Squadron. His command formed part of the Japanese Fifth Fleet, protecting the northern Pacific. His major task was to evacuate Kiska Island in the Aleutians. Skillfully utilizing a bad-weather advantage, he took two cruisers and six destroyers into Kiska harbor on 28 July at 5:40 p.m. In only 55 minutes, they embarked 5,183 troops and departed. He did not lose a man or a ship in the operation.
Kimura's last surface action came in December 1944. The Battle of Leyte Gulf in October had destroyed the Japanese fleet as a fighting force, and Kimura led two cruisers and six destroyers from Camranh Bay in Indochina against the American beachhead at San Jose on Mindoro. The ships sortied on 24 December and were not discovered until they were within 200 miles of their destination. Despite Allied air attacks against his ships, Kimura shelled the American positions ashore for a half hour. In the operation, he lost one destroyer, but the other ships returned to Camranh Bay.
In the final months of the war, Kimura held several senior staff positions. He was promoted to vice admiral in November 1945 and retired that month. He died in Tokyo on 14 February 1960.
Tim J. Watts
Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; Garfield, Brian. The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians. New York: Doubleday, 1969.; McAulay, Lex. Battle of the Bismarck Sea. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.