(AKEBONO MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2005-2012 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.
Revision 7

15 August 1939:
Kobe. Completed as the 10,182-ton merchant tanker AKEBONO MARU by Harima Shipbuilding and Engineering for Nippon Kaiun K.K.

Completes several trips transporting heavy oil from Canada, Borneo and Northern Sakhalin.

5 September 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN and registered in the Yokosuka Naval District as a converted merchant transport (oil supply).

15 November 1941:
AKEBONO MARU is assigned to the 1st Air Fleet.

18 November 1941: Operation "Z" - The Attack on Pearl Harbor:
Kure. Although assigned to the No. 2 Supply Group for Operation "Z", AKEBONO MARU's flanges do match up with the refueling hoses. She is the last oiler to be so fitted and work is not completed in time before the Carrier Striking Force (Kido Butai) sails from Japan. AKEBONO MARU does not participate in the operation. [1]

30 November 1941:
Osaka. Enters Naniwa Dockyard for conversion to a naval auxiliary and to allow at sea replenishment.

27 December 1941:
Captain Shibata Tsutomu (39) is appointed Supervisor.

7 January 1942:
The conversion is completed at the Kure Naval Yard.

11 January 1942:
Departs Kure for southern operations.

19 January 1942:
AKEBONO MARU departs Davao, Philippines for Tarakan, Borneo with an unidentified destroyer escort. E of Jolo, AKEBONO MARU is damaged by nine B-17 heavy bombers of the 7th and 19th BGs from Malang, Java. They drop 100 lb bombs and straddle the ship, possibly getting several hits. As the planes depart, the tanker is seen burning and steering a circular course, as if her steering gear is damaged. Captain Shibata and about 10 crewmen are killed. Shibata is promoted Rear Admiral, posthumously. [3]

January-February 1942:
Probably undergoes bomb damage repairs.

1 February 1942:
Captain (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Otsuka Miki (39) is appointed Supervisor of AKEBONO MARU.

23 February 1942:
Departs Davao with destroyer HATSUHARU.

26 February 1942:
Arrives at Makassar, Celebes.

16 March 1942:
Arrives at Mako.

20 March 1942:
Departs Mako.

29 March- April: Operation "X" - The Invasion of Christmas Island:
AKEBONO MARU departs Bantam Bay, Java with ComDesRon 4 Rear Admiral Nishimura's Second Southern Expeditionary Fleet's Occupation Force. The Occupation Force consists of transports KUMAGAWA and KIMISHIMA MARUs carrying about 850 men of the 21st, 24th Special Base Forces and the 102nd Construction Unit.

The escort consists of light cruisers NAKA (F), CruDiv 16's NAGARA and NATORI, DesDiv 9's MINEGUMO and NATSUGUMO, DesDiv 16's AMATSUKAZE and HATSUKAZE, DesDiv 22's SATSUKI, MINAZUKI, FUMITSUKI and NAGATSUKI and patrol boats PB-34 and PB-36.

1 April 1942:
Off Christmas Island. NAKA is torpedoed and damaged extensively by USS SEAWOLF (SS-197), but AKEBONO MARU is undamaged.

3 May 1942:
Arrives Kure.

21 May 1942:
Departs Kure for Saipan.

28 May 1942: Operation “MI” - The Battle of Midway:
The AKEBONO MARU departs Saipan in Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Kondo Nobutake's Midway Invasion Force with Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Tanaka Raizo's Transport Group's transports KIYOSUMI , ZENYO, ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, AZUMA, KEIYO, GOSHU, KANO, HOKURIKU, KIRISHIMA and NANKAI MARU and TOA MARU No. 2. Escorted by Tanaka's DesRon 2's light cruiser JINTSU with DesDiv 15's KUROSHIO and OYASHIO, DesDiv 16's YUKIKAZE, AMATSUKAZE, TOKITSUKAZE and HATSUKAZE, DesDiv 18's destroyer-transports SHIRANUHI, KASUMI and ARARE. Air cover is provided by Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Fujita Ruitaro's Seaplane Tender Group's CHITOSE and KAMIKAWA MARU.

3 June 1942:
At about 1700, the convoy is attacked by LtCol (later General) Walter C. Sweeney's nine Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortresss" heavy bombers. ARGENTINA MARU and KIYOSUMI MARU are near missed during the attack, but AKEBONO MARU is undamaged.

4 June 1942:
About 2354 (JST), the convoy is attacked by four torpedo-carrying Consolidated PBY-5A "Catalina" amphibious patrol planes of Patrol Squadron 24 from Midway. Lt William L. Richards, the flight leader of the mission, scores a hit on AKEBONO MARU's bow with an obsolete Mark-XIII Mod 1 torpedo at 26-34N, 174-14W. The torpedo hit detonates AKEBONO MARU's AA shell magazine and tears a 10-meter long gash in her side. Eleven crewmen are KIA and 13 wounded. [2]

20 June 1942: Passes through Bungo Suido escorted by destroyers KUROSHIO and OYASHIO. 21 June 1942:
Arrives at Kure; probably undergoes temporary repairs.

28 June 1942:
Departs Kure.

29 June 1942:
Arrives at Nagasaki; probably undergoes permanent repairs at Mitsubishi Shipbuilding.

29 July 1942:
Departs Nagasaki.

30 July 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

4 August 1942:
Departs Kure for the South Seas.

7 August 1942: American Operation “Watchtower” – The Invasion of Guadalcanal, British Solomons:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Richmond K. Turner's Amphibious Task Force 62, covered by Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher’s Task Force 61 and Rear Admiral (later Admiral) John S. McCain's Task Force 63’s land-based aircraft, lands Maj Gen (later Gen/MOH/Commandant) Alexander A. Vandergrift’s 1st Marine Division on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo and Guadalcanal opening the campaign to retake the island.

10 August 1942:
Reassigned to the Guadalcanal naval forces transport operations.

28 August 1942:
Shortland, Bougainville. Undertakes supply duties.

28 September 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

5 October 1942:
Departs Kure.

29 October 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

1 November 1942:
Departs Kure.

1 November 1942:
Departs Kure. Joined by subchaser CH-36 off Fukajima.

E 2 November 1942:
CH-36 is detached at 32N.

26 November 1942:
Arrives at Hiro.

9 December 1942:
Departs Hiro.

14 December 1942:
At Rabaul.

12 January 1943:
10 miles SW of Tingwon island, near New Hanover, Bismarcks. At about midnight AKEBONO MARU is being escorted by patrol boat PB-1 when they are attacked by LtCdr Thomas B. Klakring's USS GUARDFISH (SS-217). Using his new SJ radar, Klakring torpedoes and sinks PB-1 at 02-51 S, 149-43E.

13 January 1943:
150 miles N of Manus Island, Admiralties. At 0900, while on a supply mission for the Guadalcanal area naval forces, AKEBONO MARU is attacked by LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Charles C. Kirkpatrick's USS TRITON (SS-201) at 00-45S, 148-44E. Kirkpatrick makes a surface attack and fires eight Mark-14 steam torpedoes. He claims two hits, but sees no explosion. It is probable that the torpedoes were duds.

17 February 1943:
At 0700, departs Balikpapan for Rabaul. Escorted initially by minesweeper W-16 to 01-00S, 118-00E.

26 May 1943:
At 0800, departs Balikpapan enroute to Rabaul. Escorted by subchaser CH-5 as far as 2 degrees N.

9 June 1943:
450 miles SSW of Truk. At 0200, alerted by an "Ultra" signal, LtCdr James D. Grant's USS GREENLING (SS-218) attacks AKEBONO MARU at 02-17N, 145-39E. Grant claims hits with three of four torpedoes he fires. He also claims that she was set afire and sank. In fact, she suffered heavy damage, but does not sink and makes Truk.

9 September 1943:
Captain Otsuka is relieved and a new, but unknown, Captain is appointed supervisor of AKEBONO MARU.

24 September 1943:
Rabaul. Provisioned by auxiliary storeship TAKUNAN MARU. Refuels the ship with 30 tons of bunkers.

9 October 1943:
At 1500, arrives at Balikpapan.

24 October 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul.

3 November 1943:
Arrives at Palau escorted by destroyer SATSUKI.

15 November 1943:
At 1100, arrives Truk escorted by destroyer YUNAGI and other unknown escort.

23-24 November 1943:
At Truk.

E2 December 1943:
Departs Rabaul for Balikpapan, Borneo.

29 December 1943:
Departs Balikpapan for Truk via Palau with FUJISAN and SHINKOKU MARUs escorted by patrol boat PB-102 (ex-USS STEWART, DD-224).

2 January 1944:
At 0700, PB-102 is detached from the convoy. The convoy now steams unescorted.

3 January 1944:
Philippine Sea. At 0328, attacked by LtCdr James W. Davis' USS RATON (SS-270) in a surface radar attack at 08-22N, 129-52E. Davis claims hits with three of six torpedoes fired. AKEBONO MARU sustains medium damage and takes on a list to starboard. She is assisted by destroyer HAYANAMI that together with UZUKI joined the convoy at 1130.

4 January 1944:
Arrives at Palau. Undergoes temporary repairs.

10 January 1944:
Arrives at Truk with FUJISAN and SHINKOKU MARUs.

11 March 1944:
Palau. Provisioned by auxiliary storeship KITAKAMI MARU.

29 March 1944:
Palau. At 2100 JST, drops anchor off Babelthuap.

30 March 1944:
Off Bahelthuap Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's Fifth Fleet begins intensive bombing of Japanese airfields, shipping, fleet servicing facilities and other installations. Task Force 58's planes sink 41 ships in the area of Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai in the Carolines.

Near Urukthapel Island. AKEBONO MARU, although damaged, prepares to depart for Takao as part of refugee convoy PATA-07. At 0500, she departs to evade an air raid which has been announced. No raid happens and AKEBONO MARU is recalled.

At 0550, AKEBONO MARU is attacked by about 30 planes in the western channel. At about 0600, after multiple bomb hits, she sinks in shallow water with her bow above water. Five crewmen are killed.

10 May 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Palau. The Fujita Salvage Co. commences salvage operations and patches and refloats AKEBONO MARU.

12 October 1957:
200nm SE of Okinawa. Under tow to Japan, AKEBONO MARU sinks in a storm at 23-22N, 130-10E.

Authors' Notes:
[1] Some sources claim erroneously that AKEBONO MARU was with the Pearl Habor Attack Force.

[2] Some sources claim the hit was made by Ensign Gaylord Propst's PBY.

[3] Thanks go to reader Lou B. Dorn˙, USN (Ret.) of Seattle.

Thanks for assistance goes to Sander Kingsepp of Estonia, Allan Alsleben of Oregon and Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

Picture credit goes to Gilbert Casse of France.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

Back to Auxiliary Oilers Page