(AOBASAN MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2012 Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler

14 March 1934:
Tama. Laid down at Tama Zosen K.K., (yard no. 202) as an 6,359-ton cargo ship for Mitsui Bussan, K.K., Tokyo.

14 January 1935:
Launched and named AOBASAN MARU.

30 March 1935:
Completed and registered at Kobe. Radio call sign JFOJ. Placed in Mitsui Line’s service between Yokohama New York. Regularly transports gasoline from North America and carries aircraft as cargo.

Re-measured at 8,811-tons.

7 July 1941:
SE Asia, near Burma. The master of AOBASAN MARU receives a telegram advising that the ship has been requisitioned by the IJA on 5 July 1941 (IJA transport #862)..

16 September 1941:
Departs Tama for Hulutao (Koroto) Port, Liao Tung Bay, Manchuria. (40-43-20N, 120-59-8E)

11 October 1941:
Arrives at Boca Tigris (Humen), Pearl River Estuary, China.

20 October 1941:
Arrives at Woosung, China.

12 November 1941:
Arrives at Haikou (Haihow), N coast of Hainan Island, China.

AOBASAN MARU transports troops between Dairen, Manchuria (now Dalian, China) and Ujina and from Fusan (now Busan), Korea to the Hanshin industrial area.

E November/December 1941:
AOBASAN MARU enters dock and is fitted with air defense weapons including eight anti-aircraft guns, six machine guns and a field gun.

4 December 1941:
At 0600, AOBASAN MARU departs Samah, Hainan Island, China in a convoy consisting of 18 transports carrying LtGen Yamashita Tomoyuki's ("Tiger of Malaya") 25th Army to the Gulf of Thailand escorted by light cruiser SENDAI, DesDivs 12’s MURAKUMO, DesDiv 19's AYANAMI, ISONAMI, SHIKINAMI and URANAMI, DesDiv 20’s AMAGIRI, ASAGIRI, YUGIRI and SHIRAKUMO, minelayer HATSUTAKA, MinSwpDiv 1’s W-1, W-2, W-3, W-4, W-5, W-6 and W-8 and subchaser CH-9.

The convoy carries the Kra Isthmus, Singora, Patani and Kota Bharu Invasion Units. Distant cover is provided by Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kurita Takeo's (38)(former CO of KONGO) CruDiv 7’s MOGAMI, MIKUMA, SUZUYA and KUMANO and destroyers FUBUKI, SHIRAYUKI and HATSUYUKI. Air cover is provided from seaplane tenders SANYO, SAGARA and KAMIKAWA MARUs.

Enroute the convoy and its escorts split into the respective Invasion Units and head for their assigned landing and covering points.

7 December 1941:
At 2340, AOBASAN MARU arrives at Singora (Songkhla), Siam (Thailand) with the Singora Invasion Unit escorted by DesDivs 12’s MURAKUMO, 19 and DesDiv 20’s AMAGIRI, ASAGIRI, YUGIRI and SHIRAKUMO, minelayer HATSUTAKA (F), MinSwpDiv 1’s W-1, W-4, W-5, W-6 and W-8. Air cover is provided from seaplane tenders SANYO, SAGARA and KAMIKAWA MARUs.

AOBASAN MARU anchors off the coast and begins to land troops. The Invasion Unit lands elements of Yamashita’s 25th Army and LtGen Matsui Takuro’s 5th Infantry Divison's 9th and 21st Infantry Brigades. The transports also land 20 Type 97 medium tanks and 37 Type 95 light tanks.

12 December 1941:
Arrives back at Samah, Hainan.

20 February 1942:
At 1600, AOBASAN MARU departs Camranh Bay in the 10th Malaya Reinforcement Convoy consisting of two divisions: 1st division: AOBASAN, NAKO, KYUSHU, SADO, KANSAI and NAGARA MARUs 2nd division: SAGAMI, SAKITO, SASAKO, HIROKAWA and CANBERRA MARUs. The convoy is escorted by light cruiser SENDAI and destroyers FUBUKI and SHIKINAMI.

22 February 1942:
At 1800, both divisions arrive at Singora.

15 March 1942:
AOBASAN MARU arrives at Singapore.

19 March 1942: "U" transport operation to Burma (U sakusen yuso):

25 March 1942:
The First Burma Transport Convoy arrives at Rangoon.

Early July 1942:
Takao. AOBASAN MARU embarks 2,600 recruits and officers. Shortly afterwards departs Takao for Surabaya.

9 July 1942:
S. China Sea. Off Camranh Bay, French Indochina. At 1600, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Richard G. Voge’s USS SAILFISH (SS-192) fires two torpedoes and gets one hit at 11-40N, 109-40N. AOBASAN MARU is hit in No. 2 hold, oil in double bottom spouted out, takes on a list to starboard and is down by the bows, the dead bodies of 450 soldiers are later found in flooded No. 2 hold. 30 soldiers are MIA. AOBASAN MARU is able to make St. Jacques Anchorage by her own power. Later, she is taken to Saigon Navy Yard.

July-December 1942:
Undergoes repairs at Saigon Navy Yard.

14 November 1942:
Released from IJA service.

December 1942:
Reenters service after completion of repairs.

December 1942:
Reenters service after completion of repairs.

28 December 1942:
The shipping section of Mitsui Bussan K.K. is split off from the main body and becomes Mitsui Senpaku K.K., Tokyo.

29 June 1943:
AOBASAN MARU is again requisitioned by Japanese Army.

7 July 1943:
At 1400, AOBASAN MARU departs Saeki in convoy O-703 also consisting of IJA landing craft depot ship NIGITSU MARU and tanker TOA MARU by destroyer UMIKAZE and minelayer NUWAJIMA.

E 8 July 1943:
At 29N, NUWAJIMA is detached.

10 July 1943:
At 0600, at 20-55N, 144-00E, TOA MARU is detached and steams ahead unescorted.

13 July 1943:
Convoy O-703 arrives at Palau.

4 August 1943:
AOBASAN MARU departs Palau in convoy FU-404 also consisting of transports NIGITSU, KANSAI and NISSHO MARUs escorted by torpedo boat HATO.

10 August 1943:
At 31-30N, 134-00E, NUWAJIMA joins the escort of convoy FU-404 consisting of KANSAI, NISSHO, NIGITSU and AOBASAN MARUs escorted by torpedo boat HATO. Later that day, auxiliary minesweepers TAKUNAN MARU No. 8 and TAMA MARU No. 7 join the convoy at 31-40N, 133-30E.

11 August 1943:
Arrives at Saeki. The merchant ships sail on to Ujina, arriving later that day.

6 September 1943:
AOBASAN MARU departs Saeki for Palau in convoy O-602 also consisting of ASOSAN MARU escorted by destroyers SATSUKI and HARUKAZE, the latter is detached at 29N.

7 September 1943:
At 1910, AOBASAN MARU discovers an enemy submarine, but convoy remains unmolested.

12 September 1943:
Arrives at Palau.

23 September 1943:
AOBASAN and MAYASAN MARUs depart Palau for Saeki in convoy FU-302 escorted by destroyer HARUKAZE.

29 September 1943:
Arrives at Saeki.

9 October 1943:
Arrives at Ujina.

12 October 1943:
At 1600, AOBASAN MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-13 consisting of tanker KYOKUEI and AMATSU MARUs and transport/cargo ships SANUKI, NANKAI, MIZUHO, FUSO and MANILA MARUs escorted by destroyer ASAKAZE and kaibokan TSUSHIMA.

16 October 1943:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa.

18 October 1943:
Departs Takao.

21 October 1943:
Arrives at Samah, Hainan Island.

24 October 1943:
Departs Samah.

30 October 1943:
At 1546, arrives at Singapore.

2 November 1943:
At 1300, departs Singapore for Belawan, Sumatra together with AMERICA and MANILA MARUs. The ships sail without surface escort.

5 November 1943:
At 0030, an enemy submarine is discovered. The ships engages the enemy for three hours. No damage received. At 1100, safely arrive at Belawan and discharge embarked troops.

6 November 1943:
At 1500, the three ships depart Belawan for Singapore.

8 November 1943:
All ships safely arrive at Singapore.

10 January 1944:
At 1600, CH-36 departs Moji for Singapore with kaibokan ETOROFU and minelayer YAEYAMA escorting convoy HI-33 consisting of AOBASAN MARU and tankers YUHO, TARAKAN, ASASHIO and ASANAGI MARU and an unidentified ship.

13 January 1944:
Escort carrier KAIYO joins convoy HI-33.

14 January 1944:
At 1930, arrives at Takao.

16 January 1944:
Arrives at Manila.

17 January 1944:
CH-36 departs Manila with escort carrier KAIYO, kaibokan ETOROFU and minelayer YAEYAMA escorting convoy HI-33 that left Moji on 10 January consisting of transport AOBASAN MARU and tankers YUHO, TARAKAN, ASASHIO and ASANAGI MARUs and an unidentified ship. KAIYO develops a steering problem and is forced to return to Manila later that day.

23 January 1944:
Arrives at Singapore.

12 April 1944:
AOBASAN MARU departs Dairen, Manchuria for Moji after having embarked about 3,000 men of the 2nd Amphibious Brigade.

18 April 1944:
Departs Moji for Rabaul, New Britain via the Philippines. AOBASAN MARU is carrying about 4,000 3,000 men of the Maritime 2nd Mobile Amphibious Brigade and about 6500 meters of cargo including 3,100 individual weapons, ammunition and heavy weapons.

19 April 1944:
Departs Japan, probably Ujina, for Rabaul, New Britain via the Philippines. AOBASAN MARU is carrying about 4,000 men of the Maritime 2nd Mobile Brigade and about 6500 meters of cargo including 3,100 individual weapons, ammunition and heavy weapons.

5 May 1944:
At 1425, AOBASAN MARU departs Manila For Halmahera Island, New Guinea escorted by minesweeper W-22.

7 May 1944:
W of Mindanao, Philippines. Cdr Thomas W. Hogan's USS BONEFISH (SS-223) fires four torpedoes and claims three hits forward that badly damage AOBASAN MARU at 07-07N, 121-50E. AOBASAN MARU sustains a huge hole in her portside bow. The crew makes desperate efforts to shift cargo from #1 hold towards the stern. They finally succeed to shift backward so much cargo that the bow comes out of the water. At 2245, she arrives at Lemitan, Basilan Island. Later, salvage vessels MIHO and MATSU MARUs and auxiliary subchaser CHa-11 arrive. W-22 and CHa-11 maintain a barrage of 20 depth charges that keep BONEFISH submerged.

8 May 1944:
At 1043, arrives at Zamboanga, Philippines where temporary repairs are undertaken.

15 May 1944:
Arrives at Davao.

26 June 1944:
AOBASAN MARU departs Manila in convoy MATA-24 consisting of AKANE, GENKAI, FUKUYO, MIIKESSAN and ATSUTA MARUs escorted by destroyer ASAGAO kaibokan CD-2, CD-8 and auxiliary subchaser Takunan Maru No. 3

28 June 1944:
At 2320, a submarine is sighted at 18-00N, 119-40E. ASAGAO and CD-2 probably were detached to hunt the submarine.

E 30 June 1944:
Arrives at Takao.

20 July 1944:
Arrives back in Japan and enters dock for full-scale repairs.

19 December 1944:
At 1330, convoy HI-85 departs Moji consisting of tanker SERIA MARU and cargo ship SHINYU MARU escorted by light cruiser KASHII, kaibokan DAITO, UKURU, CD-23, CD-27 CD-51 and CD-112. AOBASAN MARU also departs Moji in convoy MOTA-38 consisting of IJA landing craft carriers HYUGA, SHINSHU and KIBITSU MARUs. The two convoys depart in tandem and head for the Inchon Sea off western Korea stopping briefly at Jinsen, Shantung Peninsula, Choushan Island and Foochow and then hug the littoral coast in choppy wintery seas on the way south.

MOTA-38’s transports are carrying reinforcement troops of the 19th Army Division. AOBASAN and HYUGA MARUs carry the 1st Raiding Group HQ, 2nd Raiding Brigade HQ, 2nd Air Raiding Regiment (probably HQ), one company of the 1st Infantry Glider Regiment, Infantry Engineer Company, 1st Infantry Glider Regiment, entire 2nd Infantry Glider Regiment, 1st Machine Cannon Raiding Unit the remainders of the 1st Engineer Raiding Unit and 1st Raiding Signal Unit.

23 December 1944:
At midnight, at Takao’s outer harbor.

25 December 1944:
At 1440, enters Takao. The convoy is split in two.

26 December 1944:
Before dawn, HYUGA MARU departs Takao for Manila in convoy TAMA-38 also consisting of IJA landing craft carriers SHINSHU and KIBITSU MARUs and Army transport AOBASAN MARU escorted by kaibokan MIYAKI, NOMI and CD-138. Anchors that night at Oluanpi on the SE tip of Formosa.

27 December 1944:
Early morning. Departs Oluanpi for Batan Island, Philippines where it arrives at midday.

29 December 1944:
At 1900, convoy TAMA-38 departs Batan Island and later that day arrives at North San Fernando, Philippines. Begins unloading 4,000 soldiers and 200 horses. The men were from the 19th Division, elements of the 1st Glider Infantry Regiment, and other units.

30 December 1944: San Fernando. Just hours unloading her troops, USAAF B-24 “Liberator” heavy bombers attack. In the absence of a pier or material handling equipment, large quantities of equipment, horses, 20,000 artillery shells and two of the four 150mm self-propelled artillery pieces of the 1st Independent Mechanized Gun Company are still aboard. Most of this gear and the horses belonged to the headquarters of the division’s artillery regiment and to two battalions of the 25th Mountain Artillery.

At about 0700, AOBASAN MARU is hit amidships by one or more bombs, bursts in flames, breaks in two and sinks. Captain Nakajima Ryosaku is on board the last Daihatsu landing barge which clears the sinking wreck. 21 soldiers, 1 shipboard gunner and 3 crewmen are killed. The self-propelled artillerymen survive, as do two cannon. Later, they join the 8th Independent Tank Company. CD-138 is hit by a bomb and damaged. The other merchant ships all suffer degrees of damage.

Authors’ Notes:
[1] Also known as AOBAYAMA.

Thanks go to John Whitman of VA and Fontessa of Japan for info on AOBASAN MARU's troops movements in MOTA-38.

-Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler

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