(ASUKA MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2014-2016 Bob Hackett

3 August 1923:
Glasgow, Scotland. Laid down at David & William Henderson Co., Ltd., as a 7,524-ton passenger cargo ship for Nippon Yusen Kaisha, K. K. (Japan Mail Steamship Co.), (NYK Line) of Tokyo.

27 July 1924:
Launched and named ASUKA MARU.

11 November 1924:
Completed and placed on NYKís Seattle route.

August 1926 ~ March 1927:
ASUKA MARU's outbound ports of call include Kobe, Yokohama, Victoria and Seattle with return voyages either via Victoria or Vancouver. Some voyages originate from or terminate at Shanghai, Chinacalling also at Nagasaki.

NYK decides to establish a new Central America route. ASUKA MARU, that has been on NYKís India route, also joins regular service on the Central America route.

23 October 1936:
Ownership changes to Itaya Shosen, K. K., Otaru.

7 July 1937: The "First China Incident" and the Beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War:
Hun River, Lukuokiao, China. Japanese troops on night maneuvers at the Marco Polo Bridge fire blank cartridges. Chinese troops across the river think they are under attack. They fire live rounds back, but do not cause injuries. At morning roll call, the Japanese discover a soldier missing and assume the Chinese have captured him. The Japanese demand entry to the Peiping (Beijing) suburb of Wanping to look for the soldier, but the Chinese refuse. The Japanese then shell the city. An undeclared war on China begins.

E 1937:
Chartered by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) to transport troops to China.

9 March 1939:
Arrives at Hangkow, China.

23 July 1939:
Arrives at Nanjing.

17 August 1939:
Departs Nanjing.

In retaliation to Japanís occupation of French Indochina, the United States delays Japanese shipping through the Panama Canal. The Japanese government issues instructions to Japanese ships to escape through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean because if passage through the Panama Canal is prohibited there is a risk of being trapped in the United States. The instructions are issued too late for ASUKA MARU that was on the Atlantic side; therefore ASUKA MARU circles much out of the Pacific Ocean detouring through the Magellan Strait in South America. The voyage lasts three months, En route, ASUKA MARU callis at ports in Chile and Peru, then returns to Japan.

20 July 1941:
Ujina. Completes conversion to an auxiliary aeronautical repair ship and is designated the IJAís 17th Shipping Air Depot.

20 October 1941:
Departs Tokyo.

8 November 1941:
Arrives at Saigon.

12 November 1941:
Departs Saigon and arrives at St. Jacques, Indochina (Vung Tau, Vietnam),

16 December 1941:
Departs St. Jacques.

23 December 1941:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army. Alloted IJA No. 990.

24 December 1941:
Arrives at Singora, Siam (Thailand).

28 December 1941:
Departs Singora.

6 January 1942:
arrives at St. Jacques.

7 January 1942:
Departs St. Jacques.

8 January 1942:
Arrives at Saigon.

13 January 1942:
Departs Saigon.

13 March 1942:
Arrives at Singora.

28 March 1942:
Departs Singora.

8 April 1942:
Arrives at Saigon.

May 1942:
Arrives at Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar).

10 November 1942:
Departs Rangoon.

17 November 1942:
Arrives at Singapore.

23 November 1942:
Departs Singapore.

26 November 1942:
Arrives at St. Jacques and departs.

27 November 1942:
Arrives at Saigon.

1 December 1942:
Departs Saigon.

8 December 1942:
Arrives at Hong Kong

14December 1942:
Departs Hong Kong

19 December 1942:
Arrives at Shanghai

20 December 1942:
Departs Shanghai

24 December 1942:
Arrives at Osaka.

7 February 1943:
Departs Saeki

15 February 1943:
Arrives at Palau.

19 February 1943:
Departs Palau.

27 February 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul.

10 August 1943:
At 1400, ASUKA MARU departs Moji for Mako, Pescadores in convoy No. 185 also consisting of tankers MATSUMOTO, NICHIRIN, SAN RAMON, TACHIBANA, TONAN and YAMAMIZU MARUs and passenger-cargo ships GINYO and KACHIDOKI (ex-PRESIDENT HARRISON) and TEIBI (ex-Vichy French BERNARDIN de ST PIERRE) MARUs and four unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan SADO.

15 August 1943:
Arrives at Mako.

18 August 1943:
ASUKA MARU departs Mako for Saigon in convoy No. 316 also consisting of tankers NICHIRIN, SAN RAMON, TACHIBANA and YAMAMIZU MARUs, passenger-cargo ships KACHIDOKI (ex-PRESIDENT HARRISON) and GINYO MARUs and three unidentified ships.

21 August 1943: The convoy now consists of eight ships, the three unidentified ships likely having detached for either Hong Kong or Hainan. At 1340 in position 15.24N 115-32E the convoy is attacked and three torpedoes narrowly miss GINYO MARU.

26 August 1943:
Arrives at Saigon.

5 October 1943:
ASUKA MARU departs Balikpapan in convoy No. 2608 also consisting of ONDO RYOYO, TAJIMA and TSURUMI MARUs and two unidentified merchant ships escorted by destroyer SANAE and subchaser CH-5. Soon after leaving, TSURUMI encounters machinery problems and is forced to turn back.

10 October 1943:
Arrives at Palau.

14 October 1943:
ASUKA MARU departs Palau convoy So-406 also consisting of FUKKO, HOKKAI, RYUOSAN, TAIRIN and TAGA MARUs escorted by subchasers CH-17 and CH-40.

18 October 1943:
At 0345, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) John S. Coye's (USNA í33) USS SILVERSIDES (SS-236) is torpedoed and sinks IJA TAIRIN MARU at 00-22N 143-23. The ship is carrying foodstuffs, .tanks and vehicles and 2,100 tons of gasoline. Two gunners, and one watchman and one crewman are KIA.

21 October 1943:
The remainder of convoy arrives at Rabaul.

31 October 1943:
ASUKA MARU departs Rabaul in convoy O-104 also consisting of FUKKO, OSUMI and TOYOOKA escorted by subchasers CH-16 and CH-40

7 November 1943:
At 1500, arrives at Palau.

14 November 1943:
Departs Palau.

24 November 1943:
Arrives at Ujina.

7 January 1944:
At 1500, ASUKA MARU departs Mutsure via Moji for Takao convoy No. 127 also consisting of GETSUYO, HOKOKU, IKUTAGAWA, KINREI, NIKKI, ROKKO, TOYOKUNI and YAHIKO MARUs escorted by destroyer KARUKAYA and minesweeper W-27. In addition to arms and ammunition, the ship carries thousands of rats andanimals for medical experiments.

10 January 1944:
At about 1230, on the surface in heavy weather, LtCdr (later Cdr) Royce L. Gross' (USNA '30) USS SEAWOLF (SS-197) attacks the convoy. Gross torpedoes and damages YAHIKO MARU, then he torpedoes ASUKA MARU. Hit in the engine room, at 1239 she sinks by the stern at 27-32N, 127-25E. 15 passengers and 23 crewmen are KIA. Working in the storm, KARUKAYA and GETSUYO MARU rescue 105 survivors.

GETSUYO MARU tows YAHIKO MARU towards Naha, Okinawa, but SEAWOLF tracks them. At about 2300, LtCdr Gross again torpedoes YAHIKO MARU. Hit, she sinks immediately. SEAWOLF also hits GETSUYO MARU with two torpedoes and she sinks at 2345. 16 crewmen and four passengers are KIA.

Authorís Notes:

Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

-Bob Hackett

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