(AWA MARU as POW Relief Supply Ship by Ueda Kihachiro)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998-2018 Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall.
Revision 5

10 July 1941:
Nagasaki. Laid down as an 11,249-MIIKE MARU-class cargo-passenger liner by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. shipyard for Nippon Yusen Kaisha Kisen (NYK) (Japan Mail Steamship Company), Tokyo. NYK plans to use the ship on their Australian route.

24 August 1942:
Launched and named AWA MARU.

5 March 1943:

10 March 1943:
Requisitioned by the IJA and allocated Army Number 5032. AWA MARU remains under Imperial Army control, but with an NYK appointed crew as is normal practice for transports.

26 March 1943:
Prepares to departs Moji for Singapore carrying 3,000 tons of ammunition.

3 April 1943:
Departs Moji in convoy with AKI MARU with unknown, if any, escort.

6 April 1943:
Arrives at Takao.

19 July 1943:
Departs Mutsure Island and later arrives at Moji's Imari Bay.

21 July 1943:
At 1100, departs Moji in fast convoy HI-03 consisting of transports AWA, NANKAI and SEIA MARUs and oilers NICHINAN (5175 gt) and OMUROSAN MARUs escorted by destroyer KARUKAYA.

22 July 1943:
Formosa Straits. At 0900, the fast passenger liner ASAMA MARU joins the convoy. At 2355, SEIA MARU is torpedoed and badly damaged by three of six torpedoes fired in a surface radar attack by LtCdr Eugene T. Sands' USS SAWFISH (SS-276). Later, the ship is taken in tow by NICHINAN MARU (5175 gt) and together they head back to Japan.

23 July 1943:
In the morning, AWA and ASAMA MARUs split from the now unescorted convoy and steam ahead.

25 July 1943:
Arrives at Takao. Later that day, the other ships arrive. Transport ARIMASAN MARU and kaibokan ETOROFU join the convoy.

26 July 1943:
At 1600, departs Takao in convoy HI-03.

1 August 1943:
Arrives at Singapore at 1400.

August - November 1943:
AWA MARU may have departed Singapore via Manila for Moji in convoy HI-04, but this is unconfirmed. She also may have voyaged to Singapore in convoy HI-11, but this too is unconfirmed.

3 November 1943:
At 1210, departs Singapore in fast convoy HI-14 consisting of transports AWA, KAGU, HOKURIKU and AKI MARUs and oilers AMATSU and KYOKUEI MARUs escorted by kaibokan TSUSHIMA.

8 November 1943:
Near Dangerous Ground, Palawan, Philippines. At 0505, LtCdr George E. Porter's USS BLUEFISH (SS-222) attacks the convoy on the surface. Porter fires all ten of his tubes; one torpedo prematures just after leaving the tube. USS BLUEFISH reloads and Porter makes three more attacks sinking KYOKUEI MARU with two torpedoes. TSUSHIMA detaches to rescue survivors, but is unable to relocate the convoy. HI-14 is forced to proceed unescorted.

9 November 1943:
At 0540, LtCdr Royce L. Gross' USS SEAWOLF (SS-197) makes three separate attacks on convoy HI-14. Gross fires a total of eight torpedoes. In his second and third attacks, he hits oiler AMATSU MARU with five Mark-14 steam torpedoes, but all are duds. Gross' other three torpedoes miss AMATSU, HOKURIKU and AKI MARUs, probably as a result of running deep.

10 November 1943:
Arrives at Takao at 1100. Frigate WAKAMIYA replaces TSUSHIMA as escort.

11 November 1943:
At 0740, departs Takao.

13 November 1943:
At 1455, a submarine is sighted and the convoy seeks refuge in coastal waters before resuming the voyage.

14 November 1943:
Departs the China coast.

16 November 1943:
Arrives at Moji at 1030.

1 February 1944:
Departs Moji at 1700 in fast convoy HI-41 consisting of transports AWA, ASAMAs, TEIA (ex-Vichy French Liner ARAMIS) and NANKAI MARUs and oiler NAMPO MARU plus another unidentified ship (probably tanker MIRI MARU) escorted by the kaibokan MATSUWA.

2 February 1944:
At 0730, minesweeper W-27 joins as an additional escort.

3 February 1944:
W-27 departs convoy at 0200.

10 February 1944:
Arrives at Singapore at 1430.

11 March 1944:
At 0730, convoy HI-48 departs Singapore consisting of transports AWA, SANUKI, TEIA and HOKUROKU MARUs, oilers OMUROSAN, OTOWASAN, TATEKAWA, ITSUKUSHIMA, SEIYO, NICHIEI and KUROSHIO MARU and two unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan MIYAKE, SHIMUSHU, IKI and ETOROFU.

14 March 1944:
Arrives at Van Phong Bay, Indochina.

15 March 1944:
Departs Van Phong Bay.

25 March 1944:
Arrives at Mutsure Island, off Kaimon Strait.

29 March 1944:
Departs Kobe. Arrives at Mutsure Island.

8 April 1944:
Arrives at Tokuyama Fuel Depot. Loads fuel.

13 May 1944:
At 0400, SANYO MARU departd Moji for Singapore in convoy HI-63 also consisting of transorts (ex-seaplane tender) SANUKI MARU, AWA, TEIA (ex-Vichy French liner ARAMIS), USSURI and NISSHO MARUs, IJA landing craft depot ships KIBITSU and TAMATSU MARUs and tankers KYOKUHO, OTOWASAN and RYOEI MARUs escorted by kaibokan IKI, MATSUWA, CD-9 and CD-15. All except NISSHO, SANYO, KIBITSU and TAMATSU MARUs carry troops bound for Burma.

SANYO MARU is carrying 600 men of an anti-aircraft unit, 140 aerial torpedoes and 80 railroad cars.

NISSHO TAMATSU and KIBITSU MARUs are bound for the Philippines and carry the bulk of the IJA 30th Division (less its transportation and reconnaissance regiments) that they moved from Pusan, Korea.

18 May 1944:
At 1800, arrives at Manila. NISSHO, SANYO, KIBITSU and TAMATSU MARUs are detached.

20 May 1944:
At 2000, the remaining ships depart Manila for Singapore with the same escort.

24 May 1944:
LtCdr James W. Davis' USS RATON (SS-270) attacks the convoy. In a series of attacks, Davis torpedoes and sinks kaibokan IKI and lightly damages MATSUWA MARU. The rest of HI-63 escapes unscathed.

27 May 1944:
At 2000, arrives at Singapore.

17 June 1944:
At 0400, convoy HI-66 departs Singapore consisting of transports AWA, SANUKI and HOKKAI MARUs and oiler OMUROSAN MARU escorted by light cruiser KASHII, escort carrier KAIYO and kaibokan CHIBURI, CD-7 and CD-11. The convoy hugs the continental coast, avoiding deep water as much as possible.

26 June 1944:
Arrives at Moji at 1300.

8 August 1944:
Convoy HI-71 departs Mutsure Island and later arrives at Moji's Imari Bay.

10 August 1944:
At 0500, convoy HI-71 departs Imari Bay for Singapore. HI-71 is comprised of new fleet oiler HAYASUI, storeship IRAKO, oilers TEIYO and EIYO MARUs, transports AWA, NOSHIRO, TEIA (ex-Vichy French Liner ARAMIS), NOTO, HOKKAI, TAMATSU and MAYASAN MARUs. The convoy's screen is provided by Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi (former CO of KISO), 6th Escort Convoy Commander with destroyers FUJINAMI and YUNAGI, kaibokan HIRATO, KURAHASHI, MIKURA, SHONAN, CD-11 and escort carrier TAIYO. The 931st Naval Air Group provides air cover with 12 Nakajima B5N ďKates.

15 August 1944:
HI-71 arrives at Mako, Pescadores.

17 August 1944:
HI-71 sorties from Mako for Manila in Typhoon weather transporting troops and supplies for the defense of the Philippines. Kajioka's escort forces are augmented by old destroyer ASAKAZE and kaibokan SADO, ETOROFU, MATSUWA and HIBURI sent from Takao by the 1st Surface Escort Division.

18 August 1944:
At 0524, LtCdr Louis D. McGregor's USS REDFISH (SS-395) torpedoes and damages EIYO MARU. ASAKAZE and her sister YUNAGI detach to escort her back to Takao.

Off Cape Bolinao, Luzon. At about 2200, LtCdr (later Captain) Henry G. Munson's USS RASHER (SS-269) hits TEIYO MARU with three of six torpedoes fired. She explodes and sinks about 20 minutes later. At 2222, Munson attacks carrier TAIYO, bringing up the rear of the convoy. TAIYO is hit by three torpedoes and sinks quickly. At 0510, Munson torpedoes oiler TEIYO MARU in another surface radar attack. Hit by three torpedoes, she is set afire and sinks. At 2310, USS RASHER, still on the surface, hits transport TEIA MARU with three torpedoes using radar bearings. The ex-liner is set afire and sinks. [1]

19 August 1944:
The convoy splits into two groups. Just past midnight, RASHER, still running on the surface, closes on an eastbound group of three large ships and one escort. At 0033, LtCdr Munson puts a radar-directed torpedo into in the foreward peak tank of AWA MARU. She takes on a large amount of water, but her bulkhead remains tight and she is able to make Manila under her own power. Her damage is classified as "light". LtCdr Munson also puts a torpedo into the port side NOSHIRO MARU at 18-11N, 119-58E and she is beached near Port Currimao.

LtCdr Charles M. Henderson's USS BLUEFISH (SS-222) and LtCdr Gordon W. Underwood's SPADEFISH (SS-411), on her first patrol, join in the attack on HI-71. At 0320, USS BLUEFISH hits HAYASUI. Set afire, she sinks by the stern. Underwood's USS SPADEFISH hits TAMATSU MARU with two torpedoes and the big landing craft depot ship rolls over and takes down 4,755 men.

Admiral Kajioka orders HI-71 to make for San Fernando. SADO, MATSUWA and HIBURI are ordered to cover the convoy's flight with antisubmarine sweeps.

21 August 1944:
Under tow, AWA MARU arrives in Manila after the main body of the convoy arrives.

25 August 1944:
Departs Manila.

1 September 1944:
Arrives at Singapore. Undergoes repairs.

26 December 1944:
At 1158, departs Singapore for Moji in fast convoy HI-84 consisting of transport AWA MARU, oilers TOA, RYOEI and MIRI MARUs and four unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan OKINAWA, CD-27, CD-63, patrol boat P-102 (ex-USS STEWART, DD-224) and escort carrier KAIYO. AWA MARU carries about 525 British, American and Australian POWs.

29 December 1944:
At 1157, HI-84 arrives at Cape St. Jacques (near Saigon) and departs at 1625 the same day.

30 December 1944:
South China Sea. HI-84 passes CarDiv 4's hybrid battleship/carriers ISE and HYUGA, cruisers OYODO and ASHIGARA, DesDiv 2's ASASHIMO and DesDiv 18's KASUMI that are enroute south from Camranh Bay. Later that day, HI-84 arrives at Binhoang Bay, Indochina.

31 December 1944:
At 0745, HI-84 departs Binhoang Bay. Soon after departure, LtCdr Otis R. Cole's USS DACE (SS-247) fires three torpedoes at KAIYO, but gets no hits. There is no counterattack, as the convoy seems unaware of the attack. At 1804, HI-84 arrives at Quinhon Bay, Indochina.

1 January 1945:
Departs Quinhon Bay.

2 January 1945:
At 0105, arrives at Shiran Bay, Indochina.

3 January 1945:
S of Hainan Island. MIRI MARU strikes a mine and her engine room floods. She is left behind, but manages to reach Hong Kong.

5 January 1945:
At 1840, convoy HI-84 arrives at the Hong Kong area and departs at 1937.

9 January 1945:
Arrives at Chusan Retto (archipelago), E of Shanghai.

10 January 1945:
Departs Chusan Retto.

13 January 1945:
At 1725, arrives at Moji.

January 1945:
An agreement is reached between Japan and the United States Government that guarantees safe passage for ships carrying Red Cross relief supplies to American and Allied POWs held in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. [1][2]

1 February 1945:
Released to her owners by the IJA and demilitarized. AWA MARU is painted green with large white crosses on each side of her hull and funnel, all illuminated by special spot lights and lighted white crosses for nighttime running.

7 February 1945:
COMSUBPAC sends a signal to all submarines at sea detailing AWA MARU's sailing schedule, with an admonition to leave her alone. The message is broadcast three times on three successive nights.

17 February 1945:
Departs Moji in the afternoon carrying 2,000-tons of Red Cross supplies for POWs held in Singapore and Indonesia. At night, the ship sails with all navigation lights turned on.

20 February 1945:
Arrives at Takao forenoon.

21 February 1945:
Departs Takao forenoon.

22 February 1945:
Arrives at Hong Kong in the afternoon.

23 February 1945:
Departs Hong Kong forenoon.

25 February 1945:
Arrives at Saigon. Offloads 20 crated aircraft, 2,000 bombs and 500 tons of ammunition.

28 February 1945:
Departs Saigon.

2 March 1945:
In the forenoon, arrives at Singapore. Offloads Red Cross parcels.

8 March 1945:
Departs Singapore.

10 March 1945:
In the afternoon, arrives at Batavia, Java (Jakarta, Indonesia). Offloads more Red Cross parcels. Loads 2,500-tons of crude oil and oil drilling machinery. Embarks military personnel, oil technicians and civilians. Does not call at Surabaya as had been scheduled.

COMSUBPAC and COMSUBSOWESPAC send AWA MARU's return sailing schedule to all their submarines, again with an admonition to leave her alone. The message is broadcast three times on three successive nights.

18 March 1945:
Departs Djakarta in the forenoon.

19 March 1945:
Arrives at Muntok, Banka Island. Offloads more Red Cross parcels.

23 March 1945:
Departs Muntok.

24 March 1945:
Arrives at Singapore. Loads 3,000 ton tin ingots, mercury and 3,000 tons of raw rubber bales. Embarks oil and electrical technicians, relatives of diplomats stationed in Singapore, colonial government officials and civilians. There are no military personnel aboard. [3]

28 March 1945:
At 1000, AWA MARU, under Captain Hamada Matsutaro, departs Singapore for Island, off Moji with an ETA of 4 Apr '45. In all, there are 2,071 passengers and crew aboard.

1 April 1945:
AWA MARU reports her noon position as 23-20N, 117-27E. This is the last message received from her.

Formosa Straits. At 2200, Cdr Charles E. Loughlin's USS QUEENFISH (SS-393), makes radar contact at 17,000 yards. The target is making about 17 knots and not zigzagging in foggy weather with visibility down to 200 yards. Based on her speed and small radar return, Loughlin takes the target to be a destroyer.

Loughlin slows USS QUEENFISH to 4 knots and swings her around to bring her stern tubes to bear. At about 2330, Loughlin fires four torpedoes from 1,200 yards using radar ranges and bearings. All four torpedoes hit AWA MARU. She sinks in about two minutes in 200 feet of water at 24-41N, 119-12E. 1907 passengers and 148 crewmen are lost.

USS QUEENFISH picks up one survivor, Shimoda Kantaro, a steward. Upon learning the identity of the ship he sank, Cdr Loughlin immediately reports her sinking to Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, COMSUBPAC. Lockwood notifies Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, CINCPACFLT and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, CNO. [4]

2-3 April 1945:
QUEENFISH searches for more survivors, but finds none. She is joined in the search briefly by LtCdr Roy C. Klinker's USS SEA FOX (SS-402). Each submarine sees about 2,000 bales of baled rubber floating on the sea. Both submarines take aboard several bales as evidence of contraband. [5]

King directs Nimitz to order USS QUEENFISH to return to port in Guam, relieve Cdr Loughlin of command and have him tried by a General Court-Martial. [6]

14 August 1945:
Japanese Foreign Minister Togo sends a message to the United States, through the Swiss, demanding compensation in the amount of $52.5 million for the loss of lives and goods aboard AWA MARU.

The U.S. Government indicates to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that America desires Japan to abandon any compensation rights related to the loss of AWA MARU.

Spring 1949:
The Japanese, to express their appreciation for the American peopleís great help in the post-war revival of Japan, voluntarily abandon unconditionally compensation rights related to the AWA MARU incident.

AWA MARU is found about 10 miles off the coast of China at 24-40N, 119-45E and salvaged by the China Salvage Co.

5 July 1979:
The first artefacts recovered from AWA MARU are delivered to the Japanese government, followed by additional deliveries in January 1980 and May 1981. In all, the remains of 368 persons and 1683 various artifacts are returned.

Authors' Notes:
[1] In Dec '43, five lend-lease "Liberty"ships recently completed in Portland, Oregon for the USSR arrived at Nakhodka, Siberia from Portland carrying a stockpile of Red Cross parcels. In Nov '44, HAKUSAN MARU picked up 2,200-tons of relief supplies at Nakhodka and returned to Kobe. AWA MARU carried only 2,000-tons (some accounts say as little as 800-tons). Presumably the rest went to POW camps in Japan.

[2] It is rumored AWA MARUís exact course was forwarded to the Americans. According to this data, on her homeward leg AWA MARU would transit waters between the Ryukyu Islands and the coast of China, but USN intelligence knew those waters were heavily mined. If the USN, believed these waters were safe as indicated by the Japanses data, thet- may well have sent submarines into the area with disastrous results. Almost a month later, the Japanese amended AWA MARUís proposed return route.

[3] It is alleged AWA MARU also carried 40 metric tons of gold, 12 metric tons of platinum, 150,000 carats of industrial diamonds and 40 boxes of art and cultural relics including the fossil remains of the Peking Man looted from the occupied countries of SE Asia.

[4] Shimoda had already survived three sinkings: HEIYO MARU on 21 Jan'43, TEIKO MARU (ex-Vichy French liner D'ARTAGNAN on 22 Feb '44 and TEIA MARU (ex-Vichy French liner ARAMIS) sunk on 18 Aug '44.

[5] At his court-martial, Loughlin's defense claimed AWA MARU forfeited her right of safe passage because she was carrying contraband war materials. The court ruled this immaterial because the safe conduct agreement contained no restrictions on the cargo to be carried.

[6] The court found Loughlin guilty of negligence in obeying orgers and sentenced him to receive a career-crushing "Letter of Admonition" from the Secretary of the Navy. He never held another command at sea; however, despite these set backs, Loughlin continued to be promoted, finally achieving Rear Admiral.

Thanks go to John Whitman of Virginia.

Back to Prisoner of War Relief Supply Ship Page