(AWATA MARU in wartime)

IJN AWATA MARU: Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998-2017 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp
Revision 5

2 March 1937:
Nagasaki. Laid down at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' shipyard as a passenger-cargo ship for the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line.

5 August 1937:
Launched and named AWATA MARU.

23 December 1937:
Completed and initially employed in the eastbound around the world service.

The outbreak of the European war and the mining of TERUKUNI MARU on 11 Sep '39 off Harwich, England causes suspension of services to Europe. AWATA MARU is re-employed on the South American run.

16 August 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

23 August 1941:
Arrives at Kobe from Hankow, China. Begins conversion to an auxiliary cruiser at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' shipyard. AWATA MARU is fitted with four 140-mm single mount guns, a twin Type 96 25-mm AA guns, one quadruple-mount, one dual mount and four single mount Type 93 13.2-mm machine guns and three single mount 7.7-mm machine guns. Two 553-mm torpedo tubes are installed.

5 September 1941:
Registered as an auxiliary cruiser in the Kure Naval District. Recalled Captain/Retired Maki Kanesachi (34)(former navigating officer of YAMASHIRO) is the Commanding Officer.

6 September 1941:
Assigned to Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Horiuchi Shigenori’s 22nd (Auxiliary Cruiser) Squadron in Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya's (former CO of MUTSU), Fifth Fleet with ASAKA and AKAGI MARUs.

5 October 1941:
Completes conversion.

6 October 1941:
Arrives at Kure.

15 October 1941:
Assigned to the Fifth Fleet's Northern Patrol Unit's main body.

18 October 1941:
Departs Kure.

20 October 1941:
Departs Yokosuka to patrol the Kuriles.

5 January 1942:
Arrives at Ominato, Honshu.

7 January 1942:
Departs Ominato.

18 January 1942:
Returns to Ominato.

1 February 1942:
Departs Akkeshi, Hokkaido.

8 February 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

15 February 1942:
Departs Yokosuka. Arrives at Yokohama the same day.

17 February 1942:
Departs Yokohama. Arrives at Yokosuka.

19 February 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

23 March 1942:
Participates in the search of an Aichi E13A1 "Jake" floatplane from the Ominato Naval Air Group.

27 March 1942:
Arrives at Kushiro.

4 April 1942:
Departs Kushiro.

18 April 1942: The First Bombing of Japan:
Vice Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey's (former CO of SARATOGA, CV-2) Task Force 16's USS HORNET (CV-8), cruisers, destroyers and an oiler accompanied by ENTERPRISE (CV-6), cruisers, destroyers and another oiler approach Japan. The carriers and cruisers come to within 668 nautical miles of the mainland.

Discovery of his force by guardboat No. 23 NITTO MARU compels Halsey to order Captain (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher's HORNET to launch LtCol (later Gen/Medal of Honor) James H. Doolittle's 16 Army North American B-25 "Mitchell" twin-engine bombers of the 17th Bomb Group earlier than planned. Later, Doolittle's planes strike targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Kobe.

ENTERPRISE's VB-3 and VB-6's Douglas "Dauntless" SBD dive-bombers and VF-6's Grumman "Wildcat" F4F fighters attack the "picket" boats encountered near Task Force 16. They damage guardboats No. 1 IWATE MARU, CHOKYU MARU, No. 2 ASAMI MARU, KAIJIN MARU, No. 3 CHINYO MARU, EIKICHII MARU, KOWA MARU, NAGATO MARU and No. 26 NANSHIN MARU. AWATA MARU receives a near-miss by a bomb dropped by an SBD and suffers minor hull damage.

Later, Guardboats No. 23 NITTO MARU and NAGATO MARU, damaged by the SBDs and F4Fs, are sunk by gunfire by NASHVILLE (CL-43).

23 April 1942:
Arrives at Kushiro.

26 April 1942:
Departs Kushiro.

8 May 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

10 May 1942:
Attached to the Northern Patrol Unit's main body as part of the Aleutian Islands Invasion Force.

28 May 1942:Operation "MI" - The Battle of Midway:
Departs Yokosuka.

7 June 1942:
Vice Admiral Hosogaya's Fifth Fleet captures Attu and Kiska.

8 June 1942:
AWATA MARU arrives at Kiska with ASAKA, HAKUSAN and KUMAGAWA MARUs. She disembarks materials and personnel necessary to construct a seaplane base.

13 June 1942:
Departs Kiska.

21 June 1942:
Returns to Yokosuka.

24 June 1942:
Departs Yokosuka. During the next three months, conducts three patrols in northern waters.

(E) October 1942:
AWATA MARU is painted with a zigzag dazzle camouflage.

9 October 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

21 October 1942:
Returns to Yokosuka.

5 November 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

18 November 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

1 December 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

18 December 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

12 January 1943:
Attached to the Northern Patrol Unit's second support party.

24 January 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

25 January 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

12 February 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

17 February 1943:
Kataoka Bay, Shimushu Island. Oiler TEIYO MARU refuels AWATA MARU.

18 February 1943:
AWATA MARU departs Kataoka Bay in Convoy 15 carrying Army reinforcements to Kiska escorted by light cruiser ABUKUMA.

20 February 1943:
120 miles N of Kiska. ABUKUMA detaches. AWATA MARU continues alone.

22 February 1943:
AWATA MARU arrives at Kiska. She disembarks air defense personnel and unloads airport materials.

23 February 1943:
Departs Kiska.

27 February 1943:
Arrives at Kashiwabara, Paramushiro, Kuriles.

4 March 1943:
Captain Takenouchi Heishichi (41)(former CO of AKASHISAN MARU) is appointed the Commanding Officer.

7 March 1943:
AWATA MARU departs Paramushiro in convoy 21-I also consisting of KIMIKAWA and KASADO MARUs escorted by the Fifth Fleet's light cruisers TAMA and KISO and destroyers IKAZUCHI, INAZUMA, USUGUMO, HATSUSHIMO and WAKABA. Heavy cruisers NACHI and MAYA provide distant cover.

10 March 1943:
Arrives at Attu. KISO and the transports land supplies, while the other units patrol. AWATA MARU disembarks 185 military personnel. KIMIKAWA MARU offloads six A6M2-N "Rufe" float fighters. The convoy begins unloading ammunition and airfield materials, but at 2100 is forced to depart because of the threat of air raids. The convoy departs with much cargo still on board the ships.

13 March 1943:
Returns to Paramushiro.

18 March 1943:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

27 April 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

5 May 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

17 May 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

21 May 1943:
Imperial General Headquarters decides to evacuate the garrison at Kiska Island, Aleutians.

24 May 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

16 June 1943:
Departs Paramushiro.

19 June 1943:
Arrives at Aomori, Honshu.

20 June 1943:
Departs Aomori. Arrives at Ominato the same day.

24 June 1943:
Departs Ominato.

26 June 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro.

7 July 1943: Operation "KE" - The Evacuation of Kiska.
Departs Paramushiro with the Evacuation Task Force consisting of Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kimura Masatomi's (former CO of SUZUYA) DesRon 1’s light cruisers ABUKUMA and KISO, DesDiv 10's YUGUMO, KAZAGUMO and AKIGUMO, DesRon 9's ASAGUMO, and USUGUMO, DesDiv 6's HIBIKI, Guard Unit No. 1's DesDiv 21's WAKABA and HATSUSHIMO, DesDiv 32's NAGANAMI, Guard Unit No. 2's DesDiv 11's SHIMAKAZE and DesDiv 27's SAMIDARE. AWATA MARU is in the Supply Force with oiler NIPPON MARU escorted by kaibokan KUNAJIRI.

The mission is aborted due to weather.

15 July 1943:
AWATA MARU is relieved from duty with the the Evacuation Task Force.

17 July 1943:
Departs Paramushiro.

20 July 1943:
Attached to the Fifth fleet.

27 July 1943:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

3 August 1943:
Departs Yokosuka for Paramushiro.

15 August 1943:
Arrives at Aomori.

19 August 1943:
Arrives at Ominato.

20 August 1943:
Departs Paramushiro.

9 September 1943:
Arrives at Kure.

15 September 1943:
Departs Kure.

15 September 1943: Operation “Tei No. 1"
AWATA MARU arrives at Ujina, a suburb of Hiroshima, that is the principal Imperial Army troop loading port. Assembled at Ujina is the Ko Detachment’s First Transportation Unit. These are elements of a regimental task force created from the 52nd Division. The regiment has been undergoing training as part the newly-reorganized 52nd Ocean Division.

Some men of Headquarters, 107th Infantry, 1st and 2nd Battalions, regimental gun and signal companies, 1,004-man regimental artillery battalion and 2nd Company, 52nd Engineers board AWATA MARU.

18 September 1943:
AWATA MARU departs Ujina on a troop transport run to Ponape and Truk escorted by destroyer ONAMI.

26 September 1943:
Arrives at Ponape.

1 October 1943:
Arrives at Truk. AWATA MARU is demilitarized and attached directly to the Combined Fleet. She is re-rated an auxiliary transport ship assigned to the Kure Naval District.

20 October 1943: Operation "Tei No. 4"

At 0600, AWATA and HIE MARUs depart Shanghai for Truk escorted by destroyers MAIKAZE and NOWAKI in a fast troop convoy carrying three corps of troops as part of Operation Tei's 4th Reinforcement Movement (third echelon) to Rabaul.

HIE MARU, recently rerated from a submarine tender to a transport, carries 2,100 soldiers, baggage, and supplies including most of the 54th Infantry (17th Division), a company of artillery, a company of engineers, and medical personnel. Awata Maru carried 1,015 troops: 1st Battalion, 81st Infantry (17th Division); 6th Company of the artillery regiment; and engineers, signal, and hospital personnel.

Destroyers MAIKAZE and NOWAKI each carry sixty men.

21 October 1943:
East China Sea. USS CERO (SS-225), SHAD (SS-235) and GRAYBACK (SS-208) are patrolling W of Okinawa. The three submarines had formed up at Midway under SubRon 2's Captain (later Vice Admiral) Charles B. Momsen as the first of ComSubPac's wolfpacks who rides aboard CERO. They receive an "Ultra" signal based on code-breaking intelligence that alerts them that the convoy will pass through their patrol area. [1]

At 1627, LtCdr John A. Moore's GRAYBACK spots the masts of the convoy N of her position. GRAYBACK is submerged and unable to get off a contact report. Moore tracks the convoy, but loses it at 1800 in the darkness. Moore then surfaces and radios a contact report. GRAYBACK soon acquires the convoy on her SJ radar.

22 October 1943:
Off Keelung, Formosa. Moore makes a long "end-around" run. At 0327, GRAYBACK submerges. Moore sets up ahead of the convoy. At 0347, he fives six torpedoes at an on-coming merchant and escort. Four torpedoes hit AWATA MARU. One touches off a magazine and creates an enormous explosion. AWATA MARU sinks N of Miyako-jima at 26-32N, 125-05E. 1,087 men of the 17th Division and 223 navy crewmen are KIA. MAIKAZE and NOWAKI unsuccessfully counterattack. Later, the destroyers rescue 76 troops and 88 crewmen. HIE MARU escapes and makes for Rabaul via Truk.

At 1045, USN codebreakers at Fleet Radio Unit, Melbourne, Australia (FRUMEL) intercept and decode a message from the 4th Destroyer Division that reads "When No 3 Group and TEI 4 Transport Force were at 24-45N, 125-00E at 0348 on 22nd October course 150 degrees speed 14 knots, AWATA MARU was hit by 4 torpedoes from an enemy submarine and sank immediately. MAIKAZE attacked whilst NOWAKE searhed. Good contact obtained but result unknown. Picked up survivors at 0940 and resumed passage to Rabaul. Survivors: Naval, Commanding Officer, 2 Officers, 85 ratings. Military, 1 Captain, 4 junior officers, 71 men."

5 January 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] LtCdr (later Vice Admiral) C. B. "Swede" Momsen invented the Momsen Lung and McCann Rescue Chamber submarine escape devices.

Thanks for assistance go to Mssrs. Peter Cundall of Australia and Jean-Francois Masson of Canada.

Special thanks also go to Hans Mcilveen of the Netherlands for info on FRUMEL intercepts. Thanks also go to the late John Whitman of Virginia for "Tei" troop data. Thanks go to John O'Keefe of Littleton, CO for info in Rev 5.

Photo credit goes to Matthew Jones.

- Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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