Japanese Auxiliary Oilers

YUSOSEN!



(Oiler by Takeshi Yuki scanned from "Color Paintings of Japanese Warships")

IJN AZUSA MARU:

Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998-2008 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.


9 August 1943:
Kobe. Laid down as a 10,022-ton Standard Merchant 1TL tanker by Kawaski Heavy Industries as yard No. K714 for Ishihara Kisen K.K.

10 February 1944:
Launched and named AZUSA MARU.

25 March 1944:
Completed.

3 May 1944:
At 0445, AZUSA MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-61 consisting of empty oilers TATEKAWA, NICHIEI, JINEI, EIYO, AKANE, OTORISAN, SARAWAK and ASANAGI MARUs and passenger cargo ship MIZUHO MARU escorted by escort carrier TAIYO, destroyers ASANAGI, HIBIKI and INAZUMA, kaibokan SADO, KURAHASHI, CD-5, CD-7 and CD-13. [1]

7 May 1944:
JINEI MARU is detached because of engine trouble. [2]

8 May 1944:
About 0615, LtCdr Victor B. McCrae's USS HOE (SS-258) attacks the convoy at 19-19N, 120-00E. In a submerged attack, McCrae fires all his bow torpedoes and gets a single hit on AKANE MARU. She is detached from the convoy and returns to Takao, Formosa for repairs.

9 May 1944: Operation "A-GO" - The Defense of the Marianas.
At 2055, arrives at Luzon. AZUSA, TATEKAWA and NICHIEI MARUs are detached from the convoy to participate in the planned "A-GO" operation.

11 May 1944:
At 1625, AZUSA MARU departs Manila in an unnumbered convoy with TATEKAWA and NICHIEI MARUs escorted by HIBIKI and INAZUMA.

14 May 1944:
Tawi Tawi Bay. At about 0300, while patrolling on the surface, LtCdr Thomas W. Hogan’s USS BONEFISH (SS-223) intercepts a three-tanker convoy making fourteen knots and consisting of AZUSA, TATEKAWA and NICHIEI MARUs with three destroyer escorts. Hogan selects the largest oiler to receive his last six torpedoes.

An HIBIKI-class destroyer passes close ahead of BONEFISH as the convoy zigs. The movement brings the target oiler within 3,000 yards. Hogan fires all forward torpedo tubes. Five Mark-14 torpedoes get away, but No. 6 refuses to fire. The first torpedo explodes against the oiler's bow. The second explodes under the bridge and Hogan thinks the third blows off her stern. He sees the oiler enveloped in smoke and flames and claims two hits and a sinking. In fact, none of the oilers are damaged. [3]

At 0420, the fourth torpedo explodes under destroyer INAZUMA. It blows her apart and she sinks quickly. The two remaining destroyers charge and drop twenty heavy depth charges, but BONEFISH slips away.

15 May 1944:
Arrives at Balikpapan.

16 May 1944:
AZUSA MARU is formally requisitioned by the IJN and assigned to the Kure Naval District. [4]

3 June 1944:
The 2nd Supply Force’s oilers AZUSA and GENYO MARUs, escorted by two destroyers, depart Tawi Tawi for point "I", a holding position 130 miles E of northern Mindanao, Philippines. Later that day, the group departs point I for Guimaras located between Negros Island and Panay Islands.

13 June 1944:
Hashirajima. From his flagship light cruiser OYODO, the CINC, Combined Fleet, Admiral Toyoda Soemu, (former CO of HYUGA), signals the fleet to activate Operation "A-GO".

14 June 1944:
Guimaras, Philippines. Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo's Mobile Fleet's Main Body arrives and the 2nd Supply Force begins refueling operations.

15 June 1944:
Guimaras. At 0800, refueling is completed and the Mobile Fleet's Main Body departs. At 0830, the 2nd Supply Force and destroyers YUKIKAZE and UZUKI depart. They head through the Visayan Sea and San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea towards the designated refueling rendezvous holding area.

16 June 1944:
NW of Palau. At about 2300, LtCdr (Later Rear Admiral) Herman J. Kossler's USS CAVALLA (SS-244) is running on the surface towards the San Bernardino Strait. His SJ radar detects four targets. Kossler closes and identifies two oilers escorted by two destroyers on a southeasterly course. Kossler increases speed and begins an "end around" to get ahead of the small convoy.

17 June 1944:
At 0315, Kossler completes the end-around and dives to begin an approach. He closes on an oiler - either AZUSA MARU or GENYO MARU - and sets up for an attack. Just as he is about to fire, one of the destroyers apparently spots his 'scope and charges. Kossler takes CAVALLA deep as the destroyer passes overhead. He remains submerged until about 0500. When he again comes to persicope depth, the convoy is nowhere in sight. At 0545, Kossler surfaces and gets off a contact report to COMSUBPAC. [5]

19 June 1944:
At 2400, the 2nd Supply Force is at 15-20N, 134-40E.

20 June 1944: The Battle of the Philippine Sea:
At 0620, the fleet reverses course. At 1746, a formation of Grumman TBF "Avenger" torpedo-bombers and SB2C-1 "Helldiver" dive-bombers attack the ships. AZUSA MARU is hit by several bombs and set afire. The 1st Supply Force's oilers SEIYO MARU and HAYASUI are also damaged by bombs

At 1806, GENYO MARU is dive-bombed by three SB2Cs from Task Force 58's USS WASP (CV-18) Air Group 86. Bombs hits and near misses split GENYO MARU's sides and cause her engine to stop. At 1850, AZUSA MARU takes GENYO MARU in tow, but the line breaks several times. At 2220, after destroyer UZUKI removes the crew, she scuttles GENYO MARU with gunfire.

Departs the Philippine Sea for Guimaras escorted by destroyers YUKIKAZE and UZUKI.

23 June 1944:
Arrives at Guimaras.

26 June 1944:
Departs Guimaras for Davao escorted by destroyers HATSUSHIMO, YUKIKAZE and UZUKI.

29 June 1944:
Departs Davao via Manila for Kure escorted by HATSUSHIMO, YUKIKAZE and UZUKI.

2 July 1944:
Arrives at Kure.

10 August 1944:
Convoy HI-71 departs Imari Bay (Moji) for Singapore comprised of oilers AZUSA, TEIYO, EIYO, ZUIHO, AMATSU, KYOKUTO and NIYO MARUs and HAKKO MARU No. 2, fleet oiler HAYASUI, food-supply ship IRAKO, transports TEIA, AWA, NOTO, HOKKAI, TAMATSU, NOSHIRO and MAYASAN MARUs and cargo ships KASHII, NISSHO and ORYOKU MARUs. The convoy's screen is provided by 6th Escort Convoy under convoy commander Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi (former CO of KISO) with destroyers FUJINAMI and YUNAGI, kaibokan HIRATO, KURAHASHI, MIKURA, SHONAN and CD-11 and escort carrier TAIYO. Her 631st Naval Air Group provides air cover with 12 BN5 “Kates”.

15 August 1944:
HI-71 arrives at Mako, Pescadores. NIYO, HAKKO and ORYOKU MARUs and IRAKO are detached.

17 August 1944: Operation "SHO-1-GO" (Victory) - The Defense of the Philippines:
At 0800, HI-71 sorties from Mako for Manila, part of the SHO Operation, transporting troops and supplies for the defense of the Philippines. Kajioka's escort forces are further strengthened by old destroyer ASAKAZE and kaibokan SADO, ETOROFU, MATSUWA and HIBURI sent from Takao on the orders of 1st Surface Escort Division.

18 August 1944:
Alerted by an "Ultra" signal based on code-breaking, LtCdr Louis D. McGregor's USS REDFISH (SS-395) intercepts and, at 0524, torpedoes and damages EIYO MARU. Destroyers ASAKAZE and YUNAGI are detached to escort her back to Takao.

Off Cape Bolinao, Luzon. At 2222, TAIYO, at the rear of the convoy, is hit by torpedoes fired by LtCdr (later Captain) Henry G. Munson's RASHER (SS-269) and sinks. At 2312, RASHER torpedoes transport TEIA MARU. The big ex-French liner is set afire and sinks.

19 August 1944:
The convoy splits into at least two distinct groups. Just past midnight, Munson's RASHER closes on an eastbound group of three large ships with one escort. At 0033, torpedoes blow open armed merchant cruiser NOSHIRO MARU and transport AWA MARU. Both vessels are beached near Port Curimao.

80 miles NW of Cape Bolinaro, Luzon. REDFISH is joined in the attack by LtCdr Charles M. Henderson's BLUEFISH (SS-222). At 0325, HAYASUI is probably hit by two of four torpedoes fired by BLUEFISH in a night surface radar attack. HAYASUI goes dead in the water.

At 0433, in a submerged radar attack, LtCdr Gordon W. Underwood's USS SPADEFISH (SS-411) hits TAMATSU MARU with two torpedoes. The big landing craft tender sinks in 10 minutes taking down 4,775 troops and crewmen.

At 0603, oiler TEIYO MARU, already hit, awash to midships and abandoned, is hit again by two torpedoes and sinks. Five hours later, at 0818, LtCdr Henderson's BLUEFISH fires three more torpedoes at HAYASUI seen drifting and down by the stern. All three torpedoes hit. HAYASUI bursts into flames and goes down stern first at 17-34N, 119-23 E. The convoy scatters and arrives piecemeal in Manila over the next few days.

25 August 1944:
At 1650, convoy HI-71 consisting of AZUSA, KYOKUTO, HOKKAI, ZUIHO, KYOKUHO and AWA MARUs departs Manila escorted by destroyer FUJINAMI, frigates HIRADO, KURAHASHI and MIKURA, kaibokan CD-11 and subchaser CH-28. At 1845, KYOKUHO MARU develops engine trouble and drops behind escorted by FUJINAMI. Later, they catch up with the convoy.

1 September 1944:
At 1356, arrives at Singapore.

11 September 1944:
Convoy HI-74 departs Seletar for Moji under Rear Admiral-Ret Yoshitomi Setsuzo (39)(former ComSubRon 7) of the 5th Guard Fleet. The convoy consists of oilers AZUSA, OTOWASAN, HARIMA, OMUROSAN and HAKKO MARUs escorted by escort carrier UNYO, light cruiser KASHII, frigates CHIBURI, CD-13, CD-19, CD-21 and CD-27.

16 September 1944:
At 2231, OMUROSAN MARU is hit by a torpedo fired by Cdr (later Rear Admiral) C. E. LOUGHLIN's USS QUEENFISH (SS-393). KASHII fires a red flare signaling a submarine attack, but at 2334, AZUSA MARU is hit starboard side by two of a salvo of six bow torpedoes fired by Cdr (later Rear Admiral) E. B. Fluckey's USS BARB (SS-220) at the overlapping targets. AZUSA MARU blows up and sinks with all hands at 19-08N, 116-33E.

UNYO is hit starboard side by the other three torpedoes fired in Fluckey's salvo, one in the stern in the steering compartment, the other in the engine room. UNYO settles aft and sinks the next morning.

10 November 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.


Author's Notes:
[1] It is possible oiler HAYASUI was part of HI-61 and also stopped at Manila.

[2] The 1TL's high-speed diesels were plagued with problems caused by hasty construction.

[3] LtCdr Hogan probably saw the unreliable Mark 14's compressed air flasks exploding against the hull.

[4] Defacto requisitioning occurred on 9 May '44.

[5] As a result of Kossler's contact report, COMSUBPAC repositions several submarines, among them CAVALLA and LtCdr James W. Blanchard's ALBACORE (SS-218). On 19 Jun '44, Blanchard torpedoes and sinks new fleet carrier TAIHO. Later that same day, Kossler sinks fleet carrier SHOKAKU, the penultimate surviving carrier of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Thanks for assistance in preparing this TROM go to Sander Kingsepp of Estonia.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.


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