RIKUGUN YUSOSEN

CELEBES MARU, prewar)

CELEBES MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2012-2014 Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler
Revision 4


1 September 1917:
Kobe. Laid down as DAIFUKU MARU No. 15 at Kawasaki Shipbuilding (yard no. 403) as a 5,857-ton cargo ship. Renamed CELEBES MARU while still on the stocks.

13 November 1917:
Launched.

12 December 1917:
Completed for the Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) Line.

1918-1941:
Serves on OSK’s routes from Kobe to Java, Bombay and Calclutta.

23 June 1919:
CELEBES MARU arrives at Ellis Island, New York and disembarks two passengers.

20 July 1919:
Departs New York for Balboa.

13 March 1921:
Departs Singapore for New Orleans, Louisiana and Cuba.

29 June 1929:
Arrives at Singapore.

30 June 1929:
Departs Singapore.

21 September 1941:
CELEBES MARU is requisitioned by the Imperial Army as a troop transport (IJA Ship No. 628).

15 February 1942 - The Fall of the Straits Settlement of Singapore:
Ford Motor Plant, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore. LtGen Arthur Percival, Royal Army, surrenders Singapore and Malaya to IJA LtGen Yamashita Tomoyuki's (The "Tiger of Malaya") 25th Army. The outnumbered Japanese capture 130,000 poorly led and poorly equipped British, Indian, and Australian troops in the largest surrender of British-led personnel in history.

2 April 1942 - “U” Sakusen (Operation “U”) – The Invasion of Burma:
CELEBES MARU departs Singapore for Rangoon in 2nd Invasion Transport Convoy consisting of a total of 45 transport ships. The 2nd Invasion Convoy transports the Imperial Army's 18th Divison.

7 April 1942:
Arrives at Rangoon.

14 May 1942:
Singapore. Three thousand Australian prisoners-of-war (POWs) are marched from Changi jail to Singapore harbor for transport to Burma. About 1,000 men are embarked aboard CELEBES MARU. Pre-war, CELEBES MARU also was used to haul livestock between Australia and Japan, so 360 POWs are put in sheep pens in the forward hold and 640 in sheep pens in the aft hold. The remaining POWs are embarked on TOYOHASHI MARU. [1]

15 May 1942:
At 0100, the last of the POWs is embarked on CELEBES MARU. She and TOYOHASHI MARU steam from Singapore to Belawan and Medan, N Sumatra.

16 May 1942:
Sumatra. 350 IJA troops are embarked aboard CELEBES MARU.

17 May 1942:
Departs Medan for Victoria Point, Burma (now Myanmar) in a convoy now joined by ENGLAND and KYOKUSEI MARUs and an unidentified minesweeper. ENGLAND and KYOKUSEI MARUs are carrying British and Dutch POWs. [1]

20 May 1942:
The convoy arrives at Victoria Point. One Australian battalion of 1,017 men is disembarked from TOYOHASHI MARU and the Dutch POWs are disembarked from KYOKUSEI MARU.

24 May 1942:
Arrives at Mergui, Burma. Another battalion of about 1,000 POWs is disembarked.

27 May 1942:
Arrives at Sinbyubyin, the quarantine port for Tavoy, Burma. The remaining battalion of 983 men is disembarked. Despite heat, disease, and deprivations aboard CELEBES MARU, all the POWs survive the voyage. They are put to work repairing and constructing an airfield, and later, building the Burma-Siam (Thailand) railway. Many die.

1 June 1942:
At 0925, CELEBES MARU departs Sinbyubyin, Burma for Singapore in an unescorted convoy consisting of TOYOHASHI, ENGLAND and KYOKUSEI MARUs.

4 June 1942:
Malacca Strait. SW of Phuket, Malaya. At 0335, British Lt E. F. Balston's submarine HMS TRUSTY torpedoes TOYOHASHI MARU at 07-14N, 98-06E. At 0400 she sinks. One crewman and 16 gunners are KIA. The survivors are rescued by KYOKUSEI MARU.

5 June 1942:
At 1120, the convoy arrives at Penang, Malaya.

8 June 1942:
The convoy arrives at Singapore.

8 November 1943:
CELEBES MARU departs Surabaya for Manokwari, Dutch New Guinea with more than 1,500 Indonesian POWs, Indonesian volunteers (heiho´s) and romushas (native workers).

29 November 1943:
Arrives at Manokwari.

6 December 1943:
At 0530, CELEBES MARU departs Kau, Halmahera for Manokwari, New Guinea in convoy No. 1 also consisting of HAMBURG and ADEN MARUs escorted by minelayer WAKATAKA. The convoy is carrying the first echelon of the IJA's 36th Division and the 99th Independent Wire Company .

6 December 1943:
At 0530, CELEBES MARU departs Kau, Halmahera for Manokwari, New Guinea in convoy No. 1 also consisting of HAMBURG and ADEN MARUs escorted by minelayer WAKATAKA. The convoy is carrying elements of the 36th Division and 2nd Army headquarters, 88th Casualty Clearing Unit, 2nd Army Field Motor Depot, 36th and 37th Special Land Duty Construction Companies, 72nd and 73rd Construction Duty Companies, 27th Field Water Supply and Purification Department and the 99th Independent Wire Company.

8 December 1943:
At 2030, arrives at Manokwari. Unloads troops and cargo.

10 December 1943:
At 0520, the convoy departs Manokwari.

12 December 1943:
Arrives at Ambon, Ceram Island, Moluccas. Lands the 201st Construction Unit and materials and departs.

13 December 1943:
At 1715, arrives at Kau.

31 December 1943:
CELEBES MARU departs Ambon for Kendari, Celebes in a convoy also consisting of ASAKASAN, CHUKA, CHOI, YAMABUKI and TAIYU MARUs escorted by auxiliary minesweeper Wa-9 and auxiliary subchaser SHONAN MARU No. 17.

2 January 1944:
At 0800, the convoy arrives at Kendari. Unloads cargo and personnel.

4 January 1944:
At 1000, the convoy departs Kendari for Ambon.

6 January 1944:
At 0100, the convoy arrives at Ambon.

26 January 1944:
At 1000, CELEBES MARU departs Surabaya, Java in an unnumbered convoy also consisting of ASAKA, YAMABUKI and CHUKA MARUs escorted by minelayer ITSUKUSHIMA.

31 January 1944:
The convoy arrives at Ambon. YAMABUKI MARU is detached from the convoy.

2 February 1944:
At 0220, CELEBES MARU departs Ambon escorting a convoy also consisting of NIKKI and ASAKA MARUs escorted by minelayers WAKATAKA and ITSUKUSHIMA.

5 February 1944:
At 0600, the convoy arrives at Wasile.

10 February 1944:
At 0600, CELEBES MARU departs Wasili, Halmahera in a convoy also consisting of NIKKI and ASAKA MARUs escorted by minelayer WAKATAKA.

2 February 1944:
At 0220, CELEBES MARU departs Ambon escorting a convoy also consisting of NIKKI and ASAKA MARUs escorted by minelayers WAKATAKA and ITSUKUSHIMA.

5 February 1944:
At 0600, the convoy arrives at Wasile.

10 February 1944:
At 0600, CELEBES MARU departs Wasili, Halmahera in a convoy also consisting of NIKKI and ASAKA MARUs escorted by minelayer WAKATAKA.

At 2340, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from the CO of WAKATAKA that reads: “At 2239 received a torpedo attack in position 01-43N, 129-30E. Dropped 9 depth charges. Results unknown. No damage to us.” [1] At 2340, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from the CO of WAKATAKA that reads: “At 2239 received a torpedo attack in position 01-43N, 129-30E. Dropped 9 depth charges. Results unknown. No damage to us.” [2]

13 February 1944:
At 0300, the convoy arrives safely at Manokwari.

14 February 1944:
At 0700, departs Manokwari.

15 February 1944:
At 0900, arrives at Bosnek, southeast shore of Biak Island.

17 February 1944:
At 1000, departs Bosnek.

18 February 1944:
At 0900, arrives at Sarmi.

9 March 1944:
At 0600, CELEBES MARU departs Wasili in convoy M-14 also consisting of NORWAY and TATSUJU MARUs escorted by patrol boat PB-103, auxiliary subchaser KYO MARU No. 12 (as far as Sarangani Island) and auxiliary NITTO MARU No. 17 (as far as Talaud Islands). At 1400, PB-103 experiences some malfunctions and the convoy anchors off Kau, Halmahera.

11 March 1944:
At 0715, after repairs to PB-103, the convoy departs Kau for Wasili, Halmahera. The convoy's escort is joined by auxiliary netlayer TOKO MARU No. 1. At 1322, arrives at Wasile where the convoy's escort is joined by auxiliary netlayer TOKO MARU No. 1. At 1710, the convoy departs Wasile.

12 March 1944:
Convoy discovers a surfaced enemy submarine southwest of Talaud Islands but continues unmolested.

14 March 1944:
At 1230, the convoy anchors off Zamboanga, Mindanao. At 1850, convoy weighs anchor.

15 March 1944:
Cebu Sea. TEIYU MARU joins the convoy.

19 March 1944:
At 0004, off Cape Santiago, (western entrance to Balayan Bay), Luzon, the convoy is attacked by an unidentified submarine, but no damage is incurred. At 1858, arrives at Manila.

10 April 1944:
Arrives at Singapore.

23 April 1944:
The IJA 2nd Shipping Artillery Regiment orders the Kita platoon, 4th Company to take over duty on CELEBES MARU from the Iwata platoon, 9th Company on this date and also orders the 19th Company to remove two MGs and one AAMG and their crews from CELEBES MARU.

April 1944:
Departs Singapore for Halmahera, Moluccas in an unknown convoy.

10 May 1944:
Arrives at Halmahera.

3 June 1944:
CELEBES MARU departs Singapore for Moji in bauxite convoy HO-02 also consisting of NASUSAN, TEIHOKU (ex-Vichy French PERSEE), HONAN, TAMAHOKO, TAINAN, SHONAN, NICHIWA, SEISHIN, MIYO and HIOKI and KOKUSEI MARUs and KONAN MARU No. 1 and five unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan CD-1, CD-8, CD-15, CD-20 and minelayer AOTAKA.

CELEBES and SEISHIN MARUs carry aviation gasoline. SHONAN MARU carries bauxite, KOKUSEI MARU carries bauxite and 456 POWs, HIOKI MARU carries bauxite and about 450 POWs and MIYO MARU carries 267 Australian POWs, 190 British POWs, 266 Dutch POWs, 18 American POWs and 25 other POWs. TAMAHOKO MARU is carrying 772 Allied POWs from camps at Batavia, Java, including 42 American POWs. [1]

6 June 1944:
160 miles ESE of Cape St. Jacques, Indochina. LtCdr James W. Davis' USS RATON (SS-270) attacks the convoy. At 2225, Davis torpedoes and sinks CD-15 at 08-57N, 109-17E. 104 crewmen are KIA. CD-8 and CD-20 rescue 34 survivors. CD-1, CD-8 and CD-20 counterattack, dropping a total of 57 depth-charges. RATON is damaged, but remains on patrol.

11 June 1944:
At 1600, arrives at Manila. Several ships are detached from the convoy probably including CELEBES MARU.

16 July 1944:
At 0730, CELEBES MARU departs Bitung, NE Celebes (now Sulawasei), NEI, in a convoy also consisting of TAIAN, TAIKAI and TOYO MARUs escorted by minesweepers W-5 and W-8 and subchaser CH-60. At some point, W-5 is detached for Halmahera Island.

22 July 1944:
At 1720, the convoy arrives Ambon.

6 November 1944:
Convoy TA No. 3 is initially scheduled to sail on 6 Nov '44, but due to air raids and the typhoon of 8 Nov '44, its departure is postponed to 9 November.

9 November 1944: Operation "TA No. 3" - The Reinforcement of Leyte:
At 0140, in a heavy downpour, CELEBES MARU departs Manila for Ormoc, Philippines to resupply Japanese forces fighting on Leyte Island in convoy TA No. 3 also consisting of TAIZAN (ex-British ST. QUENTIN), MIKASA, SAIHO and TENSHO MARUs escorted by destroyers SHIMAKAZE, HAMANAMI, HATSUHARU, TAKE, W-30 and subchaser CH-46. The convoy is carrying 4,000 men, 6,000-tons of munitions and heavy equipment of the IJA's 26th Division to Leyte.

CELEBES MARU carriesh 2,650 men, mainly 26th Division logistics units, including 150 men from the 138th Line of Communications Hospital, part of the 65th Independent Engineer Battalion, and a company of the 21st Independent Mortar Battalion attached to the 26th Division, battalion headquarters, 1st Company, a platoon of that company's ammunition train, the 2nd Company's and battalion's ammunition trains, eight 320mm spigot mortars, forty-seven shells, half of the IJA's 69th Specially Established Machine Cannon Unit and its twelve Type 96 25mm guns to augment the transport's defenses, eight trucks and 106 horses.

CELEBES MARU is carrying 2,650 troops, mainly 26th Division logistics units. Included are 150 men from the 138th Line of Communications Hospital, part of the 65th Independent Engineer Battalion,

10 November 1944:
Sibuyan Sea, southern Luzon. At 0335, in a heavy storm, CELEBES MARU runs hard aground on an uncharted rock in the dangerous Subunguin Reef at 13-17N, 122-27E, off the Bondoc Peninsula. Refloating work by a consort vessel fails and she is left behind. She begins taking water in holds Nos. 2 and 3. Subchaser CH-46 is detached to guard CELEBES MARU. The Japanese use small boats and save most of the soldiers and the ammunition.

At 2045, the remnants of convoy “TA No. 4”, returning from Ormoc to Manila, met “TA No. 3” and DDs NAGANAMI, ASASHIMO and WAKATSUKI are detached from “TA No. 4” and join “TA No. 3”.

At about 1000, 30 USAAF 13th Air Force B-25 “Mitchell” mediun bombers, P-47 "Thunderbolt" figher-bombers, and P-38 "Lightning" figher-bombers attack convoy TA-3 and sink army cargo ships KASHII MARU and KOZU MARU. KOZU MARU carried the 72nd Specially Established Machine Cannon Unit (12 Type 98 20mm). 104 crewmen and 243 troops aboard KOZU MARU are KIA.

CD-13 is strafed by planes during the heavy air. 1 crewman is KIA and 6 wounded.

11 November 1944:
At pre-dawn, TA No. 3 arrives off Caduruan Point, 11-43N, 124-04E, the southeastern extremity of Masbate. At 0310, the convoy is surprised by an attack of 4 enemy PT-boats but receives no damage. Destroyer HAMANAMI and one other escort sweep the area while the convoy reverses direction. After the sweep the convoy restores southern course.

At 0830, as the convoy enters Ormoc Bay, Leyte, it is attacked by a total of 347 aircraft from Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Alfred E. Montgomery's (former CO of RANGER, CV-4) TG 38.1, Rear Admiral (later Admiral-Ret) Frederick C. Sherman’s (former CO of LEXINGTON, CV-2) TG 38.3 and Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Ralph E. Davison's TG 38.4's.

Despite heavy AA-fire from all ships, the planes sink cargo ships TENSHO and TAIZAN MARUs at 1123, MIKASA MARU at 1140 and SAIHO MARU at 1350. The planes also sink destroyers HAMANAMI, NAGANAMI, SHIMAKAZE and WAKATSUKI and minesweeper W-30 at 10-50N, 124-31E. The escorts lay smoke screens to conceal the ships, but to no avail. Of the 4,000 troops carried on the four transports only about 300 survive. USN planes strafe and kill survivors wading ashore who otherwise would still be able fighting men.

Subunguin Reef. At 0715, while returning from Ormoc to Manila, combat transports T-6, T-9 and T-10 (2nd echelon of “TA No. 4”) escorted by destroyers TAKE and KASUMI arrive in the vicinity of CELEBES MARU. Until evening, the three combat transports take off about 1,500 troops from CELEBES MARU and return to Manila. At 1300, an American plane arrives but does not attack.

At 1630, CD-13 and SHIMUSHU reach CELEBES MARU, but cannot carry out their orders, so they return to Manila.

13 November 1944:
Subunguin Reef. At 1335, a Consolidated PB4Y (B-24) heavy patrol bomber attacks stranded CELEBES MARU, but is driven off by the ship’s gunners.

14 November 1944:
At 0835, two carrier-based aircraft attack CELEBES MARU. In this attack, one crewman is KIA, two seriously wounded and nine lightly wounded.

15 November 1944:
At 1230, a single PB4Y (B-24) attacks CELEBES MARU which is still firmly aground on Subunguin Reef, 13-17N, 122-27E (NW of Pinamuntagan Point, Bondoc Peninsula, Luzon). CELEBES MARU is hit by four incendiary bombs at No. 2 hold, set afire and floods. By 1255, the fires have spread out of control and all hands are ordered to abandon ship. Part of the survivors escape by swimming to shore, but the majority are picked up by eight motor-sailing vessels KOA, KOYO, EBISU, MYOJIN, SHINRIKI, EIHO, MIYUKI and SHINSEI MARUs. The vessels set course for Manila via Bacolod. However, near Batangas, a B-24 strafes KOA and MYOJIN MARUs and drives them aground.

At the time of final attack, CELEBES MARU still has 648 troops aboard and 106 horses, 1,248 cubic meters of cargo, 34 vehicles, 20 guns, 483 cubic meters of ammunition and 49 drums filled with gasoline loaded. Also lost are eight 320mm spigot mortars, 47 big mortar shells and eight trucks, all from the 21st Independent Mortar Battalion. Five crewmen and 88 troops (including gunners) are KIA in this final attack. Another transport takes 1,900 men back to Manila, while eight passing motor sailing vessels take off the last 652 passengers.The air attacks ultimately destroy the ship and kill ninety-three men and all 106 horses.


Authors' Note:
[1] CELEBES, ENGLAND, HIOKI, KYOKUSEI, MIYO, TAMAHOKO and TOYOHASHI MARUs were considered "Hell Ships" by Allied POWs.

[2] This attack was by LtCdr John C. Broach's USS HAKE (USS-256) that claims a hit on a cargo ship forward of the bridge.

Thanks go to John Whitman of the USA.

Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler.


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