(FRANCE MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2012-2017 Bob Hackett
Revision 5

26 July 1919:
Kobe. Laid down at Kawasaki Shipyard Co., Ltd. as a 5,828-ton cargo ship.

10 October 1919:
Launched and named FRANCE MARU.

1 November 1919:

1 February 1920:
Sold to Kokusai Kisen Kaisha (International Steamship Co.), K. K., Tokyo.

11 May 1921:
Arrives at Ellis Island, New York from Algiers, Algeria.

16 July 1921:
Arrives at Ellis Island, New York from Bremerhaven, Germany.

28 January 1932: The "First Shanghai Incident":
Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) of about 2,500 troops is dispatched to evict two divisions of the Chinese 19th Route Army from Shanghai. The Japanese attack the forts of Wusong and Chapei (Zhabei). That night, seaplane tender NOTORO's seaplanes drop flares to frighten the opposition. The Chinese think they are being attacked and retaliate. There are many Japanese casualties.

29 January 1932:
Huangpu (Whangpoa) River, Shanghai. NOTORO, anchored in the Yangtze River, launches an aerial attack on Chinese military positions in Shanghai in foggy weather. NOTORO’s E1Y3 floatplanes make ten low-level attacks on Chinese positions that result in a heavy loss of civilian lives and property. The Chinese unify against the Japanese who are unable to capture Shanghai. Large-scale fighting breaks out.

10/11 February 1932:
Chartered by the Imperial Army (IJA) as an emergency troop transport.

10/11 February 1932:
FRANCE MARU departs Ujina in a troop convoy also consisting of AMUR, IKOMA, IWATE, MAYA, MIKASA (Div HQ), TSUKUBA, URASIO and YAKUMO MARUs. The convoy carries the IJA 9th division to China.

13 February 1932:
Arrives at Shanghai in the evening.

E February 1932:
Released back to her owners.

July 1937: Second Sino-Japanese War:
Chartered again by the Imperial Army (IJA) as a troop transport.

23 March 1938:
FRANCE MARU departs Shanghai carrying the 2nd Battalion, 43rd Infantry Regiment, 11th Division.

28 March 1938:
Arrives at Takamatsu. Disembarks troops.

E 1938:
Returned to her owners.

Sold to Tochigi Shoji, K. K.of Kobe. Placed in service on their Japan ~ Borneo ~ Netherlands East Indies ~ Calcutta routes.

10 October 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJA and converted to a troop transport. Allotted Army No. 786

16 February 1942:
Returned to her owners.

6 November 1942:
Southern coast of Korea. At about 1300, LtCdr Arthur H. Taylor's (USNA 27) USS HADDOCK (SS-231) torpedoes and possibly damages FRANCE MARU at 33-46N, 127-28E. She heads for Port Hamilton (Geomun-do), a small group of islands in the Jeju Strait. [1]

18 January 1943:
Re-requisitioned by the IJA.

5 November 1943:
Batavia, Java (Jakarta, Indonesia). FRANCE MARU departs Batavia's Tanjong Priok harbor for Palmenbang, Sumatra carrying 300 British and Dutch prisoners-of-war (POWs).

10 November 1943:
Arrives at Palmenbang, Sumatra. All the POWs survive the journey.

E 12 November 1943:
Arrives at Singapore.

13 November 1943:
FRANCE MARU departs Singapore in convoy O-106 also consisting of TEIYU, BRAZIL, TOYOKAWA, KOYU, YAMAZURU and UCHIDE MARUs and SHINTO MARU No. 1 with an unknown escort.

26 November 1943:
Arrives at Palau, Carolines.

2 December 1943:
FRANCE MARU departs Palau in convoy SO-105 also consisting of TEIYU, BRAZIL, TOYOKAWA, KOYU and UCHIDE MARUs, and SHINTO MARU No. 1 with an unknown escort.

E 9 December 1943:
FRANCE MARU is detached for Kavieng, New Ireland, Bismarks.

16 January 1943:
FRANCE MARU departs Muroran in convoy No. 2116 also consisting of JINBU, MASAJIMA, SHOEI (3,083 GRT), TOYOKUNI and TSURUSHIMA MARUs escorted by destroyer NAMIKAZE.

19 January 1943:
Arrives at Tokyo.

23 February 1944:
At 0600, FRANCE MARU departs Takao in convoy TAMO-05 also consisting of ASO, CEYLON, CHIHAYA, MUTSUYO (BOKUYO), NIPPO, PACIFIC, SAN LUIS and SHUNTEN MARUs escorted by patrol boat PB-38, auxiliary gunboat CHOHAKUSAN MARU, auxiliary subchaser TAMA MARU No. 7 and an unidentified warship.

27 February 1944:
At 2058, LtCdr (KIA) John A. Moore's (USNA ’32) GRAYBACK (SS-208) torpedoes and sinks CEYLON MARU at 31-35N, 127-47E carrying 4,000-tons of bauxite, 300-tons of cane sugar and 200 military passengers. 5 troops and 46 crewmen are KIA. [2]

29 February 1944:
Arrives at Mutsure.

19 April 1944:
At 0800, three convoys TASA-17, TE-03 and No. 82 depart Takao in close proximity consisting of cargo ships FRANCE, DAIBU, HIROTA, HOKKA, IKOMASAN, JINJU, KINREI, NARUO, OAKITA, TOYOHI, RAKUZAN, SEISHO, SHORYU, KAIKO, TOYOHI, YOSHUN, NINGPO, WAKO GO, and YULIN MARUs and tankers DAIYOKU and TENSHIN MARUs escorted by kaibokan CD-1, torpedo boat HATSUKARI, auxiliary gunboat KAZAN (HUASHAN) MARU and minesweeper W-18.

21 April 1944:
At 1000, the convoys split. Ore convoy TE-03 with KAZAN MARU with kaibokan CD-1 heads for Yulin, Hainan Island, China. Convoys TASA-17 and No. 82 with HATSUKARI and W-18 head for St Jacques.

23 April 1944:
At 1655, convoy TE-03 arrive at Yulin.

12 June 1944:
At 0800, FRANCE MARU departs Manila for Wasili harbor, Halmahera Island, Moluccas in convoy H-29 also consisting of HIBI, JUNPO, KURAMASAN, MAKASSAR, TAIYU, and YAMAGIKU MARUs escorted by kaibokan CD-10 and patrol boat P-105.

17 June 1944:
HIBI MARU is detached for Zamboanga, Mindanao, Philippines.

23 June 1944:
At 1710, convoy H-29 arrives at Halmahera Island.

25 June 1944:
At 0550, FRANCE MARU departs Wasili harbor, Halmahera Island for Manila in convoy M-25 also consisting of MAKASSAR, JUNPO, YAMAGIKU and TAIYU MARUs escorted by kaibokan CD-10 and patrol boat P-105.

28 June 1944:
Moro Gulf, 35 miles east of Zamboanga, Philippines. At 0712, LtCdr Ian C. Eddy’s (USNA ’30) USS PARGO (SS-264) attacks the convoy. Eddy torpedoes and sinks YAMAGIKU MARU, with the loss of three crewmen, and damages CD-10 at 06-50N, 121-30E.

29 June 1944:
At 1550, the convoy departs Zamboanga with KASAGISAN MARU as an additional member.

1 July 1944:
Cebu Sea. FRANCE and TAIYU MARUs are detached.

E 24 July 1944:

27 July 1944:
At 1100, reconstituted convoy MI-10 departs Manila.

28 July 1944:
At 1040, LtCdr Francis D. Walker's (USNA ’35) USS CREVALLE (SS-291) torpedoes and sinks HAKUBASAN MARU with 7351-tons of oil and 710-tons of rubber at 16-28N 119-38E. Three crewmen are KIA.

2 August 1944:
Arrives at Takao. YASHIRO and destroyer ASAKAZE are detached. FRANCE, KUROGANE, and RASHIN MARUs probably also are detached.

20 September 1944:
At 0610, FRANCE MARU departs Bataan in Manila Bay for Cape St. Jacques, Vichy French Indochina (Vung Tau, Vietnam) in convoy MASA-11 also consisting of MYOGI, MIKASA, and UGO MARUs and convoy MAYU-08 consisting of BINGO and NICHIZUI MARUs escorted by minelayer YURIJIMA, minesweepers W-18 and W-101, auxiliary subchasers KAIKO MARU and CHa-67 and auxiliary transport UJINA MARU.

26 September 1944:
At 0140, convoy MASA-11 arrives at Cap St. Jacques.

12 January 1945: Operation "Gratitude":
Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumusly) John S. McCain's (USNA '06) Task Force 38 launches almost 1,500 sorties looking for the Japanese fleet.

At 0300, FRANCE MARU departs Cape St. Jacques for Singapore in convoy SASHI-30 also consisting of SHINGI and HOKOKU MARUs and FUSHIMI MARU No. 2 and KYOEI MARU No. 7 escorted by minelayer YURISHIMA and minesweepers W-20 and W-102.

At about 0730, a carrier-type aircraft appears and drops a star shell over the convoy, then withdraws. The convoy proceeds at 8 knots. About 1100, three Grumman F6F "Hellcat" fighters bomb and strafe the ships. At 1200, four more aircraft dive-bomb and strafe while the ships return fire. At 1220, SHINGI MARU is hit portside blowing a large hole in her hull. At 1310, Abandon Ship is ordered. By 1320, her list increases and SHINGI MARU capsizes and sinks at 09-24N, 106-44E. She was carrying 1,266 Army troops, aviation spares and bombs. 38 crewmen and 790 soldiers are KIA. The convoy reverses course towards Cape St. Jacques.

Mekong River Delta, 50 miles SE of Gocong. At about 1400, KYOEI MARU No. 7 is hit by bombs and sinks with hands. FRANCE MARU, carrying the 3rd Shipping Transport Headquarters and 70th Anchorage Headquarters troops, is also bombed and damaged, but manages to beach herself. Fires rage and she is abandoned at 09-35N, 106-48E.

Authors' Note:
[1] HADDOCK's Patrol Report indicates FRANCE MARU was in ballast and riding high when one of her torpedoes ran underneath the hull and the other two missed. It is possible the Mark 14 torpedo was a dud and did not explode, but still punched a hole in FRANCE MARU's riveted-plate hull. If so, she probably undergoes repairs at an unknown location for an unknown period.

[2] GRAYBACK was later sunk by Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" bombers of the Okinawa Naval Air Group.

Thanks go to the late John Whitman and Fonessa-san of Japan for info about FRANCE MARU in 1932. Thanka also go to Erich Muetlthaler of Germany.

Bob Hackett

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