Sister GYOKU MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2013-2018 Bob Hackett

6 December 1941:
Kowloon, Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. Laid down at the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co., Ltd. shipyard, as a 6,854-ton cargo ship for the British Ministry of War and named EMPIRE DRAGON.

8 December 1941:
The Japanese open their offensive on Hong Kong by moving troops across the frontier of Hong Kong's New Territories. Twelve Tachikawa Ki-36 "Ida" Army bombers of the 45th Sentai escorted by nine Ki-27 "Nate" fighters also attack Kai Tak airport on Kowloon. All five of the token RAF aircraft (2 "Walrus" amphibians and 3 Vickers "Vildebeeste" torpedo bombers) stationed at Kai Tak are quickly either damaged or destroyed as are numerous light trainers and civilian cargo planes. In the harbor, PanAm’s visiting Sikorsky S-42B flying boat "Hong Kong Clipper" is bombed, set afire and sinks.

26 December 1941: The Fall of Hong Kong:
MajGen Christopher M. Maltby, British Indian Army, advises Hong Kong's Governor Sir Mark A. Young to surrender the outnumbered British garrison because of lack of food and water. At 1800, in Japanese headquarters set up in the fashionable Peninsula Hotel on Kowloon, Young surrenders the Crown Colony to LtGen Sakai Takashi, CG, 23rd Army. That night, nearly 6,500 British and Commonwealth troops go into Japanese captivity.

26 December 1941:
The Hong Kong and Whampoa shipyard is captured and the hull of EMPIRE DRAGON seized.

January 1942:
The Imperial Army (IJA) contracts with Hitachi Zosen, K. K. to operate the former Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. shipyard (until destroyed in an 26 Aug ‘43 USAAF 14th Air Force raid, the shipyard employs a peak of 10,000 workers).

9 March 1943:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army (IJA). Allotted Army No. 965.

August 1943:
Completed, renamed GYOKU MARU and placed in IJA service. She is armed with two field guns, one in the bow and one in the stern. Departs Hong Kong for Saigon, Vichy French Indochina (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).

18 August 1943:
GYOKU MARU departs Saigon for Mako, Pescadores in convoy No. 316 also consisting of HAVRE, KINMON, KYOKUYO, SAINAN and SHOTO MARUs escorted by auxiliary gunboat CHOHAKUSAN MARU.

22 August 1943:
S. China Sea. N of the Paracel Islands. At 0918, LtCdr Russel Kefauver's (USNA '33) USS TAMBOR (SS-198) fires five unreliable Mark 14-3A torpedoes at the convoy and gets three hits on KYOKUYO MARU. They all fail to detonate, but inflict slight damage. Another torpedo hits and sinks SHOTO MARU at 16-44N, 113-38E. Casualties are unknown.

26 August 1943:
Arrives at Mako.

20 September 1943:
At 1800, GYOKU MARU embarks about 100 passengers and departs Mako for Moji in convoy RINJI-B (Special-B) also consisting of cargo ships ARGUN, MANTAI, KIYO and HOKUYO MARUs and oilers SHOYO and TAKETSU MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1 escorted by kaibokan WAKAMIYA and fleet oiler SHIRIYA. GYOKU MARU is carrying an unknown cargo.

21 September 1943:
East China Sea. NE of Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan). LtCdr (later Captain) Robert E. Dornin's (USNA ’35) USS TRIGGER (SS-237) is patrolling submerged 30 miles N of the Hoka Sho light. At 2058, Dornin makes a visual surface attack. At 1500 yards, he fires three torpedoes at the lead oiler and three at the second oiler. One hits the lead ship, SHIRIYA carrying aviation gasoline. A sheet of white flame shoots up to 1,000 feet. The crew, dressed in whites, runs forward to escape the blaze. SHIRIYA explodes and sinks at 26-27N, 122-40E.

The second ship, freighter ARGUN MARU is hit by a torpedo amidships, breaks in half and sinks with the loss of two crewmen and 8,295-tons of rice. Dornin brings TRIGGER about and fires three stern tubes at the third oiler, OGURA MARU No. 1, but she swings toward the submarine and all three miss. Dornin fires another torpedo that hits the ship's starboard side, but she escapes.

Dornin crash-dives TRIGGER to escape gun fire from a third oiler. He comes to periscope depth and fires two bow torpedoes at SHOYO MARU that sink her by the bow. Dornin makes two more attacks on a freighter, but all of his unreliable Mark 14-3A torpedoes either miss or are duds. Nevertheless, GYOKU MARU is damaged in the attacks by two duds that nearly break off her bow and cause flooding in Holds Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Dornin observes her dead in the water, stern high. Later, she makes for Kirun at 2 knots. Three gunners are KIA.

22 September 1943:
GYOKU MARU arrives at Kirun and is docked for lengthly repairs.

9 July 1944:
At 1000, GYOKU MARU departs Kagoshima, Kyushu for Naha, Okinawa in convoy KANA-912 also consisting of DAII, NANREI, NISSHIN, SHIRANESAN, TAIKEN, TERUKUNI and TOYOSAKA MARUs and TAMON MARU No. 12, ASAHI MARU No, 2, BANEI MARU No. 6 and NANKAI MARU No. 1 escorted by torpedo boat MANAZURU, minelayers SAISHU, NUWAJIMA and TSUBAME and auxiliary minesweepers TAKUNAN MARU No. 1, HOEI, HIMESHIMA and SEKI MARUs.

The convoy is carrying elements of the IJA's 9th Infantry Division, 27th Tank Regiment, 3rd and 7th Independent Machine Gun Battalions and 1st Independent Artillery Mortar Regiment for the defense of Okinawa.

11 July 1944:
Arrives at Naha.

1 August 1944:
At 1100, GYOKU MARU departs Moji in convoy MO-05 also consisting of ETAJIMA, HIROTA, KAZUURA, TATSUJU, TSUSHIMA and YAMAHAGI, MARUs escorted by destroyer HIBIKI, minelayerSHIRATAKA, minesweeper W-20 and auxiliary minesweeper Wa-2.

5 August 1944:
The convoy arrives at Okinawa.

16 August 1944:
At 1835, GYOKU MARU departs Woosung, China for Naha, Okinawa in convoy No. 609 also consisting of KAZUURA and TSUSHIMA MARUs escorted by destroyers HASU and TSUGA and gunboat UJI. The convoy is carrying about 6,000 troops of the 62nd Infantry Division and over 900 horses for its Field Heavy Artillery. GYOKU MARU carries 3,175 soldiers and 40 horses. KAZUURA MARU carries 2,409 soldiers and 440 horses and TSUSHIMA MARU carries 3,339 soldiers and 449 horses.

19 August 1944:
Arrives at Naha.

21 August 1944:
At 1835, GYOKU MARU departs Naha for Moji in convoy NAMO-103 also consisting of KAZUURA and TSUSHIMA MARUs escorted by destroyer HASU and gunboat UJI. TSUSHIMA MARU is evacuating 826 school children from Okinawa and carrying another 1529 passengers and crewmen.

22 August 1944:
Ryukyu Islands. Cdr John Corbus’ USS BOWFIN (SS-287) attacks the convoy. At 2212, Corbus torpedoes and sinks TSUSHIMA MARU at 29-32N, 129-33E. Fearing submarine attack, no ships in the convoy stop to rescue survivors in the water. Later, only 59 of the children are saved. HASU and UJI do not counter-attack.

24 August 1944:
Arrives at Nagasaki.

12 September 1944:
At 0400, GYOKU MARU departs Moji for Shanghai, China in a convoy also consisting of AKAGISAN, ETAJIMA and WAHO MARUs escorted by auxiliary subchasers CHa-99 and CHa-168. GYOKU MARU is carrying 1,204 men of the IJA 34th Infantry Division.

13 September 1944:
Yellow Sea. At 2351, LtCdr Edward E. Shelby's (USNA '33) USS SUNFISH (SS-281) torpedoes ETAJIMA MARU at 34-31N, 124-46E. Hit in the engine room and Hold No. 2 , she loses power and lists to port.

GYOKU MARU drops depth charges on SUNFISH, but only succeeds in damaging her rudder. She is detached ans proceeds to the south coast of Chin Island, SW Korea.

14 September 1944:
At 0045. Abandon Ship is ordered. ETAJIMA MARU splits in two. The forward part sinks, but the aft part floats towards the mouth of the Yangtze River where it sinks on 30 Sep. 369 passengers and seven crewmen are KIA.

At 0400, after completing temporary repairs, GYOKU MARU departs Chin Island for another Korean island.

18 September 1944:
At 1000, GYOKU MARU is joined by gunboat UJI and auxiliary subchasers CHa-99 and CHa-168 and departs for the Chinese coast to obtain permanent repairs..

At 2155, LtCdr John R. Middleton, Jr's (USNA '35) USS THRESHER (SS-200) torpedoes GYOKU MARU at 35-02N, 124-24E. He gets two hits in her Hold Nos. 1, 2 and 3. She begins to split in two, goes vertical and sinks by the stern. 643 troops and 39 crewmen are lost.

Author's Notes:
Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

Bob Hackett

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