RIKUGUN YUSOSEN

GYOTEN MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

GYOTEN (ex-British EMPIRE PAGODA) MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2013-2017 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 PAGODA.

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, PanAmís 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 PAGODA 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 Ď43 USAAF 14th Air Force raid, the shipyard employs a peak of 10,000 workers).

1943:
Completed, renamed GYOTEN MARU, assigned IJA No. 985 and placed in IJA service. Probably armed with IJA field guns at bow and stern.

3 May 1943:
At 1600, GYOTEN MARU departs Ssu Chiao Shan, Shushan (Chusan) Islands for Mutsure in convoy SHI-11 also consisting of HAVRE and NIKKYU MARUs escorted by minelayer TSUBAME.

6 May 1943:
At 0600 arrives at Mutsure.

3 June 1943:
GYOTEN MARU departs northern Kyushu for Shanghai in convoy SHI-310 also consisting of DAIYA, KANSAI, NARUO (ex Panamanian ESTERO), REKIZAN, ROKKO, TOTAI, UNZEN and YAMAYURI MARUs and KOTO MARU No. 2 GO escorted by minelayer TAKASHIMA.

5 June 1943:
At 1400, arrives at Fairway Bell Buoy, near Shanghai.

2 August 1943:
At 1300, GYOTEN MARU departs St Jacques, Indochina (Vung Tau, Vietnam) for Takao in convoy No. 415 also consisting of KOKUEI, OTORISAN, SYDNEY, SEISHIN, TAIAN, TSUYAMA, USSURI and YAMAGATA MARUs and six unidentified merchant ships without escort. The convoy splits into two parts.

E 5 August 1943:
OTORISAN MARU is detached for Hong Kong.

August 1943:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa.

10 October 1943:
At 1505, GYOTEN MARU departs Moji for Takao in convoy No. 105 also consisting of IJA transports AMERICA, CHICAGO, HEIAN, MIKASA and TEIKAI (ex-German FULDA) MARUs, civilian ore carrier GYOKUREI MARU, auxiliary oiler SAN RAMON MARU and civilian tanker MITSU MARU escorted by destroyer SHIOKAZE. GYOTEN MARU is carrying the IJA 4th Infantry Divisionís 3rd Battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment.

15 October 1943:
At 0110, LtCdr (later KIA) Charles F. Brindupke's (USNA '32) USS TULLIBEE (SS-284) torpedoes and sinks CHICAGO MARU at 24-30N, 120-26E. 43 troops and eight crewmen are KIA. Over the next five hours, GYOKUREI, NICHIEI and SAN RAMON MARUs rescue survivors.

16 October 1943:
A rrives at Takao, Formosa (Kaohsiung, Taiwan).

5 February 1944:
Departs Tateyama, but returns because of bad weather.

6 February 1944:
GYOTEN MARU departs Yokosuka for Truk in convoy No. 3206 also consisting of IJA transports SHINKYO and TATSUHA MARUs and IJN cargo ships RYUKO and ZUIKAI MARUs escorted by destroyer FUJINAMI, kaibokan AMAKUSA, minelayer NATSUSHIMA and subchaser CH-31. The convoy carrys troops of the IJAís 52nd Infantry Division. GYOTEN MARU is carrying 1,200 men including elements of the divisionís 69th Infantry Regiment and HQ, 1st Battalion, Gun Unit, Engineer Company and part of Supply Unit of the 150th Infantry Regiment, Division Medical Unit, Veterinary Hospital and Ordnance Duty Unit plus ammunition, food, fuel and ordnance.

9 February 1944:
Convoy No. 3206 arrives at Hachijo Jima.

15 February 1944:
Subchaser CH-24 departs Truk to rendezvous 150 miles N of Truk with fleet convoy No. 3206 inbound from Japan, but the convoy does not show.

17 February 1944: American Operation "Hailstone" - The Attack on Truk:
Auxiliary minesweeper HAGOROMO MARU joins the escort.

185 miles NW of Truk. At 0228 (JST), LtCdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Richard H. OíKane's USS TANG (SS-306) fires four torpedoes and gets two hits on GYOTEN MARU portside. Abandon Ship is ordered. At 0320, she splits in two and sinks a few minutes later at 08-04N, 149-28E. Eight crewmen and an unknown number of troops are KIA. The escorts counter-attack unsuccessfully.

At 0830, destroyer FUJINAMI takes aboard so many drifting officers and men of GYOTEN MARU that she has to stop rescuing men for fear of capsizing.


Author's Note:
Thanks go to the late John Whitman of Virginia.

-Bob Hackett


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