(HOKOKU MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

IJN HOKOKU MARU: Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998-2011 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp

Revision 6

18 August 1938:
Laid down at the Tama Zosensho K. K. shipyard as a high-capacity passenger-cargo ship for the Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) Line's South America and around-the-world service.

5 July 1939:
Launched and named HOKOKU MARU.

22 June 1940:

2 July 1940:
Departs Kobe. Arrives at Moji.

3 July 1940:
Departs Moji.

5 July 1940:
Arrives at Dairen, Manchukuo.

9 July 1940:
Departs Dairen.

11 July 1940:
Arrives at Moji. Departs that same day.

12 July 1940:
Arrives at Kobe.

17 July 1940:
Departs Kobe.

18 July 1940:
Arrives at Yokohama.

19 July 1940:
Departs Yokohama for Nagoya.

20 July 1940:
Departs Nagoya for Osaka.

23 July 1940:
Departs Osaka and later the same day arrives at Kobe.

26 July 1940:
Departs Kobe and later the same day arrives at Moji.

27 July 1940:
Departs Moji on Osaka Shosen K. K. Line's South American route.

16 December 1940:
Departs Moji on Osaka Shosen K. K. Line's Dairen route.

6 February 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

18 February 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

1 March 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

13 March 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

24 March 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

4 April 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

11 April 1941:
Departs Kobe.

12 April 1941:
Arrives Moji and departs later the same day.

14 April 1941:
Arrives Dairen.

16 April 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

28 April 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

10 May 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

22 May 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

2 June 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

14 June 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

26 June 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

8 July 1941:
Departs Dairen for Kobe.

4 August 1941:

29 August 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

30 August 1941:
Kobe. Begins installation of four 152-mm (6-inch) guns, two 76-mm/40 cal (3-inch) AA guns, type 93 type 13.2-mm MGs and two 533-mm torpedo tubes at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyard.

20 September 1941:
Registered (commissioned) in the IJN at the Kure Naval District. Recalled Captain-Retired (later Rear Admiral) Aihara Aritaka (38th)(former CO of KAKO) is the Commanding Officer.

15 October 1941:
Fitted with one 1100-mm and one 900-mm search light and special heavy-duty booms for handling floatplanes. Carries one Type 94 Kawanishi E7K2 “Alf” floatplane and one spare plane. Equipment installation is completed.

That same day, the 24th Squadron (Raider) is established officially under Rear Admiral Takeda Moriji (former CO of ASHIGARA) and attached directly to the Combined Fleet. HOKOKU, AIKOKU and KIYOSUMI MARUs are assigned to CruDiv 24.

13 November 1941:
Departs Kure. Arrives at Iwakuni.

15 November 1941:
At 1735, HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs depart Iwakuni.

24 November 1941: Operation "Z":
Arrive at the standby position at Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands. They replenish from the naval supply base on Emidj Island.

26 November 1941:
Departs Jaluit.

8 December 1941: The Opening of Hostilities:
S Pacific, NE of the Tuamotu islands. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs head SE.

13 December 1941:
S Pacific, N of Pitcairn Island. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs overtake and attack 6,210-ton American merchant SS VINCENT, bound from Sydney, Australia, for Panama, carrying a cargo of rice. Prior to her sinking, VINCENT is briefly inspected by a prize crew from HOKOKU MARU led by her torpedo officer. At 1907, the AMCs start shelling the freighter and fire a total of eight shells. About 1935, as a fire breaks out aboard VINCENT, her crew begins abandoning ship in three life boats. Later, the Japanese fire a single torpedo that sends her to the bottom at 22-41S, 118-19E. All nine officers and twenty-seven crewmen survive and are picked up by HOKOKU MARU.

31 December 1941:
AIKOKU MARU launches her E7K2 on a reconaissance mission. That afternoon, the floatplane approaches from the west and circles the unarmed 3,275-ton American freighter MALAMA, that is en route from San Francisco via Honolulu to Manila. After circling the ship several times, the plane flies off to the east. Soon, the same plane returns and again circles the ship twice before flying off to the west. The Alf fails to return to AIKOKU MARU. Despite long searching by both ships and the second Alf, no trace is found of the missing aircraft.

1 January 1942:
Tuamoto Archipelago. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs rescue several American airmen from lifeboats near Tahiti in the Society Islands.

2 January 1942:
S of the Cook and Society Islands. At 0910, an E7K2 from AIKOKU MARU circles and begins strafing MALAMA. Using international code, the plane orders the ship to stop. At 1415, the plane returns armed with bombs. At 1430, the crew scuttles the ship and they and their passengers leave in two lifeboats. After all hands escape, the plane drops four bombs that set the ship afire. MALAMA sinks at 26-39S, 151-24W. At 1530, HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs arrive and pick up all hands. [1]

January 1942:
Pacific. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs nearly encounter Vice Admiral (later Fleet Admiral) William F. Halsey’s (former CO of SARATOGA, CV-2) Task Forces 17 and 18 that are enroute to raid the Gilberts and Eastern Marshalls. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs leave their assigned area, terminating the sortie.

30 January 1942:
Off the Gilberts. False markings on CruDiv 24's ships and aircraft are removed.

4 February 1942:
The 24th Squadron arrives at Truk.

5 February 1942:
Departs Truk for Hashirajima. While enroute, HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs are redirected to proceed to Oita Bay to disembark their prisoners.

11 February 1942:
During the night, the AMCs intercept and inspect a suspicious vessel that turns out to be 5,114-ton Soviet transport KIM.

12 February 1942:
Arrives at at Oita.

13 February 1942:
Departs Oita and later that day arrives at Hiroshima Bay.

14 February 1942:
Departs Hiroshima Bay and later that day arrives at Kure. Begins refit and armament modernization. HOKOKU MARU's four 152-mm guns installed the previous autumn are removed and replaced by eight 3rd Year Type 140- mm/50 cal guns.

March 1942:
HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs are converted to carry a supply of submarine torpedoes in one of their holds.

10 March 1942:
Departs Kure for Hashirajima. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs are attached to Vice Admiral Komatsu Teruhisa's Sixth Fleet (Submarines) with the dual responsibility of resupplying SubRon 1 and commerce raiding. They are to carry torpedoes, spares and stores for submarines, including 1,300 tons of diesel fuel, and go with the new SubRon 8 to the East Coast of Africa and the Mozambique.

26 March 1942:
Departs Kure.

27 March 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

29 March 1942:
The 24th Squadron is disbanded. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs are temporarily attached to SubRon 8.

1 April 1942:
Departs Kure.

2 April 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

6 April 1942:
Departs Kure.

9 April 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

14 April 1942:
Departs Kure.

30 April 1942:
Arrives at Penang.

5 May 1942:
Departs Penang with AIKOKU MARU.

9 May 1942:
480 miles SSE of Diego Suarez, Madagascar. Captures 7,987-ton Dutch tanker GENOTA at 17-40S, 76.20E. [2]

5 June 1942:
Indian Ocean, S of the Mozambique Strait. In the early morning, AIKOKU MARU shells and sinks 6,757-ton British merchant ELYSIA, carrying some Allied troops, at 27-19S, 37-01E.

17 June 1942:
HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARU again rendezvous with the submarines of SubRon 8's Ko Detachment.

12 July 1942:
Indian Ocean, near Ceylon. HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs capture 7,113-ton New Zealand merchant HAURAKI at 17-36S, 80-27S. After capture a Japanese prize crew is put on board HAURAKI. The deck crew are locked below, but the engine crew are engaged under guard to run the ship's machinery. In the course of the voyage back to Japan the engine crew manages to pitch most of the spare machinery parts over the side. As a result, the Japanese never obtain much use from the ship. [3]

Summer 1942:
AIKOKU MARU's floatplanes are changed to two AICHI E-13A "Jakes".

26 July 1942:
Departs Penang.

27 July 1942:
Arrives at Singapore.

10 August 1942:
Arrives at Seletar Naval Base, Singapore.

25 August 1942:
Penang. Captain Imazato Hiroshi assumes command. Captain Aihara is appointed the CO of FUJIKAWA MARU in Sep '42.

Late August 1942:
Temporarily attached to the Southeast Area Fleet to ferry troops from Singapore to Rabaul.

September 1942:
Singapore. The dazzle camouflage painting previously painted at Kure is replaced by a new experimental design devised by LtCdr Fukui. The new dazzle camouflage is painted in light and dark grey (as depicted above in Yuki Takeshi's painting). AIKOKU MARU is similarly camouflaged in three colours: black, dark grey and light grey.

September 1942:
Departs Singapore to Brown Island.

20 September 1942:
AIKOKU MARU is assigned to the Southwest Area Fleet (Eighth Fleet). She is tasked to transport elements of LtGen Sano Tadayoshi's 38th Infantry "Hiroshima" Division to Rabaul for the reinforcement of Guadalcanal. HOKOKU MARU remains at Singapore.

24 September 1942:
Departs Brown Island.

6 October 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

9 October 1942:
Departs Rabaul with AIKOKU MARU.

10 October 1942:
Assigned to an Attack Force to intercept enemy merchant shipping.

12 October 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

13 October 1942:
Departs Truk with AIKOKU MARU.

23 October 1942:
Arrives Singapore.

24 October 1942:
Departs Penang.

1 November 1942:
Depart Singapore for a raiding mission in the Indian Ocean.

7 November 1942:
HOKOKU and AIKOKU MARUs negotiate the Sunda Strait and enter the Indian Ocean.

11 November 1942:
Indian Ocean. SW of the Cocos Islands. HOKOKU MARU attacks Captain Willem Horsman's 6, 341-ton Royal Dutch Shell tanker ONDINA and her escort, LtCdr William J. Wilson's, RINR, Australian-built minesweeper HMIS BENGAL at 19-45S, 92-40E. BENGAL closes the range with HOKOKU MARU to protect the tanker.

At 1545 (JST), HOKOKU MARU opens fire. Both ships are damaged in the ensuing action. AIKOKU MARU is 6 miles NW of the scene and closing. A lucky shot from ONDINA's 4-inch gun hits HOKOKU MARU's starboard torpedo tube which had just been loaded. After the ensuing explosion, a fire breaks out that rages out of control and reaches the aft magazine. More explosions follow that blow out her sides. At 1752, HOKOKU MARU sinks. [4]

AIKOKU MARU arrives and hits BENGAL. LtCdr Wilson, confident the ONDINA can outrun the AMC, disengages at best possible speed. AIKOKU MARU scores six hits on ONDINA and virtually disables her. Captain Horsman is killed. AIKOKU MARU fires two torpedoes at the tanker, but both miss. With her ammunition expended, ONDINA's crew Abandons Ship.

AIKOKU MARU rescues 278 of HOKOKU MARU’s crew. She fires a last torpedo at ONDINA and departs. Later, AIKOKU MARU departs the Indian Ocean for Penang, then proceeds via Singapore to Rabaul.

ONDINA's crew reenters the ship, effects temporary repairs and departs the area for Fremantle, Australia.

17 November 1942:
BENGAL makes port at East Point, Diego Garcia for repairs. LtCdr Wilson reports ONDINA as lost.

18 November 1942:
ONDINA arrives at Fremantle.

15 December 1942:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors’ Notes:
[1] Japanese sources claim MALAMA was also torpedoed.

[2] On 20 July 1942, GENOTA is commissioned in the IJN as the oiler "OSE".

[3] This story was given first hand to Peter Cundall by HAURAKI's 3rd Engineer. HAURAKI is sent back to Japan, renamed HOKI MARU, and enters IJN service as a transport serving in the South Seas. HOKI MARU is sunk in Truk in Feb '44.

[4] Dutch and Japanese accounts of the battle are generally consistent, but the BENGAL's account does not match either one. Uncertainty also exists as to which ship scored the fatal hit on HOKOKU MARU. Dutch and Japanese sources credit ONDINA. In Singapore Naval circles, there were strong rumours that HOKOKU MARU was accidentally sunk by a hit from AIKOKU MARU.

Special thanks for assistance in developing this TROM go to go to Mssrs. Peter Cundall of Australia, Jean-Francois Masson of Canada, Andrew Obluski of Poland and Jan Visser of the Netherlands.

Thanks go to Toda Gengoro of Japan for information in Revision 4.

- Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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