(Sister KENRYU MARU), prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2014-2017 Bob Hackett

E 1934:
Tamano. Laid down by Mitsui Bussan K.K. as a 4,575-ton cargo ship for Inui Kisen K.K., Kobe.

Launched and named KENKON MARU.

Completed and registered at Kobe.

18 August 1940:
Requisitioned by the IJA. Allotted Army No. 674.

13 December 1940:
Released back to her owners.

7 October 1941
Re-requisitioned by the IJA.

December 1941:
Arrives at Camranh Bay, Indochina (now Vietnam).

13 December 1941: Operation "B" - The Invasion of British Borneo (Sarawak):
The occupation of British Borneo is a combined IJN/IJA operation which involves Gen (later Field Marshal) Count Terauchi Hisachi’s command’s Southern Expeditionary Army. The 25th Army, under LtGen Yamashita Tomoyuki fields MajGen Kawaguchi Kiyotake’s “Detachment” of about 2,500 men consisting of the 35th Infantry Brigade HQ, the 124th Infantry Regiment led by Col Oka Akinosuke, 18th Signal Unit platoon, 18th Medical Unit and 18/4 Field Hospital Medical Unit. In addition, the 21st Field Ordnance Depot Company and 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Field Well drilling (oil well repairs) companies of about 120 men each are embarked on the transports. One AA and one Signal Regiment are also stationed on IJA transports.

The invasion units are embarked on IJA transports KENKON, KATORI, HIYOSHI, MYOHO and NICHIRAN MARUs.

The Navy force consists of Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Kondo Nobutake's (35)(former CO of KONGO) Southern Force, Borneo Invasion Group that includes Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kurita Takeo's (38), Support Unit. Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hashimoto Shintaro's (41) Invasion Unit consists of UNYO MARU No. 2 transporting equipment material and supplies, the 4th Naval Construction Unit of about 260 men and materials aboard TONAN MARU No 3, and the No.2 Yokosuka Special Naval Force (SNLF) aboard HOKKAI MARU. Other transports are KAMIKAWA and MITAKESAN MARUs transporting equipment, material and supplies.

The convoy’s close escort consists of minesweepers W-3 and W-6 and subchaser CH-7. Other escorts include CruDiv 7’s KUMANO and SUZUYA, light cruisers YURA and KINU, Desdiv 11’s FUBUKI, DesDiv 12’s MURAKUMO, SHINONOME, SHIRAKUMO and USUGUMO and DesDiv 20’s SAGIRI. Seaplane tender KAMIKAWA MARU with six Mitsubishi Type 0 F1M “Pete” (plus two in reserve) and four Aichi E13A1 “Jake” (plus one in reserve) provides air cover. At 0730, the Invasion Convoy departs Camranh Bay.

14 December 1941:
The Invasion Convoy crosses the South China Sea without being sighted. MITAKESAN MARU is detached to the Philippines.

15 December 1941:
At 2330, the main body of the convoy arrives at Miri, Borneo anchorage. At midnight, HIYOSHI MARU arrives at Seria anchorage. About the same time, all IJN transports arrive at Lutong. Because of a rainstorm, three Daihatsu barges capsize when lowered into the water. 19 IJA landing troops are KIA and 15 are MIA.

16 December 1941:
At 0440, troops land at Miri, Seria and Lutong. Despite bad weather, the landings are made without opposition from British defending units. Miri, Seria and Lutong oilfields and Miri airfield are secured in the morning.

17 December 1941:
N of Miri, near Seria. Destroyer SHINONOME is attacked by Dutch Dornier Do-24 K-1 flying-boat X-32 of Aircraft Group GVT-7 based at Tarakan, E Borneo. Of five 200-kg bombs she drops, X-32 scores two direct hits and a near-miss. An explosion severs SHINONOME's stern and she sinks quickly with all hands - the first FUBUKI-class destroyer sunk in WWII.

A Do-24 X-34 flying boat of GVT-7 attacks a vessel, but is intercepted by Type O Mitsubishi F1M2 ‘Pete’ float fighters from KAMIKAWA MARU. The Dornier is forced to make an emergency landing with two of its crew dead. Two hours later, in bad weather conditions, six Dutch Glenn Martin bombers of 2-VIG-I also attack. A Pete from KAMIKAWA MARU attacks the Dutch bomber formation, but they escape. [2]

19 December 1941:
Miri. In the morning, Martin B-10 medium bombers from 1-VIG-I and 2-VIG-I based at Samarinda and Singkawang attack the invasion shipping. Four KAMIKAWA MARU’s F1M2 “Pete” fighters intercept separate trios of bombers that appear at 15-minute intervals. The Petes’ pilots claim downing Martin M-571 of 2-VIG-I.

22 December 1941: Operation “Q” - The Invasion of Sarawak (British Borneo):
The main body (two battalions) of the invasion force re-embarks at Miri. The invasion convoy departs for Kuching, Sarawak. The invasion convoy consisting of KENKON HIYOSHI, HOKKAI, KATORI, MYOHO and NICHIRAN MARUs, TONAN MARU No. 3 and KAMIKAWA MARUs and UNYO MARU No. 2 escorted by light cruiser YURA, DesDiv 12's SHIRAKUMO, MURAKUMO and USUGUMO and minesweepers W-3 and W-6.

The invasion convoy is transporting the Kawaguchi Detachment (less one battalion) and the No. 2 Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) aboard HOKKAI MARU. UNYO MARU No. 2 carries material, equipment and supplies, TONAN MARU No. 3 carries the 21st Field Ordnance Depot, the 48th Anchorage HQ, the 4th Naval Construction Unit of about 260 men.

CruDiv 7/1's KUMANO and SUZUYA, light cruiser KINU and destroyers FUBUKI and SAGIRI provide the covering force. West of the covering force is CruDiv 7/2's MIKUMA and MOGAMI with destroyer HATSUYUKI. Seaplane tender KAMIKAWA MARU provides air cover.

23 December 1941:
Early morning, about 150 miles from Kuching, a Dutch reconnaissance aircraft spots the Invasion Convoy.

At 1140, 24 aircraft bomb Singkawang II airfield, damaging the runways so that a Dutch striking force ordered to attack the convoy is unable to take off.

At 1800, the convoy approaches the mouth of the Santubong river. Subsequent landings are made again with little opposition from British Forces, but four Daihatsu landing craft are sunk. Moreover, both convoy and escorts do not escape unscathed.

Off Kuching. At 2040, Dutch Ltz I Carel A. J. van Well Groeneveld's submarine K-XIV attacks the anchored transports. He torpedoes and sinks IJA transport HIYOSHI MARU. Five crewmen are KIA K-XIV also torpedoes and sinks transport KATORI MARU with many troops and 10 crewmen KIA. K-XIV’s also torpedoes and damages transports HOKKAI MARU and TONAN MARU No. 3. HOKKAI MARU is beached to prevent sinking.

23/24 December 1941:
Near Kuching. About midnight, LtCdr L. J. Jarman's Dutch submarine K-XVI torpedoes destroyer SAGIRI. The destroyer's own torpedoes catch on fire and SAGIRI blows up. 121 officers and men are KIA. W-3 and destroyer SHIRAKUMO rescue 120 survivors.

25 December 1941:
Off Kuching. At 2300, Dutch Ltz I Carel A. J. van Well Groeneveld's submarine K-XIV torpedoes and damages transport NICHIRAN MARU. At about 1640, the Japanese troops completely secure Kuching airfield.

26 December 1941:
Off Kuching. Three Dutch Army Glenn Martin B-10 bombers from Samarinda, Borneo, bomb, set on fire and sink UNYO MARU No. 2. Eight crewmen are KIA. The bombers also sink minesweeper W-6 at 01-34N, 110-21E. Minesweeper W-3 participates in the rescue of an unknown number of W-6’s survivors.

6 July 1942:
KENKON MARU depart Mutsure in convoy No. 134 also consisting of FUKKAI, HOKUAN, TENRYO and KENKON MARUs escorted by kaibokan FUYO and destroyers ASAGAO and NAGATSUKI.

10 July 1942:
KENKON, FUKKAI and TENRYO MARUs are detached and arrive at Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan).

8 October 1942:
KENKON MARU departs Java (probably Tanjang Priok) for Singapore carrying about 1,500 British prisoners-of-war (POWs) of the “Williams Force” under Lt Col John Williams, CO of the 2/2nd Pioneers made up of 884 men mainly 2/2 Pioneer Battalion soldiers and sailors of cruisers USS HOUSTON (CA-30) and Australian HMAS PERTH and others. [1]

11 October 1942: KENKON MARU arrives at Singapore. One POW dies en route.

21 December 1942: No. 6 Go Transportation Operation: Convoy No. 35 assembles at Shanghai to transport the IJA’s 6th Infantry Division via Truk to Guadalcanal (after the decision is made to evacuate Guadalcanal, the convoy’s destination is changed to New Guinea). The convoy consists of troop convoy Parts A, B and C.

Part A departs Shanghai for New Guinea consisting of TEIYO, MYOHO MARUs and SHINSEI MARU No. 1 escorted by destroyer HASU.

Part B departs Shanghai for New Guinea consisting of KENKON, OIGAWA, KYOKUSEI and PANAMA MARUs escorted by destroyer KURI.

25 December 1942:
Part C departs Shanghai consisting of MEIU, SOMEDONO, SURABAYA and SHINAI MARUs escorted by destroyer TSUGA.

5 January 1943:
Parts A and B arrive at Mako, Pescadores. The China Area Fleet's old destroyers are detached and replaced by the Southwest Area Fleet’s destroyers HOKAZE and NAGATSUKI that escort the convoy to 136E longitude. The escort is augmented by destroyer SHIRAYUKI, subchasers CH-2 and CH-11 and auxiliary gunboat CHOAN MARU No. 2.

15 January 1943:
Part A departs Truk for the Shortland Islands anchorage. The escort is further augmented by destroyer SHIGURE.

17 January 1943:
Part B departs Truk for Buin, Bougainville.

19 January 1943:
Part C departs Truk. NNE of Buin, Bougainville, LtCdr Jack H. Lewis’ USS SWORDFISH (SS-193) attacks Part A of the convoy. SWORDFISH sinks MYOHO MARU at 05-38S, 156-20E. Of the 922 IJA troops and 35 Navy passengers she was carrying, 61 and 3 crewmen are KIA.

20 January 1943:
286 miles from Truk. LtCdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Creed C. Burlingame’s USS SILVERSIDES (SS-236) attacks Part C of the convoy. SILVERSIDES sinks MEIU MARU and damages heavily SURABAYA MARU at 03-52N, 153-56E. MEIU MARU was carrying 2,997 men of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 6th Division. 401 men are KIA. CH-11 and gunboat CHOAN MARU No. 2 rescue survivors. Later, destroyer ASAGUMO arrives from Truk and scuttles SURABAYA MARU. The same day, Part A arrives at Shortland Islands anchorage.

21 January 1943:
At about 1800, LtCdr Robert J. Foley’s USS GATO (SS-212) attacks Part B of the convoy. GATO torpedoes and sinks KENKON MARU carrying a battalion of 734 men of the IJA 45th Infantry Regiment, 6th Division. The attack causes a fire and a magazine explosion. Abandon Ship is ordered. Seven crew, 36 troops and an unknown number of "passengers" are KIA. DesDiv 11’s destroyer SHIRAYUKI rescues survivors. Later, the escorts scuttle KENKON MARU.

22 January 1943:
The remaining ships of Part B arrive at Buin.

Author's Note:
Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany and the late John Whitman of Virginia.

- Bob Hackett

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