<Japanese Aircraft Transports


Stories of the IJN's Aircraft Transports

8 November 2018

By Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall

Discussion & Questions

(Cargo ship by Takeshi Yuki)

Before the opening of the Pacific War, the IJN requisitioned seven merchant vessels for use as specially installed aircraft transports to carry disassembled and crated aircraft, spares and air personnel to Japan's existing island bases and planned future conquests. These freighters were not capable of launching aircraft, but were configured to maximize stowage for aircraft. All such vessels were armed with bow and stern guns ranging from 4.7 to 6-inch; some of these were of Russo-Japanese War vintage, others were ex-British weapons dating to 1899.

At the outbreak of the war, Captain Kanai Kurataro, IJN, was responsible for the allocation and distribution of aircraft to combat units. Postwar, Kanai told American interrogators the lack of experienced pilots for ferrying purposes was the main reason for using surface ships to transport aircraft to Truk. The Japanese had enough pilots available to fly the planes from Truk to Rabaul, but not enough to air ferry replacement aircraft from Yokosuka to Truk. Moreover, single-engine aircraft had limited range and it was difficult to route them over long overwater stretches, so fighter aircraft were transported by sea. In all, about 50 percent of Japanese aircraft were air ferried and the other 50 percent were transported by sea.

During the war, to meet the needs caused by attrition, three previously requisitioned auxiliaries - a minelayer, a transport and a submarine depot ship - were reconverted to serve as aircraft ferrys. Toward the end of 1942, a few escort carriers were also used to augment aircraft ferries to transport fighter aircraft from Japan to Truk. These included TAIYO, CHUYO and UNYO.

All ten merchant auxiliary aircraft transports were lost before the end of the war. This page will cover all of the ships.

In some cases, data for some vessels are incomplete for some time periods. Readers with access to missing data are requested to post the information on the Discussion & Questions board or the IJN Ship Message Board.

Tabular Records of Movement (TROMs):

Aircraft Transports

Fujikawa Maru(revised 8/13/2016)
Goshu Maru(revised 5/12/2018)
Kamogawa Maru(posted 10/26/2007)
Kanto Maru(posted 10/26/2007)
Lyons Maru(revised 11/8/2018)
Katsuragi Maru(revised 5/26/2017)
Komaki Maru(revised 8/13/2016)
Keiyo Maru(revised 11/17/2017)
Mogamigawa Maru(revised 5/12/2018)
Nagoya Maru(revised 8/6/2016)

Bibliography of Sources

About the Authors

Bob Hackett is a military historian and researcher. Retired from the United States Air Force and later from the aerospace industry, he resides in Florida.

Sander Kingsepp, a native of Estonia, is a free-lancing journalist, military historian and researcher. A talented linguist, Sander's translations of Japanese source materials have greatly enhanced these TROMs.

Peter Cundall is a maritime historian and researcher who specialises in merchant ships. He works in the marine industry and resides in Australia.