(NOTORO by Takeshi Yuki scanned from "Color Paintings of Japanese Warships")

IJN Seaplane Tender KUNIKAWA MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998-2004 Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, Allan Alsleben and Peter Cundall.

11 March 1937:
Kobe. Laid down at Kawasaki Dockyard Co.

12 June 1937:
Launched and named the KUNIKAWA MARU.

1 November 1937:
Kobe. Completed as a single shaft 7,600 shp diesel powered cargo/refrigerator ship for the Kawasaki Kisen KK Line.

31 October 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

10 November 1941:
Begins conversion at the Innoshima Yard of the Osaka Tekkosho K.K.

19 November 1941:
Completes conversion. Attached directly to the Combined Fleet as a "converted transport (misc)".

28 November 1941:
Departs Kure for Palau carrying Cdr Siga Masanari's Kure No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF).

2 December 1941:
Receives the signal "Niitakayama nobore (Climb Mt. Niitaka) 1208" from the Combined Fleet.* This signifies that X-Day hostilities will commence on 8 December (Japan time).

6 January 1942:
Departs Davao, Philippines for Tarakan, Dutch Borneo carrying the Kure No. 2 SNLF in a convoy consisting of 13 troop transports. Air cover is provided by the 21st Seaplane Tender Div’s SANUKI MARU and SANYO MARU.

7 January 1942: The Invasion of the Netherlands East Indies:
Assigned to Vice Admiral Takahashi Ibo’s (former CO of KIRISHIMA) Third Fleet, Southern Force in Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hirose Sueto’s (former CO of AOBA) Tarakan Occupation Force.

9 January 1942:
Rear Admiral Hirose’s Central Force lands the IJA's 56th Regimental Combat Group and the Kure No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) that seize Tarakan.

11 January 1942:
Japan declares war on the Netherlands.

27 January-3 February 1942:
Supports the Ambon landings.

February 1942:
Based at Ambon.

17 February 1942:
Departs Kendari, Celebes with troops destined for Kupang to support the invasion of Dutch (West) Timor.

20 February 1942:
Arrives at Kupang and disembarks troops

4 March 1942:
Departs Ambon.

5 March 1942:
Arrives at Kendari

8 March 1942:
Departs Kendari.

13 March 1942:
Arrives at Singapore, Malaya.

14 March 1942:
Departs Singapore.

17 March 1942:
Arrives at Penang, Malaya.

20 March 1942:
Departs Penang.

23 March 1942: Operation "D" - The Invasion of the Andaman Islands:
Indian Ocean. Lands one battalion of the IJA's 18th Infantry Division at Port Blair.

30 March 1942:
Departs Port Blair for Penang.

1 April 1942:
Arrives at Penang.

6 April 1942:
Departs Penang.

11 April 1942:
Arrives at Bangkok, Siam.

17 April 1942:
Departs Bangkok.

April 1942:
Arrives at Japan.

18 May 1942:
Kure. Loads eight Type 0 Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters as cargo and departs.

20 May 1942:
Arrives at Mako, Pescadores.

14 July 1942:
Kure Navy Yard. Begins conversion to a seaplane tender. Assigned directly to Vice Admiral (later Amiral) Inoue Shigeyoshi's Fourth Fleet. Captain Aoki Setsuji is the Commanding Officer.

7 August 1942: American Operation “Watchtower” – The Invasion of Guadalcanal, British Solomons:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Richmond K. Turner's Amphibious Task Force 62, covered by Vice Admiral (MOH ‘14/later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher’s (former CO of VERMONT, BB-20) Task Force 61 and Rear Admiral (later Admiral) John S. McCain's (former CO of RANGER, CV-4) Task Force 63’s land-based aircraft, lands Maj Gen (later Gen/MOH/Commandant) Alexander A. Vandergrift’s 1st Marine Division on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo and Guadalcanal opening the campaign to retake the island.

23 August 1942:
Conversion is completed. The KUNIKAWA MARU is re-rated a converted seaplane tender. She carries six Type 0 Mitsubishi F1M2 “Pete” two-seat reconnaissance float biplanes. They wear the tail code “L2-xx”.

24 August 1942:
Departs Kure to operate from the Shortlands area off Bougainville.

28 August 1942:
The "R" Area Air Force (Homen Koku Butai) is created within the Eighth Fleet under Rear Admiral Jojima Takatsugu (former CO of SHOKAKU) from the complements of four seaplane tenders. The seaplane unit is to augment the IJN’s land-based aircraft in the Guadalcanal area. The unit uses Type 0 Aichi E13A1 "Jake" three-seat float monoplanes for long-range reconnaissance and anti-submarine missions, Type O Nakajima A6M2-N "Rufe" fighters and F1M2s for light bombing, convoy-escort duty and to complement the A6M2-Ns in the fighter role.

The R-Area Air Force is based in Shortland harbor, but Rekata Bay on Santa Isabel Island, 135 miles NW of Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, serves as the unit's forward staging base.

2 September 1942:
The KUNIKAWA MARU surrenders her aircraft to the 21st Air Flotilla.

8 September 1942:
Disembarks the 4th Force at Gona, New Guinea.

12 September 1942:
The R Area Air Force has nine E13A1 as well as F1M2 and A6M2-N aircraft.

14 September 1942:
The E13A1s based at Shortland and Rekata begin reconnoitering American sea communications between Noumea and Guadalcanal. They make shuttle flights to Indispensable Reef, where they are refueled by submarines.

8-24 September 1942:
The KUNIKAWA MARU and the destroyers MURASAME, HARUSAME and SAMIDARE search the Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands for potential seaplane base sites.

24 September 1942:
Continues to operate in the Shortland-Truk area.

Early October 1942:
Headquarters, Combined Fleet decides to establish a secret refuelling point for the R Area Air Force's E13A1 floatplanes at Mohawk Bay, Ndeni Island. Initially, it is planned for the KUNIKAWA MARU deliver the first three Jakes, but she cannot put to sea because of a machinery breakdown.

4 October 1942:
Southern tip of Santa Isabel Island, Solomons. A troop convoy bound for Guadalcanal in bad weather is being escorted by A6M2-Ns and F1M2s when the convoy is attacked by Navy and Marine Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat” fighters and Douglas SBD “Dauntless” dive bombers from Henderson Field and the USS HORNET (CV-8). Three F1M2s from the KUNIKAWA MARU attack an SBD of VS-71 and force it to ditch, but the dive-bombers' crew is later picked up by a Grumman J2F-5 "Duck" floatplane.

8 October 1942:
The R Area Air Force's strength is now 12 F1M2 Petes from the KUNIKAWA, SANUKI and SANYO MARUs and the CHITOSE's Air Groups, five A6M2-N Rufes from the KAMIKAWA MARU's Air Group and nine E13A1 Jakes from the CHITOSE and SANYO MARU's Air Groups. Other ships provide two more F1M2s, two E13A1s and nine E7K2 Alfs.

7 November 1942:
Returns to Kure to embark supplies.

10 November 1942:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Kondo Nobutake's (former CO of KONGO) plans to land 14,500 men, heavy weapons and supplies of LtGen Sano Tadayoshi's 38th "Hiroshima" Infantry Division and the 8th Special Naval Landing Force on Guadalcanal. Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Tanaka Raizo's (former CO of KONGO) DesRon 2’s twelve destroyers will escort an 11-ship high-speed reinforcement convoy.

14 November 1942:
Navy and Marine aircraft attack Tanaka’s troop transports. They are opposed by A6M “Zekes”of the 204th Naval Air Group (NAG) from Buin and by eight F1M2s from Rekata Bay. Two of the Petes are from the battleship HIEI, sunk the previous night in naval action. Three F1M2s are from the SANYO MARU, two from the KUNIKAWA MARU (including the flight leader) and one from the SANUKI MARU.

The Americans claim two Zekes and six Petes shot down for the loss of one Wildcat. The 204th NAG loses two A6Ms. Five of the R-Area Air Force's eight floatplanes, three of which are damaged, return to Rekata. One of the HIEI’s's F1M2s is lost. The SANYO MARU loses two planes.

25 November 1942:
Departs Kure for Yokosuka.

27 November 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

1 December 1942:
Reassigned to the Second Fleet, 11th Seaplane Tender Division.

2 December 1942:
Departs Yokosuka to operate in the Shortland area and deliver 12 F1M2 Petes to support the evacuation of Guadalcanal.

26 December 1942:
Returns to Yokosuka.

31 December 1942:
Departs Yokosuka to operate in the Shortland area.

12 February 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka for repairs.

1 March 1943:
The KUNIKAWA MARU and the KAMIKAWA MARU are assigned to the 938th NAG. The KUNIKAWA MARU serves as a tender and the KAMIKAWA MARU as an aircraft transport for the Air Group.

March 1943:
Guadalcanal. The KUNIKAWA MARU and KAMIKAWA MARU’s Air Unit's FIM2s make nocturnal harassment raids. Their engine noise and the explosions of their 60-kg bombs make sleep impossible for American troops around Henderson Field.

18 March 1943:
Departs Yokosuka to operate in the Shortland area.

23 March 1943:
Three floatplanes attack Lunga Point, Guadalcanal and Tulagi on nearby Florida Island.

25 March 1943:
Two floatplanes attack Tulagi Harbor.

27 March 1943:
A single floatplane attacks Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, photo-reconnaissance missions flown by the USAAF’s 17th Reconnaissance Squadron’s Lockheed F-5As (P-38) pinpoint the Faisi-Poporang area in the Shortland Islands as the principal IJN seaplane base in the Solomons.

28 March 1943:
A reconnaissance photo shows 27 floatplanes at their moorings in the Shortlands.

29 March 1943:
Poporang Island, Shortlands. A joint-service fighter sweep by led by Captain Tom Lanphier* with eight Lockheed P-38 “Lightnings”of the 70th Fighter Squadron, USAAF and eight Marine Chance-Vought F-4U-1 “Corsairs” of VMF-124 hits the Faisi-Poporang seaplane base. They set fire to about six Pete floatplanes originally attached to the KAMIKAWA and KUNIKAWA MARUs and strafe Subchaser No. 28 on their way back to base.

8 April 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

14 April 1943:
Departs Yokosuka to ferry aircraft via Truk to Rabaul.

15 April 1943:
The 11th Seaplane Tender Division is disbanded. The KUNIKAWA MARU is attached to the Southeast Area Fleet and her aircraft are assigned to the 938th NAG.

28 April 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul. Disembarks aircraft.

3 May 1943:
Departs Rabaul.

6 May 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

8 May 1943:
Departs Truk for Yokosuka in fleet convoy No 4508. The convoy consists of the KUNIKAWA MARU, troop landing ship MAYASAN MARU and the transports TATSUTAKE and KINAI MARUs escorted by the torpedo boat HIYODORI.

9 May 1943:
At 0211, while departing Truk, the KUNIKAWA MARU is torpedoed by a submarine**. Two dud torpedoes hit the port bow and port stern causing light damage.

At 1600, another dud is felt to hit the ship. The HIYODORI counterattacks unsuccessfully with depth charges.

10 May 1943:
At about 0900, the TATSUTAKE MARU is hit by two torpedoes fired in a submerged attack by LtCdr Raymond H. Bass' USS PLUNGER (SS-179).*** The TATSUTAKE MARU sinks at 14-33N, 149-23E. The HIYODORI rescues the survivors.

11 May 1943:
At about 0600, the PLUNGER sinks the KINAI MARU with gunfire at 14-33N, 149-23E. The HIYODORI rescues the survivors.

15 May 1943:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

1 June 1943:
Departs Yokosuka to ferry aircraft to Rabaul.

30 June 1943:
Returns to Yokosuka.

10 July 1943:
Departs Yokosuka to ferry aircraft to Rabaul.

30 July 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul. Unloads aircraft. At 1130, departs for Truk in an unnumbered convoy with the HAKUSAN MARU escorted by the destroyers YUNAGI and MINATSUKI.

2 August 1943:
Arrives at Truk at 1330.

5 August 1943:
At 0830, departs Truk with HAKUSAN MARU escorted by the torpedo boat OTORI.

12 August 1943: At 1330, arrives at Yokosuka.

28 August 1943:
Captain Koda Yoshio is assigned as the CO.

9 September 1943:
Departs Yokosuka; arrives at Kisarazu the same day.

11 September 1943:
Departs Kisarazu; arrives at Yokosuka the same day.

15 September 1943:
Departs Yokosuka in fleet convoy No. 3914 consisting of the KUNIKAWA, HEIWA and KIMISHIMA MARUs (possibly others), escorted by the destroyer ASANAGI.

25 September 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

28 September 1943:
Departs Truk for Rabaul with fleet convoy 1292.

1 October 1943:
Re-rated as a converted transport (misc). Attached to the Kure Naval District.

4 October 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul.

16 October 1943:
Departs Rabaul in convoy No. O-602B with the converted aircraft transport GOSHU MARU escorted by the destroyer TACHIKAZE.

21 October 1943:
SE of Ulithi. At about 0200, the GOSHU MARU is hit by two torpedoes from LtCdr David L. Whelchel's USS STEELHEAD (SS-280) in hold Nos. 1 and 2 and catches fire. Strenuous efforts by her crew result in the fire being extinguished, but the ship is able to make only 2-4 knots. She heads for Ulithi escorted by the TACHIKAZE. The KUNIKAWA MARU continues alone at high speed.

23 October 1943:
Arrives at Kayangel Atoll, N of Palau and later proceeds into Palau.

1 November 1943:
Departs Palau in fleet convoy 7101.

6 November 1943:
Arrives at Saeki, Japan.

7 November 1943:
Arrives at Niihama, Shikoku, Japan.

8 November 1943:
Departs Niihama.

10 November 1943:
Arrives at Kure. Begins equipment modifications.

13 December 1943:
Completes installation of equipment. Departs Kure.

15 December 1943:
Arrives at West Maizuru.

18 December 1943:
Departs West Maizuru for Moji.

19 December 1943:
Arrives at Moji.

21 December 1943:
Departs Moji in convoy HI-27 consisting of the KUNIKAWA MARU, cargo-passenger liners MIIKE and TSUKUSHI MARUs, cargo liner NOTO MARU, troop landing ship MAYASAN MARU and oilers KYUEI and OTORISAN MARUs. The ships are escorted by the destroyer ASAKAZE.

24 December 1943:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa.

26 December 1943:
Departs Takao for Singapore with a replacement escort, the kaibokan MATSUWA. The convoy now only consists of KUNIKAWA, TSUKUSHI, KYUEI and OTORISAN MARUs; the others remain at Takao.

27 December 1943:
162 miles WSW of Takao. At about 1100, in the second of two submerged attacks, LtCdr Robert D. Risser's FLYING FISH (SS-229) successfully torpedoes and sinks the tanker KYUEI MARU at 21-25N, 118-05E. The MATSUWA rescues survivors and the ships continue their voyage.

2 January 1944:
Arrives at Singapore.

30 January 1944:
Arrives at Kobe.

1 February 1944:
Arrives at Yokohama.

21 February 1944:
Departs Yokohama.

24 February 1944:
Arrives at Kure.

27 February 1944:
Departs Kure, arrives at Moji.

1 March 1944:
Departs Moji for Takao (possibly as part of convoy MOTA-07).

8 March 1944:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa.

15 March 1944:
Departs Takao for Manila.

16 March 1944:
NW of the Philippines. At about 2100, LtCdr Lowell T. Stone's USS LAPON (SS-260) carries out an unsuccessful surface radar attack on the KUNIKAWA MARU.

18 March 1944:
Arrives at Manila.

20 March 1944:
Departs Manila in convoy H-22 bound for Kau in the Halmaheras and consisting of the KUNIKAWA, SHINKYO, ATLAS, ANSHU, TOYOOKA, BENGAL, KURAMASAN and MITO MARUs escorted by the torpedo boat HAYABUSA and Minesweeper No. 30.

23 March 1944:
Zamboanga Sea. Minesweeper No. 30 is detached and replaced by the auxiliary submarine chaser KYO MARU No. 12.

24 March 1944:
At 1430, as planned the KUNIKAWA MARU detaches from the convoy and proceeds independently to Balikpapan Bay, Borneo arriving later that day.

29 April 1944:
Near Balikpapan. While departing Balikpapan, damaged portside by a mine laid by RAAF Consolidated PBY Catalinas.**

8 May 1944:
After completing temporary repairs, the KUNIKAWA MARU hits another mine while being towed at the roadstead and becomes grounded thereafter.

26 September 1944:
Balikpapan. After being refolated, the KUNIKAWA MARU is repaired.

29 September 1944:
Balikpapan. KUNIKAWA MARU is anchored in the harbor.

6 May 1945:
Balikpapan. Removed to No. 5 berth.

21 May 1945:
Balikpapan harbor. While moored at No. 5 berth, the KUNIKAWA MARU is hit by one bomb in her No. 7 hold and damaged by several near misses during an air raid. Eight sailors are killed. At 1310, she sinks at 02-15S, 116-00E.

30 November 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors’ Notes:
*Arguably credited with shooting down Admiral Yamamoto's "Betty" bomber in Apr '43 over Bougainville. Other sources credit Captain Rex Barber with Yamamoto's kill on that same mission.

**The submarine probably was the USS PLUNGER (SS-179) that reported an underwater periscopic attack at 0300 that day on a 7,400-ton cargo ship at 10-18N, 150-46E. As a result of inadequate funding of developmental and operational testing and evaluation, the American submarine force's primary weapon, the Mark XIV torpedo was plagued with many defects including deep running, faulty magnetic influence effect and an unreliable contact exploder.

***Bass was a 1932 Olympic Gold Medalist in rope-climbing, an event discontinued after that year.

****Some sources attribute the mine to one laid 10 months before by the USS TAUTOG (SS-199) on 7 March 1943.

Special thanks for assistance in developing this TROM go to Mssrs. Andrew Obluski of Poland and Jean-Francois Masson of Canada.

- Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp, Allan Alsleben and Peter Cundall.

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