(TOMITSU MARU sistership of KUNITSU MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2015-2018 Gilbert Casse and Peter Cundall

Revision 1

3 May 1937:
Aioi, Hyogo Prefecture. Laid down by Harima Zosensho K.K. shipyard for Settsu Shosen K.K. as a 2,724-tons cargo ship.

22 September 1937:
Launched and named KUNITSU MARU.

30 October 1937:
Completed and registered at Osaka. Her Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) and Net Registered Tonnage (NRT) respectively are 2,724-tons and 1,539-tons. [1]

E 1937:
Placed on the Osaka ~ Jinsen, Chosen (now Incheon, South Korea) ~ Chinnampo, Chosen (now North Korea) line.

Requisitioned by the IJA as Army transport No. 670.

12 March 1939:
Departs Wuhu, southern China.

30 August 1939:
Arrives at Nanking (now Nanjing), southern China.

Her Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) and Net Registered Tonnage (NRT) respectively are changed to 2,721-tons and 1,537-tons. [1]

Released to her owners.

1 November 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

10 November 1941:
Registered in the Navy’s list as an auxiliary transport (Otsu) category attached to the Sasebo Naval District with Sasebo as home port under instruction No. 1391. [2]

15 November 1941:
Innoshima. The conversion to military duty starts at Osaka Iron Works K.K. shipyard.

22 November 1941:
The conversion is completed.

December 1941:
Assigned to the forthcoming invasion of Tarakan, Borneo.

20 December 1941:
Departs Kure for Palau, Western Carolines in a convoy also consisting of auxiliary transport RAKUTO MARU escorted by destroyer WAKATAKE.

21 December 1941:
Off Sata Misaki, auxiliary seaplane tender KAGU MARU and auxiliary gunboat HONG KONG MARU join the convoy.

25 December 1941:
KAGU MARU and probably HONG KONG MARU are detached from the convoy.

28 December 1941:
Arrives at Palau, Western Carolines.

1 January 1942:
Departs Palau.

4 January 1942:
Arrives at Davao, Mindanao. Transfers later to Daliao, Mindanao.

6 January 1942: The Invasion of Dutch Borneo:
At 1100, Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hirose Sueto’s (39) Tarakan Occupation Force departs Daliao. Hirose's force close escort’s include MineSweepDiv 11’s W-16, W-15, W-13, W-14, MineSweepDiv 30’s W-17 and W-18, SubChasDiv 31’s CH-10, CH-11 and CH-12, patrol boats PB-36, PB-37 and PB-38 and other auxiliary ships.

The Tarakan invasion convoy is organized into two subdivisions :

1st subdivision (right wing unit) consists of KANO (IJN), TSURUGA (IJA), LIVERPOOL (IJA), HITERU (IJA), HANKOW (IJA), EHIME (IJA), and KUNIKAWA (IJN) MARUs and transports MajGen Sakaguchi Shizuo’s Detachment (right wing forces) 56th Mixed Infantry Group elements and the Kure No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF).

The 2nd subdivision (left wing unit) consists of KUNITSU (IJN), RAKUTO (IJN), HAVANA (IJA), TEIRYU (ex-German AUGSBURG) (IJA), KURETAKE (IJA), NICHIAI (IJA) and KAGU (IJN) MARUs and transports the Sakaguchi Detachment (left wing forces), 5th Construction Unit and 2nd Defense Unit.

The convoy’s additional escort is provided by Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Nishimura Shoji’s (39) DesRon 4’s light cruiser NAKA with DesDiv 2’s HARUSAME, SAMIDARE, YUDACHI and MURUSAME, DesDiv 9’s ASAGUMO and MINEGUMO, NATSUGUMO and DesDiv 24’s UMIKAZE, KAWAKAZE, YAMAKAZE and SUZUKAZE. 21st Air Flotilla seaplane tenders SANUKI and SANYO MARUs provide air cover.

10 January 1942:
At 1900, both subdivisions arrive at No. 1 anchorage, approximately 16 nms E of Tarakan. In the afternoon, Tarakan Island was visible due the smoke caused by the Dutch destruction of the oilfields and other vital installations. By night the flames are so bright that the island is clearly visible in the dark.

At 1940 the Right Wing and Left Wing Unit board landing craft and start for their landing points. Initially, the Right Wing Unit, mistaking the flames from the Goonoong Tjankool oilfields for those of the Tarakan oilfield, miss its proposed landing point. The Japanese commanders realize their mistake when the landing boats are already returning back to their ships. At 2215, the 2nd subdivision departs No. 1 Anchorage.

11 January 1942:
At 0000, the first Japanese troops (Right Wing Unit) hit the shores on Tarakan Island’s east coast followed by Kure No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) 30 minutes later. After reaching a point start about 2 nms N of the mouth of the Amal River, they recognize the position and proceeds S to the mouth of the river. They soon overwhelm the small guard patrols guarding this sector. Arriving at the mouth of the river at dawn, the unit makes a shock attack against the Dutch pillbox located there and kills most of the guards, while some KNIL Indonesian soldiers are captured. At 0100, the 2nd subdivision arrives at No. 2 Anchorage.

At 0220, the landing barges cast off from the transport ships and head towards the landing zone on the SE coast of Tarakan. At 0300, the Left Wing Unit lands at the prearranged point and advances W into the jungle toward the rear of the Dutch coastal battery which it is supposed to destroy. Due to the dense jungle and the steep terrain, the unit is able to advance only 100 meters per hour.

During the night Dutch minelayer PRINS VAN ORANJE tries to escape the confines of Tarakan Island but is sunk by destroyer YAMAKAZE and patrol boat PB-38 with heavy loss of life.

12 January 1942:
After the Dutch troops finally surrender, the Kure No. 2 SNLF advance rapidly to the Tarakan airfield and occupy it by the morning. During this advance the unit is bombed by Dutch bombers from Samarinda II airfield. 18 SNLF marines are killed. At 1200 hours one infantry company dispatched from the Right Wing Unit also occupy the village of Djoewata which has a Dutch coastal battery located there at the north end of the island. About 1700, after losing its way several times, the Left Wing Unit finally comes out in the rear of the Dutch coastal battery.

IJN forces receive a message that says: "Although the enemy has offered to surrender, it is feared that the coastal battery located at the south end of the island is not aware of this and it would be dangerous to proceed to the Tarakan pier, therefore held up your sailing". Despite the warning the movement goes ahead as planned. When the six minesweepers enter the bay, they are fired on by the Dutch coastal battery. W-13 and W-14 are hit by 4.7 inch shell and sink with most of their crew. These are the only IJN losses in this operation.

The IJN commander later promise amnesty for the gun crews. Based on this promise, the Dutch Island Commander persuades them to surrender but the brutal Imperial Army Commander orders the prisoners tied in groups of three thrown into the water. All 219 Dutch soldiers drown.

Casualties of the IJA (Sakaguchi Detachment) number only seven men KIA on land and one at sea, while the IJN suffer 47 KIA on land and 200 at sea. Of those 47 KIA 18 are killed by the airstrike near the Tarakan airfield. 871 Dutch POWs are captured.

2 February 1942:
Departs Tarakan.

5 February 1942:
Arrives at Davao.

10 February 1942:
Departs Davao.

18 February 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo.

21 February 1942:
Departs Sasebo.

22 February 1942:
Arrives at Moji. Departs there later that day.

23 February 1942:
Arrives at Tsukumi, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu.

27 February 1942:
Departs Tsukumi.

1 March 1942:
Arrives at Nagoya.

5 March 1942:
Departs Nagoya.

7 March 1942:
Arrives at Moji.

10 March 1942:
Departs Moji.

15 March 1942:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa (now Kaohsiung, Taiwan).

23 March 1942:
Departs Takao.

28 March 1942:
Arrives at Osaka.

31 March 1942:
Departs Osaka.

4 April 1942:
Arrives at Moji. Departs there and arrives at Osaka later in the day.

7 April 1942:
Departs Osaka and arrives at Kobe later that same day.

9 April 1942:
Departs Kobe.

E 10 April 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo.

19 April 1942:
Departs Sasebo.

29 April 1942:
Arrives at Haikow, Hainan Island, China.

1 May 1942:
Departs Haikow.

2 May 1942:
Arrives at Samah (now Sanya), Hainan.

6 May 1942:
Departs Samah.

8 May 1942:
Arrives at Saigon, French Indochina (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).

15 May 1942:
Scheduled to be fitted with one Type A 7.7mm MG and five Type 38 Arisaka rifles under Navy’s secret instruction No. 5990.

12 June 1942:
Scheduled to be fitted with one 8cm/40cal deck gun under Navy’s secret instruction No. 7246.

2 July 1942:
Arrives at Haikow.

4 July 1942:
Departs Haikow.

5 July 1942:
Arrives at Samah.

8 July 1942:
Departs Samah.

20 August 1942:
Departs Penang, Malaya.

25 August 1942:
Assigned to Vice Admiral Takahashi Ibos‘s (36) Southwest Area Fleet.

9 October 1942:
At 1700 departs Singapore in convoy with NISHI MARU (ex British KALGAN). The ships sail at 9 knots.

11 October 1942:
At 1100 due to arrive at Belawan.

9 November 1942:
At 0900 departs Singapore at 10 knots.

12 November 1942:
Due to arrive that morning at Sabang.

28 January 1943:
Departs Penang.

30 January 1943:
Arrives at Sabang, Sumatra.

13 May 1943:
Arrives at Saigon.

31 May 1943:
Departs Saigon.

12 July 1943:
Arrives at Port Blair, Andamans.

13 July 1943:
Departs Port Blair.

14 July 1943:
Arrives at Car Nicobar, Andamans. Departs there later in the day.

17 July 1943:
Arrives at Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar).

26 July 1943:
Departs Rangoon.

28 July 1943:
Arrives at Port Blair.

29 July 1943:
Departs Port Blair.

30 July 1943:
Arrives back at Port Blair.

31 July 1943:
Departs again Port Blair and returns back there later in the day.

13 September 1943:
Departs Malacca Straits waters in six ship convoy also consisting of auxiliary transport KOSHIN (6,530 GRT) MARU and four unidentified Army ships escorted by auxiliary minesweepers KYO MARU No. 1 and CHOUN MARU No. 7.

14 September 1943:
Arrives at Penang. Departs later.

28 October 1943:
Due to depart Singapore in convoy with one other ship (bound for Port Blair) escorted by auxiliary minesweeper KYO MARU No. 1. KUNITSU MARU is bound for Sabang.

1 November 1943:
At 1900, departs Sabang escorted by subchaser CH-7.

2 November 1943:
At 1900 due to arrive at Pattani, Siam (now Thailand).

5 November 1943:
At 1400 due to arrive at Sibolga, Sumatra.

16 November 1943:
Her owners are changed to Osaka Shosen K.K. (OSK).

30 November 1943:
At 1100, arrives at either Padang or Sabang (sources conflict).

15 December 1943:
Due to depart Sabang for Singapore.

1 January 1944:
At 0900, due to arrive at Sabang.

March 1944:
Departs Sabang.

28 March 1944:
Arrives at Penang.

16 April 1944:
Departs Penang for Sabang escorted by minelayer HATSUTAKA.

19 April 1944: Allied Operation "Cockpit" :
Sumatra, Indian Ocean. In the first combined operation between Admiral James Somerville's, (Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet) British Pacific Fleet and the USN Pacific Fleet, carrier aircraft from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and USS SARATOGA (CV-3) attack Sabang, NEI. The strike force is made up of 17 "Barracudas" (No. 810 and No. 847 Sqdns) and 13 F4U "Corsairs" (No. 1830 and No. 1833 Sqdns) from HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and 11 TBF "Avengers", 18 SBD "Dauntlesses" and 24 F4F "Hellcats" (VT, VB and VF-12) from USS SARATOGA.

The strike force encounters no air opposition and flak only after the attack is well under way, indicating total surprise. The planes damage HATSUTAKA and sink transports HARUNO (ex Dutch KIDOEL, one crewman killed), and KUNITSU MARUs. Oil storage tanks also are destroyed and heavy damage is inflicted on port facilities. The Corsair and Hellcat pilots claim 24 aircraft destroyed on the ground in a suppressive sweep over nearby Lho Nga airfield. The only Japanese response is an attack by three G4M "Betty" torpedo bombers, all of which are splashed by a Combat Air Patrol from USS SARATOGA.

6 May 1944:
At Sabang port. Further damaged by a torpedo fired by an unidentified submarine. [3]

2 January 1945:

11 January 1945:
Departs Sabang towed by auxiliary gunboat EIFUKU MARU.

16 January 1945:
Both ships arrive at Singapore.

15 August 1945:
Still under repairs at the cessation of hostilities.

14 September 1945:
Taken over by Allied Forces.

10 August 1946:
Deemed irreparable.

March 1947:
Scuttled off Singapore.

3 May 1947:
Removed from the Navy’s list under instruction No. 327.

Authors' Notes :
[1] NRT is a ship's cargo volume capacity expressed in "register tons", one of which equals to a volume of 100 cubic feet (2.83 m3). It is calculated by subtracting non-revenue-earning spaces i.e. spaces not available for carrying cargo, for example engine rooms, fuel tanks and crew quarters, from the ship's gross register tonnage (GRT). Net register tonnage (NRT) is not a measure of the weight of the ship or its cargo, and should not be confused with terms such as deadweight tonnage or displacement.

[2] There were two categories of Zatsuyosen. (Ko) category with an IJN Captain as supervisor aboard and (Otsu) category without.

[3] No record of this attack appears in Allied files.

Thanks go to Gengoro S. Toda of Japan.

Gilbert Casse and Peter Cundall.

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