(NICHII MARU - prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2007-2017 Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall.

Revision 5

15 February 1939:
Sakurajima. Laid down at Osaka Iron Works as a 6,543-ton cargo ship for Nissan Kisen K.K., Tokyo.

5 July 1939:
Launched and named NICHII MARU.

26 October 1939:

11 December 1939:
On charter to Osaka Shosen on Kobe-Bombay route.

16 November 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

18 November 1941:
At Kawasaki shipyard. Begins conversion to an auxiliary ammunition ship.

1 December 1941:
Registered as an auxiliary ammunition transport in the Kure Naval District.

8 December 1941:
At Kure Navy Yard.

20 December 1941:
The conversion works are completed.

26 December 1941:
Attached directy to HQ, Combined Fleet.

1 January 1942:
Still at Kure Navy Yard. Remains there till March.

23 March 1942:
Departs Kure.

10 April 1942: Operation "C" - The Raids in the Indian Ocean:
Attached to the Indian Ocean Raiding Force.

3 May 1942:
Arrives at Kobe.

13 May 1942:
At Kure remunitions heavy cruisers MOGAMI and MIKUMA.

9 September 1942:
Departs Kure.

24 October 1942:
At sea in Truk area destroyer ASANAGI meets with NICHII MARU and tanker HOYO MARU.

25 October 1942:
ASANAGI is detached.

20 November 1942:
Supplies ammunition to heavy cruiser ATAGO. Supplies 8 torpedoes to destroyer ASAGUMO and one torpedo to destroyer TERUZUKI.

5 December 1941:
Navy Captain Hirata Yoshiyuki (39) is appointed Supervisor.

8 December 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

9 December 1942:
Departs Kure.

10 December 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo.

13 December 1942:
Departs Sasebo for Truk.

25 May 1943:
Captain Hirata is appointed Commander.

25 June 1943:
Departs Truk in convoy No. 4625 bound for Yokosuka also consisting of SEIA MARU escorted by kaibokan OKI.

19 July 1943:
Attached to the Nikkai No. 4 Defense Group, No. 2 Advance Transport Unit, Western Inner Seas unit. NICHII MARU departs the western part of Inland Sea that day in a convoy consisting of ammunition ship NICHIRO MARU escorted by light cruiser OYODO, destroyer SAZANAMI and five other unidentified escorts.

28 July 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

2 August 1943:
Departs Truk.

5 August 1943:
Arrives at Rabaul. Later, after discharge, departs Rabaul for Truk.

27 August 1943:
NICHII MARU departs Truk for Yokosuka in convoy No. 4827 consisting of NAGOYA and TAGONOURA MARUs escorted by kaibokan OKI.

3 September 1943:
At 1955, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Bafford E. Lewellen's old USS POLLACK (SS-180) torpedoes and sinks TAGONOURA MARU at 33-43N, 143-00E. One crewman and six passengers are KIA. OKI counterattacks USS POLLACK and drops 17 depth charges unsuccessfully. Later, OKI rescues 149 survivors.

4 September 1943:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

9 October 1943:
Departs Yokosuka in convoy No. 3009A consisting of HOKKO, NICHII and ASAKAZE MARUs and Naval storeship MAMIYA escorted by destroyer OITE.

12 October 1943:
Off Chichi-Jima. At about 0500, Cdr David C. White's (USNA ’27) USS CERO (SS-225) attacks convoy No. 3009A. White torpedoes and damages MAMIYA at 28-39N, 137-28E. Hit in the stern, her rudder probably damaged, MAMIYA becomes unnavigable. About noon, Cdr White makes a second attack on anchored MAMIYA. He fires six torpedoes and gets four hits, one of which is a dud.

At 0705, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from MAMIYA that reads: “At 0530 received torpedo attack in position 28-39 N, 137-28 E. Torpedo hit bulkhead between starboard engine room and No. 5 hold. Both engines, No. 5 hold and shaft alley were completely flooded. The boiler room and the No. 7 hold were slightly flooded. Unable to navigate ---- under our own power. ”

14 October 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

15 October 1943:
Meanwhile at 0950 patrol boat PB-101 departs Chichi Jima escorting storeship MAMIYA. The following day Submarine tender JINGEI departs Kure to assist MAMIYA. JINGEI finds MAMIYA drifting SW of the Ogasawara Islands and takes her in tow until the arrival of collier ASAKAZE MARU and destroyers OITE and ASANAGI that take over towing and assist PB-101 in escort duties. MAMIYA eventually make Kure via the Bungo Suido and remains under repair for months.

3 November 1943:
At 0430, NICHII MARU departs Truk in the 3rd echelon of convoy “Tei No. 4” consisting of auxiliary transport HIE MARU, auxiliary destroyer tender KAMIKAZE MARU escorted by DesDiv 4’s NOWAKI, MAIKAZE and YAMAGUMO.

4 November 1943:
At 1759, HIE MARU is missed by a submarine torpedo attack.

5 November 1943:
An air attack occurs at 01-05N, 151-15E. The ships are undamaged, but turn back to Truk.

7 November 1943:
At 1100, arrives back at Truk.

9 November 1943:
At 0430 departs Truk for Rabaul in convoy No. 2102 also consisting of repair ship HAKKAI MARU and transport HIE MARU and allegedly cargo ship KANAYAMASAN MARU escorted by destroyers NOWAKE, MAIKAZE and YAMAGUMO.

11 November 1943:
190 miles NNW of Kavieng, New Ireland. LtCdr (later Captain) Delbert F. Williamson's (USNA ’27) USS DRUM (SS-228) is on patrol between the Carolines and New Ireland to intercept expected Japanese reinforcements during the forthcoming invasion of Tarawa. Alerted by an Ultra message, Williamson sights a convoy, sets up and fires six Mark-14 steam torpedoes at HIE MARU at 01-00N, 149-20E. The first torpedo explodes prematurely. Transport KANAYAMASAN MARU reports three torpedo explosions astern. NOWAKE counterattacks unsuccessfully. The convoy suffers no damage in the attack.

At 1029 that day, a USAAF Fifth Air Force B-24 "Liberator" bombs the convoy and damages HIE MARU. 31 crew and passengers are KIA, 28 badly wounded, 110 lightly wounded.

12 November 1943:
The convoy and damaged HIE MARU make port at Rabaul.

20 November 1943:
At 1400, NICHII MARU departs Rabaul for Truk in convoy No. 1210 consisting of KANAYAMASAN MARU escorted by destroyer ASANAGI and auxiliary subchaser CHa-34.

21 November 1943:
E of Manus Island. At about 1235, the convoy is attacked by B-24 “Liberator” heavy bombers at 01-55S, 149-39E. NICHII MARU takes two direct hits starboard side of the bridge and two near misses. She goes dead in the water. Fires start on the bridge and at 1430, spread to No. 3 hold. At 1500, the bridge fire is out of control. At 1530, orders are given by ASANAGI to transfer all hands to KANAYAMASAN MARU. By 1622, the whole ship is ablaze. At 1630, Abandon ship is ordered. The CO and four crewmen are KIA.

At 1240, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from Asanagi that reads: “At 1235 position 01-55 S., 149-00 E. one B-24 attacked -----. Nichii Maru hit and in flames. Am standing by.”

Then another message from Asanagi is decrypted that reads: “At 1800, the hull of the Nichii Maru was enveloped in flames and finally ----- stopped towing. Due to ----- enemy air attacks abandoned supervision of her, -----.”

Captain Hirata is KIA. He is promoted Rear Admiral, posthumously.

25 November 1943:

5 January 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Note:
Thanks go to John Whitman for info on USN decrypts of IJN messages and to Mr. Gilbert Casse of France for general assistance.

- Bob Hackett, Sander Kingsepp and Peter Cundall.

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