(NIPPONKAI MARU in war time)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2009-2018 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.
Revision 5

6 October 1931:
Tamano. Laid down at Mitsui Shipbuilding as a 2,681-ton passenger/cargo ship for Shimatani Kisen K.K., Kobe.

28 March 1932:
Launched and named NIPPONKAI MARU. [1]

30 April 1932:
Completed. Placed in service on Shimatani Kisen’s Hokkaido - Korea route.

7 July 1937: The Marco Polo Bridge ("China") Incident:
Hun River. Lugouqiao, China. Japanese troops fire blank cartridges on night maneuvers at the bridge. Chinese troops fire back, but do not cause injuries. At morning roll call, the Japanese discover a soldier missing and assume the Chinese captured him. The Japanese demand entry to a Peking (Beijing) suburb to look for the soldier. The Chinese refuse. The Japanese shell the city and an undeclared war on China begins.

22 July 1938:
Requisitioned by the IJN. Cdr Murayama Seiroku is appoined Commanding Officer.

25 July 1938:
Registered in the Sasebo Naval District as an auxiliary minesweeper tender.

15 August 1938:
Departs Sasebo for the central China coast.

NIPPONKAI MARU takes wounded and dead men aboard.

5 November 1938:
0715 - 0735 Alongside supply ship CHICHIBU MARU that provides fresh food.

15 December 1938:
Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Mori Kunizo (40)(former CO of SATA) is appointed Commanding Officer. Concurrently, he is appointed CO of the 13th gunboat division (hoteitai).

1 March 1939:
NIPPONKAI MARU embarks the 1st group (dai-1 shotai) of six daihatsu and shohatsu barges.

1 April 1939:
Cdr (later Rear Admiral) Itakura Tokushi (42)(former XO of OKINOSHIMA) assumes command.

25 May 1939:
Removed the Navy list. Rerated a general duty charter boat.

15 November 1939:
Captain (Rear Admiral, posthumously Morino Sorokuro (40)(former XO of KONGO is appointed Commanding Officer. Departs for the Yangtze River with a fleet of gun boats.

That same day, NIPPONKAI MARU is rerated an auxiliary destroyer tender in the Sasebo Naval District.

18 December 1939:
Nanking (Nanjing), China. Auxiliary gunboats TOSHO MARU and UNKAI MARU No. 10 come alongside NIPPONKAI MARU.

1 July 1941:
Captain (Rear Admiral, posthumously) Nakatsu Seiki (44)(former XO of FUSO is appointed Commanding Officer.

27 November 1941:
Reassigned to the China Area Fleet’s Shanghai Area Base Force.

28 November 1941:
An unknown officer is appointed Commanding Officer.

21 December 1941:
Departs Woosung escorting a convoy consisting of MADRAS and SHINYU MARUs bound for Mako and KAINAN MARU bound for Canton.

24 January 1942:
Departs Shanghai for Seito (Tsingtao).

15 February 1942:
Reassigned to the Third Expeditionary Fleet, China Area Fleet.

2 April 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

10 April 1942:
Reassigned to the China Area Fleet’s Qingdao (Tsingtao) Area Special Base Force.

11 April 1942:
Departs Seito.

27 April 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

5 May 1942:
Departs Seito.

15 July 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

26 July 1942:
Departs Seito.

7 August 1942:
Captain (Rear Admiral, posthumously) Nakamaruo Yoshizo (36) (former CO of HOYO MARU) is appointed Commanding Officer.

18 September 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

16 October 1942:
Departs Seito.

7 December 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

20 December 1942:
Departs Seito.

23 December 1942:
Arrives at Seito.

16 January 1943:
Departs Seito.

20 January 1943:
Arrives at Kure.

24 January 1943:
Departs Kure.

12 February 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

16 February 1943:
Departs Seito.

23 February 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

1 March 1943:
Departs Seito.

24 March 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

28 March 1943:
Departs Seito.

7 April 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

21 April 1943:
Departs Seito.

30 April 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

6 May 1943:
Departs Seito.

16 May 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

20 May 1943:
Departs Seito.

29 June 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

5 July 1943:
Departs Seito.

16 July 1943:
Arrives at Seito.

27 July 1943:
Departs Seito.

7 August 1943:
An unknown officer assumes command.

17 August 1943:
Arrives at Ryojun (Lushun/Port Arthur).

19 August 1943:
Departs Ryojun as North China waters' guardship.

1 October 1943:
An unknown officer is appointed Commanding Officer. Re-classified as a Tokusetsu Unsosen (Zatsuyosen) (auxiliary transport) (charter) in the Sasebo Naval District.

16 October 1943:
As a result of a merger, ownership is changed to Mitsui Sempaku.

30 October 1943:
Departs Sasebo. Arrives at Sakito.

1 November 1943:
Departs Sakito.

3 November 1943:
Arrives at Kobe.

5 November 1943:
Departs Kobe.

7 November 1943:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

13 November 1943:
Departs Yokosuka.

16 November 1943:
Arrives at Sasebo.

19 November 1943:
NIPPONKAI MARU departs Sasebo with KOTO MARU (No. 2 GO) and auxiliary gunboat CHOHAKUSAN MARU and joins convoy No. 115 also consisting of ore carrier GYOKUREI and transport LONDON MARUs, tankers OGURA MARU No. 1 and KOTO MARU No. 2 GO and three unidentified ships. Soon after leaving, CHOHAKUSAN MARU suffers engine problems and returns to port leaving the convoy unescorted.

24 November 1943:
At 0400, GYOKUREI MARU is detached for Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan) at 26-0N, 120-10E and KOTO MARU No. 2 GO is detached for Hong Kong.

26 November 1943:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa.

28 November 1943:
At 1700, NIPPONKAI MARU departs Takao in convoy No. 780 consisting of BIZEN, CHIYO, KINSHU, NICHIWA, NORWAY, RYUYO, RYUUN, TOSEI and YAMAHAGI MARUs and tankers SAN DIEGO MARU and OGURA MARU No. 1 and unidentified merchant ships escorted by destroyer FUYO and kaibokan KANJU.

3 December 1943:
At 1400, arrives Manila.

10 December 1943:
Departs Manila.

12 December 1943:
Arrives at Cebu.

15 December 1943:
Departs Cebu.

17 December 1943:
Arrives at Davao.

26 December 1943:
Patrol boat PB-2 departs Balikpapan, Borneo escorting convoy No. 2614 consisting of tanker OGURA MARU No. 3.

30 December 1943:
At 0740, NIPPONKAI MARU joins the convoy.

31 December 1943:
At 1800, subchaser CH-33 also joins convoy No. 2614 at sea.

1 January 1944:
At 1956, arrives at Palau.

19 January 1944:
At 1200, NIPPONKAI MARU departs Palau for Rabaul in convoy SO-903 also consisting of NEIKAI MARU and TAKATORI MARU No. 2 towing a target barge escorted by subchasers CH-17 and CH-18.

26 January 1944:
Arrives at Rabaul, New Britain.

30 January 1944:
At midnight, NIPPONKAI MARU departs Rabaul for Yokosuka in convoy No. 2312 also consisting of MATSUTAN (SHOEI) MARU escorted by destroyers MATSUKAZE and FUMITSUKI.

1 February 1944:
Minesweeper W-21 joins the escort.

2 February 1944:
American aircraft bomb the convoy and damage both FUMITSUKI and W-21.

4 February 1944:
At 1600, W-21 is unable to continue because of damage and id detached from the convoy.

6 February 1944:
Arrives at Truk.

14 February 1944:
Arrives at Truk.

18 February 1944:
Arrives at Saipan.

20 February 1944:
NIPPONKAI MARU departs Saipan in a convoy also consisting of DAITEN and KOKUYO MARUs escorted by kaibokan ISHIGAKI.

29 February 1944:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

1 March 1944:
Departs Yokosuka and arrives at Yokohama.

2 March 1944 Departs Yokohama for the nearby Port of Tokyo.

3 March 1944:
Tokyo. Undergoes hull repairs at Ishikawajima shipyard.

26 April 1944:
Departs Tokyo and arrives later that day at Yokohama.

15 May 1944:
Departs Yokohama and arrives later that day at Tateyama.

17 May 1944:
At 0616, NIPPONKAI MARU departs Tateyama in convoy No. 3515 also consisting of AKISHIMA (MEITO), CHIYO, EIKO, HAKUSAN, KINSHU, HINKO, NATSUKAWA, REIKAI, SEIGA, SHOKAI and TOYO, MARUs and UNYO MARU No. 8.escorted by destroyer HATAKAZE, kaibokan MIKURA, MIYAKE and CD-16, minesweeper W-20, subchaser CH-48, minelayer SARUSHIMA and auxiliary netlayer KOA MARU No. 2.

20 May 1944:
At 0700, arrives at Chichijima.

23 May 1944:
At about 0900, minesweeper W-20 is detached from the convoy.

25 May 1944:
At 0708, the convoy arrives safely at Saipan.

28 May 1944:
Departs Saipan arrives at nearby Tinian then returns to Saipan the same day.

29 May 1944:
NIPPONKAI MARU departs Saipan in a convoy consisting of KINSHU and TOYO MARUs escorted by kaibokan MIKURA, subchaser CH-48, auxiliary subchaser URUPPU MARU and auxiliary patrol boat SHOHO MARU.

1 June 1944:
At 0345, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message that reads: “Subchaser No. 53 proceed immediately to present position [of the] NIPPONKAI MARU convoy which sustained a torpedo attack this morning at 0345 in position 18-04N, 141-18E, and engage in escort of this convoy--.” [2]

At 1800, CH-53 departs Saipan and later joins the convoy.

4 June 1944:
At 1000, arrives at Palau.

4 June 1944:
Arrives at Palau.

10 June 1944:
Departs Palau escorted by subchaser CH-35.

11 June 1944:
Arrives at Yap.

14 June 1944:
At 1200, departs Yap for Davao escorted by subchaser CH-35 and auxiliary subchaser CHa-64.

17 June 1944:
Philippine Sea. 118 miles off Cape San Augustin, Mindanao. At about 1300, Cdr James E. Stevens’ (USNA '30) USS FLOUNDER (SS-251) torpedoes and sinks NIPPONKAI MARU at 06-33N, 127-55E. 20 crewmen are KIA. The escorts counter attack, but fail to damage USS FLOUNDER. CHa-64 rescues survivors and takes them to Davao the next day.

10 August 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Note:
[1] NIPPONKAI MARU was also known as NIHONKAI MARU.

[2] The submarine was Cdr (later Admiral/CINCPACFLT) Bernard A. Clarey's USS PINADO (SS-387).

Thanks go to Hisashi-san of Japan and Gilbert Casse of France.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

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