(ORYOKU MARU, prewar by Ueda kihachiro)

ORYOKU MARU: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2017 Bob Hackett

5 December 1936:
Nagasaki. Laid down at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. as Yard No. 681, a 7, 363-ton passenger-cargo ship for Osaka Shosen (OSK LIne) K.K.

14 February 1937:
Launched and named ORYOKU MARU.

30 September 1937 :
Completed. She can accomodate 45 first-class passengers, 139 second-class passengers and 679 third-class passengers.

12 October 1937-1943:
ORYOKU MARU begins her maiden voyage for OSK between Kobe~Moji~Dairen, Manchukuo (Manchuria).

ORYOKU MARU is placed on OSK's Kobe ~ Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan).

E 1943:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army (IJA) as a Haitosen shared cargo/transport (A/C-APK). Converted to a troop transport. Allotted IJA No. 5500.

6 October 1943:
At 0900, convoy MA-06 consisting of ORYOKU and FUJI MARUs merges with convoy HI-10 consisting of ASAMA, MIRI, TATEKAWA MARUs and probably OTOWASAN MARU escorted by kaibokan MATSUWA and TSUSHIMA.

9 October 1943:
At 0730, the convoys arrive safely at Moji.

6 October 1943:
At 0900, convoy MA-06 consisting of ORYOKU and FUJI MARUs is joined by kaibokan TSUSHIMA as escort.

9 October 1943:
At 0800, arrives at Moji.

10 November 1943:
At 1500, ORYOKU MARU departs Mutsure for Takao, Formosa (Kaohsiung, Taiwan) in convoy SA-17 consisting of oilers KYOKUTO, MIRI and OKIKAWA MARUs, Army Landing ships carriers NIGITSU and MAYASAN MARUs and cargo-passenger ship USSURI MARU escorted by patrol boat PB-36 and fleet oiler ASHIZURI. En route, ORYOKU MARU is detached for Kirun.

13 November 1943:
At 0830, ORYOKU MARU departs Kirun for Takao in the Rin-Toku convoy also consisting of cargo ship KOSHIN MARU (6530 grt) and tanker KYOKUTO MARU.

14 November 1943:
At 1610, arrives at Takao.

24 November 1943:
At 0740, convoy RINMA consisting only of ORYOKU MARU departs Kirun escorted by destroyers HASU (part way) and ASAGAO.

27 November 1943:
At 1100, the RINMA convoy arrives at Moji.

15 December 1943:
At 1500, ORYOKU MARU departs Takao in convoy No. 227 also consisting of TEISHO MARU (ex-German HAVENSTEIN).

16 December 1943:
At 0740, the convoy departs Kirun now consisting of ORYOKU, GYOKUREI, HORAISAN, HOREI, KINREI, NIKKO, SEATTLE and TEISHO MARUs and KOTO MARU No. 2 GO escorted by destroyer NUMAKAZE.

17 December 1943:
At 1800, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a signal from the CO of DesDiv 11 that reads: "The entire bow of NUMAKAZE has broken off from three meters above vicinity ---. There is a hole above and below the waterline on both sides of the ship forward of #1 main bulkhead. Another hole along the #7 beam starboard side above waterline 1 meter and about 30 centimeters. Have completed one patch and able to do eighteen knots.”

18 December 1943:
50 miles ENE of Naha, Okinawa. LtCdr (later KIA) John A. Moore’s (USNA '29 ) USS GRAYBACK (SS-208) (later lost in action) torpedoes and sinks NUMAKAZE with all hands at 26-29 N, 128-26 E.

At 2130, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt another signal that reads: “NUMAKAZE under tactical command commander DesDiv 1 left Takao escorting convoy No. 227. Route Moji. On 18 December at 2130 in position 26-30N, 128-13E reported sighting enemy submarine and depth charging same. Since then, nothing has been heard from said vessel. ---. A large quantity of material washed ashore at Betozaki in Okinawa.”

22 December 1943:
Arrives at Moji.

19 March 1944:
At 0530, ORYOKU MARU and five other vessels including KAGU and SHIMPO MARUs depart Moji and join convoy HI-55 for Singapore consisting of ASANAGI, OTORISAN, KACHIDOKI, RYOEI, TARAKAN and TENSHIN MARUs escorted by destroyer HARUKAZE and kaibokan MATSUWA.

24 March 1944:
At 1200, arrives at Takao. ORYOKU MARU and the five additional ships and destroyer HARUKAZE are detached

5 April 1944:
ORYOKU MARU departs Kirun and later joins convoy HI-50 from Singapore also consisting of tankers MANEI, EIHO, MEDAN, and OKIGAWA MARUs and SANUKI, USSURI, SHOHEI MARUs and four unidentified merchant ships.also consisting of tankers EIHO, KUROSHIO, MANEI, MEDAN, and OKIGAWA MARUs and SANUKI, USSURI, SHOHEI MARUs and four unidentified merchant ships escorted by destroyer SHIOKAZE and kaibokan SADO.

8 April 1944:
At 1010, arrives at Moji.

8 August 1944:
ORYOKU MARU departs Imari Bay (near Moji) for Singapore in convoy HI-71 comprised of fleet tanker HAYASUI, food-supply ship IRAKO, tankers EIYO, TEIYO, ZUIHO, KYOKUTO, NIYO MARUs and HAKKO MARU No. 2, cargo transport KASHII MARU and transports TEIA, KIBITSU, AWA, NOTO, HOKKAI, TAMATSU, NOSHIRO and MAYASAN MARUs.

The convoy's screen is provided by 6th Escort Convoy under convoy commander Rear Admiral (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Kajioka Sadamichi (former CO of KISO) with destroyers FUJINAMI and YUNAGI, kaibokan HIRATO, KURAHASHI, MIKURA, SHONAN and CD-11 and escort carrier TAIYO. Her 631st Naval Air Group provides air cover with 12 BN5 “Kates”.

15 August 1944:
HI-71 arrives at Mako, Pescadores. ORYOKU, HAKKO and NIYO MARUs and IRAKO are detached.

17 August 1944:
At 1500, ORYOKU MARU departs Mako in convoy aldo consisting of KIYOKAWA and ORYOKU MARUs also escorted by minelayer MAESHIMA and auxiliary minelayer CHOAN MARU .

18 August 1944:
At 1220, arrives at Kirun, Formosa.

27 August 1944:
At 0900, ORYOKU MARU departs Manila with in convoy MAMO-02 also consisting of KASHII, MAYASAN, NISSHO and NOTO MARUs escorted by kaibokan ETOROFU, SHIMUSHU, SHONAN, CD-7, CD-22 and CD-28, subchaser CH-41 and patrol boat P-102. At 1548, anchors in Subic Bay.

28 August 1944:
At 0600, departs Subic Bay.

30 August 1944:
At 1900 arrives at Takao. Destroyers HATSUSHIMO and WAKABA join the escort and subchaser CH-41, patrol boat P-102, CD-7 and CD-28 are detached.

31 August 1944:
ORYOKU MARU joins convoy MAMO-02 from Takao also consisting of KASHII, NISSHO and NOTO MARUs and IJA landing craft depot ship MAYASAN MARU escorted by destroyers WAKABA and HATSUSHIMO, kaibokan ETOROFU, SHIMUSHU, SHONAN, CD-22 and CD-28. Arrives at Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan). CD-22 id detached.

E 1 September 1944:
Departs Kirun for Moji in convoy MAMO-02.

4 September 1944:
At 0500, arrives at Moji.

1 October 1944:
At 0800, ORYOKU MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-77 HI-77 also consisting of auxiliary oilers OMUROSAN and ITSUKUSHIMA MARUs, IJA tanker OTOWASAN MARU, IJA shared tankers (A/C-AO) AKANE, ARITA, KAIHO and TAIHO MARUs, German submarine depot and supply ship QUITO GO and auxiliary transports KINUGASA and MANJU MARUs and one unidentified ship (probably HAKOZAKI MARU) escorted by kaibokan CHIBURI, CD-19, CD-21 and CD-27. The convoy anchors in Arikawa Bay, N Goto Retto that same day.

2 October 1944:
At 0712, departs Arikawa Bay for Singapore.

4 October 1944:
The convoy sights an unidentified submarine at 25-20N, 121-20E, but avoids combat and resumes its voyage.

5 October 1944:
ORYOKU and HAKOZAKI MARUs are detached from the convoy. At 0500, they arrive off Kirun.

22 October 1944:
ORYOKU MARU departs Kirun.

23 October 1944:
ORYOKU MARU possibly joins convoy HI-76 consisting of transports TEIHOKU, KUROSHIO and TOHO MARUs and tanker TENEI MARU escorted by KANJU,YASHIRO, CD-8 and CD-130. The convoy arrives off Mako and KUROSHIO and TOHO MARUs are detached.

24 October 1944:
TEIHOKU MARU develops engine troubles. She drifts for a while, but finally recovers and continues to Moji. One of TENEI MARU's engines also breaks down. She falls behind, but later catches up.

25 October 1944:
At 1030, The convoy arrives off Sasebo.

26 October 1944:
he convoy arrives at Moji.

13 November 1943:
At 0830, ORYOKU MARU departs Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan) bound for Takao in the Rin-Toku convoy also consisting of cargo ship KOSHIN MARU (6530 grt) and transport USSURI MARU bound for Singapore.

14 November 1943:
Arrives at Takao.

25 November 1944:
At 2000, ORYOKU MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-83 bound for Singapore also consisting of transport/cargo ships NISSHO, SANUKI and TEIHOKU (ex-Vichy French PERSEE) MARUs for Manila and tankers EISHO, HARIMA, KYOKUUN, SEISHIN and TOA MARUs. A further tanker in the convoy, AKASHI MARU is bound for Takao only. The convoy is escorted by escort carrier KAIYO, destroyers YUZUKI and KAMIKAZE and kaibokan CD-25, CD-35, CD-63, CD-64 and CD-207.

26 November 1944:
Departs Sasebo.

30 November 1944:
At 0600, convoy HI-83 arrives at Takao. ORYOKU MARU and the Manila contingent is detached from the convoy. TEIHOKU and AKASHI MARUs are also detached.

5 December 1944:
At 1157, ORYOKU MARU departs Takao in convoy TAMA-35 also consisting of ARIMASAN, NISSHO, and KAZUURA MARUs escorted by kaibokan DAITO, CD-1 CD-34 and CD-134. The ships carry the 13th Independent Field Artillery Battalion, Navy personnel, men from the 10th and 23rd Divisions and the 5th and 6th Medium Mortar Battalions. The ships also carry smooth bore 203mm Type 4 rocket launchers of the 845-man 3rd Rocket Launcher Battalion, 60 horses with 60 towed carts. A a ten-truck ammunition train carries the weapons and their fin-stabilized ammunition.

ORYOKU MARU carries 2,054 soldiers including the 558-man 4th Medium Mortar Battalion with twelve 150mm tubes and the unit’s ammunition, baggage and four trucks, a company of 23rd Division engineers and that regiment’s material platoon, and replacements for Luzon-based units such as the Army’s 10th Air Intelligence Regiment (observation and radar). Later that day, TAMA-35 anchors at Chechung.

6 December 1944:
At 0058 departs and at 1815 anchors at Port San Pio Quinto, Camiguin Island.

8 December 1944:
At 0502, departs Port San Pio Quinto. At 1411, anchors at Calayan Island.

9 December 1944:
At 0817, departs Calayan Island.

11 December 1944:
At 2000, arrives at Manila.

13 December 1944:
1,589 American POWs, including about 1,100 officers and 30 Allied POWs from Canabanatuan and Bilibid POW camps are loaded aboard ORYOKU MARU behind anout 1,500 IJA troops, 547 Japanese women and children, 1,127 passegers and crewmen from other ship-wrecked Japanese vessels and the ashes of 728 war dead. Also loaded aboard are looted items including Gen MacArthur's Packard automobile. [1]

14 December 1944:
At 0440, the “Oryoku Maru” convoy departs Manila’s “Million Dollar Pier” (No.7) for Moji escorted by destroyer escort MOMO and subchaser CH-60. ORYOKU MARU is carrying general goods and 3,511 evacuees including 1,619 Allied POWs, most of whom are field grade officers. Japanese civilians occupy the passenger cabins. The POWs are crammed into three cargo holds.

7 miles S of Napo Point. At 0650, air attacks begin by Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher’s (USNA ’10)(former CO of USS HORNET, CV-8) Task Force 38's USS HORNET (CV-12). Between six and 13 TBF "Avengers" attack ORYOKU MARU convoy in eleven waves that day. ORYOKU MARU is hit by bombs and her hull opened in many places by near misses. The ship begins taking on water and develops a 15 degree list to port. Her captain decides to strand her in shallow water. At 1020, ORYOKU MARU is beached at Suesute Point. The engine room is urgently repaired to allow the ship to be refloated on the high tide.

Subic Bay, Philippines. At 2150, the ship drops anchor inside Olongapo Port. The dead and passengers are offloaded, but the POW’s are left on board with guards. At the same time, the ship begins taking in water again and her list increases. The convoy is dissolved at, or prior to this time, and CH-60 and MOMO head north.

15 December 1944:
Subic. ORYOKU MARU is again bombed by 12 waves of aircraft from USS HORNET. At 0800 another prolonged air raid begins with 16 aircraft from USS HORNET attacking. Direct bomb hits start fires and wreck fire fighting pumps. Manual efforts to douse the fires are to no avail. At 1030, Abandon Ship is ordered. At 1630, off Caiman reef, the ship’s bow lodges in a group of rocks. ORYOKU MARU heels over and sinks about 300 yards offshore from the former Olongapo Naval Base at 14-45N, 120-13E. 48 men on the ship were killed defending the ship, including 10 of the crew. 111 people were wounded. The ship had loaded at Manila general goods and 3511 POWs and evacuees for Japan, of whom 728 were killed, including 286 POWs.

140 miles WSW of Cape Bolinao, Luzon. At about 1900, destroyer MOMO is torpedoed and sunk by LtCdr Francis W. Scanland, Jr's (USNA '34) USS HAWKBILL (SS-366) at 16 N, 117-39 E. 92 crewmen are KIA including her CO, Lt Cdr Minagawa Yoshio [63].

Author's Note:
[1] The Allies considered ORYOKU MARU to be a "Hell Ship"

Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

Bob Hackett

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