(RYUSEI MARU, prewar)

RYUSEI MARU: Tabular Record of Movement

© 2018 Bob Hackett

E 1910:
Newcastle, England. Laid down at Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Willington (N. & S. Shields) as Yard Number 177, a 4,805-ton cargo ship for Olsen Fred - Ganger Rolf A/S, Oslo, Norway.

14 February 1911:
Launched and named BRA-KAR.

March 1911:

Sold to Henrik Østervolds Shipping Company, Christiania, Norway. Renamed HAVØ.

Sold to Henrik Ostervold’s Rederi A/S, Bergen, Norway

Sold to A/SD/ S Geir (O. Grolle Olsen & I. Hysing Olsen), Bergen.

July 1935:
Sold to Far Eastern Steamship Co., Ltd. A/ S (Johan Gran), Bergen. Renamed MABUHAY II

Sold to Matumoto Masaiti, Kobe, Japan. Renamed RYUSEI MARU.

7 May 1942:
At 1200, RYUSEI MARU departs Mutsure for Singapore in convoy No. 109 also consisting of cargo ships MIKAGE, DOVER and YOSHINO MARUs and passenger-cargo TAIYO MARU carrying 1,360 skilled oilmen, engineers, and specialists headed for Java and Sumatra. The convoy is escorted by auxiliary gunboat PEKING MARU. While steaming westward through the Genkai Sea, the convoy encounters a severe northeastern gale which reduces speed.

8 May 1942:
At 1100, while patrolling in the vicinity, destroyer MINEKAZE and auxiliary gunboat TOMITSU MARU join the convoy as additional escorts. At 1700, MINEKAZE and TOMITSU MARU are detached. At 1900, PEKING MARU signals “danger of enemy sub appearance, use strict caution, prepare for gun action”.

170 km SW of Me-Shima, Nannyo-Gunto, Nagasaki Prefecture, SW Kyushu. At 1945, LtCdr William A. Lent’s (USNA ‘25) USS USS GRENADIER (SS-210) fires four torpedoes at TAIYO MARU. Two torpedoes hit her portside in the stern and No. 2 hold that catches fire. By 2020, water reaches C deck and the ship develops a 35 degree list portside. All hands are ordered to abandon ship. By 2035, the ship is restored to an even level, but starts to submerge rapidly bow first. At 2040, TAIYO MARU rises vertically and sinks. 1,044 passengers, four armed guards/gunners and 156 crewmen are KIA.

PEKING MARU sends a distress call, picks up 15 survivors and counter-attacks. She drops a string of depth charges on GRENADIER without effect. After receiving PEKING MARU´s distress call, MINEKAZE and TOMITSU MARU rush to the scene of disaster. Both ships arrive about midnight and start rescue work. Despite terrible weather conditions, their crews pick up 480 survivors. A large-scale search for other survivors is conducted by several fishing boats, but no other survivors are found.

10 May 1942:
At noon, the survivors are landed at Nagasaki.

12 May 1942:
The convoy arrives at Mako, Pescadores.

2 August 1942:
Released by the IJA back to her owners.

Matsumoto Masaichi merges into Nakamura Kisen K.K., Kobe

4 November 1943:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Allotted IJA No. 1134

22 October 1943:
At 1100, RYUSEI MARU departs Moji for Takao in convoy No. 108 also consisting FUKUJU, HAKUSAN, KENAN, NARITA and ODATSUKI MARUs and tanker KOSHIN MARU escorted by kaibokan MATSUWA.

26 October 1943:
At 0940, the convoy arrives at Takao.

24 February 1944:
At 1522, RYUSEI MARU departs Surabaya, Java for Ambon, Moluccas in a convoy also consisting of TANGO MARU escorted by minesweepers W-8 and W-11 and auxiliary subchaser TAKUNAN MARU No. 5.

RYUSEI MARU is carrying about 6,600 men: four detachments of various IJA units for a total of 1,244 Japanese nationals, 2,865 Indian soldiers and 2,559 Romusha laborers.

TANGO MARU is carrying 5,700 troops including men of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, about 3,500 Javanese Romusha laborers and Allied prisoners-of-war POWs, probably mostly Dutch Colonial troops.

That same day, LtCdr (later Captain) Willard R. Laughon's (USNA '33) USS RASHER (SS-269) and LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) James W. Davis’ (USNA '30) USS RATON (SS-270) receive a coded ULTRA message that orders them to patrol the Bali Sea to intercept a two-ship convoy expected to enter the Rass Strait between 1800-2000 the next night.

25 February 1944:
Laughon's RASHER intercepts a convoy consisting of RYUSEI and TANGO MARUs proceeding from Surabaya to Ambon escorted by minesweepers W-8 and W-11 and auxiliary subchaser TAKUNAN MARU No. 3.

About 25 miles N of Bali Island. At 2045, Laughon torpedoes and sinks TANGO MARU at 07-41N, 115-10E. At least 3000 troops and coolies are KIA.

At 2225, Laughon sets up and fires four torpedoes at RYUSEI MARU. He gets three hits that split her in two. She sinks at 07-55S, 115-15E. An unknown number of troops and POWs and about 3,000 Javanese and 34 crew are KIA.

At 0824, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message that reads: "Subchaser No. 1 will proceed immediately to the position of the sinking of RYUSEI MARU to rescue personnel.”

Authors Notes:
Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

- Bob Hackett

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