(SAKITO MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2012-2016 Bob Hackett
Revision 2

16 April 1938:
Nagasaki. Laid down at Mitsubishi Dockyard & Engineering Works as a 7,126-ton passenger/cargo ship for the Nippon Yusen K. K. (NYK) Line, Tokyo.

27 October 1938:
Launched and named SAKITO MARU. [1]

29 January 1939:
Completed and placed in service on NYK’s New York route. For the “New York-Line, she calls from Kobe to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Kirun, Shanghai and Tientsin (Taku) then returns to Japan with calls at Osaka, Kobe, Yokohama and other domestic ports. Then after crossing the Pacific to Los Angeles she steams to New York via Balboa, the Panama Canal and Cristobal. After calls at the east coasts port of Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Norfolk, Virginia, she returns back to Japan following roughly the same route. Her cargo consists of raw silk from Japan and general cargo, sugar, manganese and palm oil from the Philippines. On her return trip, her cargo usually consists of steel products, cotton and general cargo.

4 September 1940:
Los Angeles, California. Captain Sato’s SAKITO MARU is en route from New York to Yokahama, via the Panama Canal and Los Angeles Harbor. At 0710, on a foggy morning, SAKITO MARU collides with 1,514-ton fishing barge OLYMPIC II that is anchored on “Horseshoe Kelp” fishing bank at the entrance of Los Angeles Harbor. OLYMPIC II sinks in 100 feet of water. Seven or eight persons aboard her are killed.

25 May 1941:
Four miles S of Mollendo harbor, Peru. NYK’s ARIMA MARU runs aground on a shoal. Later, NYK’s TAKAOKA MARU commences salvage work.

24 September 1941:
ARIMA MARU is refloated. Later, she is taken in tow by SAKITO MARU and arrives at Callao, Peru where ARIMA MARU receives makeshift repairs.

9 October 1941:
SAKITO MARU departs Callao towing ARIMA MARU.

20 November 1941:
Arrives at Yokohama.

3 December 1941:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army and converted to a troop transport. Alloted IJA No. 992.

17 February 1942:
At 0800, SAKITO MARU departs Mutsure in No. 56 Army Division Convoy No. 1 Section also consisting of AOBASAN, HARUNA, KYUSHU, NAGARA and NAKO MARUs escorted by destroyer ASAGAO, KARUKAYA and minelayer HIRASHIMA.

20 February 1942:
At 1600, SAKITO MARU departs Camranh Bay in the 10th Malaya Reinforcement Convoy consisting of two divisions: 1st division: AOBASAN, NAKO, KYUSHU, SADO, KANSAI and NAGARA MARUs and 2nd division: SAGAMI, SASAKO, HIROKAWA and CANBERRA MARUs. The convoy is escorted by light cruiser SENDAI and destroyers FUBUKI and SHIKINAMI.

22 February 1942:
At 1800, both divisions arrive at Singora.

15 March 1942:
SAKITO MARU arrives at Singapore.

19 March 1942: "U" transport operation to Burma (U Sakusen Yuso):

25 March 1942:
The First Burma Transport Convoy arrives at Rangoon.

13 October 1942: - First Assault Convoy for Tassafaronga, Guadalcanal:
SAKITO MARU departs Shortlands for Tassafaronga, Guadalcanal, Solomons in a high-speed convoy also consisting of AZUMASAN, KYUSHU, NANKAI, SADO and SASAKO MARUs escorted by Rear Admiral Takama Tamotsu’s [41] DesRon 4’s AKIZUKI (F) and DesDivs 2’s YUDACHI, HARUSAME, SAMIDARE, MURASAME and DesDiv 27’s SHIGURE, SHIRATSUYU and ARIAKE. [1]

The convoy carries about 4,500 troops including the IJA’s 16th Regiment, two battalions of the 230th Infantry Regiment and 824 men of the No. 4 Maizuru Special Naval Landing Force ( SNLF) from Rabaul and Shortlands. The ships also carry a battery of 100-mm guns and a battery of 150-mm howitzers, a battalion of AA guns, the 1st Independent Tank Company, ammunition and provisions. Air cover is provided by the 11th Air Fleet and the R-Area Air Force's floatplane fighters. At midnight, the convoy arrives at Tassafaronga and proceeds with unloading.

14 October 1942: At dawn, Mitsubishi A6M "Zeke" fighters from carriers HIYO and JUNYO and floatplane fighters of the R-Area Air Force provide cover over the unloading operation. At 0600, a flight of six Grumman F4F "Wildcat' fighters strafe the transports. One F4F is lost and another is damaged as is a floatplane fighter.

At about 1030, the transports are attacked by the “Cactus Air Force” (later AirSols) from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal with a force of 25 aircraft including 12 Douglas "Dauntless" SBD dive-bombers, three USAAF P-39s and one P-400 “Airacobra” fighters, eight F4F fighter and one PBY-5 “Catalina” armed with two torpedoes. An SDB or the PBY hits SASAKO MARU and starts a fatal fire. She is beached and becomes a total loss, but her troops, tanks, and guns are landed successfully.

At 1150, after most of the transports have landed almost all of their troops and heavy equipment, a flight of 11 B-17 “Flying Fortress” heavy bombers from Espiritu Santo attack the transports. AZUMASAN MARU is hit and beached. At about 1330, in another American air attack, KYUSHU MARU is hit by a bomb, set afire and beached. The transports' troops, tanks, and guns are landed successfully, but the tank fuel and ammunition they carried are lost. Both ships burn out and become total losses.

Rear Admiral Takama gets his ships underway to avoid further air attacks and the remains of the convoy heads N to Savo Island. At 1700, the convoy returns to Tassafaronga. At 1740, the convoy is attacked again, this time by a flight of four SBD dive-bombers of carrier USS ENTERPRISE’s VB-6. At 1742, SAKITO and SADO MARUs and their escorts depart Tassafaronga for Rabaul.

18 October 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

17 January 1943:
SAKITO MARU departs Muroran, S Hokkaido for the Kurile Islands carrying 278 replacements for the 303rd Independent Infantry Battalion and other 298 passengers. She also carries seven seaplane fighters, one reconnaissance seaplane and four Daihatsu landing craft.

E 22 January 1943:
Arrives at Paramushiro, Kuriles.

28 January 1943:
At 2300, SAKITO MARU departs Paramushiro for Attu, Aleutians in convoy No. 10 also consisting of KIMIKAWA MARU escorted by destroyer USAGUMO and kaibokan KUNASHIRI.

31 January 1943:
At 2100, arrives at Attu. The convoy unloads and departs the same day.

1 February 1943:
Arrives at Kiska. The convoy unloads and departs the same day.

3 February 1943:
At 0700, arrives at Paramushiro.

13 February 1943:
SAKITO MARU departs Paramushiro on a supply run to Kiska escorted by light cruiser KISO and DesDiv 21’s HATSUSHIMO and WAKABA. SAKITO MARU's speed is slowed because of the presence of an American squadron off Kiska.

20 February 1943:
Arrives at Kiska. SAKITO MARU and KISO unload supplies.

22 February 1943:
Arrives back at Paramushiro.

5 March 1943:
Kashiwabara Bay, Shimushu Island, Kuriles. SAKITO MARU is in a collision with IJN transport MURUTO MARU.[2]

7 March 1943:
SAKITO MARU and armed merchant cruiser ASAKA MARU departs Kashiwabara, Paramushiro for Attu escorted by the Fifth Fleet's cruisers NACHI (F), MAYA, ABUKUMA, TAMA, KISO and destroyer USUGUMO with DesDiv 6's IKAZUCHI and INAZUMA and DesDiv 21's HATSUSHIMO and WAKABA.

10 March 1943:
Arrives at Attu. KISO and the transports land supplies, while the other units patrol.

13 March 1943:
All units arrive safely at Kashiwabara, Paramushiro.

17 March 1943:
Departs Paramushiro. Arrives at Kataoka Bay. Loads six to eight 76mm army AA guns, four or more 25mm AA machine guns, ammunition, food stuffs, other supplies and equipment for Attu. She also carries 200 to 300 troops and lumber.

23 March 1943:
SAKITO and SANKO MARUs and armed merchant cruiser ASAKA MARU depart Kataoka, Paramushiro in convoy No. 21-RO escorted by DesRon 1’s light cruiser ABUKUMA and destroyers IKAZUCHI, INAZUMA, HATSUSHIMO, USUGUMO and WAKABA.

SAKITO MARU is loaded with six to eight army 76mm AA guns, four or more 25mm AA machine guns, ammunition, food stuffs, other supplies and equipment for Attu. She also carries about 200 to 300 troops and lumber.

25 March 1943:
Cruisers NACHI (F), with Vice Admiral Boshiro embarked, and MAYA depart Paramushiro for Attu with light cruiser TAMA. That same day, SAKITO MARU and her group run into a violent storm and are forced to reduce speed. SANKO MARU and destroyer USUGUMO are detached.

26 March 1943: The Battle of the Komandorski Islands:
In the morning, SAKITO MARU's group sight the Komandorski Islands and turn south to make their planned rendezvous with the cruisers. At about noon, they contact the cruisers.

N Pacific, off the Kamchatka Peninsula, Siberia. Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Charles H. McMorris (former CO of SAN FRANSCISCO, CA-38) Task Group 16.6's USS RICHMOND (CL-9)(F), SALT LAKE CITY (CA-25) and destroyers BAILEY (DD-492), DALE (DD-353), MONAGHAN (DD-354) and COGHLAN (DD-606) engage Vice Admiral Hosogaya's Fifth Fleet cruisers NACHI (F), MAYA, TAMA and ABUKUMA and two destroyers that are escorting Convoy "D" carrying troops and supplies for the isolated garrison on Attu.

On contact with the Americans, NACHI's two planes are ordered launched. At 0540, NACHI's main battery opens fire. The gun blast damages the spotter plane on the starboard catapult. It has to be jettisoned. The remaining three-seat E13A1 "Jake" on the port catapult is launched. It carries out spotting duties throughout the action. About 30 minutes into the battle, SAKITO and ASAKA MARUs are ordered to get clear and withdraw to the northeast.

In a four-hour running gun battle, SALT LAKE CITY and BAILEY are damaged by gunfire. The other American destroyers are not damaged. NACHI and MAYA are also hit and damaged. About 1000, SAKITO and ASAKA MARUs receive orders from flagship NACHI to return to Paramushiro and that ABUKUMA and two destroyers will be sent to join them. McMorris succeeds in causing the Japanese to abort their resupply mission.

29 March 1943: The fleet arrives at Paramushiro in the morning. ASAKA MARU arrives that evening. Disgraced, Hosogaya is relieved of command and forced to retire. Vice Admiral Kawase Shiro (former XO of KIRISHIMA) assumes command of the Fifth Fleet.

30 October 1943:
75 miles NE of Shanghai. SAKITO MARU collides with, and sinks, Toa Kaiun Line's 5,252-ton cargo-passsenger vessel SHANGHAI MARU.

3 November 1943:
Takao, Formosa. SAKITO MARU probably receives post-collision inspection and necessary temporary repairs.

2 December 1943:
SAKITO MARU departs Takao in Special G convoy (Part 2) also consisting of ASOSAN, MIRI and NISSHO MARUs with unknown escort.

7 December 1943:
Arrives at Mutsure.

December 1943-January 1944:
SAKITO MARU is probably docked and receives post-collision permanent repairs to her hull.

February 1944:
Pusan, Korea. SAKITO MARU embarks about 4,000 soldiers of the IJA 18th Infantry Regiment and other division elements. Many men are quartered in three-step shelf-like tiers in the transport’s cargo holds.

February 1944:
Departs Pusan in an unidentified convoy also consisting of several transports escorted by DesDiv 31’s destroyers ASASHIMO, OKINAMI and KISHINAMI.

February 1944:
Arrives at Ujina.

26 February 1944:
At 2100, SAKITO MARU departs Ujina in the "Matsu Maru Transportation Convoy" also consisting of passenger-cargo AKI MARU and transport TOZAN (TOSAN) MARU escorted by DesDiv 31’s ASASHIMO, OKINAMI and KISHINAMI.

The convoy is carrying reinforcements for the Marianas taken from the Kwantung Army’s 29th Infantry Division based in Manchuria. SAKITO MARU carries most of the 18th Infantry Regiment bound for Tinian while AKI MARU carries the division staff and most of the 38th Infantry Regiment bound for Guam and TOZAN MARU carries most of the 50th Infantry Regiment bound for Saipan.

28 February 1944:
By the evening, the convoy advances southward to a point off Cape Seta, S Kyushu.

29 February 1944:
At 0246, destroyer ASASHIMO’s Type 22 radar detects a submarine aft off the port side, range about 6,300 yards. At 0255, the range had opened to about 6,400 yards and the submarine was now off the starboard side. ASASHIMO snaps on her searchlight and opens fire with her main guns. She fires 15 rounds, one of which hits and wrecks LtCdr John J. Flachsenhar's (USNA '35) USS ROCK (SS-274) in the periscope shears. ASASHIMO drops two DCs and rejoins the convoy. USS ROCK, blind under water without her periscopes, is forced to terminate her war patrol.

SE of Okinawa. At about 1753, LtCdr Albert H. Clark’s (USNA '33) USS TROUT (SS-202) fires three Mark XVIII electric torpedoes at SAKITO MARU at 22-40N, 131-50E. Two hit her portside in the engine room. A cargo of gasoline explodes and flooding begins. The fires block passageways and panic the tightly-packed troops. Soldiers on deck throw overboard wooden hatches, boxes, and construction timber as makeshift floats.

AKI MARU is hit in the bow and suffers flooding but is able to continue. TOZAN MARU is hit by a dud torpedo, but also able to continue.

ASASHIMO detects the submarine and drops 19 depth charges. Oil and debris come to the surface and ASASHIMO drops a final depth charge on that spot.

17 April 1944:
TROUT is declared presumed lost with all 81 hands.

1 March 1944:
At 0400, SAKITO MARU sinks at 22-40N, 131-50E. 2,358 soldiers, 65 ship’s gunners and 52 crewmen of 3,500 men on board are KIA including the 18th Infantry’s regimental commander, Colonel Monma Kentaro. Also lost are several light tanks and most of the regiment's equipment.

ASASHIMO and OKINAMI rescue 1,688 survivors and deliver them to Saipan. Six hundred are seriously burned or wounded. None of the regiment’s equipment nor artillery and none of the eight tanks aboard reach Saipan.

Author’s Note:
[1] SAKITO MARU was also known as SAKIDO MARU.

[2] The extent of damage to SAKITO MARU was probably superfical because two days later she departed Paramushiro for Attu with ASAKA MARU escorted by cruisers NACHI and MAYA, light cruisers TAMA and ABUKUMA and five destroyers.

[3] USS TROUT was the only American submarine which could have attacked at this time in this position, but since she did not report the action, it is assumed she was lost during or shortly after this attack.

[4} TROUT was using Mk. XVIII electric torpedoes, and it is also possible that one of those made a circular run and sunk the boat, as happened with USS TANG due to faulty design and testing.

Thanks go to the late John Whitman for addiional info on SAKITO MARU's sinking and troops carried to Attu. Thanks also go to Erich Muethlthaler of Germany.

Bob Hackett

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