(SANKO MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2016 Gilbert Casse and Peter Cundall

30 September 1938:
Sakurajima near Osaka. Laid down by Osaka Iron Works K.K. shipyard for Dairen Kisen K.K. as a 5,461-tons cargo ship.

12 February 1939:
Launched and named SANKO MARU.

8 May 1939:
Completed and registered at Dairen, Manchuria (now Dalian, northern China).

3 December 1940:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

16 December 1940:
Registered in the IJN as an auxiliary collier/oiler attached to the Kure Naval District with Kure as homeport under Navy’s instruction No. 980.

E December 1940:
Assigned to Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Takasu Shiro’s (35) 4th Fleet as an auxiliary collier/oiler (Ko) category. [2]

15 January 1941:
Captain Suzuki Kozo (36) is appointed supervisor.

22 January 1941:
Departs Kure.

E January ~ February 1941:
Calls at Saipan, Marianas and Palau, Western Carolines.

28 February 1941:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

16 March 1941:
Departs Yokosuka.

E March ~ May 1941:
Calls at Ponape, Eastern Carolines ~ Truk, Central Carolines and Saipan.

25 May 1941:
Arrives at Yokosuka. Departs later.

9 June 1941:
Departs Osaka.

E 16 June ~ 16 July 1941:
Operates in the South Seas (Japanese mandated islands).

25 July 1941:
Arrives at Osaka.

11 August 1941:
Captain Suzuki is relieved by Captain Shimomura Keisaburo (33).

7 September 1941:
Departs Yokosuka.

E 14 ~ 21 September 1941:
Operates in the South Seas.

29 September 1941:
Arrives at Yokosuka. Transfers later to Tsurumi near Yokohama.

2 October 1941:
Begins conversion to military duty at Asano Dock K.K. shipyard.

30 October 1941:
The conversion is completed.

6 December 1941:
Assigned to transport personnel and troop supplies under Yokosuka Naval District instruction No. 14.

28 December 1941:
After unloading cargo at Truk, assigned to load phosphorus ore at Saipan and then to sail to Yokohama under secret telegram No. 95.

21 January 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

28 January 1942:
Ends troop and supply transport to the South Seas bases under Yokosuka Naval District instruction No. 45.

January 1942:
Assigned to Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Inoue Shiyegoshi’s (37) 4th Fleet as an auxiliary collier/oiler (Ko) category. [2]

February 1942:
Assigned to ammunition transport mission under secret telegram No. 139.

7 February 1942:
Departs Yokosuka with IJN requisitioned cargo ship (B-AK) IWAKI MARU.

E 17 February 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul, New Britain.

11 ~ 12 March 1942:
Coals auxiliary gunboat NIKKAI MARU.

19 ~ 20 March 1942:
Comes alongside and coals auxiliary gunboat SEIKAI MARU.

E March 1942:
Departs Rabaul.

16 April 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

1 May 1942:
Captain Shimomura is relieved by Captain (Rear Admiral posthumously) Yamagata Shosuke (34).

5 May 1942:
At 1700, departs Yokosuka in convoy with IJA transport YAMASHIRO MARU escorted by auxiliary gunboat CHOUN MARU.

12 May 1942:
At 0900, YAMASHIRO MARU is detached for Saipan.

17 May 1942:
At 1050, arrives at Truk. Auxiliary merchant cruiser NOSHIRO MARU has met the convoy en route but then apparently detached to meet tanker TONAN MARU No. 2.

22 May 1942:
At 1500, departs Truk escorted by auxiliary merchant cruiser NOSHIRO MARU. At 2200, LtCdr (later Cdr ) Joseph H. Willingham's (USNA '26) USS TAUTOG (SS-199) fires one torpedo and heavily damages SANKO MARU at 06-10N, 150-30E. The auxiliary collier/oiler reverses course to Truk.

23 May 1942:
At 1320, arrives back at Truk for emergency repairs.

10 July 1942:
Captain Yamagata disembarks and is assigned directly to the Yokosuka Naval District.

14 July 1942:
Still under repairs at Truk. Assigned to Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi’s (38) 8th Fleet.

8 October 1943:
At 0400, departs Truk for Saipan in convoy No. 4008 also consisting of auxiliary transport CHOAN MARU No. 2 GO, IJN requisitioned cargo ships (B-AK) TSUNESHIMA and CHIYO MARUs with cable layer escort HATSUSHIMA and subchaser CH-12 as escorts. The convoy sails at 8.5 knots.

9 October 1943:
At 0515, the two escorts are detached.

E 10 October 1943:
Arrives at Saipan, Marianas.

11 October 1943:
Departs Saipan for Tateyama still in convoy No. 4008 with the same ships joined by auxiliary transport MUKO MARU.

13 October 1943:
The convoy is joined by IJN requisitioned cargo ships (B-AK) MANJU and TATEBE MARUs and IJA transport TAIAN MARU escorted by kaibokan FUKUE, auxiliary minelayer CHOAN MARU and auxiliary subchaser TAKUNAN MARU No. 10.

18 October 1943:
The merged convoy arrives at Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture.

19 October 1943:
Departs Tateyama and arrives at Yokosuka later that day.

1 January 1944:
Rerated auxiliary collier/oiler (Otsu) category. [2]

16 January 1944:
Departs Yokosuka.

25 January 1944:
At 1800, departs Moji in convoy O-510 also consisting of auxiliary transport KIZUGAWA MARU towing midget sub HA-52, and IJA transports MITO, MACASSAR, YAKUMO, HINODE, KIBI, HASSHU, TASMANIA MARUs and SHINTO MARU No. 1 escorted by destroyer HARUKAZE, minesweeper W-17 and auxiliary subchaser TAMA MARU No. 7.

E 27 January 1944:
At 28N, TAMA MARU No. 7 is detached.

5 February 1944:
Arrives at Palau.

12 February 1944:
Departs Palau for Rabaul in convoy SO-903 towing midget submarine HA-52, also consisting of IJA transport SHINTO MARU No. 1 and civilian cargo ship (C-AK) TATSUKIKU MARU escorted by subchasers CH-22 and CH-39 and auxiliary subchaser Cha-16. Near Mussau Island, SANKO MARU and CH-39 are detached for Kavieng, New Ireland.

16 February 1944:
Off Three Island Harbor, New Hanover, Bismarck Archipelago. The convoy is attacked by nine Fifth Air Force B-25 "Mitchell" medium-bombers of the 500th ‘Rough Raiders’ Bomb Squadron of the 345 Bomb Group. The B-25s bomb, strafe and sink CH-39 (casualties unknown) and SANKO MARU (14 crewmen KIA) and damage the midget.

That same afternoon, B-25s of the 499th 'Bats Outta Hell' Bomb Squadron of the 345 Bomb Group find CH-39 sunk by the stern on a reef and abandoned. The 499th Bomb Squadron finishes her off with thirteen bombs that explode her magazine and boiler and reduce CH-39 to a shattered hulk. They also bomb and strafe the midget submarine on the surface and claim a sinking.

17 February 1944:
B-25s of the 500th Bomb Squadron return to the scene again and find the midget submarine still on the surface. They again bomb and strafe the midget and also claim a sinking. [3]

30 April 1944:
Removed from the Navy’s list under instruction No. 606.

Authors' Notes:
[1] Not to be confused with Army transport No. 394 (4,958 GRT, ’37) or civilian cargo ship (C-AK) (630 GRT, ’19).

[2] There were two categories of Kyutanyusen. (Ko) category with an IJN Captain as supervisor aboard and (Otsu) category without.

[3] Japanese sources claim the midget submarine's crew scuttled her after the B-25 attacks.

Thanks go to Gengoro S. Toda of Japan.

- Gilbert Casse and Peter Cundall.

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