RIKUGUN HAITOSEN!

(Type 1TM Standard Tanker underway)

SARAWAK MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2013 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.
Revision 3


12 July 1943:
Yokohama. Laid down by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a 5,136-ton Type 1TM Wartime Standard Merchant Tanker for Mitsubishi Kisen K. K., Tokyo.

14 October 1943:
Launched and named SARAWAK MARU.

20 November 1943:
Completed and placed under Senpaku Uneikai (Civilian Administration) control. Allotted to the Army (A/C-AO) with number No. 5091.

13 December 1943:
SARAWAK MARU departs Moji in convoy No. 121 consisting of oilers TENEI MARU, OGURA MARU No. 2, FUSHIMI MARU No. 3, and cargo ships BATAVIA, NICHIREI and HIROTA MARUs and eight other unidentified merchant ships escorted by destroyer SHIOKAZE and minesweeper W-33. [1]

17 December 1943:
S of the Ryukyus. At 2226, LtCdr Henry C. Stevenson’s (USNA ’30) USS ASPRO (SS-309) torpedoes and damages SARAWAK MARU at 24-10, 124-40E. About the same time, ASPRO torpedoes and damages TENEI MARU at the same place. SHIOKAZE counterattacks, but ASPRO evades and escapes.

E 27 December 1943:
SARAWAK MARU arrives at Seletar Naval Base, Singapore. Undergoes repairs by the IJN’s No. 101 Repair Unit.

8 January 1944:
At 0800, SARAWAK MARU departs Singapore in convoy HI-28 also consisting of tanker OTORISAN MARU escorted by kaibokan MATSUWA.

17 January 1944:
At 2240, arrives at Moji.

1 March 1944:
At 1635, SARAWAK MARU departs Moji in convoy MOTA-07 also consisting of tankers RIKKO, NITTATSU, KONSAN, ATAGO and CHIYODA MARUs and transports/cargo ships TEIKA (ex French CAP VARELLA), YAMAHAGI, SUGIYAMA, KENSEI and HOKUROKU MARUs escorted by minesweeper W-30 and destroyer AMAGIRI.

7 March 1944:
HOKUROKU MARU falls behind with engine problems but later that day rejoins convoy.

8 March 1944:
Off the coast of northern Formosa, TEIKA (Ex French CAP VARELLA) and YAMAHAGI MARUs are detached for Kirun (Keelung).

9 March 1944:
At 1440, arrives at Takao.

16 March 1944:
Departs Takao in convoy TASA-10 also consisting of NISSHIN, HIOKI, YASUKUNI, KENSEI MARUs, HISHI MARU No.3 and four unidentified merchant ships escorted by the auxiliary gunboat CHOJUSAN MARU.

20 March 1944:
HIOKI and YASUKUNI MARUs are detached for Yulin.

21 March 1944:
Arrives at Camranh Bay.

22 March 1944:
Departs Camranh Bay.

23 March 1944:
At 1000 arrives at Cap St Jacques.

24 March 1944:
Departs St Jacques in convoy SASHI-13A also consisting of KENSEI MARU without escort.

27 March 1944:
Arrives at Singapore.

8 April 1944:
SARAWAK MARU departs Singapore in convoy HI-56 also consisting of tankers OTORISAN and ASANAGI MARUs and NICHINAN MARU No.2 and three unidentified merchant ships escorted by destroyer KURETAKE, torpedo boat HATO and kaibokan MATSUWA.

11 April 1944:
Arrives at St Jacques. Convoy HI-54 is merged with convoy which now also consists of tankers KYOKUHO and MIRI MARUs and transports/cargo liners ARIMASAN and NANKAI MARUs escorted by kaibokan AWAJI.

14 April 1944:
At 0800, the combined convoy departs St Jacques.

19 April 1944:
Arrives at Takao.

24 April 1944:
At 1930, arrives at Moji.

3 May 1944:
At 0445, SARAWAK MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-61 also consisting of empty tankers TATEKAWA, NICHIEI, AZUSA, EIYO, AKANE, OTORISAN, JINEI and ASANAGI MARUs and passenger cargo ship MIZUHO MARU escorted by escort carrier TAIYO, destroyers ASAGAO, HIBIKI and INAZUMA, kaibokan SADO, KURAHASHI, CD-5, CD-7 and CD-13.

7 May 1944:
JINEI MARU is detached because of engine trouble.

May 1944:
LtCdr (later Cdr) Victor B. McCrea's (USNA ’32) USS HOE (SS-258) attacks convoy HI-61. AKANE MARU suffers minor damage.

9 May 1944: Operation "A-GO" - The Defense of the Marianas:
At 2055, convoy HI-61 arrives at Luzon. AZUSA, TATEKAWA and NICHIEI MARUs are detached to participate in the planned "A-GO" operation.

12 May 1944:
HI-61 departs Manila for Singapore.

18 May 1944:
Arrives at Singapore.

23 May 1944:
A 0700, SARAWAK MARU departs Singapore for Moji in convoy HI-62 also consisting of tankers OTORISAN, and NICHINAN MARUs and transports KINUGASA, NOSHIRO, NISSHO, TAMATSU and TEIRITSU (ex-French LECONTE de LISLE) MARUs escorted by escort carrier TAIYO and kaibokan KURAHASHI, SADO, CD-5, CD-7 and CD-13.

29 May 1944:
HI-62 arrives at Manila.

1 June 1944:
At 0400, HI-62 departs Manila.

8 June 1944:
Arrives at Mutsure anchorage, later proceeds to Moji arriving at 0230.

9 June 1944:
Arrives at Itsukushima.

11 June 1944:
Departs Itsukushima and later that day arrives at Innoshima.

18 June 1944:
Departs Innoshima.

19 June 1944:
Arrives at Ujina.

20 June 1944:
Departs Ujina and later that day arrives at Moji. At 1930, departs Moji for Singapore in convoy HI-67 also consisting of tankers MIRI, OTORISAN and SHINEI MARUs and NICHINAN MARU No. 2 and transports MANJU, NANKAI, KINUGASA, ASAKA, ASAHISAN, GOKOKU and HAKOZAKI MARUs escorted by destroyer KURETAKE, minelayer SHIRATAKA, kaibokan HIRADO, KURAHASHI, CD-5 and CD-13 and subchaser CH-61.

E 26 June 1944:
Destroyer ASAGAO and kaibokan CD-2 join the escort of convoy HI-67 at sea.

29 June 1944:
Near dawn, LtCdr (later Captain) Anton W. Gallaher's (USNA ’33) USS BANG (SS-385) picks up convoy HI-67. Gallaher makes a long "end-around". At about 1510, he fires all ten torpedoes in his bow and stern tubes at three ships. He damages oilers MIRI and SARAWAK MARUs at 17-13N, 118-18E. SARAWAK MARU is hit in the bow and MIRI MARU under the bridge, but each manages to proceed to Manila.

June-24 July 1944:
Undergoes temporary repairs in the Manila area, probably by the IJN's No. 103 Repair Unit at Cavite Naval Base.

7 August 1944:
Departs Manila.

16 August 1944:
Arrives at Kirun.

20 August 1944:
Departs Kirun.

26 August 1944:
Arrives at Moji and departs later that day.

27 August 1944:
Arrives at Iwakuni.

28 August 1944:
Departs Iwakuni.

29 August 1944:
Arrives at Kobe.

31 August 1944:
Departs Kobe.

3 September 1944:
Arrives at Yokohama. Docked for repairs, probably at Mitsubishi.

21 December 1944:
Departs Yokohama.

24 December 1944:
Arrives at Ujina.

27 December 1944:
Departs Ujina.

28 December 1944:
Arrives at Moji.

31 December 1944:
At 0820, SARAWAK MARU departs Moji in convoy HI-87 for Singapore also consisting of fleet oiler KAMOI, with the convoy commander aboard, and tankers TENEI, KAIHO, KUROSHIO, MATSUSHIMA, MITSUSHIMA, MIRI, MUNAKATA MARUs and passenger-cargoman TATSUWA MARU escorted by light carrier RYUHO, destroyers SHIGURE, HATAKAZE and DesDiv17’s HAMAKAZE and ISOKAZE and kaibokan MIKURA, KURAHASHI and CD-13. Carrier RYUHO provides air cover.

3 January 1945:
At 0900, the convoy anchors temporarily in the Chusan Islands group because of the threat of air attacks on Formosa.

5 January 1945:
At 0500, convoy HI-87 departs the Chusan Islands anchorage.

7 January 1945:
East China Sea. The convoy is sighted by "Loughlin's Loopers" submarine wolf pack consisting of USS BARB (SS-220) and PICUDA (SS-382), later joined by QUEENFISH (SS-393).

At 0905, in very heavy seas, PICUDA torpedoes and heavily damages MUNAKATA MARU in the bow. She proceeds separately to Kirun (Keelung). The convoy anchors at the Shinchiku Roadstead, Formosa.

At 1300, the convoy is sighted by the wolfpack and tracked. RYUHO and SHIGURE detach from the convoy and proceed to Kirun. At 1830, in dense fog, the convoy anchors temporarily on the W Formosan coast. The ships then split up and enter Takao’s port at different times.

8 January 1945:
At 1200, KAMOI arrives with KAIHO MARU and kaibokan MIKURA, YASHIRO and CD-13. KAIHO MARU experiences an engine breakdown. The ships anchor temporarily outside Takao’s port.

9 January 1945:
Vice Admiral John S. McCain's (USNA ’06) (former CO of RANGER, CV-4) Task Force 38 aircraft attack shipping off Takao At 1200, 17 Grumman TBM "Avengers" and F6F "Hellcats" attack and sink KAIHO MARU carrying 680 troops. 14 crewmen and 324 troops are KIA. The airstrike also heavily damage KUROSHIO MARU and damage escorts YASHIRO, MIYAKE and kaibokan CD-13. KAMOI suffers light damage, probably from the near-miss of a bomb.

10 January 1945:
At 1700, SARAWAK MARU departs Takao for for Mako, Pescadores in reorganized convoy HI-87. It now also consists of KAMOI and MATSUSHIMA, MITSUSHIMA and HASHIDATE MARUs escorted by destroyer SHIGURE that rejoins from Kirun and kaibokan KANJU, KURAHASHI, NOMI, SHINNAN, YASHIRO, MIYAKE, CD-13, CD-60 and CD-205. RYUHO and DesDiv 17’s HAMAKAZE and ISOKAZE detach from HI-87 and depart for Japan. At 1830, MITSUSHIMA MARU suffers an engine breakdown and returns to Takao.

12 January 1945:
At 0600, TENEI MARU's steering breaks down and ship is escorted by CD-60 to Hong Kong. Soon after, the rest of the convoy is advised of a pending air raid on Mako and turns about and heads for Hong Kong.

13 January 1945:
At 1100, convoy HI-87 enters Hong Kong.

15 January 1945:
At 0915, there is an air attack on Hong Kong. Over the next two days, all of HI-87's merchants except SARAWAK MARU suffer varying degrees of battle damage.

16 January 1945:
Hong Kong. Task Force 38's air attacks continue from 0820. At 1240, KAMOI and TENEI MARU both suffer direct hits. P-51 "Mustang" fighters of the 14th Air Force strafe KAMOI and set her afire. At 1540, MATSUSHIMA MARU suffers a direct hit and is set on fire. At 1644, NOMI suffers damage to her aft gun platform from a near miss. At 1830, the battle ends. The Japanese claim 22 aircraft shot down, but acknowledge serious damage to three tankers and light damage to three escorts.

17 January 1945:
At 1930, the convoy, restyled HI-87A, departs Hong Kong for Singapore consisting only of SARAWAK MARU escorted by destroyer SHIGURE and kaibokan KANJU, MIYAKE and CD-13.

19 January 1945:
At 2000, arrives at Yulin, Hainan Island.

22 January 1945:
At 1856, departs Yulin.

24 January 1945:
Gulf of Siam, E of Kota Bharu, Malaya. At 0530, LtCdr (later Cdr) William L. Kitch’s (USNA ’38) USS BLACKFIN (SS-322) makes contact with convoy 87A. Kitch signals his nearby pack mates USS HARDHEAD (SS-365), USS COBIA (SS-245) and Cdr Thomas L. Wogan’s (USNA ’30) USS BESUGO (SS-321).

At 0709, BLACKFIN torpedoes and sinks SHIGURE at 06N, 103-48 E. Kaibokan KANJU and MIYAKE rescue 270 survivors, but 37 crewmen are KIA.

BESUGO closes the convoy, but the escorts drive her off with gunfire and depth charges. Twenty minutes later, Wogan makes another approach. At 0817, he fires six torpedoes and damages SARAWAK MARU at 05-59N, 103-48E. The torpedo tracks attract the escorts and BESUGO endures a total of 22 depth-charges. Later that afternoon, the escorts drop another 32 depth-charges, but Wogan successfully evades.

26 January 1945:
SARAWAK MARU arrives at Seletar Naval Base, Singapore. Undergoes repairs by the IJN’s No. 101 Repair Unit.

18 March 1945:
Repairs are completed.

19 March 1945:
SARAWAK MARU departs Singapore for Moji in convoy HI-88-J also consisting of HONAN, KAIKO, ASOKAWA, ARAOSAN and TENCHO MARUs and an unidentified merchant escorted by kaibokan CD-18, CD-26, CD-84, CD-130, CD-134, and probably CD-33, and subchasers CH-8, CH-9 and CH-33. SARAWAK MARU's cargo includes 4,400-tons of oil, 690-tons of raw rubber and 116-tons of tin.

Ten miles off Horsburgh Light, Singapore. At 1310, while leaving the Singapore straits enroute to the convoy assembly area, SARAWAK MARU hits a mine laid by a USAAF B-29 “Superfortress”. Badly damaged, her captain beaches SARAWAK MARU in shallow water. There are no reported casualties.

21 March 1945:
Bintan Island, Malaya. At 1120, SARAWAK MARU rolls over to port and sinks at 01-25N, 104-36E.

23 March 1945:
At 0530, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message that reads: “1. The Sarawak Maru caught fire on the port side and was flooded --- on the 19th at 1346, at 01-26 N., 104-36 E. ---towing, its deep stern struck bottom and it was grounded at a position about 3 ---- north of the ---- ra [sic] ---- to lighthouse ( ---- 20 meters). On account of the current growing strong, operations --- and it turned sideways and sank at 1120 on the 21st (January?).”


Authors' Note:
[1] According to an Ultra decrypt, two unidentified convoys crossed at 24-10N, 124-40E consisting of the ships listed. Exactly which ships belonged to which convoy is unknown.

Thanks go to John Whitman of the USA for info on CNO intercepts of Japanese messages and to Gilbert Casse of France.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall

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