(SHINKOKU MARU as a Kobe Sanbashi tanker)


Tabular Record of Movement

© 2005-2016 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

Revision 6

25 October 1938:
Kobe. Laid by Kawasaki Heavy Industries as a 10,020-ton merchant tanker for Kobe Sanbashi (Kobe Pier Co.) K. K.

13 December 1939:
Launched and named SHINKOKU MARU

28 February 1940:
Completed. [1]

Chartered by Kawasaki Kisen for oil transport services.

18 August 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN.

25 August 1941:
Osaka. Conversion to a naval auxiliary begins at Naniwa Dockyard.

5 September 1941:
Registered as an auxiliary oiler, (Ko) category under internal order No. 1025 and attached to the Kure Naval District with Kure as homeport. That same day, Captain Ito Tokutaka (39) (former CO of auxiliary transport FUJIKAWA MARU) is appointed Supervisor.

24 September 1941:
The conversion is completed.

27-28 October 1941:
The Chief of Staff 1st Air Fleet, Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kusaka Ryunosuke (41)(former CO of AKAGI) arranges for oilers SHINKOKU and TOHO MARUs to join the 1st Air Fleet by about 10 November. In the meantime, the two oilers are equipped for refueling while under tow.

30 October 1941:
Rear Admiral Kusaka signals SHINKOKU and KYOKUTO MARUs that when installation of gear for refueling and preparations for action have been completed, SHINKOKU MARU is to depart Sasebo and KYOKUTO MARU is to depart Kure on 13 November. Both oilers are to proceed to Kagoshima Bay on Kyushu. Further, they are to conduct refueling exercises with the 1st Air Fleet's carriers while enroute. Kusaka requests the oilers' COs to load fuel oil for refueling purposes before their departure.

10 November 1941:
Kure. The Chief of Staff of the Kure Naval District advises Rear Admiral Kusaka that arrangements have been made to reequip oilers SHINKOKU, KENYO, KOKUYO and KYOKUTO MARUs for simultaneous port and starboard refueling by 13 November.

13-14 November 1941:
Enroute to Kagoshima Bay, oilers SHINKOKU, KYOKUTO, KENYO and KOKUYO MARUs conduct refueling at sea exercises with CarDiv 1's AKAGI, CarDiv 2's SORYU and HIRYU and CarDiv 5's SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, CruDiv 8's TONE and CHIKUMA and DesRon 1's light cruiser ABUKUMA and her destroyers [2]

18 November 1941: Operation "Z"- The Hawaii Operation:
SHINKOKU MARU departs Saeki for the Kuriles. Seven oilers are assigned to Operation "Z", but the IJN’s practical experience in refueling at sea is almost nil. Earlier in the month, three refueling exercises were held in Sukumo Bay and the Ariake Sea. Now, while enroute to the Kuriles, all units in the carrier formation are refueled ten times.

26 November 1941:
Etorofu Island, Kuriles. SHINKOKU MARU departs Hitokappu Bay with Captain Ota Masanao's (39) Supply Group No. 1's oilers KOKUYO, KENYO and KYOKUTO (F) MARUs and Captain Niimi Kazutaka's Supply Group No. 2's oilers TOHO (F), NIPPON and TOEI MARUs. The Supply Groups provide fuel for Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Nagumo Chuichi's (36) Carrier Striking Force ("Kido Butai") CarDiv 1's AKAGI and KAGA, CarDiv 2's HIRYU and SORYU and CarDiv 5's SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU and the Support Force.

The Support Force consists of Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi's (38) BatDiv 3/1's HIEI and KIRISHIMA, Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Abe Hiroaki's (39) CruDiv 8's TONE, CHIKUMA, CarDiv 5's destroyer AKIGUMO and Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Omori Sentaro's (41) DesRon 1's ABUKUMA with DesDiv 17's ISOKAZE, URAKAZE, TANIKAZE and HAMAKAZE, DesDiv 18's ARARE, KASUMI, KAGERO and SHIRANUHI. Captain (later Rear Admiral) Konishi Kaname's (44) Midway Bombardment Unit's DesDiv 7's SAZANAMI and USHIO is accompanied and refueled by the fleet tanker SHIRIYA.

Nagumo's orders from Admiral (Fleet Admiral, posthumously) Yamamoto Isoroku (32), CINC, Combined Fleet, are that if refueling proves impossible in the stormy winter waters of the North Pacific, Nagumo is to detach AKAGI, SORYU and HIRYU and his destroyers and make the Hawaii attack with only KAGA, SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU.

2 December 1941:
940 miles N of Midway Island. The Striking Force receives the coded signal "Niitakayama nobore (Climb Mt. Niitaka) 1208" from the Combined Fleet. It signifies that X-Day hostilities will commence on 8 December (Japan time).

3 December 1941:
Proceeds to refueling operations.

4 December 1941: [3]
N Pacific. Weather conditions worsen. Rough seas cause the Striking Force's ships to roll up to 45 degrees. Scheduled refueling at position 30-00N, 165-00E is cancelled.

5 December 1941: [3]
600 miles N of Oahu, Hawaii. At about 1130, after fleet refueling is completed, the 2nd Supply Group's oilers TOHO, NIPPON and TOEI MARUs and destroyer ARARE are detached from the Striking Force and turn towards a designated rendezvous point with the carriers for their return trip to Japan.

6 December 1941: [3]
400 miles N of Oahu, Hawaii. At 0630, the entire Striking Force engages in its final refueling. At 0810, after refueling is complete, the 1st Supply Group's oilers SHINKOKU, KENYO, KOKUYO and KYOKUTO MARUs and destroyer KASUMI are detached and turn N towards a designated rendezvous point with the carriers for the return trip to Japan.

At 1130, the Striking Force increases speed to 24 knots and proceeds due S to Hawaiian waters. Vice Admiral Nagumo dispatches ABUKUMA and DesDiv 17's TANIKAZE to Supply Group No. 1 at the rendezvous point following final refueling before the attack. At about 2100, the two warships reach the oilers, refuel and return with the oilers to the First Air Fleet.

7 December 1941: [3] Operation "Z" - The Attack on Pearl Harbor:
At 0618, the Carrier Striking Force launches attacks that later sink battleships USS ARIZONA (BB-39), USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) and USS CALIFORNIA (BB-44) and damage USS NEVADA (BB-36), USS PENNSLYVANIA (BB-38), USS TENNESSEE (BB-43), USS MARYLAND (BB-46), USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-49) and other smaller ships. 2,335 American servicemen die in the attack, most on USS ARIZONA. After recovering all but 29 of its aircraft lost in the attack, the Striking Force departs Hawaiian waters NNW towards Japan.

16 December 1941:
Discharged from refueling operations.

23 December 1941:
Arrives at Hashirajima.

26 December 1941:
Transfers to Kure.

8 January 1942:
Departs Kure with battleships KIRISHIMA and HIEI and oiler NIPPON MARU escorted by DesDiv 17 and 18.

14 January 1942:
At 1036 arrives at Truk.

20 January 1942: Operation “R” - The Invasions of Rabaul and Kavieng:
N of New Ireland. Vice Admiral (Admiral, posthumously) Nagumo Chuichi’s Carrier Striking Force's CarDiv 1’s AKAGI and KAGA, CruDiv 5’s SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, BatDiv 3/1 HIEI and KIRISHIMA, CruDiv 8’s TONE and CHIKUMA and DesRon 1’s light cruiser ABUKUMA and destroyers arrive in the area from Truk.

CruDiv 18's TENRYU and TATSUTA arrive in the area from Truk with armed merchant cruiser KINRYU MARU and troop transports GOYO and AZUMASAN MARUs escorted by DesDiv 23's KIKUZUKI, UZUKI and YUZUKI. They are screened by CruDiv 6's AOBA, KINUGASA, KAKO and FURUTAKA and CarDiv 11's seaplane tender CHITOSE.

CarDivs 1 and 5 launch 100 bombers and fighters to attack Rabaul, New Britain and Kavieng, New Ireland. That evening, CarDiv 5 is detached and moves to a position in the Bismarck Sea.

21 January 1942:
CarDiv 1 launches another strike on Rabaul and CarDiv 5 launches air attacks on Madang, Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea. After CarDiv 5 recovers her aircraft, she departs the Bismarck Sea area that evening to rendevous with CarDiv 1.

22 January 1942:
CarDiv 1 launches a 45-plane strike against Rabaul. After the launch, CarDiv 5 rendevous with CarDiv 1. When CarDiv 1 completes recovery of her strike aircraft, the Carrier Striking Force (KdB) heads north for Truk.

23 January 1942:
The invasion forces land at night, swiftly overcome light Australian opposition and occupy Rabaul and Kavieng. SHINKOKU MARU, part of the Operation “R” Naval Force, refuels naval units.

SHINKOKU MARU provides refueling support for the invasion fleet and departs the area.

25 January 1942:
Departs Truk.

4 February 1942:
Arrives at Tokuyama. That same day, the occupation of Ambon is completed.

7 February 1942:
Departs Kure.

2 March 1942:
Arrives at Kanogawa.

7 March 1942:
Departs Kure.

9 March 1942:
Likely meets up with oiler KOKUYO MARU that departs Kanogawa this day.

16 March 1942:
Arrives at Staring Bay. Transfers 4000 ton of fuel oil to Battleship KIRISHIMA.

26 March 1942: Operation “C” – The Raids into the Indian Ocean:
Departs Staring Bay with the Striking Force's AKAGI, CarDiv 2, CarDiv 5, BatDiv 3, CruDiv 8, DesRon 1 plus destroyers ARARE, KAGERO, MAIKAZE, HAGIKAZE and AKIGUMO.

9 April 1942:
After the air attacks on the British naval bases at Columbo and Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), departs the Indian Ocean Area for Japan.

15 April 1942:
SHINKOKU MARU refuels BatDiv 3's HIEI with 599 metric tons of fuel oil. That same day, oiler KENYO MARU refuels HIEI with 1,500 metric tons.

22 April 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

20 May 1942:
Assigned to Supply Group No. 1 for the upcoming “MI” Operation: The Invasion of Midway.

26 May 1942: Operation “MI” – The Battle of Midway:
SHINKOKU MARU departs Hashirajima with Captain Ota Masanao's Supply Group No. 1’s oilers KYOKUTO (F), NIPPON, KOKUYO and MARUs escorted by destroyer AKIGUMO.

27 May 1942: Operation “MI” – The Battle of Midway:
At 0600 (JST) Nagumo's Carrier Striking Force consisting of CarDiv 1 AKAGI amnd KAGA, CarDiv 2 HIRYU AND SORYU, Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Abe Hiroaki's Support Group's CruDiv 8, BatDiv 3/2's HARUNA, KIRISHIMA, Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kimura Susumu's DesRon 10's light cruiser NAGARA with DesDiv 4's NOWAKI, ARASHI, HAGIKAZE and MAIKAZE, KAZAGUMO, YUGUMO, MAKIGUMO, and DesDiv 17’s URAKAZE, ISOKAZE, TANIKAZE and HAMIKAZE departs Hashirajima.

28 May 1942:
At 1430 (JST), the Carrier Strike Force rejoins the Supply Group. Cruising speed is maintained at 14 knots.

3 June 1942:
At 0307 (JST), the Supply Group concludes its refueling activities and is detached from the Carrier Strike Force. 13 June 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

22 June 1942:
Attached to the Northern Force Supply Unit. At 0500 departs Yokosuka in a convoy also consisting of tanker NIPPON MARU escorted by destroyer YAMAKAZE and minelayer UKISHIMA bound for Ominato. Later UKISHIMA deaches.

23 June 1942:
At 1130 the tankers arrive at Ominato.

28 June 1942:
At 1700 departs Ominato.

10 July 1942:
Detached from the Northern Force.

13 July 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

7 August 1942: American Operation “Watchtower” – The Invasion of Guadalcanal, British Solomons:
Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Richmond K. Turner's (USNA ’08) Amphibious Task Force 62, covered by Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Frank J. Fletcher’s (USNA ’06) Task Force 61 and Rear Admiral (later Admiral) John S. McCain's (USNA ’06) Task Force 63’s land-based aircraft, lands MajGen (later Gen/MOH/Commandant) Alexander A. Vandergrift’s 1st Marine Division on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, Tanambogo and Guadalcanal opening the campaign to retake the island.

10 August 1942:
SHINKOKU MARU is assigned to the Guadalcanal Transport Replenishment Unit to transport heavy oil from Balikpapan, Borneo, Palembang, Sumatra and Singapore, Malaya to Truk to support the Striking Force.

11 August 1942:
Departs Hiroshima Bay.

17 August 1942:
NW of Truk. About noon, SHINKOKU MARU, in convoy with oiler NICHIEI MARU, is attacked by LtCdr William S. Stovall's (later Rear Admiral) (USNA ’29) USS GUDGEON (SS-211) at 07-40N, 151-05E. Stovall claims three hits on SHINKOKU MARU and two hits on NICHIEI MARU in a submerged attack, but both oilers suffer only light damage. Possibly, one or more of the Mark-14 torpedoes that hit the oilers was a dud.

28 August 1942:
Truk. Temporary repairs are completed, perhaps by repair ship AKASHI. Departs with NICHIEI MARU.

4 September 1942:
Arrives at Kure and undergoes repairs.

16 October 1942:
Departs Kure, probably for repair trials.

17 October 1942:
Repairs are formally completed.

28 October 1942:
At 0030 meets up with Taskforce off eastern Solomons in area of 01-19S 161-50E.From 0400-0730 undertakes refuelling operations.

22 January 1943:
At 1700, departs Balikpapan for Truk.

15 February 1943:
At 10-30N 147-50E the destroyer YUNAGI meets up with the vessel. Later that day arrives at Truk.

18 March 1943:
Arrives at Yokohama.

20 March 1943:
Departs Yokohama.

22 March 1943:
Arrives at Kure.

3 April 1943:
Departs Kure.

28 April 1943:
Arrives at Tokuyama.

3 May 1943:
Departs Tokuyama.

19 May 1943:
At 1500, departs Singapore.

29 May 1943:
At 1300 arrives at Genzan, Korea.

1 June 1943:
Departs Genzan.

4 June 1943:
Arrives at Moji.

7 June 1943:
Departs Moji.

10 June 1943:
Arrives at Mako.

13 June 1943:
Departs Mako.

30 June 1943:
Departs Singapore for Truk via Davao and Palau.

1 July 1943:
Diverted to Rabaul instead of Truk at the time she is steaming through the Balabac Straits.

7 July 1943:
At about 1700, SHINKOKU MARU is attacked by LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) William T. Nelson's (USNA ’30) USS PETO (SS-265) at 00-37N, l48-06E. Nelson fires three torpedoes and claims two hits in a submerged attack, but SHINKOKU MARU is actually hit by only one torpedo in the bow. It floods fuel oil tank No. 2 holding 1,400 tons of light oil.

9 July 1943:
At 1630, arrives Rabaul.

16 July 1943:
Departs Rabaul with an unidentified escort for two days enroute to Surabaya and Singapore.

20 July 1943:
Assigned to the Striking Force.

28 July 1943:
Surabaya. Captain Ohashi Goro (37) (former CO of SETTSU) is appointed CO.

July 1943:
Arrives at Singapore. Undergoes repairs at Seletar Naval Base by the No. 101 Repair Unit.

15 August 1943:
Repairs are completed.

30 August 1943:
Arrives at Kure.

5 September 1943:
Departs Kure.

6 September 1943:
Arrives at Sasebo. Later, departs for Truk.

9 September 1943:
At 05-00N, 150-00E SHINKOKU MARU completes a rendezvous with destroyer TAMANAMI that is escorting TOA MARU out of Truk. TAMANAMI is detached from TOA MARU and begins escorting SHINKOKU MARU.

11 September 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

27 September 1943:
Departs Truk with fleet oiler HAYATOMO and tanker AZUMA MARU.

1 October 1943:
At 1425, SHINKOKU and AZUMA MARUs and HAYATOMO arrive at Palau escorted by destroyer ASANAGI.

16 October 1943:
Departs Sasebo.

21 October 1943:
Departs Kure.

28 October 1943:
Arrives at St Jacques (now Vung Tau), Indochina.

31 October 1943:
Departs St Jacques.

7 November 1943:
Arrives at Singapore.

10 November 1943:
Departs Singapore.

14 November 1943:
At 0800, arrives at Balikpapan. At 1700 departs Balikpapan in convoy No.2611 also consisting of tankers SHINSHU, TOA, NAMPO and NIPPON MARUs and two unidentified merchant ships escorted by old destroyer WAKATAKE and auxiliary submarine chaser CHa 37. At a point presumably near Palau the fast tankers SHINKOKU, NIPPON, TOA and NAMPO MARUs detach from the convoy and are escorted by destroyers HIBIKI and HAMAKAZE that join as escorts.

22 November 1943:
Arrives at Truk at 0730 by the South Channel.

7 December 1943:
At 0430, departs Truk in convoy 7072 consisting of oilers SHINKOKU and FUJISAN MARUs escorted by destroyers TAMANAMI and SHIMAKAZE and possibly an unidentified escort.

11 December 1943:
The two destroyers detach at longitude 135 degrees to meet another convoy. Later, SHINKOKU and FUJISAN MARUs arrive at Palau.

13 December 1943:
At 0730, departs Palau in convoy 2515 also consisting of oilers FUJISAN MARU, OGURA MARU No. 3, HAKUBASAN MARU and small cargo ship SHOYU MARU bound for Tarakan. SHINKOKU MARU and ammunition ship ARATAMA MARU are bound for Balikpapan escorted by patrol boat PB-2 and auxiliary subchasers CHa-26 and CHa-27.

17 December 1943:
At 1700, subchaser CH-6 joins the escort. At midnight, the subchaser and the Tarakan-bound ships split away from the convoy.

19 December 1943:
At 1045, arrives at Balikpapan.

20 December 1943:
At 0700 departs Balikpapan in a convoy also consisting of SUITEN MARU (ex Dutch SCHOUTEN) escorted by patrol boat PB-102 as far as the Aru Bank.

22 December 1943:
At 1130, arrives at Surabaya.

24 December 1943:
Departs Surabaya for Balikpapan to load aviation fuel for Rabaul with subchaser CH-3 as escort to the south tip of Laut Island.

29 December 1943:
Early in the morning arrives Balikpapan. Then, at 0800, SHINKOKU, AKEBONO and FUJISAN MARUs, escorted by patrol boat PB-102, depart for Truk via Palau.

2 January 1944:
Patrol Boat PB-102 is detached from the convoy which steams on temporarily unescorted.

3 January 1944:
At 0328, AKEBONO MARU is torpedoed by LtCdr (later Cdr) James W. Davis' (USNA ’30) USS RATON (SS-270) in a surface radar attack at 08-22N, 129-52E. The ship remains afloat, damaged but still underway. At 1130, HAYANAMI and UZUKI join the convoy from Palau. HAYANAMI escorts AKEBONO MARU to Palau separately while UZUKI and the other two oilers steam ahead to Palau.

4 January 1944:
Arrives at Palau.

E 6 January 1944:
Departs Palau.

10 January 1944:
Arrives at Truk still in convoy.

19 January 1944:
Departs Truk with FUJISAN MARU escorted by destroyers HARUSAME and SHIGURE.

27 January 1944:
Arrives at Tarakan.

29 January 1944:
Departs Tarakan at 1930 in convoy consisting of SHINKOKU and FUJISAN MARUs with destroyers SHIGURE and HARUSAME as escorts.

31 January 1944:
Arrives at Balikpapan at 1030.

3 February 1944:
At 1058, departs in a convoy consisting of oilers SHINKOKU and FUJISAN MARUs and cargo liner AMAGISAN MARU escorted by destroyers SHIGURE and HARUSAME.

7 February 1944:
SHINKOKU MARU, other Marus and DesDiv 17 are incorporated into the Diversion Attack Force.

10 February 1944:
Arrives at Ulithi Atoll and one or both of the oilers unload some fuel.

11 February 1944:
At 1200, the convoy departs.

14 February 1944:
Arrives at Truk. Transfers oil to auxiliary oiler TONAN MARU No. 3.

17-18 February 1944: American Operation "Hailstone" - The Attack on Truk:
Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher’s (USNA ’10) Task Force 58's five fleet carriers and four light carriers, supported by six battleships, ten cruisers and 28 destroyers, launch air attacks on airfields, shore installations and ships in the lagoon. Mitscher launches 30 strikes of at least 150 aircraft each. Beginning at dawn, the strikes are launched about every hour for two days.

While anchored NW of Fefan Island, SHINKOKU MARU is hit amidships by a bomb dropped by Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive-bombers from USS YORKTOWN (CV-10). Grumman TBF "Avengers" from USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17) drop six torpedoes on SHINKOKU MARU, but all their torpedoes miss.

18 February 1944:
In the early hours, TBFs from USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) drop a near-miss bomb on the starboard side near the engine room that opens the hull and sinks SHINKOKU MARU. She comes to rest upright in relatively shallow water. 86 men are killed including 16 of the crew.

During the raids, TF 58 sinks 31 merchant transports and 10 naval vessels, destroys nearly 200 aircraft and damages severely about 100 more. Truk is eliminated as a major fleet anchorage for the IJN.

31 March 1944:
Removed from the Navy List under internal order No. 508.

Author's Note:
[1] Some sources give 13 December 1939. [2] KAGA was then in drydock at Sasebo.

[3] Hawaiian time.

On 27 September 1943, in Operation "Jaywick", the Royal Australian Navy's Special Operations Executive organized a limpet mine attack on Singapore using former Japanese fishing boat KOFUKU MARU, renamed the KRAIT. On 2 September, a small group of Allied servicemen sailed from Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia through the Java Sea. On 18 September, three two-man canoes launched a night attack on Singapore. Limpet mines were placed on seven ships, of which three sunk. SHINKOKU MARU was claimed sunk in the raid, but there is strong evidence that the ship sunk was ARARE MARU (ex-PAULA) that was engaged in shuttle services between Sumatra and Singapore. An examination of the wreck of SHINKOKU MARU by divers at Truk did not reveal any repair welding in the engine room area, the location of the limpet attack and subsequent research has determined that other ships were likely attacked and damaged.

Thanks for assistance goes to Allan Alsleben of Oregon, Matt Jones of Ohio, USA, Sander Kingsepp, Estonia and Gilbert Casse of France.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

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