© 2018 Anthony P. Tully
The German turbo-electric liner SCHARNHOST, "marooned" and trapped in Kobe since the start of WW II in 1939, was purchased by the Japanese Government for possible use as troop transport. However, following the Midway disaster, these plans are changed in preference of conversion to an escort carrier to train carrier pilot replacements.
30 June 1942:
Transferred to Kure.
21 September 1942:
Entered drydock at Kure Navy Yard just vacated by completed "cousin" CVE CHUYO, and as the SCHARNHORST was of similar form to the NITTA MARU (CHUYO), the plans were adopted for an analogous refit. Conversion to escort carrier begins, using steel taken from the cancelled hull of the fourth YAMATO-class battleship, Hull No. 111. Bulges are added to the liner hull to increase stability, and a retractable radar and control room forward built into the sides of the new flight deck. Interestingly, the turbo-electric turbines were retained, one of only two vessels in the IJN with such a drive and requiring for SHINYO the largest crew of the escort carriers. However the original German Wagner high-pressure four boiler arrangement proved too complex and high-maintenance and was replaced by two Japanese water-cooled boilers of the standard type.
1 November 1943:
Conversion completed, runs trials and makes shake-down voyage. Photograph taken.
15 November 1943:
Taken over from the builders and commissioned; assigned to Kure Naval District Force.
16 December 1943:
Captain (Vice Admiral, posthumously) Ishii Shizue (former CO of JUNYO, CHUYO) assigned as commanding officer.
20 December 1943:
Assigned to Grand Surface Escort Force Headquarters Force, and is under the operational command of CinC Combined Fleet until 18 February 1944.
21 December 1943:
18 February 1944:
Subsequently training and standing-by in home waters.
26 June 1944:
Depart Kure for short time, return.
6 July 1944:
Depart Kure after having light AA increased from 42 to 50 - 25mm.
11 July 1944:
Arrive Mutsure on assignment to rendevous with convoy HI-69.
12 July 1944:
Depart Mutsure in advance of TAIYO and KAIYO who depart the next day with planes to be ferryied to Manila.
13 July 1944:
Depart Moji escorting the giant convoy HI-69 to Singapore. Convoy under command of Rear Admiral Sato Tsutomu of the Eigth Escort Convoy and consists of fourteen marus and escort carriers TAIYO and KAIYO bound for Manila and Singapore. Escorts are light cruiser KASHII, CHIBURI, SADO, and CDs No. 7 and No. 17. The TAIYO and KAIYO are loaded with aircraft for Luzon, so the SHINYO has the air patrol duty.
20 July 1944:
Arrive at Manila. TAIYO and KAIYO begin unloading aircraft.
25 July 1944:
SHINYO departs Manila escorting convoy section bound for Singapore, while TAIYO detaches and heads for Saei, Formosa. The KAIYO remains behind, to depart for Takao the 26th with convoy MA-MO No. 1.
31 July 1944:
Arrive with scheduled section at Singapore.
4 August 1944:
Depart Singapore with convoy HI-70 for Moji, consisting of eight Marus, light cruisers KASHII and KITAKAMI, and screen of SHIMOTSUKI, CHIBURI, SADO, and CD's No. 13 and No. 19.
15 August 1944:
HI-70 arrives at Moji.
16 August 1944:
SHINYO arrives at Kure.
8 September 1944:
Depart Moji with AKITSUSHIMA escorting convoy HI-75 to Singapore, composed of nine Marus, and screened by KANJU, MIYAKE, MANJU, and DesDiv 30 (YUZUKI, UZUKI).
13 November 1944:
Arrive at Takao, Formosa; depart later same day for Singapore.
17 September 1944:
- AKITSUSHIMA, a maru, and DesDiv 30 detach and head for Manila.
22 September 1944:
Arrive at Singapore.
25 September 1944:
Go alongside shore at Singapore port loading fuel and unloading cargo.
3 October 1944:
Depart Singapore escorting convoy HI-76 for return to Moji with nine Marus escorted by KANJU, MANJU, MIYAKE, KURAHASHI, No. 28, and HIYODORI.
15 October 1944:
Captain Ishii is promoted to rank of Rear Admiral.
19 October 1944:
Stop at Miehara, convoy on stand-by there today and the 20th.
21 October 1944:
Departed Miehara stopover; convoy headed for homeland.
22 October 1944:
Separated from HI-76 and proceed independently alone directly to west Inland Sea.
24 October 1944:
Arrived at Saeki air base, base and aviation force crews taken aboard and returned to force.
25 October 1944:
Departed Saeki, arrive at Kure.
26 October 1944:
HI-76 arrives at Moji.
27-28 October 1944:
Loaded fuel and food at Kure.
29-30 October 1944:
Loaded ammunition and arms supplies at Kure.
7 November 1944:
Ordered to meet and cover the JUNYO returning from Philippine waters.
9 November 1944:
Upon assignment of SHINYO to the important Luzon re-inforcement convoy HI-81, fourteen Kates of the 931 Air Squadron fly out from Saeki Naval Air Station and landed on SHINYO.
13 November 1944:
Arrived at Imari Bay for air cover duty of convoy HI-81.
14 November 1944:
Departed Imari Bay escorting Convoy HI-81 for Singapore with elements of the 23rd Infantry Division to separate and proceed to Luzon via stopover at Formosa. Commanding the convoy is Rear Admiral Sato Tsutomu of the Eighth Escort Convoy aboard flagship ETOROFU. Screen includes TSUSHIMA, DAITO, KUME, SHONAN, escort destroyer KASHI, and CDs No.9 and No. 61. Convoy includes SHINSHU, KIBITSU, AKITSU, MIRII, ARITA, HASHIDATE, KIMIKAWA, MAYASAN, OTOWASAN, and TOA MARU.
Overnight stop off Goto Island.
15 November 1944:
Morning: departed anchorage off Goto Island and head south in the lee of Goto Island's west shore. Convoy scheduled to split into sections at Formosa and proceed to Manila and Singapore respectively. The SHINYO takes up position at the rear of the center of three columns of vessels. KASHI is SHINYO's direct escort and plane-guard.
- 1156: AKITSU MARU struck by two torpedoes fired by USS QUEENFISH on port side aft and amidships. Exploded, keeled over and sank stern first in position 33-17'N, 32-00'E with the loss of over 2,000 aboard. SHINYO's planes attempted to locate and destroy the submarine, but with no result. 
16 November 1944:
HI-81 and SHINYO anchor off Korea near Strange Island to shelter and spend the day there. The same day, a second convoy - MI-27 - comprised of eight Marus and five escorts under the command of CD No. 134 departs Moji and is slated to stay in close company with HI-81. At times, this will result in two convoys close together parallel, and at other times one huge one, causing some confusion among allied sighting reports and rendering difficult post-mortem ULTRA interpretations of the barrage of intercepted messages.
17 November 1944:
0800: SHINYO and HI-81 get underway for the Shushan Islands near Shanghai, and SHINYO launches aircraft for patrol throughout the day.
- 1215: One enemy B-29 sighted when in position 34-08'N, 125-39'E. SHINYO opens fire with her long-range AA batteries. SHINYO's Kates are frustrated and unable to climb to destroy the snooper. But no enemy activity ensues and the day passes without incident.
- 1800 All aircraft recovered.
- 1812 Just as SHINYO is tying down her last airborne patrol, directly in front of her the MAYASAN MARU is torpedoed by USS PICUDA (SS-382). In less than two minutes she capsized to starboard and sank with the loss of over 3,000 men.
- 2303: When about 200 kilometers southwest of Saishu [Cheju] Island, SHINYO struck by a (claimed) total of four torpedoes in the starboard side of six fired by USS SPADEFISH (SS-411). The submarine had brazenly attacked on the surface, and remained so throughout. The first torpedo hit the stern, instantly detonating the poorly protected fantail av-gas tanks and caused a tremendous explosion and fire. The second torpedo hit knocked out the turbo-generators and all power in the ship while the third hit forward setting the tanks located there afire as well. Power to the electric motors that drive the screws is immediately lost and SHINYO stops dead in the water. Initially the list to starboard is modest but it is impossible to operate pumps to constrain flooding or fight fires. SHINYO bursts into a blazing inferno at each end, boxing in much of the crew amidships between on the flight deck. She fell out of the convoy formation at once and contact with her was lost, though direct escort destroyer KASHI counter-attacked the submarine with uncertain results. (It also appears that SPADEFISH's second salvo of four-stern tubes near-missed the the large SHINSHU MARU to starboard of the SHINYO and her evasions caused her to lose the convoy. She proceeded to Shanghai independently.)
Sunk: Ten minutes after the hits the list was increasing and the fire
out of control forward and aft. Captain Ishii ordered Abandon Ship. The planes tied down
on deck started to break loose and slide overboard. Ishii remained on the flight deck as the men began to scramble overboard. The stern came awash soon after. About 2340
her bow reared skyward and she sank stern-first, coming to rest in 23 fathoms with flaming bow still
projecting from the water. Due to inferno and
rapidity of her sinking, and delay in rescue, casualties would be extremely high, close to all hands lost.
18 November 1944:
- 0003 SPADEFISH launched second (unsuccessful) torpedo attack on HI-81. Escort DD KASHI and MIRII MARU opened fire on the surfaced submarine. KASHI began pursuit
- 0028 KASHI broke off pursuit, having lost contact. Dropped seventeen depth-charges. Radioed this news to Convoy commander RADM Sato in ETOROFU at 0155.
It appears that no one immediately went to the assistence of the SHINYO or attempted rescue as HI-81 increased speed and hurried due west leaving the sinking carrier behind. First to respond was the Commander of MI-27 convoy aboard CD No. 134 whose convoy was following HI-81 off its starboard quarter and north of it and astern at the time of the attack. At 0220 he ordered CD No. 61 to advance and locate and assist the SHINYO. However, his screen was soon embroiled in massive rescue of ships sunk from their own convoy.
- 0300 CD KUME attempted to rescue SHINYO survivors, but renewed submarine alert causes the rescue to be abandoned after she had only pulled 19 out of the water.
- 0315 At a position 9,000 meters south of the sinking TSUSHIMA attacked and depth charged with fifteen depth-charges an enemy submarine, which on basis of fuel oil and other debris, was claimed sunk.
- 0426 TSUSHIMA reported to ETOROFU the engagement with the submarine and likely sinking.
- 0500 Destroyer KASHII returned to the scene of SHINYO disaster and located an additional forty-two men.
- 0715 KASHI reported to ETOROFU these results and that having suspended the search, was now proceeding with the survivors aboard to Raffles Island rendezvous.
- 0800 RADM Sato - having received TSUSHIMA's and KASHI's reports ordered TSUSHIMA to reverse course and proceed to the "scene of the disaster to the SHINYO-CVE, and take on board survivors." However, apparently no more men in the water were found. Hence, ultimately only a mere 61 officers and men survived and Rear Admiral Ishii and 1,165 souls are registered as lost.
21 Novmeber 1944:
The all-clear given, HI-81 departed for Mako, accompanied by two marus of shattered MI-27. Meanwhile, the SHINYO survivors are landed at Shanghai and go to the Shanghai Naval hospital.
23 November 1944:
The convoy split into two sections, one headed for Singapore via Mako and the other for Luzon via Takao. The Singapore contingent arrived at Mako that same evening.
26 November 1944
The Luzon contingent of HI-81 arrived at Takao with TSUSHIMA and DAITO. Some proceeded to Luzon the next day.
27 November 1944:
Second section of HI-81 departed Mako for Singapore, screened by ETOROFU, KUME, CDs No.9 and No.61, and escort destroyer KASHI. En route, CD No. 61 was ordered to proceed ahead independently for Singapore. (This may or may not indicate that she carried MI-27 survivors).
4 December 1944:
HI-81 arrived at Singapore.
10 January 1945:
SHINYO removed from Navy List.
Note 1: Like some other turbo-electric driven ships, the SCHARNHORST,and thus the recast SHINYO had a three-part machinery arrangement. There was the boilers which provided the steam to the set of turbo-generators in the engine room, which in turn provided the electric power to the pair of large electric drive motors that turned SHINYO's two propeller shafts. The Japanese replaced only the boilers, not the turbo-generators or the drive motors.
Note 2: USS BARB (SS-220) is credited by Clay Blair and other sources with a torpedo attack on SHINYO this same afternoon. However, the target was a "Katsuragi-class" carrier with island and was north-bound , not with a convoy but with three ships including cruiser. Accordingly, it seems more likely this target was in fact the north-bound carrier JUNYO (see TROM).
Note 3: SPADEFISH claimed four torpedo hits; however this seems like a high percentage on such a small target, and the few Japanese survivors are quite confident it was no more than three. Further, there is actually some question of how quickly the carrier sank. SPADEFISH's report failed to state the sinking time, but says when "last seen" she is on the bottom. Since SPADFISH attacked the fleeing convoy to the west only an hour later, it was within an hour. The Japanese survivors generally agree it was thirty minutes. Various captured diaries cite times around 2330 and one as late as 0030 on the 18th. But the SHINYO survivor association report says it was a half-hour, and that they were even pleased at the relatively slow sinking considering three torpedoes had definitely hit.
Note 4: The losses cannot be definitively known because as usual, there is some discrepancy as to how many passengers were actually aboard when sunk. Original complement was 948 officers and men, but this contracted slightly when the 33-aircraft assigned were halved. On 31 July 1944 the SHINYO's complement was 883 officers and men. By October 1944 - just a week before her loss, her War Diary listed 54 officers and 771 petty officers and men aboard - a reduction to 825, but this number might have changed slightly for the November voyage. The survivor association settled on 1,165 officers, enlisted, and passengers. It bears mentioning that a memoir by the CO of CD TSUSHIMA claimed 70 survivors were rescued; this is nine more than the SHINYO reported rescued by KUME and KASHI. It is possible TSUSHIMA rescued nine more in obedience to Sato's 0800 order, and that this is the best explanation of the discrepancy.
- A.P. Tully