(SYDNEY MARU, prewar)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2011-2014 Bob Hackett
Revision 3

12 December 1928:
Yokohama. Laid down at Yokohama Dock Co. as a 5,425-ton passenger cargo ship for the Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) Line of Kobe.

25 August 1929:
Launched and named SYDNEY MARU. [1]

30 November 1929:
Completed and registered in the port of Osaka. Placed on OSK's Yokohama ~ Sydney, Australia route. She can accommodate 6 1st class passengers and carries a crew of 50 men.

December 1929:
SYDNEY MARU departs Yokohama for Sydney, Australia on her maiden voyage via Hong Kong and Manila.

28 February 1941:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army (IJA). Converted to a troop transport and alloted Army No. 789.

5 August 1941:
Released by the IJA, but that same day requisitioned by the Imperial Navy (IJN) and operated with a civilian crew as an Ippan Choyosen.

9 October 1941:
Released by the IJN back to her owners . [2]

November 1941:
Re-requisitioned by the IJA.

18 December 1941: The Invasion of the Philippines -“M” Operation (M Sakusen):
At 1700, SYDNEY MARU departs Takao, Formosa for Lingayen Gulf, Philippines in Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Rear Admiral Hara Kensaburo's (37)(former CO of TAKAO) 1st Lingayen Invasion Unit with 27 other IJA transports escorted by DesRon 5's light cruiser NATORI, DesDiv 5's ASAKAZE, HARUKAZE and MATSUKAZE, DesDiv 22's FUMIZUKI, MINAZUKI, NAGATSUKI and SATSUKI, minesweepers W-15 and W-16 and subchasers CH-1, CH-2, CH-3 CH-13, CH-14 and CH-15. SYDNEY MARU carries the 2nd Field Meteorological Battalion among other troops.

The Japanese main invasion at Lingayen Gulf consists of three transport echelons and carries the main part of LtGen Homma Masaharu's 80,000-man 14th Army. The first echelon is composed of 27 transports from Takao under Rear Admiral Hara , the second echelon of 28 transports under Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Nishimura Shoji (39) and the third echelon of 21 transports from Keelung under Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hirose Sueto (39).

21 December 1941:
Lands troops at Lingayen Gulf.

21 January 1942:
SYDNEY MARU departs Mutsure with transports BRAZIL, FUSHIMI, SOMEDOMO, TAKETOYO, TATSUNO, TOFUKU, COLUMBIA, MAEBASHI, GENOA, HOEISAN, ATSUTA, DAINICHI, TOKIWA, MOTOYAMA, PACIFIC, KIZZAN, REIYO and TSUYAMA MARUs escorted by CruDiv 9's light cruiser OI and DesDiv 32's FUYO, ASAGAO and KARUKAYA. The transports are carrying the 2nd Infantry Division.

26 January 1942:
Arrives at Mako, Pescadores. Later, the convoy departs for Camranh Bay, Indochina to mobilize for the Invasion of Java.

18 February 1942: Operation "J" - The Invasion of Java, Netherlands East Indies:
BRAZIL MARU is attached to Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Hiraoki, Kumeichi’s (39) 9th Base Force in Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo’s Western Java Seizure Force. At 1000, departs Camranh Bay in a convoy also comprised of 55 troop transports.

28 February 1942: The Battle of the Sunda Strait:
Bantam Bay. 27 transports land the main body of the IJA's 2nd Infantry Division. At about 2215, American Captain Albert H. Rooks USS HOUSTON (CA-30) and Australian Captain Hector M. L. Waller’s light cruiser HMAS PERTH, sortie for Tjilatjap via the Sunda Strait, but by chance encounter Ozawa’s Western Java Seizure Force transports screened only by DesDiv 5's HARUKAZE, HATAKAZE, DesDiv 11's FUBUKI and MineSweepDiv 1's minesweepers W-1, W-2, W-3 and W-4.

The two Allied cruisers attack. The Japanese destroyers make smoke to mask the transports. FUBUKI charges and launches a salvo of nine torpedoes at HOUSTON and PERTH. At 2300, the Western Support Force's cruisers MIKUMA and MOGAMI, destroyer SHIKINAMI and Third Escort Force's light cruiser NATORI and destroyers SHIRAKUMO, MURAKUMO, SHIRAYUKI, HATSUYUKI and ASAKAZE arrive and engage HOUSTON and PERTH with gunfire and torpedoes.

1 March 1942:
At 0108, torpedoes strike both HOUSTON and PERTH. At 0135, torpedoes fired by MOGAMI sink W-2 and sink or disable transport SAKURA MARU, hospital ship HORAI MARU and landing craft depot ship SHINSHU (RYUJO) MARU carrying LtGen Imamura Hitoshi, Commander-in-Chief of the IJA 16th Army. Imamura jumps into the sea, but survives. TATSUNO MARU runs aground while avoiding a torpedo.

The other transports carrying MajGen Nasu Yumio’s detachment of LtGen Maruyama Masao’s 2nd Infantry Division commence landing their troops at Merak, Java.

At 0142, PERTH sinks at 05-51-42S, 106-07-52E. At 0206, HOUSTON sinks at 05-48-45S, 106-07-55E.

8 March 1942: The Surrender of Java:
At 0900, the C-in-C of the Allied forces. Dutch LtGen Ter Poorten announces the surrender of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in Java. That afternoon, Governor Jonkheer Dr. A.W.L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh Stachouwer and Ter Poorten, meet the C-in-C of the Japanese forces, LtGen Hitoshi Imamura at Kalidjati and agree to capitulate.

19 March 1942: "U" transport operation to Burma (U Sakusen):
The First Burma Transport Convoy departs Singapore consisting of 32 ships including SYDNEY, AOBASAN, GENOA, GLASGOW, HARUNA, HAVRE, HIBURI, HOFUKU, HOKUMEI, KAZUURA, KIZAN, KOTOHIRA,KUSUYAMA, MYOKO, MOMOYAMA, NAGARA, NAKO, NAPLES, NICHIRAN, SANKO, SAKITO, SHINAI, SHINRYU, SHUNSEI, SHINANOGAWA, SUMATRA, TATEISHI, TSUYAMA, TOKIWA and YAE MARUs and two others. The convoy carries the main body of the IJA 56th Infantry Division.

25 March 1942:
The First Burma Transport Convoy arrives at Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar).

16 April 1942:
At 1215, an unidentified convoy departs Singapore for Dairen, Manchuria (now Dalian, China) consisting of MYOKO, ATLAS, TSUYAMA, MOMOYAMA, FRANCE, HEIAN, RYUNAN, GLASGOW, TOKIWA, HAVRE and SANKO MARUs escorted by kaibokan SHIMUSHU, torpedo boats OTORI and HIYODORI, patrol PB-35 and auxiliary gunboat DAIGEN MARU No. 7. The convoy is transporting the IJA’s 3rd Tank Corps. The escorts protect the convoy to latitude 16N where the convoy is escorted by unknown units of the IJN's North China Area Fleet.

At 1540, that same day, CALCUTTA MARU departs Bangkok for Dairen together with SYDNEY and GENKAI MARUs fully loaded with 422 men of the IJA 36th Airfield Battalion, 50 vehicles and airfield equipment.

19 April 1942:
The convoy is joined by SYDNEY, CALCUTTA, and GENKAI MARUs transporting several IJA aviation units from Bangkok.

24 April 1942:
At 1018, arrives at Hong Kong. SYDNEY MARU and her two consorts are detached for Takao to refuel. At 1855, the remainder of the convoy departs.

26 April 1942:
SYDNEY MARU and her two consorts arrive at Takao.

27 April 1942:
SYDNEY, CALCUTTA and GENKAI MARUs depart Takao and arrive at Mako, Pescadores. There they are joined by BOKO and KAISOKU MARUs and two unidentified ships.

28 April 1942:
SYDNEY MARU and her six consorts depart Mako escorted by torpedo boat SAGI.

1 May 1942:
East China Sea. E of Wenchow, China. E of Wenzhou. At 0812 (I), At 0852, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Charles C. Kirkpatrick’s (USNA ’31) USS TRITON (SS-201) encounters a convoy of six large freighters making about 10 knots escorted by two OTORI class torpedo boats. Kirkpatrick fires four unreliable Mark-14 3A steam torpedoes; two each at two of the ships. They all miss or premature.

TRITON fires two more torpedoes. One misses, but at 0852 the other hits CALCUTTA MARU portside in the aft part of the engine room. No. 3 hold starts flooding. Later, the hull bends amidships. At 0902, Abandon Ship is ordered.

About 220 nautical miles from Kirun (Keelung), Taiwan. TRITON simultaneously targets another freighter, but misses. At 1425, after the convoy has disappeared over the horizon, Kirkpatrick fires two more torpedoes at drifting CALCUTTA MARU and breaks her back. At 1645, CALCUTTA MARU sinks at 28-11N, 123-55E. 50 men and four crewmen of 68 crewmen are KIA. CALCUTTA MARU’s survivors are rescued by BOKO and KAISOKU MARUs.

That same day, SYDNEY MARU and most of the original convoy from Singapore arrives at Dairen.

16 May 1943:
SYDNEY MARU departs Cochin, Indochina (now Vietnam) for Takao in an unescorted and unnumbered convoy consisting of SEISHIN and SAINEI MARUs.

29 May 1943:
Arrives at Takao.

2 August 1943:
At 1300, SYDNEY MARU departs St Jacques for Takao in convoy No. 415 also consisting of GYOTEN, KOKUEI, OTORISAN, SEISHIN, TAIAN, TSUYAMA, USSURI and YAMAGATA MARUs and six unidentified merchant ships without escort. The convoy splits into two parts.

E 5 August 1943:
OTORISAN MARU is detached for Hong Kong.

6 September 1943:
At 0900, SYDNEY MARU departs Mako in convoy No. 321 consisting of AWA, ANYO, CEYLON, KOKUEI, YAMAZURU (YAMATSURU) MARU and tankers KOSHIN, SAN PEDRO and HINO MARU No. 1 escorted by torpedo boat HAYABUSA.

13 September 1943:
Arrives at Saigon, Indochina.

21 September 1943:
In port at Singapore.

26/27 September 1943: Australian Operation Jaywick:
Maj (later LtCol) Ivan Lyon, two officers and six seaman of the Australian “Z” Special Unit of Special Operations Australia (SOA) (Services Reconnaissance Department in three two-man canoes attack Japanese merchant ships at anchor off Singapore.

Port of Singapore. Maj Lyon and his Z Force men attach magnetic mines to the hulls of several of the 45 (possibly 51) vessels in port. Three vessels explode and sink, probably KIZAN (ex-British MONTEZUMA) and HAKUSAN MARUs and tanker ARARE MARUs (ex-Dutch PAULA). Three other ships are damaged. [3][4][5]

28 September 1943:
Undamaged SYDNEY MARU departs Singapore.

10 October 1943:
Arrives at Takao.

13 October 1943:
Departs Takao for Sasebo in convoy No. 211 also consisting of YASUKUNI and SHOBU MARUs, KOTO MARU No. 2 GO and five unidentified merchant ships escorted by kaibokan SADO.

20 October 1943:
At 0400, KOTO MARU No. 2 GO arrives at Sasebo quarantine anchorage. SYDNEY MARU and the rest of the convoy proceed to Moji.

11 November 1943:
At 1600, DAKAR MARU departs Moji for Takao in convoy No. 113-MA-07 also consisting of ANYO, ARABIA, CHIYO, HIDA, NACHISAN, NANEI, NITTETSU, RYUYO, SYDNEY, TAMAHOKO, TOSEI MARUs escorted by destroyer KURETAKE.

13 November 1943:
At 0556, LtCdr Robert E. Dorin's USS TRIGGER (SS-237) torpedoes and sinks NACHISAN MARU at 32-55N, 125-09E. KURETAKE drops five depth charges that damage TRIGGER slightly.

21 November 1943:
At 1140, arrives at Mako, Pescadores.

23 November 1943:
At 1530, SYDNEY departs Takao for Cape St. Jacques, Indochina in convoy No. 340 also consisting of cargo ships SEKINO, SHOEI and UNKAI, MARUs, small Vichy French cargo ship BERYL, tankers TONAN and ZUIYO MARU and seven unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan MATSUWA. In the next four days, five ships are detached for various reasons.

26 November 1943:
YASUKUNI MARU is detached for Yulin.

28 November 1943:
South China Sea, off Indochina. At about 0200, Cdr Frederick C. Lucas' USS BILLFISH (SS-286) picks up the convoy heading south at nine knots seven miles off Varella. Lucas signals Cdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Walter T. Griffith's (USNA ’34) USS BOWFIN (SS-287) about the convoy. Griffith, three miles off Varella, receives sister-ship BILLFISH's signal and BOWFIN begins tracking the convoy on the surface.

Off Indochina. At 0412, BOWFIN torpedoes and sinks TONAN MARU at 12-50N, 109-35E. 84 crewmen are killed.

About the same time, BOWFIN torpedoes SYDNEY MARU. Hit by three torpedoes, she sinks within five minutes in the same location. Five gunners and 38 crewmen are KIA. Subchaser CH-9 rescues 49 cremen and Army officers. [6]

USS BOWFIN attacks another merchant, but is hit aft and damaged by a shell from the merchant's 5-inch gun, but Griffith is able to escape further damage.

Author’s Note:
[1] Not to be confused with the 4105 grt (1919) SYDNEY MARU owned by Kokusai Kisen K.K., Kobe.

[2] At an unknown date later in the war SYDNEY MARU was again requisitioned and operated by the Imperial Army and allotted Army No. 5039.

[3] On 2 Sep ’43, Maj Lyon and KRAIT (ex-KOFUKU MARU) left Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia disguised as a Japanese fishing boat, passed through Lombok Strait and on to Panjang Island in the Riau Archipelago, where the raiding party was landed on 17 Sep. They proceeded from there to Singapore in the three canoes.

[4] At the time of JAYWICK, the port of Singapore consisted of Keppel Harbor, the Inner Harbor and the IJA’s Pulau Bukum oil storage docks.

[5] On 16 Oct ‘44, Lyon was killed leading Operation RIMAU while again attempting to infiltrate Singapore Harbor and destroy more shipping. He was awarded the British Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

[6] Another Japanese source claims 14 crewmen where KIA when SYDNEY MARU was sunk, but that 20 of her survivors were lost on 16 Dec '42 aboard GINYO MARU when she was sunk by another American submarine en route to Japan.

Thanks go to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany.

Bob Hackett

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