Stories and Battle Histories of the IJA's Landing Craft Depot Ships

29 June 2018

By Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall

Discussion & Questions

(SHINSHU MARU by Ueda Kitachiro)

The Imperial Army's SHINSHU MARU was the world's first landing craft carrier ship. She could carry a total of 2,200 assault troops and was purposely designed to transport landing vessels and troops to a landing area. She launched Daihatsu landing craft quickly from a gate at her stern or from gates at the side.

AKITSU and NIGITSU MARUs are considered by some sources to be the first amphibious assault ships. Both were under construction as passenger liners, but were taken over by the Imperial Army before completion. Both ships were fitted with flight decks, but had no hangars. Aircraft were stored below the flight decks on the main deck. Conventional aircraft were to be able to fly off, but not land aboard. In actuality, AKITSU and NIGITSU MARUs were essentially aircraft ferries. AKITSU MARU's planned role was to provide air cover during amphibious and landing operations. The ship is said to have operated autogiros.

MAYASAN and TAMATSU MARUs were also converted to landing craft depot ships while under construction on the ways. Both ships were fitted with stern ramp gates for launching large landing craft stored in the holds. At the time, this launching method was unprecedented. The ships were used effectively as troop transports. Both MAYASAN and TAMATSU MARUs were sunk by American submarines with large numbers of casualties.

KIBITSU, HYUGA and SETTSU MARUs were Standard Type M cargo ships converted to landing craft depot ships on the ways. They launched their landing craft through stern doors. Their tonnage varied about 200 tons between ships of the class. A fourth sister, TOKITSU MARU, not completed until 1946, was then converted to a whaler. She sank in the Antarctic in 1953.

TAKATSU (KOZU) MARU was another cargo ship converted to a landing craft depot ship while under construction. Her Daihatsu landing craft were stored on an upper deck and handled by cranes. She was sunk by American aircraft at Ormoc Bay, PI, in October 1944.

KUMANO MARU was also converted from a cargo ship while under construction. Redesigned as a landing craft transport, she was designated a Type B landing ship. She was fitted with a flight deck, but had no hangar. The deck was not large enough to allow landing of aircraft, and IJA pilots were not so trained. After war's end, KUMANO MARU was used as repatriation ship to transport former Imperial troops back to their homeland.

IJA Landing Craft Depot Ships:
Tabular Records of Movement (TROMs)

(Classes link to specifications summaries)

Shinshu Maru Class

Shinshu Maru
(revised 29 June 2018)

Akitsu Maru Class

Akitsu Maru
(revised 2 June 2018)
Nigitsu Maru
(revised 25 November 2017)

Mayasan Maru Class

Mayasan Maru
(revised 25 November 2017)
Tamatsu Maru
(posted 4 June 2011)

Kibitsu Maru Class

Kibitsu Maru
(revised 8 September 2012)
Hyuga Maru
(posted 1 April 2011)
Settsu Maru
(posted 1 June 2011)

Takatsu Maru Class

Takatsu Maru
(posted 1 December 2012)

Kumano Maru Class

Kumano Maru
(revised 1 October 2016)

Bibliography of Sources

About the Authors

Mr. Robert Hackett is a military historian and researcher. Retired from the United States Air Force and later from the aerospace industry, he resides in Florida.

Mr. Peter Cundall is a maritime historian and researcher who specializes in merchant ships. He works in the marine industry and resides in Australia.

Questions to the authors concerning these TROMs should be posted on the Discussion and Questions board.