RIKUGUN HAITOSEN

(TAIYO MARU by Ueda Kihachiro)

Transport TAIYO MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2011 Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler


E 1910:
Hamburg, Germany. Laid down at Blohm & Voss in building number 208 as a 14,503-ton passenger-cargo ship for Hamburg-Sudamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft (Hamburg South America Line), Hamburg.

1911:
Launched and named CAP FINISTERRE.

18 November 1911:
Completed and delivered to Hamburg-Sudamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft for service on the South America route. At that time, CAP FINISTERRE is the fastest, largest and most luxurious liner employed on this route.

21 November 1911:
Departs Cuxhaven, Germany on her maiden voyage for Buenos Aires with 1,350 passengers.

9 December 1911:
Arrives at Buenos Aires after a journey of only 13.5 days, the fastest crossing on this route thus far.

August 1914: World War I Begins:
Laid up at Hamburg for duration of war.

11 November 1918:
World War I ends.

4 April 1919:
Handed over to the Allies.

11 April 1919:
CAP FINISTERRE is transferred to the United States under the terms of the Armistice agreement and commissioned as transport USS CAP FINISTERRE. Makes four voyages between Brest, France and New York carrying war veterans home to the United States and occupation troops to Europe.

August 1919:
Completes her final repatriation voyage and, after arrival, spends several months at the New York Navy Yard.

25 November 1919:
USS CAP FINISTERRE is decommissioned and turned over to Great Britain under operational control of The Shipping Controller (Orient Steam Navigation Co., Ltd. – managers), London.

1920:
Ceded to the Japanese Government as a war reparation. Renamed TAIYO MARU and managed by the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line).

1923:
Management passes to Toyo Kisen Kabushiki Kaisha, (Oriental Steamship Company), Yokohama. TAIYO MARU is placed on their trans-Pacific route between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Yokohama, Honolulu, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

10 March 1926:
Shipping Route Control authorities transfer Toyo Kisen´s San Francisco and South America West Coast routes to the NYK Line.

5 May 1926:
TAIYO MARU is entrusted to NYK by the Ministry of Finance (Okurasho) and placed in service on NYK's San Francisco route.

4 May 1929:
NYK purchases TAIYO MARU from the Ministry of Finance and places her in their service.

3 September 1939:
World War 2 begins in Europe after Germany invades Poland and rejects Britain's ultimatum to withdraw.

26 October 1939:
Time-chartered to Toa Kaiun K.K., Tokyo for sercice to Shanghai.

22 October 1941:
TAIYO MARU departs Yokohama for Hawaii. She carries the last foreigners who remained in Japan. Among other passengers, she also carries three IJN officers disguised as crew members: Cdr (later Rear Admiral) Maejima Toshihide (48), Cdr Suzuki Suguru and midget submarine pilot Lt Matsuo Keiu. [1]

TAIYO MARU plies the North Pacific route that will be followed by the IJN’s Kido Butai (carrier striking force) in the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Operation.

1 November 1941:
Oahu, Hawaii. At 0830, TAIYO MARU arrives at Honolulu. Lt Matsuo's mission is to reconnoiter the harbor entrance to Pearl Harbor's naval base.

5 November 1941:
The three IJN officers depart for Japan aboard TAIYO MARU.

17 November 1941:
TAIYO MARU arrives at Yokohama just in time for the IJN officers aboard to brief the midget submarine crews who will attack Pearl Harbor.

Early May 1942:
Japanese government authorities allot TAIYO MARU to the Imperial Army as a Rikugun Sempaku Uneikai Haitosen (A/C-APK). [2]

5 May 1942:
Hiroshima. TAIYO MARU departs Ujina for Moji with 2,450 tons of materiel including ammunition, hand-grenades, illumination rounds and 150 tons of calcium carbide. The huge ship also carries 34 soldiers and 1,010 civilians. The civilians include military governors, doctors, bureaucracy staff, educators and technicians needed to administer conquered Southeast Asian regions.

TAIYO MARU carries a large number of oil field technicians bound for the petroleum production area of Palembang, Sumatra and to revive oil refining facilities at Miri and Balikpapan, Borneo. She also carries technicians bound for Malaya and for Java to install new equipment in the aluminum refinery facility and to construct a cement factory at Davao, Philippines.

6 May 1942:
Arrives at Moji and loads drinking and boiler water and coal fuel. Later that day, arrives at the Mutsure Jima anchorage.

7 May 1942:
At 1200, TAIYO MARU departs Mutsure for Singapore in convoy No. 109 also consisting of passenger-cargo YOSHINO MARU and cargo ships MIKAGE, DOVER and RYUSEI MARUs escorted by auxiliary gunboat PEKING MARU.

The five ships sail in a single row with TAIYO MARU leading. Due to lack of adequate organization, TAIYO MARU, which still could easily make 14 knots, is organized into a mere nine knot convoy.While steaming westward through the Genkai Sea, the convoy encounters a severe northeastern gale which further reduces speed.

8 May 1942:
At 1100, while patrolling in the vicinity, destroyer MINEKAZE and auxiliary gunboat TOMITSU MARU join the convoy as additional escorts.

At 1700, MINEKAZE and TOMITSU MARU terminate escort duty and peel off from the convoy. At 1900, PEKING MARU signals “danger of enemy sub appearance, use strict caution, prepare for gun action”. TAIYO MARU´s crew and gunners immediately man their battle stations. The passengers are informed of the situation. At this time, most of them have assembled for their evening meal.

170 km SW of Me-Shima, Nannyo-Gunto, Nagasaki Prefecture, SW Kyushu. At 1945, LtCdr William A. Lent’s (USNA ‘25) USS USS GRENADIER (SS-210) fires four torpedoes at TAIYO MARU. Two torpedoes pass under TAIYO MARU without exploding, but the other two hit her portside in the stern and No. 2 hold. The calcium carbide loaded in No. 2 hold catches fire and the exploding fumes blow away the hatch cover. Flames reach the stored hand-grenades and illumination rounds which go off and cause great damage to the ship´s bottom. The forward part of the ship immediately turns into a sea of flames. Communication with the foreship is cut off. Chaos breaks out and the passengers rush to the 18 life-boats only to find many of the boats blown away.

By 2020, sea water reaches C deck and the huge ship develops a 35 degree list to portside. About this time, all hands are ordered to abandon ship. Captain Harada Keisuke and about a dozen men chose to stay on board to go down with the ship. By 2035, the ship is restored to an even level, but starts to submerge rapidly bow first.

205 degrees and 80 nautical miles from Me-Shima Lighthouse. At 2040, TAIYO MARU rises vertically and disappears beneath the waves. Captain Harada and 156 of his 263-man crew, 656 of 1,044 passengers and four of 53 armed guards/gunners are KIA (total 817).

PEKING MARU sends a distress call , picks up 15 survivors and counter-attacks and drops a string of depth charges, but without effect on GRENADIER.

After receiving PEKING MARU´s distress call, MINEKAZE and TOMITSU MARU rush to the scene of disaster. Both ships arrive about midnight and start rescue work. Their crews perform outstanding service and despite terrible weather conditions pick up 480 survivors. The survivors are landed at Nagasaki at noon, 10 May 1942.

A large-scale search for other survivors by several fishing boats results in finding TAIYO MARU´s capsized No. 4 life-boat washed ashore on Me-Shima. Later, it is learned that the 48 occupants of this boat were rescued by small fishing vessel GENSHIN MARU No. 1 and landed at Nagasaki on 11 May 1942. No more survivors are found. Official total count for survivors is 543.


Author's Note:
[1] Lt Matsuo is later KIA in the midget submarine attack on Sydney, Australia. P>

[2] At the time of her sinking, TAIYO MARU had not yet been taken over by the civilian administration (Sempaku Uneikai).

Thanks go to John Whitman of Virginia and Gilbert Casse of France.

Bob Hackett and Erich Muehlthaler


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