YUSOSEN!

TONAN MARU NO. 3:

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2014 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

Revision 4 :


27 May 1937:
Osaka. Laid down at Osaka Iron Works as a 19,209-ton whale oil factory ship for Nippon Suisan Kabushiki Kaisha (Japan. Fisheries Co., Ltd.) of Tokyo.

1 May 1938:
Launched and named TONAN MARU No. 3.

23 September 1938:
Completed and placed in whaling service by Nippon Suisan K.K.

1938 and 1939:
Participates in whaling seasons in Antarctic waters.

31 October 1938:
Arrives at Fremantle.

14 November 1939:
Arrives at Fremantle.

1940:
Part of No. 6 Southern Ocean Whaling Mission.

4 November 1941:
Requisitioned by the IJN. Registered in the Yokosuka Naval District and assigned to the Combined Fleet Supply Force.

4 December 1941:
Arrives at Sana (Samah).

6 December 1941:
At 1905 TONAN MARU No. 3 and NAGOYA MARU both depart Sana.

13 December 1941:
Departs Camranh Bay.

15 December 1941:
Arrives off Miri.

22 December 1941: The Invasion of Sarawak (British Borneo) :
TONAN MARU No. 3 departs Miri, Borneo for Kuching, Sarawak carrying 260 men of the Fourth Naval Construction Unit in an invasion convoy consisting of KATORI, HIYOSHI, HOKKAI, MYOHO, KENKON and NICHIRAN MARUs, UNYO MARU No. 2 and two unidentified ships escorted by light cruiser YURA, DesDiv 12's SHIRAKUMO, MURAKUMO and USUGUMO and minesweepers W-3 and W-6.

The invasion convoy is transporting the Kawaguchi Detachment and the Yokosuka No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF). TONAN MARU No. 3 is carrying the 21st Field Ordnance Depot, 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Field Well Drilling Company of about 120 men, 48th Anchorage HQ, 4th Naval Construction Unit of about 260 men and materials for Seria, Luntong & Miri (oil well repairs, if needed).

CruDiv 7/1's KUMANO and SUZUYA, light cruiser KINU and destroyers FUBUKI and SAGIRI provide the covering force. West of the covering force is CruDiv 7/2's MIKUMA and MOGAMI with destroyer HATSUYUKI. Seaplane tender KAMIKAWA MARU provides air cover.

23 December 1941:
Off Kuching. At 2040, Dutch Ltz I Carel A. J. van Well Groeneveld's submarine HMNS K-XIV torpedoes and damages TONAN MARU No. 3.

December 1941:
Undergoes temporary repairs, then departs for Kure. [1]

26 January 1942:
Arrives at Mutsure.

5 February 1942:
Departs Kure.

7 February 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

March 1942:
Undergoes conversion to an auxiliary naval tanker.

14 April 1942:
Departs Yokohama after docking and later that day arrives at Yokosuka.

24 April 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

5 May 1942:
Arrives at Saipan.

7 May 1942:
Departs Saipan.

13 May 1942:
Arrives at Palau.

17 May 1942:
Departs Palau.

20 May 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

24 May 1942:
Departs Truk.

1 June 1942:
Arrives at Yokohama.

3 June 1942:
Departs Yokohama and later the same day arrives at Yokosuka.

5 June 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

7 June 1942:
Arrives at Osaka.

9 June 1942:
Departs Osaka.

11 June 1942:
Arrives at Moji.

15 June 1942:
Departs Moji and arrives at Kure the same day.

18 June 1942:
Departs Kure and later that day arrives at Hiro.

21 June 1942:
Departs Hiro.

29 June 1942:
Arrives Sana and departs later that same day arriving at Yulin shortly after.

7 July 1942:
Departs Yulin.

15 July 1942:
Arrives at Mako.

17 July 1942:
Departs Mako.

21 July 1942:
Arrives at Sasebo.

23 July 1942:
Departs Sasebo.

25 July 1942:
Arrives at Naha, Okinawa.

29 July 1942:
Departs Naha.

31 July 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

2 August 1942:
Departs Kure and later that day arrives at Hiro.

3 August 1942:
Departs Hiro.

5 August 1942:
Arrives at Yokohama.

9 August 1942:
Departs Yokohama and later that day arrives at Yokosuka.

13 August 1942:
Departs Yokosuka initially escorted by auxiliary gunboat KASAGI MARU.

23 August 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

31 August 1942:
Departs Rabaul.

3 September 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

6 September 1942:
Departs Truk.

8 September 1942:
Arrives at Saipan and departs later that day.

13 September 1942:
Arrives at Tokuyama.

17 September 1942:
Departs Tokuyama.

18 September 1942:
Arrives at Kure.

21 September 1942:
Departs Kure.

23 September 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

24 September 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

30 September 1942:
Arrives at Saipan and departs later the same day.

5 October 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

11 October 1942:
Departs Rabaul in convoy with YAMAGIRI MARU escorted by destroyer ASANAGI.

14 October 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

17 October 1942:
Departs Truk.

21 October 1942:
Arrives at Kwajalein.

22 October 1942:
Departs Kwajalein.

30 October 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

1 November 1942:
Departs Yokosuka and later that day arrives at Yokohama.

17 November 1942:
Departs Yokohama.

18 November 1942:
Arrives at Yokkaichi.

20 November 1942:
Departs Yokkaichi.

21 November 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

24 November 1942:
Departs Yokosuka.

2 December 1942:
Arrives at Truk.

E 5 December 1942:
Departs Truk.

16 December 1942:
Arrives at Miri.

20 December 1942:
Departs Miri.

31 December 1942:
Arrives at Yokohama.

6 January 1943:
Departs Yokohama.

16 January 1943:
Arrives at Singapore.

E 19 January 1943:
Arrives at Miri.

E 20 January 1943:
Departs Miri.

24 January 1943:
Departs Singapore.

E 31 January 1943:
Arrives at Shimotsu.

4 February 1943:
Arrives at Kure.

12 February 1943:
Departs Kure.

18 February 1943:
Arrives at Hong Kong.

19 February 1943:
Departs Hong Kong.

24 February 1943:
Arrives at Singapore.

15 March 1943:
S of Satiawan Island meets up with destroyer OITE that escorts the ship.

16 March 1943:
Arrives at Truk.

31 March 1943:
Owner is restyled as Nippon Kaiyo Gyogyo K.K.

18 May 1943:
At 1700, arrives at Manila.

21 May 1943:
Departs Manila for Truk.

23 July 1943:
Departs Truk for Miri.

In the evening, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Lawrence R. Daspit, (USNA ’27) CO of USS TINOSA (SS-283) receives an “Ultra” codebreaker’s decrypt from COMSUBPAC. The message says TONAN MARU NO. 2 (sic) is enroute from Palau to Truk. loaded The report gives the coordinates of various points on her route and the time and location that she is scheduled to meet her escort. Daspit heads to intercept the oiler two hours prior to her rendezvous with her escort.

24 July 1943:
W of Truk, Carolines. At about 0400, USS TINOSA is on station on the surface. At 0555, a clear and calm day dawns and the target is sighted on the high periscope at 35,000 yards. TONAN MARU No. 3 is on schedule, but about 16 miles south of her projected track. Daspit races in an “end run” to close to an attack position. At 0809, he takes USS TINOSA down. At 0923, Daspit fires four Mark 14 bow torpedoes at 1,000 yards range. One hits below the bridge and one hits amidships, but neither explodes. TONAN MARU No. 3 drops four depth charges, turns away and puts on speed.

At 0938, Daspit fires bow tubes five and six. Both torpedoes hit the ship aft on the port quarter at obtuse angles and explode. TONAN MARU No. 3's engines stop and she lists to port. She drops four more depth charges. Daspit heads for a firing position starboard side to finish off the huge tanker. Some Japanese man lifeboats, while others open fire on USS TINOSA’s periscope with machine guns and a deck gun.

At 1009, Daspit sets up off the TONAN MARU No. 3's beam and fires one stern tube at 875 yards range. The torpedo hits, but does not explode. At 1011, he fires another stern tube at 1050 yards, but it is another dud. At 1014, USS TINOSA fires another stern shot at 1300 yards, gets a hit, but this Mark 14 is yet another dud.

USS TINOSA reloads her tubes. Daspit decides to fire as many torpedoes as necessary to sink the tanker, save his last one. He will return the last torpedoes to Pearl Harbor for a complete overhaul. At 1039, Daspit resumes the attack. He fires a stern tube at 900 yards, gets a hit, but the torpedo does not explode. At 1048, Daspit fires a bow tube from 1,000 yards. The torpedo hits the target, but veers off to the right and jumps clear of the water.

The Japanese leave their lifeboats. They commence firing the other deck gun at USS TINOSA's periscope and torpedo wakes. At 1050, Daspit fires again from 900 yards. Another hit, but still no explosion. At 1100, he fires from 1,000 yards with the same results.

USS TINOSA’s sonar operator makes contact with high speed screws. Three minutes later, a destroyer is sighted headed directly for the submarine. At 1131, USS TINOSA fires another stern shot that hits TONAN MARU No. 3, but does not explode. At 1132, the destroyer is only 1,000 yards away, but Daspit fires a stern tube, then dives USS TINOSA to 300 feet. The sonar man hears the torpedo hit the target, but there is no explosion. In all, USS TINOSA fires 15 Mark-14 torpedoes and gets 13 hits, but 11 are duds.

The destroyer drops seven close depth charges. After remaining deep for more than two hours, Daspit comes to periscope depth at 1357. The tanker is afloat about three miles away, down by the stern with a port list. The destroyer is alongside. By 1800, visibility is lost and TONAN MARU No. 3 can no longer be seen. At 1937, USS TINOSA surfaces. Daspit sends contact and attack reports. Three hours later, he is directed to return to Pearl Harbor. [2]

That same day, light cruiser ISUZU and destroyer ASANAGI arrive from Truk to protect TONAN MARU No. 3. ISUZU takes the tanker in tow.

28 July 1943:
Arrives at Truk. TONAN MARU No. 3’s spaces are pumped out and she undergoes temporary repairs by repair ship AKASHI. Nevertheless, the ship is not considered seaworthy enough to make the long trip back to Japan for dry docking and permanent repairs.

August 1943- February 1944:
Remains at Truk and serves as a refueling oil depot.

25 September 1943:
Removed from the Navy List. Vessel remains under naval control and is still assigned to Yokosuka Naval District.

December 1943:
Receives fuel from NICHIEI MARU.

27 January 1944:
NICHIEI MARU Transfers 6,730 tons No.3 grade fuel oil to TONAN MARU No. 3.

28 January 1944:
NICHIEI MARU, while tied up to TONAN MARU No. 3’s starboard side transfers 400 tons of No. 1 Grade Fuel oil.

17-18 February 1944: American Operation "Hailstone" - The Attack on Truk:
Truk Lagoon. Vice Admiral (later Admiral) Marc A. Mitscher’s (USNA ’10)(former CO of USS HORNET, CV-8) 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.

At 0435 (JST), an air raid alarm is given. TONAN MARU No. 3 is anchored in Truk's Repair Anchorage located W of Dublon and N of Fefan Islands. At the time of Task Force 58's raids, repair ship AKASHI, destroyers FUMIZUKI and KIYOSUMI and YAMAGIRI, HOYO and KENSHO MARUs are in this anchorage waiting or undergoing repairs.

TONAN MARU No. 3 is bombed by Grumman SB2C “Helldiver” dive-bombers from USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17) and planes from USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6) and set afire.

18 February 1944:
Douglas SBD “Dauntless” dive-bombers from USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) score at least one hit on TONAN MARU No. 3. At 1410, she rolls over to port and sinks. 315 men are KIA.

During the raids, TF 58 sinks 31 merchant transports, two light cruisers, four destroyers and four auxiliary vessels, and destroys nearly 200 aircraft and damages severely about 100 more. Truk is eliminated as a major IJN fleet anchorage.

3 March 1951:
TONAN MARU No. 3 is refloated and undergoes temporary repairs.

1951:
Towed to Aioi, Japan. Undergoes complete overhaul and refurbishment at Harima’s shipyard.

8 October 1951:
Recommissioned as whaling factory ship TONAN MARU No. 3. Later, renamed TONAN MARU. [3]

1951-1967:
Resumes whale oil operations in the Antartic Ocean.

1967-1970:
Conducts whale oil operations in northern seas.

April 1970:
Begins scrapping.


Author's Notes:

[1] One source indicates that TONAN MARU No. 3 made Saigon a few days later for temporary repairs.

[2] The USS TINOSA-TONAN MARU No. 3 incident served to focus attention on defects in the design and operation of the submarine force’s primary weapon, the Mark-14 torpedo. The initial problem was with the torpedoes depth-control mechanism. They were proven to run far deeper than their settings. By August 1942, a new mechanism was designed and installed on all Mark-14 torpedoes, but then reports began to show a high percentage of duds and prematures.

Suspicion shifted to the Mark-14’s Mark 6 magnetic detonator. The Earth’s magnetism varies by location and so does the magnetic field around a ship. Because of the variances in magnetic fields between New England where the Mark-6 detonator was tested and those of the South Pacific’s theater of operations, the magnetic detonator was unreliable. Flaws in the device’s construction further added to the detonator’s unreliability.

Just as solving the depth-control problem unmasked problems with the magnetic detonator, solving that problem unmasked problems with the contact exploder. Testing by COMSUBPAC personnel at Pearl Harbor proved that Newport Torpedo Station’s design and construction of the contact detonator was deficient. New contact exploder mechanisms were designed and installed on all Mark-14 torpedoes.

The dogged persistence of Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood (USNA ’12) and his submariners had finally prevailed over the defensive bureaucratic bluster of the Navy Department’s Bureau of Ordnance and the submarine force began to receive reasonably reliable torpedoes, but America’s Silent Service was forced to engage the enemy for 18 months with ordnance that proved to be at least 70 percent unreliable.

And then BuOrd introduced the new, but slow, electric Mark-18 torpedo with a small warhead, that tended to make circular runs, but that’s another (sad) story……

[3] One source indicates that TONAN MARU No. 3's new name was ZUNAN MARU.

Thanks go to Allan Alsleben of Oregon and Mr. Gilbert Casse of France.

Photo credit goes to Ron Wolford via Gilbert Casse of France.

-Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall


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