(Oiler by Takeshi Yuki scanned from "Color Paintings of Japanese Warships")


Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2017 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

Revision 4

E 1905:
Dumbarton, Scotland. Laid down by William Denny & Bros. for London’s New Zealand Shipping Co.

5 November 1906:
Launched and named OPAWA.

18 December 1906:
Completed and placed in service as a refrigerated cargo ship. Transports frozen produce between Britain and New Zealand.

During WWI, continues transporting food to Britain for the New Zealand Shipping Co. Additionally, carries some Australian and New Zealand troops to Britain.

September 1927:
Laid up at Falmouth.

Sold to Brunn & von der Lippe, Tonsberg, Norway. Converted to a whale factory ship. Renamed ANTARCTIC.

Sold to Nippon Hogei K. K., Tokyo, a subsidiary of Nippon Suisan K. K. (Japan Fisheries Co., Ltd.) of Tokyo and renamed ANTARCTIC MARU. Departs Japan for whaling operations in the Antarctic Ocean.


Owner restyled as Kyodo Kigyo K.K., Tokyo .

Transferred to Nippon Suisan K. K., Tokyo.

25 June 1942:
Departs Kure with seaplane carrier CHIYODA escorted by destroyers SHIRANUI, ARARE, KASUMI and KAGERO.

27 June 1942:
Arrives at Yokosuka.

E 1943:
Placed under the Civilian Administration (Senpaku Uneikai) and allotted to the IJA with No. 5004.

12 January 1943:
TONAN MARU departs Miike and joins up with convoy No. 117 consisting of six unidentified ships without escort. The convoy sails at 10.5 knots.

19 January 1943:
Arrives at Takao.

13 February 1943:
Departs Takao with ANYO MARU with escort, if any, unknown.

16 February 1943:
Arrives at Manila.

23 February 1943:
At 1500 departs Manila in convoy No. 835 also consisting of ANYO MARU escorted by auxiliary gunboat CHOJUSAN MARU.

1 March 1943:
At 1420 arrives at Takao.

1 May 1943:
Departs Mako in convoy No. 389 also consisting of HOKUROKU, RAKUYO, TSUSHIMA and TOKIWA MARUs and an unidentified ship without escort. The convoy sails at 9.5 knots.

7 May 1943:
Arrives at St Jacques.

28 July 1943:
At 1430 PB-36 departs Mutsure with destroyer SANAE escorting convoy No. 181 consisting of ARATAMA, TAIRYU, KIRISHIMA, KONSAN, YASUKUNI (5794 tons), TEIKA (ex-Vichy French CAP VARELLA), SAN LUIS MARUs and eleven other unidentified merchant ships. The convoy sails in two parts with PB-36 escorting a contingent of ten ships. SANAE and the first contingent sails two days later and catches up en route.

30 July 1943:
At 1940 SAN LUIS MARU develops engine problems and returns to Moji. At 2250 the tanker TONAN MARU joins the convoy.

4 August 1943:
At 1200 arrives at Takao.

10 August 1943:
At 1400, TONAN MARU departs Moji for Mako, Pescadores in convoy No. 185 also consisting of tankers TACHIBANA, CHIYODA, SAN RAMON, MATSUMOTO, YAMAMIZU and NICHIRIN MARUs passenger-cargo ships TEIBI (ex French BERNARDIN de ST PIERRE), KACHIDOKI (ex-PRESIDENT HARRISON) and GINYO MARUs, cargo ship ASUKA MARU and one unidentified ship escorted by kaibokan SADO. [1]

11 August 1943:
Off Nagasaki convoy No. 184 consisting of tankers FUSHIMI MARU No. 3, SHUNTEN MARU and one unidentified merchant ship without escort merges with the convoy.

15 August 1943:
Arrives at Mako.

18 August 1943:
Departs Mako for Saigon in convoy No. 316 also consisting of tankers SAN RAMON, NICHIRIN, YAMAMIZU and TACHIBANA MARUs, passenger-cargo ships KACHIDOKI (ex-PRESIDENT HARRISON) and GINYO MARUs, cargo ship ASUKA MARU and three unidentified ships.

21 August 1943:
The convoy now consists of eight ships, the three unidentified ships likely having detached for either Hong Kong or Hainan. At 1340 in position 15.24N 115-32E the convoy is attacked and three torpedoes narrowly miss GINYO MARU.

26 August 1943:
Arrives at Saigon.

28 August 1943:
Departs St Jacques in convoy No. 505 also consisting of passenger-cargo ship KACHIDOKI MARU (ex-PRESIDENT HARRISON) and five unidentified merchant ships.

31 August 1943:
Arrives at Singapore.

30 September 1943:
At 1440 in 22-58N 119-48E TONAN MARU is attacked and missed by an unknown submarine.

23 November 1943:
At 1530, TONAN MARU departs Takao, Formosa for Cape St. Jacques, Indochina in convoy No. 340 also consisting of tanker ZUIYO MARU, cargo ships SYDNEY, YASUKUNI, SHINNO, SHOHEI, and SEKINO MARUs, KAIJUN GO (ex Chinese HAI SHUN), small Vichy French cargo ship BERYL, an unidentified ship beginning UNKAI MARU and four fully unidentified ships escorted by kaibokan MATSUWA. In the next four days, five ships including YASUKUNI MARU (5794 grt) are detached for various reasons.

28 November 1943:
South China Sea, off Indochina. At about 0200, Cdr Frederick C. Lucas' (USNA ’30) USS BILLFISH (SS-286) picks up the convoy heading south at nine knots seven miles off Varella. Lucas signals Cdr Walter T. Griffith's (USNA ’34) USS BOWFIN (SS-287) about the convoy. Griffith, three miles off Cap Varella, receives sister-ship USS BILLFISH's signal and USS BOWFIN begins tracking the convoy on the surface. At 0412, USS BOWFIN torpedoes and sinks TONAN MARU at 12-50N, 109-35E. 84 crewmen are KIA. Griffith also torpedoes and sinks SYDNEY MARU carrying 4996m3 of naval aircraft spares and 895-tons of trade cargo in the same location. 38 crewmen and five gunners are KIA.

- Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.


[1] It seems unlikely that TONAN MARU could have returned to Japan between 4 and 10 August and the tanker's inclusion in convoy No.185 is dubious.

Thanks to Mr. Gilbert Casse of France.

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