W-21 (W-19 class) scanned from Gakken, V. 45

IJN Minesweeper W-38:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2017 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall

Revision 6

E 1943:
Osaka. Laid down at Fujinagata Shipbuilding & Engineering K. K. as minesweeper No. 423.

Launched and numbered W-38.

10 June 1944:
Completed and registered in the IJN.

5 July 1944:
W-38 and W-39 are assigned to the 21st Minesweeper Division.

12 July 1944:
At 1500, W-38 and W-39 depart Moji for Takao, Formosa with destroyer SHIOKAZE, kaibokan SHIMUSHU, subchaser CH-55, auxiliary gunboat HUASHAN (KAZAN) MARU escorting convoy MI-11 consisting of cargo/transports EIKYU, TOSHINO, MIHO, ENOSHIMA, MANKO, HACHIJIN, DAKAR, FUSO, TEIRITSU (ex French LECONTE DE LISLE), BAIKAL, TOUN and FUKUJU MARUs, BANSHU MARU No. 16 and tankers KOEI, TAKETOYO, AYAYUKI, SHICHIYO, AYAGUMO and HARIMA MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1.

20 Jul 1944:
BAIKAL MARU is detached from the convoy and arrives at Kirun.

21 July 1944:
At 1800, arrives at Takao. TOUN MARU is detached from the convoy.

29 July 1944:
At 0500, the convoy departs Takao for Miri, Borneo joined by tanker HARIMA MARU and minesweeper W-28. Destroyer SHIOKAZE is detached.

30 July 1944:
At 2200, BANSHU MARU No. 16 incurs rudder problems and collides with MANKO MARU, but both proceed.

31 July 1944:
Luzon Strait. A wolfpack patrols the Strait under Captain (later Rear Admiral) Lewis S. Parks consisting of LtCdr (later Vice Admiral/MOH/COMSUBLANT) Lawson P. Ramage's (USNA ’31) USS PARCHE (SS-384)(F), LtCdr (later Captain) David L. Whelchel's (USNA ’30) USS STEELHEAD (SS-280) and LtCdr John C. Martin's (USNA ’34) USS HAMMERHEAD (SS-364).

280 miles NNW of Cape Mayraira, Luzon. At 0332, LtCdr Ramage's USS PARCHE torpedoes and sinks KOEI MARU carrying 1,050 Army troops of whom 150 along with nine crewmen are KIA. About the same time, oiler OGURA MARU No. 1 is hit by a torpedo, but does not sink. Five crewmen are KIA. At 0340, Ramage torpedoes and sinks YOSHINO MARU carrying 5,012 soldiers onf the Kwantung Army. She carries down 2,442 soldiers, 18 naval gunners and 35 sailors and 400 m3 of ammunition. [1][2]

At 0420, Whelchel's USS STEELHEAD torpedoes DAKAR MARU, but she does not sink. At 0455, Whelchel torpedoes and sinks FUSO MARU. She takes down 1,384 troops and crewmen and a cargo of 36 railway carriages and 1,120-tons of other military supplies.

At 0514, Ramage's USS PARCHE torpedoes and sinks MANKO MARU. She carries down several hundred naval personnel, 17 escort troops and 20 crewmen and a cargo of ammunition.

2 August 1944:
W-38 arrives at Calayan.

3 August 1944:
At 1730, the remainder of MI-11 arrives at Manila where it is reorganized.

4 August 1944:
At 2100 W-38 departs Calayan to assist FUKUJU and DAKAR MARUs.

5 August 1944:
Meets up with W-39 out from Takao.

7 August 1944:
At 1200 arrives back at Manila.

9 August 1944:
W-38 departs Manila. Meanwhile at 0200 MATA-26 convoy departs Manila with kaibokan CD-5, CD-6, CD-9, CD-16, YASHIRO, MATSUWA and subchaser CH-58 as escorts in convoy consisting of TAKETSU (BUTSU), IKOMASAN, SHINEI, HINAGA, ASAKA, KACHOSAN, KENEI and ASAKA MARUs and 14 other unidentified merchant ships.

10 August 1944:
W-38 and W-39 meets up with MATA-26 after SHINEI MARU has been torpedoed and sunk.

12 August 1944:
YASHIRO assists KACHOSAN MARU from the convoy.

14 August 1944:
In the eye of a major typhoon, the war-built tanker TAKETSU (BUTSU) MARU breaks up, although as a result of weather or a drifting mine is unclear. IKOMASAN and ASAKA MARUs are both stranded on islands in the Bashi Islands Group, North of Luzon. Both are later refloated.

15 August 1944:
At 1300 W-38 and W-39 arrive at Saei.

22 August 1944:
At 1410, W-38 and W-39 depart Takao for Manila with kaibokan YASHIRO, CD-8, CD-25, CD-32 and torpedo boat HATO escorting convoy TAMA-24 consisting of HIDA, KOTOKU, TEIHOKU (ex French PERSEE), RAKUTO, BATOPAHAT, GENKAI and MANSHU MARUs and tankers TACHIBANA and YAMAMIZU MARU No. 2 and an unidentified ship, probably YUKIKAWA MARU.

25 August 1944:
CD-25 and GENKAI MARU are detached. Destroyer YUNAGI joins TAMA-24.

At 1024, Cdr (later Vice Admiral) Glynn R. Donaho's (USNA ’27) USS PICUDA (SS-382) torpedoes and sinks KOTOKU MARU steaming in ballast, at 18-42N, 120-49E. 16 crewmen are KIA. At 1026, in the same position, Donaho torpedoes and sinks YUNAGI as the destroyer attempts a counter-attack. 32 sailors are KIA. At 1325, LtCdr (later Rear Admiral-Ret) Louis D. McGregor's (USNA ’30) USS REDFISH (SS-395) torpedoes and sinks BATOPAHAT MARU at 18-31N, 120-32E. 17 crewmen and an unknown number of passengers are KIA.

26 August 1944:
At 1400 some of the convoy including W-38 and W-39 arrive at Port San Pioquinto.

28 August 1944:
At 2100, arrives at Manila.

30 August 1944:
W-38 and W-39 depart Manila to meet a section of ships inbound from convoy HI-73 including KIBITSU, GOKOKU and KAGU MARUs.

1 September 1944:
At 1000 the escorts meet up with the ships.

2 September 1944:
At 1000 arrive at Manila.

6 September 1944:
At 1200 W-38 and W-39 depart Manila with kaibokan YASHIRO, torpedo boat HIYODORI and one unidentified warship (probably TAKUNAN MARU No. 5) escorting convoy MATA-27 consisting of SHINSEI MARU (2880 grt) and eight unidentified merchant ships.

7 September 1944:
At 1730 arrives at North San Fernando.

8 September 1944:
At 0000 departs North San Fernando. At 1900 arrives at Bangui.

9 September 1944:
Departs Bangui. Off Musa Bay, Fuga Island. At 1600, W-38 and W-39 meet convoy MI-14 consisting of TOKUSHIMA, ENOSHIMA, MIHO, KENSEI MARUs and tankers ATAGO and TOKUWA MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 2 escorted by kaibokan CD-14, patrol boat PB-38 and subchaser CH-20.

11 September 1944:
Arrives at Takao.

16 September 1944:
At 0440, departs Basco Bay, Batan Island, Philippines. At 1355, TOKUSHIMA MARU carrying 112 passengers and 5,400-tons of chrome ore, is torpedoed and sunk by LtCdr (later Vice Admiral) Glynn R. Donaho‘s (USNA ’27) USS PICUDA (SS-382) in the Bashi Channel at 21-57N, 121-35E. 82 passengers, one Communications Officer, 44 ship’s gunners and 52 crewmen are KIA. The explosion damages nearby oiler OGURA MARU No. 2's (hull more likely a dud torpedo hit). The ship, carrying 12,220-tons of fuel oil and about 150 crew and soldiers, stops for repairs, but at 1515, the ship is hit by six torpedoes and sunk by LtCdr Louis D. McGregor's (USNA ’30) USS REDFISH (SS-395) at 21-42N, 121-41E. In the course of these actions 23 passengers, three guards and 15 crewmen are KIA.

17 September 1944:
Arrives at Takao. W-38 and CH-20 are detached.

22 September 1944:
W-38 and W-39 depart Takao on a anti submarine sweep.

23 September 1944:
Both escorts return to Takao.

25 September 1944:
W-38 and W-39 depart on an anti submarine sweep of the Luzon Straits.

29 September 1944:
At 1455 both escorts return to Takao.

1 October 1944:
At 1300, W-38 and W-39 depart Takao for Manila, Philippines with subchaser CH-61 and auxiliary submarine chasers CHa-95 and CHa-96 escorting convoy TAMA-29 consisting of EJIRI, TOKO, RYUEI, KOSHO, URATO, TOYOKAWA, JOGU, EIKO, TEIFU (ex French BOUGAINVILLE), NANKING and PEKING MARUs, BANEI MARU No. 6 and one unidentified merchant ship.

3 October 1944:
At 1703, the convoy arrives at Camiguin Island.

5 October 1944:
JOGU MARU and BANEI MARU No. 6 are detached for San Vicente.

6 October 1944:
At 1900, the convoy departs Camiguin Island.

8 October 1944:
The convoy arrives at North San Fernando. NANKING and PEKING MARUs and W-38 and W-39, auxiliary subchaser CHa-95 and CHa-96 and submarine chaser CH-61 are all detached and a new escort group takes over.

10 October 1944:
At 0100, W-38 and W-39 depart North San Fernando for Takao with auxiliary subchaser CHa-95 and two unidentified warships escorting convoy MATA-29 consisting of HOTEN, TERUKUNI, TSINGTAO and OMINE (TAIHO) MARUs. Because of the risk of air attacks, the convoy shelters at Calayan Island.

18 October 1944:
At 0955, USN aircraft locate and attack the ships at anchor. All four merchant ships and CHa-95 are sunk in the resulting air attacks. [3]

26 October 1944:
Arrives at North San Fernando.

29 October 1944:
At 1523, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from W-38 that reads: "Minesweeper No. 38 and Patrol Boat No. 102, now escorting the damaged vessel TAIHAKU MARU will leave San Fernando about the 1st -----.”

1 November 1944:
W-38 and auxiliary submarine chasers CHa-176 and CHa-177 depart Takao.

7 November 1944:
At 1830 W-38 arrives at Mako.

8 November 1944:
At 1800 departs Mako

9 November 1944:
At 0200 arrives at Takao.

12 November 1944:
At 1800, W-38 departs Takao for Manila with patrol boats PB-102 and PB-38, subchaser CH-43, auxiliary subchaser SHOWA MARU No. 2 and auxiliary patrol boat KOCHI MARU escorting convoy TAMA-31B consisting of MANJU MARU and six LST's (5 Navy, 1 Army).

15 November 1944:
Anchors off the west coast of Formosa to avoid Allied air attacks. Departs later.

19 November 1944:
At 0400 W-38 departs Laoag, S side of the mouth of Lingayan Gulf. At 1700, arrives at Santiago Island Strait. Later that evening, TAMA-31B is attacked by 27 Grummans that inflict only slight damage.

20 November 1944:
At 1030, departs Santiago Island Strait.

South China Sea. SW of Takao, Formosa. After midnight, Cdr (later Rear Admiral/COMSUBPAC) John H. Maurer’s (USNA ’35) USS ATULE’s (SS-403) SJ radar picks up a slow moving vessel. Maurer moves in to attack on the surface, but the target is protected by a rain squall. USS ATULE continues tracking the target. At about 0500, the target is silhouetted against a clear horizon. Maurer fires four torpedoes. The third torpedo hits below the minesweeper’s stack. Less than three minutes later, W-38 sinks by the bow. Her depth charges explode as she goes under at 21-21N, 119-45E.

10 March 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] For his actions in the Luzon Strait that night, Ramage was awarded the Medal of Honor.

[2] Both PARCHE and STEELHEAD received 1/2 credit for sinking YOSHINO MARU.

[3] It is not clear from available records whether W-38 and W-39 were present at the time of these attacks. In any event, they were not damaged.

Thanks go to John Whitman of the USA for info on CNO intercepts of Japanese messages and to Mr. Gilbert Casse of France for general asistance.

Photo credit goes to Gakken via J. Ed Low.

-Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

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