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

IJN Minesweeper W-39:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2017 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall

Revision 8

E 1944:
Aioi. Laid down at Harima Shipbuilding as minesweeper No. 423.

Launched and numbered W-39.

27 May 1944:
Completed and registered in the IJN. Reserve Lt Fujii Seii is the Commanding Officer. [1]

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

12 July 1944:
At 1500, W-39 departs Moji with destroyer SHIOKAZE, minesweeper W-38, kaibokan SHIMUSHU and subchaser CH-55 escorting convoy MI-11 consisting of EIKYU, YOSHINO, MIHO, ENOSHIMA, HACHIJIN, DAKAR, FUSO, TEIRITSU (ex-French LECONTE DE LISLE), TOUN, BAIKAL and FUKUJU MARUs, BANSHU MARU No. 16 and tankers KOEI, TAKETOYO, AYAYUKI, SHICHIYO, AYAGUMO MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1.

20 July 1944:
BAIKAL MARU is detached and arrives at Kirun.

21 July 1944:
The convoy arrives at Takao. TOUN MARU is detached. MANKO and HARIMA MARUs join.

29 July 1944:
W-39, W-38 and W-28 with kaibokan SHIMUSHU, CD-28, auxiliary gunboat KAZAN MARU and submarine chaser CH-55 depart Takao for Miri, Borneo escorting convoy MI-11 consisting of EIKYU, YOSHINO, MIHO, ENOSHIMA, MANKO, HACHIJIN, DAKAR, FUSO, TEIRITSU (ex French LECONTE DE LISLE) and FUKUJU MARUs, BANSHU MARU No. 16 and tankers HARIMA, KOEI, TAKETOYO, AYAYUKI, SHICHIYO and AYAGUMO MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1.

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 (USNA ’25). It consists 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 of the Kwantung Army. She carries down 2,442 soldiers, 18 naval gunners and 35 sailors and 400 m3 of ammunition. [2][3]

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.

4 August 1944:
At 1030 W-39 arrives at Takao.

5 August 1944:
At 1045 W-39 departs Takao and goes to assist FUKUJU MARU which is towing damaged DAKAR MARU. The ship meets up with W-38.

6 August 1944:
At 2054 arrives at North San Fernando. Soon after W-38 detaches to return to Manila.

7 August 1944:
At 1055 W-39 breaks off escort to undertake a submarine hunt. At 1930 rejoins the escort.

9 August 1944:
At 1900 W-38 arrives at 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-39 and W-38 depart Takao for Manila with kaibokan YASHIRO CD-8, CD-25, CD-32, 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, carrying 480 troops, weapons and war supplies, 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 meet up with the ships.

2 September 1944:
At 1000 arrive at Manila.

September 1944:
Reserve Lt Kumazawa Hiroshi assumes command.

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-39 and W-38 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 cracked by a dud torpedo). The ship, carrying 12,220-tons of fuel oil and about 150 crew and soldiers, stops for repairs, but at 1515, the vessel 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 an 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-39 departs Takao for Manila, Philippines W-38, submarine chaser CH-61, auxilary submarine chasers CHa-95 and CHa-96 escorting convoy TAMA-29 consisting of EJIRI, TOKO, RYUEI, KOSHO, URADO, TOYOKAWA, JOGU, NANKING, EIKO, PEKING and TEIFU MARUs, BANEI MARU No. 6 and one unidentified merchant ship.

3 October 1944:
At 1703, the convoy arrives at Camiguin Island. At 1910, TEIFU MARU (ex French BOUGAINVILLE) escorted by W-39 are detached for Aparri, northern Luzon. At 2357, they arrive at Aparri and TEIFU MARU begins unloading.

4 October 1944:
At 1935, TEIFU MARU and W-39 arrive back at Camiguin Island. (Banei Maru No.6 and JOGU MARU depart the following day for San Vincente.)

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

8 October 1944:
The convoy arrives at North San Fernando. W-38 and W-39, CH-61, CHa-95 and CHa-96 are 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. [4]

25 October 1944:
Arrives at Takao.

26 October 1944:
W-39 and auxiliary submarine chaser CHa-177 depart Takao escorting a convoy.

29 October 1944:
W-39 and CHa-177 return to Takao.

5 November 1944:
Departs Takao for Mako to undergo repairs.

10 November 1944:
At 0630 departs Mako and heads to north part of Luzon Strait to meet cruiser AOBA.

11 November 1944:
At 2045 anchors off Saei.

12 November 1944:
Arrives at Takao.

15 November 1944:
Departs Takao with W-41 en route to Kirun.

19 November 1944:
W-39 and W-41 arrive back at Takao.

20 November 1944:
W-39 departs Saei (Tsoying), near Takao, with auxiliary submarine chasers CHa-176 and CHa-177 and auxiliary netlayer KIRI MARU No. 1 escorting convoy TAMA-32B consisting of SHOHO, CHOKI and KISHIN MARUs and NISSHO MARU No. 18.

21 November 1944:
At 1700, because of threat of air attack, returns to Saei.

22 November 1944:
At 0950, departs Saei again.

25 November 1944:
At 0518, LtCdr John B. Hess's (USNA ’37) USS POMFRET (SS-391) torpedoes and sinks SHOHO MARU (1356 GRT) at 20-20N, 121-40E. 16 passengers, 8 escort troops and 39 crewmen are killed.

26 November 1944:
At 2335, arrives at Fuga Island.

27 November 1944:
At 0930, departs Fuga Island, but returns there at 1555 because of fears of impending attack.

28 November 1944:
At 0550, departs Fuga Island. At 2155, arrives at Lapoc Bay.

29 November 1944:
At 0630, departs Lapoc Bay.

30 November 1944:
At 1635, arrives at Santa Cruz.

1 December 1944:
At 0600, departs Santa Cruz.

2 December 1944:
At 0125, arrives at Manila.

5 December 1944:
W-39 and W-41 depart Takao to escort TAMA-35 convoy consisting of NISSHO, ORYOKU, ARIMASAN and KAZUURA MARUs escorted by kaibokan DAITO, CD-1, CD-34 and CD-134. Later that day anchors at Chechung.

6 December 1944:
At 0058 departs and at 1815 anchors at Port San Pio Quinto, Camiguin Island.

8 December 1944:
At 0502, departs Port San Pio Quinto. At 1411, anchors at Calayan Island.

9 December 1944:
At 0817, departs Calayan Island.

11 December 1944:
At 2000, arrives at Manila.

12 December 1944:
W-39 and W-41 arrive back at Takao, having probably detached prior to convoy's arrival at Manila.

13 December 1944:
W-39 and W-41 depart Takao.

18 December 1944:
Both escorts arrive back at Takao.

28 March 1945:
At 0220, W-39 departs Keelung with kaibokan CD-44 and CD-118 escorting convoy TAMO-51 consisting of EDOGAWA, DAIJO and NISSHIN MARUs and tanker HORAI MARU.

2 April 1945:
In thick fog, from 0920, LtCdr Ralph C. Styles' (USNA ’33) USS SEA DEVIL (SS-400) torpedoes and sinks DAIJO and NISSHIN MARUs. On DAIJO MARU seven of the escort party and ten of the crew are killed. The ship was loaded with sugar and 2000 tons of general cargo. NISSHIN MARU was lost without survivors, nine Auxiliary Gunners and all 38 crew died. At 0930, Styles torpedoes and sinks EDOGAWA MARU at 34-02N, 124-00E. All hands (48 crewmen) are KIA. The convoy is dispersed at the time of the successive attacks.

24 April 1945:
W-39 and W-41 depart Keelung, Formosa for Moji.

25 April 1945:
N of Keelung. At about 0100, LtCdr James A. Adkins' (USNA ’26) USS COD (SS-224) torpedoes and sinks W-41 at 26-10'N, 121-30E. USS COD surfaces and picks up one POW.

27 April 1945:
At 1430, USN codebreakers intercept and decrypt a message from W-39 that reads: “Reply to your serial 270826 [a request for information on W-41]: 1. Position of disaster 26-10N, 121-30E. 2. Survivors ----, Ensign --- and 76 enlisted men. Other details unknown.”

30 April 1945:
W-39 is attached to the General Escort Command’s 1st Escort Fleet.

20 July 1945:
Yellow Sea. Near Saishu Island. Cdr’s John J. Foote’s (USNA ’35) USS THREADFIN (SS-410) is running on the surface at night in dense fog. At about 2300, USS THREADFIN’s SJ radar picks up a target. Foote makes an approach and fires five torpedoes that sink W-39 at 35-01N, 125-42E. USS THREADFIN’s crew sees wreckage and survivors in the water, but Foote does not stop to take prisoners. The fate of Lt Kumazawa and the crew of W-39 is unknown.

15 September 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

Authors' Notes:
[1] Ships of the World states commissioning date as 31 May

[2] For his actions in the Luzon Strait that night, Ramage was awarded the Medal of Honor.

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

[4] 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 Matthew Jones for information on COs. Thanks also go to John Whitman of the USA for info on CNO intercepts of Japanese messages and to Mr. Sander Kingsepp of Estonia, Erich Muelthaler of Germany and Mr. Gilbert Casse of France for general assistance.

Photo credit goes to Gakken via J. Ed Low.

-Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall.

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