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

IJN Minesweeper W-39:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2008-2014 Bob Hackett and Peter Cundall

Revision 5

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.

29 July 1944:
W-39 and W-28 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 onf 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.

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

7 August 1944:
At 1900, departs Manila.

12 August 1944:
Arrives at Miri.

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.

28 August 1944:
At 2100, arrives 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.

9 September 1944:
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.

1 October 1944:
At 1300, W-39 departs Takao for Manila, Philippines with torpedo boat HIYODORI, kaibokan CD-6, CD-16 and CD-20, minesweeper W-38 and three unidentified warships escorting convoy TAMA-29 consisting of EJIRI, TOKO, RYUEI, KOSHO, URADO and TEIFU MARUs and seven unidentified merchant ships.

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.

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 are detached.

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]

20 November 1944:
W-39 departs Saei (Tsoying), near Takao, with three unidentified naval auxiliary subchasers 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.

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 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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