KOSAKUKAN!

(YAMABIKO MARU prewar)

IJN Repair Ship YAMABIKO MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement


© 1998-2014 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp
Revision 7


23 February 1937:
Tokyo. Laid down at the Uraga Dock Co. for the Yamashita Kisen K. K. Line of Kobe.

28 July 1937:
Launched and named YAMABIKO MARU

7 December 1937:
Completed as a 6,795-ton passenger steamer.

1938-1941:
Operates on the North and South American routes.

6 August 1941:
Requistioned by the IJN.

15 August 1941:
Osaka. Registered in the IJN and attached to the Kure Naval District. Captain Captain Kuranaga Shozo (40) is appointed Commanding Officer. Begins conversion at the Fujinagata Zosensho shipyard.

15 October 1941:
Osaka. Completes conversion to an auxiliary repair ship. .

8 December 1941: Operation "M" - The Attack on the Northern Philippines:
Vice Admiral Takahashi's forces invade the Northern Philippines landing troops at Appari, Lingayen Gulf, and other points.

10 December 1941:
Attached to Vice Admiral Takahashi Ibo's (former CO of YAMASHIRO) Third Fleet, Southern Force based at Takao, Formosa. 29 December 1941:
At Takao. Auxiliary gunboat TAIKO MARU comes alongside and the 25 December damage to her foc’sle from a collision with OYO MARU is repaired.

31 December 1941:
Repairs to TAIKO MARU are completed.

1 January 1942:
Departs Takao.

3 January 1942:
Arrives at Lingayen Gulf. Provides emergency repairs for destroyer YAMAGUMO that struck a Japanese mine on 31 December. Auxiliary gunboat KISO MARU comes alongside for repairs and takes on fresh water.

4 January 1942:
Auxiliary gunboat ASO MARU comes alongside for repairs.

6 January 1942:
Lingayen. YAMABIKO MARU repairs ASO MARU's boat davit which had been damaged.

24 January 1942:
Departs Lingayen Gulf.

26 January 1942:
Arrives at Takao.

2 February 1942:
Departs Takao.

25 February 1942:
Arrives at Balikpapan, Borneo.

26 February 1942:
At Balikpapan undertook repairs of Auxiliary Seaplane Tender SANUKI MARU.

28 February 1942:
Works alongside completed.

10 March 1942:
Transferred to the Second Southern Expeditionary Force that is created to defend the newly acquired Netherlands East Indies.

18-19 March 1942: The Invasion of Netherlands Borneo:
Departs Balikpapan for Makassar, Celebes with destroyer ASAGUMO.

19 March-10 April 1942:
Makassar. Provides repairs for DesDiv 8's destroyers ASASHIO and OSHIO damaged in the Battle of Badung Strait.

10 April 1942:
YAMABIKO MARU is reassigned to Vice Admiral Takahashi Ibo's newly created Southwestern Area Fleet.

16 May 1942:
Departs Davao.

17 May 1942:
YAMABIKO MARU is joined by torpedo boat HATSUKARI at 03-07N, 126-26E that escorts her to Ambon, Moluccas.

19 May 1942:
Arrives at Ambon. At Quarantine Wharf, comes alongside auxiliary gunboat TAIKO MARU that was heavily damaged by a hit in the engine room in an RAAF air attack on 13 May. Air-raids continue on 21, 22 and 23 May while the vessel is under temporary repairs. 25 May 1942:
Temporary repairs are completed, although TAIKO MARU remains unnavigable and is later towed by SENKO MARU to Singapore for permanent repairs.

29 May 1942:
Departs Ambon.

Balbac Strait, N of Borneo. Auxiliary submarine depot ship RIO DE JANEIRO MARU is hit by a torpedo, probably one of two fired by LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Chester C. Smith's USS SWORDFISH (SS-193) operating from Fremantle, Australia. The explosion tears a 46-foot long by 26-foot wide hole in Hold No. 1.

YAMABIKO MARU and repair ship KASUGA MARU arrive and tow RIO DE JANERIO MARU to Singapore for repairs. [1]

27 June 1942:
Davao, Philippines. YAMABIKO MARU completes urgent repairs on transport AMAGISAN MARU torpedoed on 14 Feb '42: by LtCdr (later Rear Admiral) Chester C. Smith’s (USNA ’25) USS SWORDFISH (SS-193).

2 October 1942:
Rabaul. YAMABIKO MARU provides emergency repairs for light cruiser TENRYU hit at Rabaul by a bomb from a Fifth Air Force B-17 "Flying Fortress".

22 November 1942:
Captain (later Rear Admiral) Nobutani Yasuji (40) (former CO of CM KATSURIKI) is appointed Commanding Officer.

November 1942:
YAMABIKO MARU departs Singapore carrying elements of the 5th Engineer Regiment, 5th Division, 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 5th Division, 2nd Battalion, 42nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Division and an unknown field airfield construction unit. 2 December 1942:
Arrives at Rabaul.

December ~ 18 December 1942:
Rabaul. YAMABIKO MARU provides emergency repairs for destroyer SHIRATSUYU damaged by a B-17's bombs on 28 Nov '42 off Buna, New Guinea.

24 December 1942:
Rabaul. Probably provides temporary repairs for transport (ex-seaplane tender) KAGU MARU damaged by B-17 “Flying Fortresses” that bomb Simpson harbor that day.

26 December 1942-16 January 1943:
Rabaul. Destroyer UZUKI arrives under tow by destroyer URAKAZE. UZUKI collided with transport NANKAI MARU that she was escorting. The transport was torpedoed on 25 Dec '42 by LtCdr William E. Ferrall's (later Rear Admiral) USS SEADRAGON (SS-194) off Cape St. George, New Britain. YAMABIKO MARU provides repairs for UZUKI.

26 December 1942-3 January 1943:
Rabaul. Destroyer ARIAKE arrives after being bombed and damaged by near-miss bombs from B-24 "Liberators" while towing torpedoed transport NANKAI MARU. YAMABIKO MARU provides repairs for ARIAKE.

28 December-13 January 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for destroyer TACHIKAZE damaged by bombs in the 27 December air raid on Rabaul.

6-16 January 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer SUZUKAZE damaged by near-misses of bombs on 1-2 Jan '43 in the Solomons.

16-26 January 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer URAKAZE damaged by near-misses of bombs on 15 Jan '43 in the Solomons.

16-26 January 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for destroyer HAMAKAZE damaged by near-misses of bombs on 15 Jan '43 in the Solomons.

18-23 January 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer TANIKAZE damaged by a near-miss of a bomb on 15 Jan '43 in the Solomons.

8 February-April 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer MAKINAMI damaged by a near-miss of a bomb on 1 Feb '43 in the Solomons.

9-15 February 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for HAMAKAZE again damaged by bombs in the Solomons on 8 February.

9-27 February 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for destroyer ISOKAZE damaged by bombs in the Solomons on 8 February.

13 February-2 March 1943:
Rabaul. Destroyer KAWAKAZE arrives under tow by destroyer KUROSHIMO after KAWAKAZE collided with cargo-ship TOUN MARU on 10 Feb '43. YAMABIKO MARU provides repairs for KAWAKAZE.

21 February - March 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer HATSUYUKI that suffered minor damage on 17 Feb '43 by scrapping a reef off Kavieng, New Ireland.

1 April 1943:
YAMABIKO MARU is assigned directly to the Combined Fleet.

3-20 April 1943:
Departs Rabaul for the Moewe anchorage near Kavieng. Provides emergency repairs for cruiser AOBA hit by a 500-lb. bomb and set afire by skip-bombing B-17 aircraft on 3 April, then beached.

18-26 April 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer TACHIKAZE damaged lightly in a 15 Apr '43 air raid on Wewak, New Guinea.

18 May - July 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for destroyer YUGIRI torpedoed on 16 May by LtCdr Edward C. Stephan's USS GRAYBACK (SS-208) NW of Kavieng.

29 May - 3 June 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer SATSUKI that grounded on a reef SE of Bougainville on 28 May '43.

6-17 July 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for light cruiser YUBARI that hit a Mark-12 aerial mine dropped by a Navy Grumman TBF "Avenger" torpedo-bomber off Buin, Bougainville.

8 July-1 August 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer AMAGIRI that suffered damage on 5 Jul '43 from five shell hits at the Battle of Kula Gulf.

8-16 July 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer HATSUYUKI that suffered minor damage on 5 Jul '43 from three hits by dud shells at the Battle of Kula Gulf.

11-31 August 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer AMAGIRI damaged on 2 Aug '43 when she rammed Lt (later POTUS) John F. Kennedy's motor torpedo boat PT-109 in Blackett Strait, Solomons.

17-28 July 1943:
Rabaul. Provides repairs for destroyer SATSUKI damaged by strafing and near-misses by bombs in an air raid on Shortland Islands, Bougainville.

21-29 July 1943:
Rabaul. Provides emergency repairs for cruiser KUMANO damaged by a near-miss of a 2,000-lb bomb off Kolombangara by a Guadalcanal-based Marine TBM Avenger.

8 October 1943:
Captain Doi Takashi (42) (former CO of KASHINO) assumes command. Captain Nobutani is reassigned to the Yokosuka Navy Yard.

12 October 1943:
Rabaul. LtGen (later General) George C. Kenney’s 5th Air Force hits Rabaul with the biggest raid made up to then in the Pacific war. 349 aircraft, including 87 B-17 and B-24 bombers, 114 B-25 strafers, 12 RAAF “Beaufighters” and 125 P-38 “Lightning’s” and others from New Guinea and Australia hit Rabaul’s airfields and Simpson harbor. YAMABIKO MARU is not damaged in this raid.

2 November 1943:
Rabaul. 75 North American B-25 "Mitchell" medium bombers of the 5th Air Force's 3rd, 38th and 345th Bomb Groups, escorted by 70 P-38 "Lightning" fighters raid airfields and Simpson Harbor. Stores ship MANKO MARU is sunk. CruDiv 5’s HAGURO and MYOKO, destroyer SHIRATSUYU, sub tender CHOGEI, transport HOKUYO MARU, stores ship HAYASAKI and minesweeper W-26 are damaged in the raid..

SW part of Simpson Harbor. YAMABIKO MARU, anchored close to shore, is hit squarely amidships by either one or two 1, 000-lb bombs. She is set afire and takes on a list. One crewman is killed and 23 wounded.

3 November 1943:
Rabaul. YAMABIKO MARU is still listing and on fire.

5 November 1943: Carrier Raid on Rabaul:
Rabaul. Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Frederick C. Sherman’s (former CO of LEXINGTON (CV-2) Task Force 38 launches 97 aircraft to attack Rabaul: 23 TBM "Avenger" torpedo-planes, 22 "Dauntless" SBD dive bombers, and 52 F6-F "Hellcat" fighters. SBDs from SARATOGA (CV-3) and PRINCETON (CVL-23) take the Japanese by surprise and damage CruDiv 4’s ATAGO, TAKAO and MAYA and CruDiv 7’s CHIKUMA and MOGAMI, light cruisers AGANO and NOSHIRO and destroyers AMAGIRI and FUJINAMI. 10 USN planes are lost.

11 November 1943:
Rabaul. In the early morning, RAAF Bristol "Beaufort" light bombers and 5th Air Force bombers attack the harbor, followed about 0830 by aircraft from Rear Admiral Sherman's SARATOGA (CV-3) and PRINCETON (CVL-23) and Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Alfred E. Montgomery's TG 50. 3 carriers ESSEX (CV-9), BUNKER HILL (CV-17) and INDEPENDENCE (CVL-22). 148 F6F-3 “Hellcats”, 24 F4U-1 “Corsairs”, 58 SBD “Dauntless”, 33 SB2C “Helldivers” and 69 “Avengers” take part in the attack.

The planes sink destroyer SUZUNAMI and damage destroyers NAGANAMI, URAKAZE and WAKATSUKI. They slightly damage light cruisers YUBARI and AGANO.

November-December 1943:
Rabaul. Damaged YAMABIKO MARU's crew performs emergency repairs on their ship and some repairs on the many ships damaged during the previous weeks' major USAAF and USN air raids. After receiving temporaqry repairs, MAYA and AGANO depart Rabaul for Truk where their damage is attended to by repair ship AKASHI.

2 December 1943:
Rabaul While anchored, YAMABIKO MARU is bombed. An unknown number of her crew are KIA and 23 WIA.

6 December 1943:
YAMABIKO MARU is ordered to put her repair machinery ashore at Rabaul and depart for the Empire via Truk to be “fitted out again".

22 December 1943:
At 0110, YAMABIKO MARU departs Rabaul with Fleet Convoy No. 2222 consisting of YAMAKUNI (ex-YAMAKAZE MARU) and KEIYO MARUs escorted by destroyers OITE and ASANAGI.

25 December 1943:
Arrives at Truk at 1657.

2 January 1944:
Convoy 4102 departs Truk for Yokosuka consisting of YAMABIKO, YAMAKUNI and KEIYO MARUs escorted by destroyer ASAKAZE, kaibokan MANJU, cable layer HATSUSHIMA and minesweeper W-24.

10 January 1944:
185 miles NW of Torishima, Ogasawara (Bonins). At about 0600, in typhoon weather conditions, YAMABIKO MARU is torpedoed by LtCdr David L. Whelchel's USS STEELHEAD (SS-280). She is hit in the engine room by one of four torpedoes Whelchel fires in a night surface radar attack made at 31-28N, 137-44E. YAMABIKO MARU is taken in tow by cargo ship YAMAKUNI MARU. The convoy's speed slows to 8 knots

11 January 1944:
Towed to Hachijo Jima by YAMAKUNI MARU, escorted by ASAKAZE.

13 January 1944:
By evening, high seas make towing very difficult. YAMAKUNI MARU tows crippled YAMABIKO MARU towards Yaene Wan, Hachijo Jima. At the bay entrance, due to wave action, YAMABIKO MARU breaks in two and her stern quickly sinks.

14 January 1944:
At 0400, as YAMAKUNI MARU attempts to tow the forepart of YAMABIKO MARU to the shallows, YAMAKUNI MARU is torpedoed by Captain (later Rear Admiral) Karl G. Hensel's USS SWORDFISH (SS-193). Hit by two of four torpedoes Hensel fires, YAMAKUNI MARU sinks at 33-15N, 139-38E. Soon thereafter, the forepart of YAMABIKO MARU sinks.

Captain Doi and four crewmen are KIA during this entire process. Captain Doi is promoted Rear Admiral, posthumously. The number of survivors is unknown, but is probably large.

10 March 1944:
Removed from the Navy List.


Authors' Notes:
YAMABIKO MARU's TROM lists a large number of ships for which she provided various degrees of repair. Many ships are listed by name in source documents, while others are not; but their repairs most probably were carried out in whole or part by YAMABIKO MARU at Rabaul.

[1] Many books and Orders of Battle (OOB) erroneously list RIO DE JANEIRO MARU at Kwajalein during the Battle of Midway.

Thanks go to Peter Cundall of Australia and John Whitman of the USA for info on CNO intercepts of Japanese messages and troop info. Thanks also to Toda Gengoro of Japan for info in revisions.

Photo credit to Gilbert Casse of France.

- Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.


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