(Sister FUSHIMI MARU No. 3, Peacetime Type 1B Standard Cargo Ship)

Tabular Record of Movement

© 2017 Bob Hackett

E 1942:
Yokohama. Laid down at Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. Zosensho as a 4,291-ton "peacetime" standard type 1B cargo ship for Toa Kaiun K.K., Tokyo.

E February 1943:
Launched and named KOHO MARU. [1]

31 March 1943:

11 May 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Moji in convoy No. 156 also consisting of oiler TSURUMI and six unidentified merchant ships escorted by auxiliary gunboat PEKING MARU.

15 May 1943:
KOHO MARU is detached for Kirun, Formosa (Keelung, Taiwan).

12 June 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Takao in the “U” Convoy also consisting of transports TATSUHARU and YAMATO MARUs and tankers SEIAN and KOSHIN MARUs and three unidentified merchant ships escorted by torpedo boat SAGI.

17 June 1943:
Arrives at Moji.

22 July 1943:
Requisitioned by the Imperial Army (IJA) and allotted Army No. 887.

August 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Mako, Pescadores towing 10,893 ton freighter DOSEI MARU (ex-Philippine DON JOSE) part way from near Mako to Hong Kong for repair.

1 September 1943:
Arrives at Hong Kong. KOHO MARU probably is detached at sea and proceeds to Manila unescorted.

5 September 1943:
At 1400, KOHO MARU departs Manila in a convoy also consisting of IJN transport TARUSHIMA MARU escorted by auxiliary minesweeper Wa-7.

7 September 1943:
At 1800, arrives at Iloilo, Philippines.

12 September 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Iloilo.

13 September 1943:
Arrives at Cebu, Philippines.

15 September 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Cebu.

17 September 1943:
Arrives at Manila.

E 19 September 1943:
Allied code-breakers intercept and decrypt a radio message from the C-in-C, Takao Defense Force, which reports departure from Manila of KOHO MARU and IJA cargo ship ZUISHO MARU (5,289grt), speed 10.5 knots, ETA at Takao, 1900, 23 Sep '43. (Considering noon positions and speed given in the message, their departure must have been 19 or 20 Sep '43.) Possibly, both ships departed Manila Harbor in the evening of 19 Sep, stayed in readiness in Manila Bay, and departed early morning, 20 Sep '43.[2]

KOHO MARU carries 882 American and two British prisoners-of war (POWs) from the Cabanatuan POW camp. The POWs include men of the Army Air Air Force 27th Bomb Group, 34th Pursuit Squadron, soldiers of 31st Infantry Division and men of the 200th Coast Artillery and other units. The British military had been trapped in Manila when the war started. [3][4]

23 September 1943:
Arrives at Takao, Formosa (Kaohsiung, Taiwan).

28 September 1943:
At about 0930, KOHO MARU departs Takao in convoy No. 207 also consisting of IJA transports LONDON and NORFOLK MARUs, IJN transport SHOKEI MARU and five unidentified merchant ships escorted by old destroyer KARUKAYA.

4 October 1943:
At 1930, arrives at Moji. Discharges POWs. One POW died en route.

26 October 1943:
KOHO MARU departs Moji for Takao in convoy No. 109 also consisting of transports NORFOLK and PEKING MARUs and eight unidentified merchants escorted by torpedo boat MANAZURU.

28 October 1943:
At 1607, convoy HI-17 departs Moji consisting of passenger ships ASAMA, AKITSU, empty tankers tankers ITSUKUSHIMA, OMUROSAN, TATEKAWA and MARUs and two unidentified merchants escorted by kaibokan ETOROFU.

31 October 1943:
KOHO MARU and convoy No. 109 arrive at Takao.

1 November 1943:
At 1115, convoy HI-17 arrives at Takao. KOHO MARU, transport KACHIDOKI (ex-American PRESIDENT HARRISON) MARU, fleet oiler TAKASAKI and tanker TARAKAN MARU and an unidentified merchant join the convoy.

2 November 1943:
At 1200, convoy HI-17 departs Takao.

4 November 1943:
At 0400, destroyer FUYO departs Manila to meet incoming convoy HI-17 from Takao. At 1900, the convoy arrives at Manila.

3 January 1944:
At 0950, KOHO MARU departs Takao in convoy No. 232 also consisting of AKAGISAN, DAIAKITA, DAIHO, GOZAN, HASSHU (ex-MIJER) (2655 grt), KENEI, KENSEI (ex-British HINSANG), KASUGA, KINE, SAN DIEGO, TAIKAI (3812 grt) and YOZAN MARUs and two unidentified merchants escorted by kaibokan MIYAKE and TSUSHIMA.

The ships are organized into two columns and sail at 8 knots. The convoy proceeds northward until reaching the Chinese coast, then close along the coastline as far as Chusan Islands and then crosses the East China Sea to a point south of Saishu-To (Quelpart Island), passes Saishu-To to the south and heads to Moji.

10 January 1944:
At 0900, kaibokan TSUSHIMA is detached for Kure for repairs. At 1830, the convoy arrives at Moji.

7 March 1944:
KOHO MARU departs Manila in convoy MATA-10 also consisting cargo ships KENWA, TARUYASU (ex-British TALTHYBIUS) and SORACHI MARUs, passenger/cargo TAITO MARU and tankers SAN DIEGO, SANKO (YAMAKO), TACHIBANA, TAKETSU (BUTSU) and NITTETSU MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1 escorted by destroyer KARUKAYA and minesweeper W-17.

12 March 1944:
At 1530, arrives at Takao.

15 March 1944:
At 1200, KOHO MARU departs Takao in convoy TAMO-11 also consisting of TAITO, MUTSU, HINODE, MANKO, ASAHI, KANO, BELGIUM, KOTO, SORACHI, MANILA, TARUYASU, KENWA, KENZUI, BRAZIL and KENNICHI MARUs and UNKAI MARU No. 12 and oilers NITTETSU, SAN DIEGO, SANKO and TACHIBANA MARUs and OGURA MARU No. 1 escorted by destroyers SHIGURE and NOKAZE, minesweeper W-17 and subchasers CH-37 and CH-38.

16 March 1944:
At 1600, TOYO and TEIKA (ex-Vichy French CAP VARELLA) MARUs join the convoy from Kirun.

21 March 1944:
At 0430, MANKO, ASAHI, and TOYO MARUs are detached from the convoy. At 1200, the convoy arrives Nagasaki.

22 March 1944:
ASAHISAN, KOAN MARUs and UNKAI MARU No. 12 are detached to Karatsu Wan (Bay), arriving at Moji the following day. The rest of the convoy arrives at Moji.

4 May 1944:
At 1400, KOHO MARU departs Tateyama in convoy 3503 also consisting of IJN transports HAKOZAKI, KEIYO and TATSUTAGAWA MARUs, IJA transports ENOSHIMA, FUKKO, FUKOKU, MINO, NICHIWA, OSAKA, TAIKOKU, and SHINFUKU, IJN cargo ships (B-AK) KOJUN and TAIKOKU MARUs, IJN ore carrier HIYORI MARU and auxiliary netlayer SHUNSEN MARU escorted by destroyers ASANAGI and MINATSUKI, torpedo boat OTORI, kaibokan OKI, CD-24 CH-52, subchasers CH-31 and CH-32 and auxiliary subchaser SHONAN MARU No. 8.

E 9 May 1944:
CH-52 is detached from the convoy near Chichi-Jima.

10 May 1944:
420 miles NW of Saipan. At 1743, LtCdr Russell Kefauver’s USS TAMBOR (SS-198) torpedoes and damages KEIYO MARU at 19-27N 140-00E.

14 May 1944:
W of Tinian. At 0515, at 14-57N, 144-58E, OKI, torpedo boat OTORI, and auxiliary subchaser SHONAN MARU No. 8 are detached to escort KOHO and SHUNSEN MARUs to Guam.

SW of Apra harbor, Guam. At 1431, LtCdr Malcolm E. Garrison’s (USNA ’32) USS SAND LANCE (SS-381) torpedoes and sinks KOHO MARU at 13-43N, 144-42E. Seven gunners and 43 crewmen are KIA. The escorts depth charge USS SAND LANCE, but she survives and escapes.

Author's Notes:
[1] According to Peter Cundall, KOHO MARU is often referred to in Allied records as WHAMPOA MARU.

[2] According to Erich Muehlthaler.

[3] An early version of the TROM for IJA transort TAGA MARU erroneously reported she departed Manila carrying about 850 POWs via Takao and arrived at Moji. The source of the error was author Greg Michno’s generally reliable “Death on the Hell Ships” and several other secondary sources upon which he relied.

[4] POW ships are known to have used aliases. One of Michno's sources, author E. Bartlett Kerr's "Surrender and Survival: The Experiences of American POWS in the Pacific, 1941-1945", NY, Wm. Morrow, 1985, claimed the POW ship was named CORAL MARU. An alternative reading of KOHO MARU is "Koura Maru", very close to CORAL/CORRAL MARU, the name of the POW ship given by author Kerr, but neither Michno nor others could find such a named ship in Japanese records.

CF reader Jim Erickson noted that 4 of the 5 former POWs with whom he spoke, remembered the ship...with the funnel amidships, rather than at the rear as TAGA MARU, but exactly matching the standard type 1B configuration of KOHO MARU. Although the above notes are not dispositive that KOHO MARU was, indeed, the "CORAL MARU" POW ship, its case certainly seems stronger than that for TAGA MARU.

Special thanks and photo credit to Erich Muehlthaler of Germany. Thanks also to Peter Cundall of Australia.

- Bob Hackett

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