SAKAWA at Sasebo Naval Base in 1945 after Japan's Surrender - colorized digital photo by Irootoko, Jr)

IJN SAKAWA: Tabular Record of Movement

© 1997-2016 Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp
Revision 6

25 September 1944:
Captain Ohara Toshimichi (49) (former ComDesDiv 19) is assigned Chief Equipping Officer for SAKAWA under construction at the Sasebo Navy Yard.

October 1944:
Launched and named SAKAWA.

30 November 1944:
Sasebo. SAKAWA is completed and commissioned in the IJN. She is assigned directly to the Combined Fleet and registered at the Yokosuka Naval Station. Captain Ohara becomes Commanding Officer. At 1200, the Captain of SAKAWA sends a radio message: "Ship was handed over at 1000. Will depart Sasebo 5 December. ETA Kure 8 December for subsequent trials in Western Inland Sea."

7 December 1944:
Departs Sasebo. Arrives at Kure later that day.

8 December 1944:
At 1432, the Captain of SAKAWA sends a radio message: "Jackets of heating device steam pipes ignited and damaged by fire at several places. Acknowledge used material is unsuitable. Make arrangements for quick replacement after my arrival on 10 December. Total pipe length 258 meters"

9 December 1944:
At 2102, the Captain of SAKAWA sends a radio message: "Ship will enter Kure 1300 10 December. Want to load ammunition on 11 December. Please make arrangements accordingly."

15 January 1945:
SAKAWA is assigned as the flagship of DesRon 11. She trains in the western Inland Sea with new destroyers assigned to the DesRon.

Early 1945:
SAKAWA participates in tests of a new anti-radar submarine coating. She tries to pick up coated Japanese submarines with her radar.

1 April 1945: Operation "TEN-I-GO" (Heaven Number One) - The attack on the U. S. Invasion Forces at Okinawa:
SAKAWA and DesRon 11 are attached to Vice Admiral Ito Seiichi's (former CO of HARUNA) Second Fleet for the attack on the U. S. Invasion Forces at Okinawa by YAMATO and her escorts, but there is no fuel available for SAKAWA and her destroyers.

20 April 1945:
After the failure of TEN-I-GO and the destruction of YAMATO, SAKAWA and DesRon 11 are reassigned to the Combined Fleet.

25 May 1945:
At 2155, 11th Destroyer Flotilla Staff Officer sends a radio message: "SAKAWA and destroyers KAKI, SUMIRE and NIRE will depart Moji 0500 26 May. ETA Maizuru 0600 27 May."

26 May 1945:
At 0900, SAKAWA scratches her bottom in the western part of the Kammon Strait. Blade tips of starboard outer propeller are partly bent, but prove no hindrance for continuing journey.

27 May 1945:
At 0626, 11th Destroyer Flotilla CO sends a radio message: "11th Destroyer Flotilla c/o SAKAWA and destroyers KAKI, KUSUNOKI and SUMIRE arrived at Maizuru."

13 July 1945:
Allied codebreakers decrypt a message sent at 1911 13 Jul 45 from the CO of SAKAWA: “At 1024 in a spot ----- distance from a position bearing 49 degrees distant ----- meters from ---- two mines exploded. The gauge ----- was slightly damaged. No other damage.” USN intelligence also learns that SAKAWA is ordered to move to Maizuru as soon as possible from an unidentified place.

17 July 1945:
Departs Kure.

19 July 1945:
Arrives at Maizuru.

25 July 1945:
Maizuru. Aircraft from AG-88 of USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) attack shipping in the harbor, but SAKAWA is not damaged.

2 September 1945:
The Surrender of the Japanese Empire:

SAKAWA is demilitarized. Her guns, ammunition and torpedoes are removed and her offensive equipment is either removed or disabled.

5 October 1945:
Removed from the Navy List.

6 October 1945:
Palaus. USS CARROLL (DE-171) patrols the smaller islands of the Palau group searching for by-passed Japanese garrisons and prisoners of war. The 1,339 Japanese Army troops stationed on the islands first learn of the surrender of Japan when search parties go ashore. The surrender of four small islands in the southern Palaus, Sonsorol, Fanna, Merir and Tobi to the Island Commander, Peleliu is signed on CARROLL's deck.

21 and 29 October 1945:
CARROLL furnishes supplies and supervises the evacuation of the islands by the Japanese. All troops on the islands are removed by SAKAWA.

1 December 1945:
SAKAWA is officially assigned to the Repatriation Service as a transport.

December 1945 - February 1946:
SAKAWA makes repatriation runs to New Guinea, Korea and other locations to bring back former Japanese troops for demobilization.

25 February 1946:
SAKAWA is transferred to Yokosuka and turned over to the U. S. Navy. A crew goes aboard SAKAWA to prepare the rat-infested hulk for a voyage. A Japanese bucket brigade works 36 consecutive hours bailing foul water from her bilges.

18 March 1946:
SAKAWA departs Yokosuka for Eniwetok with a U. S. Navy crew of 165 men and officers under LtCdr Jesse E. Miller. Our American crew replaced the 1,100 Japanese crewmen who had been aboard during the war. Eleven Japanese officers remain aboard to teach the Americans how to run the ship. SAKAWA is accompanied by battleship NAGATO that is also under an American crew.

28 March 1946:
300 miles from Eniwetok. SAKAWA breaks down and goes dead in the water. NAGATO sets a tow-line to SAKAWA, but then NAGATO blows out a boiler and runs out of fuel. Both ships are stopped in bad weather. NAGATO's crew radios to Eniwetok for help, then roll in the seas waiting for tugs to take them in tow.

Oil tanker NICKAJACK TRAIL, enroute to Yokohama, is diverted to refuel SAKAWA and NAGATO, but runs aground on a reef and is lost.

30 March 1946:
USS TENINO (AT-115) and another tug arrive from Eniwetok and take SAKAWA and NAGATO under tow. NAGATO is towed at 1 knot.

1 April 1946:
SAKAWA is towed into Eniwetok, four days ahead of NAGATO.

April 1946:
Eniwetok. Five American sailors sabotage SAKAWA while she lay at anchor. Their motive is to put SAKAWA out of commission so they can be relieved of duty aboard the filthy warship. They demobilize the ship's fuel system by removing the pressure line to the overspeed trip valves. Sand is poured into the oil and water pumps. They smash gauges, tachometers and fuel oil manifold valves. High pressure steam lines are cut. Repairs take four days. Rather than being relieved of duty, the five sailors are brought up on charges.

May 1946:
SAKAWA steams 200 miles from Eniwetok to Bikini Atoll.

1 July 1946: Operation "Crossroads":
Bikini. SAKAWA and AGATO are target ships in the atomic bomb air burst detonation test "Able". NAGATO is joined by American target battleships USS ARKANSAS (BB-33), NEW YORK (BB-34), NEVADA (BB-36), PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38) and other ships. SAKAWA is moored off the port quarter of NEVADA, the target ship for the test. On board SAKAWA are pigs, monkeys, goats, chickens, guinea pigs, rats and mice, in cages or tied securely. The animals are to be tested for radiation after the bomb is dropped.

The bomb misses NEVADA. The detonation of the Able bomb occurs 490 yards above and slightly to starboard of SAKAWA's stern. SAKAWA burns fiercely for twenty-four hours. The force of the blast crushes her superstructure, damages her hull and breaches her stern. She begins to flood aft.

2 July 1946:
Fleet tug USS ACHOMAWI (ATF-148) attempts to tow SAKAWA to a beach to save it from sinking. After she attaches a tow cable to SAKAWA, the cruiser’s bow rises up and she keels over 85 degrees to port. SAKAWA begins to sink by the stern. Several attempts are made before the tow cable is finally cut. At 1042, SAKAWA capsizes and sinks by the stern. About 700 feet of the cable goes to the bottom of Bikini Lagoon with her. [1]

Authors' Notes:
[1] Piglet No. 311, weighing 50-lbs., is found swimming in the radioactive waters and rescued. She is sterile, but grows to 600 lbs over the next several years.

For More information on SAKAWA's sinking and the condition of her wreck see Tony Tully's article Located & Surveyed Shipwrecks of the Japanese Navy

Special thanks for assistance in preparing this TROM go to Mr. Fred Herschler, former RM/2, USN, a crewman aboard Bikini-bound NAGATO. Thanks for assistance also go to "Adm. Gritter" of the Netherlands and Tony Tully, Randy Stone and the late John Whitman. Thanks also go to Erich Muethlthaler of Germany.

- Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp.

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