IJN Unryu: Tabular Record of Movement

© 1998 Anthony P. Tully

Initial Command Structure:
Commanding Officer: Captain Kaname Konishi. Assigned to CarDiv 1, Third Fleet.

16 July 1944:
Only known photograph taken at Yokosuka.

6 August 1944:
Commissioned at Yokosuka. Assigned to CarDiv 1, 3rd Fleet. Joined by AMAGI four days later.

10 August 1944:
Assigned tactically to 7th Base Air Force Air Attack Force under operational command of 3rd Air Fleet, although she remained in the organization of CarDiv 1 3rd Fleet. Departs Yokosuka for trial runs.

11 August 1944:
Returned to Yokosuka. Throughout August engages in trial runs and short one day sorties in Tokyo Bay region.

26 Septempber 1944:
Departs Yokosuka for Kure with FUYUZUKI and SHIMOTSUKI, arrives at Kure the next day.

27 September 1944:
Arrives Kure.

30 September 1944:
Departs Kure. Cruising Inland Sea.

2 October 1944:
Depart Hashirajima; arrive Matsuyama.

6 October 1944:
Depart Matsuyama; arrive Yashiro-jima.

8 October 1944:
Depart Yashirojima; arrive Yashima.

16 October 1944:
Returns to Kure.

28 October 1944:
Departs Kure, joins AMAGI at Gunchu-koh (Gunchu Bight).

30 October 1944:
Arrives Kure - Received flag of Vadm Ozawa Jisaburo, Mobile Fleet, from HYUGA.Becomes flagship of the Mobile Fleet.

6 November 1944:
Departs Kure.

7 November 1944:
Flag of Admiral Ozawa Third Fleet and Comcardiv 1 transferred from UNRYU to RYUHO. Both carriers assigned to forthcoming emergency transport operations to Luzon. (Transport for aviatiation resources analagous to the TA Operation efforts presently underway.)

12 November 1944:
Arrives Kure.

15 November 1944:
Mobile Fleet abolished. UNRYU assigned to Combined Fleet, CarDiv 1.

27 November 1944:
Departs Kure for Gunchu Bight.

7 December 1944:
Assigned to emergency reinforcement duty for Luzon.

10 December 1944:
Returns from Gunchu to Kure.

13 December 1944:
A very large Allied invasion fleet is sighted in the Sulu Sea, and it is widely believed to be heading for Luzon. The UNRYU and RYUHO are ordered to load "Ohka" suicide rockets of the Thunder-Gods Corps for transport to Manila. UNRYU will take the first batch of thirty Ohkas; the RYUHO will follow as soon as more prepared. Departure of UNRYU from Kure is scheduled for 16 December.

15 December 1944:
- 1200: SHIGURE arrives at Kure to join the screen. Since it had been learned that morning the Americans were landing at Mindoro, not Luzon, departure is postponed for one day.

16 December 1944:
- UNRYU is loaded for the transport mission. On the flight deck are dozens of Army equipment items like Daihatsu barges, trucks, and field pieces. The cargo of thirty Ohka flying bombs are secured in the forward lower hangar deck, with warheads attached. Also embarking were support personnel and ground forces of the 1st Glider Regiment. They were intended as infantry reinforcements; not glider forces. The gliders and their pilots stayed in Japan. Among these units embarking were part of 1st Raiding Group HQ, the 1st Glider Regiment (minus two companies) comprised of: Mountain Gun Company, one company of the 1st Engineer Raiding Unit, one company of the 1st Raiding Signal Unit, and the ground crew of the 1st Glider Regiment. Counting various civilian employees, the total number of passengers on UNRYU appears to be about a hundred, perhaps two hundred. It is possible replacement aircraft for shore bases were carried like Japanese escort carriers did at the time, however, no Air Group 601 aircraft of her own are presently aboard. All in all, it amounted to 1,500 tons of cargo.[1]

17 December 1944:
- 0830 Departs Kure escorted by SHIGURE, and Desdiv 52's HINOKI, and MOMI. Comdesdiv 52 assigned to convoy defense with overall command under Captain Kaname of the UNRYU. The carrier is to proceed to Manila via Mako (Dec 19th) to arrive Manila late 21 December or early 22 December. There she will offload the cargo and come under VADM Shima Kiyohide's Second Striking Force command and await instructions. UNRYU departs Inland Sea via Shimonoseki Strait route.
- 1600 Anchor for overnight at Shimonoseki Strait mouth to await the morning tide.

18 December 1944:
- 0630 Weigh and resume voyage, passing through Shimonoseki Strait. They move southwest along the Korean coast and onward. Northeast of the Saishu Islands UNRYU encounters typhoon weather. The heavy seas cause her to slow and fall behind schedule. [2]

19 December 1944:
- 1635: While steaming 200 nautical miles southeast of Shanghai in the East China Sea UNRYU is hit by one torpedo under the island starboard side from U.S. submarine REDFISH. The torpedo hit abreast the forward generator room on the Hold Deck and the Main Control Center on No.2 platform deck, approximately frame 98 close to the bulkhead aft. As a result, No.1 boiler room flooded, and because the bulkhead dividing them failed, so did No.2 boiler room to port. All boilers except No.8 lose pressure. A main steam line was fractured and UNRYU temporarily lost power and went dead in the water. A fire broke out in No.2 ready room, but is put out by closing firewalls. [3] REDFISH - having expended stern tubes at 1642 trying to hit HINOKI - hastily re-loaded a stern tube while UNRYU Chief Engineer Capt. Saga Tetsuo's engineers extinguished fires, brought online No.s 5, 6, and 7 boilers, and successfully replaced damaged pipes and restored power.
- 1650 The carrier was just getting back underway when hit by second torpedo at starboard side, forward of the bridge. This was abreast the bomb and torpedo magazines. Induced explosions from them and the volatile cargo of Ohkas on the lower hangar deck exploded, devastating vessel. The bow began to settle rapidly and UNRYU list steeply to starboard. Captain Kaname ordered Abandon Ship. Carrier sank very quickly - about ten minutes or less.

- 1657-1701 (Times vary slightly) UNRYU sank sharply upended with stern raised and nearly on her starboard side - with the loss of her captain Konishi Kaname, XO Capt. Aoki Tamon, Navigator LtCdr. Shinbori Masao, sixty officers and 1,172 petty officers and men and six known civilians. Only one officer, Assistant Navigator Morino Hiroshi [73](was also injured) and eighty-seven petty officers and men (7 injured); fifty-seven passengers, and one civilian employee survived for a total of only 146 saved. Among these survivors of the passengers there are only twelve of the 1st Glider cadre. MOMI moves in immediately to rescue while HINOKI and SHIGURE depth-charge REDFISH.

20 December 1944
- 0938 With no more survivors in sight, all three destroyers are still hunting and occasionally depth charging the submarine. After this, MOMI and HINOKI leave the scene and SHIGURE remains still hunting REDFISH. The two-Matsu class proceed to Takao to off-load survivors. (MOMI rescued senior survivor Morino)

22 December 1944:
- 0700 After suffering a steering casualty SHIGURE returns to Sasebo instead of proceeding to Manila.

20 February 1945:
UNRYU Removed from Navy List.

Last Japanese fleet carrier sunk at sea in the Pacific War.

[1] The cargo and passenger load on UNRYU remains somewhat unclear and records are understandably conflicting with such devastating loss suffered. A thread on of Jan 6, 2012 by the John Whitman clarified many details. However, accounts routinely mention something like 1,500 loss aboard UNRYU. Since Assistant Navigator MORINO Hiroshi gives the total aboard the carrier as 1,331 this makes for approximately 100 passengers. Lest the point be obscured, it seems that apart from various relocating passengers, those aboard UNRYU in addition to her own officers and crew were the soldiers of the 1st Glider Regiment, but not other units. On the other hand, some accounts say as many as 1,000 passengers were aboard, so the question must remain open. It must be said the careful count of Serino's report inspires confidence and is probably close to correct. In any case any figure centers on the fact that only a number between 140 and 150 souls survived the sinking.

[2] UNRYU's planned iteniary had her west of Vigan, Luzon, at midnight of 20 December. Since original schedule had her departing 17 December (which she did) and she was supposed to be in position 24-26'N, 120-10'E at noon on 19 December and due to arrive at Mako at 5pm, but was still well north of Formosa when sunk that same day, she was clearly behind schedule from the typhoon. Part of a weather front that this same day sank three destroyers in Vice Admiral William Halsey's Task Force 38 off Luzon.[- Tully]

[3] An interesting discrepancy appears between American observation and Japanese experience at this point. REDFISH said UNRYU was hit, listed 20 degrees, and stopped. UNRYU's senior survivor and report says it was only a modest list of 3 degrees to starboard. Aside from the distorting wave-level angles from a periscope it is possible that UNRYU initially listed steeply as No.1 boiler abruptly flooded. But it was very breif for the No.2 boiler bulkhead collapsed and the flooding to port would right her. This is just speculation. REDFISH's report also noted "many planes on deck" when there were none. (Unless one posits spare aircraft being shipped) However, the massed and bulky cargo no doubt resembled a deck park. Finally, it bears noting that REDFISH officers looking through the periscope thought UNRYU sank by the stern though their photographic evidence when developed affirmed it was by the bow.

Acknowledgements: Hisashi Date - UNRYU TROM appended to's translation of Kojinsha No.6. Thanks also to the late John Whitman for valuable posts of details on a variety of particulars.

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Last modified: 8/31/2012h0957; 7/8/2017h1248