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  Kamikawa Maru
Seaplane Tender

6,863 Tons
479' x 62' x 30'
2 x 5.9" Guns
2 x 13mm MG
Two catapults, cranes
12 seaplanes or
24 as cargo

Click For Enlargement
IJN September 1938

Ship History
Built by the Kawasaki dockyard at Kobe. Laid down at on August 5, 1936 Launched December 13, 1936. Completed March 15, 1937 as a merchant vessel for the Kawasaki Kisen K. K. Line.

Second Sino-Japanese War
On September 18, 1937 the Japanese Navy requisitions Kamikawa Maru as a seaplane tender, assigned to captain Omori Sentaro. Attached to the 3rd Fleet, then departs Kure on October 5 for operations off the China coast.

On October 9, 22nd Sea Scout Unit’s Type 95 Dave seaplanes are transferred to Kamikawa Maru. On December 1, reassigned to the 3rd Air Flotilla with Captain Arima Masafumi. Arrives at Takao Harbor on December 26 and departs two days later for the southern coast of China.

On February 1, 1938 assigned to the 3rd Air Flotilla. On March 13 arrives Mako and on July 1 attached to the 3rd Fleet. On July 24, Kamikawa Maru and Notoro provide air cover for the landing of SNLF troops at Tsiangtsin.

On September 1, Captain Yokokawa Ichihei assumes command. On October 1, operates off Shanghai and Whangapoa, patrolling the coastline. On December 15 attached to the 5th Fleet's 16th Seaplane Tender Division with the 14th Naval Air Group and operates off Hainan supporting operations around Canton.

Starting November 15, converted into a seaplane carrier and tender, carrying four Type 94 E7K2 Alf and eight Type 95 E8N2 Dave seaplanes, with tail code ZI-xx. Assigned to Captain Ando Shigeaki.

On April 1, 1940, attached to the 2nd China Expeditionary Fleet and July 1 to Captain Yamada Michiyuki and operates in the Canton area. On November 9 to Mako and six days later to Captain Imamura Osamu. On December 1-20 drydocked at Mitsubishi’s Yard.

On January 27-29, 1941 becomes temporary flagship of the 14th Naval Air Group. On February 26 arrives at Nakagusuku Bay off Okinawa and March 25 to Sasebo. On April 17, at Mako and May 4-15 drydocked at Sasebo Navy Yard at Sasebo. On September 20 assigned to Captain Shinoda Tarohachi. Loaded with fourteen E13A Jake and F1M2 Pete seaplanes. November 22 departs Sasebo, five days later arrives at Samah.

Wartime History
On December 4, 1941 participates in "Operation E" departing Samah on Hainan with Sanyo Maru for the invasion of Malaya. On December 6 at noon, a RAAF Hudson from 1 Squadron spot the Japanese force, Kamikawa Maru launches F1M2 Petes but the Hudson escapes, a second Hudson and reports the convoy.

On December 7, operates off Malaya with Sagara Maru, their seaplanes patrolling without results. A E13A Jake ZI-26 piloted by Ensign Ogata Eiichi attacks from the rear a RAF 205 Squadron PBY Catalina W8417 tail FY-W piloted by William E. Webb, damaging it then shadows the aircraft for 25 minutes unit 1st Sentai Ki-27 Nates arrive and shoot it down.

Over the Gulf of Siam, 20 miles west-northwest of Panjang Island at 0820, E13A Jake tail ZI-26 piloted by Ensign Ogata Eiichi, attacks, damages and shadows RAF 205 Squadron PBY Catalina W8417. At 0845 1st Sentai Ki-27 Nates shoot down damaged PBY.

On December 11, arrives at Camranh Bay. Two days later, participates in "Operation B" covering the invasion of British Borneo. On December 17, off Miri her F1M2 Pete piloted by intercepts Do-24 X-34 of GVT-7, damaging it and causing it to make a force landing. Later, another F1M2 Pete intercepts Dutch B-10 bombers of 2-VIG-I, but the bombers escape.

On December 19, four F1M2 Pete intercept Dutch B-10 bombers of 1-VIG-I and 2-VIG-I. The Petes claim B-10 tail M-571 of 2-VIG-I. The next day, F1M2 Petes intercept six B-10 bombers of 2-VIG-I escorted by Brewster Buffalos, claiming one bomber and damaging the escorts. That same day, one E13A Jake fails to return from a reconnaissance mission.

On December 23, a Dutch Do-24 X-35 of GVT-1 is spotted shadowing the Japanese force and attacked by F1M2 Petes, but escapes. On December 27, a F1M2 Pete is lost on a morning patrol. A E13A Jake sent to search for it, capsizes and sink when it returns. The same day, departs for Camranh Bay arriving January 4, 1942.

On January 20, off Singora/Patani, Thailand with Sagara Maru provides cover for transports with the Japanese Army's 18th Division. On February 1 assigned to the 3rd Fleet and on February 13 operates off Bangka Island in the Java Sea with Sagara Maru, covering the invasion of Palembang and the next day her seaplanes provide air cover over western Java.

On February 16, F1M2 Petes with 1st Sentai Ki-27 Nates intercept Dutch B-10 bombers of 3-VIG-III, one bomber is claimed and one F1M2 Pete shot down, crew rescued by Hatsuyuki.

On March 1, her seaplanes cover the Japanese landings at Bantam Bay, Merak and Ereten Wetan, Java. In the afternoon, five RAF 605 Squadron Hurricanes engage single F1M2 Pete, it survives and claims three Hurricanes shot down. Later, a Hurricane finds two F1M2s at anchor in Bantam Bay and strafes them, setting one on fire and damaging the other.

On March 10, assigned to the 4th Fleet at Rabaul and departs for Kure the next day, arriving March 16, then to Sasebo on March 24, drydocked March 27-April 4. Departs April 18 for Truk arriving April 24.

Assigned to the screening force of the Port Moresby / Tulagi Occupation Force "Operation MO", departing on April 28. Aboard is the Kiyokawa Maru air unit. On April 30, 1942 arrives at Queen Carola Harbor. On May 2, 1942 covers landings on Santa Isabel and arrives at Rekata Bay to cover the landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal.

Battle of the Coral Sea
On May 5, 1942 departs for Deboyne Lagoon. On May 6, 1942 one of ten warships including a destroyer, cruiser and transports that occupy Deboyne Lagoon. On May 7, 1942 launches several seaplanes at 6:30am to search for the enemy fleet. At 8:20am a Kamikawa seaplane spots a cruiser force 150 miles south-southwest of Deboyne Lagoon.

On May 9, 1942 or May 10, 1942 one of her seaplanes rescues the crew of D3A1 Val 3381 from at Sudest Island (Tagula). On March 10, departs Deboyne Lagoon bound for Rabaul. The remaining seaplanes from damaged Kiyokawa Maru are transferred to Kamikawa Maru. On May 13, reassigned to the No. 3 Air Force Force, Bismarck Area Defense Force, 4th Fleet. On May 20, assigned to the 11th Seaplane Tender Division and departs for Saipan, arriving four days later.

Battle of Midway
On May 24 arrives at Saipan and four days later departs as a part of "Operation MI" the invasion of Midway. Aboard are fourteen F1M2 Petes and four E8N2 Daves, to be based at Eastern Island if the atoll was occupied. On June 3, bombed by nine B-17s and later a PBY Catalina, but Kamikawa Maru was undamaged by either attack.

Aleutians Operations
On June 6, 1942, detached for "Operation AL" the occupation of the Aleutians and three days later reassigned to the Northern Force, Seaplane Force, 11th Seaplane Tender Division attached to the Combined Fleet, refuels and departs for the Aleutians. Her aircraft have tail code "R-xxx".

On June 15 arrives at Kiska Harbor and unloads her seaplanes that fly three hour reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols. On June 19, due to frequent American air raids, Kamikawa Maru and other vessels take refuge at MacDonald Bay off Agattu, then departs for Ominato arriving June 27 to refuel and resupply then returns to the Aleutians with destroyer Hokaze to patrol southwest of the Aleutians.

On July 2 (3?) bombed by seven B-24s, but Kamikawa Maru escapes without damage. Departs on July 4 for Paramushiro, but her escort Nenohi is sunk by USS Triton (SS-201).

Afterwards, arrives at Hashirajima, departing July 14. Assigned to the 11th Seaplane Tender Division, 2nd Fleet with Chitose. Kamikawa Maru air unit tail code is changed to "YII-xx". On July 15 arrives at Sasebo, loaded with Type 95 Dave and F1M2 Pete seaplanes.

On August 9, arrives at Yokosuka and assigned to the 11th Seaplane Tender Division, Base Air Force, 2nd Fleet and departs on August 23. Aboard are A6M2-N Rufes.

Shortlands Operations
Arrives at Shortlands on August 28 and joins the "R" Area Air Force (Homen Koku Butai). Depart for Rabaul arriving on September 1, then returns to Shortland.

On September 4, Kamikawa Maru's A6M2-N Rufe detachment commanded by Lt Ono Jiro begins operating from Shortland Seaplane Base. On September 12, air strength is eleven A6M2-Ns and two F1M2 Petes.

On September 13, A6M2-N piloted by WO Kawamura Makio, with his wing man, claim a SDB Dauntless prior to landing at Henderson Field.

On September 14, 1942, seaplanes from the R-Area Air Force support the effort to recapture Henderson Field, launching F1M2 Petes armed with 60kg wing bombs, escorted by two A6M2-N Rufes from Kamikawa Maru. Arriving off Lunga Point at 17:30, intercepted by F4F Wildcats. Lost are three Rufes are lost including g WO Kawamura and Lt (jg) Kawashima Masashi. One Rufe escapes, claiming two Wildcats, but none are lost.

On September 19, 1942 arrives at Shortlands and off-loads their remaining seaplanes and departs for Rabaul arriving two days later. On September 23 departs for Yokosuka arriving October 1 and captain Matsuda Takatomo takes command and radar is installed aboard the vessel.

Meanwhile, on October 4, F1M2 Petes and A6M2-Ns from the Kamikawa Maru air unit based at Shortlands Seaplane Base escort a convoy bound for Guadalcanal. Attacked by USN and USMC aircraft from Henderson Field and F4F Wildcats from VF-72 aboard the USS Hornet. One F1M2 Pete is damaged an ditches southeast of Ballale. By October 8, Kamikawa Maru air unit is reduced to five A6M2-N Rufes.

On October 12, Kamikawa Maru departs Yokosuka via Rabaul for Shortlands arriving on October 18, then departs for Buin arriving the next day and is bombed by B-17s, but undamaged. On October 30-31 bombed by B-17s, without damage. On November 1, bombed by B-17s and slightly damaged.

During November 1942, based at Shortland Seaplane Base the Kamikawa Maru air unit tail code is changed to L1-xx. On November 3, Kamikawa Maru is designated the flagship of the 11th Seaplane Tender Division.

On November 3, 1942 arrives at Shortlands and is designated as the flagship of the 11th Seaplane Tender Division. On November 7, four F1M2 Petes from Kamikawa Maru air unit escort a "Tokyo Express" run of eleven destroyers bound for Guadalcanal. In air combat with USMC, USN and USAAF fighters, one F1M2 Pete is shot down and the convoy successful.

From September 4 until November 7, Kamikawa Maru's air unit performs 360 sorties (211 separate missions) and claims fourteen victories and one probable for the loss of nine pilots.

On November 10, departs Shortland and arrives at Yokosuka ten days later, departing on November 28 and arriving a Truk on December 4, departing the next day for Shortlands arriving December 7. Depleted of pilots, Kamikawa Maru supports the operations of 802nd Kokutai A6M2-N Rufes, then departs on December 15 for Truk arriving three days later.

On December 19 leaves for Sasebo arriving December 25. Drydocked from December 27-January 15, 1943. On January 21, departs via Yokosuka-Truk-Rabaul escorted by destroyers Fumizuki, Nagatsuki and Satsuki.

Arrives at Shortland on January 29, 1943. On February 1, B-17s escorted by P-38 and P-40s attack shipping off Shortland. Japanese aircraft intercept, Americans claim nine aircraft destroyed. Bombs damage Kamikawa Maru. That same day, Kamikawa Maru air unit’s strength is seven E13A1 Jakes and three F1M2s Petes.

Afterwards, departs for temporary repairs at Rabaul then departs for Truk arriving February 4 for additional repairs by Akashi, then departs for Yokosuka arriving February 11 then to Yokohama on February 16 and drydocked February 18 to March 15 for repairs.

Kamikawa Maru air unit operations from Shortlands
Meanwhile, during March 1943, F1M2 Petes including Kamikawa Maru air group make night harassment raids over Guadalcanal and Tulagi, dropping 60kg bombs, and are dubbed "Washing Machine Charlie".

On March 23, three F1M2 Petes attack Lunga Point and Tulagi. On March 25 two attack Tulagi Harbor. On March 27 a single floatplane patrols over Cape Esperance, that same day a 17th PRS F-5 Lightning locate Shortland Seaplane Base. On March 29, a fighter sweep sets fire to seven F1M2 Petes including aircraft attached to Kamikawa Maru.

Repaired, Joins Convoy 3415
Departs Yokosuka on March 22 via Truk departing on March 29, arriving at Rabaul on April 1. Reassigned to the Southeast Area Fleet in the 11th Seaplane Tender Division and on April 15 to the Southeast Area Fleet.

On April 18, Kamikawa Maru departs Rabaul escorted by Akigumo and Yugumo, arriving at Truk three days later, then departs April 26 and is assigned to Captain-Retired Hara Seitaro arriving at Yokosuka on April 29.

Departs May 14 to join convoy 3415 including Hakozaki Maru and Tonei Maru. On May 22 joined by Oki. Reaches Truk on May 23 and unloads aircraft, fuel and equipment.

On May 26 departs Truk escorted by sub chasers CH-12 and CH-37 bound for Palau. Aboard are provisions, food, general cargo and some passengers.

On May 28, 1943 north of Kavieng at roughly 01-42N, 150-18E, Kamikawa Maru is attacked by a B-24 but driven off. That same day, at roughly 01-42S 150-18E near Emirau, 255 nautical miles to the northwest of Kavieng, spotted by USS Scamp (SS-277) despite heavy squalls and fires three torpedoes, impacting the starboard side hitting No. 1 hold, amidships in the engine room and the third in the No. 4 hold. The ship floods, looses engine power and begins sinking by the stern and is unable to be towed. The crew are ordered to abandon ship and take to lifeboats. Escorting sub chasers CH-12 or CH-37 unsuccessfully attack.

Sinking History
On May 29, 1943 around midnight USS Scamp (SS-277) fires two torpedoes that hit her port No. 2 hold, causing the list to increase and capsizes at 0021 at roughly Lat 01-36S, Long 150-24 E. Aboard, three civilian Army employees and thirty-nine Navy sailors including Captain Hara (posthumously promoted Rear Admiral) die during the attack.

Combined Fleet - IJN Seaplane Tender Kamikawa Maru: Tabular Record of Movement

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Last Updated
April 24, 2021


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