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  Kamikawa Maru
Seaplane Tender

6,863 Tons
479' x 62' x 30'
2 x 12cm guns
2 x 13mm Machine Guns
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 August 5, 1936 as a cargo vessel of 6,863 Tons. Launched December 13, 1936 as Kamikawa Maru. Completed March 15, 1937 owned by Kawasaki Kisen K. K. Line.

Second Sino-Japanese War
On September 18, 1937 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a seaplane tender attached to the 3rd Fleet and placed under the command of Captain Omori Sentaro. On October 5, 1937 departs Kure for operations off China. On October 9, 1937 Type 95 Dave seaplanes from the 22nd Sea Scout Unit are embarked aboard Kamikawa Maru. On December 1, reassigned to the 3rd Air Flotilla under the command of Captain Arima Masafumi. On December 26, 1937 arrives Takao Harbor then departs two days later for operations off the southern coast of China.

On February 1, 1938 assigned to the 3rd Air Flotilla. On March 13, 1938 arrives Mako. On July 1, 1938 attached to the 3rd Fleet. On July 24, 1938 Kamikawa Maru and Notoro provide air cover for the Special Navy Landing Force (SNLF) landing at Tsiangtsin.

On September 1, 1938 assigned to Captain Ichihei Yokokawa. On October 1, 1938 patrols off the coast of Shanghai and Whangapoa. On December 15, 1938 attached to the 5th Fleet's 16th Seaplane Tender Division with the 14th Naval Air Group and operates off Hainan Island to support operations around Canton.

During 1939 converted into a seaplane carrier and tender adding armament including six 120mm guns and equipped with four Type 94 E7K2 Alf and eight Type 95 E8N2 Dave seaplanes, with tail code ZI-xx. The conversion is completed by November 15, 1939 placed under the command of Captain Shigeaki Ando in the Sasebo Naval District. Afterwards, returns to Hainan Island to support operations around Canton.

On April 1, 1940, attached to the 2nd China Expeditionary Fleet and July 1 to Captain Michiyuki Yamada and continues to operate around Canton. On November 9, 1940 arrives Mako and six days later assigned to Captain Osamu Imamura. Between December 1, 1940 until December 20, 1940 dry docked at the Mitsubishi 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 dry docked at Sasebo Navy Yard at Sasebo. On September 20 assigned to Captain Shinoda Tarohachi. Loaded with fourteen E13A Jake and F1M2 Pete seaplanes. On November 22, 1943 departs Sasebo and five days later arrives at Samah on Hainan Island.

Wartime History
On December 4, 1941 departs Samah with Sanyo Maru supporting Operation E the invasion of Malaya. On December 6, 1941 at noon, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudson from No. 1 Squadron spot the Japanese force, Kamikawa Maru launches F1M2 Petes but the Hudson escapes while a second Hudson reports the convoy.

On December 7, 1941 operates off Malaya with Sagara Maru patrols the area with their seaplanes. E13A Jake ZI-26 piloted Ensign Ogata Eiichi patrols over the Gulf of Siam (Gulf of Thailand), 20 miles west-northwest of Panjang Island. At 8:20am makes a rear attack against a Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 205 Squadron PBY Catalina W8417 tail FY-W piloted by William E. Webb causing damage then shadows the flyingboat for 25 minutes until at 8:45am a Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-27 Nate from the 1st Sentai arrives and shoots down the Catalina.

On December 11, 1941 arrives Camranh Bay in French Indochina (Vietnam). On December 13, 1941 participates in "Operation B" covering the invasion of British Borneo. On December 17, 1941 off Miri her F1M2 Pete piloted by intercepts Dutch 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, 1941 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, 1941 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, 1942 off Singora and Patani in Thailand with Sagara Maru provides cover for transports with the Japanese Army 18th Division. On February 1, 1942 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, 1942 her 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, 1942 her seaplanes cover the Japanese landings at Bantam Bay, Merak and Ereten Wetan on Java. In the afternoon, five Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 605 Squadron Hurricanes engage single F1M2 Pete that survives the combat and claims to have shot down three Hurricanes. 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, 1942 assigned to the 4th Fleet at Rabaul and departs for Kure the next day, arriving March 16, 1942 then to Sasebo eight days later. Between March 27, 1942 until April 4, 1942 drydocked.

On April 18, 1942 departs Sasebo bound for Truk arriving April 24, 1942. Assigned to the screening force of the Port Moresby / Tulagi Occupation Force "Operation MO" with the air unit from Kiyokawa Maru embarked. On April 28, 1942 departs Truk and two days later on April 30, 1942 arrives at Queen Carola Harbor on Buka Island. On May 2, 1942 covers the landing at Rekata Bay on Santa Isabel used to provide air cover for the Japanese 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 during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

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 Aleutian Islands and three days later reassigned to the Northern Force, Seaplane Force, 11th Seaplane Tender Division attached to the Combined Fleet. After refueling departs for the Aleutian Islands. Her seaplanes have tail code "R-xxx" (three digits).

On June 15, 1942 arrives in 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, 1942 or July 3, 1942 bombed by seven B-24s but escapes without damage. Departs July 4, 1942 for Paramushiro, but her escort Nenohi is sunk by USS Triton (SS-201). Afterwards, arrives Hashirajima then departs 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, 1942 arrives Yokosuka and assigned to the 11th Seaplane Tender Division, Base Air Force, 2nd Fleet and embarks A6M2-N Rufes. On August 23, 1942 departs for Shortland Harbor.

Shortlands Operations
On August 28, 1942 arrives Shortland Harbor and joins the "R" Area Air Force (Homen Koku Butai) then departs for Rabaul arriving September 1, 1942 then returns to Shortland Harbor.

On September 4, 1942 the Kamikawa Maru A6M2-N Rufe detachment commanded by Lt Ono Jiro begins operating from Shortland Seaplane Base. On September 12, 1942 their air strength is eleven A6M2-Ns and two F1M2 Petes.

On September 13, 1942 A6M2-N piloted by WO Kawamura Makio, with his wing man, claim the shoot down of an SBD Dauntless 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 Shortland Harbor 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, 1942 Kamikawa Maru air unit F1M2 Petes and A6M2-Ns at Shortland Seaplane Base escort a convoy bound for Guadalcanal. The seaplanes are engaged by U.S. Navy (USN) and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) planes from Henderson Field and F4F Wildcats from VF-72 aboard USS Hornet (CV-8). During the air combat, one F1M2 Pete is damaged then ditches southeast of Ballale Island. By October 8, 1942 the Kamikawa Maru air unit was reduced to five A6M2-N Rufes. Afterwards, departs for Yokosuka.

On October 12, 1942 departs Yokosuka via Rabaul for Shortland Harbor arriving October 18, 1942 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, the Kamikawa Maru air unit tail code is changed to L1-xx and continues to operate from Shortland Seaplane Base. On November 3, 1942 returns to Shortland Harbor 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.

Between September 4, 1942 until November 7, 1942 the Kamikawa Maru air unit flew 360 sorties (211 separate missions) and claimed fourteen aerial victories and one probable for the loss of nine pilots.

On November 10, departs Shortland Harbor and arrives at Yokosuka ten days later, then departs on November 28, 1942 southward. On December 4, 1942 arrives Truk and departs the next day. On December 7, 1942 arrives Shortland Harbor and although depleted of pilots, Kamikawa Maru supports 802 Kōkūtai (802 Air Group) A6M2-N Rufes, then departs on December 15, 1942 and arrives Truk three days later.

On December 19, 1942 departs for Sasebo arriving eight days later. Between December 27, 1942 until January 15, 1943 drydocked. On January 21, 1943 departs via Yokosuka then southward to Truk and Rabaul escorted by destroyers Fumizuki, Nagatsuki and Satsuki.

On January 29, 1943 arrives Shortland Harbor to resume seaplane tender operations. On February 1, 1943 B-17s escorted by P-38 Lightnings and P-40 Warhawks bomb shipping off Shortland. Japanese aircraft intercept, Americans claim nine aircraft destroyed. Bombs damage Kamikawa Maru. That 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, 1943 and undergoes additional repairs by Akashi. Afterwards, departs Rabaul northward for Yokosuka arriving February 11, 1943 then Yokohama five days later. On February 18, 1943 enters drydock for repairs until March 15, 1943.

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, 1943 a fighter sweep sets fire to seven F1M2 Petes including aircraft attached to Kamikawa Maru.

On March 22, 1943 departs Yokosuka 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, 1943 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, 1943.

On May 14, 1943 departs Yokosuka with 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 Lat 1° 42' N, Long 150° 18E bombed by a B-24 Liberator but the attack is driven off. That same day, near Emirau, roughly 255 nautical miles to the northwest of Kavieng, spotted by USS Scamp (SS-277) despite heavy squalls, the submarine fires a spread of three torpedoes that hit the starboard side hitting No. 1 hold, amidships in the engine room and the third in the No. 4 hold. The damages causes flooding and a loss of engine power and is unable to be towed and begins sinking by the stern. The crew are ordered to abandon ship and take to lifeboats. Escorting sub chasers CH-12 or CH-37 unsuccessfully attack the attack submarine. Aboard, three civilian Army employees and thirty-nine Navy sailors including Captain Hara (posthumously promoted Rear Admiral) were killed.

Sinking History
On May 29, 1943 around midnight USS Scamp (SS-277) fires two more torpedoes that hit her port no. 2 hold, causing her list to increase and the ship capsized at 12:21am and sank at roughly Lat 1° 36' S, Long 150° 24' E into the Pacific Ocean the east of Mussau Island and north of New Hanover (Lavongai).

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

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Last Updated
December 6, 2022


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