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  Kotoku Maru (Kotoko Maru)

4,000 Tons (aprox)
110 x 115 x 55

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February 28, 1943

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Australian Army c1945

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Rust In Peace 1970s

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Richard Leahy 1980s

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Rod Pearce 1980s

Wartime History
On June 29, 1942 departed Truk for as part of a thirteen ship convoy including light cruiser Yuari and destroyers Uzuki and Oite, plus this ship and transports Kanyoh Maru, Azumasan Maru, Meiyo Maru and Matumoto Maru and Nojima Maru. On July 9, this ship delivered 250 members of the Hara Construction Force and security troops on Guadalcanal to build Lunga Airfield, and then delivered fifty more to Gavutu, to build installations.

On July 29, 1942 this ship was en route to Buna and was caught near Gona by A-24 Dive bombers. Hit by a bomb from the second wave and damaged its no. 5 hatch, forcing it to unload 263 men, mostly troops of the 15th Independent Engineers on motor launches to reach shore. The cargo was unable to be unloaded. Although damaged, the ship was able to leave the area under reduced power and returning to Lae late in the evening for temporary repairs, then attempted to return to Buna to finish unloading.

Sinking History
During the afternoon of July 30, 1942 while off Salamaua attempting to return to Buna, the ship was spotted by B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 19th Bombardment Group and hit by at least three 500 lbs bombs and further damaged. Afterwards, the Kotoku Maru drifted and ran aground off Salamaua.

After grounding, Allied coastwatchers in the vicinity observed the Japanese performing salvage on stricken vessel and removing cargo before abandoning the ship.

Afterwards, the wreck of the Kotoku Maru remained level on the surface and was clearly visible from the air. Afterwards, the shipwreck mistaken as an active ship and inadvertently targeted by Allied aircraft bombing Salamaua.

After the Australian liberation of Salamaua during the middle of September 1942 the wreck was inspected. On July 15, 1944 Caledonian Salvor removed winches and other gear from the shipwreck.

Until at least 1945, the vessel remained in an upright position. At some point, the bow section was removed, cut off or severely damaged.

By the 1970s, the wreck was still largely intact, resting on its side. By the 1980s, only the stern section was visible above water and the rest of the wreck settled in 25m of water.

Today, the wreck is a good wreck for novice divers. The best season to dive is between November and April, when visibility is usually 10 to 20m, depending on the prevailing weather.  Points of interest include the ammunition locker which still contains ammunition. This wreck also offers excellent night dives.

Hell's Island page 70 -71
Rust In Peace has a photo of this wreck in the early 1970s
"X Marks the Spot" by David Pennefather
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Richard Leahy and Rod Peace for additional information

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020



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