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430' x 56' x 36'
Built by Mitsubishi Zosen Kakoki Kaisha shipyard at Nagasaki. Laid down September 9, 1925 as a 7,266-ton refrigerated passenger/cargo ship for Osaka Shosen K.K. (OSK). Launched April 15, 1926 as Montevideo Maru. Completed August 14, 1926 registered in Osaka with a Net Register tonnage (NRT) of 4,386 Tons.
At the start of World War II, a large Japanese flag was painted on each side of the bow for recognition. On September 25, 1941 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attached to the Kure Naval District based at Kure. On December 15, 1941 arrives Yokosuka and departs five days later. On December 22, 1941 arrives Kure and departs four days later.
On December 31, 1941 registered as an auxiliary transport and departs for the Philippines. On January 9, 1942 arrives Davao and departs later than same day for Jolo. On January 16, 1942 departs Jolo and the next day arrives at Mendao. On February 1, 1942 departs Mendao and later in the day reaches Bangka. On February 1, 1942 departs Bangka with transports and escorts and two days later arrives Staring Bay and joins the Makassar invasion force.
On February 6, 1942 at 9:00pm departs Staring Bay with the second echelon is the 5th Naval Construction Unit (Setsueihan) and 6th Naval Construction Units (Setsueihan) embarked as part of the second echelon of the invasion force bound for Makassar. On February 8, 1942 arrives Makassar and participates in the landing and remains for the next eight days then departs for Japan. On February 27, 1942 arrives Yokosuka.
On March 3, 1942 departs Yokosuka to transport ammunition and personnel and two days later arrives Kure. On March 10, 1942 departs Kure and ten days later arrives Ambon. On March 23, 1943 departs Ambon and two days later arrives Davao. On April 3, 1942 departs Davao and five days later arrives Saipan then departs the next day for Pagan and the same day departs for Japan.
On April 15, 1942 arrives Yokosuka and the say day departs for Yokohama. On April 26, 1942 embarks troops at Yokohama then returns to Yokosuka and the next day arrives Kure where more troops are embarked and machine guns added for anti-aircraft defense. On April 30, 1942 departs Kure and two days later arrives Sasebo where munitions are loaded and aircraft weapons and other military cargo and troops.
On May 6, 1942 departs Sasebo and four days later arrives Manila Bay and disembarks troops then departs for Davao arriving May 15, 1942 and disembarks more troops. On May 18, 1942 arrives Mendao and departs the next day for Balikpapan where more troops are disembarked and departs later the same day. On May 22, 1942 arrives Makassar to unload troops and departs the next day. On May 25, 1942 arrives Surabaya were troops and cargo is unloaded then departs two days later. On June 3, 1942 arrives Manokwari and the next day departs for Rabaul.
On June 9, 1942 arrives Rabaul and disembarks troops and cargo. On June 21, 1942 embarks 27 guards, an aircraft fuselage, ten cars and spare parts. On June 22, 1942, embarks 1,053 Allied personnel including 845 Australian Prisoners Of War (POW) and 208 civilians then departed Simpson Harbor near Rabaul then departs bound for Hainan Island. The ship was not marked to indicate it was transporting Allied prisoners.
On June 30, 1942 running on the surface, USS Sturgeon (SS-187) spots Montevideo Maru identified as "a darkened ship" off the west coast of Luzon steaming at 17 knots but is too fast to approach or make an attack and tracks the ship overnight.
On July 1, 1942 around midnight, Montevideo Maru slows to 12 knots in anticipation of meeting a pair of destroyers to escort her. At 3:36am USS Sturgeon (SS-187) fired a spread of four torpedoes with two hitting in the no. 4 on the starboard side. At 3:37am sink by the stern at roughly Lat 18-35N Long 120-25 roughly 65 miles west of Cape Bojeador on Luzon.
Fates of the Crew
A total of 9 crew, 11 guards and all 1,053 Allied Allied prisoners go down with the ship. According to sole survivor Yosiaki Yamaji, the trapped Australian prisoners trapped inside sang "Auld Lang Syne" as the ship sank. On July 20, 1942 officially removed from the Navy list.
Roughly seventy Japanese survive the sinking and manage to deploy two life rafts. On July 3, 1942 the survivors reach Bobon on the coast of Luzon where a Filipino guides them towards Laoag. On July 4, 1942 the Japanese are ambushed by Filipinos 55 are killed with the remainder fleeing and later hunted down. The sole survivor Yosiaki Yamaji is the only Japanese survivor that managed to reach Laoag.
There is a bronze memorial attached to a large rock near the present day Rabaul Yacht Club in Rabaul. A memorial marker to Lark Force dedicated to members lost on the ship is located at Bitapaka War Cemetery.
One of the crew of MS Herstein was Australian Merchant Navy cabin boy James Tynan who was a prisoner aboard the Montevideo Maru and died in the sinking at age 16. He is memorialized at Adelaide River War Cemetery on the Northern Territory Memorial and Australian War Memorial (AWM) on the commemorative roll.
Combined Fleet - IJN MONTEVIDEO MARU: Tabular Record of Movement
AWM - Commemorative Roll - James Tynan
CWGC - James Tynan
NARA "U.S.S. Sturgeon War Diary 5 June - 22 July 1942" pages 1-16
(Page 6) "1 July 1942: Proceeding to intercept target [Montevideo Maru] as before. Altered course to gain position ahead of him, and dove at 0146. When he got in periscope range, it could be seen that he was larger than first believed, also that his course was a little to the left of west,..."
(Page 7) "1 July 1942 (Cont). ...leaving us some 5,000 yards off the track. Was able to close some 1,000 yards of this, and then turned to fire stern tubes as:
1. Only 3 tubes available forward, and at this range and with large target 4 fish spread desirable.
2. After tubes had 700# heads, while heads forward were small ones.
At 0225 fired four-torpedo spread, range 4,000 yards, form after tubes. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 feet abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first. 0250 surfaced, proceeded to eastward, completing battery charge. Ship believed to be Rio de Janeiro Maru [sic Montevideo Maru], or very similar type, although it was a larger ship; he was a big one. A few lights were observed on deck just after the explosion, but there was apparently no power available, and his bow was well up in the air in 6 minutes. Dove at dawn. No further contacts."
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