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  Nagato Maru

5,901 Tons

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NYK Line prewar

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USAAF October 1943

Ship History
Built by Kawasaki Shipbuilding as Yard No. 409 in Kobe. On October 15, 1917 laid down as Daifuku Maru No. 22 (Taifuku). While still on the stocks, sold to Nippon Yusen Kaisha K. K. (NYK Line) and renamed Nagato Maru. Launched on May 27, 1918 and completed on June 27, 1918.

During 1918 until 1941, Nagato Maru operated on NYK routes worldwide as a cargo vessel. During November 1920, departed Singapore for Rotterdam then via Colombo, Suez and Port Said, London, London before arriving at Hamburg.

On October 18, 1941 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) as No. 984 for use as a cargo vessel.

On December 17, 1941 departs Koniya, Amami Oshima, Ryukuyus as part of Operation M (M Sakusen) and participates in the Japanese landing at Lamon Bay in southern Luzon on December 24, 1941.

On November 7, 1942 departed Manila Bay with two other ships. Aboard Nagato Maru were 1,500 soldiers plus 1,600 American Prisoners Of War (POW), with roughly 550 POWs in the cargo holds and was considered a "hell ship". During the trip, 17 prisoners die en route. The convoy arrives at Takao Harbor on November 11, 1942.

Afterwards on November 14, 1942 arrives at Mako, Pescadores and departs on November 18, 1942 and the next day arrives at Kirun, Formosa and departs on November 20, 1942. En route, three more prisoners died. Nagato Maru arrives Moji on November 24, 1942. It is believed as many as 150 sick and dying prisoners were abandoned on the dock at Moji after arrival. The remaining prisoners are disembarked for Osaka POW camp near Osaka.

On January 14, 1943 departs Saeki as part of the "Hinoe No. 3 Go" convoy also consisting of Bengal Maru, England Maru, Dainichi Maru, Ryuyo Maru, Shonan Maru, Tofuku Maru and Zuisho Maru escorted by torpedo boat Hato. Also escorting are minelayer Yurijima and subchaser CH-37 until departing on January 15, 1943.

On May 12, 1943 departs Ujina loaded with the Japanese Army 54th Division, 154th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion plus 1 platoon of regimental gun company, rapid fire gun company (less one platoon) and part of a signal unit and arrives at Singapore on June 9, 1943. Afterwards, departs for Palau.

On August 28, 1943 at Palau, Nagato Maru is is loaded with troops and supplies including 100 soldiers, farmers, 8,000 drums aviation gasoline, 10 vehicles, 2,000 cases general cargo and 101,000 bags rice and departs as part of "Wewak No. 7" convoy bound for Wewak. The convoy also includes transports Aden Maru, Hankow Maru, Shinyu Maru escorted by subschasers CH-26 and CH-34.

Sinking History
On September 2, 1943 the convoy anchors at 12:45am in Wewak Harbor and Boram Bay off Wewak. Nagato Maru was anchored in Boram Bay east of Cape Boram. While anchored, a barrage balloon was tethered above the vessel to protect it from low level attack. That morning, B-25D Mitchell from the 38th Bombardment Group attack the vessels escorted by P-38 Lightnings from the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron.

The 405th Bombardment Squadron approached inland dropping to minimum altitude over Boram Airfield and was targeted by anti-aircraft fire and the Japanese vessels each had a barrage balloon roughly 10' in diameter at a height of 400' above each ship. A total of thirty-six Japanese fighters from the 13th Sentai, 24th Sentai, 59th Sentai (Ki-43 Oscars) and 68th Sentai (Ki-61 Tonys) took off to intercept the American formation.

The Nagato Maru, the largest vessel in the convoy was spotted by the B-25 Mitchells from the 405th Bombardment Squadron and identified as a "Fox Able" (Japanese merchant vessel 5,500-7,500 tons with 3 masts or more).

Eight Zekes [sic Oscars] and Tonys attacked the 405th Bombardment Squadron's first flight led by Captain Garrett Middlebrook with his wingman 1st Lt. Donald Latham while they bombed and strafed a Fox Able (Japanese merchant vessel 5,500-7,500 tons with 3 masts or more, likely Nagato Maru) anchored east of Cape Boram in Boram Bay and claimed a single a near miss with a 1,000 pound bomb and claimed a Zeke [sic, Oscar] shot down.

The second flight led by B-25D "Tokyo Sleeper" 41-12905 piloted by 1st Lt. Roy Gover with his wingman attacked the same Fox Able (likely Nagato Maru) and claimed two 1,000 pound bomb hits that left the vessel burning and sinking.

During the B-25 low level attacks, this vessel was set on fire and sank at roughly Lat 3° 33' S Long 143°  8' E. During the attack and sinking, three soldiers and two crew members aboard were killed.

This vessel was submerged in relatively shallow water and visible in aerial photographs.

Combined Fleet - NAGATO MARU: Tabular Record of Movement
Richard A. Beam, United States Navy, 1940-46 Chapter 13: POW - Hell Ship Nagato Maru
Tuluvu's Air War, Chapter 5 by Richard Dunn
Saga of the Sun Setters The Illustrated History of the 38th Bombardment Group During World War II
Volume I: Prewar to September 1943 (forthcoming) pages 158-161

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


Photo Archive

Map July 1944

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