Passenger & Cargo
385' x 51' x 27'
3" deck gun
Peter Ording 2000
Built by Kawasaki Kisen, K. K. at Kobe. Laid down January 5, 1919 as as Yard No. 438, a 5,864-ton passenger-cargo ship for for Kawaski Dockyard Co., Ltd. Launched March 1, 1919 as San Francisco Maru. Completed March 14, 1939.
On August 1, 1919 sold to Kokusai Kisen K.K. with "A" on the funnel and operated as a passenger vessel and cargo ship operating in the Pacific and around the world. On November 30, 1920 arrives at Freemantle. In January 1923 converted to fuel oil propulsion. On June 13, 1923 arrives at Ellis Island, New York. On September 12, 1934 arrives Freemantle.
During the early 1930s, requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJN) as No. 284. On December 6, 1937 sold to
Yamashita Kisen, K.K. and continued to operate as a cargo vessel.
On January 20, 1942 relinquished by the Army back to her civilian owner and the same say requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as an Ippan Choyosen (B-AK) operated by her civilian crew operating in the "Inner South Seas" as a military transport.
On January 25, 1942 departs Tokyo arriving the next day at Yokkaichi. On February 2, 1942 arrives Tsukumi and departs later the same day reaching Saitozaki the next day. On February 8, 1942 departs Saitozaki and the next day arrives Tsukumi.
On February 11, 1942 departs Tsukumi across the Pacific. On February 27, 1942 arrives Ponape then departs on March 6, 1942 arriving two days later at Truk. On April 5, 1942 departs bound for Japan arriving nine days later at Yokosuka. On April 17, 1942 departs for Tokyo arriving the same day.
On April 25, 1942 departs bound for Truk arriving May 4, 1942 and departs thirteen days later bound for Palau arriving May 22, 1942. On May 27, 1942 departs for Peleliu arriving later that day then on May 30, 1942 back to Palau and departs that same day for Kitadaitojima arriving June 4, 1942 and departs June 13, 1942.
On June 17, 1942 arrives Yokohama and departs eight days later bound for Muroran arriving June 27, 1932 and departs three days later. On July 2, 1942 arrives Tokyo then the next day to Yokosuka. On July 8, 1942 departs arriving at Yokkaichi the next day.
On July 16, 1942 departs Yokkaichi arriving at Roi on July 31, 1942 and departs two days later. On August 4, 1942 arrives Taroa and departs three days later. On August 8, 1942 arrives Emiej and the next day to Jaluit. On August 19, 1942 departs Jaluit reaching Kwajalein the next day. On September 10,1942 departs Kwaj and on September 26, 1942 arrives Osaka and departs two days later arrives Kure on September 29, 1942.
On October 8, 1942 departs Kure then eight days later arrives Truk. On October 28, 1942 departs Truk arriving Rabaul on November 2, 1942. On November 15, 1942 departs Rabaul and arrives Shortland the same day. November 16, 1942 departs bound for Buka arriving November 30, 1942. On December 1, 1942 departs Buka and returns to Rabaul the next day.
On December 13, 1942 departs Rabaul and the next day returned to Buka. On January 2, 1943 departs Buka arriving at Rabaul the next day. On January 6, 1943 departs Rabaul bound for Palau arriving eight days later. On January 28, 1943 departs Palau with Choko Maru proceed northward arriving Miike February 9, 1943 then departs three days later. On February 16, 1943 arrives Amagasaki and departs three days later.
On February 20, 1944 arrives Innoshima and the next day enters dry dock until March 14, 1943. On March 16, 1943 departs Innoshima and later that day to Kure. On March 22, 1943 departs Kure arriving Yokosuka two days later. Afterwards, to Yokohama.
On April 4, 1943 departs
Yokohama as part of convoy no. 3404 including Kimishima and Taian Maru escorted by a Chidori class torpedo boat reaching Tateyama the same day. On April 5, 1943 to Palau arriving ten days later. On April 30, 1943 to Garasumao on Babelthuap.
On April 26, 1943 departs Palau at 8:30am as part of Wewak No. 3 convoy with Bunzan Maru, Kankow Maru and Hofuku Maru, Hakutetsu Maru No. 13 and Shinsei Maru No. 1 escorted by destroyers Amatsukaze and Urakaze and subchasers CH-26 and CH-34. The transports land 6,000 soldiers of the 41st Infantry Division and ammunition, provisions, crated aircraft and supplies. On April 30, 1943 San Francisco Maru and CH-34 detach to Kairiru Island then on May 1, 1943 rejoin the convoy at Wewak.
On May 4, 1943 off Wewak the convoy is attacked by U. S. aircraft and San Francisco Maru sustains minor damage. Two days later, the convoy returns to Palau. On May 20, 1943 departs Palau and arrives at Manokwari three days later. On May 24, 1943 departs
Manokwari and the next day reaches Solon. On June 3, 1943 departs Solon and the next day returns to Manokwari then three days later returns to Palau.
On June 19, 1943 departs Palau likely loaded bauxite ore as part of convoy To-906 bound for Moji with Delagoa Maru, Dainichi Maru, Kazan Maru, Macassar Maru and Eiko Maru No. 2 Go escorted by patrol boat PB-46 and minesweeper W-17 until it detaches the next day. On June 27, 1943 at roughly Lat 30° 40' N Long 134° 50' E joined by escorting minelayers Yurijima and Nuwajima and the next day arrives Saeki.
On June 29, 1943 arrives Moji then to Kure the same day. On June 30, 1943 to Innoshima and enters dry dock the next day. On July 20, 1943 undocked and the next day departs for Tsukumi arriving the next day. On August 2, 1943 departs for Moji arriving the same day. On August 4, 1943 arrives Tokyo then departs four days later. On August 13, 1944 at Yokosuka.
On August 15, 1943 departs Yokosuka as part of convoy no. 3815 with Chiyo Maru, Kyowa Maru, Muko Maru and Shoun Maru escorted by destroyer Ikazuchi. On August 25, 1943 arrives Truk.
On September 5, 1943 departs Truk with convoy no. 1055 with
Chiyo Maru, Kyowa Maru, Muko Maru and Shoun Maru escorted by destroyer Ikazuchi plus subchasers CH-30 and CH-32 and five days later arrives at Rabaul.
On October 25, 1943 departs Rabaul with convoy no. O-505 with Kosei Maru and Taito Maru plus other vessels escorted by CH-17 and CH-18. On November 2, 1943 arrives at Palau then departs four days later. On November 13, 1943 arrives Ngardmau then returns to Palau the same day.
On November 20, 1943 departs Palau and on December 4, 1943 arrives at Moji then the next day to Niihama. On December 10, 1943 arrives Innoshima and the next day enters dry dock for repairs. On December 19, 1943 departs Innoshima and two days later arrives at Sakito. On December 25, 1943 departs Sakito the next day arriving at Moji and departs two days later.
On January 3, 1944 arrives Yokosuka and a week later departs for Tokyo arriving the same day. On January 17, 1944 departs for Yokosuka and loaded with cargo including Isuzu Type 94 trucks, three three Type 95 Ha Go light tanks, ammunition, bombs, mines, AA and artillery shells, torpedoes, aircraft engines and spare parts.
On January 20, 1944
departs Yokosuka as part of convoy no. 3120 with Hoki Maru, Kowa Maru, Unkai Maru No. 6, escorted by kaibokan Oki. The next day, Manju joins the convoy at Tateyama and departs for Truk. Over the next two days, Manju contacts an enemy submarine and drops depth charges and attacks. On January 27, 1944 due to the submarine threat, the convoy diverts to Saipan. On January 31, 1944 resumes the voyage to Truk. On February 1, 1944 Manju again locates the enemy submarine and attacks then again two days later. On February 4, 1944 the convoy arrives at Truk. On February 12, 1944 the rest of her convoy departed. San Francisco Maru remained anchored in the 4th Fleet Anchorage southeast of Dublon Island in Truk Lagoon.
On February 17, 1944 during "Operation Hailstone" San Francisco Maru remained anchored in the Eten Island anchorage and was attacked by U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft including aircraft from USS Yorktown (Strike 1DY), USS Bunker Hill (Strike 3E) and USS Essex (Strike 2A). Afterwards, the ship was reported with fire and smoke rising amidship but survived the first day of attacks.
On February 18, 1944 attacked by carrier aircraft from USS Essex (CV-9) during Strke 2A and Strike 2B. During the attacks, a TBF Avenger scored a hit midship with a
500 pound bomb that left the burning and sinking stern first into the 4th Fleet anchorage area between Eten Island and Dublon Island. Aboard, five crew died in the attack.
The San Francisco Maru is upright on the bottom to the northeast of Eten Island and to the south of Dublon Island (Tonoas). In 1969, the shipwreck was initially discovered by Jaques Cousteau. The search was documented in The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau Lagoon of Lost Ships. In 1973, the shipwreck was again located during a fathometer survey. When dived, the ship's bell was located confirming the identity of the vessel. Since then, this shipwreck is often visited by SCUBA divers as one of the most spectacular shipwrecks and often called the "Million Dollar Wreck" speculating
at the value of the military cargo aboard.
At the bow is a single 3" gun mounted on a platform that is encrused with coral and sponges.
Hold No. 1
The cargo hold no. 1 contains spherical sea mines and their detonators and detonator horns in boxes nearby. Over the decades after discovery, many of the stacked sea mines in hold no. 1 have been removed, likely by local divers to recover the explosives for reef bombing to stun fish. Also, spools of cable, aerial bombs, crated artillery shells and munitions between the decks.
Hold No. 2
The cargo hold no. 2 contains several tanker trucks and a single flatbed truck plus barrels of fuel and aircraft wheels and spare parts.
Forward Deck Area
The deck area forward of the bridge has three Type 95 Ha Go light tanks stowed on the deck. Two are stowed to the starboard and Type 95 Ha Go Tank (No. 1) is stowed on the port side. Type 95 Ha Go Tank (No. 2) and Type 95 Ha Go Tank (No. 3) are stowed on the starboard side. On the sea floor nearby is a large truck, steam roller and another truck that came loose from the deck or during the sinking and are located on the sea floor nearby.
The bridge area is intact with three decks including an awning deck at the top with winches. The crew quarters contain dishes, bottles
and cups. To the aft is the collapsed funnel and evidence of the bomb damage that caused the ship to sink.
Hold No. 3
The cargo hold no. 3 is located aft of the smoke stack and after superstructure. Inside the hold is a Type 94 truck.
Hold No. 4
The cargo hold no. 4 is the furthest to the rear. Inside contains stacked
torpedoes, some are out of place because there high pressure air
tanks exploded after the sinking. Also depth charges, mines and crates of ammunition. At this location, the hull plates are split and ripped apart.
Combined Fleet - Transport San Francisco Maru: Tabular Record of Movement
The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau Lagoon of Lost Ships (1969)
National Geographic Vol. 149, No. 5 "Truk Lagoon: A Sunken Japanese Fleet Becomes A Scientific Laboratory" (May 1976) by Silvia A. Earle photos by Al Giddings cover photo
WWII Wrecks of Truk Lagoon (2001) by Dan Bailey cover photo, page 6 (munitions removal), 7, 117 (photo Feb 17, 1944 Eten anchorage), 128 (photo Feb 17, 1944 Eten anchorage), 152 (First Day Summary - San Francisco Maru claimed as sunk), 155 (Essex Strike 2A), 159 (Essex Strike 2B), 165 (list of ships sunk February 17-18, 1944), 265, 269 (map #7), 306, 385, 395, 426-434 (shipwreck), 429 (side view and topside view), 430-433 (dive photos), 415, 512 (index San Francisco Maru)
X-Ray Mag No. 67 (January 2015) "The San Francisco Maru of Chuuk Lagoon"
Truk Lagoon Dive Center - 26 San Franciso Maru
Thanks to Peter Ording and Dan Bailey for additional information
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February 8, 2021