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  Tonan Maru No.3
Whale Factory Ship

19,262 Tons
535 x 75 x 35

Click For Enlargement
IJN c1941

Ship History
Built by Osaka Iron Works. Laid down on May 27, 1937. Launched on May 1, 1938. Completed September 23, 1938. Named Tonan Maru No. 3 and placed into service by Nippon Suisan Kabushiki Kaisha (Japan Fisheries Co., Ltd.) of Tokyo. The stern read "Tonan Maru No. 3 Tokio" in English and kanji. Amidship was a large Japanese flag insignia, to indicate neutrality and a large dot in a circle on the stack.

On October 31, 1938 1938, arrived at Fremantle to participate in the 1938-1939 whaling season off Antarctica then returned to Fremantle on November 14, 1939. During 1940, assigned to the No. 6 Southern Ocean whaling mission.

Wartime History
On November 4, 1941 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for use as a transport. On December 4, arrives off Sana, departing on December 10, 1941 for Camranh Bay departing three days later.

On December 15, 1941 arrives off Miri. On December 22, 1941 departs for Kuching as part of convoy. Aboard are carrying 260 men of the Fourth Naval Construction Unit, 21st Field Ordnance Depot, 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Field Well Drilling Company of about 120 men, 48th Anchorage HQ, 4th Naval Construction Unit of about 260 men and materials for Seria, Luntong & Miri (oil well repairs, if needed). On December 23, 1941 off Kuching, damaged by a torpedo fired by Dutch submarine K-XIV.

Undergoes temporary repairs and departs for Kure for additional repairs during December 1941 until January 1942. On February 5, 1942 to Yokosuka and converted to auxiliary naval tanker during March 1942. Departs on April 14, 1942 bound for Yokosuka then departs April 24, 1942 for Saipan Island arriving May 5, 1942 and departing two days later for Palau May 13-17 then to Truk during May 20-24. Departs to Yokosuka arriving June 1, two days later for Yokosuka, departs on June 5 for Osaka arriving two days later, departing on June 9 for Moji, arriving two days later. Then to Kure on June 15-18 for Hiro June 18-21.

On June 25, east of Bonin Islands, USS Grouper (SS-214) fires four torpedoes at Tonan Maru No. 3 and gets one hit (probably a dud Mk-14) that inflicts minor damage at 28-46N, 136-36E. That same day, destroyer Kagero departs Yokosuka to assist Tonan Maru No. 3. On June 29, arrives at Sana and departs later for Yulin June29-July 7 arrives at Mako on July 15-17 then to Sasebo July 21-23 then Naha July 25-29 next Kure July 31-August 2 to Hiro August 2-3, then to Yokohama August 5-9 to Yokosuka August 9-13.

On August 23-31 arrived at Rabaul then to Truk September 3-6 to Saipan September 8. Tokuyama September 13-17 to Kure September 18-21. Yokosuka September 23-24. Saipan September 30 to Rabaul October 5-11 then to Truk October 14-17 then Kwajalein October 21-22 to Yokosuka October 30-November 1 Yokohama November 1-17. Yokkaichi November 18-20.


On July 24, 1943 traveling from Palau to Truk, due to code breaking intercepts, this vessel was located by USS Tinosa (SS-283). The submarine fired four torpedoes but none impacted, captain LtCdr Daspit recorded: "Target had been carefully tracked and with spread used [torpedoes] could not have run properly and missed."

The next day, USS Tinosa made a second attack, firing two torpedoes that were shot at an awkward angle and range, but exploded disabling Tonan Maru No.3's engines, leaving her dead in the water. The submarine continued to fire torpedoes one at a time, all of them hit. but none exploded. Daspit's log gives time of firing of each and states over and over again "fired [nth] torpedo. Hit. No apparent effect." Daspit recorded about the sixth one since Tonan Maru had become a "sitting duck", "... Hit. No apparent effect. This torpedo hit well aft on the port side, made splash at the side of the ship and was then observed to have taken a right turn and to jump clear of the water about 100' from the stern of the tanker. I find it hard to convince myself that I saw this."

He took his sub to the other side of the target and fired the eighth and ninth torpedoes even as he saw a destroyer approaching from the east. As Tinosa went deep they heard the last torpedo hit and stop running. Daspit recorded in his log, "No explosion. Had already decided to retain one torpedo for examination by base." After shooting nine torpedoes almost an hour and a half 1009 to 1131, and taking time out to examine the fish in the torpedo room between shots, USS Tinosa departed for Pearl Harbor.

Badly damaged, Tonan Maru No. 3 arrived at Truk Lagoon for extensive repairs.

Sinking History
During during the morning of February 17, 1944 "Operation Hailstone" US Navy aircraft from three aircraft carriers sunk this vessel in Truk Lagoon.

After the war, the shipwreck was raised by the Japanese Government and whale canning equipment salvaged. The superstructure, a smokestack and debris were left in Truk Lagoon.

Combined Fleet - Tonan Maru No. 3 Tabular Record of Movement

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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