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424' 1" x 57' 4" x 34' 4"
129.3m x 17.5m x 10.4m
RNZAF October 14, 1945
Between June 15, 1939 until the start of the Pacific War this vessel had a large Japanese flag painted on the port and starboard sides amidship to indicate neutrality .
Before noon, a formation of U. S. aircraft including nine PB4Y-1 Liberators from VB-101 escorted by ten P-38 Lightnings and twelve F4U Corsairs arrived. At 11:48am, the vessels are bombed by the nine PB4Y-1 Liberators each releasing a single 1,000 pound bomb. The bombers claimed "several direct hits were made on an AK [Hitati Maru] which was seen to blow up. There was also a near miss on a DD [Kisaragi Maru]".
Two bombs straddled Hitachi Maru the first amidship and the second on the starboard side. Aboard, four of the crew were killed. A pair of straddling near misses damaged Kisaragi Maru. No other Japanese ships sustained damage during the air raid.
Rick Giddings, Cadet Patrol Officer (Dept. of Native Affairs) Bougainville District, 1956–1957 recalls:
The nearest of these vessels [Hitati Maru] lay off Lamuai Village, a short distance north-east of Kangu. One Sunday afternoon fellow cadets Phil. Gridley, Cam. Robson and I obtained the loan of an outrigger canoe and paddled to Lamuai and the wreck of the Hitachi Maru. She was an imposing sight, to say the least. She stood proudly upright with her bow pointing towards the beach, just as though she was lying at anchor, her crew having taken shore-leave for the afternoon. It was only when the bomb damage to her hull came into sight that the reason for her standing there became apparent. There was a long jagged gash stretching from about half-way down her starboard side towards the stern, as though somebody had swung a giant can opener and ripped her open in a mad frenzy. The bridge area on her port side had also been blasted and twisted by another well-placed bomb.
Although the engine room was flooded the remainder of the superstructure was above water so we were able to explore much of the forward section of the ship, making the most of climbing corroded ladders and making our way through rusty gang-ways, long silenced from the sailor’s cry. The vessel had been stripped of anything of value but we did locate the remains of the captain’s bathroom with its square, squat bath. It had been partly destroyed by explosion but there were sufficient small pale green tiles in place to identify it. If the captain did himself proud the size of the crew quarters in the bow indicated they had lived a cramped and crowded existence.
In its day the Hitachi Maru must have carried both cargo and passengers as we came across what would have been a large stateroom, in which I found a cut-glass stopper for a liquor bottle. A navy barge was secured to the deck, and going on the litter of machine gun cartridge cases strewn about, it appeared that a desperate effort had been made by the crew to protect their vessel.
Before I departed in December 1957 a party of Japanese salvage operators had already visited Buin to reconoitre the area and make preparations for the following year when they would return to cut-up, and ship home as scrap what had once been the pride of the Japanese merchant fleet. My understanding is that the Hitach Maru was cut-up in 1958. It was no longer there when I was posted back to the Buin Sub-District in 1962."
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