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  Hitati Maru 日立丸 (Hitachi Maru)
IJN
Cargo

6,540 tons
424' 1" x 57' 4" x 34' 4"
129.3m x 17.5m x 10.4m

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IJN c1940s

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RNZAF October 14, 1945

Ship History
Built by Osaka Iron Works in Osaka for Nissan Kisen K. K. During 1938 laid down. Launched February 6, 1939. Completed June 15, 1939 as as Hitati Maru 日立丸 (other sources spell this ship's name as "Hitachi Maru"). The center smoke stack had a large "S" painted on a white background with two stripes. Call Sign: JZWM.

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 .

Wartime History
On November 26, 1941 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a cargo ship.

Sinking History
On February 14, 1943 this vessel was off southern Bougainville between Buin and Shortland along with Toyu Maru, Nissan Maru No. 3, Hibari Maru and Nojima Maru and Kisaragi Maru.

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.

Afterwards, Hitati Maru was partially flooded and settled in shallow water or was deliberately beached with the bow facing shore near Lamuai village on Moila Point on southern Bougainville.

Shipwreck
Until the late 1950s, the shipwreck remained in situ above water beached near Moila Point on the southern cost of Bougainville. Around 1958, the shipwreck was scrapped and the rest of the ship settled into deeper water. Today, nothing is visible above the surface.

Rick Giddings, Cadet Patrol Officer (Dept. of Native Affairs) Bougainville District, 1956–1957 recalls:
"The following is an extract from some reminiscences I have been preparing on the time I spent at Buin, South Bougainville from April to December 1957.  I referred to a number of Japanese ships which could be seen from Buin government station (locally called Kangu) looking generally north-east towards Kahili.  I then wrote:

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."

References
In wartime documents, this vessel is incorrectly spelled as either Hitachi Maru or Hatachi Maru.
Note, Hitachi Maru was scuttled June 11, 1917
Llyods of London 1940 - No. 75930 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Llyods of London 1941 - No. 25260 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Llyods of London 1942 - No. 75382 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Llyods of London 1943 - No. 25850 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
USN Japanese Merchant Ships Recognition Manual ONI 208-J - Hitati Maru page 121
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea page 322
AWM F07334 "Movement of Japanese to Fauro Island" September 24, 1945 Hitachi Maru shipwreck 00:20-00:25
WreckSite - Hitachi Maru (Hitati Maru) (+1943)
CombinedFleet - IJN HITACHI MARU: Tabular Record of Movement

Thanks to Rick Giddings and Minoru Kamada for additional information.

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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