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  Hitati Maru 日立丸 (Hitachi Maru, Hatachi Maru, aka Kahili 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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Australian Army
September 24, 1945

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RNZAF October 14, 1945
Ship History
Built by Osaka Iron Works at Innoshima in Japan. Purchased by Nissan Kisen K. K. 日産汽船 in Tokyo. Powered by two steam turbines double reduction geared to one single centerline shaft, 517 nhp. Laid down 1938. Launched February 6, 1939. Completed June 15, 1939 as Hitati Maru 日立丸. Call Sign: JZWM. Registered with Lloyd's of London between 1938–1945 as "Hitati Maru". Many sources spell this vessel's name as "Hitachi Maru" or "Hatachi Maru".

Prewar
Hitati Maru was operated by Nissan Kisen K. K as a passenger and cargo vessel. The center smoke stack had a large "S" painted on a white background with two stripes. At the start of World War II, Japanese flag was painted amidships designating the vessel as flagged to a neutral nation.

On November 26, 1941 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for use as cargo vessel. On December 3, 1941 converted by Mitsubishi Jukogyo K. K. (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) at Kobe for use as an ammunition vessel under the command of Captain Saeki Koji.

Wartime History
On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, Hitati Maru was at Kobe. Two days later registered as an ammunition ship in the Yokosuka Naval District. On December 28, 1941 departs for Kure where a new captain (name unknown) took command. Hitati Maru remained at Kure until February 1942.

In February 1942 departs for Takao on Formosa then departs in the middle of the month bound for the Neatherlands East Indies (NEI). On March 8, 1942 arrives Kendari then nine day later arrives Bangkok and departs on March 29. Two days later at Saigon then departs April 3, 1942 and five days later returns to Takao then leaves April 11, 1942 before arriving at Tainan. On April 22, 1942 departs bound for Saipan. On April 25, 1942 IJN requisition ends and on May 2, 1942 reaches Kure.

On June 15, 1942 registered as a special transport in the Kure Naval District and six days later departs arriving at Moji the same day. On June 22, 1942 departs arriving the next day at Miike and two days later departs for the Philippines. On June 30, 1942 arrives at Manila and departs three days later and arrives Saigon on July 7, 1942 and leaves three days later. On July 13, 1942 arrives Singapore and leaves four days later. On July 18, 1942 arrives at Zungun in Malaysia and leaves six days later back to Japan.

On August 6, 1942 arrives Osaka and leaves six days later. On August 13, 1942 arrives Yokosuka for two days then departs for Yokohama arriving the same day. On August 17, 1942 enters dry dock at Mitsubishi Jukogyo K. K. with an overhaul completed four days later.

On August 21, 1942 leaves Yokohama arriving Yokosuka the same day and is also reassigned to the 4th Fleet and embarks personnel and equipment for the 6th Special Naval Landing Force (6th SNLF). On August 24, 1942 departs Yokosuka in a convoy with Nisshun Maru and Kasuga Maru and Kamoi Maru escorted by Asashio for Kwajalein transporting the 6th SNLF and during the voyage Nisshun Maru detaches at Lat 26N 150E for Saipan.

On September 5, 1942 the rest of the convoy arrives at Emiej where the 6th SNLF disembarks. On September 13, 1942 departs as part of Convoy No. 6 with Kamoi Maru and Shotoku Maru escorted by Yuzuki and Shonan Maru No. 3 and Fumi Maru No. 3 and the next day arrives Tarawa where they are joined by Daido Maru.

On September 24, 1942 departs Tarawa escorted by Ukishima Maru and five days later arrives Truk and departs October 1, 1942 with the same escort. On October 4, 1942 arrives Ponape then departs a week later and returns to Tarawa.

On October 15, 1942 attacked by two SOC Seagulls from USS Portland (CA-33) that dive bomb scoring a near miss that causes light damage. One of the attacking Seagulls is damaged by anti-aircraft fire while the cruiser bombards Tarawa.

On October 1, 1942 departs Truk bound...

PARTIAL LIST

On January 5, 1943 departs Yokohama and arrives at the end of the month at Buka where it is assigned to the 1st Air Fleet and departs the same day. On February 1, 1943 arrives at Buin in southern Bougainville and the next day departs. On February 12, 1943 arrives on Ballale Island and departs the same day. On February 13, 1942 six B-24 Liberators escorted by six fighters bomb Japanese shipping between Bougainville and Shortland Island but Hitati Maru is not damaged.

Sinking History
On February 14, 1943 Hitati Maru was unloading (or reloading) at Buin or was in the vicinity of southern Bougainville. In the same vicinity are Toyu Maru, Nissan Maru No. 3, Hibari Maru, Nojima Maru and Kisaragi Maru. Around 11:30am, 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 over the Buin-Shortland area and commenced bombing the vessels.

At 11:48am, the vessels were 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]".

In fact, two 1,000 pound bombs near misses straddled Hitati Maru. The first amidships on the port side and the second off the starboard side. Aboard, four crew were killed (other sources state five were killed). The damage caused a 9m crack below the waterline and flooding. Also damage was sustained to the no. 3 cargo hold. Nearby, Kisaragi Maru was straddled by two near misses. Other sources state four bombs hit the ship (at least two were near misses on two vessels). No other Japanese ships sustained damage during the air raid.

Damaged, Hitati Maru was partially flooded and run aground or was deliberately beached in shallow water near Lamuai on southern Bougainville. The shipwreck beached at roughly Lat 6° 48' S Long 155° 46' E roughly 125 from the coastline between Kahili Airfield to the northeast and Kangua Beach to the southwest.

Shipwreck
Afterwards, the shipwreck remained clearly visible and was photographed by American reconnaissance aircraft and observed during combat missions against southern Bougainville. This vessel was also referred to as the "Kahili Maru" based on the shipwreck's proximity to Kahili Airfield.

During late 1944, the shipwreck was selected as a target by Special Task Air Group One (STAG-1) for their first combat mission in Japanese occupied territory. It was also used as a secondary target on other missions.

On September 27, 1944 four TDR-1 Assault Drone controlled by TBM Avengers took off from Stirling Airfield each armed with a 2,000 pound bomb controlled by TBM Avengers from squadron VK-12 on the first combat mission to attack a beached Japanese ship [Hitati Maru] one mile southwest of Kahili Airfield on southern Bougainville. Inbound to the target, one drone was lost. One scored a probable hit on the port quarter, one direct hit amidships at the main deck line and one drone hit 30 yards astern of target and failed to detonate. Of the four drones launched, this was reported as a 50% hit rate rate. Other accounts list the results as two direct hits.

On October 20, 1944 three TDR-1 Assault Drone controlled by TBM Avengers took off from Stirling Airfield were launched to make bomb runs on gun installations on west Ballale and then to follow with impact crash on Kahili Maru [Hitachi Maru]. Only the No. 3 drone reached the shipwreck and scored a direct hit on the ship almost amidships at the deck line."

At the end of the Pacific War, the shipwreck was captured by Allied forces. On October 14, 1945 a RNZAF photographed the shipwreck off the southern coast of Bougainville. Until the late 1950s, the shipwreck remained intact.

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 northeast towards Kahili.  I then wrote:

The nearest of these vessels [Hitati Maru] lay off Lamuai village, a short distance northeast 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 [sic Hitati 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 [sic Hitati 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 reconnoiter 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."

Around 1958, the shipwreck was scrapped and the rest of the ship settled underwater. Today, nothing is visible above the surface.

References
The correct spelling of this vessel was "Hitati Maru" and this is the spelling registered with Lloyds of London between 1940-1944). In wartime documents and many sources, the name of this vessel is incorrectly spelled as either "Hitachi Maru" or "Hatachi Maru". At least two other Japanese vessels were registered with the name "Hitachi Maru" including Hitachi Maru (1898) sunk June 15, 1904 and Hitachi Maru (1906) scuttled November 7, 1917.
Lloyd's of London 1938 - No. 88399 Hitati Maru 6550 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1939 - No. 26093 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1940 - No. 75930 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1941 - No. 25260 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1942 - No. 75382 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1943 - No. 25850 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1944 - No. 76670 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
Lloyd's of London 1945 - No, 25914 Hitati Maru 6540 Tons
USN Japanese Merchant Ships Recognition Manual ONI 208-J - Hitati Maru page 121
NARA STAG-One War Diary 1 September 1944 to 1 November 1944
(Page 1) "27 September 1944 - 460 ft. Japanese merchant vessel beached 120 yards off the south shore of Bougainville and one mile S.W. of Kahili area, attacked by four TDR-1 elements of one TDR-1 each with a 2000 lb. G.P. bomb. One drone lost enroute to target, one probable hit at port quarter, one direct hit amidships at the main deck line and one drone hit 30 yards astern of target failing to detonate."
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea page 322
AWM F07334 "Movement of Japanese to Fauro Island" September 24, 1945 Hitati Maru shipwreck 00:20-00:25
WreckSite - Hitachi Maru (Hitati Maru) (+1943)
Combined Fleet - IJN Hitachi Maru: Tabular Record of Movement

Combined Fleet - Kyuheikan Stories of the IJN's Ammunition Ships
World War II Sea War, Vol 8: Guadalcanal Secured pages 142, 144, 146, 385, 386
Thanks to Rick Giddings and Minoru Kamada for additional information

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Last Updated
October 5, 2019

 

Map
Formally
6°48' S
155° 46' E

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