Builit by Hakodate Dock K. K. shipyard in
Hakodate, Hokkaido. Laid down May 1938. Launched January 1939 as Kokai Maru. Completed May 1939 owned by Shimatani Kisen K. K. and registered in Kobe.
On October 3, 1941 requistioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for use as a transport. On November 10, 1941 under internal order No. 1391, registered as an auxiliary transport (Otsu) category attached to the Maizuru Naval District at Maizuru.
On December 16, 1941 departs Tokyo with the
7th Construction Unit aboard for Truk arriving on January 5, 1942 and the next day assigned to "R" Operation for the invasion of Rabaul and Kaveing. On February 1, 1942 assigned to the "R" Base Force.
On February 20, 1942 assigned to "SR" Operation and transports Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) and departs Rabaul bound for Lae and Salamaua. On March 10, 1942 damaged by U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft. During Afterwards, returns to Truk for emergency repairs then April 23, 1942 returns to Maizuru.
On February 21, 1944 attacked by U. S. aircraft, bombed and sunk off New Hanover. Aboard were 420 crew and military personnel returning to Japan.
Fates of the Crew
Caption Toshio Ose survived.
After the conclusion of the Pacific War, the
Japanese claimed Kokai Maru embarked Allied Prisoners Of War (POW) at Rabaul bound for Japan. They claimed ninety minutes after departure, the ship was attacked by U. S. aircraft and sunk. This story was false and was used to account for prisoners who were actually executed at Rabaul before February 20, 1944.
POWs Japanese claimed were aboard the Kokai Maru when sunk include:
Edward Albert Croker pilot TBF Avenger 06452 bailed out September 16, 1943 declared dead Feb 21, 1944
Malatesta crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched January 9, 1944 captured and declared dead January 14, 1946
crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched January 9, 1944 captured and declared dead January 14, 1946
Combined Fleet - IJN Kokai Maru: Tabular Record of Movement
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea page 393
The Kavieng Wharf Massacre
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February 20, 2019