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 plus military personnel returning to Japan.
Fates of the Crew
Among those who survived the sinking was Caption Toshio Ose.
After the conclusion of the Pacific War, the
Japanese claimed Kokai Maru embarked Allied Prisoners Of War (POW) at Rabaul to transport them to Japan. They claimed ninety minutes after departure, the ship was attacked by U. S. aircraft and sunk. This story used to account for prisoners who were executed before February 20, 1944 at Rabaul.
Prisoners the Japanese falsely claimed were aboard the Kokai Maru when sunk include:
- 1st Lt.
Edward A. Croker pilot TBF Avenger 06452 POW Sept 16, 1943 declared dead Feb 21, 1944
- 1st Lt. Philip L. Bek navigator B-17F "Georgia Peach" 41-24454 POW June 13, 1943 executed Nov 25, 1943
- Lt(jg) Aljah W. Wright, Jr. pilot PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- Ens Paul J. Malatesta crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- Ens Isaac J. Osborn crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- AOM2c James Knight, Jr. crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- AMM2c Jack B. Posey crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- ACMMA Alfred W. Sommerfeldt crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 14, 1946
- ACRMA George L. Spear crew PBY Catalina 08436 ditched Jan 9, 1944 declared dead Jan 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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August 10, 2019