Yasukuni Maru
1930 - 1944


The Yasukuni Maru was one of two motorships built for the Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line for service between Japan and Europe via the Suez Canal. The Yasukuni Mari was built by the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering Co., Nagasaki and entered service during September 1930. With the ship planned to work a route involving much heat & humidity, the equipment included air-conditioning and fresh air circulation systems.

September 22nd 1930: the Yasukuni Mari departed Yokohama on her maiden voyage to Europe under the command of Captain Naoichi Segawa, initially for Shanghai, departing there on September 30th for Hong Kong.

January 2nd 1931: due to arrive at Japanese ports (from London, the return maiden voyage?).

May 21st 1931: at Singapore from Hamburg for Yokohama.

July 30th 1931: at Singapore for London.

October 21st 1931: timetabled from Singapore to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe & Yokohama.

December 8th 1931: timetabled Singapore to Naples, Marseilles, London & Hamburg.

February 26th 1932: timetabled Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe & Yokohama.

April 18th 1932: at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

July 14th 1932: at Singapore for Hong Kong, Moji, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

September 6th 1932: at Singapore from Japan for Naples, Marseilles, London & Hamburg.

November 4th 1932: departed London for Japan, (at Singapore on November 25th?)

January 24th 1933 at Singapore from Japan.

April 20th 1933: timetabled at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

June 13th 1933: timetabled at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

June 23rd 1933: arrived Hong Kong with five rescued crew members from a Chinese junk. Under command of Captain T Araki the ship had sailed from Shanghai to a point 30 miles south of the Chusan Archipelago when the junk in distress was sighted. Heavy seas were running and the junk was sinking.

September 8th 1933: at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

October 31st 1933: from Yokohama, at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

January 25th 1934: timetabled from Singapore to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe & Yokohama.

March 9th 1934: depart Kobe.

March 21st 1934: cleared from Singapore for London & Hamburg.

April 5th 1934: Yasukuni Maru responded to a distress call from the Imperial Japanese Navy training cruiser Asama at Port Said, Egypt, and took off several ill sailors including an appendix patient.

June 14th 1934: at Singapore for, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe & Yokohama.

August 7th 1934: from Yokohama, at Singapore to London & Hamburg.

November 3rd 1934: arrived Singapore from London for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

December 21st 1934: departed Hong Kong for Singapore.

December 26th 1934: departed Singapore for Penang, London & Hamburg.

March 12th 1935: When the 11,930 ton Japanese steamer Yasukuni Maru moored at the Royal Victoria Docks, (London?) recently, it was reported that a 751b. silver ingot, valued at 110, was missing from the ship's treasure room.

March 21st 1935: timetabled Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yojohama. Fares: minimum 1st Class Marseilles $514 & $557, London $557 & $600; 2nd Class Marseilles $326 & 351, London $343 & $369 (Singapore $??). Fares for the Yasukuni Maru and her sister ship were higher than the other company vessels on this run.

May 14th 1935: at Singapore from Japan for London & Hamburg. Fares: 1st Class Hong Kong $137, Shanghai $189, Japan $223; 2nd Class Hong Kong $103, Shanghai $137, Japan $154 (Singapore $??)

August 10th 1935: at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

October 1st 1935: at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

December 27th 1935: cleared Singapore, from Europe, for Hong Kong, Shanghai & Japan.

February 18th 1936: at Singapore from Japan for London & Hamburg.

April 17th 1936: departed London.

May 15th 1936: at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Osaka & Yokohama.

July 8th 1936: cleared from Singapore for Penang, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Port Said, Marseilles, Gibraltar & London. Fares: minimum 1st Class Marseilles $514 & $557, London $557 & $600; 2nd Class Marseilles $326 & 351, London $343 & $369 (Singapore $??)

October 1st 1936 at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai & Japan carrying Japanese Olympians home from Berlin. Fares: minimum 1st Class Hong Kong $137, Shanghai $189, Japan $223; 2nd Class Hong Kong $103, Shanghai $137, Japan $154 (Singapore $??)

November 25th 1936: at Singapore for Penang, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Port Said, Naples, Marseilles, Gibraltar & London. Fares: minimum 1st Class Marseilles $514 & $557, London $557 & $600; 2nd Class Marseilles $326 & 351, London $343 & $369 (Singapore $??), higher fares were charged on the two motorships.

February 19th 1937: cleared from Singapore for Japan (connects with the Asama Maru for the U.S.A.).

April 14th 1937: cleared Singapore for London, calling at Penang, Colombo, Aden Suez, Port Said, Naples (May 3rd), Marseilles (May 5th), Gribraltar & London (May 11th). Advertising by the NYK Line offered this service to reach London in time for the Coronation.

July 7th 1937 at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai & Japan. Fares: minimum 1st Class Hong Kong $137, Shanghai $189, Japan $223; 2nd Class Hong Kong $103, Shanghai $137, Japan $154 (Singapore $??).

September 3rd 1937: at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

September 9th 1937: at Penang for London.

November 16th 1937: The Yasukuni Maru became the first passenger ship on the Europe - Japan route to be equipped with two-way ship-to-shore radio telephone equipment, which enabled passengers to speak from the liner en route to those onshore. The ship had sailed from Moji on August 26th 1937 for London via Suez. Communication was established with Japan shortly before Suez was reached. Similar equipment would be installed in the Matson liners trading between America and Australia. By September 1938 it was reported that this service was available for 17 of the largest Atlantic liners, including Queen Mary, Normandie, Aquitania, Berengaria, Deutschland, Hansa, Bremen. Also for a number of tho Italian liners; the New Zealand Awatea, sailing between Australia and New Zealand; and with the Japanese liners, Yasukuni Maru and Ohichibu -Maru. Cost for the service varied between 1/16/ and 6/12/ for three minutes conversation.

November 25th 1937: at Singapore for Japan.

January 18th 1938: timetabled at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

April 15th 1938: timetabled at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai & Japan.

June 7th 1938: at Singapore for London & Hamburg.

September 1st 1938: at Singapore for Hong Kong, Shanghai & Japan.

October 26th 1938: timetabled from Singapore to Penang, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Port Said, Naples, Marseilles, Gibraltar & London. Fares: minimum 1st Class Marseilles $591 & $639; London $643 & $690; 2nd Class Marseilles $373 & $390; London $407 & $424. (Singapore $??)

January 5th 1939: at Singapore for Japan.

February 28th 1939: at Singapore from Japan.

May 25th 1939: at Singapore for Japan.

June 5th 1939: arrived Kobe from London, travellers included the family & former minister to Prague, ordered home after the Japanese legation in Prague was abolished.

July 13th 1939: at Singapore from Japan.

August 27th 1939: The signing of the Russo-German non-aggression pact led Japanese authorities in Europe to recommend, particularly in Germany, the evacuation of Japanese citizens. As a result the liner Yasukuni Maru embarked at Hamburg 240 Japanese men, women and children out of 500 residents in Germany. From Hamburg the ship sailed via Bergen - New York - Panama - Los Angeles - Honolulu - Yokohama, arriving October 18th 1939 with 184 Japanese war refugees, including one baby born on the trip. The Awata Maru and Lisbon Maru were also directed to Hamburg to embark the remainder. The 1,200 Japanese residents in Britain and 450 resident in France embarked on the Kasima Maru and the Haruna Maru.

October 25th 1939: requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy and used as an auxiliary transport between Japan and China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. This military service was brief, the ship was returned to NYK on December 11th 1939.

November 23rd 1939: The Terukuni Maru, sister ship of the Yasukuni Maru, struck a mine whilst on the approaches to London. Lifeboats and other craft rushed to the scene and rescued survivors, who were promptly landed. The Japanese Embassy made arrangements for them to be taken to London in a special train. The Terukuni Maru, which was commanded by the commodore of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Line's fleet, remained afloat for some time after the explosion. She was actually due at Tilbury more than a week ago, but was held up off the coast because, it ia presumed, of the submarine menace.

May 27th 1940: timetabled from Kobe, Honolulu, Hilo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manzanillo, Balboa, Callao, Pisco, Mollendo, Arica & Valparaiso.

August 8th 1940: (Balboa, Panama) Thirty German pilots and mechanics were travelling to Germany via Japan aboard the Yasukuni Maru. They were formerly employees of the Columbian Scadta (?) Co. which the Columbian stockholders had recently taken over on the Government's insistance.

August 21st 1940: Emil Wolff, a German chemist, pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent without registration, and was fined A400 (US$2,000). A three-months sentence was suspended. Wolff was removed from the Yasukuni Maru on July 2nd and arrested on a narcotics charge. He admitted that he sailed from San Francisco with a trunk containing diplomatic documents from the German consul at San Francisco to the consul at Valparaiso.

October 20th 1940: timetabled (from Singapore?) from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Japan, Honolulu, Hilo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manzanillo, Balboa, Callao, Pisco, Mollendo, Arica & Valparaiso. The ship was requisitioned before this scheduled sailng could commence.

October 29th 1940: requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy for use as an auxiliary submarine tender. She sailed to the Kure Naval Arsenal and converted for use in military service, which included a repaint in gunmetal grey. The conversion included the fitting of a variety of armaments, including six elderly single mount 152-mm/50 calibre (6-inch) guns and two Type 93 dual mount 13.2-mm machine guns. Searchlights included one 1110mm and one 900mm. At the beginning of 1941 she was assigned to the 1st Submarine Division of the Imperial Japanese Navy's 6th Fleet, based at Takao in Taiwan working patrols off the coast of China and to the Ryukyu Islands. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor the Yasukuni Mari was based at Kwajalein. On December 20th 1941 she was assigned to the 3rd Submarine Division, 6th Fleet.

February 1st 1942: Task Force 8 with the USS Enterprise (CV-6) raided Kwajalein and Wotje, one ship is sunk and several sustain damage including the Yasukuni Maru which takes a bomb hit in the aft turret, with bomb fragments damaging the stern.

December 19th 1942: the sphere of operations for the Yasukuni Maru shifts to the New Guinea region, with the movement of over 9,000 men with vehicles, arms and provisions to Wewak. The Yasukuni Mari sailed from Kure on January 4th 1943 for Pusan, Korea where 448 officers and men and 11 vehicles are loaded. The ship departed on the afternoon of January 8th 1943 with two other ships and one escort. Six days later (14th) the troops and supplies were disembarked at Rabaul. On January 15th the ship departs for Palau, where on January 18th she runs briefly aground. By January 22nd 1943 she is at Wewak offloading troops before returning to Palau. The Yakusuni Maru reached Tsingtao, China by February 4th 1943 to load further troops and supplies, sailing with another ship and an escort on February 7th, reaching Palau on the morning of February 14th 1943 and Wewak at midday on February 24th 1943, after disembarking the troops the ship sails for Palau, and then to Kure, arriving on March 4th 1943 for repairs.

The repairs take about two weeks, finally departing Kure on March 20th 1943 for Truk and Palau. Fleet convoy 2501 sailed from Palau on May 11th 1943, including the Yasukuni Maru for Balikpapan, arriving on May 18th 1943.

During the middle of October 1943 the Yakusuni Maru assisted in evacuating troops from Wewak to Palau. On December 5th 1943 the ship sailed from Truk to Yokosuka, arriving December 20th 1943 and to Yokohama, arriving December 27th 1943.

The Yasukuni Maru remained at Yokohoma for part of January 1944, sailing on January 25th 1944 from Tateyama for Truk in a troop transport convoy with two other ships and three destroyers. At Truk it was the intention to make the Yasukuni Maru the flagship of Vice Admiral Takagi Takeo's Sixth Fleet submarines, the existing flagship, a light cruiser, being badly needed elsewhere. On January 31st 1944 as Operation 'Flintlock', the invasion of the Marshall Islands, commenced, the Yasukuni Maru and its convoy were some 300 miles northwest of Truk, at about 2am the convoy comes under attack from the USS Trigger (SS-237). The first attack is not a success, only one torpedo finds its mark, but failed to explode. With the USS Trigger now on the surface a second attack is launched on a nearby destroyer, all torpedoes miss their mark. Avoiding the nearby destroyer with evasive manouevring the USS Trigger then fires five torpedoes in a surface radar attack at the largest ship. Two torpedoes hit the Yasukuni Maru, the ship sinks within five minutes of the attack, shortly after 4am, 17 miles northwest of Truk at 9-15N, 147-13E. The rapid sinking of the ship caused the loss of about 300 sailors and 888 technical personnel, including Captain Seiki. The nearby Shiratsuyu rescued 43 survivors. Ironically the Yasukuni Maru had been named for the Yasukuni Shrine, a well known Shinto shrine dedicated to the war dead of Japan, now the ship had become part of that shrine.

Details

Built: Mitsubishi Shipbuiulding & Engineering Co Ltd, Nagasaki; Yard No. 467
Laid down: April 22nd 1929
Launched: February 15th 1930
Completed: August 31st 1930
Tons: 11,933 gross
Length: 526ft
Breadth: 64ft
Draught: 37ft
Propulsion: 2 x 10-cylinder ST68 Mitsubishi-Sulzer diesel engines 10,000bhp @ 100rpm.
Auxiliaries: 3 x 4 cycle diesel engines, 1 x 4C34 compressor.
Screws: 2
Speed: 15 knots
Passengers: 1st Class 121, 2nd Class 68, 3rd Class 60.
Crew: 177.

Sister ship: Terukuni Maru.

Resources:
National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (trove.nla.gov.au)
Singapore Newspaper Archive (next = page 32).
Imperial Japanese Navy website.
Sulzer: List of Motorships

Page added November 17th 2013

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