In the early hours of 12 September 1944, a U.S. Navy submarine wolfpack attacks a Japanese convoy transporting over two thousand British and Australian POWs.
Convoy HI-72 departed Singapore on 6 September, consisting of the transport/passenger ships Kachidoki Maru, Asaka Maru, Shincho Maru, Nankai Maru, Zuiho Maru, Kimikawa Maru, and Rakuyō Maru, carrying 866 Japanese passengers, thousands of tons of bauxite, oil, and aviation fuel, as well as some 2,267 British and Australian POWs (1,317 aboard the Rakuyō Maru and around 950 aboard the Kachidoki Maru). The convoy escorts comprised Coastal Defense Ships Hirado, Mikura, Kurahashi, two sub-chasers, and IJN destroyer Shikinami.
Meanwhile, USS Sealion (II), Growler, and Pampanito moved into position between the Luzon Strait and Hainan Island based on ULTRA intercepts that indicated an important Japanese convoy would pass through the area.
Yesterday morning, Kagu Maru, Gokoku Maru, and Kibitsu Maru of MAMO-03 sailing from Manila, joined Convoy HI-72.
At 0155 hours today, Growler torpedos and sinks Hirado, but the convoy moves on.
Then, at 0531 hours, one torpedo strikes Nankai Maru, and two hit Rakuyō Maru's No. 1 hold and engine room, leaving her dead in the water.
At 0655, Growler's torpedos sink Shikinami; her depth charges explode and injure or kill many survivors in the water. Aboard the Rakuyō Maru, Japanese kick out any POWs trying to board lifeboats. At 0845, Nankai Maru sinks.
The other Japanese transport ships and two escorts proceed north while the other escorts begin picking up survivors. By 1900 hours, the Japanese escorts head off, sailing over many of the 1,200 POWs they leave in the water.
At 2250, Pampanito's torpedos hit Zuiho Maru and Kachidoki Maru. By 2337, Kachidoki Maru sinks, taking 413 POWs with her.
Tomorrow, 13 September, Japanese ships will rescue most Japanese survivors and some 520 POWs from Kachidoki Maru.
Between 15 and 18 September, Pampanito and Growler, assisted by USS Barb and Quenfish, will rescue 149 POWs.
1,559 Australian and British POWs will be killed or lost at sea.
Picture: Survivors being rescued by the crew of USS Pampanito, 15 September 1944
Source: AWM 305634 ...