Category Archives: china

Formosa becomes Taiwan, again, 75 Years Ago Today

Chinese Nationalist Army (Kuomintang) Gen. Chen Yi, right, accepts the surrender of disarmed Japanese Gen. Rikichi Andō, the garrison commander and governor-general of Formosa, in compliance with Douglas MacArthur’s General Order No. 1, at Taipei City Hall, 25 October 1945 as delegates from the other Allied Powers look on.

On 2 September 1945, the Imperial Japanese Forces totaled 6,983,000 troops including construction units, naval, and air forces. Of these, Army and Navy forces stationed within the home islands numbered 3,532,000, which meant that nearly as many, some 3.4 million, were still scattered around the Pacific from Manchuria to the Solomons.

One of the last large groups to lay down their arms was Ando’s 10th Area Army in Formosa.

However, it should be noted that the force, which numbered six divisions and seven separate brigades on paper– some 170,000 men– actually consisted of poorly trained reservists, conscripted students, and local Boeitai home guard militia with some units equipped with nothing more than sharpened bamboo pikes and longbows. Officially disbanded in September, the Army had largely stacked arms before Chen’s arrival.

To be sure, British and American naval assets had appeared off Formosa as early as 1 September and, liaising with the Japanese, evacuated 1,300 Allied POWs being held there. Meanwhile, representatives of the KMT landed on the island on 5 September, tagging along with an OSS team. Prior to the 25 October handover, a “Peace Preservation Corps” of 1,000 Chinese gendarmes and 12,000 light infantry of the KMT’s 62nd and 70th Divisions were carried to the island using commandeered Japanese ships escorted by the U.S. Navy.

Of note, Formosa became part of the Empire of Japan in 1895 after the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the shellacking they received during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Japan only formally renounced sovereignty over Formosa/Taiwan in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, at which point it had become home to the KMT diaspora. 

October 25, 1945, KMT officers of the new Taiwan Garrison Command photographed after the “Taiwan Province Acceptance Ceremony of the Chinese Theater” was held in the Taipei Public Hall. Note the Kuomintang party flag on the left and the Republic of China cog is hung on the right half.

In the end, Andō, who had invaded French Indochina in September 1940 at the head of his Southern China Area Army without authorization from Tokyo and had been cashiered to Formosa for his efforts, was charged by the KMT with war crimes. He had the last laugh, however, and committed suicide by taking poison while in prison in Shanghai before he could go to trial.

As for Chen, he was caught up in the fallout of the KMT’s evacuation from mainland China to Taiwan Province and, branded a spy, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a military court to sentence the old general to a firing squad in 1950, aged 67.

Meanwhile, October 25 is remembered as Retrocession Day in Taiwan, celebrating the province’s liberation from Japan and return to China. Or something like that.

How far will the Chinese walk to smoke a camel?

They called it a Camel gun for a reason…

Camels and their single-humped dromedary cousins have been used in warfare for millennia, with U.S. Marines notably riding them in the Tunisian campaign against the Barbary Pirates in 1805 and the U.S. Army (as a pet project of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis) had an unsuccessful Camel Corps in Texas during the interbellum between the war with Mexico and the Civil War.

However, just like horses are still often seen in conflict around the world (and still used by many European militaries in mountain units) the day of the camel is not yet over.

“The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation said on September 21, 2020, that the nation’s army will use Bactrian camels to help patrol the tense India-Chinese border in Ladakh.”

75 Years Ago: The What-the-Hell! pennant

“What-the-Hell!” pennant. Used by Naval Group China, during World War II.

Collection of Vice Admiral Milton E. Miles, USN. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 92737-KN (Color)

(Legend in the pennant’s hem, front side):

“This pennant was hoisted on 4 September 1945 on the Glen Line Building when that building was captured by the Naval Group China. The U.S. Flag, Chinese Flag, and Rear Admiral M.E. Miles’ personal flag were hoisted first by Lt. Comdr. Webb Heagy and Lt. S.I. Morris in order to signal the success of the operation.”

(Legend on the pennant’s hem, backside):

“This is an exact copy of the *original ‘What-the-Hell’ pennant which was made onboard the USS Wickes (DD-75), Lt. Cdr. R.U. Hyde ’17, Commanding, and Lt. M.E. Miles, Exec. – August 1934. The original was carried by its designer to the USS John D. Edwards (DD-216) and used in China by Lt. Cdr. M.E. Miles when his ship was ordered to Hainen Island to witness that island’s capture on 14 Feb. 1939. This insignia used as a shoulder patch by U.S. Naval Group China as a shipping designator for SACO supplies in China, 1942-1945. This pennant presented to Rear Admiral M.E. Miles at Shanghai, 4 September 1945 at # 2 Peking Road.”

*The use of the original WTH pennant is covered in the Saturday Evening Post, Nov. 10, 1945, ed, below.

DOD: Chinese Navy now largest, Beijing doubling nuclear capability

The latest Defense Department 200-page report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China — 2020”  has some startling facts in it.

Below are some of the starkest excerpts, in the report’s language, not mine:

> The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)—the largest navy in the world—is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants. As of 2019, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.

> Naval Shipbuilding and Modernization: The PLAN remains engaged in a robust shipbuilding and modernization program that includes submarines, surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and auxiliary ships as well as developing and fielding advanced weapons, sensors, and command and control capabilities.

The country’s rocket forces are increasingly advanced.

Nuclear Deterrence

> China’s strategic ambitions, evolving view of the security landscape, and concerns over
survivability are driving significant changes to the size, capabilities, and readiness of its nuclear
forces.

> China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.

> Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low200s—is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.

> China is pursuing a “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improving its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.

> New developments in 2019 further suggest that China intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force

The last surface action of World War II

While the daring overnight anti-shipping raid in July 1945 by the nine American destroyers of DesRon 61in Tokyo Bay, an action remembered today as the Battle of Sagami Bay, is largely seen as the last fleet combat involving commissioned warships in WWII as they tied up with a Japanese minesweeper and submarine chaser, it was not the last surface action.

No, that claim goes to a scrap between (sail-powered) gunned-up junks off the coast of China 75 years ago today, a full week after VJ Day. Ironically, by American military personnel who were previously training pirates to fight to the common enemy.

A junk in Chinese waters, prior to World War I. A U.S. Navy armored cruiser is in the background. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, Corte Madera, California, 1973. NHHC Catalog #: NH 77414

A force of two Ningpo junks with Chinese fishermen crews under the command of one LT Livingston “Swede” Swentzel, Jr., USNR manned by six other Americans along with 20 Chinese guerrillas, were set upon by a heavily-armed Japanese junk– carrying a crew of 83 as well as a 75mm pack gun– while at sea between Haimen and Shanghai, China.

From Swentzel’s citation:

The first round from the 75-mm. howitzer struck Swentzel’s junk shearing off the foremast. The Chinese crew left their posts and Swentzel took over the helm. Meanwhile, he established contact by means of handy talkie with his second junk and gave orders to close with the enemy. He also ran up the American Flag…

The ensuing 45-minute action saw the Americans fight it out with everything from bazookas and Thompson submachine guns to carefully tossed grenades. When the smoke cleared, the Allied junk force counted 10 casualties across their two vessels while the Japanese craft, boarded by a prize crew while dead in the water and smoking, held 45 dead and another 35 injured.

Not a lot of ballistic protection in a junk, it would seem.

The story ran in the October 5 Stars & Stripes (CBI Edition) and was picked up by papers stateside. 

Both Swentzel and Gunner’s Mate Third Class James Ralph Reid, Jr., USNR each received the Navy Cross in February 1946 from Commander Naval Group China, “in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” They were the last two Navy Crosses issued in WWII.

The Pirate Connection

The reason why Swentzel and Company were in China was that they were assigned to the Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization (SACO), working at Camp Eight training local forces against the Japanese, with their first clients being the rather infamous Chang Kwei Fong’s pirate group, the “Green Circle Brotherhood.” 

It would seem that Swentzel and his boys learned a little bit from the pirates as well.

Of course, it would not be the last time the U.S. Navy fought from junks– with Tommy guns.

Tommy guns, aviators, and khakis! “Ensign Caldwell of Houlton, Maine, stands guard in a motor whaleboat with a .45 caliber submachine gun M1928AL (it is actually an M1A1) off the coast of South Vietnam. The Vietnamese men wait as their junk is searched by USS FORSTER (DER-334) crewmembers, 15 April 1966.” Catalog #: K-31208. Copyright Owner: National Archives Original Creator: Photographer, Chief Journalist Robert D. Moeser

Welcome to the flying boat gap you didn’t even know we had

Curtiss A-1, The first Navy seaplane at the Curtiss airfield, Hammondsport, NY, June 1911, with Curtiss employees and early Naval aviators. NARA #: 80-G-418895

Almost from the time of the Wright Brothers, the U.S. Navy utilized an increasingly complex series of amphibious “flying boat” aircraft. From hundreds of Curtiss C, F, and MF model flying boats acquired from 1911 through the Great War, the Navy in 1919 used the four huge NC boats to cross the Atlantic, making history.

The 1920s brought the PN flying boats while the 1930s saw the early P2Y-1 Clippers, followed by the PBY Catalina and PBY2 Coronado– with both of the latter going on to be World War II workhorses.

Then came the twilight of the U.S. Navy flying boat era with lumbering Martin PBM Mariner and P5M Marlin, which replaced the Catalina and Coronado, and the aborted Martin P6M SeaMaster, the latter a seriously capable jet-powered sea-based strategic bomber capable of dropping nuclear ordnance. With no desire to continue in the art of seaplanes and their associated tenders, the final flying boat operations of the U.S. Navy were the 1965 Market Time patrols of VP-40 in Vietnam.

USS Guavina (AGSS-362), refueling a P5M-1 Marlin flying boat off Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in 1955. Prior to World War II several submarines were fitted to refuel seaplanes.  

And just like that, the Navy was out of the seaplane biz.

Since then, the military use of seaplanes, once surplus USAF Hu-16 Albatrosses aged out, have been left to countries like Canada, Russia, and Japan.

However, the stirring dragon, China, is now getting very serious about a very serious flying boat, the AVIC AG600 Kunlong. The size of a 737, the AG600 had its first flight in 2017, and, while not in production yet, already has orders from the “little blue men” adjacent China Coast Guard.

Most importantly, the AG600 just had its first water takeoff last week. 

While pitched as ideal for civilian uses such as firefighting, you would have to be smooth brained to gloss over the potential of a giant seaplane with a 2,800nm range to China, a country that is increasingly looking to build its Spratly Island territory across the contested South China Sea.

As noted by Kyle Mizokami at PM:

The AG600, with a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tons, can transport personnel and equipment to places like Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. The ability to take off and land from water will allow the PLA to keep Mischief Reef supplied even if the islet’s airfield is shut down by military action. Other military missions for the AG600 would include rescuing downed pilots at sea, convoy escort, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare.

It increasingly seems like we are in 1940 rather than in 2020.

That sweet .223 AK, 1989 edition

While today the .223/5.56 NATO-caliber AK is a staple product on the U.S. commercial market– and indeed, companies like Kalashnikov in Russia are making them for export elsewhere– back in the 1980s, they were downright unheard of, only floating around in a few high-dollar Valmet M71/S and Hunter models.

Then, China Sports, Inc.– located in Ontario, California of all places– introduced a couple of new Norincos to the market in late 1988, notably chambered in calibers other than the traditional AK 7.62x39mm. This included the 5.45x39mm Type 88 and the Type 84S AKS in .223 Remington.

This. You could pick these up, new in the box with two mags, a bayonet, and accessories, for $275 in 1989.

The thing is, they were only imported for one year.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Nipping at the heels

Apparently taking the sidelining of the Teddy Roosevelt carrier battlegroup in Guam and the Ronald Reagan group in Japan during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the blood trail of a wounded beast, Iran, China, and Russia are sniffing around and flexing a bit where the U.S. is forward-deployed.

WestPac

China’s six-ship Liaoning carrier group (Liaoning along with two type 052D guided-missile destroyers – the Xining and Guiyang – two type 054A guided-missile frigates – the Zaozhuang and Rizhao – and a type 901 combat support ship, the Hulunhu) passed through the tense Miyako Strait, between Okinawa and Taiwan, over the weekend, under the eyes of various JMSDF, U.S. and ROC assets.

Chinese carrier ‘Liaoning with escorts. Photos via Chinese Internet

Further, as reported by the South China Morning Post: “On Thursday [9 Apr], an H-6 bomber, J-11 fighter and KJ-500 reconnaissance plane from the PLA Air Force flew over southwestern Taiwan and on to the western Pacific where they followed a US RC-135U electronic reconnaissance aircraft.”

Of note, the ROC Army has sent some of their aging but still very effective M60A3 tanks out into public in recent days in what was announced a pre-planned exercise. Still, when you see an MBT being camouflaged in the vacant lot down the block, that’s a little different.

Photo via Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Note the old KMT cog emblem. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Very discrete. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Meanwhile, in the Arabian Gulf

A series of 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels on Wednesday (15 April 15) buzzed the expeditionary platform USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), and her escorts, the destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Sirocco (PC 6), and two 110-foot Island-class Coast Guard cutters, USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), while the U.S. vessels were conducting operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

The below footage seems to be from the running bridge of one of the Coast Guard 110s, likely Maui from reports, and you can see what the Navy terms a Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC), armed with a heavy machine gun with a deck guy’s hands on the spades.

The IRGCN fields hundreds of such 30- to 50-foot fast boats, armed with a variety of rockets, machine guns, and small mines, and have been the organization’s bread and butter since the early 1980s.

For reference

As noted by the 5th Fleet:

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened the distance between them.

ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the north Arabian Gulf. U.S. forces are conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Potomu chto ya byl perevernut

Not to feel left out, 6th Fleet reports (emphasis mine) that a Syrian-based Russian Flanker-E came out over the Med to buzz a P-8:

On April 15, 2020, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35. The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction. The duration of the intercept was approximately 42 minutes.

While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and the potential for midair collisions.

The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.

Dragon’s Roar

“Front view of 240mm howitzer of Battery `B’, 697th Field Artillery Battalion, just before firing into German-held territory. Mignano area, Italy.” SC photo by Boyle, January 30, 1944, some 76 years ago today.

111-SC-187126. National Archives Identifier: 531176

Nicknamed the Black Dragon, the M1 240mm (9.4-inch) howitzer was the largest boom stick deployed with U.S. Army artillery units during World War II, able to fire a 360-pound shell some 25,000 yards. Other than coastal artillery, the Cold War-era 280mm Atomic Annie series, and naval guns adapted for railway use, it remains the biggest artillery piece ever used by the Army.

They are still used in Taiwan today as low-tech coastal artillery where, based on Kinman Island, they can reach mainland China some 14 miles away as the shell flies.

 

Warship Wednesday Jan 8, 2020: Maru Floatplane Carriers

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020: Maru Floatplane Carriers

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Here we see the Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship, Kimikawa Maru, converted to a Tokusetsu Suijokibokan (special seaplane carrier) of the Imperial Japanese Navy, at Oominato in northern Honshu, in late 1942. As you can tell, this interesting ship and her sisters could carry a serious load of armed, and often very effective, floatplanes.

Constructed in the late 1930s through a joint endeavor of the Japanese shipping firm Ōsaka Mercantile and Kawasaki Kisen in the latter’s Kobe-based shipyard, the five 6,800-ton ships of the class were intended for the Japan-New York route, a trip of some 15,000 nautical miles. This was no sweat as, using a single efficient MAN-designed Kawasaki-made diesel, they had an incredible 35,000nm range at 17 knots.

However, these ships were also ready to chip in should the Empire require it.

As noted in ONI 208-J, the U.S. Navy’s 400+ page WWII intelligence book on the 1,300 assorted Japanese merchant ships over 1,000-tons:

Modern Japanese merchant ship design provides for deck-gun positions up to 5-inch or 6-inch caliber, the largest pieces being hand-loaded under service conditions. Heavier framing and plating and large diameter stanchions (extending down through two decks) are built in integral parts of the hull to support these positions. Ventilator trunks are conveniently arraigned close by for rapid conversion to ammunition hoists. These trunks always lead to specially prepared watertight compartments suitable for use as magazines. Dual-purpose 3-inch guns and anti-aircraft machine guns are often mounted in rows on lateral platforms.

As such, the U.S. Navy was very interested in these ships on the lead-up to the war, with several high-res images of these vessels taken in the 1930s as they transited the Panama Canal, still located in the ONI’s files.

KAMIKAWA MARU Japanese Merchant Ship Port bow view taken off Panama on 23 July 1937 NH 45577

KAMIKAWA MARU Japanese Merchant Ship overhead taken off Panama on 23 July 1937 NH 45576

KUNIKAWA MARU in Gatun Lake, Panama Canal. Altitude 1000 feet, Lens 10 inches. December 22, 1937, NH 111574

Japanese Ship KUNIKAWA MARU. Panama Canal. Altitude 1000 feet, Lens 10 inches. March 11, 1938. NH 111576

Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship as AP AV, via ONI 208-J 1942

Kamikawa Maru-class cargo ship, via ONI 208-J 1942

With Japan increasingly embroiled in the conflict in China, the Kimikawa Maru-class vessels were soon called up for service, many years before Pearl Harbor.

Notably, four out of the five– Kamikawa Maru, Kiyokawa Maru, Kimikawa Maru, and Kunikawa Maru (nothing confusing about that) were converted to armed seaplane carriers, capable of carrying more than a dozen such single-engine floatplanes aft, for which they had two catapults installed to launch them and large boom cranes for recovery. They would also be equipped with as many as six 4.7- or 5.9-inch guns as well as several smaller AAA mounts and machine guns.

Kawanishi E17K “Alf ” (Japanese floatplane) Being hoisted aboard a Japanese seaplane tender, circa 1939. Note details of the aircraft handling crane NH 82463

Alternatively, twice that many aircraft could be carried stowed below, to be assembled and deployed at some far-off port or atoll if need be. Four similar Mitsubishi-built freighters– Noshiro Maru, Sagara Maru, Sanuki Maru, and Sanyo Maru— were also converted but could only carry about eight seaplanes each. Subsequently, these less successful vessels would be re-rated to transports by 1942.

Notably, many of the IJN’s carrier commanders and admirals learned their trade on these special seaplane carriers to include RADMs Ando Shigeaki, Hattori Katsugi, Shinoda Tarohachi, Matsuda Takatomo, Hara Seitaro, and Yokokawa Ichihei; VADMs Arima Masafumi, Yamada Michiyuki, and Omori Sentaro.

In the late 1930s, their airwing would include Kawanishi E17K (Alf) and Nakajima E8N Type 95 (Dave) scout aircraft, primitive single-float biplanes that couldn’t break 175 knots and carried just a few small bombs and a couple machine guns for self-defense. These would later be augmented by planes like the Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete.

KAMIKAWA MARU (Japanese seaplane tender, 1936) Anchored off Amoy, China, 16 July 1939, with a deck load of KAWANISHI E17K-2 and NAKAJIMA E8N floatplanes both forward and aft. I can count at least 14 aircraft. This vessel, the first of the class converted to a seaplane carrier, saw extensive service in Chinese waters in 1938 to 1940, with her planes often bombing and strafing key Chinese positions. NH 82154

F1M Japanese Pete Kamikawa Maru’s ZII tail code 1940-41

Another view of the same

By 1942, this airwing would grow to as many as 14 much more capable Aichi E13A Type Zero (Jake) armed reconnaissance planes and four Daves– the airwing Kamikawa Maru took to Alaska during the Midway operation. Later types like the Nakajima A6M2-N (Rufe) Type 2 Sui-Sen (‘Rufe’) floatplane version of the Zero fighter soon joined them.

At least four Japanese navy pilots chalked up at least three kills while at the controls of floatplanes, most in the A6M-2N: CPO Shigeji Kawai, WO Kiyomi Katsuki, CPO Keizo Yamaza, and CPO Maruyama, although it should be noted that Katuski downed his first aircraft, a Dutch KNIL PBY, while flying an F1M2 Pete. Katsuki, who had 16 kills, spent at least some of his time flying from Kamikawa Maru.

IJN Seaplane Tender Kamikawa Maru in 1942, likely taken from Kimikawa Maru as her X tail code is on the Jake

E13A-34 Aichi with Kimikawa Maru’s X tail code

Their tail codes:

  • Kamikawa Maru– ZII (15 November 1940) ZI (September 1941) Z (May 1942) YI (14 July 1942)
    L-1 (1943)
  • Kunikawa Maru– YII tail code (November 1942) L-2 (January 1943)
  • Kiyokawa Maru– R (1941) RI (14 July 1942–November 1942)
  • Kimikawa Maru– X (December 1941) C21 (1943)

Once the big balloon went up in December 1941, these four freighters-turned-carriers were used extensively across the Pacific.

Kamikawa Maru would participate in the Malaya campaign and the Battle of the Coral Sea then sail with the fleet for Midway, going on to play a big part in the Aleutians campaign. She would then switch to the Guadalcanal Campaign, and be sent to the bottom by torpedoes from USS Scamp (SS-277) northwest of Kavieng, New Ireland in May 1943.

Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete reconnaissance floatplane on the catapult of the seaplane carrier Kamikawa Maru, 1942

A6M2-N Type 2 floatplane fighter, Sep-Oct 1942, on seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru

Japanese Navy Aichi E13A seaplane, most likely from the seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru. The location of the photo is unknown but may be at Deboyne Islands in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Kamikawa Maru, with a deck chock full of planes

A6M2-N ‘Rufe’ seaplane pilots deployed from the Kamikawa Maru under the command of ace Kiyomi Katsuki, in middle, digging a trench in the Aleutians, 1943.

Kiyokawa Maru helped capture Guam and Wake Island in December 1941, then was later rerated as a transport. She was ultimately sunk in an air raid at Kaminoseki in 1945 but was later raised and returned to a brief merchant career.

A6M2 Rufe hydro fighters with the R tail code of Kiyokawa Maru

Lae-Salamaua Strike, 10 March 1942 Enlargement of the picture of KIYOKAWA MARU (Japanese seaplane tender, 1937-1945), showing what appears to be a bomb hole aft. Note planes on deck-three Mitsubishi F1M2 (“Pete”) and one E8N2 (“Dave”). Taken by a VT-5 TBD-1, from the USS YORKTOWN (CV-5) air group. NH 95446

Kimikawa Maru, like her sister Kamikawa Maru, would take part in the Midway and Aleutian campaign in 1942-43. A line would be drawn through her name on Poseidon’s ledger in October 1944 after an encounter with the submarine USS Sawfish (SS-276) off Luzon’s Cape Bojeador.

KIMIKAWA MARU (Japanese Seaplane Tender) Photographed in April 1943, at Ominato Bay, Japan, with a load of “PETE” seaplanes aft. NH 73056

Kunikawa Maru would go on to live through a myriad of actions in the Solomons, including the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, and assorted convoy duties until she hit a mine off Balikpapan in March 1944 and was never the same again. She would be finished for good by an airstrike in May 1945 in that Borneo port.

Petes & Rufes on the beach somewhere in the South Pacific, possibly Tulagi Harbor in the Solomons, although I have seen this captioned elsewhere as being in the Marshall Islands. The foreground F1M2 has tail code “L2” of Kunikawa Maru

Another view of the same

By the end of the war, all of the K-Marus had been sunk and their planes either shot down, abandoned or otherwise captured.

Japanese Navy Type 0 Reconnaissance E13A ‘Jake’ at Imajuku, Kyushu Island 1945 

In all, the K-Maru carriers were an interesting concept, a quick and easy way to send a small expeditionary airwing to sea short of converting the ships to more proper escort carriers such as done by the Allies.

A very interesting postwar interrogation of CDR Kintaro Miura, Kamikawa Maru‘s senior air officer from the outbreak of war until December 1942, is in the NHHC archives.

Several scale models of these vessels and their aircraft are in circulation, as is their accompanying artwork, and they have sparked the imagination of warship fans the world over.

Mitsubishi F1M2 Pete floatplane by Robert Taylor. L2 Tail code indicates the plane belongs to the Kunikawa Maru a cargo ship converted to a seaplane tender

Specs:


Displacement: 6,863 tons standard
Length: 479 feet
Beam: 62 feet
Draft: 30 feet
Installed power: 7,600 shp
Propulsion: 1 Kawasaki-M. A. N. diesel, 1 shaft
Speed: 19.5 knots, 17 in military service
Armament: 2 x 5.9-inch, 2 x Type 96 25 mm (0.98 in) AA, 2 x 13.2 mm (0.52 in) MG
Aircraft carried: 12-18 seaplanes (24 stored)
Aviation facilities: Two catapults, cranes

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