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Shinshu Maru IJA Landing Craft Carrier

The Shinshu Maru was a unique ship. Shinshu Maru was the first landing craft carrier ship in the world. The ship, ready in 1935, was the first ship in the world that was especially arranged for the transport of landing vessels and troops to a landing area. She loaded Daihatsu landing craft in her hull, and launched them quickly from a gate at her stern. Daihatsu craft were also launched from gates at the side. The Shinshu Maru could carry a total of 2,200 troops, who would use landing craft to assault a beach. For this the ship had arrangements for 29 Daihatsu and 25 Shohatsu landing craft, which could be supported by four AB-Tei support vessels.

Shinshu Maru was designed to load airplanes as well as landing craft and it was equipped with two catapults. The airplanes taking off the ship were planned to land on a captured airfield. However, the catapults were removed after the ship was finished and it never loaded any airplanes during its service. The reason of this is not clear, but probably because it freed more space for landing craft. One went there from that landings nevertheless would be supported by planes as from aircraft carriers or seaplane tenders.

The Shinshu Maru, which was also designated as Ryujo Maru, was used for the landing operations in China and the landing on Malaya and Java of the Pacific War. During several operations the ship was used for fuelling and barge support. The second name Ryujo Maru can cause confusion with the aircraft carrier Ryujo.

Curiously, the ship was sunk by the Japanese in 1942, in the battle of Sunda Strait [28 February - 1 March 1942], by torpedoes from the Fubuki torpedo-boat destroyer or the Mogami cruiser (or Mikuma). The special vessel Ryujo (Shinshu) Maru (8,160) tons sank in shallow water. Japanese losses were much heavier than "officially" admitted to by the IJN. The general conclusion is that because these ships were conducting landing operations and close into shore, many of the ships damaged and/or beached were salvaged -- and thus a true accounting may never be known. The IJN fired 87 torpedoes at the USS Houston and HMAS Perth. At most, 10 found their marks, so that left 77 torpedoes in the water (plus 4 fired from the Perth). During most of the battle, the Perth and Houston were between the landing force, and the covering force, so some (many?) of the torpedoes had an opportunity to wreak havoc in the landing area. The Japanese never admitted to losing the Ryujo Maru, which was General Imamura's flagship which, as detailed in the Nippon Times (an English language newspaper published in japan during the war). The ship was (according to Imamura's account) sunk by torpedoes from from the Houston (which wasn't possible). It is unlikely they came from Perth, so that leaves IJN long lances as the likely tools.

Raised after this battle, Shinshu Maru was sunk a second time by airplanes and an American submarine in early 1945. On 02 January 1945 USS Aspro (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Stevenson) torpedoed and damaged the Japanese landing ship Shinshu Maru (8170 BRT) south of Formosa Strait in position 22.42N, 119.14E. The damaged Shinshu Maru was sunk the next day by aircraft from the US Task Force 38.

After the battle by one account the ship was raised a second time by the Japaneses and transited to Japan. She was afterwards never used for its original role. After the Second World War the ship was used as one of the first ships of the Japanese commercial fleet.

The totally un-related motor vessel Shinshu (Sinsyu) Maru was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine Bergall on October 13th, 1944, off Cana, Indo-China. While operating close inshore on the morning of 13 October 1944, USS Bergall (SS-320) sighted two cargo ships farther offshore -- one estimated at about 2,000 tons and the other at about 1,000 tons -- accompanied by two small escorts. After maneuvering to seaward, the submarine fired four torpedoes at the larger target from about 2,000 yards. At that point, one of the escorts began to close Bergall rapidly. The submarine turned sharply, dived, and headed out to sea. The crew heard two loud explosions and breaking-up noises, signifying the end of Shinshu Maru, a 4,182-ton merchant tanker. Over the next five hours, Japanese forces tried to retaliate, dropping 30 depth charges and four aircraft bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to sink Bergall; patrol vessel No.7 Taiwan Maru picked up ten of Shinshu Marus survivors.

Confusing for a lot of research workers of the Japanese Navy is the fact that some source claim that yet a third ship was also given the name Shinshu Maru. This very poorly attested merchant ship was several times larger and transported larger quantities of troops and cargo.

Since the Shinshu Maru succeeded in the landing operations, the IJA built new landing craft carriers from 1939 on. There were three models, Ko, Otsu and Hei. The Imperial Japanese Army's letter sequence used for equipment modifications is Ko, Otsu, Hei, Tei, Bo, Ki, Ko, Shin, Jin and Ki [the first and seventh are different characters in writing]. They have no real alphabetic or numerical significance and are more akin to North, South, East, West in concept. Only the first four were commonly used. Model Ko was the almost same size of Shinshu Maru and loads 15 to 25 landing carfts. Five ships of Model Ko were built, of the Mayasan Maru, Kibitsu Maru and Takatsu Maru classes. The Otsu, an icebreaker, was about a half size of Model Ko. One Model Otsu was built in 1944. The Hei had a flying deck and also loaded landing craft like Model Ko. Four ships of Model Hei were built in several classes.

Technical data at construction:
Name Shinshu Maru (also known as Ryujo Maru)
country Japan
type Tender for landing vessels
Displacement 8,130 ton (standard)
Length overall 156 meters
breadth 19 meters
Draft 9 m (maximo)
Propulsion Engaged turbines, 1 axle (8,000 shp)
maximum. Speed 19 knots
Armor None
  • 4 - 75 mm Type 88 air defense guns
  • 4 - 20 mm air anti-aircraft guns
  • cargo
  • 4 AB-Tei,
  • 29 Daihatsu landing craft,
  • 25 Shohatsu landing craft and
  • 2,200 troops
  • crew 220 officers and sailors

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    Page last modified: 09-03-2021 15:02:53 ZULU