The sinking of the Rakuyo Maru, by US submarine Sealion.

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by JOHNB84, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. JOHNB84

    JOHNB84 Member

    Do any members know or have read/seen the account of the sinking of a Japanese ship Rakuyo Maru, I believe it was transporting POW and was torpedoed and sunk on 12/09/1944 by US submarine Sealion. I have a strong suspicion that one of my local lads lost his life on the Rakuyo Maru this day. Any help gratefully received.

  2. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    RAKUYO MARU and KACHIDOKI MARU (September 12\13, 1944)
    On September 4th, 2,218 Australian and British prisoners of war, who had survived the building of the Death Railway, were marched the three miles from the Valley Road camp in Singapore to the docks to board the two twenty-three year old passenger/cargo ships Rakuyo Maru (9,500 tons) and the Kachidoki Maru (10,500 tons). The Kachidoki Maru was the ex US ship President Harrison which had ran aground at Sha Wai Shan in China and was captured and salvaged by the Japanese. Both vessels were bound for Formosa. In the South China Sea, the twelve ship convoy, including three transports, two tankers and four escorting destroyers, was attacked by three American submarines, the Growler, Sealion and the Pampanito. The Rakuyo and Kachidoki were both sunk by torpedoes 300 miles west of Cape Bojeador, Luzon. A total of 1,144 British and Australian POW's lost their lives. Among those lost were thirty-three men from HMAS Perth. All told there were 1,074 survivors, 141 were picked up by the three submarines. The USS Queenfish and USS Barb arrived later and in heavy seas rescued another thirty-two before heading for Saipan. The Japanese destroyers rescued 520 British prisoners from the Kachidoki (488 POW's and crew had died) and 277 British and Australians from the Rakuyo, to again become Prisoners of War.
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  3. JOHNB84

    JOHNB84 Member

    Peter that was quick, thanks a bunch, this is just what I was after.

  4. spidge


  5. JOHNB84

    JOHNB84 Member


    Thanks mate, this is a great help, and has confirmed my suspicions, although Thomas Atkinson was not lost on the Rakuyo Maru, but on the Kachidoki Maru that was also sunk on the 12/09/1944. Once again many thanks.


    A Died Database
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    British & Australian POW survivors being rescued by men on deck of USS Sealion on Second War Patrol, after Japanese ship Rakuyo Maru was sunk in the China Sea, during WWII.
  7. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

  8. izzy

    izzy Senior Member

    There is a book called Hellshps of the Pacific and also a book called Return from the River Kwai.Both mention the sinking.However there is a rather crappy film called Return to the River Kwai which bears no resembelance to actual events.
  9. TonyF

    TonyF Junior Member

    I'm not too sure but I think the guy coming out the water may be my father. He was on the Rakuyo Maru and was well recorded byClay Blaire's in their book 'Return To The River Kwai' on which I did some of the research work at the Uk end.

    My father was W H (Bill) Fuller, RA, 1427178. He returned to the UK via Saipan and Hawaii, crossed the US by train, back to the UK in October 1944 and was one of the soldiers locked up because they refused to keep quiet about what they had seen.

    He also gave information, with two others, on the Bridge and it was that information that allowed the Allies to mount their bombing raids against the bridge - he got a mention for that.

    He also gave evidence to the War Trials Tribunal on various issues.

    I also met some of the other survivors and a couple of the US seamen from the USS Sealion.

    Hope this helps.
  10. TonyF

    TonyF Junior Member

    Clay Blaire's in their book 'Return To The River Kwai' on which I did some of the research work at the Uk end.

    Apologies, badly written and not checked - I'm full of cold atm! That should have read 'in Clay and Joan Blaire's book 'Return FROM the River Kwai' .....
  11. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

  12. ozesoldier

    ozesoldier Junior Member

    If you go my website - Home it will give you the information and the Australians lost on the ship.
    Cheers - John W

    Do any members know or have read/seen the account of the sinking of a Japanese ship Rakuyo Maru, I believe it was transporting POW and was torpedoed and sunk on 12/09/1944 by US submarine Sealion. I have a strong suspicion that one of my local lads lost his life on the Rakuyo Maru this day. Any help gratefully received.

  13. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member Patron

  14. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member Patron

  15. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member Patron

    One of the survivors pulled aboard the USS Pampanito was John Campbell, whose CWGC entry shows:

    Name:CAMPBELL, JOHNInitials:JNationality:United KingdomRank:PrivateRegiment/Service:Gordon HighlandersUnit Text:2nd Bn.Age:26Date of Death:12/09/1944Service No:2884170Casualty Type:Commonwealth War DeadGrave/Memorial Reference:Column 78.

    The relevant page from the USS Pampanito War Patrol Report, shows that his death was recorded at 1830 on 16 September, and that he
    died, possibly of internal injuries. He had been unconcious almost continuously since the time of rescue.
    2023 (I) Committed remains of deceased, JOHN CAMPBELL, to the deep with appropriate ceremony.


  16. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    The Australian Archives website gives free access to about ten digitised files about the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru, including interviews with survivors. Just go to "Australian Archives" and search for the name of the ship in "Record Search". If you do not register with them then you just search " As a guest."

    The Australian Archives digitised all their Minor War Crimes trials records many years ago. Some of the trials relate to the Burma/Siam railway. A few of the trial proceedings were for British Military Tribunals which were copied to the Australians in the 1940's and are also available online.

    Search in "Record Search" for " Military Tribunal" and set time limits of 1945 to 1953. This will bring up about 700 entries. To narrow the search return click on the column heading for "Digital Copy" This will take a few seconds.

    Most of the British War Crimes Trials files in Wo235/831 to about 1120 have been copied and are available online PROVIDED:

    1. They concern proceedings held in Hong Kong.

    2. You have access to a computer linked to Hong Kong University, and therefore you are situated in Hong Kong.

    An associate professor at Hong Kong University states she obtained a grant of about £43,000 in order to get this project off the ground. Some of this cash will have gone to pay The National Archives at Kew. She says that the restrictions on access conditions were imposed by our own National Archives.

    Her website was set about eight months ago. Search for "Hong Kong War Crimes Trials Collection" on the net. Some limited material is available to all and sundry, but not views of original documents.

    Privatisation of archives ?
  17. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    The number of files available to read online from National Archives of Australia concerning the Rakuyo Maru is actually thirteen. The total number of pages available to read is 1,978.

    A search for "Rakuyo" in Australian Archives returns 32 files.

    The same search term at the Public Record Office/ TNA brings up 8 files, none of which are available to read online.

    Four files at Kew have only just been released, on 22nd April 2011: all in the WO 361 series.
  18. Louise Armstrong

    Louise Armstrong Junior Member

    Greeting Gentlemen all,
    Thanks for posting this information. My Great Uncle Mervyn Dorman was one of the POW's who was on Rakuyo Mayo. He later died in Japan as a result of 'illness'. It's ANZAC Day (2012) today - Lest we Forget.
  19. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member


    Welcome to the site. The sinking was referred to in the House of Commons in the following extract from Millbank Hansard ( usual acknowledgements and apologies. )

    In turn the Japanese government, of their own volition, prepared a history of the construction of the Burma/Siam railway which was referred to in both of the main cases brought by both British and Australian authorities in their Military Tribunals in Minor War Crimes prosecutions.

    This report can be read at Australian Archives free online. Go to Australian Archives, then Search, then click on Advanced Search, enter barcode 1046290 in the appropriate place half way down form, then click on "Digital Item". Then go to page 58.

    If your Great Uncle was Australian a search for his name on the Australian Archives site may give further information.

    Regards, John

    Herewith extract from Hansard:

    HANSARD 1803–2005 → 1940s → 1944 → November 1944 → 17 November 1944 → Commons Sitting

    HC Deb 17 November 1944 vol 404 cc2244-7 2244
    §The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg) I think the House would wish to hear a brief statement about ex-prisoners of war who have just returned from Siam. As the House was told on 31st October, some 150 survivors from a sunk Japanese transport carrying United Kingdom and Australian prisoners of war from Singapore to Japan were rescued by United States Naval Forces in September. The survivors from the United Kingdom have now reached this country. The result of preliminary examinations of the men gives at last a first-hand account of the way our men were treated in the Southern areas of the Far East; and there is now no longer any doubt about the policy which was pursued by the Japanese military authorities towards prisoners of war in these areas, which include Burma, Siam, Malaya and the East Indies. I should make it clear at once that this information does not relate to Hong Kong, Formosa, Occupied China, Korea or Japan, where we believe present conditions to be relatively tolerable. Nor does it refer to civilian internees.
    The great majority of prisoners in Singapore and Java appear to have been moved, early in 1942, to Burma or Siam. The Australians were sent by sea to Burma, crowded into ships' holds which had been horizontally sub-divided so that ceilings were no more than 4 feet high. The prisoners from the United Kingdom were sent by rail to Siam so crowded into trucks that they could not even lie down during the journey. They were then 2245 marched some 80 miles. This and subsequent movement in Burma or Siam appears to have been on foot, regardless of distance, weather, or the prisoners' state of health. The United Kingdom prisoners were then set to work on the construction of a railway through primitive, disease-infested jungle passing over the mountain range between Siam and Burma to meet the Burmese end of the railway, on the construction of which Australians were engaged in similar country. The conditions under which all these men lived and worked were terrible, even for natives of the country who were also forcibly employed on the same work.

    Such accommodation as was provided gave little or no protection against tropical rains or blazing sun; worn out clothing was not replaced; soon many lacked clothing, boots and head covering; the only food provided was a pannikin of rice and about half a pint or less of watery stew three times a day. But the work had to go on without respite, whatever the cost in human suffering or life. The inevitable result was an appalling death-rate, the lowest estimate of deaths being one in five. When the railway was finished about October, 1943, those not needed for maintenance work were moved to camps in Siam out of the jungle, and here conditions are less intolerable. From these camps, the fittest were later sent to Singapore en route to Japan. The rescued men were on a ship, which left Singapore early in September, 1944. There were probably 1,300 United Kingdom and Australian prisoners of war on board. After she was sunk, the Japanese deliberately picked up all Japanese survivors, but left the prisoners to their fate, and I fear the great majority of them were drowned. We have asked the Protecting Power to make the strongest possible protest.

    I am sure that I speak for the whole House and for all the British people in expressing admiration for the way in which the United States submarine crews risked their own safety to rescue men from the sea, and our very deep gratitude to those crews and to the United States authorities for the care and attention given to them at every stage. Thanks to them nearly all the rescued men are recovering from their terrible experiences. There is one redeeming feature in the whole story. All the rescued men tell of the 2246 amazing way in which the morale of the prisoners has remained high, despite the worst the Japanese could do. In particular, tribute is paid to the medical officers who were captured with them and who have achieved little short of miracles in looking after the sick and injured despite lack of essential medicines, instruments, and hospital equipment. All that we have learnt from these men reveals that our prisoners have been true to the highest traditions of our race. To the relatives and friends of all the prisoners concerned, our deepest sympathy goes out. It is a matter of profound regret to me that these disclosures have to be made; but we are convinced that it is necessary that the Japanese should know that we know how they have been behaving, and that we intend to hold them responsible. Here I would add that we are collecting from the survivors every scrap of information they can give about other men, and this information will be passed on to the next-of-kin concerned as quickly as possible.

    We are proceeding with the task of collating all the detailed information which has been obtained. This may take some little time but a further statement will be issued as soon as possible. Meantime, I understand that the Commonwealth Government are issuing a statement to-day, and I will arrange for this to be published in this country as soon as the full text has been received.

    §Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare May I say that this news will shock the civilised world and cause the deepest distress and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any comfort can be given to the relatives of the men by informing us if there is any evidence that medical supplies and food comforts have been reaching these prisoners of war, perhaps through Russian channels?
    §Sir J. Grigg Constant efforts are being made to get supplies to our prisoners of war. I think for the most part it has been easier to get supplies to prisoners in the Northern area. I will certainly make a statement later, when the evidence of these men shows whether anything reached the Southern area or not.
    §Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton Pownall Can my right hon. Friend give any approximate figures with regard to the number of British and Australians who were subjected to these intolerable conditions?
    §Sir J. Grigg Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to consider that, in connection with the fuller statement which I shall have to make later.
    §Captain Gammans May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, as the result of interrogating the prisoners of war who have come back, he can give any idea of what is happening to civilians in Singapore and other parts of the Malay peninsula?
    §Sir J. Grigg Not at present, but I will make inquiries about that in connection with the general interrogation.
    §Professor Savory May I ask my right hon. Friend to have a copy of his statement transmitted to Dublin for the benefit of the Japanese consul-general who is residing in that city?

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