SS Suez Maru

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Suez Maru
Name: Suez Maru
Owner: Yamashita Kisen K. K (1919-1932) - Kuribayashi Shosen K. K (1932-1943)
Builder: Uraga Dock Company
Launched: 1919
In service: 1919-1943
Out of service: 29 November 1943
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk 29 November 1943
General characteristics
Type: Passenger-cargo ship
Tonnage: 4,645 tons[1]
Length: 109.7 m
Beam: 15.5 m
Draught: 8.7 m
Speed: 10.5 knots

SS Suez Maru was a Japanese passenger-cargo ship, used as a hell ship, which was torpedoed by submarine USS Bonefish on 29 November 1943, carrying 548 Allied POWs of which many drowned and the rest, some 250 men, were shot by the Japanese.

Service history[edit]

Suez Maru sailed on 25 November 1943 with 547 POWs (414 British and 133 Dutch) from Ambon bound for Surabaya. The POWs were all sick men from the work-camps on the Moluccas and Ambon. About twenty men were on stretchers. There were also around two hundred sick and wounded Japanese soldiers on board.[2]

On 29 November 1943 , near Kangean Island east of Madoera Island, the ship was torpedoed by USS Bonefish, unaware of the presence of Allied POWs. About half of the POWs drowned in the aft hold of the ship, but about 250 - 280 escaped from the holds and jumped into the water. Nearly four hours later the escort ship, Minesweeper no.12 returned from dropping depth charges near the Bonefish, the minesweeper only picked up Japanese survivors, pushing PoWs back into the water if they tried to climb aboard. Then Captain Kawano Osumu, Master of W-12, discussed with the PoW transport commander Lt. Masaji Koshio (aka Masaji Iketani) what should be done with the surviving PoWs. Koshio/Iketani informed him that Major General Sanso Anami had told him that in the event of the ship being torpedoed that the PoWs should be shot. Captain Kawano quickly agreed ordering Gunnery officer Yatsuka to arrange twenty soldiers with rifles on deck and two machine-guns on the lower bridge, whilst other crew pointed out survivors amongst the wreckage. The gunnery crew then machine-gunned all surviving POWs in the water. All were killed. There were also some 3 Japanese casualties which went down with 'Suez Maru'. The minesweeper no.12 reports lodged at Batavia on 3 December 1943 stated that the PoWs were kept in the holds and the hatches locked and stated that they had all drowned on the sinking, and made no mention of the war crime. This war crime was extensively investigated in 1949, following its reporting by one of the c.200 wounded Japanese soldiers, a Yoshio Kashiki. Dozens of first hand accounts and sworn statements were taken from twenty-two individuals; suspects and eye witnesses, Kawano and Iketani being arrested. [3] A memorial to the 414 British POW's aboard the Suez Maru who were murdered by the Japanese was dedicated on 29 November 2013 at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire. [4] [5] A detailed account of the ship, the sinking and subsequent atrocity, along with the trial documents and descriptions can be found in the book The Suez Maru Atrocity- Justice Denied!. [6] And a further book on the atrocity and subsequent war crime investigation can be found in the book Unwritten Letters to Spring Street. [7]


  1. ^ "Suez Maru (+1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  2. ^ "SUEZ MARU Tabular Record of Movement". Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  3. ^ Cressman, Robert (2000). "Chapter V: 1943". The official chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-149-3. OCLC 41977179. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
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  7. ^ Unwritten Letters to Spring Street, author J Frith, publication date February 2019

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