SS Shinyō Maru

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Shinyō Maru (真洋丸) was the name of at least two merchant vessels in Japanese service during the 20th century. Each had a noteworthy place in the maritime history of the Pacific Ocean at the time and they may also serve as representations both of the course of Japanese-American relations during that century, and in relation to each other, of the course of Japanese history in that era.

The Shinyo Maru [1911-1936] was an elegant liner on the trans-Pacific service, linking Japan with the West Coast of the United States, via Hawaii. The Shinyo Maru [1941-1944] was a cargo steamer, serving as one of the hell ships of the Second World War, used to transport Allied prisoners of war around the Japanese Empire. The latter ship was in fact both the elder and the longer-lived, having operated under a variety of names during a long career that began as far back as 1894.

Shinyo Maru (1911-1936)[edit]

Name: Shinyo Maru
Builder: Mitsubishi Dockyard & Engine Works, Nagasaki[1]
Launched: 1911[1]
Out of service: 1932
Fate: Scrapped 1936
General characteristics
Class and type: Passenger liner
Tonnage: 13,426 gross register tons (GRT)[1]
Length: 558 ft (170 m)[1]
Beam: 61.9 ft (18.9 m)[1]
Propulsion: 3 sets Parson's turbines driving 3 screws
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Capacity: Passengers: 275 first class, 75 second class, and 800 steerage


The liner Shinyo Maru was built in Nagasaki in 1911 by Mitsubishi Dockyard & Engine Works.[2] Her length was 558 ft (170 m) and breadth 61.9 ft (18.9 m) Her tonnage was 13,426 GRT, with a displacement of 21,650 ('22 000') tons.[1] Her triple screws gave her the very brisk speed of 21 knots. The liner had accommodation for 275 first class, 75 second class, and 800 steerage passengers. Shinyo Maru was powered by thirteen Scotch boilers providing steam for three sets of Parsons turbines for 17,000 horsepower.[3]

She was the third of three new liners built specifically for the trans-Pacific liner route (Hong Kong—San Francisco) for Toyo Kisen Kaisha Steamship Co. (TKK).[4] Shinyo Maru made trials on 25 July 1911, delivered to TKK on 15 August and departed for Yokohama and San Francisco on 21 August 1911.[5]

Her sister-ships were the SS Tenyo Maru (1908-1933),[6] of 1908, and the Chiyo Maru, of 1909. The career of the Chiyo Maru was sadly curtailed in April 1916, when she ran aground in fog, off Hong Kong, and was damaged beyond repair.[7]

Toyo Kisen Line was third steamship company to offer a regular trans-Pacific liner schedule, in 1899, after the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (PMSS) and the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company (O&O). These two great rivals were both US companies and TKK was the first Japanese, Asian and even non-American line to enter the service. The move was a reflection of the modernisation of Japan and its desire to take its place as an equal of the "Western" Great Powers, equal in standards of service and of technological development and in the manner of training and operating. The original three ships were the Nippon Maru, the America Maru and the Hong Kong Maru, but when the three large bespoke liners entered service, the latter two were sold to the Osaka Line (OSK) and relegated to coastal traffic around Japan.[8] In August 1916, the Korea Maru and the Siberia Maru were bought from PMSS, partly to replace the Chiyo Maru. However, the company found it difficult to compete during the slump of the 1920s and was taken over by the larger, if then less prestigious, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK).

The Shinyo Maru continued, with her sister-ship, for several years under NYK management, before being laid up in 1932. She was finally scrapped in 1936. The Tenyo Maru was likewise laid up in 1930 and scrapped in 1933.

Five years later, in 1941, the Pacific would become the scene of conflict, rather than commerce, between Japan and the United States and an ancient and undistinguished little steamer would be given the mantle of the great liner. This vessel was not to live up to the reputation of its predecessor.

Shinyo Maru (1941-1944)[edit]

  • Clan Mackay (1894-1913)
  • Ceduna (1913-1924)
  • Tung Tuck (1924-1937)
  • Chang Teh (1937)
  • Pananis (1937-1941)
  • Shinyō Maru (1941-1944)
Launched: 1894
Fate: Sunk on 7 September 1944
General characteristics
Class and type: Cargo steamer
Tonnage: 2,634 gross register tons (GRT)
Length: 84.9 m (279 ft)
Beam: 12 m (39 ft)
Propulsion: Triple expansion engine
Speed: 13.5 knots (25.0 km/h)
Crew: 52
Notes: Steel construction


The cargo-steamer Shinyo Maru was originally named the SS Clan Mackay and was built on the River Clyde for the Clan Line. She sailed with them until sold in 1913 to the Adelaide Steamship Company, which renamed her Ceduna. She was then sold, in 1924, to a company in Shanghai which renamed her Tung Tuck. In 1937, she was renamed Chang Teh, and was sold to Greece later that year. She sailed for her new owners under the name Pananis, until seized by the Japanese at Shanghai in 1941 and renamed Shinyō Maru.


The Allies intercepted a message about the Shinyō Maru and, thinking it was carrying enemy soldiers, the USS Paddle attacked it on September 7, 1944, off the coast of Mindanao. There were 750 American prisoners of war aboard. Some Japanese guards shot prisoners as they struggled from the holds or were in the water;[9] 688 died when the ship sank, leaving only 82 survivors;[10] 47 of 52 Japanese guards died.[11]

A December 1944 annotation in US military records indicates an intelligence failure helped contribute to the mistargeting of the Japanese transport ship filled with US POWs by the US submarine. "[A] note was added to the message of September 6 that Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) interpreted as "SHINYOO MARU (750 troops for Manila via Cebu." In pencil was written: "FRUEF [Fleet Radio Unit Eastern Fleet] (31 Dec '44) gets 750 Ps/W"! FRUPAC misinterpreted this crucial part of the message with fatal consequences."[9]

On September 7, 2000, 14 survivors gathered at Jacksonville Naval Air Station for the eighth, and final, formal survivors reunion.[12]

Survivors' accounts[edit]

  • John J. Morrett, Soldier-Priest (1993). Also see [1]
  • Victor Mapes, The Butchers, the Baker: The World War II Memoir of a United States Army Air Corps Soldier Captured by the Japanese in the Philippines (2000)
  • Charles Vance Claybourn, The Claybourn Genealogical Society [2]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lloyds. "Lloyd's Register 1930-31" (PDF). Lloyd's Register (through PlimsollShipData). }
  2. ^ Mitsubishi Shipbuilding at Accessed 7 August 2017
  3. ^ "Luxurious Living Along the "Pathway of the Sun"". Pacific Marine Review. Vol. XV no. January. 1918. p. 93. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  4. ^ Maritime timetable images entry for Oriental Steamship Company, including Shinyo Maru (1911) Accessed 7 August 2017
  5. ^ Deichman, Carl F. (Consul, Nagasaki) (1911). "New Japanese Vessel". Daily Consular and Trade Reports. U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor (22 September 1911): 1351.
  6. ^ Picture of Tenyo Maru at
  7. ^ Picture of Chiyo Maru aground, at Accessed 7 August 2017
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b American POWs on Japanese Ships Take a Voyage into Hell. The Shinyō Maru: An Explosion, and Survival, for Some POWs, Prologue Magazine, Winter 2003, Vol. 35, No. 4. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  10. ^ Roster of Allied Prisoners of War believed aboard Shinyō Maru when torpedoed and sunk 7 September 1944, 82 survivors 667 deaths. Source dated 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  11. ^ 船舶輸送艦における遭難部隊資料(陸軍) - IJA report about military transport ship losses in WW2
  12. ^ Hell ship survivors embrace 'miracle'. The Florida Times-Union, 8 September 2000, accessed 1 January 2011.