Historia y Arqueologia Marítima


Indice Desastres... Indice Accidentes Maritimos

Desastres Maritimos de la 2Ş Guerra Mundial

1945 (Esta seccion sera traducida en breve)

Estas Páginas son una traduccion especial del sitio de George Duncan "Maritime Disasters of WWII" y se hacen con el debido permiso del autor.

Traduccion: CF ARA Carlos Villa

Esta página está dedicada a todos aquellos que lucharon en las batallas navales de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. -

(January 21, 1945)

American aircraft carrier of 27,000 tons, hit by a Japanese suicide plane while patrolling the waters off Formosa. Although the ship was not sunk it suffered casualties of 144 men killed and around 200 injured. This tragedy was not revealed untill six months after the event.

(January 30, 1945)

The greatest sea tragedy of all time. The 25,484 ton German luxury cruise liner was built to carry 1,465 passengers and a crew of 400. The Gustloff and her sister ship Robert Ley were the world's first purpose-built cruise ships. The ship, now converted to a 500 bed hospital ship, set sail from the Bay of Danzig en route to the port of Stettin, overcrowded with 4,658 persons including 918 naval officers and men, 373 German Women Naval Auxiliaries, 162 wounded soldiers of whom 73 were stretcher cases, and 173 crew, all fleeing from the advancing Red Army. Just before midnight, as the ship plowed her way through the icy waters of the Baltic Sea, the ship was hit by three torpedoes from the Russian submarine S-13 (a German designed boat) commanded by Alexander Marinesko. The first torpedo hit the bow of the ship, the second, below the empty swimming pool on E-deck where the Women Auxiliaries were accommodated (most were killed) and the third hit amidships. Indescribable panic reigned as the ship listed and sank in about ninety minutes near the Danish island of Bornholm. Rescue boats picked from the stormy seas 964 survivors, many of whom were landed at Sassnitz on the island of Ruegen and taken on board the Danish hospital ship Prince Olaf which was anchored in the harbour. The exact number of drowned will never be known, as many more refugees were picked up from small boats as the Wilhelm Gustloff  headed for the open sea and were never counted. (Latest research puts the number of people on board at 10,582) Many of the 964 persons rescued from the sea, died later, and it is likely that well over 7,000 souls perished.

(February 10, 1945)

A few days after the Gustloff had been sunk, the 14,600 ton liner General von Steuben of the Nord German Lloyd shipping line, set sail from Pillau in the bay of Danzig, her destination being Swinemunde. On board were 2,000 wounded soldiers, 320 nurses and 30 doctors as well as over 1,000 refugees. Just after midnight, torpedoes from the S 13 hit the Steuben. She sank in seven minutes, the wounded lying helpless, strapped to their stretchers. In those seven minutes about 3,000 persons died, 300 being picked up by escorting ships. Within ten days, Captain Alexander Marinesko had sunk two of Germany’s largest liners and in the process had killed over 10,000 people.

(February 21, 1945)

The 10,982 ton escort carrier was launched in 1944 under the name 'Alikula Bay ' and later renamed Bismark Sea. Joined the US 7th. Fleet and saw action off Leyte and in the Lingayen Gulf landings. While taking part in the Iwo Jima invasion, the Bismark Sea was attacked by three Japanese kamakazi planes from the island of Kyushu, Japan. One of the planes crashed onto her deck, the other two were shot down. An explosion in her ammunition store caused uncontrollable fires and in spite of all efforts of her crew to save the ship, the carrier sank ninety minutes later. Of her complement of 860, a total of 318 men lost their lives.

(March 19, 1945)

American aircraft carrier attacked by Japanese planes off Samar Island. Two direct hits by 550lb bombs caused fires and internal explosions but failed to sink the ship. A total of 725 men were killed and 265 injured. The Franklin had a crew of 3,450 officers and men. After the war, 393 bravery decorations were awarded to the crew, including one Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to naval chaplain Lt.Commander Joseph O'Callahan for heroism. The Franklin (commanded by Capt. Gehres) was the most severely damaged US ship to survive but managed to make her way back to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands and finally to the US for repairs.

(April 1, 1945)

Japanese passenger/cargo ship of 11,249 tons, Captain Hamada Matsutaro, sunk while homeward bound after having delivered Red Cross relief supplies to American and Allied POWs in Japanese custody under an agreement between Japan and the US Government which guaranteed safe passage for such ships. The third ship to carry out this relief programme was the Awa Maru which picked up the Red Cross parcels from the stockpile at Nakhodka, one hundred miles south of Vladivostok. They had been transported there by five Soviet ships which had sailed from Portland, Oregon, in December, 1943, loaded with 2,500 tons of supplies. The Awa Maru was painted green with large white crosses on her sides and funnel, all illuminated by special spot lights. Loaded with 175 tons of Red Cross supplies, the Japanese also loaded crates of aircraft parts, munitions and other commodities desperately needed by Japanese troops in Southeast Asia. This was in complete violation of the relief for POW agreement. After unloading her cargo at various stops on her journey south, the Awa Maru was now in Singapore preparing for the journey home to Japan. Before leaving Singapore on March 28, she had on board over 2,000 Japanese officials, diplomats, technicians, war loot and civilians, all eager to escape the Allied bombs that were now falling on the city. The war loot consisted of forty metric tons of gold and 150,000 carats of diamonds, all worth over $5 billion. Calling at Jakarta, she took on 2,500 tons of crude oil, hundreds of tons of oil drilling machinery, tin ingots, tungsten and rubber. Although the Americans knew what was going on they were reluctant to do anything about it in fear that the relief supplies would be stopped. Submarine commanders were ordered to 'let it go by safely'. However, April 1st. saw the US submarine Queenfish , Commander Charles E. Loughlin, on her fourth patrol, in the Taiwan Strait in an area near where the Awa Maru would have to pass through. At 11pm, a pip appeared on the Queenfish's radar indicating a possible target at 17,000 yards. Loaded far beyond normal limits, and traveling low in the water, the ship presented a smaller than usual radar image not unlike that of a destroyer. What happened next proved to be the greatest submarine error of the Pacific war. The Queenfish fired four torpedoes, all of which hit the target. As the submarine approached the oil covered spot where the target had sunk, the crew picked up one exhausted man from the water, a first class steward from the sunken ship, 46 year old Shimoda Kantaro, the only survivor of the Awa Maru.  Drowned in this disaster were 2,003 persons including seventy -two Taiwanese civilians. On arrival back at base, Commander Loughlin was relieved of his command and faced court-martial the result of which cleared him of all charges of wrongdoing.

As the ship was sunk in Chinese territorial waters, Beijing carried out the  salvage and recovered the looted treasure.

(April 7,1945)

Japan's 71,659 ton, 862 ft long super battleship Yamato, commissioned on 16th December, 1941, was the world's largest fighting ship afloat. She carried nine 18.1 inch guns which could hurl a shell a distance of 35 miles. As the Americans prepared to invade the island of Okinawa, the Yamato set sail from Tokuyama with the cruiser Yahagi and eight escort destroyers under the command of Vice-Admiral Ito Seiichi, on what was considered a suicide mission, to engage the American amphibious fleet as it approached the island. Sailing with nine escorts but without air cover, the Yamato was soon spotted by a US scout plane which radioed its position to the invasion fleet. Within hours the mighty battleship was attacked by an armada of 386 fighter planes and torpedo carrying bombers from the flight decks of the invasion fleet carriers. Hit by at least eight torpedoes and many bombs during the two-and-a-half hour battle, the Yamato developed a 120 degree list to port after one of her magazines exploded. Minutes later the great ship capsized and sank at 1423 hrs off the coast of Kyushu, taking with her 2,498 members of her crew including Admiral Ito. Of her full complement of 2,767 men, there were only 269 survivors. The cruiser Yahagi was also sunk with the loss of 446 lives. Another 721 lives were lost from the sinking of five of her escort destroyers.

(April 16, 1945)

A passenger/cargo ship (5,230 tons) built in Norway for the Hamburg America Line, it was taken over by the German Navy to help in the evacuations from the Hela Penninsula in the Bay of Danzig (Germany’s ‘Dunkirk’ in which just under two million people were evacuated including some 700,000 soldiers). It had taken on board the remnants of the 35th Tank Regiment and thousands of pleading refugees. When sixty miles off the port of Stolpe near Cape Rozewie, she was attacked by the Russian submarine L-3 commanded by Captain Vladimir Konovalov. Two torpedoes were fired, hitting the Goya amidships. Immediately the ship broke in half and sank in about four minutes. Of the estimated 6,385 people on board, only 183 were rescued. For this episode, Konovalov was awarded the medal, ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’.

(May 3, 1945)

Four days after Hitler's suicide the German pre-war luxury liner of 27,561 tons, anchored in Lubeck Bay along with two other ships the Thielbeck and Athen, were bombed by RAF planes of 83 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force. On board the three ships were over 7,000 prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps at Neuengamme near Hamburg and Stutthof near Danzig, half of whom were Russian and Polish POWs who were being evacuated ahead of the advancing British troops. Arriving at the port of Lubeck they were forced on board the 1,936 ton Athen to be ferried out to the Cap Arcona whose captain, Kapitän Heinrich Bertram, refused to let them on board protesting that his ship could only accommodate 700. Threatened with arrest and execution, he relented and watched as the 7,000 prisoners were herded into the holds of his ship. Guarding them were some 500 SS troops. (These ships were to be sailed out to sea and then scuttled, drowning all on board according to Himmler's order to all concentration camp commanders that surrender was unacceptable, that camps were to be immediately evacuated and no prisoner was to fall alive into the hands of the enemy). When the Athen had finished its ferrying duties a group of prisoners were then transferred from the Cap Arcona (which was now seriously overcrowded) back to the Athen whose captain then ran his ship against the quay at Neustadt and hoisted a white flag, thus saving his 1,998 passengers. A short distance away, the liner Deutschland (21,046 tons) was anchored and about to be converted to a hospital ship. Firing their rockets, the Typhoons of 184 Squadron from Hustedt attacked first, hitting all three ships. The second attack was by 198 Squadron from Plantlünne led by Group Captain Johnny Baldwin (the pilot who led the attack on Rommel's staff car on July 17, 1944). The third attack by 263 Squadron from Ahlhorn attacked the Deutschland as did the fourth attack by 197 Squadron, also from Ahlhorn. The Deutschland, burning furiously, keeled over and sank four hours later. Fortunately there were no prisoners on board and the crew had deserted the ship during the first attack. The 27,561 ton Cap Arcona, with nearly 4,500 prisoners trapped below and suffocating in the smoke and flames, turned over on her side and lay partly submerged and burning out. Some managed to break out and cling to the hull of the ship, others jumped into the freezing Baltic Sea. In all, 314 prisoners and 2 crewmembers were rescued. The Thielbeck (a 2,815 ton freighter) was left a smouldering wreck and sank forty-five minutes later. Of the Thielbeck's 2,800 prisoners, only 50 were saved. Many survivors, trying to swim ashore, were mown down mercilessly in the water from machine guns of SS units stationed on shore. They only rescued those in SS uniform, about 400 at the most. Altogether, around 7,000 people died in this tragedy. The RAF pilots knew nothing about the prisoners on board and it was not until many years later, in fact 1975, that they learned that they had slaughtered their own allies!. For weeks after the sinking, bodies of the victims were being washed ashore, to be collected and buried in a single mass grave at Neustadt, in Holstein. For nearly three decades, parts of skeletons were being washed ashore, the last find, by a twelve year old boy, was in 1971. The history of this tragedy is depicted in the 'Cap Arcona' Museum in Neustadt, opened in 1990.
Max Pauly, the ex-Commandant of Neuengamma concentration camp and SS doctor Alfred Trzebinski were  later tried and convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hamelin Goal.

(June 8, 1945)

The 13,380-ton Nachi class Japanese cruiser sunk by the British submarine H.M.S.Trenchant commanded by 'Baldy’ A.R. Hezlet. (It was estimated that around 1,200 Japanese troops were on board on their way from Batavia to reinforce the garrison at Singapore). At the last minute the Ashigara had altered course and was hit by five torpedoes out of the eight fired by the Trenchant. In an effort to beach herself she headed towards Klipped Shoal near Sumatra but half an hour after being hit, the blazing Ashigara capsized and sank. A total of 853 survivors were rescued by the Japanese escort destroyer Kamikaze. Commander Hezlet was later awarded the DSO and the United States Legion of Merit.

(June 27, 1945)

Aircraft carrier operating off the island of Okinawa, hit by a Japanese kamikaze suicide plane. The ship suffered the loss of 373 crewmen when the re-armed and re-fuelled planes on deck exploded and caught fire. The Bunker Hill did not sink but made it home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for repairs. Air attacks by Japanese planes on American ships off Okinawa killed 2,658 men during ten kamikazi attacks in which eleven ships were sunk and 102 damaged. During the Pacific War, 288 United States Navy ships were hit by kamikazes, 34 were sunk. (Kamikazi units, was first formed in October,1944 as a Special Attack Force called 'Shimpu' by Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi and included 23 volunteer pilots. A second unit was formed soon afterwards under the name Kamikazi 'Divine Wind ' after a typhoon that destroyed a Mongol invasion fleet way back in 1281 AD. In their suicide attempts, 1,465 aircraft were destroyed.


Damage by a Japanese
The picture above shows the damage that was caused by a Japanese "Kamikazi" aircraft after it had targeted and crashed on the deck of a British aircraft carrier. These Japanese 'death pilots' aimed at different points depending on the type of ship that they were going to attack. On an aircraft carrier they aimed for the central elevator, on larger ships such as battleships and heavy cruisers they aimed just below the bridge and anywhere between the center and the bridge of smaller ships and transports.
Later British aircraft carriers generally suffered less damage than the American aircraft carriers because they had specially reinforced steel flight decks. Whereas a "Kamikazi" could easily penetrate the decks of the American carriers.

(July 30, 1945)

Launched on the 30th of March, 1930, this 9,950 ton heavy cruiser served throughout the Pacific War until its final mission. One of the wars most secret missions was the delivery of the uranium core to be used in the 'Little Boy' Hiroshima bomb. After unloading the component to the B29 Bomb Squadron on the island of Tinian, the Indianapolis departed for Leyte to join up with the USS Idaho for gunnery practice before rejoining the rest of the US Fleet off Okinawa for the expected invasion of Japan. Halfway between Leyte and Guam, the cruiser was hit by torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-58 (Captain Hashimoto). The Indianapolis rolled over and sank bow first taking the lives of 883 US sailors. (Position 12 degrees-2 minutes north by 134 degrees-48 minutes east) There were 316 survivors from the 1,199 crew. Most of the men died in the water from exposure and shark attacks. Of the thirty nine Marines on board only nine survived. The survivors were rescued four days later by the US destroyers Cecil Doyle, Talbot and Dufilho. After hospital treatmrnt on Guam the survivors were soon on their way home on board the carrier USS Holandia . The captain of the Indianapolis, Charles Butler McVay, was later court-martialed for failing to zig-zag in hostile waters. His sentence was remitted by the Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, and he was restored to duty.  He retired as a Rear Admiral in 1949 and in 1968, in Litchfield, Connecticut, he committed suicide by a pistol shot to the head. In July, 2001, Captain McVay was exonerated for the loss of his ship. The Indianapolis was the last major warship sunk in WW11 and America's greatest disaster at sea. How different would history have been if the cruiser was sunk on the outward journey taking the nuclear components to the bottom of the ocean?


(August 24, 1945)   In the Aomori Prefecture, in the far north of Japan, around 5,000 Korean slave labourers had spent the last few years of the war digging a major underground complex of tunnels and storage facilities. With the work completed and the end of the war just a few weeks away the five thousand labourers were put aboard the Japanese warship Ukishima Maru with the promise that they were being returned to their homeland. The warship sailed south along the west coast until it reached the Maisaru Naval Base in Kyoto. There, the hatches to the holds were sealed down and the ship taken offshore and scuttled. Explosives were placed inside the hull, the resulting explosions sinking the ship within minutes. There were only some 80 survivors. Fifty-seven years later, in August 2001, fifteen of the survivors who were still alive, won a lawsuit for compensation against the Japanese government. They were paid the paltry sum of $30,000.

Info on the Sinking of the Ukishima Maru

On August 24, 1945, the Japanese cruiser Ukishima Maru sank in a Japanese harbor with more than ?? Korean slave laborers and their families aboard. About half of them were women and children. The Japanese gov, to date, blames the US for this incident. The ship hit an American mine and the US command ordered the ship to return to Japan. She was on her way to Pusan at the time. I am wondering if the US Navy has any archive on this incident, which is becoming a hot issue in South Korea. Eyewitness accounts tend to implicate the defeated Japanese Navy and exhonorate the Yanks. - The ship left with not enough fuel to reach Pusan - The ship changed her course and returned to a Japanese port ostensibly to pick up drinking water - The Koreans were herded below the deck and the hatches were locked down prior to the explosion - The Japanese crew abandoned the ship moment before the explosion - There was a wide spread rumor that the Japanese would be killed if they reached Pusan - There was no water plumes with the explosion - actually, there were three explostions in tandem - When the ship was salavaged nine years later, it was discoivered the hull and the deck were bent outward - implying the explosives were placed inside the ship - a string indication that the Japanese crew scuttled the ship.
Mike Yared


(August 30, 1945)   A 6,000 ton Dutch passenger liner based in Java and on regular service between Surabaya and Singapore. Converted to a hospital ship for the Dutch Navy at the outbreak of the war. In harbour at Surabaya during the Battle of the Java Sea, she was dispatched to look for survivors but was intercepted by two Japanese destroyers and ordered to turn back to Bandjarmasin in Borneo where she was boarded and apprehended. Ordered to take on board 970 Allied prisoners-of-war, including around 800 survivors from the British cruiser Exeter sunk in the Java Sea battle, she sailed for Makassar and there, for the next eight months served as a hospital facility for the POW camps in the area. Later she sailed for Yokohama under the Japanese flag and a new name 'Tenno Maru'. For the remainder of the war she sailed between Singapore and Manila carrying looted gold and other treasures from the Japanese occupied countries. Just weeks before the war ended she arrived again in Yokohama loaded with 2,000 metric tons of gold but instead of offloading her cargo she then sailed on to the Maisaru Naval Base where more gold and platinum bars, diamonds and other gems were put on board. (A metric ton of gold equals 26,400 ounces) Realizing the war was over it was decided to sink the ship and recover the treasure at a later date. Just days before the Japanese surrender the Op ten Noort was taken out into Maisaru Bay late at night by a group of high-ranking Japanese naval officers. The Japanese captain and twenty-four crewmen were shot dead and the ship scuttled. When the wreck was found in 1990 the Japanese valued the treasure at thirty billion US dollars (Three trillion Japanese yen)