Celebes Maru せれべす丸
Celebes Maru せれべす丸. 5,863 G/T. Completed 12 Dec. 1917.
Image source: J. Erickson personal collection.
On 14 May 1942 three thousand Australian POWs known as "A force" were led from Changai prison to Singapore harbor for transport to Burma. Approximately 1,000 men were placed aboard Celebes Maru with the remainder being loaded aboard Toyohashi Maru. Pre-war, the Celebes Maru had been used to haul livestock between Australia and Japan. The men were housed in sheep pens: 360 in the forward hold and 640 in the aft hold. They sailed 15 May in unbearable heat to Belawan, Sumatra. On 16 May, 350 Japanese troops were placed aboard Celebes Maru and it sailed in convoy to Burma. The POWs from the Celebes Maru were taken ashore on 24 May at Mergui, Burma, first to work on constructing an airfield, and later, to labor and die building the Burma-Thailand railway. Despite the heat, disease, and deprivations aboard the Celebes Maru it is believed all the POWs survived the 10 day journey.
Celebes Maru was lost in Nov 1944. The ship was part of a convoy that left Manila on 9 Nov to resupply the Japanese forces fighting on Leyte Island. The Celebes Maru ran aground on a reef off Bondoc Peninsula in southern Luzon on the 11th. The soldiers were transfered to other vessels and the ship refloated only to be sunk on 15 Nov 1944 by land-based aircraft off Mindoro Island, Philippines (13.02˚N,122.28˚E).
Kawasaki Stock boats
Celebes Maru was a Taifuku Maru #1 class freighter. The Kawasaki shipyards at Kobe built 74 of these ships for Japanese and foreign customers in 1916-1920. They were widely known as Kawasaki stock boats or standard steamers. Based on a British WWI standard ship design, these flush decked ships had a gross tonnage of approximately 5,870 tons, were 385 feet long and 51 feet at the beam. They were capable of maximum speeds of about 14 knots, but usually sailed at 9-10 knots. Cargo was carried in four holds; two forward, and two to the rear. Each was divided vertically into an upper 8 ft "tween deck" and a deeper lower hold, itself often split into two levels creating a lower "tween deck" and the hold. The following Kawasaki stock boats are known to have transported Allied POWs: Brazil Maru, Celebes Maru, England Maru, France Maru, Hofuku Maru, Nagato Maru, Pacific Maru, Singapore Maru, Thames Maru, Tofuku Maru, Ube Maru, and Washington Maru.
Information on the hellship voyage of the Celebes Maru was extracted primarily from, "Death on the Hellships: Prisoners at Sea in the Pacific War" by Gregory F. Michno, ISBN 1557504822, US Naval Institute Press (June 2001).