Hawaii Maru  はわい丸
Hawaii Maru 476 ft 9467 G/T.  Photograph from "The Golden Age of Japanese Passenger Liners: 1939-41" published by "Ships of the World" magazine 2003.  Mr. Kihachiro Ueda has kindly made an image of his painting of Hawaii Maru in military service available through the POW Research Nework Japan.

    Hawaii Maru was a little-known hellship that made at least two voyages carrying Dutch POWs. The first, a disastrous journey from Singapore to Moji, Japan, in April 1943, directly led to the deaths of more than 70 prisoners.  The second voyage, in Nov-Dec 1943, brought 1,230 prisoners from Singapore to Moji.  No death occurred aboard, however, the voyage left the men susceptible to infections and diseases that took a terrible toll in Japanese POW camps in the first months of 1944.

Singapore to Moji, Japan.  April 1943     

    The Hawaii Maru left Singapore on 3 April 1943 carrying 1,000 Dutch and 3 British POWs to Moji.  The men were housed in the forward and rear 'tween' decks in the wooden berths typical of Japanese troopships.  While crowded, the prisoners were able to find individual berths.  Uncharacteristically, the food and liquid rations were adequate.  The men received 'sajour' (likely beans) with rice, a small amount of fish and enough tea.  The ship reached Saigon on the 5th and anchored there for two days.  During this time one prisoner jumped ship in an escape attempt.  As the ship proceeded towards Formosa, they encountered rough weather, which left the men seasick and prevented full access to the outhouse-style toilets on deck.  As conditions deteriorated, disease began to strike the Dutch POWs. They arrived at Takao harbor on 15 April, but received no treatment or medicine during their three day stay.  As a consequence, the POWs began to die of dysentery and general ill treatment and abuse.  Numerous bodies were said to have been tossed overboard as the ship drew north, and Flt. Lt. Sydney Catt, RAF, wrote, "We disembarked at Moji on the 25th after a trip of just over three weeks, and although we three Englishmen walked off, we did so over a deck covered with dead and dying people."

    The three British POWs were taken by train to Yokohama where Flt. Lt. Catt and Cpl. Wallace were held at Kawasaki #2B.  Using POW camp death records and testimony from POWs it is possible to establish that Dutch POWs were taken to Tokyo #6B, Yumoto-Machi; Fukuoka #13B (Hiroshima 2B), Niihama; Fukuoka #14B Nagasaki; and Fukuoka #15B, Mizumaki.  The sickest POWs were taken to the Kokura Military Hospital, but are recorded in Mizumaki camp records.  Japanese records indicate that a minimum of 70 Dutch POWs from the Hawaii Maru died within a month of arriving in Japan: 4 on board ship, 5 at Tokyo 6B, 20 at Fukuoka #13, 8 at Fukuoka #14 and 31 at Kokura Military Hospital.  While Japanese records list the four men who died aboard the ship in or near Moji, those records contain no mention of those who perished at sea in more distant locales.  One Dutch-language source cites a total of 7 deaths aboard ship before and after arrival at Moji.  Comparisons with the death rates in the aftermath of the Oct-Nov 1942 voyages of Tofuku Maru, Singapore Maru, and Dainichi Maru suggest that the death toll aboard Hawaii Maru may have been greater, perhaps as high as 15.

Singapore to Moji, Japan.  Nov-Dec 1943

    On 6 Nov 1943, 1,230 Dutch POWs departed Singapore for Japan aboard Hawaii Maru.  A little more than half the men were placed in the upper 'tween' deck forward and the remainder in the upper rear hold.  The inadequate food provided to the men consisted exclusively of a rice porridge and a poor quality vegetable soup.  The prisoners discovered, however, that that ship carried a cargo of dried coconut meat (copra) and persimmons ("kesemek") in the hold and were able to supplement and flavor their rations by raiding the hold.  The convoy initially followed the coast of Vietnam and China but, later, as crossed over to Formosa they encountered a typhoon that lasted for almost a week.  The ship and the seasick men took shelter in Takao harbor and then sailed north toward Japan.  On 27 Nov. the convoy was attacked in the northern Formosa straight (25°20'N, 120°00'E) by a small group of American B-25 bombers from the 14th Air Force.  The prisoners were immediately locked below decks where they huddled in fear awaiting their fates.  Fortunately, Hawaii Maru was not hit, but when the prisoners emerged they found that a large transport (Hakone Maru) was sinking and an escort vessel (Tomodzuru) had been damaged. The Hawaii Maru stopped to picked up about 900 survivors.  To accommodate the rescued soldiers and crew the POWs were moved from the rear hold forward, almost doubling the number of POWs in the already crowded hold.

    The convoy continued north to Shanghai where the rescued Japanese were taken ashore.  From there, Hawaii Maru proceeded alone to Moji, Japan, arriving there on 3 Dec. 1943.  On the 4th the prisoners were moved to several camps in Fukuoka, including camp #3B, Kokura, camp #4B, Moji, and camp #9B, Miyata.  Almost 400 prisoners were sent by ferry to Shimonoski and then by train to Osaka #13B, Tsumori, on Honshu.  It appears that all the POWs survived the journey to Japan; however, as was all-too typical, a number of men, about 6, died in the first two weeks after arrival due to the deprivations of the journey.  Examination of the death records of Fukuoka #3B, #9B, and Osaka #13B; however, revealed that there were slower and more long-lived effects of the voyage.  Whereas the victims of hellships that died in Japan typically succumbed within 1-2 months due to diarrheal diseases or extreme malnutrition, few from the Nov-Dec 1943 voyage of Hawaii Maru did so.  Instead, at least 70 died of pneumonia in Jan, Feb, and March 1944.  While it is impossible to establish how many of these deaths were due to the voyage, this extreme death rate suggests that the month-long journey aboard Hawaii Maru left many men so weakened that they succumbed to infections they would otherwise have resisted or survived.  While we can never know the true costs of the hellships, examples like Hawaii Maru serve as reminders that they were even more staggering than simple casualty lists reveal.

The Hawaii Maru and related vessels

    Hawaii Maru was a 476 ft L X 61 ft W, 9,467 G/T freighter built in 1915 by Kawasaki Dockyard Co., Kobe.  A sister ship War King was built for British use.  The ships were capable of 14-16 knots.   Hawaii Maru was nearly identical in size and design to the Manila Maru class ships built by Mistsubishi Shipyards, Nagasaki, in 1915-1920: Manila Maru, Africa Maru, Arabia Maru, Arizona Maru, and Alabama MaruHawaii Maru was torpedoed and sunk 2 Dec 1944 by USS Seadevil (SS-400) southwest of Japan (30˚24'N, 128˚17'E).

References and Acknowledgments

    Numerous internet records and documents from the US National Archives were consulted in preparing this page.  In addition to specific references cited below, I thank Mr. William Sibbald, who, with the gracious permission of his father, Mr. Hendrik Sibbald, and his friend and fellow POW, Mr. Frans Ritter, provided details of their Nov-Dec 1943 voyage aboard Hawaii Maru.  I am deeply grateful to these two veterans of the Royal Dutch Indonesian Army for allowing me to convey portions of their histories here.  Mr. Roger Mansell generously provided me with images of original documents from the US National Archives.  Personnel records from Fukuoka #3 (Record Group 407, Box 22) and Fukuoka #4 (cited in link) were particularly useful in deciphering the fates of men transported aboard Hawaii Maru.

Google translate was used for Dutch to English language translations.

A note about links.  I numerous cases I have been unable to establish a direct link to he cited page (a glitch with Google sites?).  In those cases simply copy and paste the listed URL into your browser to reach the site.

Dutch former POW Ronald Scholte shared part of his story including the April 1943 voyage of Hawaii Maru in a Dutch language website.

Edward Burki a Warrant officer with the KNIL and former POW also has biographical information online via Roger Mansell's Fukuoka #9B web page: http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/fukuoka/fuku_9_miyata/fuku9_main.html

Searchable pdf files of Dutch casualites aboard ships and in POW camps are available: http://www.wereldoorlog2.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Henk Beekhuis's 'Japanse krijgsgevangenkampen' page has summaries of both Hawaii Maru voyages.  Follow the link to 'Japan' under the 'Zeetransporten' heading: http://www.japansekrijgsgevangenkampen.nl/

Ortwin PA Louwerens a former POW has published a brief English language biography on Linda Dahl's Fukuoka POW Camp #17 webpage: http://www.lindavdahl.com/ .

Ivor Catt has published the autobiography of his father, Lt. Syndey Catt.

Roger Mansell's webpages have been helpful in understanding the voyages of Hawaii Maru.  You may access the Fukuoka #14 Nagasaki, Fukuoka #9B Miyata from his master POW camp list: http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/rg331-box%201321-jap%20pow%20camps.htm

The POW Research Network Japan has published the names of nearly all Allied POWs recorded as having died in camps in Japan.  Records for Hiroshima Branch Camp #2 (then Fukuoka #13), and Fukuoka #6 Branch Camp (then Fukuoka #15, including deaths at Kokura Military Hospital), and Fukuoka #14B, Nagasaki, were vital in understanding the cost of the April 1943 voyage of the Hawaii Maru.

Fumio Nagasawa's, Japanese language Nostalgic Japanese Steamships webpage provided details of Hawaii Maru and similar ships

Gregory F. Michno's excellent book "Death on the Hellships: Prisoners at Sea in the Pacific War" (US Naval Institute Press, 2001. ISBN 1557504822) is the most authoritative overall record of their voyages.  Despite extensive research, several hellship voyages remain little known or unrecorded.  The terrible April 1943 hellship voyage of Hawaii Maru is not listed in Michno.  The Nov-Dec 1943 voyage is recorded has having been made by 'Maru Shichi' (unidentified Maru #7).  

copyright 2009 by James W. Erickson