"The vermin-infested little coaster named the Otari Maru"
An unpleasant two day trip
The 179 American POWs delivered to Takao harbor aboard Nagara Maru on 14 Aug 1942 were transferred by barges to a "very filthy, very old" coastal steamer in the afternoon of the 15th. The ship carried the number 107, but no one knew its name. Somehow, it came to be known to them as the "Otaru, Otari, or Otaro Maru". The colonels and enlisted men were split into two groups and placed in the single forward and rear holds of Army Transport ship No. 107 where they were housed in the typical wooden sleeping berths. Generals Wainwright and King were housed together in a cabin in the rear deck house of the ship. It appears that the other General officers (and 3 enlisted aides) were also housed in the holds. No. 107 stayed overnight in harbor and sailed the next morning around the southern end of Formosa and up the east coast. It arrived at Karenko early in the morning of 17 Aug 1942. The POWs disembarked about 11:45 and were marched to the Karenko POW camp.
Conditions aboard No. 107 were more crowded than on Nagara Maru but still much better than American POWs usually experienced. Food was relatively plentiful, water was available, and the men had access to the deck for considerable periods. The holds, however, were hot and infested with insects and rats. Col. Mallonée recorded that Col. McCafferty had three toes badly mauled by rats during the night. Col. Fortier, who was held in the rear hold, drew several caricatures covering events aboard the ship. The drawing of Gen. Wainwright, was made in order to complete a painting commemorating the American surrender of the Philippines.
Identification of Suzuya Maru as "Otaru Maru"
Col. Richard in "The Naked Flagpole" recalled they were put aboard "No. 107 a small interisland vessel--very filthy, very old-- whose barnacled bottom should have been sent to its graveyard years ago. It was such a poor ship no one used its name, only its number." Col. Michael Quinn ("Love Letters to Mike") recorded in his 27 Aug 1942 diary entry that he learned the ship that brought them to Karenko was named Suzuya Maru. Mr. Ralph Lotito, an expert in Japanese merchant ships, confirmed that Suzuya Maru was Japanese Army transport #107. The Miramar ship index and Fumio Nagasawa's website provided additional information about the ship.
Suzuya Maru was built in 1922 by Mitsui shipyards in Tamano as Hokkai Maru No. 1 . The 864 G/T ship was 185' L X 31'6" W X 19'6" D. The ship was renamed in 1924 after the Suzuya river on Sakhalin Island in Northern Japan. Suzuya Maru was torpedoed and sunk by USS Guardfish (SS-217) off the southwest coast of New Ireland (3˚8' S, 151˚24' E) on 13 June 1943. A sister ship, Hokkai Maru #2, later, Hayataka Maru, was sunk by USS Seal (SS-183) on 22 Dec 1941 off Vigan just north of Lingayan gulf.
Bunker, Paul D. "Bunkers War: The World War II Diary of Col. Paul D. Bunker" ed. Barlow, Keith. Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1996. ISBN 0-89141-538-6.
Fortier, Malcolm V. "The Life of a P.O.W. Under the Japanese in Caricature" C.W. Hill Printing Co., Spokane, 1946.
Quinn Michael A. Love letters to Mike, forty months as a Japanese prisoner of war, April 9, 1942 to September 17, 1945: the diary of Colonel Michael A. Quinn" Vantage Press, New York, 1977.
Wainwright Jonathan M. "General Wainwright's Story: The Account of Four Years of Humilitating Defeat, Surrender, and Captivity" ed. Considine, Robert. Doubleday, New York, 1946. The book notes that Wainwright and King were held together in a cabin aboard Nagara Maru, not Suzuya Maru. This appears to be in error and likely resulted from miscommunication between Gen. Wainwright and Robert Considine, who wrote the book.
Copyright 2009 James W. Erickson