Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, May 6, 2018

To kill a Convoy

HOMO-03 was the designation of a Japanese convoy that departed from Hong Kong at 1700 on the 4th of April, 1945. Setting out was risky, however remaining was just as dangerous. On the 3rd an air raid of USAAF B-24's had sunk two transports and badly damaged a third. The convoy consisted of two transport ships, the 839 ton Tokai Maru No 2 (The first ship to bear that name was sunk in 1943 at Guam by a US submarine) and the 2193 ton, steam powered Kine Maru. The two transports were given a very heavy escort of five ships. In the lead was the destroyer Amatsukaze, and five corvette sized ships, these were the coastal defence ships CD-1 and CD-134, and the anti-submarine vessels CH-9 and CH-20. The convoy would proceed at about 12 knots towards Shanghai, and then onwards to Moji, a distance of only about 350 miles.
Such a heavy escort was normal, because by this stage in the war the Allied air forces were dominating the area.
The next morning the convoy was steaming along when the first of the US planes appeared. US intelligence had found the convoy overnight and had directed planes to attack. A flight of PBM-5 Mariner flying boats approached and began to make their attacks. I've not yet been able to find the squadron responsible, or an account of the attack however I did find this site which details the life of a PBM-5 crewman in the Pacific. It includes the following about a level bombing attack against shipping:
"VPB-27 and VPB-208 attacked a Japanese transport convoy at the mouth of the Yangtze River. We encountered heavy flak. VPB-208 went in ahead of us, which woke the Japs up, so they were ready for us when we got there. I prayed to be well—and I was well, just like that. But a hit by a 5-inch shell cut our aileron cables, so we couldn’t bank. Our flight engineer, Aviation Chief Machinist’s Mate Julius J. Jaskot was sitting on the back of his seat, with his feet up on the seat, to see what was going on, when a shell came in one side of the hull and out the other—where his legs would normally have been. It missed our gas line by just six inches. That same shell went through our propeller blades without striking them, as if it was synchronized—then it exploded. We must have been flying too low for the shell to arm."

The eyewitness also talks about torpedo attacks against Japanese shipping, which is well worth a read.

The result of this unknown squadron's attack on HOMO-03 was that the Tokai Maru No 2 was sunk.
Later in the day the USAAF took their first attempt at the convoy. B-24's and B-26's attacked and had cover from P-38 Lightnings. This attack sunk the Kine Maru. With no transports left to escort the convoy split into two groups. CH-9 and CH-20 returned to Hong Kong. They got back just in time to receive a large air raid from B-24's, the two escorts were damaged, along with two more coastal defence ships and a fleet oiler.

This left the two coastal defence ships, CD-1 and CD-134 along with the Amatsukaze. The later was not at full capability though. In January 1944 the ship had been torpedoed, which detonated her magazine, severing the ship in half just in behind the forward smoke stack. the US claimed her as destroyed however she drifted for six days before being recovered and towed to Hong Kong, where she had a makeshift bow fitted, along with several more AA guns.

The next morning at 1130 twenty-four B-25's appeared over the three escorts. The planes had come from Luzon, and after the long flight had found their targets. They consisted of planes from the 345th Bombing Group. The planes dove on CD-1 and CD-134. They were using skip bombing attacks. This is where the bombers make a high speed run at an enemy ship, when short of the target between two and four bombs are released with long fuses. These impact on the water and literally skip along the surface to strike the target ship in the side. Attacks are normally done in pairs with one of the B-25's hosing the target vessel down with its machine guns to suppress the ships AA defences.
The fate of CD-134. The B-25 in the picture is often identified as Ruthless Ruth, flown by Cpt Mikell.
CD-1 was hit by two bombs, one bounced off the water and exploded on the ships deck. The other hit CD-1 in the side and she began to sink. CD-134 was attacked by two aircraft, and suffered a single hit to the waterline, and rolled over and sunk. The exact credit as to whom got the kill is unknown as different sources give different pilots names. Lt. Lester Morton and Cpt Louie Avery Mikell are the two named. Lt Morton's fate I don't know, but Cpt Mikell survived the war, and in 1948 was taking part in the film "Fighter Squadron" when his plane went into a tail spin. Cpt Mikell bailed out, however he landed in Lake Oscoda, and was lost. His body was recovered a month later.
Amatsukaze before the torpedo hit.
Some ten minutes later six of the B-25's came across the Amatsukaze. The destroyer was alert and began firing on the B-25's as soon as they approached. The wall of flak scored a hit on one B-25 with a single 40mm round, the plane pitched in and hit the sea inverted, killing all on board. The other planes bombed the destroyer setting it alight, before retreating. The final group of six B-25's that had been at the location of the attack on CD-1 and CD134 had not dropped their ordnance. When they saw the pillar of smoke they set course and found the burning Amatsukaze, which was still steaming at full speed with all guns manned, despite being very obviously on fire.
Amatsukaze under attack, it is suggested that the large splash in the background is the inverted B-25 hitting the water.
This flight of planes was led by Captain Albin V. Johnson, who had only recently been made up to flight leader. The Amatsukaze put up a barrage of fire against Cpt Albin's plane, but despite being the target of the destroyers wrath he pushed forward with his attack. His plane riddled with gunfire Cpt Albin released his bombs, scoring a direct hit on the stern of the ship. Cpt Albin's plane roared over the sinking destroyer but couldn't gain height due to the damage sustained and ditched. He was later awarded a posthumous Silver Star.
A direct hit is scored on the Amatsukaze, starting the fire.
Despite the massive amount of damage she'd sustained Amatsukaze was still not dead. She limped on for another mile, where the crew found a reef. They beached her on it. For the next two days the destroyers crew attempted to stop the flooding, however on the 8th the weight of water was too much, and she slipped off the reef stern first and sank.

Further reading:
The most detailed account of the action can be found here:
However that version differs from the more common version found here: