Hellship Information and Photographs

Updated:  January 17, 2005 (Added a larger photo of the Canadian Inventor - see paragraph 2 e.).  August 9, 2004 (Added the Shinyo Maru - see paragraph 2 m.).


    a.  To see a full-size photograph of the following "thumbnail" photos, just click on the thumbnail.  Some of the photos can be further enlarged by holding your mouse pointer in the lower right-hand corner of the photo.  If you get a new symbol (an orange button with arrows in the four diagonal directions), click on it to get the enlargement.  You may click on the orange button to toggle between a full-size and a part-size photo.  Then click on "Back" to return to this page.

    b.  Excellent paintings of some of the Hellships have been added to this page.  See Item #3 below.


1.  GENERAL -- We refer to Japanese ships that carried POWs as "Hellships."  The names of Hellships and the names of U.S. Navy ships appear in bold letters on this page.  The Japanese built several "classes" of ships in which all ships of a class were built from the same plans.  In many cases, a photo of a ship from one of these classes cannot be positively identified as being a specific ship - it can just be identified as one of the ships of this class.  Some of the ship classes are:

    a.  Taifuku Maru #1 Class (the U.S. Navy refers to these ships as Aden Class ships).  This class of about 42 ships includes ten ships that were Hellships.  They were Brazil Maru, Celebes Maru, England Maru, France Maru, Hofuku Maru, Nagato Maru, Pacific Maru, Singapore Maru, Thames Maru and Ume Maru.  Built in 1917-1920, they were known as Kawasaki stock boats or standard steamers. These ships had a Gross Tonnage of approximately 5,870 tons, were 385 feet long and were 51 feet at the beam. They were capable of maximum speeds of about 14.3 knots (see Death on the Hellships, p. 79 for more details). The second photograph in paragraph 2 j. below and the painting in paragraph 3 k. below show what each of these Hellships would have looked like.

    b.  Class 2A Freighters.  This class of about 130 ships included three Hellships.  They were Arisan Maru, Enoshima Maru and Enoura Maru. Built in 1944 and 1945, they had a Gross Tonnage of about 6,900 tons, were 448.5 feet long, were 59.7 feet in breadth and were capable of 10 to 13 knots. The photograph in paragraph 2 h. below and the painting in paragraph 3 j. below show what each of these Hellships would have looked like.

    c.  Lyons Maru Class and related vessels.  The Hellships Lima Maru, Lisbon Maru, Maebashi Maru and Toyama Maru were four of these ships made on virtually the same design between 1914 and 1921.  Capable of speeds up to 14.5 knots, they were 445 feet long and ranged from 7,005 and 7,386 Gross Tons.

    d.  Nagara Maru Class -- This class of six freighters included the Hellships Nagara Maru, Naruto Maru and Noto Maru. These ships were built between 1933 and 1935 and were capable of speeds of almost 19 knots. They were 446 feet long, 63.3 feet in breadth and ranged from 7,142 to 7,185 Gross Tons. The paintings in paragraphs 3 b. and 3 f. below illustrate these ships in gray (1942) and green (1944) camouflage.

    e.  Akagi Maru Class -- This class of five freighters included the Hellship Asaka Maru. These ships were built between 1935 and 1937 and were capable of speeds over 19 knots. They were 459 feet long, 62.3 feet in breadth and ranged from 7,367 to 7,399 Gross Tons. The painting in paragraph 3 g. below depicts a ship of this class in 1943.

    f.  Eastern Shore Class -- The 6,780 Gross Ton Hellship Tamahoko Maru was a member of this class. Built in 1918 - 1919, these 425 feet long, 53.5 feet beam ships were capable of 13.2 knots. The photograph in paragraph 2 a. below and the painting in paragraph 3 c. below depict ships of this class in 1942.

    g.  Tottori Maru Class -- The Hellship Tottori Maru and its sister ship, Tokushima Maru were built in Glasgow, Scotland in 1913 - 1914. These 6,057 Gross Ton ships were 423 feet long, 56 feet in breadth and capable of speeds of 10 knots. The photograph in paragraph 2 b. below shows the Tottori Maru and the painting in paragraph 3 d. below illustrates the Tokushima Maru in green (1944) style camouflage.

    h.  Aki Maru Class -- The Aki Maru and Awa Maru were sister ships completed in 1942 - 1943. The Aki Maru had a Gross Tonnage of 11,409 tons while the Awa Maru had a Gross Tonnage of 11,249 tons. The paintings in paragraphs 3 a. and 3 h. below show what these two ships would look like.

    i.  Asama Maru Class -- The 16,950 ton, 560 ft passenger liners Asama Maru and Tatsuta Maru were nearly identical sister ships built in 1929 and 1930.  The photographs in paragraphs 2 c. & 2 d. and the painting in paragraph 3 e. below show what these ships looked like.

    j.  No.1 Yoshida Maru Class -- This class of 20 ships includes three Hellships: Clyde Maru, Erie Maru and No.1 Yoshida Maru, They were 400 ft. long 5,450 gross ton standard freighters built by Asano Company between 1918 and 1926.


2.  PHOTOGRAPHS -- The following are some of the Hellships.  Others will be added whenever good quality photos are received.

    a.  Tamahoko Maru -- Early in October 1942 the Japanese called for a group of men with technical skills for "special" projects in Japan.  On Mindanao, the Japanese gathered 268 men from Camp Casisang, Mindanao and marched them to Bugo where they boarded the Tamahoko Maru on October 3, 1942 for a 3-day voyage to Manila.  At Manila they were marched to Bilibid Prison to wait for transportation to Japan.  The Tamahoko Maru made a second voyage carrying POWs. That voyage began at Takao, Formosa on June 18, 1944 with about 772 POWs including 267 Australian, 190 British, 266 Dutch and 18 Americans that had left Manila on the Miyo Maru on June 3, 1944. The Miyo Maru ran into a typhoon and was too severely damaged to complete the trip to Japan. On the night of June 24, 1944 USS Tang torpedoed the Tamahoko Maru sinking it near Nagasaki, Japan with the loss of 560 out of the 772 POWs on board. The following photo shows how the Tamahoko Maru would look.  This photo actually shows the Yae Maru (not a Hellship) which was a sister ship of the Tamahoko Maru.  It is an enlargement of part of the photo on page 167 of Death on the Hellships and is used with permission of the author, Gregory F. Michno.  See also the painting in paragraph 3 c. below.                      


    b.  Tottori Maru -- The men that arrived in Manila on the Tamahoko Maru did not have long to wait in Bilibid Prison.  On October 8, 1942 they, along with a large contingent from Cabanatuan, boarded the Tottori Maru.  In Death on the Hellships there is an interesting story about this voyage including a torpedo attack on October 9th when torpedoes barely missed the ship on both sides at the same time.  After several stops, the ship finally arrived at Pusan, Korea on November 9, 1942 where over 1,300 POWs were unloaded (those men went by train to Mukden, Manchuria).  The Tottori Maru reached Osaka, Japan on November 11, 1942 where the remaining 580 POWs were unloaded.  The photo below of the Tottori Maru is an enlargement of part of the photo on page 49 of Death on the Hellships and is used with permission of the author, Gregory F. Michno.  See also the painting in paragraph 3 d. below.


    c.  Asama Maru -- The Asama Maru made three journeys with POWs in its holds.  On October 10, 1942 it carried 1000 POWs on a 13 day trip from Makassar, Celebes to Nagasaki, Japan.  On November 1, 1942 it began a 5 day voyage, taking 20 POWs from Wake Island to Yokohama, Japan.  On September 21, 1943 this ship took 71 POWs on an 18 day voyage from Singapore to Moji, Japan.  Note: In this photo there appears to have been water droplets on the camera lens.  See also the painting in paragraph 3 e. below.


    d,  Tatsuta Maru -- The Tatsuta Maru carried 663 Canadian POWs from Hong Kong to Nagasaki on 19-22 January 1943.  The Tatsuta Maru made another voyage that is not classified as a Hellship voyage.  It carried British embassy staff from Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe leaving Yokohama on July 30, 1943 for a ten-week voyage via Singapore to Lourenco Marques where the British personnel were exchanged for Japanese diplomats and supplies from England, Australia and India.


    e.  Canadian Inventor -- The Canadian Inventor was sometimes called the Matti Matti Maru (see Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II by Van Waterford) or the Mati Mati Maru (see Death on the Hellships by Gregory Michno) because this ship spent so much time waiting in various places.  The Canadian Inventor sailed from Manila on July 4, 1944 carrying 500 POWs from Cabanatuan and the 500 healthiest of the POWs that had come on the Yashu Maru from Mindanao to Cebu City and then from Cebu to Manila on the Singoto Maru in June 1944.  The day after it departed Manila, the Canadian Inventor developed boiler problems and returned to Manila for repairs.  The POWs remained on board while repairs were made and the ship again departed on July 16, 1944.  After delays caused by a typhoon and more boiler problems, the ship arrived in Takao, Formosa on July 23rd and took on a large cargo of salt.  The Canadian Inventor left Takao on August 4th; however, it got only as far as Keelung, Formosa when it put into port for another twelve-day wait.  It left Keelung on August 17, 1944 and got as far as Naha, Okinawa before having to go to port for another six days of boiler repairs.  The Canadian Inventor finally arrived at Moji, Japan on September 1, 1944 and the POWs debarked the next day.  The left photograph below of the Canadian Inventor is provided courtesy of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Canada, where it is listed as image number CN001544.  The right photograph below, also of the Canadian Inventor, provides a larger and clearer view of the ship.  This photo is displayed here courtesy of the owner, Mr. Brandon DeWolfe.  The date and location of this photograph are unknown.


    f.  Nissyo Maru -- On July 17, 1944 the Nissyo Maru left Manila with 1,600 POWs from camps all across Luzon.  Pages 182-190 of Death on the Hellships give very interesting stories and names of some of the POWs on this ship.  After a harrowing time during an attack by an American submarine wolfpack, the Nissyo Maru arrived undamaged in Moji, Japan on August 3, 1944.  The following photos are enlargements of parts of page 183 from Death on the Hellships and are used with permission of the author, Gregory F. Michno.  The first photo shows the Nissyo Maru; however, the dark buildings in the background make it difficult to see details of the ship.  Therefore, the photo of a sister ship, Nitiran Maru (not a Hellship), is provided to show more detail of this class of ships.



   g.  Hokusen Maru (known by many POWs as the Benjo Maru or the Haro Maru) -- On October 1, 1944 approximately 1,100 POWs boarded the Hokusen Maru at Pier 7 in Manila.  They suffered in the holds until October 3rd before the Hokusen Maru joined a convoy and departed Manila.  The convoy was attacked by submarines on two different occasions and the Hokusen Maru was one of only four ships left in the convoy to arrive at Hong Kong on October 11th.  The Hokusen Maru remained in Hong Kong harbor (where it survived some air attacks) until October 21st when it sailed for Formosa.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa on October 24, 1944.  The following photo of the Hokusen Maru and the photo of the Melbourne Maru in paragraph 2 k. below were provided by Abel Ortega, Jr. whose father, Abel F. Ortega ("A" Co., 192nd Tank Bn)., was a POW on the Hokusen Maru and on the Melbourne Maru.


    h.  Arisan Maru -- On October 11, 1944 the Arisan Maru left Manila with about 1,800 POWs in the cargo holds.  That ship turned south to Palawan Island and anchored off Palawan until October 20th when it returned to Manila to join Convoy MATA-30 which sailed on October 21, 1944.  On October 23rd when the convoy was about 200 miles northwest of Luzon, two packs of U.S. submarines (total of nine submarines) began their attacks on this convoy.  About 5:30 p.m. on October 24, 1944 the USS Shark sent three torpedoes into the Arisan Maru.  The ship broke in two pieces which floated for a while; however, the net result was death for all except nine of the POWs.  This was the largest loss of American lives in a single disaster at sea (see Death on the Hellships by Gregory F. Michno, p. 258).  For a list of POWs on the Arisan Maru, see Bill Bowen's Arisan Maru Roster via the link on the Internet Sites page of this web site.  The following photo of the class of Japanese ships that includes the Arisan Maru comes from Mark Kelso's Oryoku Maru Web Site (as of August 19, 2014, this site was no longer in use by Mark Kelso) .  See also the painting in paragraph 3 j. below of another Class 2A freighter.


    i.  Oryoku Maru -- The two photographs below of the Oryoku Maru were taken before World War II.  The left photograph is from the book The December Ship by Betty B. Jones and is used with her permission.  The right photograph is from an O.S.K. Lines postcard and was provided by Mark Kelso.  The Oryoku Maru left Pier 7, Manila late on December 13, 1944 with 1,619 POWs crammed into the three cargo holds.  Japanese civilians occupied the passenger cabins.  It is interesting to compare these pre-WWII photographs to the painting in paragraph 3 i. below.


Aircraft from the USS Hornet sighted the Oryoku Maru on December 14, 1944 as it moved north along the west coast of Bataan Peninsula and attacked it many times that day.  The next photo (taken by aircraft from the USS Hornet) shows the Oryoku Maru late on December 14, 1944.  This is probably on the northern shore of Subic Bay near the entrance to that bay and may be where the Japanese civilians that survived the December 14th attacks were unloaded.


On the morning of December 15, 1944, aircraft from the USS Hornet again attacked the Oryoku Maru as it was moving across Subic Bay toward Olongapo Point.  This time one bomb made a direct hit on the hatch of the aft cargo hold killing about 250 POWs. Later that morning the surviving POWs were allowed to jump off and swim to shore.  The next photo was also taken by aircraft from the USS Hornet.  It has been scanned at a high resolution in order to get the necessary detail to see the splashes in the water as the POWs were swimming to shore.  After you click on the thumbnail and get the large photo, you will have to scroll right or left and up or down to see the area of interest.  The surviving POWs from the Oryoku Maru were held for six days on a single tennis court at the former Olongapo Naval Base and then taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga.  Next they were taken by rail to San Fernando, La Union on Lingayan Gulf where they arrived about 2:00 a.m. on Christmas morning 1944.


    j.  Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru -- On December 27, 1944 the POWs that survived the attacks on the Oryoku Maru were loaded into the cargo holds of two ships - the Enoura Maru and the Brazil Maru - for the voyage to Takao, Formosa where they arrived on December 31, 1944.  On January 6, 1945 the Japanese consolidated all surviving POWs into the holds of the Enoura Maru.  On January 9, 1945 the Enoura Maru was still in the harbor at Takao (and moored to the same buoy with a Japanese tanker making them a prime target) when aircraft - again from the USS Hornet - attacked.  This time one of the bombs hit the forward hold killing about 350 POWs.  The next photo (again taken by USS Hornet aircraft) shows the Enoura Maru during that attack.  Mark Kelso has information showing that the Japanese tanker moored to the same buoy with the Enoura Maru is the Kuroshio Maru - another of the Class 2A ships, but not a Hellship.


The Brazil Maru may be the smaller of the ships at the dock on the left of the last photo.  On January 13, 1945 all surviving POWs were moved to the Brazil Maru and that ship departed for Japan on January 14, 1945.  On the Brazil Maru POWs died at the rate of up to 50 per day.  When the Brazil Maru arrived at Moji, Kyushu, Japan and unloaded its cargo of POWs. only about 425(*) were alive - out of 1,619 POWs that began the trip on the Oryoku Maru on December 13, 1944.

    (*) Note:  Different authors give different figures for the number of POWs still alive when the Brazil Maru arrived in Moji - from 425 (according to Some Survived by Manny Lawton) to more than 550.  The variance is possibly due to the number of POWs that died very soon after their arrival at Moji.

There were two Japanese ships sometimes identified as Brazil Maru.  The ship that carried POWs from San Fernando, La Union, Luzon to Takao, Formosa and then carried POWs from Takao to Moji, Japan was the older and smaller of those two, similarly named ships.  This Brazil Maru was a Taifuku Class #1 (or Aden Class) ship as discussed in paragraph 1 above.  The other (larger and newer) ship is properly called the Brasil Maru (note that it is spelled with an "s") and was not a Hellship.  The following photo of the Brazil Maru that made these two voyages carrying POWs was provided by Jim Erickson and is an enlargement of the photo on page 79 of Death on the Hellships (the author, Gregory Michno, has given permission to use the photos from his book).  See paragraph 3 k. below for a painting that depicts this class of ships.


    k.  Melbourne Maru -- On January 13, 1945 approximately 500 POWs that had arrived in Takao, Formosa on the Hokusen Maru on October 24, 1944 plus some survivors of the Arisan Maru boarded the Melbourne Maru.  The Melbourne Maru also carried about 20 British survivors of the Manila to Takao segments of the Oryoku Maru, Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru voyages.  These men were part of a group of 37 British and Dutch POWs taken off at Takao on January 9, 1945 just before the Enoura Maru was bombed.  The Melbourne Maru sailed from Formosa on January 14, 1945 in the same convoy with the Brazil Maru; however, the Melbourne Maru arrived in Moji, Kyushu, Japan on January 23, 1945 - six days ahead of the Brazil Maru which had slowed to tow a crippled ship.


    l.  No. 1 Yoshida Maru, Erie Maru and Clyde Maru -- The following photograph of the No.1 Yoshida Maru shows what the Erie Maru and the Clyde Maru looked like since all three are of the same class of freighters.

The No.1 Yoshida Maru left Tanjong Priok, Java on October 22, 1942 with 500 British POWs and about 2,200 Dutch POWs and Javanese laborers aboard.  It arrived in Singapore four days later, but the POWs were kept on board until October 29, 1942.  The British and Dutch POWs along with other POWs were then placed on the Dainichi Maru and the Singapore Maru for the voyage to Takao, Formosa and on to Moji, Japan.

 The Erie Maru left Manila on October 28, 1942 carrying 1,000 POWs from Cabanatuan.  After stops in Iloilo City, Panay and Cebu City, Cebu the ship arrived at Lasang, Mindanao on November 7, 1942 - two weeks after the Maru 760 had arrived with the first contingent of POWs (1,000 men from Camp Casisang at Malaybalay, Mindanao) bound for Davao Penal Colony.

The Clyde Maru left Manila on July 23, 1943 with 508 POWs from Cabanatuan.  It arrived in Moji, Kyushu, Japan on August 9, 1943 and these became the first POWs in Fukuoka Camp #17 at Omuta, Kyushu, Japan.  Most of them remained there and worked in the coal mines.


    m.  Shinyo Maru On August 20, 1944, 750 American POWs who had been on work details near Lasang, Mindanao were loaded into the cargo holds of a freighter marked only as "86" for transport to Manila.  The 3,801 gross ton Japanese Army transport No. 86, Tateishi Maru, made a slow and devious trip arriving at Zamboanga, Mindanao on September 5, 1944.  The POWs remained in the holds of transport No. 86 for two more days.  On September 7th, the POWs were moved to the Shinyo Maru.  The Shinyo Maru left Zamboanga in convoy on September  7, 1944; however, the USS Paddle was waiting near Sindangan Point, Mindanao where it torpedoed the Shinyo Maru late on the same day.  The ship sank quickly, trapping most prisoners in the holds.  Others were executed by the guards during the scramble to evacuate the ship or while in the water awaiting rescue.  Eventually 82 survivors swam to shore to be rescued by Filipino civilians and hidden onshore until they could be evacuated by submarine. (See Rice and Salt by John  McGee for details of the sinking and the evacuation of the 82 survivors.)
The Shinyo Maru was an antiquated freighter pressed into Japanese service after its capture at Shanghai in 1941.  It was built as the Clan MacKay in Glasgow, Scotland in 1894, and was much smaller than the ships listed in paragraph 1 above (312 ft. long by 40.2 ft. wide and only 2,600 tons).  The following photograph shows the Shinyo Maru when it was still the Clan MacKay.  We are grateful to Roger W. Jordan and Ralph J. Lotito for identifying the Shinyo Maru.  Photograph courtesy of Capt. John Bax and http://www.merchantnavyofficers.com.  The Clan Line pages can be  found on their history link.


    n.  Junyo Maru - The following photograph of Junyo Maru is copied from the City of Vancouver Archives web site - Photograph by Walter E. Frost.  Junyo Maru departed Batavia, Java on September 16, 1944 carrying 6,520 POWs and Javanese Romusha with the destination of Padang, Sumatra.  On September 18, 1944, Junyo was torpedoed by HMS Tradewind.  Wikipedia says "It was the world's greatest sea disaster at the time with 5,620 dead."

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3.  PAINTINGS -- One of our Japanese-pow Listserv members, Jim Erickson, discovered some excellent paintings made by Japanese naval artist Kihachiro Ueda and Jim has obtained permission for those paintings to be posted here.  Mr. Ueda was a soldier in the Japanese army assigned to merchant ships.  He was severely wounded during the bombing of the Kinka Maru in Manila Harbor on November 14, 1944, losing the use of his right hand.  He learned to paint with his left hand and has produced a considerable volume of paintings that includes many of the Japanese merchant vessels.  With the exception of the Asama Maru painting in paragraph 3 e., all of the following paintings are provided courtesy of the artist, Mr. Kihachiro Ueda, Hamamatsu City, Japan.  Digital images of the Ueda paintings are provided courtesy of Mr. Yuji Miwa of the POW Research Network Japan.  There is a link to Mr. Miwa's web site in the list of Internet Sites.  It is listed as "Museum of Japanese Merchant Ships."  The Asama Maru painting is by an unknown artist.

    a.  Aki Maru The following painting shows the Aki Maru which carried 74 officers and high government officials of the Dutch East Indies from Singapore (sailing on January 10, 1943) to Formosa (arriving on January 30, 1943).


    b.  Nagara Maru & Naruto Maru The Nagara Maru sailed from Manila on August 12, 1942 carrying 180 mostly senior POWs including Generals Wainwright and King. It arrived in Takao, Formosa on August 14, 1942. During September - November 1942 the Nagara Maru made another trip carrying 600 British POWs (the "Gunners 600") from Singapore to Rabaul and Ballale. The painting below also shows what the Naruto Maru would look like since both ships were of the same class. The Naruto Maru left Rabaul, New Britain on July 6, 1942 carrying 79 POWs and arrived in Yokohama, Japan on July 21, 1942. Nineteen of these POWs were women including six Australian nurses.


    c.  Tamahoko Maru The following painting is of the Shunko Maru (alias "Syunko Maru") which was an Eastern Shore Class ship, so it shows what the Tamahoko Maru and other members of this class would look like. Information on the two Hellship voyages of the Tamahoko Maru and a photograph of this ship are in paragraph 2 a. above.


    d.  Tottori Maru Information and a photograph of the Tottori Maru are in paragraph 2 b) above. The following painting of the Tokushima Maru shows what the Tottori Maru would look like.


    e.  Asama Maru - See paragraph 2 c. above for information about the three voyages the Asama Maru made carrying POWs.


    f.  Noto Maru The Noto Maru left Manila on August 27, 1944 carrying 1,035 POWs and arrived in Moji, Japan on September 4, 1944.


    g.  Asaka Maru The Asaka Maru left Singapore on July 4, 1944 with 738 British POWs aboard as part of a large convoy called "Japan Party Two" (SHIMA-05 which was reorganized as MI-08 at Miri, Borneo on July 8th). After a seven-day delay in Manila and delays in Keelung, Formosa and in the Ryukyus, the convoy arrived in Moji, Japan on August 13, 1944. The following painting depicts the Arima Maru; however, it shows what all ships in the Akagi Maru Class would look like.


   h.  Awa Maru The Awa Maru left Singapore on December 26, 1944 as part of Convoy HI-84. It carried about 525 British, American and Australian POWs and arrived in Moji, Japan on January 13, 1945.



    i.  Oryoku Maru -- See paragraph 2 i. above for information on the Oryoku Maru.


    j.  Enoura Maru -- This painting shows the Ebara Maru (not a Hellship) which was one of the Class 2A ships as discussed in paragraph 1 b. above.  The Ebara Maru was outfitted as a tanker; however, it was identical in appearance to the Enoura Maru except for the pipes on the deck.  So the painting gives a very good image of how the Enoura Maru looked.  See paragraph 2 j. above for information on the Enoura Maru.


    k.  Brazil Maru -- This painting shows the Aden Maru (not a Hellship) which was one of the Taifuku Maru Class of ships discussed in paragraph 1 a. above.  Since the Brazil Maru was of the same class, this painting gives a very good image of how the Brazil Maru looked.  See paragraph 2 j. above for information on the Brazil Maru.