On 4th September 1944, convoy HI-72 sailed from Singapore. Two of these ships, Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru carried PoWs. The Rakuyo Maru carried 1317 Pows and the Kachidoki Maru a further 900.
The Yakuto Maru is also known as Rokyo Maru or Rokyu Maru, (9,418 tons, built 1921).
The Rakuyo Maru was part of Japan Party 3, the ship sailed with 1318 POW’s, consisting of 600 British, 718 Australian and a few Americans, all coming from the Thailand-Burma Railway.
The holds of the Rakuyo Maru also contained bauxite and the ash of Japanese soldiers. The transport took place in convoy of 13 ships, among others the POW ships AsakaMaru, Kachidoka Maru, Shincho Maru.
1944/09/11 - Joined another convoy from Manila.
1944/09/12 - At 2:00 am the convoy was attacked near Haanan Island by the submarine US Growler and an escort ship was sunk.
The PoW’s were kept in their hold.
At 5:30 am the convoy was attacked again, by submarine US Sealion torpedoed a tanker, a freighter and the Rakuyo Maru. The tanker and freighter sank but Rakuyo Maru did not sink with one torpedo in the fore and one in the engine room (mid-ship). The PoW’s left their holds and some jumped over the side into the sea, but the Japanese, who had evacuated the ship took the life boats.
At 6:15 am the US Growler attacked the convoy again at Lat 18.0 N Lon 114.0E, a frigate was hit, depth-bombs were jumped in the water, nearby the drowning men of the Rakuyo Maru.
At 7:10 am the Rakuyo Maru was still afloat, some of the oil soaked PoWs who had jumped over the side returned to the ship.
At 5:30 pm the ship was near sinking and all the PoW’s left the ship. Two frigates and a freighter saved only the Japanese, the PoW’s were left behind with only two lifeboats between them, the Duncan-group (136 men) and the Varley-group.
1944/09/14 - The Duncan-group were rescued by a Japanese ship but the Varley-group had disappeared. The Duncan-group were taken to Hainan Island.
1944-09/15 - 5:00 pm the submarine US Pampanito arrived at the site of the sinking looking for more Japanese ships and found the survivors in the water clinging to wreckage, they save 63 PoWs. Relaying a message, the US Sealion saved another 44 POW’s, but there were many more left in the sea.
The 136 who were saved by the Japanese arrived at Hainan Island together with about 360 survivors of the Kachidoka Maru which was also sunk. They were transported to Japan in the Kibitsu Maru accompanied by the Asaka Maru and Sincho Maru.
1944/09/17 - At 5:30 pm the US submarines US Barb and US Queenfish saved another 32 men.
1944/09/18 - The weather was bad and no more PoWs were found.
1944/09/20 - US Sealion and US Pampanito arrived at Saipon with 127 survivors, 5 deaths had occurred.
1944/09/21 - US Barb and US Queenfish arrived in Saipan with 32 survivors, 2 deaths had occurred.
It is estimated that 1159 PoWs died with the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru