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The Oryoku Maru was one of the hell ships used for transporting POW to Japan to serve as workers.
|Name Dive Site:||Oryoku Maru|
|Depth: ||15-20m (49-65ft)|
|Inserted/Added by: ||funkydivers|
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Oryoku Maru was a Japanese Passenger Liner. In World War II she was used as a troop transport and prisoner of war transport ship, one of the notorious 'Hell Ships'. She left Manila on 13 December 1944, heading to Japan with 1,619 POW's, mostly American officers, packed in her holds. Also on board were around 700 civilians plus 100 crew and 30 Japanese guards. Already overloaded, the Oryoku Maru then took on about 1,000 Japanese seamen, survivors of ships sunk in Manila Harbour. The prisoners were kept in inhuman conditions, crammed into the ships holds with poor ventilation and only room to stand.
On the morning of the 14 December 1944 American Dive Bombers from the carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) located the Oryoku Maru off of Subic Bay. Attacks on the convoy continued all day. Japanese Anti Aircraft gunners attempted to fend off the repeated attacks with no success and the Japanese gunners took heavy casualties from the Hornet's aircraft.
With severely damaged steering gear the Oryoku Maru limped back to Subic Bay. The next morning on the 15 December 1944 American planes once again found the damaged Oryoku Maru. 3 attacking planes quickly scored 2 direct hits on the crippled liner killing many of the prisoners. It wasn’t until the surviving American and allied prisoners raced across the decks wildly waving their arms, that the pilots recognized the white figures as Americans and sharply pulled out of the attack.
286 Prisoners were killed. About 100 prisoners died aboard the ship from suffocation or dehydration during the two nights aboard while nearly 200 others were killed in the bombing or shot in the water by the Japanese as they tried to swim ashore. After burning steadily for 2 hours Oryoku Maru settled into the water approx 400 metres off Alava Pier. The survivors were then transported by truck and train to San Fernando and thence to other ships, the Enoura Maru and Brazil Maru.
The Brazil Maru, which also carried a cargo of 12,000 bags of sugar, sailed for Japan on 14, January 1945. Conditions on board were indescribable, hundreds dying on the way from the cold, lack of air and water. On arrival at Moji in Japan two weeks later, only 475 Prisoners were alive. Of these, 161 died within the first month ashore.
As Oryoku Maru was sunk in shipping lanes; she was broken up with explosives to eradicate threats to navigation. She is now a mess of twisted iron which has become home to an array of marine life. Clown fish, angelfish, spotted sweetlips and lobster will be encountered and regular schools of barracuda and Giant Trevally swim overhead.
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The bombing of the Oryoku Maru was one of the darkest events to come out of WWII. The Oryoku Maru was a "Hell Ship" used to transport prisoners in very inhumane conditions to Japan. Many books and articles have been written about the "Hell Ships" especially about this one. The Oryoku Maru Story describes the events that occurred to the 1619 POW's who were loaded aboard the Oryoku Maru in Manila, P.I. on December 13, 1944, through to the arrival of approximately 450 survivors, in Moji, Japan on January 29, 1945.
As a dive site and a war grave, the Oryoku Maru sits about 300 meters off shore. She sits in 15 to 25 meters of water. The wreck is a tangle of metal the results of war damage, clearing operations and time. Visibility is often poor as the wreck is very near a commercial pier. Coral and fish life is healthy, with large schools of jacks found near the bow.
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