Daily Event for January 23, 2014

The fall of Wake Island on Dec. 23, 1941 left over 1,500 Americans prisoners of the Japanese. The majority of those on Wake were civilian workers, but over 400 were service personnel. On Jan. 12, 1942 the Japanese put about 1,200 of them on a ship named Nitta Maru and took them to Japan. They were ultimately bound for the Zentsuji prison camp in China. Nitta Maru left Yokohama, Japan for China on Jan. 20, but three days out to sea a barbaric incident took place.

For reasons that can not be understood by a rational person, the Japanese decided to execute several of the men. Five were brought up from the hold of the ship, they were tortured and then beheaded. The bodies were mutilated and thrown overboard. One account stated that the Japanese did this in retaliation for the losses they suffered during the two attacks on Wake Island. The Marines and Navy men put up a very good defense of the island, sinking four ships, shooting down a number of aircraft and causing the deaths of more than a thousand of their countrymen.

That could have been the reason given by the Japanese, but in reality the Japanese reveled in the torture and murder of their enemies, whether military or civilian. They required no real reason to summarily execute one, five or five-hundred prisoners. As there seems to have been no infraction or offence committed by the men, one can only conclude that this was just one more senseless act of wanton murder committed by the Japanese.

The Nitta Maru was converted into a small aircraft carrier in mid 1942 and renamed Chuyo. On Dec. 4, 1943 she was torpedoed by USS Sailfish SS-192 and sunk. On board at the time of her loss were the twenty-one survivors from USS Sculpin SS-191, only one survived. Over 1,200 Japanese were also lost.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in the service of their country on
SS Nitta Maru
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Bailey, Vincent W.
Technical Sergent (USMC)
Franklin, Theodore D.
Seaman 2nd Class (USN)
Patrol Wing 2 (Wake)
Gonzalez, Roy J.
Seaman 2nd Class (USN)
Patrol Wing 2 (Wake)
Hannum, Earl R.
Technical Sergent (USMC)
Lambert, John W.
Seaman 1st Class (USN)
NAS Wake

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Nitta Maru seen at Honolulu, Hawaii. The Aloha tower is seen in the background.

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