"the Death of AWA MARU"

Member #2969

The Awa Maru
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The Death of the Awa Maru
From Sharkhunters International

This is taken directly from the wartime memories of the subject; especially and exclusively for Sharkhunters. Remember, these are first-person memories of World War II - not from some 'researcher' who reads a few files and comes to some conclusion. This IS the story of WW II directly from the veterans who lived it…..those who wrote this history.

Charles Levine was the radioman aboard USS QUEENFISH

Several articles have been written about this action and while they were very good, the most poignant article was an interview with Admiral Loughlin conducted by the Naval Institute's Oral History Program on 5 September 1980. In this interview, our Skipper clearly stated the circumstances as 'damned if he did and damned if he didn't'.

I would have thought that this should have put the matter to rest and I was quite perturbed when anyone would refer to the sinking of a hospital ship by the QUEENFISH. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, the Japanese ship that was sunk was the AWA MARU, one of Japan's newest and fastest merchant ships. This ship was guaranteed safe passage by the U.S. Government to pick up medical supplies for the benefit of Allied prisoners of war being held in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Initially, the Japanese were reluctant to undertake this task but soon realized that they could use this to their advantage so they agreed to cooperate. The AWA MARU was ordered to pick up medical supplies at Vladivostok, the principal Russian port on the Sea of Japan. The AWA MARU reached Singapore safely in February 1945. The Japanese government then proceeded to transport over 2,000 Japanese including high ranking Army and Navy officers. They also loaded the ship with war material that was badly needed to conduct the war. It is believed by many that a great amount of valuables, such as artifacts, diamonds and other precious metals were on board. Whether or not this is true is the subject of another article. Suffice it to say that this was not ever a hospital ship.

The USS Queenfish
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At this point, it is only appropriate to inform the reader of the background of the USS QUEENFISH and its valiant officers and men. The QUEENFISH was commanded by Commander Charles Elliot Loughlin, a graduate of the Class of 1933 at the Naval Academy. Among her officers and crew were many men who had made nine or ten war patrols prior to the fourth patrol of the QUEENFISH. It is important to know these facts because the record made by the QUEENFISH during its first three patrols is truly outstanding. The QUEENFISH was awarded the
Presidential Unit Citation for its first two patrols and her Skipper was awarded two Navy Cross Medals. One can readily conclude that prior to the events occurring in the fourth patrol, the record of the QUEENFISH on its first three patrols is certainly superb. The wolf pack of the QUEENFISH, BARB and PICUDA led by Commander Loughlin was among the best if not the very best of any wolfpack during the Second World War.

EDITOR NOTE - This wolfpack was known as 'Laughlin's Loopers'.


Unfortunately, the wolfpack of the QUEENFISH, BARB and PICUDA was broken up before the QUEENFISH commenced her fourth war patrol. A number of events occurred that would have a bearing on the fate of the QUEENFISH. Initially, the QUEENFISH was delayed by a period of two weeks as the universal joint on the bow plane rigging had to be replaced. Other circumstances, such as the inability to receive a first message about the AWA MARU was due to atmospheric conditions. Plain language messages were thought to be of little consequence during wartime and when the communications officer received this plain language dispatch from a submarine tender at Saipan prior to

USS QueenFish in port
entering the patrol area, he failed to bring this to the attention of our Skipper. Not only was the communications officer derelict in his duty, but there were several other incidences of carelessness by others not aboard the QUEENFISH that contributed to the sinking of the AWA MARU.

During an interview, Admiral Loughlin stated, "The only thing I knew about the AWA MARU was the message we got the night before which said that it will pass through your area. Let it pass clear. And I said to myself and my officers, what area? What are they talking about? It ranged from Australia to the Aleutian Islands. Every submarine in the Western Pacific was given this dispatch."

USS Queenfish underway
The most important fact was only partially brought out in the court martial hearings that our Captain had no knowledge whatsoever that the ship that he fired on and sunk was the AWA MARU. On the night of 1 April 1945, the QUEENFISH picked up a contact on the radar during a heavy fog at a range of
17,000 yards with the target ship cruising at about 17 knots. It was always thought that the target ship was a destroyer because of the range and speed. The Captain fired four torpedoes, setting the fish at three feet, bringing the torpedo spread to three hundred feet which was appropriate for a destroyer. They fired from the stern because if the QUEENFISH was detected, at least they were going away from the target enabling her to more readily escape from the area.

Perhaps some people may have gotten the impression that the AWA MARU may have been a hospital ship because of the fact that white crosses were painted on the side of the ship. Not only were the white crosses invisible, but the lighted ship itself could not be seen because of the dense fog in the area.

Indeed it was a tragedy for which both Japan and the United States share responsibility and the QUEENFISH and her Skipper should be remembered for their efforts in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.

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EDITOR NOTE - One of our Members, a CIA asset who does not wish to be identified, told us that a good portion of the gold and silver from the Philippine treasury was aboard AWA MARU as was the "Peking Man", the remains of prehistoric man in that area. Both this CIA asset and CHARLES LEVINE were Members of sharkhunters.com.

Copyright Sharkhunters International
Reprinted here with permissionl