Military Wiki
Shinyō Maru incident
Part of World War II, Pacific War
DateSeptember 7, 1944
Locationoff Mindanao, Philippines, Sulu Sea
Result United States victory
Major loss of life among American POWs
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
US Naval Jack 48 stars.svg Byron Nowell unknown
1 submarine 2 torpedo boats
2 tankers
4 cargo ships
Casualties and losses
1 submarine damaged
47 killed
1 tanker sunk
1 cargo ship grounded[1]

  • 687 Allied prisoners of war were killed during the engagement either by the Japanese or by friendly fire.

The Shinyō Maru incident occurred in the Philippines on September 7, 1944, in the Pacific theater of World War II. In an attack on a Japanese convoy by the American submarine USS Paddle, 668 Allied prisoners of war were massacred by the Japanese or killed when their ship, the SS Shinyō Maru was sunk. Only 82 Americans survived the ordeal and were later rescued.[3]


The "Hell Ship" plaque for those who survived the SS Shinyō Maru affair

Following the conquest of the Philippines in 1942 and the surrender of the United States Army, thousands of Allied prisoners of war, mostly American, were being held on the islands which by 1944 were soon to be invaded by General Douglas MacArthur. To prevent the liberation of the prisoners in the Philippines, the Japanese established a system of transportation called "Hell Ships" by those being transported. These Hell Ships were ordinary merchant vessels used to transport the Allied prisoners from the Philippines to elsewhere in the Japanese empire. These vessels were so-called because several of them were destroyed in friendly fire incidents. SS Shinyō Maru was one of these vessels; displacing 2,634 gross registered tons, she was a tramp cargo steamer impounded by the Japanese in 1941 and crewed by both merchant sailors and Imperial Japanese Army soldiers. The soldiers manned the ship's machine gun and guarded 750 Allied prisoners in the holds, almost 300 of whom were survivors of the Bataan Death March. The Japanese commander is said to have been extremely ruthless. Expecting an attack by the Allies, he told the prisoners that if the ship were fired on, he would order the guards to begin killing them.[2][4]


On September 7, the Shinyō Maru was sailing for Manila in convoy C-076 with seven other vessels, including two torpedo boats, two tankers, and four other medium and small cargo ships. They were sailing two to three miles off the Lanboyan Point of Zamboanga Peninsula on the island of Mindanao, when the USS Paddle found them. A few days previously, American intelligence had reported the Shinyō Maru to be carrying Japanese soldiers, so they assigned Paddle to search for it. The Paddle, under the command of Captain Byron Nowell, was 10 miles away when the Japanese were first spotted, so Nowell maneuvered forward to attack with torpedoes. A spread of four was then released in the direction of the Shinyō Maru, which was the leading ship in the convoy. Two of the torpedoes struck, both in the hold, and a few moments later the Paddle was lined up against one of the cargo ships. It, too, was struck by two torpedoes, so her commander grounded her on the nearby shore to prevent the ship from sinking. Just after the Shinyō Maru was hit, the guards opened fire on the prisoners with captured Thompson submachine guns, though several of the men fought their way out of the hold, with their fists and improvised weapons, and abandoned ship.[2]

The men of the convoy then began launching boats to pick up Japanese survivors and kill all of the remaining prisoners. A machine gun mounted on the grounded cargo ship and a second on the Shinyō Maru were also opened up on the Allied personnel. Marine Corps Sergeant Onnie Clem later reported the following; "Up on the bridge there was a machine gun spraying the hatch. A burst of machine-gun fire caught all three of us and knocked us back down in the hold. We'd all been hit. I got plowed in the skull. Another bullet chipped out my chin. Nevertheless, I was able to work myself back up on deck, and I was eyeing that bridge when I came out that time. The gun was still there, but the gunner was laying out on deck. Somebody had apparently got up there and killed him. At this time I found out that we were out in the ocean about two or three miles from shore. All I had was a loincloth."[5] Fifteen or 20 others were recaptured and taken aboard one of the torpedo boats, where they were executed by firing squad as punishment for trying to escape. One of those men was able to free his hands which had been tied behind his back, and he successfully escaped by jumping overboard again.[4] The Japanese dropped 45 depth charges and other explosives on the American submarine over the course of two hours, and the ship sustained some light damage, but nobody was hurt. After that, she surfaced and began patrolling the area again.[2]


Of 750 Allied prisoners of war, 668 were killed, all but five of whom were American servicemen. At least 47 Japanese personnel were killed, as well; only three men of the Shinyō Maru's crew survived.[6] Eighty-three Americans made it to the shores of Sindangan Bay, and they received aid from friendly Filipino guerrillas under the command of Brigadier General Wendell Fertig, who radioed headquarters about the situation. One man died the following day on September 8, the remaining survivors were eventually rescued by the submarine USS Narwhal save First Sergeant Joseph P. Coe Jr[7] who remained on Mindanao to continue fighting, for which he later received a Bronze Star. The crew of USS Paddle was not informed of the deaths of hundreds of Allied POWs until 1946.[2]

A second "Hell Ship" plaque in San Antonio, Texas dedicated on the 54th anniversary of the incident.

See also


  1. 船舶輸送艦における遭難部隊資料(陸軍) - IJA report about military transport ship losses in WW2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Mazza, Eugene A.. "USS Paddle: Sinking American POWS". Memories of War: Personal Histories. The Pacific War: The U.S. Navy. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  3. Mazza, Eugene A. (February 15, 2004). "The American Prisoners of War Rescued after the sinking of the Japanese transport, Shinyō Maru, by the USS Paddle, SS 263, on 7 September 1944". Submarine Sailor. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Morison, Samuel E. (2002). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 12: Leyte, June 1944-January 1945. University of Illinois Press. p. 401. ISBN 0-252-07063-1. 
  5. Mazza citing With Only The Will To Live edited by Robert S. LaPorte, Ronald E. Marcello and Richard L. Himmell
  6. Complete Roster of POWs aboard Shinyō Maru.
  7. Coe later rose to the rank of colonel in the American army

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