|Photos taken the following day, November 16
|Attack on the Japanese Maru
November 15, 1944
On November 15, 1944, while on a routine patrol mission over the Bicol area , The crew
of a US PB4Y-1 Bomber spotted a lone Japanese transport ship in the channel to the
West and to the East of Marinduque.
The Japanese Vessel was tenativley identified as the Borneo Maru but this was proven
wrong. The true identity has ever been established with certainty.
The Bomber captained by Lt. Paul Stevens made repeated bombing runs on the vessel
and blew of the rear of vessel and it came to rest upon a reef. The vessel was later
sunk by a U.S. submarine.
There have been repeated incidents of the residents of Guisian finding unexploded
shells in the area as well as fishermen getting their nets caught on debris. Marinduque
A photo which the author has had in his possession for many years had always been a
puzzle. The only description on the back of the photo was "6000 ton Fox Marinduque I.
15 Nov 44". It wasn't until the report by Lt. Stevens was made public that what happened
off of Marinduque came to light.
FOX was the code word designation used by the U.S. Navy to describe a certain type
of Japanese Freighter as seen in the below chart.
US Navy Action Report
Read the actual Action report of Lt. Stevens plane from the Morotai Air Station that
bombed the Japanese vessel.
Pictures of the attack which accompany the report
Lt. Stevens plane, the PB4Y-1 was a navalized version of the USAAF B-24. It had its
origin in a deal cut in mid-1942 between the Navy and the USAAF. The Navy was
anxious to acquire a long-range, land-based heavy maritime reconnaissance and
patrol aircraft capable of carrying a substantial bombload. Lt. Stevens was
assigned to Squadron VP-104 the Buccaneers.
On November 3 the “Buccaneers of Screaming 104” arrived at Morotai and with
VPB-101 and VPB-146 formed the Navy Search Group attached to the Seventh
The missions flown were described as “armed reconnaissance” which meant they
flew single aircraft missions, initially 800 nautical miles out and 100 mile cross leg
and back. Later they extended to 1000 miles out. Normally the carried from 1000 to
2000 pound bombs in various loads. The two forward bomb bays had two 300
gallon tanks in them and they carried bombs only in the two after bomb bays.
Crews also carried a lot of spare 0.5 calibre machine guns and occasionally extra
100 pound bombs in the fuselage that were particularly effective against the small
Lt. Paul F Stevens Pilot of the PB4Y-1.
Paul F. Stevens and crew are credited with downing a Kawanishi H8K “Emily”
that was carrying Japanese Vice Admiral Yamagata on March 17 1945. He is
also listed as the Navy Patrol Plane Aces of WW2 aboard the PB4Y-1 with 6 kills.
The Japanese Vessel
The identity of the Japanese ship still remains unknown. Captain Steven’s report
identifies it as the Borneo Maru or a similar type.
The Borneo Maru was run around in Kiska, Alaska on 15 October 1942 after being
attacked by US Aircraft. Gertrude Cove, Kiska, Alaska. The wreck remained afloat until
sometime postwar, then sinks.
The Borneo Maru had two sister ships the Celebes and Sumatra Marus. They were all
built in 1917 as passenger-cargo ships for the Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK) Line.
SUMATRA MARU was sunk in May 0f 1943 Off Bulusan, Luzon.
CELEBES MARU began her OSK service hauling cargo from Kobe to India and later New
York and other Ports. In Sep '41 she was requisitioned by the Imperial Army (IJA) and
later, infamously, was used as a prisoner-of-war (POW) "Hell Ship" transporting POWs
from Singapore via Sumatra to Burma.
Could this be the ship?
Lt. Stevens report does not match other reports of the Celebes Maru sinking.
The Date and time are the same.
The location on other reports indicates the sinking took place at Subunguin Reef, (NW of
Pinamuntagan Point, Bondoc Peninsula, Luzon and that the ship had been stranded on
the reef for several days. Lt. Stevens report indicates the vessel was 10 miles offshore
and ship was underway.
The other report indicates there were additional vessels in the area which also is not
mentioned in Lt. Stevens Report.
The pictures taken during the attack show mountains in the background which match
Marinduque not the area around Subunguin reef. The mystery ship in the pictures is sitting
aground after the bombing. This could match the other reports but it also matches the
reports of local fishermen in Marinduque.
There are enough discrepancies that we are left with the mystery. Only a dive expedition
would solve this for sure.
Pre-war picture of the Celebes Maru