The famous Japanese ship that Frank Poague’s sub sank

Frank was helping to guide the rudder of the sub USS Queenfish and heard the loud thunk of the torpedo hitting the Awa Maru.


The Awa Maru (阿波丸) was a Japanese ocean liner owned by Nippon Yusen Kaisha. The ship was built in 1941-1943 by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. at Nagasaki, Japan. The vessel’s pre-war design anticipated passenger service; but when work was completed, the onset of war had created somewhat different priorities.

The ship’s name comes in part from the ancient province of Awa on the island of eastern Shikoku in the modern prefecture of Tokoshima.[1] This mid-century Awa Maru was the second NYK vessel to bear this name. A turn-of-the-20th-century, 6,309 ton Awa Maru was completed in 1899; and she was taken out of service in 1930.


The ship was built by Mitsubishi at Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu. The keel was laid down in the summer of 1941 (July 10, 1941). The Awa Maru was launched on August 24, 1942; and she was completed March 5, 1943

Pacific War

The Awa Maru was requisitioned and refitted for auxiliary use by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.

In 1945 the Awa Maru was employed as a Red Cross relief ship, carrying vital supplies to American and Allied POWs in Japanese custody. Under the Relief for POWs agreement, she was supposed to be given safe passage by Allied forces, and Allied commanders issued orders to that effect.

Having delivered her supplies, Awa Maru took on several hundred stranded merchant marine officers, military personnel, diplomats and civilians at Singapore.[4] In addition, there have been stories that the ship carried approximately $5 billion in treasure—40 metric tons of gold, 12 metric tons of platinum, and 150,000 carats of diamonds and other strategic materials. Less dramatic and more credible sources identify the likely cargo as nickel and rubber.

The ship departed Singapore on March 28, but on April 1 was intercepted late at night in the Taiwan Strait by the American submarine USS Queenfish, which mistook her for a destroyer.

The torpedoes of the Queenfish sank the ship. Only one of the 2,003 passengers and crew survived.

There are various theories regarding the disappearance of a number of Peking Man fossils during World War II; one such theory is that the bones sank with the Awa Maru in 1945

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