Hellships Down

Allied POWs and the Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru and Kachidoki Maru


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About the Book

On 12 September 1944, a wolfpack of U.S. submarines attacked the Japanese convoy HI-72 in the South China Sea. Among the ships sunk were two carrying Allied prisoners of war. Men who had already endured the trials of Japanese captivity faced a renewed struggle for survival at sea.

This book tells the broader story of the HI-72 convoy through the stories of two survivors: Arthur Bancroft, who was rescued by an American submarine, and Charles “Rowley” Richards, who was rescued by the Japanese. The story of these men represents the thousands of Allied POWs who suffered not only the atrocious conditions of these Japanese hellships, but also the terror of friendly fire from their own side’s submarines. For the first time, the personal, political and legal aftermath of these men’s experiences is fully detailed. At its heart, this is a story of survival. Charting the survivors’ fates from rescue to their attempts at retribution, this book reveals the trauma that continued long after the war was over.

About the Author(s)

Michael Sturma is a professor of history at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. He is the author of seven previous books.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Sturma
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: 8 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8242-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4219-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 3
Part I. Convoy HI-72
1. Deadly Jungles, Dangerous Waters 8
2. Ambush 17
3. Under Siege 24
4. A New Dawn 31
5. The Mercy of Wolves 38
6. Another Convoy and More Survivors 45
7. To Saipan, to Japan 53
8. Post-Mortem 63
Part II. Aftermath
9. Going Home 72
10. Repercussions 81
11. POWs in Japan 90
12. Liberation 97
13. Americans 104
14. Friendly Fire 112
15. Adjustment 120
Part III. Crimes at Sea
16. Retribution 130
17. Raishin Maru 137
18. Sanuki Maru 147
19. Yoizuki Incident 154
20. Hellships in Context 165
Epilogue 173
Chapter Notes 181
Bibliography 213
Index 227

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Easy to read and comprehend, and the research is excellent…recommended”—Choice

• “A compelling read…an impressive and original contribution”—Associate Professor Amanda Laugesen, Australian National University

• “An enjoyable read” that ‘judiciously blends maritime, military and social history’ and ‘makes sound scholarly arguments back by solid archival research.’”—Dr. Aaron Pegram, historian, Australian War Memorial

• “Highly recommended”—Argunners Magazine