The Shotan Maru was a 285 ft/86m, 1,999-ton cargo steam ship built in 1943; one of the class of 14 ships built between 1942 and 1944 by private shipyards as part of the Standard type ID program. The commercial owner was the Matsuoka Kisen shipping company which operated out of Kobe and Hiogo-ken. Upon completion she was transferred immediately to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). The word ‘Maru’ designates a merchant vessel.
The first mention of the Shotan Maru in intelligence files was in Sept 1943, indicating that she had departed Sasebo for Kwajalein via Yokosuka and Truk. Later reports showed her to be in Kwajalein in October and on November 6th she entered Truk Lagoon’s south pass, escorted by SubChaser No.33.
In early January 1944 she returned again to Truk Lagoon – this time travelling from Yokosuka with a cargo including 100 belly tanks for Zero fighter planes. Her last arrival into Truk Lagoon was on February 6th as part of Convoy #2312 from Rabaul escorted by the Matsutkaze and Fumitsuki.
The Shotan Maru was attacked by Douglas Dauntless dive bombers from the USS Enterprise on February 18th. Heavy damage was reported from a bomb hit just aft of amidships. She sank quickly close to the island of Fanamu – it’s speculated the crew were intending to try to beach her.
The Shotan Maru sits upright in 180ft/55m of water, at the base of an underwater hill that extends up to Fanamu Island. There are 2 truck frames on the top of Hold 1; the third was blown over the port side and rests on the sand. Inside the front holds there are many beer bottles, ammunition (4 packs of 3 inch artillery shells), a large portable generator, fuel drums, cement bags and ink bottles. Aft of the superstructure anti aircraft guns have fallen through the deck, and sit one level down. The well preserved engine room is accessible from the superstructure. In the heavily damaged aft holds you can find china saki carafes, plates, china cups and several wheelbarrows. There is a gun on the stern and also an emergency steering helm.