The Hanakawa Maru was a 368ft/112m, 4,739-ton Passenger-Cargo Ship built in 1942 for Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha of Kobe, Japan. The poetic meaning for the name translates as ‘Flower River’. The word ‘Maru’ designates a merchant vessel. The Japanese Navy requisitioned her on October 25th 1943. Prior to Operation Hailstorm commencing on February 17th 1944, little is known of her short-lived military history.
On February 18th 1944 two sets of 2 attack aircraft from the USS Bunker Hill and USS Monterey were arrived over Northeast Pass, broke to the north and skirted the atoll until Piannu Pass was reached. They turned north, dropping altitude as they approached Tol Island. Lying 500 yards off the southeastern end of Tol Island lay the Hanakawa Maru at anchor. Flying in column formation, the first set of planes dropped torpedoes with one torpedo hitting amidships and igniting instantaneously her aviation fuel into a massive explosion. In a moment there was nothing left except burning fuel over the surface of the water. Two more torpedoes were expended on her, although they weren’t needed - a fourth torpedo missed and hit the island, burning a fuel dock and a church. Fortunately, the priest was being held captive on Udot Island and escaped the inferno. The ship was engaged in off-loading army troops when caught by the attack. 216 crewmen and soldiers were killed aboard the ship.
She rests on an even keel at moderate depth with the superstructure at 50ft/15m, the deck at 75ft/23m, and the sea bottom at 110ft/33m. A circular-shaped raised gun platform is mounted on the poop deck with a 4.7-inch anti-submarine short gun covered with heavy marine growth at its center. The holds contain many cement bags, and fuel drums. The steering compartment is well worth a visit. The entire ship is covered with excellent and varied marine growth with numerous brilliantly colored soft corals, sponges, and algae-type growth abounding on the wreck. The Hanakawa Maru provides an excellent dive for recreational divers, with some of the best coral growth seen here, but her remote location often combined with rough seas precludes a lot of active attention by divers.