The Reiyo Maru was a 400ft/121m, 5,446-ton Passenger-Cargo Ship built in 1920 for the small sized shipping line Toyo K.K. (Oriental Shipping Co, Ltd.) based in Tokyo. The company was established in 1896, and she provided passenger, cargo and general tramping services from the Orient to New York and from Yokohama to South China ports. The word ‘Maru’ designates a merchant vessel.
This large passenger–cargo ship was an older three-island type with an extended island amidships, a split superstructure, a plumb bow, and a counter stern. A pair of small kingposts were used with a small hatch that divides the bridge and amidships superstructure. The ship’s masts, positioned between cargo hold pairs fore and aft, had an unusual inverted crosstree at their top.
In the initial war years, the Reiyo Maru was assigned duties transferring troops for the Japanese Army. She was listed as an Army “A” ship as late as October 5th 1943, and was carrying 1,592 troops at the time. Her affiliation with the Japanese Navy became apparent the following month when she was part of the 5-ship Convoy No. 3128 that departed Yokosuka for Truk Lagoon on November 28th 1943 carrying miscellaneous provisions, tools, bombs, coal, landing craft and 283 passengers. Convoy No. 3128 lost the Kenryu Maru during the trip to the U.S. submarine USS Snapper. After leaving Truk for Rabaul, she was scheduled to return to Truk before proceeding on to Yokosuka.
Early in the morning on February 17th 1944 she was hit by American dive bombers from the USS Essex which scored two 1,000 lb. direct hits - one amidships and the other just aft of the bridge. Some 10 minutes later, planes from the USS Intrepid scored a direct hit just aft of the bridge amidships and a near miss off the stern quarter. Fires started in the holds and spread to the bowels of the ship until they reached hold no. 2 where munitions caught fire and multiple explosions occurred. She sank two days later. Eight crewmen died in the bombing attacks and resulting fires and explosions.
The ship lies close to an even keel with depth to the top of the mid-ship superstructure at 155ft/47m, depth to the deck ranging from 185-195ft/56-59m with the sea bottom at 210ft/64m. The wreck is one of the deepest wrecks in Truk Lagoon, and due to its depth, little growth is apparent, and it is not often dived.