The Yamagiri Maru was a 439ft/133m, 6,438-ton passenger-cargo ship, built in 1938 for Kobe-based Yamashita Steamship Company. The word ‘Maru’ designates a merchant vessel. She was designed with a raised composite (block) superstructure, a long bridge island amidships, and kingposts shaped like goal posts. She had an impressive cargo carrying capacity with six holds.
While en route to Palau in August 1943, the Yamagiri Maru was located by the submarine USS Drum, which fired two torpedoes. The ship was heavily damaged and was taken to Rabaul, New Guinea for repairs. Since Rabaul was under almost daily attack by Allied bombers, she sailed or was taken under tow to Truk for repairs. She would remain under repair for two months until Operation Hailstone.
On February 17th 1944 planes from the USS Yorktown west of Dublon apparently damaged the Yamagiri Maru with aerial reconnaissance showing her with her stern lying low in the water. She reportedly suffered two close misses and one direct hit. The next day she was struck by one 1,000-lb and one 500-lb bomb from an altitude of 500 feet by Curtis Helldivers from the USS Bunker Hill, resulting in a huge explosion and a large fire with black smoke rising up to 4,000-5,000 feet. The spreading fires probably caused secondary explosions, and she sank rapidly. Twelve of her crew perished.
She rests on her port side with the side of the wreck at 40ft/12m and the sea bottom at 110ft/33m approximately one mile from shore NNW of Fefan Island. The superstructure and pilothouse are accessible and interesting with a very large engine room. The main attraction of the Yamagiri Maru is the large artillery shells found in Hold No. 5. These 3 ½ feet long, 14-inch diameter projectiles were being carried as replacement ammunition of the main-armament guns of battleships. There are also air compressors, loading equipment for the she;;s and construction equipment located at the bottom of this hold, and the engine room is well worth a visit.