American air strike on harbour shipping-16 November 1943 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

American air strike on harbour shipping-16 November 1943

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American air strike on harbour shipping-16 November 1943
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Tuesday, November 16, 1943


What I can piece together from copies of U.S. military documents in my possession:

The aircraft involved in this raid took off from Guilin (Kweilin), a frequent staging point for air strikes on Hong Kong by units of the 14th Air Force of the USAAF.  The airstrike was executed by 12 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers of the 308th Bomb Group and B-25 Mitchell medium bombers of the 11th Bomb Squadron (341st Bomb Group).  The 23 escorting P-40 fighters came from the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons of the 23rd Fighter Group.  As per standard operating procedure, the B-24s made conventional bombing runs from 16,000 feet while the B-25s made their bomb runs "on the deck."  The B-24s targeted the Kowloon docks (i.e., the HK & Whampoa dockyard at Hung Hom) while the B-25s went after individual ships in the harbor.

The 74th Fighter Squadron lost two P-40s, with the pilots reported as MIA.  One B-24 was shot up by Japanese fighters, but managed to return to Guilin.

A 520-foot cargo ship (11,500 tons) was sunk by the B-25s, according to postwar assessment of Japanese merchant shipping losses.  The was likely the vessel in the photo.  Documents from the 11th Bomb Squadron indicate that two B-25s dropped ten 500-pound bombs on the ship at 10:50 a.m.  The details on the two B-25s are as follows:

B-25 #36 crew:

Pilot: 1st. Lt. George T. Grottle

Copilot: 1st Lt. William A. Brenner

Navigator/Bombardier: Raymond J. Manzanowski

Radioman/gunner: Golden U. Gallup

B-25 #92

Pilot: 1st Lt. Harold K. Searle

Copilot: 2nd Lt. John O. Sandbach

Navigator/Bombardier: Seaborn V. Howard

Flight Engineer/Gunner: Robert W. Richardson


Does anyone have any additional details on the Japanese ship?

--Steven Bailey

Given Hong Kong Island in the background, perhaps in the Ma Wan Channel.

The profile of Green Island is clearly shown at the upper right corner of the picture. If this picture was taken over the Ma Wan Channel pointing southward, Green Island would have been embedded into the Hong Kong Island background

As Green Island, the Peak, Magazine Gap and Mount Cameron are lying at the background I think this pictur was taken by an Americam bomber over Kowloon Bay. The burning ship was in Kowloon Bay west of Kwun Tong whose shoreline was on the lower portion of the picture. The shorelines of North Point and west Quarry Bay were shown behind the burning ship. Part of Tsimshatsui and East Kowloon could be seen below Green Island. 

Tai Wong

Having reviewed it, I think you are right. Thanks. I can make out Holts Wharf, TST in the distance. An enlarged photo appears here

A similar photo appeared in the "Evening Post", a newspaper published in Wellington, New Zealand on 15th March 1944, some four months after it was taken.

Ship Bombed in Hong Kong Harbour
Ship Bombed in Hong Kong Harbour, by National Library of New Zealand

The caption accompanying the photo reads;

"A Japanese merchant vessel on fire after being caught in Hong Kong Harbour by Mitchell medium bombers of the United States 14th Army Air Force, based in China. Later reconnaissance photos showed the ship was in dry dock at Hong Kong, and she was bombed again."


The ship in the photo is Dosei Maru 同生丸 built 1919, 10893 gross tons formerly Don Jose of Madrigal & Co, Manila (and before that Robert Dollar and Kurland). The ship was bombed and sunk in North Harbour Manila 2/1/42 and was salved by the Japanese. After temporary repairs the ship departed Manila 25 August 1943 escorted by patrol boat PB-103. The ships arrived at Hong Kong 1 September 1943 where the ship was to undertake permanent repairs.  The ship was damaged in this attack and again in a further air attack 18 Jan 1945 (and possibly other). At the end of the wat the ship was found in the main graving dock of Taikoo Dockyard where the vessel was scrapped postwar.

Peter --

Thank you for the identifying the ship in the photo as the Dosei Maru (同生丸).  The photo is widely known (it's in my book, but it's been widely published and posted elsewhere), but you are the first that i know of to put a name to the unfortunate vessel. 

I wonder if I might call upon your expertise on Japanese merchant vessels?  I've been researching the makeup of convoy Hi 87 before, during, and after it dropped anchor at Hong Kong, and could use some expert advice and confirmation that I've got my facts straight!



Yes no problem. Please send me the info. HI-87 is well known- less so HI-87B.

Thanks!  I appreciate your willingness to share your expertise.  Here is what I have for convoy Hi-87 when it departed Moji on the last day of 1944:

19 ships total:

  • Kaiboken CD-13, KURAHASHI, MIKURA, and YASHIRO
  • Destroyers HAMAKAZE, HATAKAZE, ISOKAZE, SHIGURE, and YUKIKAZE (which dropped out of the convy soon after departure due to burst steam pipe, reducing the convoy to 18 vessels)
  • Cargo-passenger liner TATSUWA MARU
  • Fleet oiler KAMOI with the convoy commander (name unknown) aboard
  • Light carrier RYUHO

When convoy Hi-87 left Takao on January 10, its composition had changed to the following 17 ships.

  • Kaiboken CD-13, CD-41, CD-60, CD-205, KANJU (convoy escort commander Rear Admiral Komazawa Katsumi embarked), KURAHASHI, MIYAKE, NOMI, SHINNAN, YASHIRO
  • Destroyer SHIGURE (+ the old destroyer HASU, which was in port in Hong Kong when the convoy arrived on 1/13, but not attached to the convoy)
  • Fleet tanker KAMOI
  • Civilian tankers HASHIDATE MARU, MATSUSHIMA MARU, MITSUSHIMA MARU (returned to Takao due to engine problems), SARAWAK MARU, TENEI MARU

HASHIDATE MARU, MATSUSHIMA MARU, TENEI MARU, and KAMOI were badly damaged by carrier aircraft on 1/16.  Escort vessels were damaged to varying degrees, though none were sunk.  SARAWAK MARU was undamaged.

When redesignated convoy Hi-87A left Hong Kong on 1/17, it consisted of the following four ships:

  • Destroyer SHIGURE
  • Kaibokan KANJU and MIYAKE
  • Civilian tanker SARAWAK MARU

The SHIGURE is torpedoed, but the other three ships make it to Singapore. 

I don't know much about convoy Hi-87B, but I believe it left Hong Kong on 1/20 and included kaiboken KURAHASHI and SHINNAN.

Does this information sound accurate to you?  Any corrections, clarifications, or additions would be greatly appreciated!

It looks as if your main source is the Combined Fleet website that I contribute too so there is little to add. The main source of the Combined Fleet website HI-87 info was Komamiya supplemented by various JACAR translations.

Sarawak needs suffix Maru added (typo)

HI-87 was origibnally bound from Takao to Mako. The destination was changed to Hong Kong because of expected US carrier raids.

I have no information Hasu was in Hong Kong port on 13 Jan- though she was certainly there during the 16 Jan carrier strikes. The escort of HI-87 was a No.1 Escort force affair so I doubt Hasu was involved in the escort.

Tenei Maru had a steering failure at 0600 on 12 January and left the convoy escorted by CD-60. Her exact arrival time at HK is unknown.

HI-87B remains a mystery. You correctly identify the two escorts and it is probable it was a single ship convoy. Hashidate Maru would be a candidate but an eyewitness account by a crewman on board suggests the ship remained at Hong Kong the whole of the latter part of January finally departing for Japan for repairs at 1700 on 3 February.




Thanks, Peter.  Your comments are most helpful and greatly appreciated.  If I may, I'd like to follow up with a few additional questions:

1. My assumption is that Rear Admiral Komazawa Katsumi served as the convoy commander during the Moji-Takao run as well as the Takao-Hong Kong leg.  Do you have any idea whether he remained with convoy Hi-87A when it proceeded to Singapore?  Did he remain in Hong Kong?  Or perhaps disembark in Hainan when Hi-87A stopped there?

2. You mentioned that the sources for information pertaining to Hi-87 posted on the Combined Fleet website come from Komamiya and JACAR, but I don't recognize the reference to Komamiya.  Who or what is this?  Also, I've long wondered about the term "Tabular Record of Movement."  I am curious about the orgin of this term?

3. My understanding was that the 7th Escort Fleet had responsibility for the convoy, at least during the Takao-Hong Kong leg.  You mentioned the No. 1 Escort Force as the unit in charge of protecting the convoy, however.  Is this a subunit of the 7th Escort Fleet?  Or were these two separate units, but both involved in protecting Hi-87?  As my questions suggest, I am unclear on the organization of Japanese escort units, in part due to the variable ways their names are translated.

4. Lastly, I am wondering about the "Hi" (ヒ) acronym used for Japanese convoys.  Is it an abbreviation, and if so, for what word?  For example, the "P" in the P-38 Ligthning stands for "pursuit."  What does the "Hi" stand for?



Partial answers as below.

1/ Short answer is I don't know.on point 1. Matthew Jones whose details appears on the J-Aircraft message board via Combined Fleet may be able to assist.. Personnel is not my forte.

2/ Shinishichiro Komamiya is the author of a series of books on Japanese convoys called Senji Yuso Sendan Shi. Volume 1 (NB not called this when published but contained HI-87). Komamiya used Naval records as his primary source but selectively and sometimes with errors.

On Tabular Records of Movements (TROMs) I presume it comes from the Allied Translator and Interpretter Service (ATIS). Japanese Naval records would, whether Division, Squadron, Base Force etc, produce a report calendar monthly that would list all ships under control in rows with the days expressed as columns and then a notation for each day by ship row showing where ship was - in a port (named) at sea etc. Where a ship left port on a given day the time of departure is often (but not always) shown and similarly arrivals. These TROMs have formed the backbone of the information published by myself and others on the Combined Fleet  website for many years.

3/ I think by referring to 7th Escort Fleet you are referring to Seventh Fleet but this was only formed 10 April 1945 and disbanded after Aug 1945. Control of the convoy came under General Escort Command, Tokyo and No.1 Escort Force in particular. This was previously No.1 Surface Escort Division from formation 10 Apr 1942 until it was deactivated 10 December 1944..

 4/ Hi is no abbreviation it is simply the katakana character. To my knowledge it did not stand for anything though had the meaning of fast convoys from Moji - Shonan (Singapore) and return. But how it was derived I don't know. The IJN used the I-Ro-Ha arrangement for kana ordering and this flowed into other things (eg large submarines = I, medium submarines = Ro etc). But they also use Ko, Otsu, Hinoe etc - the Japanese version of A, B, C. Fast convoys before the first Hi convoy in July 1943 were usually simply called Rinji or given a arabic letter (A, B, C etc). To confuse matters during the latter part of 1943 there were also a series of Sa convoys Moji-Singapore. Finally in 1944 there were the well known Mi series convoys. Mi in this case stood for Miri. Most other convoys were numbered until Jan-Feb 1944 when a series of letters indicating departure point or destination was developed such as MOTA (Moji, Takao). Added to this there were special convoys the most well known of which were probably Take and the Higashi Matsu series in 1944. 

Some specialist convoys such as iron ore convoys used the charater Te and the Leyte reinforcement convoys were called Ta then numbered. There was little centralised control over convoy numbering with regional commands developing their own noenclature that would often periodically change.

Probably best to take this offline. You can contact me on with any further questions.