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Bamboo Fleet 1942

March 4 2009 at 10:21 PM
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Allan Alsleben  (Login ijn1936)
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On March 10th 1942, is the anniversery of the demise of the "Bamboo Fleet" in the Sulu Sea. Originally, I started collecting the shipping losses in the Philippines in 1941 and 1942. I shelved the project about 10 years ago until I came into some information from the US Maritime Commission. By all accounts, you will not find anything in the US Army Archives. Indeed, there is a huge void from January 1942 to April 1942 in the Visayas.
I am not a US Army researcher, My main interest is Axis Shipping and Japanese Naval Operations. While the USMC filled in a goodly amount of holes, there is still some areas that are in question. With the help of two distinguished researchers (Peter Cundall and Ted Hajduk) a more clearer picture unfolds.

January 2nd Manila fell, and shortly afterwards the Bamboo Fleet was organized. It was loosely organized by volunteers to bring in critical food stuffs, medical supplies. Yet, only 10% of this reached Bataan. The From the Jaspanese side, Aso maru and Kiso maru patrolled from Manila Bay to Mindoro Strait, Busho maru and Keiko maru patrolled from Davao to Jolo and Kuma and Kiji patrolled the Sulu Sea in addition to their other duties. For all intents and purposes, the Japanese had effected a very tight blockade. The only way in was by air from Australia to Del Monte on Mindanao, then transshipped to Cebu, then a night passage to or near Batangas, a short layover, then a run into Corregidor. It's bad enough to dodge Kiji or Kuma, but then those two gunboats were something else, and lets not forget the air patrols from Toko Kokutai (Legaspi and Davao Detachments) and the 31st Kokutai based at Cavite. Then on occasion, the seaplanes from Sanuki maru. In the month of January, the following vessels were sunk or seized
1/14 = Santa Terrista 30/222 to the 2 gunboats Aso and Kiso maru's near Batangas
1/29 = Leyte 79/854 to aircraft from 32nd Kokutai between Panay and Cebu

Then in February:
2/10 = Mindanao 18/5,236 a tanker turned freighter sunk 50 miles NNW of Mindoro Strait by 2 aircraft from Toko Kokutai
2/16 = Emilia 31/278 sunk off Cebu by aircraft from Sanuki maru
2/28 = Mayon 30/3,371 sunk at Naspit by aircraft from 32nd KokutaI

On February 26th, both Kuma and Kiji were to be involved in the Zamboagna Seizure, and on the way south, they encountered Compagnia de Filipinas 90/784 near Batangas. the coaster was seized and escorted to Manila. On March 1st, Kuma and Kiji bombarded Cebu, sinking 2 coasters as one scuttled. They were Lepus 06/1,936, Regulus 1,173 and Legazpi 37/1,179 scuttled. The casualties wer over 325, including women and children. Kiji and Kuma continued south to Davao and participated in the planned seizure of Zamboanga. Kuma left later that day for Subic, but Kiji lingered until the 9th of March. That evening, Kuma left and in an unequalled firefight, sunk 12 ships off Cebu in the Sulu Sea. The USMC lists the casulaties as unknown. This incident broke the back of the Bamboo Fleet, and sealed the fate of those on Bataan and Corregidor. Yet, you will find nothing of this anywhere in the US Army Archives. There is a very brief mention in Volume 21 of the Senshi sosho.

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