Tokai Maru – Diving Down Into A Ship Wreck

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

One of the amazing attractions around the island of Guam is the diving opportunities. Besides the tropical splendor of the oceans are some of the spectacular shipwrecks found under the sea. Among them is the wreck of the Tokai Maru.

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Ship History ( From:

A Japanese passenger-cargo freighter put in service in August, 1930. Used by the Osaka Shosen Company as one of their modern fast luxury freighters traveling from Tokyo to New York.

Re-commissioned as a freighter under contract to the Japanese Imperial Navy in October, 1941, and was used to transport war materials and personnel throughout the Pacific. On January 24, 1943 the Tokai was observed anchored in Apra Harbor by the US submarine FLYING FISH. Assuming that the ship was soon to leave the harbor, the FLYING FISH waited outside the entrance for 3 days. With no movement of the ship or any other vessels, the FLYING FISH fired two torpedoes set to run at 1′ depth. One of the torpedoes ran aground on the reef, but the other struck the Tokai causing considerable damage, but not sinking her.

Sinking History

Seven months later, the US submarine SNAPPER, patrolling west of Guam, spotted two ships in the harbor. Not knowing at the time that these were the Tokai Maru and another damaged ship (Nichiyo Maru), the submarine patiently waited for one week, and then made a submerged attack under the eye’s of a Japanese patrol vessel less than two miles away.

At 3:23 on the afternoon of August 27th, the SNAPPER fired a spread of four torpedoes, three at the nearest ship (Tokai) and the fourth at the other. The SNAPPER immediately headed west for safer waters. Over the next few hours numerous explosions were heard, and the Tokai was observed with the bow at an extreme “up angle”, indicating that the stern was on the bottom. A few minutes later the Tokai slipped beneath the surface, sinking into Apra Harbor, off Guam. She was sunk only six feet away from the German cruiser from WWI.

Commander M.K. Clementson recalls:

“For the next 10-15 minutes heard some very faint distant explosions undoubtedly inside the harbor and one explosion about 100 yards away (from the submarine), probably from the patrol vessel. His screws were not heard after this so it is believed possible that this nicely inefficient gent probably decommissioned himself. Departed from the area at good speed, and depth, however.”

Leon Theriault adds:

“While station in Guam in 1959 with MCB5 ‘Seabees’ made a dive to the Tokai Maru, at that time there was a lot of china plates scattered along the bottom next to the wreck site, one of the other items that was salvaged%2C was a very nice looking purple marble washbasin, i still have the picture of that. at that time their didn’t seem to be to much of and interest in wreck diving. I did make more dives to that wreck.”


She rests in 120 feet with an 85 degree list to port (left). The shallowest part of the ship is the upper forward bridge area at a depth of 40 feet. There is damage on the starboard bow, but this is believed to have been inflicted on the first attack in January, 1943. Visibility averages 35-40′, but can vary due to the tide and large ship traffic in the harbor.

Dan Lantzy adds:

“The other photo is a bow shot of the Toki Maru. It rests in about 130 feet of water resting on it’s port side. If you look close at the photo, you can see some of the damage aft of her bow on the starboard side. it was initially struck with artillery shells from a surface warship. That damage put her back in port. Later, she was struck by a torpedo via a U.S. sub. The most interesting thing about this wreck is she’s actually touching a World War I German Auxiliary cruiser (SMS Cormoran)”

Cargo Holds

A torpedo has blown a hole in the port #3 cargo hold, and this is undoubtedly the torpedo that sunk her. Contains remains of truck frames, beds, scrap steel, and misc objects. The engine room is huge, and both of her engines, catwalks, and panels are intact. The after deck house in the stern of the vessel contains at least 4 depth charges, which are plainly visible from the top of the structure.

2 thoughts on “Tokai Maru – Diving Down Into A Ship Wreck

  1. i’m tring to locate Dan Lantzy, we dove these wrecks togeather while stationed at Anderson AFB Guam … and have lost contact thanks ken

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