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Awa Maru: Titanic of Japan
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In 1945 as the Japanese Empire in South East Asia started to crumble, the Japanese communities began desperate scrambles for passages on any available vessels back to Japan. A Japanese hospital ship, the Awa Maru was given a guarantee of safe passage to 2007 Japanese civilians and military personnel who had been ‘fortunate’ enough to secure places on board. On the 27th of March 1945, amidst much joy and tears of farewell, the ship set sail from Singapore en route to Japan carrying some men but mostly women and children. The scramble for passages had been fierce and selective and the 2007 souls on board counted themselves very lucky to have been selected for the trip home. But as the Awa Maru sped northwards towards the coast of China, a series of circumstances emanating from a sudden changed course and miscommunications of cable messages changed their luck into a horrific and sinister tragedy. On the 1st of April 1945 in the dead of night, the ‘ghost ship’ with its eerie illuminated white crosses shrouded in thick fog was mistaken for a military vessel and torpedoed by an American submarine ‘Queenfish’. It sank within minutes taking almost all of the 2007 passengers to their watery graves. This is the gripping story of the Awa Maru, the little known Titanic of Japan, for the first time told in this book. We follow the journey of Kyoko Tanaka, whose parents and brother had been passengers on the Awa Maru as she set sail on her own voyage of discovery. She travels from Japan to Singapore in search of the truth and a ‘piece of her history’ and makes poignant and touching discoveries of the lives of her parents and some of the other families as they prepared to board the Awa Maru. The lives of the doomed passengers of the Awa Maru and the events of that horrific night when they perished are all told in this book as never before.
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