Shoei Maru "Pete"
by Dan Farnham
(click photos to enlarge)

Here are several pictures of a F1M2 “Pete”, that lies next to one of the Japanese shipwrecks in Kwajalein Lagoon. The shipwreck is the Shoei Maru, and was a medium-size cargo vessel (3,000 to 5,000 ton range). Locally, this ship is referred to as the "O-buoy wreck".

The ship was attacked on 19 Dec. 1943, when it was the target of a USN PBY that performed a glide-bombing attack on it at about midnight. The ship was left burning, and according to captured documents, the Shoei Maru sank a few hours later between 0200 and 0230. The entire wreck looks like it was on fire for some time before sinking.

The ship came to rest upside down, with the stern section separated and lying about 30 feet away due to a bomb hit. The forward end of the ship is suspended over a car that has a naval mine lying on it's hood. The seabed around the wreck is littered with mines, torpedoes, aircraft bombs, and artillery shells.

The “Pete” is deep- 130 feet, which is the maximum depth allowed for recreational diving. Because of this, it took three separate dives for me to get all the photographs I wanted of this wreck. At that depth, bottom time is very limited.

My first dive on this “Pete” was on April 15th, 2007, and I was able to shoot most of the external pictures you see here. On my second dive, on April 28th, I didn’t get any photographs because my dive camera was malfunctioning. However, during my third dive of this wreck, on June 7th, I was able to get the interior shots you see here, plus a few more external shots.

In talking with Will Timmons, and aircraft mechanic out here at Kwajalein and a good friend of mine, Will surmised that the plane may have been sitting on the Shoei Maru’s deck as cargo. This is because the tail wings are not on the plane, nor are the main outer wing sections or main fuselage float. A search of the area on my second two dives did not reveal any evidence of those parts of the plane. 

I took these pictures using a digital SeaLife Reefmaster DC310. The various hues and color variations of the external pictures have to do with what angle I was shooting a particular picture at, versus the angle of the sunlight coming down through the water. Also, the visibility on the two dives where I took these pictures varied a bit.