Did you know the U.S. military built a “Japanese warship” in a dry lake?

The Muroc Maru with a B-25 Mitchell bomber flying past it
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Army Air Forces bomber crews often encountered one particular Japanese heavy cruiser, the Muroc Maru, during World War II. Surprisingly, none of the encounters were in the Pacific – they occurred in Southern California over Rogers Dry Lake. You see, Muroc Maru was a dummy ship used for training.
The Japanese heavy cruiser Takao for comparison
(Photo: public domain)
The ship, officially named “Army Air Forces Temporary Building (Target) T-799,” was built near Muroc Army Air Field (Edwards Air Force Base today). It was used to train bomber pilots, navigators and bombardiers in various types of bombing and strafing attacks against enemy warships, as well as identification techniques. The vessel was a life size replica of a Japanese Takao-class heavy cruiser built of four-by-four lumber and chicken wire covered with tar paper. The sand dunes around it were sculpted into the form of a ship’s wake for added realism. The unofficial name combined the airfield’s name with Maru, a common suffix in Japanese ship names. (Read our earlier article) The ship continued to see use in training until 1950, when it was disassembled for being “a hazard to air navigation.”
Muroc Maru was far from the only dummy ship built in American. USS Recruit was a fake dreadnought battleship built in Manhattan in 1917 as both a recruiting tool and a training ship. USS Commodore was a dummy escort ship built in Maryland and supplied with real equipment (except for engines) for use as a trainer during World War II and the early Cold War. There was also another USS Recruit, also known as USS Neversail, a two-thirds scale model of a Dealey-class destroyer at Naval Training Center San Diego, which serves as a museum ship since June 2023.
The World War I-era USS Recruit on Union Square
(Photo: public domain)
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