Wreck of WWII ship with more than 1,000 victims found in Philippines

The wreckage of a Japanese ship torpedoed during World War II carrying more than 1,000 Australian prisoners has been discovered in the Philippines.

The Montevideo Maru was found on April 18 in the South China Sea at a depth of more than 4,000 meters, 110 km off the Philippine island of Luzon, underwater archeology association Silentworld Foundation announced on Saturday. Specifically, the discovery came after 12 days of research using an underwater drone equipped with sonar.

The sinking is one of the worst maritime tragedies in Australian history.

The Montevideo Maru, a mixed cargo ship, was sunk on July 1, 1942 by the American submarine USS Sturgeon, unaware that its crew was transporting prisoners to the Japanese-occupied Chinese island of Hainan.

According to the SilentWorld Foundation, about 1,060 people from 14 nationalities, including at least 850 soldiers, died during the Battle of Rabaul, New Guinea, including 979 Australians captured.

According to the Silentworld Foundation, it took more than five years to plan the mission to find the ship. The search began on April 6.

“The resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has finally been found,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement on social media.

“We hope today’s news brings comfort to the loved ones who have waited so long,” he added.

“Horrible Chapter in History”

The Montevideo Maru’s wrecks, which lie deeper than the Titanic, will not be disturbed, the SilentWorld Foundation said. Out of respect for the families of the victims, no material or human remains will be removed.

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“The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in Australia’s military and maritime history,” said John Mullen, director of Silent World, which carried out the research with Fugro, a Dutch company specializing in deep-sea exploration. .

“Families waited years to hear from their missing loved ones before learning the tragic consequences of the sinking,” he said. “Some don’t fully accept that their loved ones are among the victims.”

Andrea Williams was on a mission to find the wreckage. His grandfather and his great-grandmother, prisoners of war, were on the boat and died there.

He said it was an “extraordinarily important day” for Australians affected directly or indirectly by the disaster.

“I have never understood why this event has not been more prominent in Australia’s history during the Second World War,” Williams said in a statement.

The discovery of the wreckage ended 81 years of uncertainty for relatives of the victims, hailed the head of the Australian army, General Simon Stuart.

“Such loss spans decades and reminds us of the human cost of conflict,” he said.

Among the other dead aboard the Montevideo Maru were 33 sailors from the Norwegian cargo ship Herstein — captured by the Japanese at Rapalle — and about 20 Japanese guards and crew members, the SilentWorld Foundation said.

According to the same source, nationals of several other countries were also affected by the sinking: the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Sweden and the United States.

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