SYDNEY (AP) — A team of explorers has announced the discovery of a sunken Japanese ship carrying Allied prisoners of war when it was torpedoed off the coast of the Philippines in 1942.
The wreck of the Montevideo Maru was found using an autonomous underwater sonar vehicle on Luzon Island in the South China Sea at a depth of 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) deeper than the Titanic after a 12-day search. .
The Sydney-based Silentworld Foundation said in a statement on Saturday that there would be no attempt to remove artifacts or human remains out of respect for the families of the dead. It was partnered with Dutch deep-sea exploration specialists Fugro and Australia’s Department of Defence.
“The extraordinary effort behind this discovery speaks to the enduring truth of Australia’s national promise to always remember and honor those who have served our country,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said. “It is the heart and spirit that we never forget.”
The Montevideo Maru carried prisoners and civilians captured after the fall of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The ship was not marked as carrying prisoners of war, and on July 1, 1942, the U.S. submarine Sturgeon, following the ship through the night, fired four torpedoes that found their target, sinking the ship within 10 minutes.
Among those killed were 1,080 people from 14 countries, including 979 Australians.
“Families waited years for news of their missing loved ones before learning the tragic consequences of the sinking,” said Silentworld director John Mullen. “Some did not fully accept that their loved ones were among the victims. Today, by finding the ship, we hope to bring closure to the many families destroyed by this terrible disaster.