WWII wreck on which nearly 1,000 Australians died found in the Philippines

SS Montevideo Maru. (Photo/AFP)

Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles has announced that the wreck of a Japanese merchant ship, sunk in World War Two with 864 Australian soldiers on board, had been found in the South China Sea, ending a tragic chapter of the country's history.

Marles said on Saturday that the SS Montevideo Maru, an unmarked prisoner of war transport vessel missing since being sunk off the Philippines' coast in July 1942, had been discovered northwest of Luzon island.

The ship was torpedoed en route from what is now Papua New Guinea to China's Hainan by a US submarine, unaware of the POWs onboard. It is considered Australia's worst maritime disaster.

The long-awaited find comes ahead of April 25 commemorations for Anzac Day, a major day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for their troops killed in all military conflicts.

"This brings to an end one of the most tragic chapters in Australia's maritime history," Marles said in a video message.

The search for the wreck, found at a depth of more than 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) was led by a maritime archaeology not-for-profit and deep-sea survey specialists, and supported by Australia's Defence department, according to the government.

"The absence of a location of the Montevideo Maru has represented unfinished business for the families of those who lost their lives until now," Marles said.

Civilians from 13 other countries were also aboard, the foundation said, bringing the total number of prisoners killed to about 1,060.

Others who perished aboard the Montevideo Maru included 33 crew from the Norwegian freighter the Herstein and about 20 Japanese guards and crew.

Other countries affected by the sinking included Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Sweden and the United States, it said.

"At long last, the resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has been found," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media.

"We hope today's news brings a measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil."

After five years of planning, explorers began searching for the wreck on April 6 in the South China Sea northwest of the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

They made a positive sighting just 12 days later using high-tech equipment including an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with sonar.

The wreckage will remain undisturbed on the seabed, where it lies at a greater depth than the Titanic, out of respect for the families of those who perished, the foundation said. No artefacts or human remains are to be removed.


Source: TRT World