The wreck site of the Montevideo Maru, a Japanese freighter carrying over 1,000 prisoners of war — the majority of them Australian — that was sunk by a US submarine during World War II has been found.
The sunken vessel was found off the coast of the Philippines at a depth of more than 4,000/13,123ft, according to a release from the SilentWorld Foundation which organized the expedition.
Approximately 979 Australian troops and civilians perished in the worst maritime disaster in Australia’s history. The ship’s location has been an enduring mystery since it was torpedoed on July 1, 1942 by the USS Sturgeon.
Unbeknownst to the submarine, the Montevideo Maru was carrying prisoners of war and civilians who had been captured in the fall of Rabaul a few months earlier.
Approximately 1,060 prisoners, both military and civilian, were lost. The ship sank with at least 850 Australian service members and 210 civilians from 14 countries, who ranged from a boy aged 15 to men in their sixties.
Almost twice as many Australians died in this one incident than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. Significantly more were lost than in the sinking of the HMAS Sydney (645) in 1941 and the hospital ship Centaur (268) in 1943.
The wreck was discovered on an expedition put together by the Silentworld Foundation, which is dedicated to maritime archaeology and history, and Dutch deep-sea survey company Fugro, with support from the Australian Department of Defence.
Australian businessman, maritime history philanthropist and explorer John Mullen, the director of Silentworld, led the expedition.
“The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in Australian military and maritime history. Families waited years for news of their missing loved ones, before learning of the tragic outcome of the sinking. Some never fully came to accept that their loved ones were among the victims. Today, by finding the vessel, we hope to bring closure to the many families devastated by this terrible disaster.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a tweet:
“At long last, the resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has been found. Among the 1,060 prisoners on board were 850 Australian service members – their lives cut short. The extraordinary effort behind this discovery speaks for the enduring truth of Australia’s solemn national promise to always remember and honour those who served our country. We hope today’s news brings a measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil.”
For more info, check out the Silentworld Foundation website.
At long last, the resting place of the lost souls of the Montevideo Maru has been found.
Among the 1,060 prisoners on board were 850 Australian service members – their lives cut short.
We hope today’s news brings a measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil. pic.twitter.com/husOu6peUL
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) April 21, 2023