SYDNEY — The mystery of one of the world’s worst international maritime disasters has been solved off the coast of the Philippines. The wreck of the Montevideo Maru – a Japanese transport ship sunk 80 years ago by an American submarine during World War II – has finally been found.
The Montevideo Maru was carrying 850 prisoners of war and about 200 civilians who had been captured by the Japanese in Papua New Guinea in 1942. Unaware of who was onboard, the ship was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon, an American submarine.
Its sinking was initially heralded as a success by Allied forces before the identity of most of those onboard was finally revealed.
The vessel’s location has until now been an enduring mystery.
The wreck was found earlier this week in the South China Sea off the Philippines. The mission was a combined effort of the Australian Defense Department, marine archaeologists from Australia’s Silentworld Foundation, and experts from the Dutch deep-sea survey company Fugro.
The search began earlier this month off the coast of the Philippines. Within two weeks, a positive sighting of the Montevideo Maru was made before the identity of the vessel was officially verified. It was the culmination of years of research and preparation by the search team.
Almost 1,000 Australians died in the disaster, the worst in the nation’s maritime history.
Cathy Parry McLennan’s grandfather Arthur Perry was on the Montevideo Maru when it sank.
She told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Saturday that she now has closure.
“I burst into tears, and I have been a bit emotional all day, I’m sorry,” she said. “I think it is growing up as a child with my father who really never knew his dad and talked about him a lot and talked about being in New Guinea and what happened, and, so, it has all come to fruition and I think it is a lovely day because at least we know where grandfather is now and I feel closer to him.”
The wreck was discovered on a mission put together by the Silentworld Foundation, which is dedicated to maritime archaeology and history and Fugro with support from Australia’s Department of Defense.
The tragedy affected more than a dozen countries. There were victims from Denmark, New Zealand and the United States as well as Japan.
No items or human remains will be removed from the Montevideo Maru.