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    HomeWorldWWII-Era Ship Montevideo Maru, Where Almost 1,000 Australians Perished, Discovered as Wreck

    WWII-Era Ship Montevideo Maru, Where Almost 1,000 Australians Perished, Discovered as Wreck

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    Deep-sea explorers have found the wreck of a Japanese transport ship, the Montevideo Maru, that was torpedoed off the coast of the Philippines in World War II. The ship was carrying prisoners of war, including nearly 1,000 Australians, and was sunk by a US submarine on July 1, 1942. The maritime archaeology group Silentworld Foundation organised the mission to locate the wreck, which was found at a depth of over four kilometres. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was Australia’s worst-ever maritime disaster, killing an estimated 979 Australian citizens, including at least 850 troops. Civilians from 13 other countries were also aboard, bringing the total number of prisoners killed to about 1,060.

    After five years of planning, explorers began searching for the wreck on 6 April 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 out of respect for the families of those who perished. No artefacts or human remains are to be removed.

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    “The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in Australian military and maritime history,” said John Mullen, director of Silentworld. “Families waited for years for news of their missing loved ones before learning of the tragic outcome of the sinking.” Andrea Williams, an Australian whose grandfather and great-uncle were civilian internees who perished on the ship, was part of the mission that found the vessel. She said it was an “extraordinarily momentous day” for Australians connected with the disaster.

    Australia’s chief of army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, said finding the wreck had ended 81 years of uncertainty for the loved ones of those lost. “A loss like this reaches down through the decades and reminds us all of the human cost of conflict,” he said. Other countries affected by the sinking included Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Sweden and the United States.

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