Australian team discovers wreckage of WWII ship that sank with 1,000 POWs

“The Australian soldiers, sailors, and aviators who had fought to defend Rabaul had enlisted from across the country to serve, met a terrible fate at sea on the Montevideo Maru.”
Amal Jos Chacko
A photograph of the Montevideo Maru.
A photograph of the Montevideo Maru.

Silentworld Foundation 

The wreck of the Montevideo Maru, the worst maritime disaster in Australia’s history, has finally been found, revealed Silentworld Foundation in a statement.

The Japanese transport ship was carrying over 1,000 prisoners of war, including 979 Australian troops and civilians, when the USS Sturgeon, a U.S. Navy ship, torpedoed it on July 1, 1942.

The ship sank, and most onboard perished with it, including a boy aged 15. More Australians lost their lives on the Montevideo Maru than in the entire Vietnam War and more lives than in the controversial sinking of the Australian Navy’s light cruiser HMAS Sydney in 1941.

The location of the Montevideo Maru remained a mystery since its fateful day until the incredible search led by Sydeny’s Silentworld Foundation and Dutch deep-sea survey specialist company Fugro discovered the wreck in the South China Sea, approximately 68.3 miles (110km) north-west of Luzon.

On the 12th day of the search, the team, led by Australian businessman, maritime history philanthropist, and explorer John Mullen, also the director of Silentworld, recorded a positive sighting.

“The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in Australian military and maritime history,” Mr. Mullen said. “Today, by finding the vessel, we hope to bring closure to many families devastated by this terrible disaster. I am proud to be the citizen of a country that never forgets or stops looking for those lost in the course of duty, no matter how many years may pass.”

Australian team discovers wreckage of WWII ship that sank with 1,000 POWs
Wreck of the Montevideo Maru found using state-of-the-art technology.

Andrea Williams, who lost her grandfather and great uncle in the wreckage and founding member of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, was onboard when the sunken ship was found—at a deeper depth than the Titanic—using state-of-the-art technology.

“Having had a grandfather and great-uncle as civilian internees on Montevideo Maru always meant the story was important to me, as it is to many generations of families whose men perished. Being part of the team that has found the wreck has been both hugely emotional, and also fulfilling,” she added.

Lieutenant General Simon Stuart, chief of the Australian Army, spoke in remembrance of the service and loss of all onboard the Montevideo Maru.

“A loss like this reaches down through the decades and reminds us all of the human cost of conflict. Lest We Forget,” he remarked.

The remains of the Montevideo Maru will be left undisturbed. No relic will be removed out of respect for all families who lost a dear one on that ominous day.

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