A Japanese merchant ship that sank during World War II while carrying over 1,000 prisoners of war in Australia’s largest loss of life at sea has been found.
The Montevideo Maru was discovered off the northwest coast of the Philippines’ Luzon island at a depth of more than 4,000 meters (13,000ft) in the South China Sea, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles confirmed in a video he posted on Saturday from his Twitter account.
The discovery brought to an end to “one of the most tragic chapters in Australia’s maritime history,” he said.
The vessel was transporting approximately 1,060 prisoners from around 16 countries, including 850 Australian service members, from the former Australian territory of New Guinea to what was then the Japanese-occupied island of Hainan when an American submarine torpedoed and sank the ship – which had not been marked as transporting prisoners of war – on July 1, 1942.
“The absence of a location of the Montevideo Maru has represented unfinished business for the families of those who lost their lives,” Marles explained.
Australian authorities commended those who had taken part in the search, including deep-sea survey specialists and members of Australia’s armed forces, thanking them for providing closure to those who lost loved ones 81 years prior.
“I want to thank the Silentworld team and the dedicated researchers, including the Unrecovered War Casualties team at Army, who have never given up hope of finding the final resting place of the Montevideo Maru,” Chief of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart said.
“A loss like this reaches down through the decades and reminds us all of the human cost of conflict. Lest We Forget,” Stuart added.
“The extraordinary effort behind this discovery speaks for the enduring truth of Australia’s solemn national promise to always remember and honor those who served our country. This is the heart and the spirit of Lest We Forget,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote.