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Sunken WWII Ship Carrying over 1,000 Allied POWs Found

Sydney, Australia (April 22, 2023) - The shipwreck of the Japanese merchant vessel, the SS Montevideo Maru, was discovered more than 80 years after it was sunk.

SS Montevideo Maru was sunk on July 1, 1942, off the coast of the Philippines after setting sail from the former Australian territory of New Guinea. Although the ship was not marked as a Prisoners of War transport, it was transporting prisoners from around 16 countries when it was sunk by an American submarine, USS Sturgeon. The number and identity of those on board the Montevideo Maru was not revealed until after the War; research suggests approximately 1,060 military and civilian prisoners were lost.

The wreck was discovered on an extraordinary mission put together by Australia’s Silentworld Foundation, which is dedicated to maritime archaeology and history, and Dutch civil-engineering company Fugro, with support from Australia’s Department of Defence.

The search commenced on April 6 in the West Philippine Sea, 68 miles northwest of Luzon. After 12 days, a positive sighting was recorded using state-of-the-art technology, including an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) with built-in sonar.

It took several days to verify the wreck using expert analysis from the project team, comprising maritime archaeologists, conservators, operations and research specialists, and ex-naval officers.

John Mullen, the director of Silentworld, spent more than five years working to make this expedition happen. Mullen said, “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.”

You can read more about the recovery mission here.

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