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World War II ship sunk with 864 soldiers onboard found after 81 years

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.

Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles announced on Saturday that the wreck of a Japanese merchant ship, sunk in World War Two with 864 Australian soldiers on board, had been found in the South China Sea, according to a Reuters report from Sydney.

Marles said the SS Montevideo Maru, an unmarked prisoner of war transport vessel missing since being sunk off the Philippines’ coast in July 1942, had been discovered northwest of Luzon island.

The ship was torpedoed while sailing from what is now Papua New Guinea to China’s Hainan by a U.S. submarine that was unaware of the POWs onboard. The incident is considered Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

The long-awaited find comes ahead of April 25 commemorations for Anzac Day, a major day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for their troops killed in all military conflicts.

“This brings to an end one of the most tragic chapters in Australia’s maritime history,” Marles said in a video message.

Specialists from a marine archaeology not-for-profit and deep-sea survey organisation led the hunt for the wreck, which was discovered at a depth of more than 13,123 feet. The search was also aided by Australia’s Defence Department.

The Defence Minister added, “The absence of a location of the Montevideo Maru has represented unfinished business for the families of those who lost their lives until now.”