Microsoft co-founder finds sunken WWII battleship

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

After searching for eight years, an expedition funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has found one of the largest and most technologically advanced battleships in naval history, a World War II-era Japanese vessel that had been sunk in the waters near the Philippines.

According to CNET, Allen announced on his website earlier this week that his team had located the Musashi, a battleship that was secretly built in Japan and was believed to be the largest, most sophisticated craft of its era when it was originally commissioned back in 1942.

The Musashi, the website noted, weighed 73,000 tons when it had a complete load. The ship was outfitted with 18-inch armor plating and nine 18-inch guns, the largest mounted onto a warship at the time. Those guns were placed on three-gun turrets and fired shells up to 46,000 yards.

Finding the Musashi

In a statement, Allen said that his team was able to discover the Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea by analyzing historical data from four different countries, as well as detailed undersea topographical data and advanced technology aboard his yacht, M/Y Octopus. The battleship was found in the Sibuyan Sea on March 1, he added, but its exact location has not been revealed.

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Eyewitness accounts and records were able to narrow down the search area, and Allen and his teams used a hypsometric bathymetric survey of the ocean floor to determine its terrain. Then in February, they used a BlueFin-12 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle to start the final phase of the search. After just three dives, the AUV detected the wreckage or the Musashi. The find was later confirmed using a remote-operated vehicle outfitted with a high-definition camera.

“Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” Allen explained. “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction. I am honored to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honoring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her.”

Some more history

The Musashi was built in a Nagasaki shipyard during World War II, and great efforts were made to keep the size of the battleship hidden from Allied Forces, he said. The vessel participated in several battles, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, but was ultimately sunk by a reported 19 torpedoes and 17 bombs on October 24, 1944, just before the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

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Nearly half of the more than 2,300 crew members on board were killed when the battleship went down, including Commander Vice Admiral Toshihira Inoguchi. Even today, the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato, are viewed as “unparalleled feats of naval design and construction,” said Allen. He added that he is working with Japanese authorities to treat the site, which is viewed as a war grave, “respectfully and in accordance with Japanese traditions.”


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