MANILA - A team of researchers commissioned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has located the Japanese battleship Musashi in waters off the Philippines, a statement posted on the official website of the billionaire philanthropist on Wednesday said.
The discovery of the Musashi at the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea in the central Philippines on Sunday ended Allen's eight-year search for what is said to be one of the largest and most technologically advanced battleships in naval history.
The Yamato-class battleship was sunk by American forces during World War II on Oct. 24, 1944.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, initially announced Tuesday on Twitter that his yacht M/Y Octopus had located the Musashi 1 kilometer under the Sibuyan Sea. A photograph of what he said was the Japanese imperial crest on the wrecked ship's bow accompanied the post.
He followed it with another photograph, showing a valve on the vessel, and the statement, "RIP crew of Musashi, appx 1023 lost," referring to the nearly half of the Musashi's 2,399 crew members who perished after U.S. forces attacked the ship with torpedoes and bombs.
"Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father's service in the U.S. Army. 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," Allen said in the statement.
"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," he added.
According to the statement, Allen first commissioned a survey of the ocean floor to determine the terrain, and the data gathered helped to rule out large areas for the search team.
The exploration team set out last month to conduct the final phase of the search using a BlueFin-12 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, with the wreckage being detected on its third dive.
A 1 minute-long video of the wreckage posted on YouTube on Tuesday showed what appears to be a valve wheel, a plane-launching catapult, an anchor, and a teak Japanese imperial crest, among other objects.
"Mr. Allen and his research team are mindful of the responsibility related to the wreckage of the Musashi as a war grave and intend to work with the Japanese government to ensure the site is treated respectfully and in accordance with Japanese traditions," the statement said.
Kazushige Todaka, the director of the Kure Maritime Museum in Kure, western Japan, who is knowledgeable about Japanese warships, told Kyodo News that, based on what he saw in the video, the wreck is "no doubt" that of the long-lost battleship.
Todaka added that based on the shape of the bow and other features, as well as the location it was found, he determined that it is the Musashi.
The Musashi was commissioned in 1942, and was then the largest battleship in naval history. It was armor plated, measured 263 meters in length, and weighed 73,000 tons when fully loaded. Its sister ship, the Yamato, was sunk almost six months after the Musashi on its way to Okinawa.
The Musashi was involved in the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines when it went down.
Officials from the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines were not aware of the exploration for the Musashi by Allen's surveillance team.