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WW2-era Japanese Sailors to Stay in Wreck

22 May 2007

On 31 May 1942, Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer Mamoru Ashibe piloted the midget submarine M-24 around the defensive nets in the Sydney Harbor and fired two torpedoes at American cruiser Chicago moored off Garden Island. They missed, but one of them struck Australian accommodation vessel Kuttabull, killing 19 Australians and 2 Britons. "These were the elite of the elite in the Japanese navy," said Australian War Memorial historian John White. "They were highly trained, very fit and expert navigators." Ban and Ashibe escaped, but they sank after sailing about 13km northeast.

Until Nov 2006, the sunken submarine under 54m of water had always been thought to be a reef. After the initial discovery by recreational divers, Australian Navy diving team had made an investigation and noticed that the escape ladder was still outside the submarine, which suggests that the Ban and Ashibe are still inside. Yesterday, Able Seaman Ryan Dart made his fourth and final dive onto the wreck yesterday watched by an eager media pack. The sand will be given to the brothers of the two Japanese sailors.

Because of the high costs involved, it has been determined that the submarine will remain on the seabed. The wreck is now an historic shipwreck and a protected zone, enforced by sonar alarms and underwater cameras.

For more information, please see http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSSYD17843120070522.

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