By Priam F. Nepomuceno
MANILA, March 5 (PNA News Feature) — With the country about to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the fall of Bataan this coming April 9, it is only fitting that one of Japan’s most famous battleship, the 72,000-ton Musashi, was finally located at the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea early this month.
This historic find can be credited to Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and his team, who spent eight years hunting for the Japanese man-of-war.
However, not many people are aware that Musashi wassunk during the opening phase of the American efforts to liberate the Philippines from Japanese control which took place on Oct. 20, 1944.
It was sunk in battle with US carrier aircraft at the Sibuyan Sea on Oct. 24, 1944.
The action is part of the Battle of Leyte which lasted from Oct. 23 to 26, 1944.
The latter is considered by naval experts as the world’s most largest and conclusive sea engagement.
The combat was in response to the US and Allied efforts to retake the Philippines from Japan which began with the amphibious assault on Leyte on Oct. 20, 1944.
Musashi, was the second ship of the Yamato-class, then the largest and heaviest naval craft in commission.
She displaces 72,800 long tons (74,000 regular tons) fully-loaded and armed with nine 18.1 inch (46 centimeters) main guns, considered the most powerful in their time.
Constructed from 1938–1941 and formally commissioned in the summer of 1942, Musashi served as the flagship of Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto and Mineichi Koga in 1943.
She also served as the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet.
Musashi and several Japanese ships were attacked and sunk by US aircraft while attempting to reinforce Japanese naval units fighting with the US and Allied navies in Leyte Gulf.
She and her consorts were spotted entering the Sibuyan Sea around 8 a.m. on Oct. 24 and constantly bombed and torpedoed by carrier aircraft from the US 3rd Fleet.
Lack of trained Japanese pilots and inferior fighter aircraft meant that air cover Musashi and her fleet was constantly shredded, making it easier for Allied pilots to attack her.
Musashi eventually exploded and sank around 7:30 p.m. that day, taking down with her thousands of crew and officers.
The wreck’s location is estimated to be at 12°50′N 122°35′E and 1,000 meters underwater.
The destruction of the Musashi and other heavy Japanese ships by naval aircraft marked the beginning of the end of the battleship’s myth of invisibility at the seas.
Aside from this, losses incurred by the then Imperial Japanese Navy from its Leyte Gulf campaign, virtually decimated it, making it capable of stopping Allied naval units in its efforts to retake Southeast Asia from Japan and protect its desperately needed merchant shipping from Allied submarine and air attacks. (PNA)