Archaeology breakthrough: Discovery of 'grand old ship' that fought at Pearl Harbour

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A documentary airing on Channel 5 tonight will focus on the devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, which saw the US enter the war. The second episode of the series looks at the start of the 1941 attack. In 30 minutes, 183 Japanese bombers and fighters wiped out almost all of the Pacific Fleet’s battleships and resulted in the death of nearly 2,400 Americans, and another 1,000 people were wounded. They destroyed or damaged nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes.

The day after the assault, President Franklin D Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

The waters near Honolulu, Hawaii, have become a subject of fascination for historians and researchers.

Archaeologists were stunned in 2020 when the remains of USS Nevada were found 65 nautical miles southwest of Pearl Harbour.

USS Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the 1941 attack, surviving bombs and torpedoes, before the burning vessel was beached and later repaired.

The vessel was also used to fight German forces at Normandy on D-Day, and went on to support the invasions of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

At the end of the war, USS Nevada was selected as the central target for the first nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, where it survived a 23-kiloton aerial detonation.

The ship was decommissioned in 1946 and sunk for naval gunfire practice in 1948.

Cultural resources management firm SEARCH Inc and the marine robotics company Ocean Infinity helped make the discovery in 2020.

The ship was found at a depth of more than 15,400 feet – nearly three miles beneath the Pacific Ocean.

James Delgado, SEARCH’s senior vice president, told National Geographic: “It struck me, if there was one ship to find that particularly now could speak to something about human nature and particularly Americans, it would be Nevada – stubborn, resilient.”

The commander of the Pacific Fleet told an AP reporter as the battleship went down: “She was a grand old ship.”

After the 2020 discovery, Mr Delgado added: “We found a whole section of the hull just blasted open, exposing the armour, but with the outer skin just peeled back and torn.”

Richard Ramsey, who served as a boatswain’s mate on the Nevada from Normandy through Okinawa and Iwo Jima, added: “It’s really a great thing that they found it.”

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A similar discovery was made in 2020, as researchers found Australian freighter SS Wollongbar II, which was discovered off the east coast of Australia near the town of Crescent Head, in the state of New South Wales.

The ship was downed during World War 2 conflict in 1943, struck by two torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine.

The attack killed 32 of the 27 crew on board, but the five survivors were rescued by fishermen Tom and Claude Radleigh, and taken to Port Macquarie, located 240 miles north of Sydney.

SS Wollongbar was one of a number of ships which was sunk during conflict off Australia’s east coast.

New South Wales Acting Minister for Veterans, Geoff Lee, was pleased with the discovery as he highlighted the historical significance of the ship.

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He said in April 2020: “We have just commemorated our brave veterans on Anzac Day, but it’s also important to remember the toll of war for everyday Australians.

“This secret has been hidden at the bottom of the deep sea for decades and the find will give some closure for descendants and relatives of the 32 people who lost their lives.”

The Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbour brought Australia into conflict with Japan as well.

During the war, the Australian mainland was also attacked directly by enemy forces.

Japanese military launched bombing attacks on northern Australia, and also hit Sydney Harbour with submarines.

Thousands of Australians fought in the war too ‒ in Europe, North Africa and the South West Pacific.

At the time of German defeat and Japanese surrender, 39,000 Australians had lost their lives and another 30,000 had been taken prisoner.



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