Society to mark 75yrs since tragedy


THE Rabaul Historical Society will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Montevideo Maru tragedy on Thursday.
A dusk service will be held on the day of its departure from Rabaul on June 22, 1942, at the Montevideo Maru Memorial on the Rabaul foreshore.
A total of 1053 Australian soldiers and civilians disappeared without trace when the Japanese vessel Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine off the Philippines coast in 1942.
The Australians had been taken aboard the vessel at Rabaul where they had been interned after the Japanese invasion and occupation of the former capital of Australian-mandated New Guinea. It was bound for Hainan.
However, it was intercepted and sunk by the USS Sturgeon about 60 miles west of Cape Luzon in the Philippines in the early hours of July 1.
Twice as many Australians died in this single incident than the entire Vietnam War.
More than 400 perished on the Montevideo Maru than on the HMAS Sydney after it was sunk by the German raider Kormoran in 1941.
“The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was the greatest disaster at sea ever suffered by Australians,” historian Hank Nelson said.
He spent decades researching the loss of 845 prisoners of war and 208 civilians.
The submarine commander Lieutenant William “Bull” Wright had no way of knowing the ship was carrying allied troops and civilians.
Secretary of the Rabaul Historical Society Susie McGrade is expecting more than 50 visitors to Rabaul to commemorate the day and pay respects to their loved ones.

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