IN A SENSATIONAL development, it has come to light that in 1953 the Federal government refused a Japanese offer to provide documents that might have led to the disclosure of the identities of the men who died on the Montevideo Maru.
One of the last remaining great mysteries of Australia’s involvement in World War II involves the precise identities of the estimated 1053 men (although there could have been more) who died in Australia’s worst maritime disaster when the Japanese ‘hellship’ Montevideo Maru was sunk by the US submarine Sturgeon off the Philippines..
Eight years after the war, on 15 October 1953, ten Allied
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that,
although it did not feel bound by the conventions, it desired to “deliver the
records of individual prisoners of war … who were in the hands of
The Australian government did not respond to the request for 15 months, and when it did – on 18 January 1955 - it put a dampener on the exercise.
The Australian Embassy in
A sombre Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs responded on 28 January 1955, just ten days later, that “if the Australian government does not desire to exchange the PW name card relating to Australians, we recognize that we have fulfilled our obligation...."
End of story. Until now, when these critical documents
have surfaced in
The unearthing of the documents raises fascinating
questions. Why did
The uncovering of these documents suggests there may still
be more relevant papers locked away in the official archives of
This amazing twist in the Montevideo Maru saga comes at a time when there is a renewed focus on trying to determine exactly who was aboard the ship when it was sunk on 1 July 1942.
As more that is discovered about this mystery, the more it seems to deepen.