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Wreckage of History’s Largest Battleship Found

August 3, 1985

TOKYO (AP) _ A salvage team announced today that wreckage found in the East China Sea is that of the World War II Japanese battleship Yamato, sunk in 1945 while on a desperate mission to try and turn the tide of the Pacific war.

The Japan Broadcasting Corp., NHK, televised pictures of twisted and rusted metal, canisters for large-caliber guns and the imperial chrysanthemum crest on the prow. It said the pictures were taken underwater by a camera in a bathyscaph.

Shigeru Makino, one of the designers of the battleship, confirmed that wreck was that of the Yamato after viewing photos and videotapes, the daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Another search team had located the same wreckage in 1982, after consulting U.S. military records, could not establish conclusively that it was the Yamato. The Yamato was one of two 72,800-ton battleships which were the largest ever built. Equipped with huge 18-inch guns, the Yamato was regarded by her builders as unsinkable.

Details of the find were to be announced by the private search team on Sunday. Organizers said they had no immediate plans to attempt to salvage the wreck.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, one of several private companies sponsoring the search, reported that the wreck lay about 180 miles southwest of Kagoshima on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, in more than 1,100 feet of water.

It said the wreck was in two main pieces, a bow-to-midships section about 560 feet long, and a 264-foot-long stern section.

Built in secrecy in the 1930s and launched Aug. 9, 1940, the Yamato was equipped with nine guns that could hurl shells 25 miles. Both it and its sister ship, Musashi, saw action in the Pacific war, but were hindered by their lack of speed from serving as escorts for carrier forces.

The Musashi was sunk by U.S. carrier-based planes in the decisive Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October, 1944.

After seeing action at Midway, the Solomon Islands, Truk, and other battles, the Yamato was kept mostly in port at Kure, near Hiroshima.

However, during the battle for Okinawa in April 1945, Japanese officers decided to use it for a final sortie that might help turn the fighting in Japan’s favor, by beaching the giant ship and using its giant guns against U.S. land forces.

On April 6, 1945, the Yamato sailed from Tokuyama, on Japan’s Inland Sea, with just enough fuel for a one-way voyage.

The next day, the battleship and its escort flotilla - a light cruiser and eight destroyers - were attacked by 380 planes from U.S. Rear Adm. Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58.

Crippled by bombs and at least 12 torpedoes, the Yamato blew apart in a thunderous explosion. Of its crew of 3,333, only about 260 survived.

The salvage team was organized in June by author Jun Hemmi, who wrote the book ″Yamato and Her Crew″.

Numerous books and films have been produced about the Yamato, and models of the ship, with its low silhouette and distinctive pagoda-shaped mast, are popular among young Japanese.

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