Remains of Japanese WWII dead to be recovered from sunken ships in Micronesia

Photo: U.S. Navy/ SPREP

The Japan’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry on Sunday surveyed a Japanese tanker sunk during the Pacific War for human remains to be recovered, off Chuuk Lagoon, formerly Truk Lagoon.

The lagoon is now part of the Chuuk State of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The survey was prompted by a government policy of proactively collecting information about undersea remains of war dead.

During the war, the Imperial Japanese Navy had a base on the atoll for its Combined Fleet. The base and Japanese ships were attacked by U.S. aircraft carriers on 17 – 18 February 1944. Some 40 Japanese ships were sunk.

Surveying of the ships was scheduled to take place from Saturday to Tuesday. On Sunday, divers entered the Shinkoku Maru, an oil tanker lying 38 meters below the ocean’s surface. Divers shined lights into cabins and through gaps between steel frames, and confirmed there were human remains. They were set to recover the remains as soon as preparations were complete.

During World War II, 2.4 million Japanese civilians and members of the military died abroad. The remains of 1.12 million people have not been recovered.

According to the ministry, only some 670 war dead have been recovered from sunken ships, and the remains of some 300,000 people are still underwater.