The construction of a vessel that would come to represent the might of Japan’s navy was so secretive, according to historical accounts, that workers hid it underneath a camouflage of rope. There was good reason to try to keep construction secret. It would become a fearsome creature of war: Said to be at that time “the largest battleship in naval history,” it extended nearly 900 feet in length, weighed 73,000 tons and was equipped with a massive arsenal of guns.
“I couldn’t believe how enormous they were!” American Helldiver gunner Joe Anderlik recalled of the vessel during a massive naval battle that sank the beast. Musashi “was huge!” another gunner said, according to World War II Database. “I had never seen anything as big in my entire life. It was a magnificent sight.”
But despite such magnificence, the end of the Musashi would be as cloaked in opacity as its origins. Allied forces pummeled its mighty frame with 20 torpedoes and 17 bombs, and on that day in October 1944, it sank somewhere in the Sibuyan Sea near the Philippines. It took with it 1,023 lives. And it was never seen again.
That was until this week, when the Musashi reemerged in the most unexpected of places: Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen’s Twitter page. “WW2 Battleship Musashi sank 1944 is FOUND 1,000 meters deep. … Huge anchor,” wrote Allen, who has been looking for the ship for more than eight years. “RIP crew of Musashi.”
The announcement brought a startling end to the story of the Musashi: sank by an American naval force, discovered by an American billionaire. “Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” Allen said in a statement. “The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction.”
Allen, 62, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and now owns, among other things, the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, uploaded a number of pictures of what he described as the ship’s rusty bow, with a Japanese seal clearly visible. According to the Japan Times, officials with the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Philippine navy were not aware of the reported discovery, which Allen said he found with his luxury yacht, the Octopus, which apparently has all sorts of gizmos for deep-ocean surveillance.
Allen and his team compiled sea records from four different countries, a release said, showing the topological undulations marking the ocean’s floor. Then using what Allen calls “advanced technology aboard his yacht,” they somehow located the battleship by vastly narrowing the search to a small slice of ocean floor. “Because the search area had been so narrowly defined by the survey,” the release said, an autonomous underwater vehicle “was able to detect the wreckage on only the third dive.”
Earlier this week, Allen posted what he called the “final confirmation” of the ship’s identity: a valve he thought to be Japanese.