US explorers have discovered a Japanese aircraft carrier that was sunk during a crucial air and sea battle in 1942. A team of scientists on board the Petrel research vessel had surveyed more than 500 square nautical miles when it discovered the Kaga aircraft carrier. Seven warships – five Japanese and two American – went down during the 1942 Battle of Midway, which resulted in a decisive victory for the US during the Second World War.
After the devastating attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, Japan, which was at the time allied with Nazi Germany, planned to stage another surprise attack on US naval forces; however, US intelligence intercepted a Japanese coded message and after deciphering it, managed to ambush the enemy. During the battle, US dive bombers severely damaged the Kaga aircraft carrier and when the Japanese realised that the vessel couldn’t be saved, they torpedoed the ship to prevent her from falling into enemy hands. Historians say that the US victory at Midway contributed significantly to Japan’s ultimate defeat during the World War II.
Until now, explorers had only managed to locate one vessel that took part in the battle.
The expedition is being conducted by Vulcan Inc., a research organisation set up by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. The team of explorers is now close to another discovery, as they say they have located what they believe is another Japanese warship.
“With each piece of debris and each ship we discover and identify, our intent is to honour history and those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries”, said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan.
The Second World War began in 1939 and lasted until 1945. The US maintained neutrality during the first two years until Japan attacked its Pearl Harbour naval base in Hawaii in 1941. More than 400,000 US soldiers died during the war. Japan, lost up to three million people and signed an unconditional surrender after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.