Photo/IllutrationThe Taiyo Maru, a passenger-cargo vessel that was later requisitioned for Japan’s war efforts during World War II (Provided by NYK Maritime Museum)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A large passenger-cargo ship built before World War II and sunk by a U.S. submarine while transporting Japanese troops and supplies during the war has been discovered on the seabed of the East China Sea.

A research team led by Society La Plongee for Deep Sea Technology on Sept. 5 announced the discovery and released footage of the wreckage of the Taiyo Maru.

The remnants of the vessel were found in the sea about 250 kilometers west of Yakushima island in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu.

After being completed in 1911, the Taiyo Maru went into service, connecting with San Francisco and other port cities.

Among her passengers were Japan’s national team competing in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics and Jiro Shirasu (1902-1985), a renowned businessman and bureaucrat.

After the Pacific War broke out in December 1941, the government requisitioned the 14,000-ton vessel for the war effort.

The vessel was struck by a U.S. submarine torpedo while it was sailing to the Philippines in May 1942 after leaving Hiroshima. In the sinking, 817 Japanese troops and civilians aboard the boat were killed.

In late August, the research team, headed by Tamaki Ura, a special professor of robotics at the Kyushu Institute of Technology, launched the study of the area where the boat was believed to be lying in the East China Sea based on Japan Coast Guard's data on the sea floor. It deployed a remote-controlled unmanned submersible during the search.

The Taiyo Maru lay on its port side at a depth of about 130 meters, according to the research group.

The boat retained most of its original shape, except for the bow. Its features matched those in photos that are in existence, the research group said.

“Most of the whereabouts of vessels that had gone down (during the war) remain unknown,” Ura said. “I want to dig up the history of those ships that are still lying forgotten.”