Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Australians mark ‘hellship’ sinking

SIXTY-SEVEN years after the sinking of “hell ship” Montevideo Maru off the coast of Luzon, Australians led by their ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith went all the way to Subic Bay to honor their fallen countrymen.

In a simple ceremony held at the Hellship Memorial fronting the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administration building, Smith, World War-II veterans as well as relatives of those who perished onboard Montevideo Maru unveiled a plaque memorializing “Australia’s greatest disaster at sea.”

Smith said “hell ships” refer to vessels used by the Japanese Imperial Army to transport Allied prisoners of war to places for forced labor.

As Allied forces closed in at the end of World War II, these POWs were transferred in cargo holds of hell ships with little air, food, or water for journeys lasting for weeks.

These hell ships, or “Jigoku Sen” in Japanese, were unmarked, making them legitimate targets for the Allied forces.

The ill-fated Montevideo Maru which took off from Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on June 22, 1942 had 1,054 people onboard, including 71 Japanese crewmen and guards. It was torpedoed by the American submarine Sturgeon nine days later, on its way to Hainan Island.

“There was no trace of these men taken prisoner, and the families of these men still grieve,” said Smith.

The Australian nationals consoled each other through prayers, and laid wreaths during the ceremony here which started at 11 a.m. and ended promptly at noon.

Also present, aside from members of the Australian Embassy and SBMA officials were Papua New Guinea Association of Australia representative Andrea Williams, Olongapo City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr., and members of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Association, RSL Subic Bay, and RSL Angeles.

By. J.V. Antiporda – People’s Journal

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