Finding the Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2015 - 12:00am

Last Thursday, The Philippine STAR featured a special front-page report that came from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen… that his luxury yacht and exploration ship M/Y Octopus found the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Super Battleship the Musashi, which was attacked by American carrier fighter bombers off Leyte Gulf and sank it off the island of Romblon.

The Musashi was the sister ship of the Yamato, which bears the name of this class of vessel. They were built in the Mitsubishi Yards in Nagasaki. They were the largest battlewagons of World War II carrying nine 18-inch guns. America’s biggest battleship was the Iowa Class represented by the USS Missouri (now anchored in Pearl Harbor) and the USS New Jersey (anchored of the Delaware River) that carried only 16-inch guns. By comparison, the German Nazi Battleship Bismarck and her sister ship the Tirpitz only had 15-inch guns.

The Yamato was the flagship of Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto, the architect of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the Musashi was the flagship of Admiral Mineichi Koga, who was featured in my uncle, Col. Manuel F. Segura’s book “The Koga Papers.” Admiral Koga’s plane a Kawanishi “Mavis” Flying Boat ran into a storm as they were flying from Koror, Palau and got lost and was never found, while the Flying Boat of his Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Shigeru Fukodomei bearing the Z-Plan or the Defense of the Philippines, floundered and crashed off San Fernando, Cebu where he was captured by Cebu guerillas under the Command of Col. James Cushing.

I’m sure that Paul Allen didn’t have a difficulty finding the Musashi, after all when American Dive bombers attacked and sunk her on Oct. 24, 1944 in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, they took several photographs of the action and I saw a black and white photograph of the Musashi as she started to sink from her bow with the outline of Southern Luzon on the horizon. When Woodshole Oceanographer Robert Ballard was searching for the RMS Titanic, it was very difficult to find in the vast North Atlantic Ocean and it was very deep at 12,500 ft. while the Musashi was only a thousand feet underwater and therefore it was easier to locate.

Unfortunately no one from the Philippine government was able to talk with Mr. Paul Allen for they could have requested his assistance in finding another shipwreck not far from the watery grave of the Musashi. I’m referring to the Sulpicio Lines M/V Doña Paz, which collided with an oil tanker in the mid-80’s. It was one of the greatest maritime disasters in the world. Also nearby was gravesite of the M/V Princess of the Stars, one of the biggest ship liners that capsized off Romblon Island in the Sibuyan Sea a few years ago.

Incidentally on April 2007 Gen. Dominador Resos, Jr. (Ret) President of the Romblon Cultural Heritage Association, Inc. (ROCHAI) came up with a memorandum of agreement with the Japanese Musashi Foundation to locate the wreck of the Musashi and retrieve any artifacts that can be found if the Musashi is found. The Province of Romblon is the only Province that I know in the Philippines that observes the Battle of Sibuyan Sea. On Oct.4, 2010, Pres. Benigno “PNoy” Aquino, III issued proclamation no.45 declaring Oct.24th as Battle of Sibuyan Sea Day. 

I write about World War II history because it was a war, especially the war in the Pacific where the Philippines played a key role. Don’t forget that just two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed the Cavite Naval Yard. While most people say that the 2nd World War was a war between the Americans and the Japanese, however they fought this war in our own backyard…so we were very much involved in that war.

More importantly, I love writing World War II history in the hope that we could help educate our readers because so many Filipinos are ignorant of what happened during World War II. A case in point is our annual celebration of the Liberation of Cebu on March 26th. On so many such celebrations, the Philippine Navy and Marines do mock battles at the original landing site of the Americal Division in Tangke, Talisay, Cebu. But that never happened at all. There was no battle! I even wrote columns to tell the Marines that they were so off tangent in commemorating the Talisay Landings.

The first battle for the Liberation of Cebu happened in Gochan Hill, just a few hundred meters from my house…, which is now more known as Ecotech Center where national government offices are located. Gochan Hill was used by the Japanese Army to guard the only road to the old Lahug Airfield. It had a huge command bunker on top of the hill with a great view of its surroundings. Americal Division soldiers fired howitzers at Gochan Hill from the old Hippodrome near where the Ayala Business Park is located. It took two days to neutralize Gochan Hill where 84 pillboxes were destroyed and more than 200 Japanese soldiers were killed in that battle for Cebu.

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com.


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