Attacked and Sunk by the USS Sturgeon
Sunk 1st July 1942
In the last 20 years I have been adding Hell Ships and their losses to the Roll of Honour, the Montevideo Maru proved a difficult ship to add. I started compiling the rolls for the Civilian’s and Service Personnel who are named in various lists for the ship about 10 years ago but as the names and numbers varied considerably it proved almost impossible to obtain a genuine roll, so it kept being shelved. As I want to finish my projects before ‘lights out’ I made up my mind to have another go at finishing the Montevideo Maru after watching ‘Sisters at War’, a recent film about the missionaries who were in New Guinea when the Japanese invaded. It is a true story of two Australian women, Lorna Whyte, an army nurse and Sister Berenice Twohill, a Catholic nun who survived as prisoners of the Japanese in New Guinea in WWII. This led me to go into the sinking deeper as the different lists of the dead had cast many doubts.
Searching the internet I found an Australian paper, written in November, 2010 by David Watt of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section. The paper went into detail of the uncertainty by the families of those who died and worth reading The Sinking of the Montevideo Maru as it cast doubt on if the ship existed and if so were the PoWs in the Japanese list onboard the ship.
As the sinking was recorded by the USS Sturgeon it is known the sinking did take place, but why are there discrepancies in the numbers and names of those on board the Montevideo Maru.
In September 1945, Australian Army officer Major Harold S Williams was sent to Tokyo to investigate PoW matters involving the Montevideo Maru. His findings are used from the NAA60 website, along with the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Unfortunately the CWGC have all the civilians remembered in the sinking as ‘UK Civilians’, I found this was not the case by going through the death certificates sent out to families of the sinking for ‘Closure of Death’ for legal reasons.
There is a big problem with William’s list, as he translated the Japanese list, believing it to be a true roll, but he was unaware at the time of the Japanese covering up atrocities they had committed.
It is known that the Japanese murdered civilians and service personnel after they had surrendered in New Guinea so could this be a cover up for an atrocity committed by them. This same situation happened when the ship carrying 517 of the 600 Gunner Party left Rabaul. Although the Japanese claimed they died when the ship was sunk, it was later found they arrived at Ballali Island and died or murdered there by the Japanese.
Please read the rolls I have prepared with an open mind as there were no survivors in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru it is impossible to know if they died in the sinking or in New Guinea - May they rest in peace.