|A yacht sails through Sydney harbour. A mystery over a Japanese midget submarine that went missing after a deadly attack on a ship in Sydney Harbour during World War II has likely been solved, experts have said. (AFP Photo)|
A mystery over a Japanese midget submarine that went missing after a deadly attack on a ship in Sydney Harbour during World War II has likely been solved, experts said Monday.
A television channel reported that a group of scuba divers had found the vessel, probably containing the remains of the two crewmen, off the Sydney coast although its exact location remains a closely-guarded secret.
The head of the Australian Navy's heritage collection, Commander Shane Moore, said there was little doubt that the wreckage was that of the long-lost Japanese submarine.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson told Channel Nine television that the find was an extremely important part of World War II history for both Australia and Japan and the wreckage would be protected from curious divers.
The submarine was one of three that slipped into the harbour on the night of May 31, 1942 after being launched from a fleet of five larger Japanese submarines offshore.
Two of the midget vessels were spotted and attacked, leading the two-man crews to commit suicide, Australian national archives record.
The remains of those subs were recovered and a rebuilt composite is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
But the third midget submarine managed to fire two torpedoes at the US heavy cruiser USS Chicago, one of which exploded beneath an Australian depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors.
The submarine then slipped out of the harbour, its mission complete, according to the national archives, but historians have long argued about whether it managed to make a complete escape.
Channel Nine said the vessel had been found by scuba divers in deep waters off the coast north of the harbour.
"The sub is in amazingly good shape. It is sitting up on its keel on the sand and instantly identifiable as a submarine," the report said.
A documentary aired by the History Channel last year claiming to have found the missing submarine was later found to be incorrect, but Channel Nine said this was "the real McCoy".
The divers who discovered the wreck said they hoped the Japanese government would agree to it being raised.