An Imperial Japanese Navy vessel involved in the attack on the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was found submerged off Japan’s southern coast in the spring of 2016, but the discovery was only revealed to the public this month.
The destroyer Isokaze was discovered in 2016 by Fukada Salvage & Marine Works, a Japanese marine salvage business that is also involved in steel structure installation, offshore engineering and other infrastructure improvement projects, Stars and Stripes reported.
However, the discovery was only disclosed to the public February 10, 2018. It is unclear why the salvage team chose to keep the find away from the public eye until now.
"This is the first time a ship that sank with Yamato has been found," said Tadaaki Hanato, survey leader and assistant director of Fukada's Chugoku Branch.
Japan's World War II battleship the Yamato was the largest battleship ever constructed. Its wreck was discovered in the East China Sea and explored with an underwater submersible in 1985. In May 2016, the wreckage was surveyed using digital technology. The resulting footage is available for viewing at the Yamato Museum in Kure, a city on Japan's Seto Inland Sea.
The Isokaze now takes its place alongside the Yamato as one of the most historic World War II vessels ever discovered, Star and Stripes reported. According to Japan's Chugoku newspaper, Isokaze was 365 feet long and 35 feet wide and displaced 2,500 metric tons.
The Isokaze protected the Japanese fleet during Pearl Harbor and saw action in some of the most famous naval battles of the war, including Midway, the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. The ship was sunk April 7, 1945, while it was escorting the Yamato battleship from the Seto Inland Sea during Operation Ten-Go, an attack on the Allied Forces in Okinawa. Isokaze sank after being attacked by aircraft from the US Navy's Fast Carrier Task Force.
In addition to losing Isokaze, the Japanese also lost Yamato, the cruiser Yahagi and destroyers Asashimo, Hamakaze and Kasumi in the same battle.
"It is the Imperial Navy ship that experienced the most fierce battles," said Kazushige Todaka, director of the Kure Maritime Museum, also known as the Yamato Museum. "It is a symbolic destroyer," he added, Star and Stripes reported.
"There are not so many survivors of war now and the war has become an old tale of the past," Todaka said, speaking to the significance of discovering the Isokaze wreckage. "It gives people the opportunity to see that the war is not something of the past and it is an issue that is related to everyone, even today."
In 2015, Paul Allen, a billionaire and one of Microsoft's co-founders, announced that he had managed to locate the wreckage of Musashi, another WWII-era Japanese battleship sunk by US forces during the war..
That ship's remains were reportedly discovered in the Sibuyan Sea off the central Philippines at a depth of about 1,000 meters. According to Allen, he found the wreck with the help of his luxury yacht and exploration ship, the M/Y Octopus.