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Explorers find shipwrecks of 2 Japanese carriers sunk in Battle of Midway

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Explorers find shipwrecks of 2 Japanese carriers sunk in Battle of Midway
The Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi is seen in the Indian Ocean in April 1942. File Photo by Kure Maritime Museum

Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Expedition crews believe they have discovered two Japanese aircraft carriers that have been missing for nearly 80 years in the Pacific Ocean, which were sunk in the famed Battle of Midway.

Crews on the research vessel Petrel said they found wreckage of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Kaga and Akagi carriers off the Hawaii coast. The Kaga was found 17,000 feet down in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and the Akagi at a much shallower depth of 1,800 feet. The Petrel is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

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Expedition director Rob Kraft and Naval History and Heritage Command curator Frank Thompson said they found the Akagi after examining high-frequency sonar images on Sunday.

"She's sitting upright on her keel. We can see the bow. We can see the stern clearly," Kraft said. "You can see the gun emplacements on there. You can see that some of the flight deck is also torn up and missing, so you can actually look right into where the flight deck would be."

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Both carriers were sunk by U.S. bombers from the USS Enterprise during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. About 2,000 Japanese and 200 Americans were killed in the historic fight.

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The battle, which resulted in substantial losses for the Japanese navy, is considered one of the most influential of World War II. Japan's military launched the assault hoping that, like Pearl Harbor, it would devastate the United States' ability to make war. U.S. military cryptographers won a key advantage in the battle by intercepting Japanese communications that listed the date and time of the planned attack.

"The Battle of Midway was an American intelligence breakthrough," Thompson told Maritime Executive. "The team that deciphered the Japanese fleet codes enabled Pacific Fleet commander [Chester W.] Nimitz to understand Japanese intentions and plan accordingly.

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"This was a true turning point in the war for the U.S. Navy."

Two other Japanese carriers that sank during the battle have yet to be found.

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