Abandoned And Sacrificed: The Tragedy Of The Montevideo Maru


Australia’s Worst Maritime Disaster in history was covered up!

In 1942 the Montevideo Maru, carrying Military and civilians, was mistakenly sunk by a US submarine. Lack of information for their families, along with an extensive government cover-up, made for Australia’s Worst Maritime Disaster in history. This is the untold story of that disaster, and was written for the 1,000 families that were effected and never knew exactly what had happened until now.

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This is the forgotten story of Australia’s worst maritime disaster.


In 1942, over 1000 prisoners and internees perished as the Japanese-requisitioned Montevideo Maru was sunk by a lone American submarine. Experience maritime war historian Dr Kathryn Spurling tells how the victims – priests, soldiers and civilians, many barely adults – came to perish on the Japanese hell ship and reveals why the Australian Government continued to cover-up the details of the sinking long after the end of the war.

Rabaul, New Guinea, is a tropical paradise, but between January and July 1942 it was a tragic and terrifying place. Hundreds of Australian defence force volunteers and civilians were massacred by the invading Japanese. Forced into the holds of the hellship Montevideo Maru, a further 1053 perished in Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

On 22 June 1942, 845 military POWs and over 200 civilian internees left Rabaul on the Montevideo Maru, a freighter requisitioned by the Japanese navy, for Hainan, off the southern coast of China. On 1 July this vessel was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine USS Sturgeon close to Luzon, resulting in the deaths of all prisoners and internees on board. Most were barely adults, still too young to vote. All were forsaken and sacrificed by Australia’s government and military leaders.

Decades of official denial and subterfuge have ensued, as families continue to fight for the truth and to understand why the Australian Government was so slow in admitting this ever happened.

More on Kathryn Spurling here,