To continue with our World War I and World War II theme for November, I will feature a documentary about the Japanese battleship Musashi. Unsinkable! Japan’s Lost Battleship is about the biggest battleship that was built in the world. She was over 800 feet long and was over 70,000 tons. She had 18-inch guns. Her builders boasted that, much like the Titanic, she was unsinkable. Unfortunately, she did sink in her first battle. Her wreck was missing ever since. This documentary is about the search for her wreck.
David Mearns, who found the Hood, leads an expedition to search for the wreck. He spent years gleaning clues from the US and Japanese military records to determine the location of the wreck. Mearns’ team has three weeks to look for the wreck. The late Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, inspired the search for the Musashi.
The Musashi was the pride of Japan. The Japanese government did not inform the people that the Musashi went down.
At the start of the expedition, the team has no luck in locating the Musashi. They used the coordinates used by the Japanese Navy. Mearns concludes that they have to expand their search. So they use the records from the American Pilots that sunk the Musashi. Mearns has a series of photographs that he uses for clues.
In the 1930s, Japan is attempting to expand its influence in the Pacific. However, the Washington Naval Treaty attempted to put a stop to them. Japan could only have 60 battleships in comparison to the 100 the United States was allowed. As a result, they decided to with quality over quantity. The idea behind that was if they could produce high-quality battleships, they could counteract the high numbers of the enemy navy. The Yamamato class was born from this idea.
The Japanese started building these “super battleships.” The large cranes that were used to build these battleships are still used today. They hid the building progress behind curtains that way nobody could see what they were building. Locals were advised to not even look at the shipyards. In 1941, the Musashi started undergoing secret sea trials. The men who served aboard the Musashi believed that the ship was unsinkable. They believed that she was the King Kong of the Seas.
The expedition thinks they may have found something. They do further scans and then conclude that it was a natural formation. At the end of the three weeks, they find nothing. However, the team had mapped 1,400 square feet of the ocean floor. This mapping will be valuable for others in the future.
Pearl Harbor was a lesson to both Japan and the United States. While the Japanese focused on building battleships the United States embraced ariel warfare. The Japanese believed in a decisive battle at sea with battleships. The United States developed new weapons and planes for this type of warfare. As the United States battled in the Pacific they started gathering intelligence on Japan’s big battleships. Naval intelligence badly underestimated what Japan had produced.
The following year Mearns and his team go back to the search area with a more sophisticated radar. They get a hit and send down an ROV, a robot that will be able to take photographs of the site.
To learn more about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the search for the Musashi continue to watch this YouTube Video.
If I had an independent study student with an interest in World War II or battleships I would share this documentary with them. It would also be a great filler when your students study World War II.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
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