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Billionaire's Research Team Discovers Japanese World War II Battleship


And now the wreckage of a Japanese World War II battleship has been found after decades underwater. Here's NPR's Sam Sanders.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: It was October 24, 1944. Japanese and American troops were fighting the battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. In just a few hours, U.S. aircraft sank one of the biggest battleships of all time - the Musashi.

FRANK BLAZICH: This was an 862 foot, 10 inch long warship mounting the largest naval guns ever mounted on any warship in world history.

SANDERS: That's war historian Frank Blazich. When it was built in the '30s, the Musashi was so big, so powerful the Japanese had to keep it a secret because it violated naval treaties.

BLAZICH: This is the pride of the entire Japanese nation - the equivalent of our landing on the moon.

SANDERS: But by the time it sank, airpower was more dominant. And the Musashi couldn't keep up. The ship's wreckage was found not by the Japanese government but by a team led by billionaire Paul Allen, one of the co-founders of Microsoft. Naval expert Eric Weirtheim says that really isn't too unusual.

ERIC WEIRTHEIM: Today, governments don't necessarily have the funding to pursue these types of missions no matter how important they may be. When we look at, for instance, space travel and exploration, they're increasingly being done by the private sector.

SANDERS: Allen most likely won't get to keep the Musashi. It's too heavy to bring up. And the remains of more than a thousand Japanese troops are still with the ship. So the Japanese government gets to choose how they want to honor their fallen sailors. Sam Sanders, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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