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Divers recover WWII remains off Micronesia

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA (ANN/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN) – Divers on Thursday recovered remains of Pacific War dead from two Japanese military ships sunk off the Chuuk Islands in a project by the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry.

The islands are now part of the Chuuk State of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The remains were recovered from the Shinkoku Maru refuelling ship and the Kiyosumi Maru special cruiser. Entering a dark engine room of the Shinkoku Maru, 38 metres below the ocean surface, a diver placed a femur bone and other remains in a bag. The diver then returned to the surface, holding the bag firmly to their chest.

According to the ministry, four sets of remains were recovered from the Shinkoku Maru, and some remains were also retrieved from the Kiyosumi Maru. The survey team visiting Micronesia will bring the remains back to Japan and use DNA testing to determine their identities.

The ministry has been conducting work to recover undersea remains when it becomes aware of cases in which the dignity of the war dead is jeopardised by exposure to divers. In recent years, it has been observed that some divers have posted photos of undersea remains on social media, where they are seen by unknown numbers of people.

The ministry is now strengthening measures to address the situation, collecting more information from diving tour operators.

A diver leaves the wreck of the Japanese World War II ship Kiyosumi Maru with a bag of remains for identification. PHOTO: ANN/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN