MANILA // Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen claims to have found one of Japan’s biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during the Second World War.
On Wedensday, Mr Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the battleship Musashi, found by his M/Y Octopus exploration vessel one kilometre deep on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea.
"World War II battleship Musashi sank 1944 is found," the American billionaire announced in a Twitter post that has been re-tweeted close to 19,000 times.
Historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic.
The discovery comes at the end of an eight-year search for the Musashi, backed by historical data from four countries and using "advanced technology" that surveyed the seabed, Mr Allen said.
Undersea footage on Mr Allen’s website showed what were described as a valve, a catapult for planes, a gun turret and a starboard anchor.
It also showed the space on the bow for the Japanese empire’s Chrysanthemum seal.
This is a unique feature of the three biggest warships that Japan built during the Second World War, according to Kazushige Todaka, director of the Kure Maritime Museum in Japan.
"I'm almost certain that what was discovered is the battleship Musashi," he said.
"There have been so many efforts over the years to locate Musashi, but they all failed. I feel like the warship might have been destined to show itself this year – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II," Mr Todaka said.
"With the memory of war slipping further and further from people's minds, I hope this discovery will help make the public think about history." Manolo Quezon, a prominent historian in the Philippines and the presidential communications undersecretary, said: "This would be like finding the Titanic, because of the status of the ship and the interest on the ship."
The Musashi was one of three vessels built by Japan during the war that, at 263 metres each, were its biggest battleships ever.
American warplanes sank the Musashi on October 24, 1944, at the height of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, regarded as the largest naval encounter of the war in which US and Australian forces defeated the Japanese.
Dozens of Japanese warships that were sunk during the Second World War have since been found in the Philippines, with some of them now popular dive locations.
Mr Allen, 62, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, is a famous philanthropist and businessmen with a focus on innovation. He launched SpaceShipOne, the first privately built spacecraft, into sub-orbital space in 2004.
Mr Allen said on his website he had been driven to pursue the Musashi for many reasons.
“Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the US army,” he said.
"The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction."
* Agence France-Presse