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Sunken WWII Ship Discovered Intact

December 7, 2014

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Researchers have discovered a ship sunk 60 years ago off the island of Oahu. Unlike so many other World War II oceangoing vessels, though, this one was sunk on purpose.

The ship was originally named the Dickenson and set sail in 1923 as part of a Commercial Pacific Cable Company fleet charged with maintaining submarine telecommunications throughout the Pacific. The Dickenson served as a supply ship and a cable repair ship, supporting cable patching efforts near Midway and Fanning Islands.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Dickenson served as a rescue ship, ferrying British telecommunications workers from Midway to Oahu. The onset of war brought with it a disruption of the Midway telecommunications hub, and so the Dickenson was repurposed. Requisitioned by the U.S. Government, the ship was renamed the U.S.S. Kailua and sent off to do cable maintenance in the Pacific.

The ship supported cable-laying operations near New Guinea and also put in place buoys and anti-submarine nets. The Kailua also supported similar work near Samoa. In 1944, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor, where it continued its work until the war ended. The Navy torpedoed the ship in early 1946, 20 miles off the coast of Oahu.

And that's where a crew from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory found the Kailua, at a depth of 2,000 feet, its structure largely intact.

The submersible crew found the ship in late 2013 and made the official announcement of the find in late 2014. The crew reported no significant torpedo damage to the ship, which appeared to resting comfortably in its natural position, its sole mast intact, only at the bottom of the ocean. The crew found the upper deck, including the sole mast and even the wheel, intact. Still visible on the bow was the ship number, IX-71.

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