The U.S. Navy has identified a sunken ship off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, as the Sumner-class destroyer Mannert L. Abele, the first U.S. warship to sink on April 12, 1945, after it was hit with a Japanese suicide rocket bomb, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
“Mannert L. Abele is the final resting place for 84 American sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country,” NHHC Director Samuel Cox said in a statement. “Its discovery allows some closure to the families of those lost, and provides us all another opportunity to remember and honor them.”
The day of its sinking, the destroyer came in contact with Japanese aircraft about 75 miles off the coast of Okinawa. Although the warship damaged multiple enemy planes, one Japanese kamikaze pilot managed to cut through the anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the starboard side of the ship, according to the release.
The ship was then hit at the water line by a rocket-powered human-guided kamikaze bomb — a Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka, also called the Cherry Blossom — that caused the bow and stern of the ship to buckle, dooming the vessel.
The wreck of Mannert L. Abele is protected and falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy, the statement noted.
“The wreck represents the final resting place of sailors that gave their life in defense of the nation and should be respected by all parties as a war grave,” the NHHC release states.
Naval History and Heritage Command traces its history back to 1794, according to the command’s website. The Navy Department Library was established under the Naval Bureau within the War Department. In 1800, President John Adams asked the first secretary of the Navy to prepare a list of books suited for a Navy library.
The command now includes 10 museums across the country and a detachment that contributes to the upkeep of the service’s oldest ship, the USS Constitution.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.