May 30, 2023

How Futuristic Technology Can Help Us Honor WWII’s Dead

Over the past 13 years, Tim Taylor and Christine Dennison have scoured the ocean floor using autonomous underwater robots to discover and document the wrecks of seven US submarines lost in World War II. But their most recent discovery, of which they are releasing video footage and photos in anticipation of Memorial Day, has a particularly personal resonance.

The USS Mannert L. Abele, which the explorers found 4,500 feet under the Pacific Ocean and 81 miles from the nearest landmass, was the first American ship sunk by an unusual type of rocket-powered Japanese kamikaze plane. Part of Taylor’s interest in undertaking the search stemmed from knowing that his father had cheated death when an explosive-laden Japanese kamikaze plane bounced off the bulwark of his own ship near the coast of Okinawa.

“He was on the deck and had come out to get supplies,” Taylor recounted to me. “As he opened the hatch, the kamikaze was heading right at him. His buddy on the 40-millimeter gun struck it.” Not everyone was so lucky. Taylor pointed out that “We lost over 12,000 men at Okinawa.”

Taylor and Dennison are ensuring that more families of those lost know where their loved ones’ deep-water graves reside. They are racing against time as underwater development threatens many of these wrecks. On Memorial Day, some people remember history, but Taylor and Dennison do them one better by fighting to preserve it.

Budget constraints hinder the Navy from devoting resources to undertaking these kinds of searches, according to Taylor, and his team is showing how private groups can fill the gap. While it’s understandable that the Pentagon doesn’t devote more funding to recovering historic remains given its needs for the present and future, it’s also unfortunate that such important work doesn’t have stronger public support.

For Taylor and Dennison, it’s important to preserve the history of these wrecks and respect the sanctity of those entombed within them. And as the ranks of those alive during World War II have shrunk, it’s vital to give those who remain closure while it’s still possible.

You can read more in an article by Sébastien Roblin published in the CNN web site at: