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5th AF c1943
43rd BG c1943
Justin Taylan 2005
During January 1924, during a storm ran aground on Nateara Reef to the south of Port Moresby. To save the cargo, the vessel was driven further onto the reef, then the cargo was unloaded onto smaller boats, stripped of usable parts and abandoned.
During 1934, used as a backdrop and set for the RKO Hollywood movie Red Morning (1934). During 1940, a Japanese entity negotiated to purchase the shipwreck for scrap metal but the deal did not materialize. In 1941, Australians salvaged 200 tons of scrap metal from the wreck including one propeller.
During the Pacific War, this vessel remained largely intact and became known as the "Moresby Wreck" and was attacked by Japanese and Allied aircraft.
On at least two occasions, Japanese aircraft attacking Port Moresby targeted the shipwreck. On February 28, 1942 A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai test fired their guns on the wreck, before strafing RAAF Catalina flyingboats moored off Napa Napa. On March 25, 1942 a Japanese bomber bombed the shipwreck but missed.
During 1942-1943, the shipwreck was use for strafing and bombing practice for U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft including the development of new bombing techniques and to test new bomb configurations including the development of skip bombing. While used as training target, six Allied aircraft were lost attacking the shipwreck killing a total of twenty Allied personnel between November 10, 1942 to September 29, 1943.
The six aircraft lost attacking the SS Pruth shipwreck include:
1. On November 10, 1942 DB-7 Boston A28-12 exploded mid-air over the wreck, killing the crew of three.
2. On February 5, 1943 B-25 41-12502 hit the mast and crashed killing the entire crew of three.
3. On February 21 B-25C "Draft Dodger" 41-12968 damaged by a premature bomb blast, ditched without fatalities.
4. On May 31, 1943 Beaufighter A19-73 hit the mast and crashed, killing two with two other surviving the crash.
5. On July 27, 1943 B-25D 41-30496 crashed killing the entire crew of five.
6. On September 29, 1943 B-25D 41-30053 crashed killing the entire crew of seven.
After use as a training aid, the remaining wreckage was scrapped down to the waterline. Only the ship's boilers and a portion of the stern are above water, and on a clear day was visible from Port Moresby, Ela Beach to Koki. From the air, the outline of the ship is still visible. Reportedly, local fisherman have salvaged bullets and unexploded bombs from around the wreck. Underwater, only broken remains of the ship too difficult to salvage or scrap still remains. Few pieces look like that of a ship, aside from a few port holes, gears and bolts visible.
Seek & Strike page 19
"bombers came in 0915 on 25 March, and ground observers thought one was hit by anti-aircraft fire, as it left formation and bombed the old wrecked ship, the SS Pruth, but missed."
Wrecks & Reefs page 208-220
S 9 E 147
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