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  SS Pruth (Moresby Wreck)

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5th AF c1943

43rd BG c1943

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Justin Taylan 2005

Sinking History
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.

Wartime History
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.

Between 1942 until 1943 the shipwreck was use for strafing and bombing practice for U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft. Also, the development of new bombing techniques including skip bombing and to test new bomb configurations.

While used as training target, six Allied aircraft were lost 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 lost DB-7 Boston A28-12 exploded mid-air over the wreck, killing all three crew.
2. On February 5, 1943 lost B-25 41-12502 hit the mast and crashed killing all three crew.
3. On February 21, 1943 damaged B-25C "Draft Dodger" 41-12968 by bomb blast ditched without fatalities.
4. On May 31, 1943 lost Beaufighter A19-73 hit the mast and crashed, killing two crew with two survivors.
5. On July 27, 1943 lost B-25D 41-30496 crashed killing all five crew.
6. On September 29, 1943 lost B-25D 41-30053 crashed killing all seven crew.

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

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Last Updated
December 5, 2020


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