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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

Ship History
British cargo vessel.

Sinking History
During January 1924, grounded during a storm on Nateara Reef to the south of Port Moresby. The ship was driven further onto the reef, cargo was transferred to smaller boats and then the ship was abandoned. Later used as the backdrop for the Hollywood movie, "Red Morning" released in 1935 by RKO-Radio. The wreck was nearly sold to the Japanese for scrap metal in 1940. Instead, Australians salvaged 200 tons of metal from it, and one propeller in 1941.

Wartime History
During the Pacific War, this vessel remained largely intact and was known as the "Moresby Wreck", the Pruth shipwreck was use for strafing and bombing practice for U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft during 1942-3.

On at least two occasions, Japanese aircraft attacking the Port Moresby area attacked the shipwreck. On February 28, 1942 escorting A6M2 Zeros of 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 used for strafing and bombing practice by aircraft from the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). 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

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Last Updated
November 16, 2018


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