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Video feed sheds light on sinking of the Musashi

Last Updated Mar 13, 2015 9:53 AM EDT

TOKYO -- Debris scattered over a large area at the bottom of the sea in the Philippines indicate that the massive Japanese World War II battleship Musashi was blown into pieces in an undersea explosion 70 years ago.

Experts from a research team analyzing a live feed from an unmanned underwater probe Friday said they believe the Musashi suffered at least one explosion while descending in the 3,280.84-foot deep sea. Except for an initial series of partial photos and images of the ship, Friday's more than 2 ½ hour feed was the first detailed imagery showing the current status of the ship.

The Musashi sank in October 1944 in the Sibuyan Sea during the battle of Leyte, losing half of its 2,400 crew. It was last seen disappearing into the water in one piece.

"The wreck is actually very damaged," said David Mearns, a marine scientist on the Musashi research team. "It appears she suffered at least one, if not two, magazine explosions which would have sheered off the bow and the stern, and its entire middle section of its super-structure."

The footage showed sections of the ship that used to be an air-combat platform. The debris scattered in areas approximately 2,600 feet by 1,640 feet, according to the research team.

The feed also showed holes in the bow area, apparently made by U.S. torpedo attacks before the Musashi sank, a torn off propeller, as well as gun turrets and catapults that were broken off. The ship's stern was upside down.

The research team, sponsored by Microsoft co-founder and entrepreneur Paul Allen, was the first to successfully locate the ship, just ahead of the 70th anniversary of the war's end later this year.

Also watching the feed in Japan was 94 year-old Shigeru Nakajima, one of those who survived the Japanese battleship's sinking. He said he was certain the wreckage was that of the ship he was aboard 71 years ago when it was sunk by U.S. forces.

Nakajima watched the live streaming video tour provided by Allen's exploration team from his home in Chiba Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.

"I am certain that this is the Musashi by now looking at the images such as the anchor, the imperial seal of the chrysanthemum," Nakajima told the Associated Press as he watched the video.

Nakajima was an electrical technician for the sub battery on the vessel. He survived the torpedo attack by jumping into the water as he was ordered to evacuate by his senior officer.

Nakajima, who became the chef at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo after the war, said he had no words but "thank you" for the team that found the wreckage, adding that the ship's captain Toshihira Inoguchi and other crew members who perished "must be delighted to hear this news... in heaven."