MANILA - Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II.
Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others.
Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the battleship Musashi, found by his M/Y Octopus exploration vessel one kilometre (1.6 miles) deep on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea.
"World War II battleship Musashi sank 1944 is found," Allen announced in a Twitter post that has been re-tweeted close to 19,000 times.
The discovery was the end of an eight-year search for the Musashi, backed by historical data from four countries and using "advanced technology" that surveyed the seabed, Allen said in a statement on his website.
"I am honoured to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honouring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her," Allen said.
Undersea footage on Allen's website showed what were described as a valve, a catapult for planes, a gun turret and a starboard anchor.
It also showed the space on the bow for the Japanese empire's Chrysanthemum seal.
This is a unique feature of the three biggest warships that Japan built during World War II, according to Kazushige Todaka, director of the Kure Maritime Museum in Japan.
"I'm almost certain that what was discovered is the battleship Musashi," he said, adding the find had huge historical importance.
"There have been so many efforts over the years to locate Musashi, but they all failed. I feel like the warship might have been destined to show itself this year - the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II," Todaka said.
"With the memory of war slipping further and further from people's minds, I hope this discovery will help make the public think about history." Manolo Quezon, a prominent historian in the Philippines and the presidential communications undersecretary, also said the Musashi wreck would be a "major" historical find if verified.
"This would be like finding the Titanic, because of the status of the ship and the interest on the ship," Quezon told AFP.
The Musashi was one of a trio of vessels built by Japan during the war that, at 263 metres (863 feet) each, were its biggest battleships ever.
American warplanes sank the Musashi on October 24, 1944, at the height of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, regarded as the largest naval encounter of the war in which US and Australian forces defeated the Japanese.
Dozens of Japanese warships that were sunk during World War II have since been found in the Philippines, with some of them now popular dive locations.
The Sibuyan Sea where the Musashi was reportedly found is at the heart of the Philippines' central Visayas islands, and is home to busy shipping lanes.
The Seattle-born Allen, 62, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, is the world's 51st richest person with a net worth of $17.5 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.
He is also a famous philanthropist and businessmen with a focus on innovation.
Allen is working on a project called Stratolaunch, which aims to put "cost-effective" cargo and manned missions into space.
He launched SpaceShipOne, the first privately built spacecraft, into sub-orbital space in 2004.
In Allen's statement on his website, he said he been driven to pursue the Musashi for many reasons.
"Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father's service in the US Army," he said.
"The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction."