US destroyer lost in World War II found in Philippine sea
Photo posted by the USNI News shows what is believed to be a wreck of the World War II destroyer USS Johnston.

US destroyer lost in World War II found in Philippine sea

Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — A few days after the 75th anniversary of the Battle off Samar, ocean researchers have found on the floor of the Philippine Sea the remains of a battleship that was sunk during the engagement, according to a United States research organization, which claimed it was the deepest ever naval shipwreck to be discovered.

Researchers on the R/V Petrel found the remains of the US World War II destroyer, believed to be the USS Johnston, at 6,220 meters using an undersea drone.

Eerie footage captured by the drone and shared by the research vessel on its Facebook page showed the mangled wreckage resting on the seabed, with almost unrecognizable debris.

R/V Petrel is part of Vulcan Inc., a research organization set up by the late billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

“This wreck is completely decimated… It is just debris. There is no hull structure,” Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan and the video’s narrator, said.

“We believe this wreck to be that of the USS Johnston DD-557,” he continued.

The USS Johnston was a Fletcher-class destroyer that was sunk during the Battle off Samar, the centermost action of the Battle of Leyte Gulf – one of the largest naval battles in history. Fletcher destroyers were a class of destroyers built by the US during World War II.

The Battle off Samar was the only major action in the larger battle in which the Americans were largely unprepared against the opposing forces. It has been cited by historians as one of the greatest last stands in naval history.

Experts said they believe that the mangled wreckage of the ship was more likely to be the USS Johnston than the USS Hoel, another destroyer that sank in the Battle off Samar.

“There is no evidence of the dazzle paint scheme, indicative of the USS Hoel and its location suggests this wreck sank later in the battle, after the loss of the Hoel,” Vulcan said.

The location of the wreckage, in the southern part of the area where the battle took place, suggests the wreck is USS Johnston, Kraft said. Johnston was the last ship to sink in the battle, according to historians.

The USS Johnston sank on Oct. 25, 1944, after a fierce battle with Japanese forces, for which it earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

According to the US Naval History and Heritage Command, only 141 men of the ship’s crew of 341 survived.

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