The deepest ever shipwreck has now been fully mapped and filmed after a US crew was able to reach the site at 21,180 feet in the Philippine Sea.
The WWII destroyer USS Johnston was destroyed in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago during the largest naval battle in recorded history and sank nearly four miles to the bottom of the ocean.
The ship was discovered in 2019, but only now has a team been able to fully map the wreckage, which is more than 100 feet deeper than previously believed.
A submarine piloted by Caladan Oceanic, a US-based private company focused on submarine expeditions, reached the shipwreck in the darkness of the sea floor on March 31. The expedition now has a reputation for being the deepest shipwreck dive in history.
The deepest shipwreck ever, USS Johnston, was reached by an American crew who said the ship was remarkably intact with hull number 557 clearly visible on both sides of the bow.
A series of dives allowed former US Navy officers to relocate the USS Johnston and then spend several hours surveying and mapping the remains of the 115-meter ship.
Victor Vescovo, the US private equity investor, retired naval officer, and submarine explorer who led the expedition, spoke with the BBC about the challenges in locating the shipwreck.
“ The wreck is so deep that there is very little oxygen down there, and while there is a little bit of pollution from marine life, it is remarkably intact apart from the damage it took from the furious battle, ” he explained .
The explorer added that hull number 557 was clearly visible on both sides of the bow, and that other parts of the ship were also completely intact.
“The gun turrets are exactly where they should be, they even point in the right direction we think they should have been, as they kept firing until the ship went down,” Vescovo said.
“And we saw the double torpedo racks in the center of the ship that were completely empty because they had fired all the torpedoes at the Japanese.”
The USS Jonston was sunk on October 25, 1944, after being outnumbered and short of guns in a valiant advance against the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The USS Johnston was discovered in the Philippine Sea 75 years after it was sunk by the Japanese on October 25, 1944 during the Battle of Samar, a battle in the Battle of the Gulf of Leyte.
Experts from the research vessel Petrel, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, had previously released a video of the battered and twisted hull that lay eerily on the ocean floor.
Of the 327 United States Navy personnel aboard the USS Johnston, only 141 survived. Of those who died, about 90 were living in the water when the ship sank, but were never seen again.
Victor Vescovo, who led the expedition, said the gun turrets are exactly where they should be, pointing in the right direction as they kept firing until the ship went down.
Experts from the research vessel Petrel released a video of the battered and twisted metal lying on the ocean floor when the wreck was discovered in 2019
“There is no intact hull structure that we can find. This wreckage has been completely decimated, it’s just rubble, ” the crew revealed in 2019.
‘This wreck is either the Johnston or the Hoel … This wreck is located in the southern part of where the battle took place and this is one of the reasons we think this is the Johnston because she sank later, after Hoel that did. ‘
The ship is famous for her courageous action in the Battle off Samar. Outmaneuvered by the Japanese, USS Johnston led an attack by a handful of lightships against a colossal fleet until it was surrounded.
According to the US Navy: “One by one, Johnston took on Japanese destroyers, even though Johnston had no torpedoes and limited firepower. After two and a half hours, Johnston – dead in the water – was surrounded by enemy ships.
The Battle of Samar in which the USS Johnston is located is famous for her brave action, in which she led an attack by a handful of lightships against a colossal fleet until it was surrounded.
Moves during the Battle of Samar on October 25, 1944, it is cited as one of the largest last bleachers in the history of the Navy
At 9:45 AM, Evans gave the order to abandon ship. Twenty-five minutes later, the destroyer rolled over and began to sink. ‘
Her action in battle was central to the overarching Battle of the Gulf of Leyte, considered the largest naval battle in history with over 200,000 personnel.
The Imperial Japanese Navy rallied almost all of its large naval ships into battle, with the US and Australian forces seeking to invade the islands in Southeast Asia, thus drawing Japan’s industrial strength.
The Allies managed to defeat the Japanese warships, despite kamikaze attacks that rained down from the sky.
It is often cited as one of the greatest last bleachers in military history.
According to Guinness World Records, the deepest wreck before the USS Johnston was a German ship discovered at 18,904 feet.
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of the Gulf of Leyte, fought in waters around the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samra and Luzon, took place from October 23-26, 1944.
It was the largest naval battle in World War II and is considered by some to be the greatest naval battle in history.
It included 200,000 naval personnel, the allied forces of the US and Australia against Japan, and covered more than 100,000 square miles of sea.
It was one of the decisive battles of the war, destroying the Japanese Imperial Navy and paving the way for the American invasion of the Philippines, a major industrial and strategic asset of Japan.
The battle was preceded by the American amphibious assault on the island of Leyte a few days earlier.
Japan responded with Sho-Go (‘Victory Operation’), intended to lure the Allied forces away from the island and then attack the landing site once it was exposed.
Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima would attack the landing area through the Surigao Strait and the Center Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, would travel south through the Philippine Sea to reach its approach.
Submarines of the US Seventh Fleet saw the approach of the first Japanese fleet and sank two heavy cruisers on October 23.
Three days of uninterrupted surface and air combat followed.
The practice of deploying kamikaze suicide pilots was most intense from the beginning of the Gulf of Leyte to the end of the war.
The battle decimated the Japanese and crushed the strategic threat of Philippine territory, one particular catastrophe was the loss of oil needed to fuel the war machine.
Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, the Secretary of the Navy, noted that the defeat at Leyte Gulf “amounted to the loss of the Philippines.”
And about its broader meaning, he said, “I felt it was the end.”
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica