US destroyer sunk in 1944 becomes deepest shipwreck discovered

26 June 2022, 21:44

USS Samuel B Roberts
Philippines US Shipwreck. Picture: PA

USS Samuel B Roberts had valiantly battled a far superior Japanese fleet.

A US destroyer that engaged a superior Japanese fleet in the Philippines in the largest sea battle of the Second World War has become the deepest shipwreck to be discovered, according to explorers.

The USS Samuel B Roberts, popularly known as the “Sammy B”, was found, broken into two pieces, on a slope at a depth of 22,916ft.

That puts it 1,400ft deeper than the USS Johnston, the previous deepest wreck discovered last year in the Philippine Sea.

USS Samuel B Roberts
The aft gun mount of the USS Samuel B Roberts (Caladan Oceanic/AP)

Both were identified by American explorer Victor Vescovo, founder of Caladan Oceanic Expeditions. He announced the latest find alongside UK-based EYOS Expeditions.

Mr Vescovo, a former US Navy commander, said: “It was an extraordinary honour to locate this incredibly famous ship, and by doing so have the chance to retell her story of heroism and duty to those who may not know of the ship and her crew’s sacrifice.”

The Sammy B took part in the Battle off Samar, the final phase of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, in which the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered its biggest loss of ships and failed to dislodge the US forces from Leyte, which they invaded earlier as part of the liberation of the Philippines.

USS Samuel B Roberts
The front of the ship emerges from the gloom (Caladan Oceanic/AP)

According to some records, the destroyer disabled a Japanese heavy cruiser with a torpedo and significantly damaged another.

But having spent virtually all its ammunition, she was critically hit by the lead battleship Yamato and sank.

Of a 224-man crew, 120 were saved, including the captain, Lieutenant Commander Robert W Copeland.

According to Samuel J Cox, a retired admiral and naval historian, Lt Cmdr Copeland had stated there was “no higher honour” then to have led the men who displayed such incredible courage going into battle against overwhelming odds, from which survival could not be expected.

USS Samuel B Roberts
The pilot house section of the warship, which was sunk by the Japanese in October 1944 (Caladan Oceanic/AP)

Mr Cox said of the wreck’s discovery: “This site is a hallowed war grave, and serves to remind all Americans of the great cost born by previous generations for the freedom we take for granted today.”

The explorers said that up until the discovery, the historical records of where the wreck was were not very accurate.

The search involved the use of the deepest side-scan sonar ever installed and operated on a submersible, well beyond the standard commercial limitations of 19,685ft.

By Press Association

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