4 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, a Texas billionaire discovered the wreck of a WWII US Navy destroyer – the deepest ever shipwreck.
The USS Destroyer Escort Samuel B. Roberts, known as Sammy B, sank in 1944 when it was hit by Japanese fire in the Battle Off Samar. It went down in the Philippine Sea, hitting the bottom of the ocean more than 26,000 feet below surface level.
Sammy B was caught in Japan’s desperate, last attempt to fight allied forces. It was one of the last remaining US war ships as most others made their way west along the coast away from the battle. Sammy B took a heroic stance against several enemy ships but paid the price for its efforts.
The destroyer escort that fought like a battleship has been found! ⚓
Ocean explorer and former U.S. Navy officer, @VictorVescovo, has found the wreck of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413), a destroyer escort sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.https://t.co/IoOEyhN12C pic.twitter.com/wlb4lxjhDo
— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) June 24, 2022
Heavily outnumbered and under fire from the Japanese, the vessel stood its ground but eventually began to sink when the enemy’s shelling tore through its sides.
186 of Sammy’s 224 men were killed during the event, while the others scrambled into lifeboats and drifted for 50 hours before being rescued.
Amazingly, the Sammy’s wreck wasn’t found by researchers, but instead by millionaire Texan financer and adventurer, Victor Vescovo who owns a deep-diving submersible.
Vescovo, who was once a navy reservist said he was pleased to have found the historic ship and hoped its discovery would lead to the sharing of the crew’s story of bravery, duty and heroism:
“We like to say that steel doesn’t lie and that the wrecks of these vessels are the last witnesses to the battles that they fought,” he told the BBC.
“The Sammy B engaged the Japanese heavy cruisers at point blank range and fired so rapidly it exhausted its ammunition; it was down to shooting smoke shells and illumination rounds just to try to set fires on the Japanese ships, and it kept firing. It was just an extraordinary act of heroism. Those men – on both sides – were fighting to the death.”
In the amazing footage of the wreck captured by the submersible clearly shows Sammy’s hull structure, guns and torpedo tubes. Scarring from Japanese shelling is evident and one side of the stern must have taken a massive hit, leaving a gaping gash.
Vescovo Tweeted that he thinks the vessel must have gone down nose first due to Sammy’s crumpled appearance:
“It appears her bow hit the seafloor with some force, causing some buckling”.
“Her stern also separated about 5 meters on impact, but the whole wreck was together.
“This small ship took on the finest of the Japanese Navy, fighting them to the end.”
The wreck, at 26 thousand feet down is at an incredibly deep part of the ocean. 98 percent of the world’s ocean is only 6,000m deep, so the discovery of Sammy that far down is remarkable, but researchers maintain there could be shipwrecks even deeper in the ocean:
“There are two other American ships that have yet to be found – the USS Gambier Bay (escort carrier) and the USS Hoel (destroyer),” said the organizer of Vescovo’s adventures, Kelvin Murray.
“We’ve got historical records relating to where they may have sunk. We did take a look for the Gambier Bay, but this is detective work and these kinds of deep-ocean operations have never been conducted before. I don’t want to use the phrase ‘needle in a haystack’, because there’s a lot more research that goes into making that haystack smaller. But there’s still a certain amount of luck involved in all this.”