Samar Battlefield Expedition

The relocation, confirmation and exploration dives of the USS Johnston

MARCH  2021

In 1944, the largest naval battle in history occurred during World War II in the waters surrounding the Philippines. One of the battles in that week-long running series of engagements involved one of the most improbable victories in history by the US Navy. In a stunning display of bravery and tactical ability, seven small destroyers and destroyer escorts of famed Task Force “Taffy 3” engaged the cream of the Imperial Japanese Navy including the largest battleship ever constructed, the Yamato, and three battleships with their heavy support vessels.

The American vessels attacked ferociously and after a confusing, multi-hour battle, Taffy 3 sank or disabled several Japanese heavy surface vessels and forced them to retire to the north before they could sink the vulnerable transports of the US invasion fleet off the coast of Leyte island. Several US vessels were sunk however, including the USS Johnston, Hoel, Samuel B Roberts, and Gambier Bay.

In 2019, Robert Kraft and his team of underwater explorers found what they believed to be the wreck of the Johnston, at the deepest depth of any recorded wreck at more than 6,000 meters. In March 2021, Caladan Oceanic successfully relocated the wreckage and confirmed that it was the USS Johnston by capturing its unique hull number on film. The team then surveyed the ship and its debris fields over two dives at 6,460 meters – the deepest wreck dives ever made in history.

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