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A US Navy battleship sunk during World War II with a renowned hero captain at the helm has finally been reached in the world’s deepest shipwreck dive, an exploration team says.
Eerie footage posted to Twitter shows the USS Johnston in its watery grave — where it was sent Oct. 25, 1944, during a firefight with several Japanese ships off the coast of Samar Island in the Philippines.
“Just completed the deepest wreck dive in history, to find the main wreckage of the destroyer USS Johnston,” wrote Victor Vescovo, head of the Texas-based underwater technology company Caladan Oceanic, on Sunday.
“As a former Navy officer, and the first people to lay eyes on her since she went down in 1944 – it was an extremely intense experience,” Vescovo said.
“We located the front 2/3 of the ship, upright and intact, at a depth of 6456 meters [4.01 miles]. Three of us across two dives surveyed the vessel and gave respects to her brave crew.
“Her crew and Captain, Ernest Evans – the first Native American in the Navy to be awarded the Medal of Honor, were extraordinarily heroic. Here’s video from the dive and the bridge they fought from.”
The ship had been located in 2019, but Vescovo and his team were the first to reach it in a submersible. The destroyer’s bridge, bow and midsection were found intact — and “577” could still be seen on the hull.
The ship’s captain was among the 186 members of the destroyer’s 327-man crew to perish in the sea fight 76 years ago. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
A US Naval Academy graduate with Creek and Cherokee ancestry, Evans said during the destroyer’s commissioning in October 1943, “This is going to be a fighting ship.
“I intend to go in harm’s way, and anyone who doesn’t want to go along had better get off right now,” Evans said, according to a US Navy profile.
One of the ship’s gunnery officers recalled, “The skipper was a fighting man from the soles of his broad feet to the ends of his straight black hair.
“He was an Oklahoman and proud of the Indian blood he had in him. The Johnston was a fighting ship, but he was the heart and soul of her.”
The day the destroyer went down, it had been taking on several Japanese warships.
One of the battle’s survivors said a Japanese captain involved in the sea fight saluted the Johnston as it sank.
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