USS Johnston Found

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USS Johnston Found

Postby toucana on October 31st, 2019, 7:36 am 

Robot underwater cameras of the R/V Petrel have found one of the deepest US naval wrecks from WW2 ever to be located, at a depth of 6,220m (20,400ft) on the bed of the Philippine Sea.

The light destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557) was sunk in a dramatic action off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25 1944. The ship was subsequently awarded six battle stars, a group citation, and her captain received a posthumous Medal of Honour .

The commander Ernest E. Evans was a rare example of a native American (half-Cherokee and one quarter Creek) to reach that rank within the US navy of that era. In late October 1944 Commander Evans and his ship were part of a group of small US escort carriers and light destroyers collectively known as ‘Taffy 3’. They were on patrol to protect the beach-head at Leyte on the Philippine Islands where a large-scale US amphibious invasion was in progress.

Shortly after dawn on Wednesday 25th October 1944 a major Japanese battle fleet was spotted bearing down on them. It was part of the Japanese Center Force commanded by Admiral Takeo Kurita which had slipped past Admiral W. Halsey’s powerful Third Fleet that was supposed to be protecting the northern US flank facing the San Bernardino Strait.

Admiral Kurita’s fleet contained four battleships (including the Yamato), eight heavy cruisers, and eleven destroyers. They were heading straight for the invasion beaches, and the Taffy 3 group were the only US warships in a position to stop them. Lt. Robert C Hagen Johnston’s gunnery officer later reported “We felt like little David without a slingshot”. They only had 5” guns and a few torpedos against the mighty 14” guns of some of the largest battleships in the Japanese fleet.

USS Johnston began laying down a wide screen of smoke to protect the escaping escort carriers, then Commander Evans gave orders to sail directly towards the Japanese fleet. The Johnston was so badly out-gunned that it had to sail through incoming enemy fire for 20 minutes before their own guns came within range of the Japanese ships.

In the course of this unequal contest, USS Johnston blew the bow off the Japanese heavy cruiser Kumano (熊野) with her torpedos forcing it to withdraw, and also scored direct hits with her small 5” guns on three other heavy cruisers before the ship was left dead in the water and sunk by overwhelming enemy fire. Only 141 men out of 327 were saved. Commander Evans was lost with his ship.
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