It's the deepest shipwreck ever found—one caked in US history. Experts aboard the Research Vessel Petrel believe they've found the wreck of the USS Johnston some 20,400 feet, or nearly 4 miles, below the waves of the Philippine Sea, where it came to rest in the largest naval battle of World War II. The vessel and 186 crew members were sunk along with another Fletcher-class destroyer, the USS Hoel; a destroyer escort; and two escort carriers upon confronting Japanese warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on Oct. 25, 1944. "They were hopelessly outclassed, but they fought anyway," Sam Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, tells the New York Times, which reports the members of the US task unit known as Taffy 3 "went on the attack with every gun and torpedo that they had."
In doing so, they prevented the Japanese from cutting off supply lines for the US invasion of Leyte island, which proved a turning point. Even the Japanese sailors were impressed; they saluted the USS Johnston as it sank, says Cox. Vulcan researchers, part of a team that has found numerous WWII shipwrecks in recent years, discovered two 5-inch gun mounts, two funnels, and a propeller shaft as part of a debris field in the Philippine Sea while exploring with a remote-operated vehicle in May. Footage of the wreck with no intact hull was released last month to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the sinking. Navy historians haven't said whether the debris belongs to the USS Johnston or USS Hoel—an identifying number would've been on the hull, per USNI News—but researchers believe it to be the former, based on the ship's location. (Read more shipwrecks stories.)