Heroes of Our Past: Expedition Locates Long-Lost WWII Ship Sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy

(Paul Allen via AP)

Recently, a major World War II relic was located.

Off the coast of the Philippines Wednesday, Texas underwater exploration company Caladan Oceanic — along with the UK’s EYOS Expeditions — came upon a near-79-year-old American ship broken in two.


There beneath nearly 23,000 feet of ocean lay the wreckage of the USS Samuel B. Roberts I (DE-413) — otherwise known as the “Sammy B.”

Per the Naval History and Heritage Command, the ship “was laid down on 6 December 1943, at Houston, Texas, by Brown Shipbuilding Co.” It was launched on the following January 20th.

The U.S. Navy destroyer escort fought the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf’s final phase. It was the war’s largest conflict by sea, in which Japan suffered its greatest loss of ships. U.S. troops had earlier invaded Leyte as part of the liberation of the Philippines.

From Phys.org:

According to some records, the [Sammy B] disabled a Japanese heavy cruiser with a torpedo and significantly damaged another while battling the group led by the command battleship Yamato. After having spent virtually all its ammunition, it was critically hit by the battleship Kongo and sank. Of a 224-man crew, 89 died and 120 were saved, including the captain, Lt. Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland.

According to Samuel J. Cox, a retired admiral and naval historian, Copeland stated there was “no higher honor” then to have led the men who displayed such incredible courage going into battle against overwhelming odds, from which survival could not be expected.

“This site is a hallowed war grave,” Cox said, “and serves to remind all Americans of the great cost born by previous generations for the freedom we take for granted today.”


The Sammy B is the deepest wreck ever discovered, sitting 1,400 feet below the USS Johnston. That vessel was also located in the Philippine Sea — just last year — by Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo.

Via a statement, Victor — himself a former Navy commander — expressed humility toward the Sammy B’s discovery:

“It was an extraordinary honor to locate this incredibly famous ship, and by doing so have the chance to retell her story of heroism and duty to those who may not know of the ship and her crew’s sacrifice. In difficult times, it’s important to reflect on those who sacrificed so much, so willingly, in even more difficult times to ensure our freedoms and way of life. I always remain in awe of the extraordinary bravery of those who fought in this battle agains truly overwhelming odds – and won””

Watch the incredible footage below:


Of course, as we peer into the abyss, we’re also looking into time. The men who sailed on and fought from the Sammy B wouldn’t recognize 2022’s America.

Nor would they, contemporarily, identify the Navy.

Much has changed since the ship left the surface in October 1944.

In just the past few years, as an extension of America, our military has wholly taken new form:

Report: Navy Says Sailors Can Use Whichever Locker Room Suits Their Gender Identity

Soldiers May Be Allowed to Transfer From States That Don’t Affirm Their Gender Identities

US Army Mandates Training to Help Soldiers Shake off Their Sex ‘Assigned at Birth’

Military Generals Call for Increased Diversity, Encourage More Women in Combat

US Army Revolutionizes Its Fitness Standards so Girls Can Pass

Nevada Air Force Base Hosts Drag Show, and It’s Part of a Softer, Gentler Military

It’s been said no one can truly prepare for war, but the men of the Sammy B were doubtlessly more ready than would be today’s young men.

For a very long time in America, there existed a notion: The military will make you tough.


I’m not certain that idea will stay afloat. Similar to the Sammy B, it’s destined to be buried by a sea of change.

But what a sight to behold the USS Samuel B. Roberts. And for friends and families of 89 brave sailors, may the discovery of their last battle site bring something resembling peace.

From NBC News, a call to old-school heroes:

Despite being outgunned, the Sammy B attacked [the Japanese fleet]…before sinking under fire in the Philippine Sea, earning it a description as “the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship.”



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