Wreck­age Of Ship Blown Apart In Wwii Found


JUNEAU, Alaska — The re­cent dis­cov­ery of the USS Juneau in the depths of the South Pa­cific has pro­vided some clo­sure to peo­ple with con­nec­tions to the ship, which was blown apart dur­ing World War II. Hun­dreds died, in­clud­ing the five Sul­li­van broth­ers from Water­loo, Iowa, whose story was chron­i­cled in a 1944 movie.

An ex­pe­di­tion backed by Mi­crosoft co-founder and phi­lan­thropist Paul Allen re­ported find­ing the wreck­age over the week­end.

David Reams, se­nior di­rec­tor of mar­itime op­er­a­tions for Allen, said the team’s pri­mary aim was to find the USS Lex­ing­ton, which it re­ported find­ing ear­lier this month more than 500 miles (805 kilo­me­ters) off the eastern coast of Aus­tralia. With some ex­tra time, Reams said the team de­cided to look for other “wrecks of in­ter­est” in the same gen­eral area.

The team used sonar data and a re­motely op­er­ated un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cle to iden­tify and ver­ify the wreck­age.

“Well, that’s gonna be the J. There’s the U, N, E, here’s the A. That’s it. That is the Juneau,” Robert Kraft, di­rec­tor of sub­sea op­er­a­tions for Allen, said in a video clip pro­vided by Allen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The name across the stern and the gun con­fig­u­ra­tion helped iden­tify the ship, he said. Kraft also said the stern was next to the bow and nearly a kilo­me­ter (0.6 miles) from the ship’s mid­sec­tion, speak­ing to the level of de­struc­tion the ship en­dured.

This is the fifth U.S. ves­sel that Allen’s teams have re­ported dis­cov­er­ing. Data from the three most re­cent, which in­clude the USS In­di­anapo­lis last sum­mer, are par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy be­cause data is be­ing gleaned from deep-wa­ter wrecks that have not been seen be­fore, said Paul Tay­lor, com­mu­ni­ca­tion branch head for the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand.

Wreck­age of the USS Juneau — named for the city in Alaska — was found about 2.6 miles (4.2 kilo­me­ters) un­der­wa­ter, off the coast of the Solomon Islands, Allen’s or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

The ves­sel was de­stroyed on Nov. 13, 1942, dur­ing in­tense fight­ing with the Ja­panese dur­ing the Bat­tle of Guadal­canal. It was hit twice by tor­pe­does, the sec­ond of which split the ship in two. While about 115 men sur­vived the ex­plo­sion, res­cue ef­forts did not start for sev­eral days in part be­cause of the dan­ger in the area, ac­cord­ing to the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand.

Ul­ti­mately, 683 of the ship’s 697 sailors died, Tay­lor said. Ten sur­vived and four had trans­ferred to an­other ship to pro­vide med­i­cal aid be­fore the USS Juneau sank, he said.

Bob Neymeyer, a his­to­rian at the Sul­li­van Broth­ers Iowa Vet­er­ans Mu­seum, called the dis­cov­ery of the ship’s wreck­age “stun­ning news.”

The broth­ers, “blue col­lar kids liv­ing in a fac­tory town of Water­loo, Iowa,” had con­vinced the Navy to as­sign them to the same ship, he said. An As­so­ci­ated Press pho­tog­ra­pher shot pho­tos of the broth­ers as they en­listed in Des Moines.

Even af­ter so many years, and at a time when most World War II vet­er­ans have died, Neymeyer said the Sul­li­van fam­ily’s sac­ri­fice stands out. He said the deaths were the largest sin­gle-fam­ily com­bat loss in Amer­i­can mil­i­tary his­tory.

“We have peo­ple visit the mu­seum and many of them want to know where the Sul­li­vans are buried and we would tell them some­where in the South Pa­cific,” Neymeyer said. “Now we can tell them more specif­i­cally where the re­mains are af­ter 75 years and that brings more clo­sure than some­where in the South Pa­cific.”

Reams said the team does not pub­licly dis­close ex­actly where they have found ships to dis­cour­age wreck hun­ters but for U.S. ships it does pro­vide that in­for­ma­tion to the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand for its own records.

Sa­muel Cox, di­rec­tor of the Naval His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand, said he was struck at how well pre­served the three most re­cent ships found were.

With the USS Juneau, he said the ex­treme vi­o­lence with which the ship met its end was ob­vi­ous from the images cap­tured, in­clud­ing twisted metal and guns blown from their nor­mal po­si­tion.

He said dis­cov­er­ies like this, made by rep­utable or­ga­ni­za­tions with no in­tent to dis­turb a site, can pro­vide im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion on the con­di­tion of a wreck site and even on what hap­pened. It also can help pro­vide clo­sure for fam­i­lies, and it’s im­por­tant that the sac­ri­fices that have been made are not for­got­ten, he said.

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