Nearly 78 years after her loss during the 25 October 1944 Battle off Samar, the wreck of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) was located in the Philippine Sea and identified in June. She lies at a depth of 22,621 feet—making her the deepest shipwreck ever found, surpassing the record previously held by the wreck of the USS Johnston (DD-557), which lies at 21,180 feet.
Both ships were sunk in the same battle, and both were found by teams led by explorer Victor Vescovo, a retired U.S. Navy officer. (See “Crew Completes World’s Deepest Wreck Dive,” August 2021, p. 3.)
The Samuel B. Roberts was the first ship named for Coxswain Samuel Booker Roberts Jr., who was killed in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Commissioned 28 April 1944, the destroyer escort was lost later that same year when, along with several other U.S. warships, she engaged Japanese forces off the Philippine coast and selflessly put herself in harm’s way to protect U.S. invasion forces in Leyte Gulf.
“The USS Samuel B. Roberts was lost in one of the most valiant actions in the history of the U.S. Navy,” said retired Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Naval History and Heritage Command Director. “The gallantry of her crew serves to inspire U.S. Navy personnel today, knowing they are entrusted with upholding the legacy and example of this ship and crew.”
Vescovo tweeted on 24 June, “With sonar specialist Jeremie Morizet, I piloted the submersible Limiting Factor to the wreck of the Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) . . . now the deepest shipwreck ever located and surveyed. It was indeed the ‘destroyer escort that fought like a battleship.’”
Now that the ship has been positively identified, the wrecksite is considered a Department of the Navy sunken military craft and thus is protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA) from unauthorized disturbance. Violations of the SMCA can carry penalties of up to $100,000 a day, confiscation of the vessel used to disturb the wreck, and liability for damages caused.
“The site of the wreck marks the location of a hallowed war grave,” said Cox. “It serves to remind all Americans of the great cost born by previous generations for the freedom we should not take for granted today.”