The wreck of the USS JOHNSTON (DD-557), a Fletcher-class destroyer similar to USS CASSIN YOUNG (DD-793), was positively identified recently, more than 20,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. JOHNSTON was sunk on October 25, 1944 in the Battle off Samar, centermost action of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf. CASSIN YOUNG was also present at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but deployed to a different engagement.
JOHNSTON was constructed in Seattle, WA, commissioned on October 27, 1943, named for Civil War naval officer Lieutenant John V. Johnston. Like all Fletcher-class destroyers, JOHNSTON served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, earning six battle stars.
On October 25, 1944, JOHNSTON counter-attacked a much larger Japanese force steaming through the San Bernardino Straight, which threatened the American amphibious assault on Leyte Island. Massively outgunned, JOHNSTON attacked and damaged several larger Japanese heavy-cruisers and battleships. JOHNSTON’s actions helped stave off the Japanese attack, but shots from multiple warships were fatal and JOHNSTON sank. Only 141 men, less than half the 327-man crew, survived the battle and subsequent sinking.
JOHNSTON’s Captain, Commander Ernest Evans, was the first Native American naval officer to be awarded (posthumously) the Medal of Honor.
Image courtesy of US Naval Institute.
Image description: Color painting oriented to the stern of destroyer USS JOHNSTON under full steam, firing towards distant Japanese warships. Multiple shells impact the sea around her.
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