Sammy B carried a crew of 224 men, 89 of which died in the battle and as it sunk. The captain, Lt. Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland, was saved with 120 of his men, after spending 50 hours clinging to rafts. Sammy B is now lying at 22,916 feet (6,985 meters) in the Philippine Sea, broken in two and showing all the tell-tale signs of the fierce battle it put up.
It was discovered there last week by Mr. Vescovo, who also discovered the USS Johnson last year. For the discovery, Vescovo’s Caladan Oceanic Expeditions partnered with EYOS Expeditions, using the now world-famous Limiting Factor submersible, as well as the deepest side-scan sonar ever installed and operated on a sub.
Speaking with the BBC (see the video below), Mr. Vescovo called the finding an “honor,” and said that the first clue as to the proximity of the wreck was the discovery of its torpedo launcher, which seems to be the only piece of debris that became dislodged as it sunk. Sammy B hit the floor with its bow and broke in two, right where it had been hit by Yamato. However, the pieces are just 5 meters (16.4 feet) apart and, at first sight, it looks as if the vessel is still intact.
More importantly for historians and future research, water damage to the ship is minimal, because of the depth it has spent the last 78 years at. This will allow further analysis of the kind of damage Sammy B took in the battle and confirm or infirm existing theories.
“We like to say that steel doesn't lie and that the wrecks of these vessels are the last witnesses to the battles that they fought,” Vescovo says. “The Sammy B engaged the Japanese heavy cruisers at point blank range and fired so rapidly it exhausted its ammunition; it was down to shooting smoke shells and illumination rounds just to try to set fires on the Japanese ships, and it kept firing. It was just an extraordinary act of heroism. Those men – on both sides – were fighting to the death.”
Part of the dive on the Sammy B. It appears her bow hit the seafloor with some force, causing some buckling. Her stern also separated about 5 meters on impact, but the whole wreck was together. This small ship took on the finest of the Japanese Navy, fighting them to the end. pic.twitter.com/fvi6uB0xUQ— Victor Vescovo (@VictorVescovo) June 24, 2022
Some additional photos from the Sammy B. The bow, the fallen mast, the gap between fore and aft where she was hit by a battleship round, and the aft turret . . . where the brave and mortally wounded GM3 Paul H. Carr died trying to place a final round into the broken breech. pic.twitter.com/3VcZoZyPo3— Victor Vescovo (@VictorVescovo) June 25, 2022
Another video from the survey dive on the Sammy B. This one is from the starboard side near the bridge and forward gun mounts. We kept our distance because we spotted potentially live shells in the 40mm gun, and later towards the stern, depth charges still in their racks. pic.twitter.com/DY54o6Prpx— Victor Vescovo (@VictorVescovo) June 26, 2022