The exploration crew aboard Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen’s RV Petrel has located yet another famous World War II in the South Pacific.
The team announced this week that it had discovered the wreckage of the USS Juneau (CL-52) on March 17, 2018 – St. Patrick’s Day – at a depth of about 4,200 meters (about 2.6 miles) off the coast of the Solomon Islands.
The Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo during the Battle of Guadalcanal, ultimately killing 687 men, including the five Sullivan brothers who had all been assigned to the Atlanta-class cruiser.
“We certainly didn’t plan to find the Juneau on St. Patrick’s Day. The variables of these searches are just too great,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Paul Allen. “But finding the USS Juneau on Saint Patrick’s Day is an unexpected coincidence to the Sullivan brothers and all the service members who were lost 76 years ago.”
The wreck of the Juneau was first identified using side scan sonar data acquired by the RV Petrel’s autonomous underwater vehicle. Later, the Petrel crew deployed a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) on March 18 to verify the wreckage using video.
The USS Juneau sank on November 13, 1942 after being hit by a second torpedo on its port side, causing an explosion that caused the vessel to break in half and sink in just a matter of minutes. Although approximately 115 of Juneau‘s crew are believed to have survived the explosion and sinking, most later died because American forces were forced to retreat. Ten men were eventually rescued from the water eight days after the sinking.
Despite a naval policy that prevented siblings from serving in the same units, the five Sullivan brothers, George, Francis “Frank,” Joseph, Madison “Matt” and Albert, all refused to serve unless assigned to the same ship.
The finding of the USS Juneau adds to what is now a long list of WWII shipwreck discoveries by Allen-led expeditions. In addition to the Juneau, the team is also credit with the discovery of the USS Lexington (March 2018), USS Indianapolis (August 2017), USS Ward (November 2017), USS Astoria (February 2015), the Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015), and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere (March 2017). His team was also responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy.
Allen’s expedition team was permanently transferred to the newly acquired and retrofitted RV Petrel in 2016 with a specific mission around research, exploration and survey of historic warships and other important artifacts. The 250-foot R/V Petrel is fitted with state-of-the-art subsea equipment capable of diving to 6,000 meters (or three and a half miles).