Wreck of WWII destroyer USS Strong found off Solomon Islands

Photo: R/V Petrel

The wreckage of US Navy’s World War II destroyer USS Strong (DD 467) was discovered by the expedition crew of Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel resting 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) below the surface of Kula Gulf, north of the island of New Georgia, in the Solomon Islands.

The destroyer was found on February 6, 2019.

It was sunk on July 5, 1943 by an enemy torpedo thought to be from one of the longest distances ever in wartime. Of the 280 crew, 46 sailors were lost.

The story of survivor Lt. Hugh B. Miller and his 39 days stranded on Arundel Island was the subject of the book “The Castaway’s War” by Stephen Harding. While marooned, Lt. Miller attacked three Japanese machine gun nests and one enemy patrol. His heroics earned him the Navy Cross, bestowed on him personally by Eleanor Roosevelt.

According to the Navy’s historical account, American forces were landing at Rice Anchorage supported by Strong, USS Honolulu, USS Helena, USS St. Louis, and USS O’Bannon. They were headed for Kula Gulf to shell Japanese shore installations. Strong and Nicholas entered the harbor and opened fire not long after midnight. The burst lasted about ten minutes. Minutes after the salvo, Strong was struck by an enemy torpedo. The successful torpedo strike is thought to be from one of the greatest distances ever in warfare.

Within a few minutes, Strong was listing and going down. Surrounded by darkness, in the heat of enemy and friendly fire from ships and shore bombardment, things appeared desperate. In a bold move, Chevalier rammed Strong. The crew cast nets and lines over the two now-joined ships to effect a deck-to-deck rescue. The abandon ship order was given. In approximately seven minutes, hazardous conditions, with enemy submarines lurking, in the firing range of hostile enemy bases, and explosions all around, 234 enlisted men and seven officers, about three-quarters of the ship’s company, made it across onto Chevalier. As enemy fire rained in, the Chevalier pulled away. Strong, possibly splitting in two, was slipping below the surface. As Strong slipped beneath the waves, her depth charges exploded, rendering Chevalier’s radars and sound gear useless. Ultimately, 46 Strong sailors went down with her.

“With each ship we find and survey, it is the human stories that make each one personal,” said Robert Kraft, expedition lead and director of subsea operations for Petrel. “We need to remember and honor our history and its heroes, living and dead.”

Petrel is a 250-foot research and exploration vessel purchased in 2016 by the late Paul G. Allen.

US Navy photo of USS Strong (DD 467) during operations in the Solomon Islands area, circa early July 1943.

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