The Truth About The World's Deepest Shipwreck

World War II was the last major war in which the world's most advanced navies fought one another. It left hundreds of ships of all classes on the bottom of the ocean, from aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway to German battleships like the Bismark. No ship, however — during World War II or at any other time — is known to have sunk to depths deeper than the U.S.S. Johnston. This ship was a Fletcher-class destroyer of the U.S. Navy commissioned in 1943. 

It served in the Pacific Theater until October 25, 1944. During the Battle off Samar in the Philippines, part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Johnston was among the few under-equipped ships to encounter Admiral Kurita's main fleet; the rest of the American ships dealing with a diversionary force, per World War II Database. The Johnston took on the larger Japanese ships and even scored several hits. However, the ship was badly damaged in battle, causing the vessel to sink to a depth of 20,406 feet — almost four miles down. Of the crew of 327, 186 were lost (per Navy Times).

Advanced submarine technology was needed to find the Johnston

The Johnston remained undiscovered deep in the depths of the Pacific for decades, until 2021, when it was seen by human eyes once more. Caladan Oceanic, a private undersea technology and exploration company, was the first to locate it after several failed searches in the past by other entities (via CBS). Its newly-revealed depth broke the record for the deepest sunken shipwreck ever found, deeper even than the Titanic, which was found at a depth of 12,600 feet (per Titanic Facts).

According to the BBC, Victor Vescovo, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, mountain climber, and the founder of Caladan Oceanic, was among the first to personally see the ship again when he manned an experimental submarine alongside historian Parks Stephenson, who had worked out the ship's general likely location. This vehicle allowed them to dive at far deeper depths than what previous teams searching for the Johnston were able to reach, and the pair finally found the destroyer on the third of three descents.