Paul Allen passed away in 2018, but the expedition team he once spearheaded is still going strong, carrying on his legacy of uncovering important pieces of history in the Pacific. In the first few months of 2019 alone, the ship he sponsored, R/V Petrel, uncovered the first Japanese battleship sunk by the United States in World War II and the American aircraft carrier responsible for launching the Doolittle Raid. On February 26, 2019, the research vessel located the wreckage of an American destroyer, USS Strong (DD-467).
Though the expedition team was still surveying the area, they expressed confidence that the vessel they located was an American destroyer that had been sunk during the American landings at Rice Anchorage in the Solomon Islands. USS Strong may not have had the historical significance of USS Hornet (CV-8) or the Japanese battleship Hiei, but her discovery is another important piece in the history of the War in the Pacific.
The Sinking of USS Strong
Commissioned into service in August of 1942, USS Strong was taking part in the shelling of the Bairoko Harbor on the island of New Georgia in support of the American landings. After entering the harbor, her gunnery officer spotted the wake of an incoming torpedo, which struck the destroyer’s port side before he could sound the alarm. With help from USS Chevalier (DD-451), 241 crewmen from USS Strong were saved, but 46 were killed when she broke in half and sank.
The sinking of USS Strong spawned the heroic tale of Lieutenant Hugh B. Miller. After surviving in the water for eleven days after his ship went down, he came ashore on Arundel Island, where he was stranded in hostile territory for another 32 days. His story is chronicled in the book Castaway’s War, which details how he attacked the Japanese using their own grenades.
The Discovery of USS Strong
According to the Petrel expedition team, the wreckage was first located on February 6 some 1,000 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Utilizing a combination of sonar and underwater imaging, Strong’s wreckage became the latest in the long list of discoveries made by R/V Petrel.
At the lead of the expedition team is Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for the research vessel. According to Kraft, these discoveries are important in remembering and honoring “our history and its heroes, living and dead.” Along with USS Strong, R/V Petrel has located the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), the light cruisers USS Juneau (CL-52) and USS Helena (CL-50), the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139), and the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), among many others.
R/V Petrel continues to scour the Pacific Ocean in search of even more vessels lost during the conflict between the United States and Japan. One of the biggest prizes that Petrel could uncover should she head further east, towards the US mainland, is the long-lost USS Oklahoma (BB-37), a battleship that capsized and sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Oklahoma was later raised and was in transit to California when she was sunk a second time during a strong storm.