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US destroyer sunk in WWII battle found about 6,900m deep off Philippines

MANILA (AFP) - A United States navy destroyer sunk during World War II has been found nearly 7,000m below sea level off the Philippines, making it the world's deepest shipwreck ever located, an American exploration team has said.

The USS Samuel B. Roberts went down during a battle off the central island of Samar on Oct 25, 1944, as US forces fought to retake the Philippines - then a US colony - from the Japanese.

A crewed submersible filmed, photographed and surveyed the battered hull of the 'Sammy B' during a series of dives over eight days this month, Texas-based undersea technology company Caladan Oceanic said.

Images showed the ship's three-tube torpedo launcher and gun mount.

"Resting at 6,895m, it is now the deepest shipwreck ever located and surveyed," tweeted Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, who piloted the submersible.

"This small ship took on the finest of the Japanese Navy, fighting them to the end," he said.

According to US Navy records, the Sammy B's crew "floated for nearly three days awaiting rescue, with many survivors perishing from wounds and shark attacks". Of the 224 crew, 89 died.

The engagement was part of the Battle of Leyte, which saw intense fighting over several days between US and Japanese forces.

The Sammy B was one of four US ships sunk on that day. The USS Johnston, which at nearly 6,500m was previously the world's deepest shipwreck identified, was reached by Mr Vescovo's team last year.

In the latest search, the team also looked for the USS Gambier Bay at more than 7,000m below sea level, but was unable to locate it.

It did not search for the USS Hoel due to the lack of reliable data showing where it may have gone down.

The wreck of the Titanic lies in about 4,000m of water.

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