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Microsoft co-founder finds US warship wreckage in Ormoc Bay

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By Roel Catoto

Surigao City –The expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel led by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has located the USS Cooper (Destroyer 695) in its final resting place in Ormoc Bay, early this month.

The discovery of the USS Cooper on Dec. 1 came after the find of USS Ward Destroyer also in Ormoc Bay early this month. The USS Ward was the American destroyer that fired the first shots in World War II at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

RELIC OF WAR – One of the USS Cooper’s five-inch guns is shown in this photo of the destroyer which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo on December 3, 1944. (Paul Allen | Manila Bulletin)

RELIC OF WAR – One of the USS Cooper’s five-inch guns is shown in this photo of the destroyer which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo on December 3, 1944. (Paul Allen | Manila Bulletin)

The expedition released the underwater images and video footage of the USS Cooper to this writer on Wednesday, December 13.

Battleships in Surigao Strait

Prior to these finds, five Japanese warships consisting of two dreadnought battleships – Fuso and Yamashiro – and three Asashio class destroyers Yamagumo, Asagumo, and Michishio were also found by the same crew in Surigao Strait during their expedition on Nov. 22- 29.

The information was disclosed by Robert Kraft, director of Subsea operations, and Paul Mayer, deep sea pilot and researcher, to reporters aboard RV Petrel on Dec. 7.

The crew sent its Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore and document the remains of the USS Ward on Dec. 1, and released the video in honor of the 76th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the men who served there.

USS Ward

The USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer serving the US Navy, was patrolling the Pearl Harbor entrance on the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Officer-of-the-Deck spotted an 80-foot-long Japanese midget submarine, trailing the USS Antares into the harbor.

“The USS Ward accelerated to bear down on the submarine. Just three minutes after the first sight of the submarine, the USS Ward fired the first American shot in World War II,” they said.

The enemy air attack on Pearl Harbor, and throughout Oahu, started about an hour after the USS Ward sank the midget submarine.

Exactly three years later, on Dec. 7, 1944, the USS Ward, then patrolling Ormoc Bay in Leyte, was lost after it was struck by a kamikaze.

USS Cooper

USS Cooper was sunk on Dec. 3, 1944 by the Japanese destroyer, where 191 crew members were killed and 168 were rescued.

Sometime in 2005, USS Cooper was “visited” by several American technical divers for a documentary TV film, “USS Cooper: Return to Ormoc Bay,” produced by Bigfoot Entertainment which made its debut in mid-2006. It featured deep-sea diver Rob Lalumiere and survivors of the Cooper sinking.

R/V Petrel

Early this month, the R/V Petrel, a 250-foot research and exploration vessel, found the exact location of the USS Cooper and USS Ward.

Petrel’s advanced underwater equipment and technology makes it one of the few ships in the world capable of exploring up to 6,000 meters deep (more than 3.5 miles). Following a 2017 retrofit, Petrel and its crew have been using state-of-the-art underwater technology for deep-sea search and exploration expeditions.

During the November expedition, the R/V Petrel was able to capture video of IJN Yamashiro (FUSO class dreadnought battleship), IJN Fuso (FUSO class dreadnought battleship), Yamegumo (Asashio class destroyer), Asagumo (Asashio class destroyer) and Michishio (Asashio class destroyer).

These ships – and the lives of more than 4,000 men –were lost during a decisive battle on Oct. 25, 1944. It was considered the largest naval battle in history.

Allen expeditions’ discoveries

The Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the USS Indianapolis (August, 2017), Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian World War II destroyer Artigliere (March, 2017).

His team was also responsible for retrieving and restoring the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.

Allen’s expedition team and R/V Petrel are dedicated to continuing exploration, marine archaeology and oceanographic research.

The billionaire tech mogul is interested in collecting and protecting the artifacts that speak of the heroism and service of that day. His recently acquired Research Vessel Petrel provides a platform to search for historic artifacts that have been lost at sea.

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