FINDER OF TITANIC DISCOVERS WRECKAGE OF USS YORKTOWN - The Buffalo News
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FINDER OF TITANIC DISCOVERS WRECKAGE OF USS YORKTOWN

Deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard on Tuesday found and began photographing the wreckage of the Yorktown, the aircraft carrier sunk by the Japanese during World War II's pivotal Battle of Midway.

An expedition led by Ballard, famous for his discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck, found the Yorktown three miles down, half mired in the ocean floor. National Geographic, which also was involved in the search, planned to broadcast it next year.

Although National Geographic won't reveal the exact location of the wreck, the expedition had been searching an area about 1,250 miles west-northwest of Honolulu.

The wreckage was positively identified by Bill Surgi, a Yorktown survivor aboard the Navy support ship Laney Chouest, who recognized the ship's gun emplacements from video images transmitted by an unmanned Navy robot camera in the depths below.

The crew will film the wreckage and leave a bronze plaque at the site, Ballard said. No plans call for raising the vessel.

Peter Montalvo, a Yorktown survivor from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was ecstatic to hear the news.

"That's terrific! I'm really excited. It's bringing back a lot of memories for me and all my shipmates," Montalvo said.

A gunner on the ship's starboard side, he was critically wounded by a Japanese dive-bomber June 4, 1942.

"All I can say, honest to God, I just hope that they just take the pictures, put a marker there on behalf of her and let her rest in peace -- you know for those three men who went down with the ship alive," Montalvo said.

Those men were part of a work detail attempting to save the ship after it was extensively damaged by Japanese aircraft. There were 2,270 survivors.

The ship endured poundings from a disabled Japanese bomber, three bombs and two torpedoes before Capt. Elliot Buckmaster ordered his crippled command abandoned.

Much to Buckmaster's amazement, the Yorktown still was afloat the next morning. The captain decided it could be salvaged after all and sent 29 officers and 141 men back aboard.

As work continued on June 6, the Japanese sub I-158 fired four torpedoes at the 809-foot-long carrier. Two hit the Yorktown. Another struck the destroyer USS Hammann amidships, sinking it almost instantly.

The Yorktown stayed afloat until sunrise June 7, when it rolled onto its port side and plunged 3,000 fathoms. It hit the ocean floor at nearly 40 miles an hour.

The Battle of Midway, 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, is considered the turning point in the war with Japan because it halted the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

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