On September 14, 1944 the USS Perry, an American Destroyer Minesweeper, hit a mine and sunk 700 yards south of Anguar in the Palau Archipelago.
56 years later, an expedition organized by Fish ‘n Fins, the pioneer dive shop in Palau and led by owner Navot Bornovski, found the USS Perry at its resting-place, 240 feet deep. Navot and PADI OWDI Jeff Wonnenbert were the first to dive the newly found wreck on May 1st and 2nd 2000.
The Saga began on September 14, 1944, when the DMS-17, USS Perry (along with 6 other minesweepers) cleared the water around Anguar Island prior to the invasion.
At 14:07 the USS Perry struck a mine and sunk in less than 2 hours. Nine sailors were killed in the explosion.
Within 20 minutes, the Perry was listing at 30 degrees and the “Abandon the Ship” order was given.
USS Southard rescued the remaining crew from the water.
One of the 140 survivors that day was Second Seaman/Gunner Larry Tunks. Mr. Tunks did not forget the destroyer he lived on for more than a year, nor his dead ship mates.
In the years that followed, Mr. Tunks collected material and information about the ship, its crew and whereabouts. In 1999, Larry contacted Fish ‘n Fins dive shop in Palau and got them interested in finding the ship. Fish ‘n Fins has gained a reputation for finding shipwrecks: its previous owner, Francis Toribiong, found the lost WWII Japanese fleet in Palau in the early and mid 1980’s.
Larry Tunks arrived in Palau on April 29, 2000 and brought with him copies of the official Navy Action report regarding sinking of the USS Perry, the Ship’s Log and the Mine sweeping pattern of the day she sunk. With the newly declassified Navy documents in hand, the Fish ‘n Fins team organized an expedition to find the ship.
Avoiding areas where many shipwreck hunters had looked before, the USS Perry was found in 240 feet of water lying on her side. It was Larry Tunks’ 78 birthday that day!
Due to the explosion in the engine room, the ship broke in half when she sank. The two parts are still connected. The stern lay west to east and the bow south to north.
On their first dive, Navot Bornovski and Jeff Wonnenberg identified the wreck. On May 2nd 2000, the stern area, including the 4” stern gun along with the port side of the engine room, were inspected. The visibility around the island of Anguar is phenomenal, over 300 feet: the Fish ‘n Fins boat could be seen on the surface!
When the team came up from the first dive aboard the USS PERRY, Larry Tunks took off his clothes and jumped in the water (as he did 56 years before). Hugging Navot and Jeff, tears streaming down his face, Larry had fulfilled his dream. DMS-17, the USS Perry is back.