The discoveries, made by a survey team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen, include USS Ward, the destroyer that fired the first American shot in WW2.

That action took place during Japan’s raid on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on 7 December, 1941, with the Ward going on to sink an attacking midget submarine.

The first discoveries were made in late November in the Surigao Strait off north Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

The Imperial Japanese Navy warships are believed to be the dreadnought battleships Yamashiro and Fuso, both found inverted at around 200m depth, and the destroyers Yamagumo and Michishio, found at 100m, and Asagumo in 200m.

These vessels were among seven Japanese combatants in the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944, part of what is regarded as the biggest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte, as Japanese and US and Australian fleets fought for control of the Philippines.

Scanning from the 76m research vessel Petrel, the survey team moved on to locate USS Ward and also the destroyer USS Cooper at a depth of around 250m in Ormoc Bay off the island of Leyte.

The Ward was sunk in a kamikaze air attack in 1944, three years to the day after the Pearl Harbor action that made her famous.

The Ward had been serving as a troop transport and patrol vessel when she was holed at the waterline and caught fire.

The crew were able to abandon ship and the Ward was scuttled by the accompanying USS O'Brien - under the command of the same man who had captained USS Ward at Pearl Harbor, Lt-Cmdr William Outerbridge.

The Petrel, bought by Allen in 2016 and retrofitted with advanced scanning and exploration equipment, is claimed to be one of the few research vessels equipped to search seabeds to depths of 6km. The research team and crew aboard number 35.

The seven wrecks were said to be in poor condition but well-colonised.  They were treated as war graves, said the team, and were not penetrated, no artefacts were removed, and their exact positions would not be made public.

Previous deepwater expeditions mounted by Paul Allen have resulted in the discovery of the wrecks of USS Indianapolis, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WW2 destroyer Artigliere, as well as the retrieval, restoration and presentation to the Royal Navy of HMS Hood‘s bell.

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