From: The Commanding Officer - USS HOEL To : The Secretary of the Navy. (1) Commander Destroyer Squadron FORTY-SEVEN (2) Commander Carrier Division TWENTY-FIVE (Commander Task Unit 77.4.3). (3) Commander Seventh Fleet. (4) Commander in Chief, United States Fleet
Subject: Combined Action Report and Report of Loss of U.S.S. HOEL (DD 533) on 25 October, 1944.
Enclosure: (A) Casualty Report (B) Wounded in Action Report.
1. To supplement reference (a), this report, to cover the circumstances of the action and loss of the U.S.S. HOEL (DD 533) is submitted in compliance with reference (b) and (e). All times mentioned herein are Item (Zone -9), and from memory. All records, accounts, logs, publications and papers were lost with the ship.
The U.S.S. HOEL sank at about 0855 Item on 25 October, 1944, in Latitude 11 degrees - 46' North, Longitude 126 degrees - 33' East, as the result of more than forty (40) five, eight and sixteen inch hits from enemy battleships, cruisers and destroyers sustained over a period of two hours. During this time maximum use was made of all available weapons. One half salvo of torpedoes (5 torpedoes) was launched at the leading battleship and one half salvo of torpedoes was launched at the leading heavy cruiser in a desperate attempt to damage or turn these ships so that the escort carriers might escape. Gunfire was maintained continuously on enemy targets until the ship was abandoned, the last gun being trained manually and fired locally. The smoke screen laid proved very effective, and the accurate main battery fire by this ship on various Japanese vessels drew much of their fire from the carriers. This vessel was instrumental in damaging several Japanese ships, one heavy cruiser by torpedo fire to the extent that it was later scuttled and abandoned. This most unique action of our light forces against a major enemy task force resulted in the loss of but one escort carrier when the enemy was in a position to destroy every ship of the task unit.
2. Preliminaries (a) Sortieed from Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, Admiralty Group, with Task Group 77.2 (Fire Support Group) on 12 October , 1944, as a unit of the Anti-submarine Screen. Proceeded to Leyte Island, P.I. On 18 October, 1944, this Task Unit (77.4.3) began operating independently as the Northern Air Support Group about sixty (60) miles east of Samar Island, P.I., with the screen commander (CTU 77.4.33) in this vessel. The task unit was increased by two escort carriers and two destroyer escorts on October 20th (Able Day). Acted as a unit of the Anti-submarine and Anti-aircraft screen until October 25th. During this period recovered two crews of TBM's of the U.S.S. AT. LO and sank one floating mine. (b) For tactical aspects and assumptions of the situation see reference (e). In the absence of specific orders, doctrine used in the engagement was in accordance with the General Tactical Instructions and Torpedo Doctrine contained in DTD 4-44. (e) Own forces at the outset of the action consisted of the surface and air units of Task Unit 77.4.3, namely, the escort carriers, FANSHAW BAY (OTC), ST. LO, WHITE PLAINS, KALININ BAY, GAMBIER BAY and KITKUN BAY; destroyers HOEL, HEERMANN and JOHNSTON; destroyer escorts ROBERTS, RAYMOND, DENNIS and BUTLER. Task unit was in formation 5R with escort carriers equally spaced on circle 2.5 and this vessel in the most norththerly screening station. The position of the task unit and it's ensuing track during the action were as outlined in reference (e). (d) Enemy forces consisted of four battleships (2 YAMATO and 2 ISE), four to six heavy cruisers (2 TONE) and from seven to ten destroyers (3 ASASHIO; 4 TERUTSUKI) all in position west of this unit and in approximate column by class with the battleships in the northern column, cruisers in the center and destroyers to the south. The interval between columns was several thousand yards (about 8000) with the column leaders on a line of bearing about 240 degrees T from north. The enemy bore about 320 degrees T, distance 17 miles from this ship at the outset of the engagement. (e) See reference (e) for conditions of wind, sea and visibility.
At approximately 0650 word was received by voice radio that an ASP plane of our unit was being fired upon by an enemy surface force. Simultaneously a lookout reported anti-aircraft bursts to the northwest. Within a few minutes SG radar contacts were reported to the northwest and gunfire splashes were seen falling near the carriers. Word was received by voice radio "We are being pursued by a large portion of the Japanese Fleet". General Quarters was sounded and orders given to light off all boilers and prepare to make maximum speed. The enemy force was to the northwest at a range of 33,000 yards on course 110 degrees True, the northern forces making 27 knots and the central and southern forces making 30 knots. Out task unit was on an easterly course at a speed of 18 knots with carriers launching all remaining aircraft. Orders were received to lay a smoke screen. The HOEL left is screening station turning to port and laid a smoke screen between the enemy and our own formation following the JOHNSTON and the ROBERTS. While laying this screen the force entered and remained in a rain squall for about ten minutes during which period the enemy force ceased all firing. When the range of the enemy force closed to 18,000 yards, commenced torpedo approach on the leading battleship. Torpedoes were set at intermediate speed and ship's course set at 000 degrees as advised by combat. A half salvo was ordered because the tactical situation required the stopping or turning of at least two columns of enemy ships. Commenced firing main battery on the leading Japanese battleship at a range of 14,000 yards (modified radar control). At 0725 received the first hit on the bridge destroying all voice radio communications and the remote PPI. At 0727 launched one half salvo of torpedoes at the leading Jap battleship which was then on a course of 140 degrees True at a speed of 20 knots at a range of 9000 yards. Results were unobserved. Immediately after launching this attack, hits were received to the after fireroom followed by a direct hit on the after turbine causing the loss of the port engine. The rudder jammed right while turning away from the torpedo attack, due to another hit aft causing the loss of power to the after guns and steering aft, and this vessel turned slowly to the right heading for the battleship at which the torpedoes had been launched. Shifted to hand steering in about two minutes using the steering engine room trick wheel controlled by the bridge pointer. Attempts were made to fire the after guns manually, but this proved impossible. Number 3 gun was untenable due to steam escaping from the engine room. And due to a fire in Number 3 handling room (later extinguished by the after repair party). Half of the barrel of Number 4 gun was shot off by a direct hit. Gun Number 5 was frozen in train by a near hit. Guns 1 and 2 continued to fire on targets of opportunity using SG radar and gun number 2 relative bearing to plot for a solution of course and speed. The Mark 37 director and FD were useless from three direct hits. At about 0735 using one engine and hand steering position was gained for a torpedo attack on the leading heavy cruiser using manual train and selective aim with the torpedo officer on number two mount due to the loss of communications with the torpedo mounts. One half salvo of torpedoes was launched at the leading cruiser at a range of about 6000 yards. Target angle 050. All torpedoes ran hot straight, and normal and large columns of water were observed to rise from the cruiser at about the time scheduled for the torpedoes run. Retirement was attempted to the southwest, but was impossible as the ship was boxed in on both sides by enemy capital ships. By fish-tailing and chasing salvos this vessel was able to remain afloat for more than an hour in its precarious position, with enemy battleships 8000 yards on the port beam and cruisers 7000 yards on starboard quarter. During this period guns 1 and 2 fired continuously, each gun expending more than 250 rounds of ammunition. At about 0830 power was lost on the starboard engine, at which time all engineering spaces were flooding, and number 1 magazine was on fire. At 0835 word was passed to "Prepare to abandon ship". AT 0840 ship was abandoned, at which time she was listed about 20 degrees to port. The enemy continued to fire at the HOEL until 0850. At 0855 the ship rolled over on her port side and then sank stern first. No appreciable underwater explosions occurred. It is estimated that more than 300 two and three gun salvos were fired at the ship before she sank, many of which were major caliber and dye loaded. Practically all major caliber ammunition was armor piercing and penetrated both sides of the ship without exploding. Most of the minor caliber shells were anti-personnel. Upon retiring, six of the Jap ships passed close aboard the rafts but no attempts was made to fire on the personnel in the water.