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Serial 04 14 November 1944

From: The Senior Surviving Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.

Via: (1) Commander Task Unit 77.4.33
(2) The Commander Carrier Division TWENTY-FIVE.
(3) The Commander Carrier Division TWENTY-TWO.
(4) The Commander SEVENTH Fleet.
(5) The Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet.

Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I., 25 October 1944.

Reference: [a] Pacific Fleet Confidential Letter No. 2CL-44.
[b] ComCarDiv 25 Special Action Report of 29 October, 1944, Serial 00100.

Enclosures: (A) Diagram of torpedo attack.
(B) Report of Ship's Damage.
(C Report of Destruction of Publications.
(D) Medical Report

Part I

1. (a) This ship went to general quarters at about 0650, 25 October, 1944, (zone minus 9 time), on the TBS information that we were being pursued by a major portion of the Japanese fleet. For the next three hours we engaged the enemy, attempting to keep constantly interposed between the enemy force and our carriers. Maximum use was made of all weapons at our disposal, mainly torpedoes, five inch thirty-eight caliber guns, and smoke. At about 0945 (zone minus 9 time) the order to "ABANDON SHIP" was given as a result of heavy enemy gun fire damage, and the JOHNSTON was observed to sink at about [1010] zone minus 9 time)
(b) The results of the action were as follows:
(1) The enemy was unable to destroy more than a small part of this Task Unit.
(2) The enemy was turned away before he could reach Leyte Gulf.
(3) Torpedo and five inch hits were obtained on several enemy units by this ship.
2. [C] This ship was a unit of the screen of Task Unit 77.4.3, Commander Task Unit 77.4.3 and OTC was in USS FANSHAW BAY. The screen Commander, Task Unit 77.4.33 was in the USS HOEL The screen was designated Task Unit 77.4.33. This Unit sortieed from Seadler Harbor, Manus Island, Admiralty Group, on 12 October 1944. This Unit proceeded to Leyte Island , P.I., in company with Task Group 77.2 (Fire Support Group), and the other units of Task Group 77.4 (Escort Carrier Group), on 18 October, 1944, this task unit began operating independently as the Northern Air Support Group. Carrier aircraft furnished air support for the preliminary bombardment, landings, and subsequent occupation of Leyte Island in accordance with air operation plan of Commander Task Group

77.4 Operation Order 2-44. From 18 October until 25 October the USS JOHNSTON acted as part of the anti-submarine screen for this unit.
[b] This ship's mission was to act as part of the anti-submarine screen for the carriers of Task Unit 77.4.3. In absence of specific orders, doctrine used in the engagement was in accordance with General Tactical Instructions and Destroyer Torpedo Doctrine contained in DTB 4-44. Tactical respects and assumptions of the situation on the cvo of the action were clearly outlined in reference (b).
[c] Own forces at the outset of the action were the surface and accompanying air units of Task Unit 77.4.3, namely the CVE's FANSHAW BAY, ST. LO, WHITE PLAINS, KALININ BAY, GAMBIER BAY and KITKUN BAY; the destroyers, HOEL, HEERMANN and JOHNSTON; the destroyer escorts ROBERTS, RAYMOND, DENNIS and BUTLER. This Task Unit was in formation 5R. The position of the unit at the outset of the action and the ensuing track during the action were as outlined in reference (b).
[d] Enemy force encountered consisted of four battleships (Two KONGO and two ISE), four to six cruisers, and seven or more destroyers (TERUTSUKI class) The battleships were to the eastward and appeared to be in echelon formation to the right. The cruisers were forward of the beam of the leading battleships in echelon to the right. There appeared to be an interval of several thousand yards between the cruisers and battleships. The destroyers were to be westward of the cruisers with an interval of several thousand yards. This enemy force was bearing about 345 (true) from this ship at the outset of the engagement.
[c] Sea was calm with a wind velocity of 6-8 knots from the northeast. The sky was about 3/10 covered with cumulus clouds, with widely scattered showers. In the following detailed account of the action all times will be local time zone. Item (minus 9) time zone is used. This report is made by the Gunnery Officer, the senior surviving officer of the USS JOHNSTON. Valuable assistance was obtained from the communication officer, who was the officer of the deck, from the damage control officer, from the captain's recorder. And from all surviving personnel. As no log of records were saved when the ship sunk, all times stated are approximate.

Part II

This ship had secured from morning alert, the first carrier's plane strike, ASP and C.P. patrols had been launched. At about 0650 word was received by TBS "We are being pursued by a large portion of the Jap fleet." General quarters was sounded and this task unit headed in an easterly direction to launch planes. At this time the enemy fleet was about thirty four thousand yards distant bearing approximately 345 from us. The Japanese force was closing the range rapidly, their speed being 22 - 25 knots. The Captain immediately gave orders to the engine room to light off all boilers and make maximum speed. The Captain also ordered the engine room to commence making funnel smoke and ordered the smoke screen generator detail to make FS smoke. This ship then commenced zig zagging back and forth between the enemy and our own formation, laying heavy smoke screen. By 0700 the carriers had launched all available planes and the formation turned to a southwesterly course. Ships DD557/A16-3

were informed by TBS at this time for destroyers to make smoke. This unit had been under fire by the
Japanese fleet since 0650.
At 0710 the range to the nearest cruiser had closed to eighteen thousand yards and fire was opened with the five inch battery on this cruiser. The planes were, at this time, striking the Japanese force, completing their strike at about 0715. As soon as this ship commenced firing on the enemy , we in turn were taken under heavy fire from more than one Jap unit. This ship was straddled during this period. As a result of the heavy enemy gun fire, the Captain gave the order to stand-by for torpedo attack to starboard and turned and headed toward the enemy. Torpedoes were set on low speed because of heavy fire to insure being within torpedo range and to insure the firing of our torpedoes. This decision was made by the Captain to insure being within torpedo range and to insure being able to fire our torpedoes even though this heavy fire should put the ship out of action before the range had closed. The ship closed to within ten thousand yards of the enemy before torpedoes were fired. The point of aim was the leading cruiser, the target angle was 040 , the target speed 25 knots. The torpedoes were fired on low speed, a depth of six feet set, and a spread of one degree was used. Torpedo mount one was trained to 110 relative, and torpedo mount two was trained to 125 relative. Then torpedoes were fired, the torpedoes in mount one were fired with 35 degrees right gyro angle and torpedoes in mount two were fired with 25 degrees right gyro angle. A torpedo tube off-set of 2 ½ degrees was used. All ten torpedoes were fired at three second intervals and were observed to run hot, straight and normal. During the run in, the five inch guns fired in rapid salvo fire with the leading cruiser as the point of aim. Over two hundred rounds were fired at this cruiser. An excellent solution was contained throughout and numerous hits were visually observed. No direct spotting was necessary. A continuous ladder of two hundred yards, subsequently cut to one hundred yards, was used. It is believed that this heavy cruiser was severely damaged by at least forty five inch shells. Common projectiles were used throughout this run. Results of the torpedo attack were not observed visually, as this ship was retiring behind a heavy smoke screen when the torpedoes were scheduled to hit. It can be positively stated, however, that two and possibly three heavy underwater explosions were heard by two officers and many enlisted men in the repair parties at the time our torpedoes were scheduled to hit. Upon emerging a minute later from the smoke screen the leading cruiser was observed to be burning furiously astern.
At this time, about 0730, this ship was hit for the first time. It is believed we were hit by three fourteen inch projectiles, followed thirty seconds later by three 6 inch projectiles. Those hits knocked out the after fire room and engine room, all power to the steering engine , all power to the after three five inch guns and rendered the gyro compass useless. Maximum speed was now slowed to seventeen knots. Steering was done manually at steering aft, orders being received from the bridge via JV phones. The stable element and FD radar were out of commission during this time for about five minutes. The SC radar antenna was snapped off by the force of shells hitting , rendering that radar inoperative. For the next two hours our ship's course had to be applied manually on the computer. Five inch guns numbers three and five were still receiving indicating signals. The gun crews would match

pointers, shift to telescope control and set sight angle and sight deflection received from plot in by hand. Five inch gun number four fired in local control the remainder of the action, firing at the same target as
the remainder of the battery.
A providential rain storm was entered immediately after receiving this heavy damage and a valuable ten minutes respite was gained to estimate extent of damage. As soon as FD radar and stable element were back in operation the leading Jap destroyer was taken under fire at a range of ten thousand yards in modified radar control. This ship then observed by radar two cruisers to be closing the formation rapidly and proceeded to take the nearest cruiser under fire in modified radar control at a range of eleven thousand yards. Approximately one hundred rounds were fired at these two targets which were not actually seen at any time. At 0750 received orders by TBS for small boys to make torpedo attack. CTU 77.4.33 then ordered small boys to form one eight. This ship then proceeded to fall in astern of the USS HOEL, HEERMANN and ROBERTS and furnish fire support for these ships as they made their torpedo attack. Firing was continued intermittently on the closest enemy cruiser. Difficulty was experienced by gunnery control in staying on the target due to radical movements of the ship and loss of own ship's course. As we turned to retire after the other destroyers had fired their torpedoes, range closed to six thousand yards on the leading Japanese cruiser and many hits were obtained on it at this time. Retirement was commenced with the aid of a heavy smoke screen. At approximately 0810 the JOHNSTON emerged from a heavy smoke screen only to find the USS HEERMANN on our starboard bow on a collision course with us at a distance of about two hundred yards. The Captain backed full on the one remaining engine and the HEERMANN was observed to back full on all engines. A collision was thus averted by the narrowest possible margin. The HEERMANN was observed to backing at a speed of at least fifteen knots, thus naturally aiding in avoiding us.
As soon as the HEERMANN cleared us, all possible speed was again made. At about 0820 there suddenly appeared out of the smoke a battleship of the KONGO class, seven thousand yards distant, on our port beam. This target had been reported to control combat and was immediately taken under fire. By this time the Captain had given the order not to fire on any target unless we could see it, the reason for this order being that enemy and friendly ships were now in the melee. Approximately forty rounds were fired at the Jap battleship, at our necessarily reduced rate of fire, before retiring behind our own smoke screen and before being taken under fire by this battleship. Several hits were observed on the pagoda superstructure.
During this period the ship was heading, in general, to southwestward, several miles astern of our main body. As we headed in southwesterly direction, in general, we had the Jap cruiser and battleship force on our port quarter and the Jap destroyers on our starboard quarter. This picture was held clearly in mind by the Captain at all times. Ranges varied from seven to twelve thousand yards to all those Jap units. Liberal use was being made of a smoke screen protection throughout this period. At about 0830 the GAMBIER BAY was observed to be under heavy fire by a Japanese heavy cruiser and listing heavily to port. This ship attempted to draw fire away from the GAMBIER BAY by taking the cruiser under fire at this time. The range was closed to six thousand yards and maximum fire was brought to bear on this heavy cruiser. This attempt, as was to be expected, was unsuccessful, despite

numerous hits being observed. At about 0840 fire was checked when it became apparent that the Japanese destroyers on our port hand were closing rapidly on the carriers. Upon receiving this information from combat, the Captain directed our course toward the enemy destroyers who were deployed in a column with the apparent destroyer leader in the van, followed by two divisions consisting of three destroyers apiece. The Japanese destroyers were sighted at a range of about ten thousand yards and fire was immediately opened on the destroyer leader. Our fire appeared to he extremely effective and the range continued to close to about seven thousand yards . This ship was hit several times during this encounter by five inch projectiles. Approximately twelve hits were obtained on the leading Japanese destroyer before a most amazing thing happened. The destroyer leader proceeded to turn ninety degrees to the right and break off the action. Fire was immediately shifted to the second destroyer and hits were observed at initial range of around eight thousand yards. During firing on this second destroyer the Captain attempted to cross the "T" on the Jap column. However, before this was accomplished, amazingly enough, all remaining six Jap destroyers turned ninety degrees to the right and the range began to open rapidly.
The TBS transmission had been received just prior to our opening fire on those Jap destroyers, directing the small boys to interpose between the carriers and Japanese cruisers on their port quarter. We checked fire as the Jap destroyers retired, turned to the left and proceeded to close the range on the Jap cruisers. For the next half hour this ship proceeded to engage first the cruisers on our port hand and then the destroyers on our starboard hand, alternating between the two groups in a somewhat desperate attempt to keep all of them from closing the carrier formation. The ship was getting hit with disconcerting frequency throughout this period. Finally at about 0930 we found ourselves with two cruisers dead ahead of us, several Jap destroyers on our starboard quarter and two cruisers on our port quarter. The battleships were still well astern of us. At this fateful time numerous Japanese units had us under very effective fire, all of these ships being within six to ten thousand yards of us. Shortly after this an avalanche of shells knocked out our lone remaining engine room and fire room. Director and plot lost power. All Communications were lost throughout the ship. All guns were out of operation with the exception of five inch gun number four that was still shooting in local control. As the ship went dead in the water and its fate long since inevitable, the Captain gave the order to abandon ship at about 0945. The ship was abandoned by approximately 0955 and the ship was observed to roll over and sink at 1010. The ship was under constant fire up to the time it actually rolled over and sank. A Japanese destroyer was observed to close the range to one thousand yards to insure the ship's final destruction.

Part. III
Performance of own ordnance material and equipment.
(a) Ordnance material in general was very good. Considerable difficulty was experienced with oversized powder cases. A large part of this trouble undoubtedly can be attributed to the necessity of ramming by hand the after three guns during the major part of the engagement.

Serial 04
Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I.
25 October 1944.

However, four powder cases had to be extracted after attempting to ram with power still available on the rammer.
The full-empty indicator linkage on the 5" gun projectile hoist jammed the entire hoist on #3 gun making it impossible to hoist shells manually. It is recommended that this linkage be removed from the projectile hoists as unnecessary.
This ship had been in commission one year. It had not fired a practice surface problem or any torpedo practice since shakedown. Fortunately, realistic drills, including all casualties that actually occurred during the engagement. Were invaluable.
More time could have been spent on local control drill. The pointers and trainers all required reliefs during the two hours the after guns were in manual. Excellent results were observed from the after guns however, with them in telescope control, after having matched indication pointers to locate the target. Sight angles and sight deflection were given constantly over the JQ phone circuit and were set in accurate.
This ship had made no advanced provision for replacing men killed on the 5" guns. This oversight became apparent when all men in #3 - 5" upper handling room were killed or badly burned by hot steam from after engine room. Eventually, men were brought in from 20 MM guns to supply this gun.
This ship had non-tracer, non-self-destructive 40 MM ammunition. It is believed this would have been effective on the cruisers and destroyers that came within 6000 yards of us. However, this opportunity to inflict damage on the enemy was overlooked. The Gunnery Officer was cognizant of this potential weapon, but felt that his full attention was required with the 5" guns. This ship was rigged to fire two 40 MM from main battery director.
The performance of the lookouts was disappointing. Very little was seen of them after the Machine Gun Officer and Lookout Officer were killed on the first hit received. The Gunnery Officer acted as Chief lookout on the disengaged side. CIC supplied invaluable dope constantly as to the whereabouts of the enemy units. A large part of the time, however, it was a problem of firing at the closest ship visible through the smoke.
Fire discipline was remarkably excellent. On one occasion we trained on one of our DE's as it came out of the smoke screen close abroad. Then the ship was identified as friendly, the director was trained off target. One hot gun had a powder case "cook-off" at that instant and a near miss resulted just ahead of the DE.
Hot loaded guns normally were ordered fired out with no delay upon being reported after checking fire.
Communications were maintained with four of the five guns and with Plot up to the very last.
The first hits received knocked out the ship's gyro and grounded out the firing circuit. All firing after the first hit was rapid continuous fire with the gun pointer firing either by Local Battery or by percussion. The first hits tumbled the stable element and the entire IC board tripped out

Serial 04
Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I.
25 October 1944.

for about two minutes. After power was regained, the stable element was set back in the vertical position by hand and placed in operation.
The first shell hits sheared off the FD radar antenna shearing off pin, slowing the antenna into the elevation stops, and elevation control of the FD radar was lost. The antenna was then grabbed and pointed in general at the horizon and ranges were again obtained. Radar ranges were used throughout.
Standard gunnery doctrine was used throughout except that only limited firing was done in modified radar control after the own ship's course went out.

[b] Ten torpedoes and over 800 rounds of 5" ammunition were fired during the action. Seven smoke screen generators were expended.

[c] Effectiveness of gunnery was great , and it should have been, as the targets were large, were not moving too radically , and the range was in most cases disconcertingly short.

2. The effectiveness of the Japanese gunnery was not impressive. While they were good enough to sink us, with gunfire they had available, our staying afloat as long as we did is nothing short of remarkable. Their reactions seemed very slow, and we continually succeeded in throwing many salvos into both Jap cruisers and destroyers before they would retaliate. At the medium ranges at which they was engaged their percentage of hits unbelievingly low. No fire control radar was apparent and no effective search radar seemed able to help them anticipate us, as we continually surprised them as we came out of the smoke screen.
Green and red projectile bursts were observed closely. The battleships were firing AP projectiles.
The Japanese destroyer torpedo attack was ineffective as a result of their unexplainable failure to take a favorable position on the bow of the carriers before launching their attack.
In general the Japanese appeared hesitant and uncertain as to what to do, both in their maneuvering and in their gunnery, and as a result ended up doing very little.

Part IV

(1) See enclosure (B) for report of ships damage.
(2) Enemy Battle Damage.
[a] 0715-0730 Fired at enemy heavy cruiser with common projectiles. Believe seriously damaged with at least 40 hits.
0720 - Ten torpedoes fired with same heavy cruiser as point of aim. Believe scored two torpedo hits on this cruiser, leaving it dead in the water and blazing furiously astern. A fainter underwater explosion heard about a minute after the two explosions were heard on the heavy

Serial 04
Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I.
25 October 1944.

cruiser lends to the possibility that a battleship was hit by one torpedo. See diagram of torpedo problem in Enclosure [A].
0750 - 0800 A second heavy cruiser was hit by at least 10 5" AA common projectiles.
0820 Fired at battleship of KONGO class. Scored at least 15 hits with 5" AA Common shells.
0830 Fired at heavy cruiser sinking GAMBIER BAY. Scored 5 hits with AA Common projectiles.
0840 - 0850 Fired at second destroyer. Scored 5 hits - moderate damage.
0900 - 0940 Firing intermittently at cruisers and destroyers, scoring numerous individual hits during this period with no approximation of damage possible.
[b] [1] Most significant effect of damage was probably noticed on the enemy destroyers. The fact that they eventually, about [0920] launched their torpedo attack from the starboard quarter of the carriers - well abaft their beam - is testimony of their respect for our gunfire. Undoubtedly our constant disappearing and reappearing thru the smoke screen gave the impression that more than one destroyer was engaging them. If they had moved up on the bow of our carriers, the carriers complete destruction would have been inevitable. The Jap destroyers did not launch a typical torpedo attack - it was more a last desperate shot before they retired.
[2] The heavy cruiser hit by torpedoes and numerous 5" projectiles is believed to have been seen to sink by flyers.
[3] Structural damage to the Jap cruisers and one battleship that hits were scored on undoubtedly had the effect of knocking out a great many anti-air-craft guns on their topsides rendering them more vulnerable to subsequent air strikes.

[e] No accurate estimate can be made of enemy material and personnel casualties, but it is certain that they were extensive.

Part V

1. [a] Internal communications were in general very good throughout, considering the number of hits taken. However, there was a distinct weakness in communicating with steering aft. When all communications from the bridge were finally lost, and remaining on the bridge became unbearable from the fire from #2 5" gun, the commanding officer went to the fantail and continued to conn the ship from there.
Communications within the task unit were excellent throughout the battle. All maneuvering was by TBS. Circuit discipline was good, and use of the circuit was restricted to necessary communications. It is interesting to note that in spite of the terrific punishment taken and a direct hit in radio control, the TBS was operational to the very end.
Communications between the forces is what appears to have been fouled up. We had received numerous contact reports of the enemy force coming toward San Bernardino Straits but it was

Serial 04
Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I.
25 October 1944.

assumed that Task Force 38 was guarding the Straits. The greatest failure of communications was the failure of CTF 30 to notify CTF 77.4 that he was leaving the Straits for the Escort Carrier Group to protect.
Report of destruction of publications is attached hereto, as Enclosure [C],
The radar equipment held up unusually well. The first hit snapped off the SC radar antenna, but it was the only radar that was permanently out. The SG and FD were out temporarily, when power was lost, but both went back on very shortly, and both operated to the very end.

[c] - - - - -

[d] - - - - -

[e] The use of smoke appeared to be effective, and when the ship was behind a screen the enemy firing was very ineffective. One very providential rain squall made an effective screen when it was most needed, right after the first hit.
[f] CIC kept control and the bridge well informed as to the location of enemy targets, and the sole failure was their failure to give any warning of the approach and near collision with the USS HEERMANN.
[g]- - - - -
[h] Performance of engine room personnel and equipment was excellent throughout. Handling of casualties left nothing to be asked for. At the beginning of the action JOHNSTON had on board 12,000 gals. of fuel oil and 10,000 gals. of diesel oil. No DD should ever be allowed to run that low.
[I]- - - - -
[j]- - - - -
As this report was written by the coordinated efforts of all the surviving officers no other comment is necessary.
There should be more adequate communications with steering aft, it is recommended that a 21MC be installed there. It is also recommended that a magnetic compass be installed in steering aft. It was extremely difficult to maintain a steady course when cruising on one engine, and steering by hand from aft, giving directions by phone from the bridge.
Each 5" gun should have two short powder cases available for emergency use.
A scientific study of ships' silhouettes and constant drill estimating target angles and target speeds paid big dividends. After this ship lost own ships course, and the action turned into a melee, very little time was had for the plotting room to improve on the "solution" estimated by the Gunnery Officer.
The 5" guns should be rigged to receive casualtity power more efficiently.
Recommend that a riser cable be installed from the main deck to steering aft on all 2100 ton destroyers.

Serial 04
Subject: Action Report - surface engagement off Samar, P.I.
25 October 1944.

The 141 survivors of this ship clung to three rafts and two floater nets for fifty hours before being rescued. It is recommended provisions resembling the very efficient manner in which downed fliers are picked up be made for rescuing ship survivors. This group of survivors was "zoomed" by three different friendly planes within two hours after the ship sunk. No life rafts or food were dropped by them and no help arrived for two days and two nights. During this period forty five officers and men died as a result of wounds, shock, and exposure. In another day without help there would have been no survivors of this ship. The Captain and Executive Officer are missing in action. Five additional officers and 87 men are missing in action. All these Officers and men were seen alive in the water after abandoning ship, but have not been heard from since.
With only a few exceptions the only group of survivors picked up were those gathered together by the Gunnery Officer immediately after the ship sunk.

Part VI

1. [a] Personnel performance, in general left nothing to be desired. A well trained crew fought its ship in an inspired manner in accordance with the highest traditions of the Navy.
See Medical Report attached as Enclosure [A].

Signed: R. C. HAGEN

Advance copies via air mail to:
Cominch [1]
Cincpac [2]

Copy to:

Com 7th Amphibror
Comdesron 47
Domdosdiv 94