Following the "BATTLE OFF SAMAR" a battle in which four (4) American ships were sunk which left several hundred men in the water trying to survive. Of the three escort vessels that were sunk while trying to screen the carriers and give them a chance to escape the gigantic Japanese fleet, were more than 600 men, some wounded severely, some slightly and some not wounded at all. In addition to the survivors of the escort vessels, there were several hundred survivors of the USS GAMBIER BAY, CVE 73, which earned the distinction of being the first carrier ever to be sunk by gun fire.
The Task Unit Commander as well as the commanding officers of the surviving ships of TAFFY III knew exactly where the survivors were located yet no attempt was made to rescue them. I have never read where any attempt to rescue the survivors was ever initiated by the Commander of TAFFY III. The only attempt that I have ever heard about was the one proposed by Captain Charles Adair to Admiral Daniel E. Barbey which was organized and eventually rescued more than 1100 survivors from the four ships mentioned above plus one lone Japanese survivor. This Rescue Unit was a part of MacArthur's Amphibious Navy.
LT. Maurice Fred Green, survivor of USS HOEL was not at all pleased with the rescue attempts or lack of attempts, submitted a narrative report which is a part of the National Archives, Film No. 314, recorded 18 December 1944.
Narrative submitted by LT. Maurice Fred Green follows:
This is Lieutenant M. F. Green of the USS HOEL, H-O-E-L, the destroyer which was sunk about 0855 on the morning of 25 October 1944 in what is now known as the famous Second Battle of the Philippines.
This destroyer sunk at Latitude 11 degrees-45' North, Longitude 126 degrees-33'East, as a result of more than 40, five, eight and 16-inch hits from enemy battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. These hits were sustained over a period of two hours. During this time we made maximum use of all of our available weapons including smoke and even deception. One half salvo of our torpedoes, five 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. Gun fire 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 of this ship on various Japanese vessels drew much of their fire from the cruisers. This destroyer, which I joined five months prior to her commissioning which took place on the 29th of July 1943 at Bethelem Shipyards in San Francisco, was quite 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, two destroyers and one destroyer escort when the enemy was in a position to destroy every ship of this task unit. The HOEL left Pearl Harbor sometime in early November(1943) and headed for the Gilbert Island Campaign where we participated in the taking of Tarawa Island. Some time during this campaign we spent about 16 hours on a reef where we were dead ducks for the Japs. Luckily about half an hour before they sent a big raid in to finish us off, we cleared the reef and headed for Pearl Harbor at reduced speed where we spent three or four days in drydock. From this time on we have been in the Pacific and participated in practically all campaigns out there except the Marianas. We were at Eniwetok and Kwajalein where we kept our gun barrels quite hot at all times during shore bombardment. Then we went down to the Solomon Islands and spent considerable time down there doing escort duty and a little shore bombardment. We were on the Emirau Campaign when that Island was taken. After Emirau we joined the HOGATT BAY Hunter-Killer Group acting as screen and also chased a few subs. I know the HOGATT BAY's reports claim quite a few subs from our Killer Group action. Well, now I'll go over a few of the preliminaries before we entered into the Second Battle of the Philippines. We left Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island of the Admiralty Group, with a large fire support group consisting of old battleships and a few cruisers, several CVE's and many escorts. We left Manus on the 12th of October 1944. During our time en route to the Philippine Islands we acted as an anti-submarine screen unit for CVE's. When they launched planes we had to proceed with the carriers to screen them when they left the formation. We proceeded up to Leyte Island and on the 18th of October we commenced operating independently with six carriers and five screening vessels. The screen commander, who was Commander W.D. Thomas, USN, was known as ComTaskUnit 77.4.3. He was aboard the HOEL. We were increased by two escort carriers and two destroyer escorts on October 20 th that was Able , Day when they landed on Leyte island. This brought our strength up to six CVE's and seven escorting vessels. The CVE's were FANSHAW BAY, which carried the O.T.C., the ST. LO formerly known as MIDWAY, the WHITE PLAINS, the KALININ BAY, GAMBIER BAY, KITKUN BAY and the destroyers, the HOEL, HEERMANN, and JOHNSTON, destroyer escorts, ROBERTS, RAYMOND, DENNIS and BUTLER. The enemy forces consisted of four battleships, two YAMATO and two ISE four to six heavy cruisers, Two TONE and from seven to 10 destroyers, three of the ASASHIO and four TERUTSUKI. All these ships were in position West of this destroyer and they were in approximate column by class with the battleships in the northern column, the cruisers in the center and the destroyers to the south. This interval between columns was 8,000 yards. The enemy was bearing from about 320 degrees True at a range of 17 miles when we first heard of their presence.
At approximately 0650 on the morning of the 25th, that's Philippine time, we received word by voice radio that one of the planes acting as an anti-submarine patrol plane was being fired upon by enemy surface forces. This came as a surprise and a shock to this ship. Nobody aboard at all had any suspicion that there were any Japanese surface ships in our vicinity, let alone battleships, and cruisers. How a large Japanese task force like this could sneak up on our escort carriers is something that I will never understand. We had visibility and the sun was bright making it possible to have at lest 30 miles visibility from a plane to a battleship. Somebody certainly slipped up.
At this time we received word via voice radio that we were being pursued by a major portion of the Japanese fleet. We sounded General Quarters and prepared to make maximum speed. The enemy force was to the northwest, at a range of 33,000 yards and had already commenced firing. I plotted her course in as 110 degrees True. The battleships were making 27 knots and the destroyers and cruisers were making 30 knots. Our carriers were on an easterly course making 13 knots. They immediately speeded up to their scared speed which was not more than 19 knots. We increased our speed to about all we can make. With old boilers like that, it was above 30 knots. The Japs were coming in at 30 knots and we were heading right for them at 30 knots, making smoke, preparing for a torpedo run. You can well imagine how fast the range closed at these speeds. This smoke screen that the destroyers, the HOEL and the JOHNSTON and the destroyer escort ROBERTS laid was quite effective in screening the CVE's. When the CVE's went into a rain squall along with our smoke, the Japs quit firing for from 10 to 20 minutes. Apparently they do not have good fire control radar, although I did witness myself the fir control radar which instead of having the two parabolic shapes, one above the other, had them one alongside each other and it was mounted above a range finder on the main battery director which looks like a pretty good idea. Although they had this on the battleships, there was absolutely no evidence of any radar on the destroyers. We were able to witness this very closely as the all passed within less than 100 yards of our life rafts when we were in the water. When the range of the enemy closed to 18,000 yards we commenced our torpedo approach on the leading battleship. We left our torpedoes set on intermediate speed and trained one tube, the forward one, to port and our after tube to starboard, to make sure we got our fish off in case we did get hit and couldn't train the tubes. We decided to fire a half salvo at the leading battleship and save the other half salvo for the leading cruiser because it was definite that we would have to turn at least two columns of ships in order to be of any assistance in screening the CVE's. This happened to work out very well as you can later see. All the Japs turned and fled. There is no explanation why. They could have rubbed out every ship in our formation. Our main battery commenced firing at 14,000 yards and we used modified radar control which as you know is a Fox Dog range, and a visual bearing. We did not cease firing for smoke or rain squalls as we went in and out of the melee because we'd immediately shift to full radar control which the Japs did not seem to be using. At 0755 we received the firs hit on the bridge which destroyed all of our voice radio communications and also the remote Radar PPI on the bridge. This shell also killed several personnel, making it necessary to get a new helmsman, a new captain's talker on the JA circuit and other various stations had to be remanned. It was less than five minutes later that we received a hit on the main battery director putting it out of action and also killing our anti-aircraft officer, making it necessary for the anti-aircraft guns to also go into local control. We had an officer at each 40 mm. Mount. There was nothing within the range of the 40 mms. To fire at. As far as I know we didn't fire one round of 40 mm . Ammunition for the whole action. At 0727, and that's two minutes after receiving the first hit, we launched our first half salvo of torpedoes at the leading Japanese battleship. She was then on a course of 140 degrees True and at a speed of 20 knots. We fired these at a range of 9,000 yards. Results were unobserved due to being in a melee, smoke screen, rain squalls, and all ships were dashing in and out making it quite hard for us to get any smooth idea of which ships were which. The only way that we could definitely tell an enemy from a friendly ship was to wait for it to clear the smoke or rain and get a visual recognition. This was quite easy at this time at close range. Immediately after launching this first salvo of torpedoes we received a direct hit on the after turbine causing the loss of the port engine. About another minute later we received a hit aft causing a rudder jam. It took about two or three minutes to shift to hand steering using the bridge pointer to steering aft. At this time we were circling to the right and the range was still closing rapidly. We received several hits at this time. Attempts were made to fire our after guns but all three after funs were definitely useless after those after hits. Guns one and two continued to fire on targets of opportunity using the SG radar and gun number two relative bearings to plot for a solution of course and speed. The Mark 37 director and Fox Dog radar were useless from three direct hits. This method of gun control fire proved quite effective although it put the Sugar George search radar out of its classification as a search radar. Using the Sugar George on one target and using plot for a gun setup made combat information's center rather blind as to keeping track of enemy and friendly ships, although it did work remarkably well to keep our two forward guns firing as long as the radar was in commission. About 0735 using one engine and hand steering we again gained position for a torpedo attack on the leading heavy cruiser using manual train and selective aim with torpedo officer, Lieutenant (J.g.) Glen W. Coleman, on number two mount due to the loss of communications with the torpedo mounts. This officer, Glen Coleman, did a remarkable job back there on his torpedo mount. He got down there from the bridge in less than 30 seconds and determined that five forward torpedoes had been fired, that many of the men up there were fatally injured including our Chief Torpedoman and he immediately went aft to the after mount which had already been trained out in accordance with the instructions and at this time on our port quarter, we had a beautiful setup on the leading heavy cruiser at a range of about 5,000 yards with an excellent target angle of 50 degrees. He fired the five torpedoes at this leading cruiser and all five of them ran hot, straight, and true. Although it is impossible to determine whether or not those torpedoes hit, it is definitely known that large columns of water were observed to rise from the cruiser at which the torpedoes were fired, at about the time the torpedoes should have hit. With our ten fish fired we decided that it was time to get the hell out of there. We attempted retirement to the southwest on a base course of 120 degrees True and chasing salvos as nearly as possible. This proved impossible because we were boxed in on all sides by enemy capital ships. We fishtailed and chased salvos and made all possible speed on one engine which enabled us to continue to remain afloat for more than an hour in this precarious position. The Jap battleships were 8,000 yards on the port beam. We had heavy cruisers 7,000 yards on the starboard quarter and we only had two guns eft to fire. They were forward which made it difficult to continue firing while attempting a retirement. These two forward guns must have expended at least 250 or 300 rounds each. The gun crews did almost a miraculous job. Before the ship sank we had to send people up to those two guns and chase the men out of there and make them cease firing and get off the ship. They did not leave the gun mounts until there was a good list on the ship and she was settling by the stern. At about 0830 we lost power on the starboard engine due to several more hits in the engineering spaces and throughout the hull. These hits must have been armor piercing ammunition because very few of them detonated, Some of them, which I believe to be 16-inch shells, came in one side of the ship and went right out the other side without detonating. The smaller shells, the five-inch shells, or smaller, which appeared to be anti-personnel shells, did detonate and they are the ones that caused us to have such heavy casualties. We now have listed as missing and dead 252 people, 19 of which are formally listed as dead, and only brought 83 home with us. We left four men back in Hollandia in the hospital and two men were picked up by guerillas on Samar Island, after having spent four days in the water hanging on to each other with no raft, just themselves for warmth and protection. It was not until two weeks later that they finally managed to get to Leyte Harbor to get aboard the FREMONT where they were given aid. At about 0830 when our power was lost in the starboard engine leaving us with no engine power at all, all of our engineering spaces were flooding and our number one magazine was on fire. Five minutes later, word was passed to prepare to abandon ship. All this time we were losing way and practically slowing down to being dead in the water. At 0840 with the ship dead in the water and a 20 degree list, word was passed to abandon ship which was done in an orderly manner. The enemy continued to fire on the HOEL until 0850. Some of these shells did drop short, those that hit killed many men attempting to abandon ship, those that fell short killed some of the men in the water. At 0855 the ship rolled over on her port side and sank stern first. I was about 50 yards away from the fantail at this time. I was alone in the water but did manage to swim to a life raft. Later we joined the Captain and the Commodore, Commodore W. W. Thomas who is a Commander, our screen flag, who was pretty badly hurt and we managed to tie three rafts together and four floater nets. We spent 48 hours in the water with no visible attempt being made to find us, later which we questioned and found that no attempt had been made. No planes were sent out, no destroyers were sent out. When we were picked up by an LCI, a very small one, number 341, 48 hours later, we found that they had been sent to the wrong location to pick us up. Somebody certainly fouled up here because we had been operating in the same water every day in the same area. How anybody could not know where we were is a mystery to me. Many more of our men would have been alive today and safe home if some planes had been sent out, maybe a couple of fast destroyers to pick up survivors. We hear an awful lot about these rescue details using PBMs, submarines, and ships. The Navy sends planes, destroyers and submarines out to get one flier. Here we have a couple hundred men in the water and we get a small LCI two days later. That's not very good for the morale of our destroyer personnel. It makes them rather reluctant to go out there again when they think that maybe this might happen to them again. We received no appreciable underwater explosions from the ship. All men had been properly instructed how to take care of themselves just in case. But due to the efforts of our torpedo officer, none of our depth charges exploded although they were hit and split open and strewn about the decks. I believe the only small explosion that was felt must have been a boiler. It is estimated that more than 300 two and three gun salvos were fired at the HOEL before she sank, many of which were major caliber and dye loaded. I witnessed many green and yellow dye-loaded shells myself. Many of the other men saw some pink or red dye-loaded shells. Some of these anti-personnel small caliber shells seem to explode just above the ship as they were passing over. Many of our men remarked on how this occurred and there were many deaths from these shells. They also used the umbrella type of shell. It seemed to explode about 500 yards off the ship and maybe 100 feet in the air and they looked like a burst on many small star shells coming towards the ship. These approached very slow and I it is possible to dodge them which was done by another officer and myself.
A question was asked by a Lieutenant Tyler of LT. Green as follows:
Lieutenant, were you in the combat information center most of the action?
LT. Green's answer: Yes, I remained in there until after the word had been given to abandon ship at which time I was the last one to leave the combat information center and I went to the wardroom where I helped the doctor get all of the injured inside the wardroom out. It took a couple of minutes to open the watertight door because the dog wrench had been misplaced. After evacuating the wardroom, making sure that everybody was out of there, I contacted Commodore Thomas who was just coming off the bridge and made sure that word was had been passed to abandon ship at which time I went to the fantail and checked up on the life rafts which had already been previously dropped and also the floater nets, only one of which remained aboard that could not be released without more help. All the men that were able to assisted the officers and some of the petty officers in checking on the injured, putting life jackets on those that could not take care of themselves, and dropping them into the water. The Captain, himself, checked the ship as close as he could, walking around and making sure that everybody got off all right, at which time he was the last one to leave the ship with the Commodore. I later met them in the water but many of these men that were put off the ship with life jackets could have very easily been saved had help been sent out right away. It is a known fact that the commanding officer of the USS HAZELWOOD, a destroyer of our own squadron which was operating with the carrier units, requested permission to come up and pick up survivors from the two destroyers, and ROBERTS. This permission was not granted. Why, I do not know. I know the HERRMANN was limping. She had received a hit but she was retiring at 35 knots. I know that when the St.. Lo later received some bomb hits (it was a suicide Jap bomber that got her), she had all the help in the world. Every escort vessel in sight helped pick her men up. We continued to remain in the water on what meager life rafts and floater nets we could find.