SURVIVORS LAST THIRTEEN DAY'S ABOARD THE USS HOEL DD533
Our last Port was Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, in the Admiralty Islands. Shortly before we left for the Philippine Invasion. Leon Kintberger came aboard, he became our new skipper relieving Captain William Thomas of his command. Captain Thomas was promoted to Commodore and stayed on board the USS Hoel as Commander of the screening vessels, consisting of 3 Destroyers and 2 Destroyer escorts. The 4 Carriers and the screening ships were designated as Task Group 77.2 Later known as Taffy 3 (77.4.33) under the command of Admiral Clifton Sprague. The 12th of October the ships of, Taffy 3 left Manus. Shortly after we had cleared the port, word was passed over the PA system for all hands not on duty to report to the Fantail. Captain Kintberger came back sat down on the deck with the crew and introduced himself. He spoke of his being on the east coast chasing down enemy submarines. Jokingly, he said I probably have more American subs to my credit than any skipper in the fleet. He told us that we were headed to the Philippine Islands and would be protecting the carriers against enemy aircraft and submarine's during the invasion of Leyte Gulf. He then went to the Officer's Wardroom and informed the officers of the mission and probably in more detail.
Glen's recollection of the Typhoon. On our way to the Philippines the squadron was in a Typhoon for 3 day's. The D day was supposed to be on October the 17th, but was delayed 3 day's..The young men on the ship didn't realize the danger of being in the typhoon and thought it was fun. The shipmates in the aft part of the ship had to go topside and forward on the open deck to get their sandwich's, apples and crackers from the mess. On several occasions on their way to the mess, several men would be hit with sheets of water coming over the bridge. The men would be tangled together and washed clear back to the fantail. To describe what it is like to be inside a Destroyer while you are in a Typhoon is impossible, but a close scenario would be to imagine yourself being inside of a ping pong ball that has been dropped into a washing machine during the heavy wash cycle. That would be close. The ship pitches, yaws, and rolls, making it impossible to move anywhere unless you are hanging on to something, while watching out for flying objects such as stools, tools, or anything else that has not been secured. To go topside unless it was really necessary was pure stupidity. If you had to you better have a good hold on the life lines to keep from getting washed overboard. The poor cooks were not able to cook anything due to the rough sailing, however, trays of assorted sandwiches, apples, etc appeared throughout the ship. I do not know how they distributed the sandwiches and kept them dry. Needless to say routine chores were not performed, however, the ship still had to be manned so you stood your regular watches. While riding out this typhoon the ships inclinometer registered a roll of 57 degrees. The experts say that a roll of 65 degrees will capsize a Fletcher Destroyer so we were pretty damn close to doing so. A number of destroyers were lost this way while being within typhoons.
October the 17th Leyte Gulf was bombarded heavily by ships and planes in preparation for the Philippine Invasion. Taffy 3 consisted of 4 Carriers 3 Destroyers and 2 Destroyer Escorts. On October 20th, 2 more Carriers and 2 more Destroyer Escorts joined the Taffy 3 group. The formation consisted of 6 Carriers in two columns. The Carriers, Saint Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Gambier Bay, Kitkun Bay, and Fanshaw Bay were surrounded by the screening ships with the Destroyer Escort, Samuel B. Roberts at midship on their port side and the Destroyer Escort Raymond midship on their starboard side, the Destroyer Escort Dennis and Destroyer Escort Butler were in front of the Carriers with the 3 Destroyers at the rear. The USS HOEL was on the port side astern of the last Carrier Fanshaw Bay, with the USS JOHNSTON directly astern of the carriers and the USS HEERMANN on the starboard side astern of the carriers. Taffy 3's position was approximately 60 miles at sea east of Leyte Gulf. October 20th the day of the invasion, through October the 24th were routine day's for the Screening ships. The normal G.Q. every morning half hour before till a half hour after sun up, then it was performing normal duties and standing regular watches. The crew would watch the planes take off the Carriers to bombard Leyte and return. During this period the Hoel destroyed a floating mine and picked up two TBM pilots from the sea and returned them to the carrier Saint Lo.
NAVAL BATTLE OFF SAMAR
October the 25th started out like the other day's with early morning G.Q, and secured from G.Q. Those that weren't on watch went to breakfast. Shortly after being secured from G.Q. the shipmates that were on the 4 to 8 a m watch on the aft part of the ship were looking directly astern at the sky full of black bursts of flack from shells being fired at a plane. The plane was too small to identify by the naked eye. Then very large shells started coming directly from the stern of our formation, going end over end as the velocity of the shell was spent, landing just behind the last Carrier, the Fanshaw Bay, making a tremendous splash as the projectiles hit the sea. This was the nearest ship to the USS HOEL. At that time the men at the stern and starboard side of the ship were struck with wonderment for there were no planes in the air and no enemy ships were visible. The Japanese ships were firing at Taffy 3 from over the horizon, Captain Kintberger estimated they were 17 miles away. General Quarters was sounded immediately. Sam Lucas who was on watch at the smoke screen and depth charges generators heard the order come over the head phones small boy's fall in on us, as it was being sent over the TBS to the screening ship's. Followed by another order to make smoke. The Hoel left its screening station and laid a smoke screen between the enemy and our own formation, following the Johnston and the Samuel B. Roberts. Bob Prater, Hugh Coffelt who were on the #5, 40 millimeter which is on the aft upper deck house were also on the 4 to 8 a.m. watch. They along with Sam had a clear view of the Japanese ships as they came over the horizon as well as Bob Despain who had reported to his G. Q. station at the 20 millimeters on the stern of the ship. Keith Mc Kay who was at his G.Q. station, was on the bridge as the aft look out on the starboard side, he was the first to see the column of Japanese ships with the Pagoda mast come over the horizon. The Cruisers were the lead column followed by the Battleships on there port side and then their Destroyers on the starboard side of their Cruisers. The flash of fire coming out of the lead Battle wagon was horrifying, it seemed like it took a long time before we heard the crack of their guns and the splashing of the shells. All ships of Taffy 3 were directed to make a 90 degree turn so Carriers could launch their planes against the wind. The Hoel was at flank speed laying smoke to protect the Carriers going from the last Carrier forward up their port side as green and yellow die marker shells from the enemy ships were splashing all around the Hoel as the squadron of ships headed for the rain squall ahead for additional cover. The men at the stern of the ship never lost visibility of the Japanese ships, there were no other ships, or smoke, between them to block their continuous view, until they entered the rain squall.
The Hoel entered the rain squall and for a short time (about 10 minutes) estimated by Captain Kintberger. The enemy ceased firing. The crew felt a short relief. While the Hoel was in the rain squall the USS HEERMANN in their attempt to fall in formation behind the Hoel for the Torpedo attack went up between the two columns of Carriers, almost collided with the Carrier Gambier Bay. As the Heermann came through the second column of Carriers she almost collided with the Samuel B. Roberts Destroyer Escort, which was just ahead of the Johnston. Then Johnston almost rammed the Heermann. The Heermann made a emergency astern move as the Hoel made a evasive move to her port side which prevented a collision with the Heermann's port side..
The USS Hoel left the rain squall and led the first torpedo attack when the enemy force closed to 18,000 yards, The Hoel took on the lead Japanese Battleship Kongo. The torpedo's were set at intermediate speed and ship's course at 000 as advised by the ship's C.I.C. (combat information center). A half salvo of torpedo's (5) was ordered because of the tactical situation required for stopping, or turning, at least two columns of the enemy ships. The Hoel main batteries commenced firing on the lead Japanese Battleship Kongo when the range closed to 14,000 yards (modified radar control). At 0725 the Hoel received its first hit on the bridge knocking out the main director, destroying all voice radio communications and the remote Radar PPI. The hit wounded Commodore Thomas, killed Doubrava and Kumpunen in the wheelhouse, also the men in the main gun director. Clarence Hood who was the helmsman, was knocked down and out onto the look out bridge by the concussion of the hit. Lt. Dix took the helm. Clarence regained his composure and again took the helm from Lt. Dix as they continued the torpedo run on the lead battleship. One half salvo of torpedo's was launched at the lead Battleship, which was then on a course of 140 degrees T at a speed of 20 knots at a range of 9000 yards. Hits by the torpedo's were not observed at that time. Later there was information that there was damage by the torpedo's to the lead Battleship. The Hoel as it turned away from the battleships received hits in the aft fireroom followed by a direct hit in 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 5 inch guns and steering, causing the Hoel to turn slowly to the right heading towards the battleship at which the torpedo's had been launched. Steering was shifted in about 2 minutes to the after steering room using manual hand steering, and using the steering engine room trick wheel controlled by the bridge pointer.
Attempts were made to use the 5 inch guns manually, but this proved to be impossible.
Number #3 gun crew had to evacuate due to the steam coming up from the aft engine room and the fire in #3 handling room. Half the barrel was shot off the #4 gun by a direct hit. Gun #5 was frozen in the train by a near miss. The Mark 37 director and PD were useless due to 3 direct hits at about 0735 using one engine & manual hand steering position was gained for a torpedo attack on the lead heavy Cruiser Haguro using manual train and selective aim with the torpedo officer on the #2 mount due to the loss of communication. One half salvo was launched at the leading cruiser at a range of 6000 yards. Target angle of 050. All torpedo's ran hot, straight, normal. Large columns of water were observed by the crew to arise from the cruiser at the time the torpedo's were scheduled to hit. During this run a Japanese seaplane came in low over the stern going forward toward the bow strafing the ship, killing some of the men topside. After the torpedo run, retirement was attempted to the southwest, but was impossible due to the ship being boxed in by enemy capitol ships. By fishtailing and chasing salvo's this ship was able to remain afloat for more than one hour in this precarious position, with enemy Battle ships 8000 yards on the port beam and cruisers 7000 yards on the starboard quarter. During this period 5 inch guns #1 and # 2 fired continuously, each gun firing more than 250 rounds. At about 0830 power was lost on the starboard engine, the ship was dead in the water, at which time all engineering spaces were flooding and #1 magazine was on fire. At 0835 the word was passed to" prepare to abandon ship".At 0840 the ship was abandoned, at which time the ship was listing 20 degrees to the port. The enemy continued to fire at the HOEL until 0850. At 0855 the ship rolled over on her port side and sank stern first. No large under water explosions occurred, only two very small one's were felt by the crew in the water. When the enemy retired six of their ships passed close through the rafts and the crew in the water. No attempt was made to fire on the crew. It is estimated that more than 300 two and three gun salvo's had been fired at the HOEL. The ship took some 40 large caliber, shells before it sank. Practically all enemy shells of major caliber ammunition was armor piercing dye loaded shells many of which went through one side of the thin skin of the Hoel and out the other side, without exploding. Most of the small caliber shells burst above the ship and were loaded with metal fragmentation chips, known as anti- personnel shells. The three remaining stations (Gun #1and 2 and plot) maintained communication to the very last. Plot also maintained communication with C.I. C. and the bridge to the end. The Hoel's guns scored numerous hits on the Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers. It is estimated approximately 600 rounds of armor piercing and AA common projectiles were fired at the enemy in addition to the 10 torpedo's.
Enemy Battle Damage
It is believed that one heavy cruiser was damaged to such an extent from the Hoel's second salvo of torpedo's, that it was later abandoned and scuttled. An enemy destroyer was seen by the Hoel life raft groups taking survivors from the cruiser during the day of October 25th. That night the cruiser disappeared.
There were 4 different raft group's. One of the raft groups had 70 men to start out. Only two of those men survived after spending 5 day's on the raft. They ended up swimming to Samar Island, were taken to the hills by a Philippine Guerrilla unit that moved them daily to different locations to prevent the Japanese from taking them captive. After sixteen day's they were taken off the island of Samar by an American landing craft, during the night, and later flown back to the states. There was one raft group that no one survived. The other two rafts had survivors that together totaled 84 men who were in the water 56 hours before they were rescued. Those two groups were independently picked up by LCI's. Some of the more seriously wounded were transferred to the Patrol Craft, which was the lead director of the search party. They were then taken into Leyte Gulf, transferred to the Hospital Ship Comfort, examined and treated. They were then transferred to LST'S and taken to Hollandia, New Guinea. From there they sailed to the States via Australia on the S.S, Lurline. Upon reaching San Francisco the enlisted men were put in a barbed wire compound on Treasure Island for three day's, issued new uniforms and identification cards, then were given a 30 day survivor leave.
Quote: By Captain Kintberger The performance of the officers and enlisted personnel was up to the very highest tradition of the navy service. Fully cognizant of the inevitable results of engaging such vastly superior forces these men performed their assigned duties coolly and efficiently until their ship was shot out from under them. A well trained crew fought their ship smartly.
Quote: By Lt.Commander R. W. Copeland One thing in particular impressed this commanding officer as a matter of importance. For the most part the ship's of our unit, particularly the Hoel, Johnston & the Roberts were at all times in a general melee, usually surrounded by Japanese vessels.
The survivors of the U. S. S. HOEL feel they were very fortunate to have two of the finest Captains in the U. S. Navy to lead us into battle. Captain Thomas trained the crew well and Captain Kintberger knew how to get the most out of his crew. Both these men will remain in our hearts till our last breath.
References in this Report as follows. 1.Commander L. S. Kintberger of the U.S.S. HOEL, Action Report to the U.S. Navy
2.Lt. Commander R.W. Copeland of the Samuel B. Roberts, Action Report to the U.S. Navy
3 DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL OF FIGHTING SHIPS
4.Bureau Of Navy - ALL HANDS MAGAZINE
5.Book, BLOOD ON THE SEA
6.Interviews and inputs from, Robert Prater, Bob Despain, Keith McKay, Hugh Coffelt, Clarence Hood, Sam Lucas, Glen Foster
Compiled By Sam Lucas, and Glen Foster July 4, 2002