Typhoon Cobra – December 1944


Today marks the 70th anniversary of the intersection of the infamous Typhoon Cobra and the ships of Task Force 38 and service ships of TF 30 (tankers and support vessels)  east of the Philippine Archipelago.   The following is excerpted from Frank Studenski’s War Diary:

December 17, 1944:   Today we left the area and tried to refuel, but the weather was too bad, we are running into a typhoon.  The weather is getting bad, the sea is very rough and the wind is picking up.  We have all loose gear lashed down and an inboard life line was put up on the main deck.  For lunch we had sandwiches and coffee.  By late this afternoon the wind picked up to 60 knots.  Some of the ships, especially destroyers are having trouble keeping onn ststion.  I had to secure myself with bunk straps to keep from falling out of my bunk.  I did not get much sleep because of the rolling nd pitching.  Wea re making rolls of 30 degrees or more.  The waves are twenty feet high.  I am not getting any sleep and most of the other people are not getting any sleep either.

December 18, 1944:  This morning the weather is really bad.  Some of the destroyers are low on fuel and the sea is so bad they can not fuel from the tankers.  The CVE’s are having a lot of problems, planes are breaking loose in the hangar deck and starting fires.  The carrier Independence reported two men overboard. The carrier Monterey has a fire in her hangar deck and can only  make five knots.  The sea looks like mountains; no one can walk straight.  Quite a few men were hurt by the rolling of the ship.  Sandwiches and coffee were served for dinner and supper.  We made a roll of 46 degrees, which is past the danger point.  We lost one of our planes over the side from the force of the wind.  No one is allowed on the main deck – it is under water every time we roll.  The battleship Massachusetts is dead in the water.  The winds picked up with gusts of 93 knots.  Some of the destroyers report they are in danger of capsizing.  Besides the loss of one plane, we also have 20mm gun tub damage.  We were pretty lucky.  The height of the waves must be 30 to 40 feet.  About 35 men were washed over the side, most of them from the carriers.  We received some bad news, two destroyers were lost in the storm, Spence and Hull, two other destroyers are missing, some survivors were picked up. The winds picked up by late afternoon to over 100 knots.  The sea is a little calmer and by 2400 then winds died down.  I did not get to sleep tonight.  I want to stay awake in case the ship rolls over.


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On November 14, 1943, the heavy cruiser USS Boston, full of 18 and 19 year-old freshly minted sailors, slipped her lines and headed off to the War in the Pacific.  The ship transited the Panama Canal en route to Pearl Harbor (by way of San Francisco) on November 25.  The crew celebrated the first Thanksgiving aboard the brand-new ship somewhere off the coast of California on November 27.

The second Thanksgiving was celebrated in dry-dock anchorage at Manus Island, south of the equator.  By then, the battle-hardened men had endured many months of non-stop combat action.  They were far, far, far away from home.  Many more tough months lie ahead.

Their third Thanksgiving was celebrated off the eastern shores of Japan.  The war was over, but their duty was not.  Many of the original crew was still on board, and many would spend their third Christmas on the ship before the final reurn home in January 1946.

Three Thanksgivings, three Christmases.  Those holidays would never be the same.


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Veteran’s Day


As we take time to honor our Veterans on Tuesday, November 11, let us reflect for a moment on the history of our world.  Is there anything more constant in the recorded histories of all regions and nations than War?

What does that say about us (humans)?  I don’t have an answer, I’m just posing the question.  How many millions of men and women have “answered the call” throughout the ages?

On November 11,  Americans celebrate Veterans Day  –   an echo of Armistice Day (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month)  –  which was, as we know, the War to End All Wars. Since then, there have only been a few decades of peace for Americans.  We have lots of Veterans in this country – from men and women in their twenties to the last of the WWII vets who are in their nineties.  To these folks we say, Thank You.

Let us give an extra thought and prayer to the Veterans who have survived armed conflict, and who are left to sort out their experiences for the rest of their lives.

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”         Jose Narosky

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Second Battle of the Philippine Sea


By the middle of October, the Combined Imperial Japanese Imperial Navy began heading for the Philippines to try to thwart American amphibious landings up and down the archipelago.  The landings on Leyte were the final straw for them.  The series of battles lasted three days (Oct. 23 – Oct. 28).

The Japanese were, by then, ill-equipped to wage a naval battle against Task Force 38.  Their ships had been pummeled by carrier planes in mid-June’s Battle of the Philippine Sea, during which they lost some 450 seasoned carrier pilots as their planes were shot down during the infamous Marianas Turkey Shoot.  In addition, American attacks (both from submarines and from the air) had systematically decimated Japanese shipping.  They had effectively lost access to  refined diesel oil, and had modified their ship engines to burn crude oil.  Each gallon of crude was priceless by then, and the fleet was limited to only absolutely necessary sorties.  The battles for Leyte Gulf qualified as an absolute necessity.

Over the course of those three days, there were three distinct “battles”  There were heavy losses on both sides.  Task group 38.1, which had been ordered by Halsey to turn around and head at full speed back to the Philippines on the 23rd, was redirected on the 25th to give chase to the Japanese “decoy fleet” travelling at full speed north and east of Leyte.  So the Boston steamed at 33 knots chasing the enemy task group of carriers and cruisers.  Once again, Halsey wanted to catch up to them and have a ship-to-ship battle.  Eventually, the distance was too great, and he had to settle for a very risky late-afternoon sortie of carrier bombers to the job.   The Japanese Navy was decimated, and was never the same again.

By October 28, the Boston made it back to Ulithi, one day after the Crippled Cruisers limped into the anchorage.

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Late October


By the 18th, Task Unit 30.3.1 had morphed into TU 30.3.2 as all the capital ships were redeployed back into their respective task groups.  The Boston, flagship of Cruiser Division 10, was now the only capital ship protecting the two crippled cruisers on their long journey to Ulithi.  Twenty miles away, the carrier Cabot remained until the 20th, when she rejoined TG38.2.    TU 30.3.2 (made up of two fleet tugs, two damaged cruisers, five destroyers and the Boston) was joined on the 19th by two more fleet tugs and a rescue ship.

On the 20th, Boston got orders to rejoin Task Group 38.1, and they head west at full speed.  The Japanese Navy is heading towards the Philippines, intending to break up the American invasion at Leyte Gulf. On the 21st, the ship rejoins TG38.1.  The Group is ordered to refuel the next day, and later that evening they got orders to turn east to Ulithi for reprovisioning. The group is still heading for Ulithi on the 24th, when they are ordered to reverse course AGAIN and proceed at full speed towards the Sibuyan Sea.  The Combined Japanese fleet has been spotted.  They are heading toward Leyte.

Next: The Battles for Leyte Gulf (also known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea)


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