The Official Newsletter of the
Shenandoah Valley Chapter #313
Korean War Veterans Association
(Cont. from Page 5.)
heavy damage and turn the Southern prong of this attack around. This force was held in place by the Seventh’s overall commander Adm. Thomas Kincaid for fear the Southern Force may return.
The northerly most portion of the taskforce, Taffy 3, commanded by Rear Adm. Thomas Sprague comprised of six escort carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer escorts, was alone and right in the path of the main Japanese battle fleet approaching through the San Bernardino Strait. This fleet contained four battleships (two of which were the Yamato and the Musashi, two of the largest war ships afloat), six heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, eleven destroyers and a submarine.
Yamato and Musashi anchored in the waters off of the Truk Islands in 1943.
What ensued was one of the most remarkable sea battles ever recorded. For these seven little destroyers and destroyer escorts with air support from the escort carriers fought the mightiest of the Japanese Navy.
When Adm. Sprague realized hopelessness of the situation and determined that if they were going down they would go down fighting, he released the DDs and DEs from their screening responsibilities and ordered them to attack the Japanese fleet.
This attack would be with torpedoes and 5 inch deck guns against heavily armored and heavily armed ships up to ten times larger. The Yamato itself weighed almost as much as all thirteen ships of Taffy 3. One of her three main gun turrets weighed as much as an entire destroyer. Her main guns were 18.1 inch, the biggest ever that was put to sea. Her armor was 16 inches wide at the waterline and two feet thick on the gun turrets.
In the words of the commanding officer of one of the destroyer escorts going into battle “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” He survived but his ship and 90 of its crew did not. If ever there was any significance to the well-worn phrase “In keeping with the very highest tradition of the U.S. Navy” it resonated true that day.
These “Tin Cans” for two and a half hours fought the mighty Japanese fleet causing it to turn and hightail for home with the loss of one heavy cruiser and severe damage to several other ships. The victory came at a very high cost, two of the DDs, one of the DEs and two of the CVEs were sunk with the loss of 860 lives and heavy damage to most of the other ships.
(Cont. on Page 7.)