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Battle off Samar - USS Hoel

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Battle off Samar
The forces
Taffy 3 comes under attack
USS Johnston
USS Hoel
Carriers under attack
Japanese take hits
Seventh Fleet's calls for help
Criticism of Halsey
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USS Hoel

At 07:06, when a providential rain squall helped to hide his carriers, Admiral Clifton Sprague ordered his destroyers to attack the Japanese with torpedoes. Hoel headed straight for the nearest enemy battleship, Kongō, then 18,000 yards (16.5 km) away. When she had closed to 14,000 yards (12.8 km), she opened fire as she continued her race toward the Kongō's 14 inch (356 mm) guns. A hit on her bridge knocked out all voice radio communication, but she kept her course and launched a half salvo of torpedoes at a range of 9,000 yards (8.2 km). Although the torpedoes failed to strike their target, they forced Kongō to turn sharply left and to move away from her quarry until they had run their course. Minutes later, Hoel suffered hits which knocked out three of her guns, stopped her port engine, and deprived her of her Mark-37 fire control director, FD radar, and bridge steering control. Undaunted, Hoel turned to engage the enemy column of heavy cruisers. When she had closed to within 6,000 yards (5.5 km) of the leading cruiser, Haguro, the destroyer launched a half-salvo of torpedoes which ran "hot, straight and normal." This time, she was rewarded by the sight of large columns of water which rose from her target. Although Japanese records deny that these torpedoes hit the cruiser, there is no evidence to indicate any other explanation for the geyser effect observed.

Hoel now found herself crippled and surrounded by the enemy. During the next hour, the ship rendered her final service by drawing enemy fire away from the carriers. In the process of fishtailing and chasing salvos, she peppered them with her two remaining guns. Finally at 08:30, after withstanding over 40 hits from 5 to 16 inch guns, an 8 inch (203 mm) shell stilled her remaining engine. With her engine room under water, her No. 1 magazine ablaze, and the ship listing heavily to port and settling by the stern, Hoel's captain, Commander Leon S. Kintberger, ordered his crew to "prepare to abandon ship." The Japanese fire only stopped at 08:55 when Hoel rolled over and sank in 4,000 fathoms (7300 m), after enduring 90 minutes of punishment after her first hits.

Hoel was the first of Taffy 3's ships to sink, and suffered the heaviest proportional losses. Only 86 of Hoel's complement survived; 253 officers and men died with their ship. Commander Kintberger described the courageous devotion to duty of the men of the Hoel in a seaman's epitaph: "Fully cognizant of the inevitable result of engaging such vastly superior forces, these men performed their assigned duties coolly and efficiently until their ship was shot from under them."
USS Heermann

Heermann, on the disengaged side of the carriers at the start of the fight, steamed into the action at flank speed through the formation of “baby flattops” which, after launching their last planes, formed a rough circle as they turned toward Leyte Gulf. Smoke and intermittent rain squalls had reduced visibility to less than 100 yards (90 metres), causing Heermann to back emergency full to avoid colliding with the Samuel B. Roberts and later the Hoel as she formed column on the screen flagship in preparation for a torpedo attack.

Heermann engaged the heavy cruiser Chikuma with her 5-inch guns while directing a torpedo attack at Haguro. After firing two torpedoes, Heermann changed course to engage a column of four battleships that had commenced firing upon her. She trained her guns on the battleship Kongo, the column's leader, and launched three torpedoes. Then she quickly closed on the battleship Haruna, the target of her last three torpedoes, launched at 08:00 from a mere 4,400 yards (4000 meters). Believing that one of the torpedoes had hit the battleship, the destroyer retired without being hit. Japanese records claim that the battleship successfully evaded all of the torpedoes, but the attack slowed down the pursuit of the American carriers. The Yamato found herself bracketed between two of Heermann's torpedoes on parallel courses and for ten minutes, was forced to head away from the action. Heermann then engaged the other Japanese battleships at such close range that they could not return fire due either to inability to sufficiently depress their guns or for fear of hitting their own ships.

Heermann sped to the starboard quarter of the carrier formation to lay more concealing smoke and then charged back into the fight a few minutes later, placing herself between the escort carriers and a column of four enemy heavy cruisers. Here she engaged Chikuma in a duel which seriously damaged both ships. A series of 8 inch hits flooded the forward part of the U.S. destroyer, pulling her bow down so far that her anchors were dragging in the water, while one of her guns was knocked out. The cruiser also came under heavy air attack during the engagement. Under the combined effort of Heermann’s guns and the bombs, torpedoes, and strafing from carrier-based planes, Chikuma finally disengaged but sank during her withdrawal.

As Chikuma turned away, the heavy cruiser Tone exchanged fire with Heermann until the latter reached a position to resume laying smoke for the carriers. At this point, planes from Admiral Felix Stump's Taffy 2 damaged Tone so severely that she too broke off action and withdrew. Though hit, Heerman was the only destroyer from the screen to survive.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 April 2009 19:51 )  

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