|Battle off Samar|
|Taffy 3 comes under attack|
|Carriers under attack|
|Japanese take hits|
|Seventh Fleet's calls for help|
|Criticism of Halsey|
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."