Typhoons and Hurricanes: The Effects of Cyclonic Winds on U.S. Naval Operations
Pacific Typhoon: 18 December 1944
Operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas During the Month of December 1944
[11 pages of information not related to the typhoon]
67. On 18 December, many units of the Third Fleet, while attempting to fuel east of the Phippines, were overtaken by an unusually severe typhoon which formed near the force, resulting in the capsizing and sinking of three destroyers, (Hull, Monaghan, and Spence), as well as considerable damage to other units.
68. As a result of high-speed steaming incident to carrier strikes on Luzon carried out on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of December, many destroyers were low on fuel, and further strikes scheduled to start on the 19th made it imperative that all units be refueld expeditiously at a redezvous within reach of launching positions.
69. In spite of increasing heavy weather, efforts were made to start fueling on the 17th, but without much success. A different rendezvous, which the Commander Third Fleet estimated would be clear of the approaching storm, was designated for refueling on the 18th. On that date, however, it was discovered that the typhoon was following a path considerably to the southward of the estimated track, and that the northernmost units of the fleet were almost directly in its path. Photographs of the radar PPI scope of the Wasp showed clearly the center of the storm, which passed about 35 miles to the north of that vessel.
70. The average strength of wind reported by various units ranged from 50 to at least 75 knots, with gusts as high as 115 to 120 knots. Mountainous and confused seas built up, and barometric pressures as low as 26.8 inches were recorded.
71. Some of the destroyers caught in the worst part of the storm found themselves unable to change course by use of any combination of engines and rudder, and various units experienced rolls in excess of 70°. Such extreme rolling evidently exceeded the stability range of lightly ballasted destroyers, especially those with considerable free liquid surface in their tanks and bilges. As a result, the Hull, Spence, and Monaghan capsized. At least two others, the Dewey and Aylwin, had narrow escapes from the same fate. The difficulties encountered by units of the force are treated in greater detail in Annex B.
72. The lighter airplane carriers also suffered considerably. A total of 146 airplanes were lost, including eight blown everboard from the battleships, and eleven from the cruisers. The replacemnt escort carriers lost 86 of this total from their decks. The greater part of the reaminder either got adrift, or were destroyed by fires which broke out on the Monterey, Cowpens, and San Jacinto (CVLs) as a result of damage to plane gas tanks. These vessels also received considerrable structural damage to their hangar decks from planes and other material adrift. A great deal of radar and radio equipment was wrecked on various ships, creating a serious situation in view of impending operations.
73. Extensive searches of the area, conducted by many ships and aircraft on the 19th, 20th and 21st of December resulted in picking up a few survivors from the lost destroyers: 7 officers and 55 men from the Hull, 1 officer and 23 men from the Spence, and 6 men from the Monaghan. A total about 790 men and officers were lost.
74. The Tabberer (DE 418) rescued 5 officers and 36 men of the Hull, and 14 men from the Spence, although herself dismasted by the storm. (see Annex B) A total of 37 other survivors was picked up by the Swearer, Brown, Robert F. Keller, Knapp, and Gatling.
[58 pages of information not related to the typhoon]
Annex B: The December Typhoon
1. The effects of the particularly severe typhoon, which passed very close to the units of the Third Fleet on 18 December, have been discussed briefly in the main body of this report, "Third Fleet Operations". The loss of the three destroyers Hull, Monaghan, and Spence; the loss of life; and total damage to other units of the Third Fleet, represented a more crippling blow to that fleet than it might be expected to suffer in anything less than a major action.
2. In order to acquaint naval officers, who were not eyewitnesses, with the devastating effects of such a storm, this Annex includes quotations from a number of the more graphic accounts submitted by officers of the ships which suffered serious damage.
3. The lessons to be learned from this disaster have already been presented to the Pacific fleet in a Circular Letter (14CL-45), and will not be repeated here.
Action Reports Extracts
USS Hull (DD 350)
USS Dewey (DD 349)
USS Aylwin (DD 355)
USS Buchanan (DD 484)
USS Benham (DD 796)
USS Tabberer (DE 418)
USS Nawman (DE 416)
USS Waterman (DE 740)
USS Monterey (CVL 26)
USS Independence (CVL 22)
USS San Jacinto (CVL 30)
USS Altamaha (CVE 18)
USS Kwajalein (CVE 98)
Hull (DD 350)
"I also received a report during the morning from the Engineer Officer, that we were well above the required ballasting point, having between 125 and 120 thousand gallons of fuel aboard. This represented a little over 70% of our practicable fueling capacity. In view of the fact that the ship was riding the seas satisfactorily at the time, and that I estimated that we would be fueled on short notice as soon as the heavy weather abated, I did not consider ballasting advisable....
At a time I estimate roughly about 1130, the seas became mountainous, and the wind increased to hurricane proportions . . . . Considerable damage was occurring as the sea grew worse. The motor whaleboat was smashed in at the bow, and finally was torn clear of the boat davits, falling into the sea. Several depth charges were torn loose from the K-guns and were lost overboard. All charges were set on safe, so no damage was done by them. The smokestacks were under terrific strain because of the wind. Up until shortly before the ship turned over, I was greatly concerned that either or both of the stacks might be torn off the ship. One of the pad eyes supporting the mast stay pulled out at the deck. Just before the ship went over I estimated that if one of the stacks had been torn or cut loose, it might have lowered the center of wind pressure on the hull sufficiently to reduce the ship's rolling, but at this point no man could have possibly existed in an exposed position topside long enough to do the job; he would have been quickly blown overboard. Several of the metal covers on ammunition ready boxes were ripped completely off the boxes by the wind. The bridge structure was under such great strain that I was greatly concerned that the structure itself or a portion thereof might be torn off the ship.
In endeavoring to alleviate the heavy rolling of the ship, I tried every possible combination of rudder and engines, with little avail. An attempt was made to bring the ship's head into the sea, but she would not respond. Then an attempt was made to turn away from the wind, and bring it as far on the port quarter as possible, but again the ship would not answer. It was apparent that no matter what was done with the rudder and engines, the ship was being blown bodily before the wind and sea, yawing between headings of 100º and 080º true. At all times until the ship went over, the true wind was from approximately north, which was most of the time abaft the beam.
Shortly before noon, steering control went out on the bridge, but was regained in the steering motor room in a few minutes. The engine telegraphs went out for awhile, but were also reported operating satisfactorily in a few minutes. The chief engineer . . . . reported at this time that the forward fireroom blowers had stopped because of heavy amounts of water being taken down the intakes, The after fire room was reported as having taken over, and it is believed that all bells were properly answered...
At this tine the ship took several deep rolls because of high velocity wind gusts. I estimated the rolls to have been about 70 degrees. At one time the Junior Officer of the Deck was catapulted from the port side of the pilot house completely through the air to the upper portion of the starboard side of the pilot house...
Shortly after twelve 'o'clock the ship withstood what I estimated to be the worst punishment any storm could offer. She had rolled about 70 degrees and righted herself just as soon as the wind gust reduced a bit . . . . Just at this point the wind velocity increased to an unbelievable high point which I estimated at 110 knots. The force of this wind laid the ship steadily over on her starboard side, and held her down in the water until the seas came flowing into the pilot house itself. The ship remained over on her side (starboard) at an angle of 80 degrees or more as the water flooded into her upper structures. I remained on the port wing of the bridge until the water flooded up to me, and I stepped off into the water as the ship rolled over on her way down. The suction effect of the hull was felt, but it was not very strong. Shortly after, I felt the concussion of the boilers exploding under water. The effect was not very strong, and caused me no ill effects. I concentrated my efforts thereafter to trying to keep alive in the mountainous seas which pounded us."
Dewey (DD 349)
4. At about 1000 on 18 December, Dewey was steaming on course 180º, wallowing in a quartering sea, but still under control. In order to avoid collision with a carrier which appeared ahead, she came left to 130º, and slowed to 5 knots.
"This slackening of speed, and turn into the wind, resulted almost at once in partial loss of control of the ship. Dewey crossed through her formation from starboard to port. Despite hard rudder and every possible engine combination, it was impossible to come back to the right. It was found that 2/3 ahead on the port engine and 1/3 ahead on the starboard engine, with full right rudder, kept the ship's head close to steady, although even then it persisted in falling slowly to the left (in swinging between 090º and 070º).
At 1015, the barometer read 29.09", wind force 15, from 035º, and the sea had built up considerably, to about force 6. Under these conditions the ship began to pound heavily, and it was necessary to slow to l/3 ahead on the port engine.
With the sea broad on the port bow, the ship rolled heavily to starboard, and lubricating oil suction was lost On almost every roll of 40 degrees or more, necessitating the engines to be stopped. This gradually slackened what little bit of 'way on' we had, and left us practically dead in the water. (It should be noted here that we had previously also tried to head further to the left, into the wind, but not only was this less satisfactory from the standpoint of poundingit was just as impossible to turn the ship to the left as it was to turn it right!). We therefore found ourselves oat a heading of about 090º; almost exactly in the trough of the sea, the wind direction shifting constantly to the left!
Sometimes before this, when it became apparent that the wind and sea would be continually from the port side, Commander Destroyer Squadron One directed that the ship be heavily ballasted to port. This order, was carried out at once, and at maximum pumping rate all the port side fuel oil tanks. were filled to capacity; resulting in an unbalanced distribution, with about 30 thousand gallons more to port. (Dewey was at this time fueled to 76% capacity).
The barometer continued to fall rapidly, wind and sea continued to increase, The ship was rolling very heavily to starboard (45º to 55º). Condition 'AFIRM' was set in an spaces. All hands were directed to remain inside, and all hands were further ordered to move to, and remain on, the port side of the ship. (This required little urgingmost of them were already complying voluntarily!).
By 1100, the barometer read 28.84"; wind was force 17, from 030º True, sea force 7, and we were rolling even more heavily to starboard (50º to 60º). At this time, several things occurred in rapid succession; steering control was lost from the bridge due to short circuiting of the switchboard in the steering motor room (sea and spray leaked through the mushroom ventilator despite all efforts to make it watertight), and was shifted to hand steering, holding constant full right rudder; lube oil suction was again lost and all engines stopped; heavy seas leaked through engine race hatches (which were dogged down as tightly as they would go), short circuiting the main switchboard, and causing loss, of light and power; pounding seas sprung #1 fireroom starboard hatch open, flooding the air lock and leaking water into the fireroom; seas entered through #2 main forced draft lower blower intake (located on main deck forward starboard) 500 or 1000 gallons at a time, and the situation seemed to be going from bad to worse.
Word had been passed to the steering motor room to form a bucket brigade and keep the water bailed out. Steam fire and bilge and main circulating pumps were reported pumping in the engine rooms and #1 fireroom, and apparently were well able to handle the inflow of ocean.
At about 1130, sound powered telephone circuits began to go 'dead' and in about fifteen minutes, Bridge had contact with C.I.C., and Wardroom, by voice tube. (Mouthpieces were full of salt water). The fierce wind which was raging against us by this tine was such as no one on board had ever experienced before! The spray, driven horizontally across the surface, blotted out the sea from the sight of those of us on the bridge, and felt like a barrage of thousand of needles against the face and hands. It was impossible to stand against the gale without bracing against the ship's structure. The needle-like spray removed the paint from metal surfaces in many places like a sand blaster. No one had a stitch of dry clothing (nor had we had for hours) and we were in constant danger of falling overboard into the sea almost every time the ship rolled to starboard. By this time (1210) our roll had increased to a consistent 65º, and several officers personally witnessed the inclinometer needle bang against the stop at 73º, hang there for several seconds (while the ship continued to roll - hang - and then after a breathless eternity, roll back). Competent engine room personnel, including the Chief Machinist's Mate, later reported that the engine roan inclinometer also rested against its stop (about 75º) on two or three occasions.
The barometer was still going down - until it finally went completely off the scale, and still kept going! It was so nearly unbelievable that a few of the unusual occurrences must of necessity be related in order to better afford a full appreciation of the situation. For example: On one occasion, an officer fell straight across the pilot house from port to starboard grabbing a stanchion with both hands on the way, he hung with both feet completely clear of the deck by several feet, pointed directly down at the starboard side, until the ship righted herself several seconds later. An adding machine fell from the cabinet top in one officer's room straight through to the room opposite without ever striking the deck, and finally hit the bulkhead about three feet above deck level. A tube of toothpaste fell across a living compartment from the port longitudinal angle iron, and landed in the corresponding longitudinal angle iron on the starboard side!
During this tine, ComDesRon ONE authorized removal of any removable topside weight, but this was considered too dangerous since almost all removable weights were on weather decks which were constantly swept by wind and sea. For a time it was considered advisable to cut off the mast at bridge level; but when cutting equipment arrived on the bridge several minutes later, this too was believed dangerous, since it involved strong possibility of the yardarm punching a hole in the side of the ship.
It was inconceivable that the ship could continue to 'take it". On several occasions, the starboard (lee) wing of the bridge dipped under and scooped up solid green water! None of us had ever heard at a ship righting herself from such a rollbut this one did!
The storm continued to grow even worse, and at about 1230, the number one stack pulled out from its mooring at the top of the uptake (boat deck level), and fell across the ship, finally hanging limply, completely flattened, over the starboard side of the main deck. This also carried away our whaleboat (which had been scooping water on every roll), and the forward boat davit. Apparently this loss of stack, boat, and davit was a good thing. Almost immediately there was a perceptible change for the better in the way the ship rode.
Loss of the stack had several serious disadvantages, however. It caused several flarebacks in #1, fireroom, (burning away the underdrawers of one man almost completely), and permitted additional opening to the sea. Also, the steam line to the whistle and siren carried any, and we vented precious boiler pressure steam to the atmosphere for many minutes before it was possible to shut it off.
The engineers on watch remained faithfully at their posts, and by their combined efforts in maintaining boiler pressure and operating the pumps, they performed the real work of keeping the ship afloat!
At about 1300, the barometer reached its lowest point (27.30 estimated, since it was off the scale), and at 1340 showed its first slight 'rise. We had passed the center of the storm!
During the slight slackening of the wind and sea, which occurred near the center, communications with the engine room spaces was established by messenger. All main propulsion machinery was ready for operation, but since we had safely depended on the ship to bring us through, and had weathered the first half by merely lying to, it was decided to try the same method during the second half.
The remainder was almost the exact duplicate of what had gone before, but to an infinitesimal degree not quite so bad, and at about 1800, we were safely through, on a mean heading of 270º True, barometer 29.18", wind force 14, from 240º, sea force 6, at which the we went ahead 1/3 on both engines, and were quickly out of danger.
The behavior of the officers and crew throughout this 10-hour ordeal was a sight which will, never be forgotten. Faced with the constant threat of sudden (seemingly certain) death, there was never the slightest display of panic. Every man was completely calm, and the supply of volunteers who offered to perform tasks which would have been practically suicide had they been allowed to attempt them, was inexhaustible. It can be truly said that this ship's company (and the ship) conducted themselves in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service!
. . . .Except for minor injuries, there were no casualties to, or loss of personnel."
5. The squadron commander (Captain P. V. Mercer) was on board the Dewey during the typhoon, and reports as follows:
"It is an unfortunate characteristic of the Farragut Class that they lose lubricating oil suction when they heel and recover slowly. Each time the Captain tried to come right to get the sea astern, lubricating oil suction was lost, and the ship could not maneuver....I directed the Captain to ballast as heavily as be could to port, since it was evident we would be in the dangerous semicircle. All port tanks were filled, requiring the transfer of 30,000 gallons of oil, which would normally account for about a 20º list. At this time we ware headed about 070º. The barometer dropped very rapidly, eight tenths in one hour. The heavy rolling, and the necessity for keeping the engine rooms closed, soon caused the main distribution board to accumulate enough moisture from the steam in the engine room, to require the power to be taken off it. Internal communications were lost, and, as the ship continued to roll heavily, the engines could not be used . . . .One window was blown completely out and across the bridge, after which we lowered the others to reduce the sail area, and prevent possible casualties. Having no anemometer, we could make no accurate estimate of the. force, but it was. very much stronger than I have ever experienced, and I have on several occasions been in 50 to 75 knot winds.
Due to the pressure of the wind, there was a constant list to the starboard about 20º, with the seas rolling us on over, assisted by stronger gusts of wind....The ship took some water, especially in the higher levels, when we heeled deeply. For instance, the radar room on the forecastle deck level just aft of my cabin, was repeatedly flooded through a ventilator at deck level . . . .
Some interesting and amusing minor incidents occurred to corroborate the angle of heel.. The doctor, who had joined the night before we departed Ulithi and who had only been in the Navy since late October, and a patient, fell from the port to starboard side of the Wardroom without, touching deck or overhead, when the bunk they were holding onto broke loose . . . .
One young men who found himself standing upright on a normally vertical stanchion said, 'Look! No hands!'
Aylwin (DD 355)
6. Aylwin struck below the ready service ammunition and topside stores at about 1700 on 17 December, when the storm became imminent. She was unable to take fuel before the storm struck.
"1100 weather conditions extreme. Barometer 28.58", wind shifting to North, force 15, Hurricane. TG 30.8 changed course to 220 degrees (T), and Increased speed to 12 knots. Immediately on putting rudder over five degrees right, ship swung rapidly to right to course 260 degrees (T), and rolled 70 degrees to port and stayed there for at least 15 seconds. Stopped engines. Engine room blowers stopped. When ship righted, attempted to bring ship's head back to 140 degrees (T) with various engine and rudder combinations and then into the wind, with no results. Any way on ship increased roll; finally, by putting rudder into wind and backing, succeeded in getting to heading 150 degrees (T). Lost control of rudder, stopped engines. Ship swung back to 220 degrees (T) again and rolled 70 degrees to port, staying there 15 seconds, but only righted to 60 degrees after this bad roll; then staying between 30 and 70 degrees for about 20 minutes. Boat broke loose, carrying away both davits. At 1120 regained control of rudder and put it over ten degrees right to bring stern up into wind, using bow as sail surface and current producing same effect as backing. This kept ship's head such that wind was maintained about 30 degrees abaft the port beam. Frequently the ship would come right into trough, and roll heavily . . . .1330 abandoned engine rooms; temperatures 180 degrees plus due to failure of blowers. Engines not in use. Hatches closed to keep out water . . . .1950 leak reported in engine room. Three fire and bilge, three submersible, and one main circulator pumps put into operation. Water one foot above floor plates, 1950 material condition Afirm set; all hands donned life jackets. Repair parties shored up both fare and aft engineering room bulkheads from fireroom and shaft alley sides respectively. 2000, weather steadily improving."
Buchanan (DD 484)
7. The Buchanan was very light, having only 15 percent burnable fuel aboard. After unsuccessful attempts to fuel on 17 December, she cast off and started taking ballast immediately. At 0730 on the 18th, when fueling was canceled, she was partially ballasted, having two tanks full.
"0800 lost power forwardregained it at 0818, but had no lights forward; forward switchboard flooded through ventilation ducts . . . . At about 0900 fleet course changed to 220º; this put us broadside to a force 12 (or greater) wind and condition 8 sea, and we began rolling dangerously to port. By using maximum power on the engines we were just able to come to course 1200, but not before losing power to the gyro compass due to flooding through the exhaust vent outside the issue room. At 1020, lost electrical power momentarily and slipped off the course and into the trough of the sea. Rolled a recorded 54º to port several times. Engine rooms and firerooms started taking water through topside vents and hatch on the torpedo deck, and water entered stacks. Stores stowed on deck house broke loose and increased list to port. All hands were ordered to starboard side of ship when, fortunately, power came on momentarily and the loudspeaker system could be used. Everyone bailed, jettisoned loose stores, used axes to punch holes in 20mm machine gun shields to get rid of water increasing list. By using maximum power on engines finally got back to course 120º, and with the wind about dead astern commenced running before the wind. Advised CTU 30.8.2, and received rendezvous for next day. For the men below decks in the dark, it was a fearful moment, and when they were ordered to the starboard side they went silently and without question. This maneuver probably saved the ship. As electrical failures due to flooding cut down our available pumps, we had to use one fire and bilge pump to keep cooling water to the main engine auxiliaries and lubricating oil systems. The heavy list and large amounts of water in the bilges further put out electrical pumps. The other F & B pump. was used to pump bilge water into C-9 for ballast and helping the situation. When we finally got the wind astern, we kept it there and ran out the storm. Within an hour after we steadied on course 120º, the fleet course was changed to this, and this fact alone prevented us from becoming separated. There were some exciting moments when we were close aboard other ships using relative bearing procedure and steering magnetic compass courses. Our compensation on the 8th [probable typo, likely referring to 18th compensation by ballasting for fuel not taken] was beginning to pay high dividends . . . .The ships store was flooded, ruining most of the stock . . . .The lowest barometer reading recorded during the excitement was 29.03" shortly after 1000."
Benham (DD 796)
"The ship had been in a state of readiness for heavy weather since the previous day, both boats swung in and lashed together, and all loose gear secured. Ordered all fuel tanks ballasted at 0830, when fueling operations were canceled. At 0900 secured all, exposed gun crews and set Material Condition Afirm . . . . At 1040 while on course 120º T, sighted CVE on port bow on a collision course (SW). Attempts to change course right to avoid were unsuccessful, and when range had reduced to 1000 yards full power was applied to change course left. Passed CVE abeam to starboard about 500 yards while on course 030º T. attempted to turn to southerly course to avoid storm path, but wind had increased to such velocity (estimated 70-90 knots) that ship would not turn more than 15-20º either way with full power. At 1200, wind and sea from 310º T, barometer 28.40. From this time on, the attitude of the ship remained steady during the entire storm, with the wind and sea about 10º-20º abaft the port beam; the heading of the ship changing as the wind backed, from 030º T at 1200, to 270º T at 1400. Maintained 3-4 knots steerageway. Barometer continued to drop, rapidly until 1330. At this time a checked observation of 27.60 was made. Shortly after, the readings increased at an almost violent rate . . . . It is estimated the center of the typhoon passed not more than five miles to northward of our position at 1330. This was marked by a rapid backing of the wind from 030º to 210º T. Winds reached an estimated intensity of 100 knots during the height of the storm; visibility due to whipped spray was not over 50 yards.
The ship rolled easily throughout the storm; one roll of 62º to starboard was observed during an attempt to turn left, otherwise, the average roll was about 20º. Pitching was negligible . . . .The high winds and heavy spray caused much superficial, damage to topside rigging and salt water in the interior of the ship through vent ducts, stacks, etc. Personnel moving on topside to duty stations were forced to crawl on hands end knees. The only serious casualty to the main plant was a fire in the after main switchboard which caused a power failure in the after engine room vent blowers. This engine room was untenable for 45 minutes until. power lines were rigged from the forward engine room"
Tabberer (DE 418)
"About 1115 the ship was in the trough, and could not be tuned downwind at all . . . .As much fuel. oil as possible was shifted to the port tanks to compensate for the starboard list, when it became apparent that the ship would have to ride out the storm with wind end sea on the port beam . . . .At 1230, it was estimated that the wind had increased to over 100 knots. Visibility was about 30 feet. The ship bad been riding quite well at 10 knots, rolling up to 55 degrees . . . .Maximum roll experienced was 72 degrees to starboard, the ship recovering rapidly with no hesitation at 72 degrees . . . .At 1351, the lower insulator on the main port guy to the top of the mast crumbled during a quick 60 degree roll to starboard. The loss of this insulator gave the main guy about three inches slack, and the mast began to sway back and forth slightly . . . .Soon after, the second insulator crumbled. All insulators on the small intermediate guy crumbled. The top of the mast was now swaying about eight feet, and the weld at the step of the mast broke . . . .the mast continued to whip very badly until 1815, when the top insulator of the main port guy crumbled, leaving that stay so slack that the intermediate guy took all the strain and parted immediately. This put all the strain on the main guy attached to the top of the mast, with no support halfway up the mast, which the intermediate guy had formerly given. At 1828, the mast buckled on a 50 degree roll, and the top fell over the starboard aide, crushing the starboard flag bag and the number three floater net basket. The base of the mast rested at the signal bridge level, the bull horn catching on the starboard maindeck bulwark. All engines were stopped. A cutting torch and axes had been kept standing by and the mast was cleared from the side by 1903 . . . .The ship's roll improved immediately . . . .Water entered the air vents to the engine spaces, and fell on the generators and switchboards, causing a few minor electrical shorts and sparking. The generators and switchboard were covered with canvas, and no more trouble was experienced. A canvas cover was attached to the vents taking water, and the water was led away from all electrical equipment . . . .At no time did this vessel lose power.
Nawman (DE 416)
"Headway was impossible, and we were unable to keep ship on any heading except broadside to the wind. Using 1/3 ahead on port engine with right full rudder, ship rode best. We were continuously set to the NW at about 4 or 5 knots . . .All ventilation was shut off. At 0915, due to water coming in vents. Condition Afirm no set. The foremast started bending at about 1000 and broke loose at 1630, carrying away all radar and TBS gear . . . .We rolled 62 degrees, and had to heave loose 20mm ammunition in forward ready lockers overboard. All 5" ammunition was stowed and lashed in the magazines."
Waterman (DE 740)
"This vessel us unable to remain on course 180º T, despite the use of full speed ahead or astern using both engines, or by using one engine against me other full speed. It may conceivably have been possible to bring the ship out of the trough by going ahead flank speed on both engines, but the Commending Officer considered that the strain set up on the hull might be so severe as to cause the ship to break up. The storm was ridden out in the trough of the sea, with the engines turning over at a speed of 5 knots. Considerable disturbance was caused by shipping seas into natural air intakes on the windward side of the ship, which deluged the engine room spaces, in one case knocking a man down bodily from the forward main propulsion board, However, the engine room force quickly rigged canvas screens to divert the water into the bilges, where it could be pumped overboard. In this manner, serious interruptions in main and auxiliary power were averted . . . . At 1300 the barometer reached its minimum reading of 28.15 and then began to rise very fast . . . .The maximum intensity of the storm seemed to have been about 1300, at which tine it is estimated that the force of the wind was between 100 and 120 knots. The height of the seas from trough to crest was in the neighborhood of eighty feet. Most of the time, vision was completely obscured by the flying spume and rain. The ship rolled constantly over 45º and at one time the inclinometer registered a roll of 63º. However, this is not felt to be entirely accurate because of the pendulum movement of this type of inclinometer. Although rolling heavily, the ship seemed to ride fairly well, and there was no particular concern regarding the danger of capsizing."
Monterey (CVL 26)
"At 0813(I), 18 December, the formation course was changed from 060 degrees (T) to 160 degrees (T), which placed the wind and sea on the starboard quarter. The ship began rolling heavily at this time, flight quarters was sounded, and all hands in the Air Department, assisted by other off-watch personnel, were turned to, to chock and add to the securing lines and cables on the aircraft. It was, however, almost impossible for men to work on the flight deck, due to roll and heavy winds. At 0838, rolls of 34 degrees were recorded. At this time, four VF aircraft on the flight deck broke loose from their moorings and went over the port side at frame 143, carrying away the landing signal officer's platform and safety nets. At this time, the storm was increasing in intensity, with a wind of sixty-five knots, heavy seas, and barometer falling rapidly. At 0906, another VF airplane went overboard on the port side frame 130. At this time, men could no longer work on the flight deck, due to wind and roll.
At 0908, the hangar deck reported a plane adrift. At 0910 an explosion was felt, followed immediately by a report that a bad fire had broken out on the hangar deck in the vicinity of frame 77. Fire quarters was sounded immediately, followed by general quarters. The task group Commander was notified that a serious fire existed, and that the Commanding Officer intended to alter course to starboard in order to seek a heading on which the ship would ride more easily. The course as was changed to 240 degrees (T).
In the hangar deck a VF airplane had broken loose free its securing lines, and crashed into a plane on the port side, puncturing the gasoline tanks in both planes. The explosion and fire followed almost immediately. The planes had been degassed, but considerable residual gasoline remained in the after ends of all belly tanks, which cannot be evacuated by degassing suction. The fire spread rapidly throughout the hangar deck, but particularly through the central section, as loose planes crashed back end forth. The fire enveloped the conflagration station immediately, and an explosion blew open the trap door which permits, access to this station from the hangar, and the sprinkling system could not be immediately energized. Loose wreckage ruptured supply ventilation ducts on the port side of the hangar, and permitted smoke to fill all engineering spaces except the after engine room within a period of two minutes, and forced the temporary abandonment of these spaces until rescue breathing apparatus could be donned. From then on, during the period of the fire, skeleton engineering crew manned the forward engine room and both firerooms, using rescue breathing apparatus. The entire hangar deck sprinkling system was operated from controls in the machinery spaces, and operated most efficiently, but water free this source added further to difficulties, due to flooding of machinery spaces through the ruptured supply ventilation ducts. Sufficient steam pressure was at all times maintained to operate auxiliary machinery, but since power was being lost due to smoke and flooding, the commanding officer, at 0924, put the ship dead in the water in order to conserve steam and ensure ability to continue fighting the fire. At 0918, an explosion occurred on the port side of the ship in the vicinity of frame 75 on the second and third deck, and a fire resulted from this explosion in the laundry space on the third deck. This was caused by the fire being transmitted to spaces below through ruptured supply ventilation ducts. The heat in the hangar was intense, endangering ready-service magazines around both sides of the flight deck amidships. These had been manned, and sprinklers operated, except on the 40mm and 20mm sectors 1 and 2, where there was no water pressure. In these sectors, ready ammunition and ammunition in the ready service magazines was jettisoned by gun crews and air group pilots. At 0916, it us reported that the ship's gasoline system was secure, and that the gasoline pump rooms had been flooded properly with carbon dioxide.
Almost immediately after fire had broken out, two additional aircraft wore lost overboard from the flight deck on the port side between frames 80 and 83, carrying away transmitting antennas and damaging 20mm guns.
At 0924 it was necessary to secure fires in No. 2 fire room, due to flooding by scalding water from the hangar deck via ruptured ventilation systems. At 0935, the fire was pretty well isolated to the central section of the hangar deck. At this time, the ship was hove to on a heading of approximately 255 degrees (T), and riding easily with a maximum roll of 11 degrees. The wind was increasing in Intensity, and the seas becoming heavy. At 0942, Commander Task Group 38.1 directed the New Orleans (CA 32), Twining (DD 540), and McCord (DD 534) to stand by the Monterey. At 0950, the fire on the hangar deck was under control, with a total of ten hoses, all equipped with fog nozzles playing directly into the heart of the fire, and the entire sprinkling system rapidly cooling the hangar, permitting personnel to work more effectively. All fires were reported out at 1025. At this time, the wind had definitely commenced backing, and was from 330 degrees, force of 70 knots with gusts to 90 knots. The ship was riding. easily on a southwesterly heading. At 1050 the ship was ready to go ahead on boilers No. 1 and 2, but due to the force of the storm, to hot wreckage throughout the hangar and the difficult task of safely securing this wreckage, it was considered best to remain dead in the water until the ship was in all respects considered safe. Possible shifting of wreckage in the hangar deck was a matter of grave concern to the commanding officer since it easily could have caused additional fires to break out. However, no additional damage resulted from the time the fires were out at 1025. All power and lighting on the hangar deck had been disconnected at the distribution boards . . . ."
8. Damage included the loss of seven, aircraft from the flight deck, and 11 others on the hangar deck damaged beyond repair. Approximately two-thirds of the hangar was gutted, and considerable structural and electrical damage was suffered in the vicinity.
Independence (CVL 22)
"We were steaming at 12 knots, but were forced to back one engine to change course. Around 1300, we passed the storm center 17 miles sway to the northeast, traveling in an opposite direction to our course. The wind at that time was up to 84 knots in gusts. The maximum roll during the storm was 34 degrees to port, a new high for this ship. Damage done to the ship, however, was relatively light. The aircraft, securely lashed to the deck, had not budged. At about 0830, a heavy roll caused a section of the bomb stowage to carry away, permitting nearly 25 tons of bombs, including 9 blockbusters, to roll around the bomb magazine like beer kegs. By noon, however, all bombs had been shored to prevent further movement, and a dangerous situation had been corrected with only minor damage to the stowage. Our whale boat was lifted out of its skids by a wave, smashed, and carried overboard. Shipfitters' stores, stowed in the after elevator pit, carried away and, in sliding back and forth in the pit, thoroughly mashed the potatoes stored with them."
San Jacinto (CVL 30)
"Aboard this vessel, the storm appeared to reach its greatest intensity at about 1030. At that hour, the shock of the heavy seas on our starboard quarter, the excessive rolling, (maximum roll 42 degrees) and the pitching of the ship, tore loose the heavily reinforced mooring lines, wires and deck padeyes of a fighter plane on the hangar deck. The free aircraft smashed into other aircraft likewise moored, and tore them loose, ripping out the deck eye-bolts in many instances. Spare engines, propellers, tractors, and other heavy equipment were all scrambled into the violently sliding mass, and smashed free side to side, ripping open and carrying away the unprotected flimsy air intakes and ventilation ducts. Repair parties and volunteers tried valiantly to secure the ungovernable and destructive heavy pieces item by item, and finally succeeded at about 1600, but not before a series of small electrical, and oil fires had broken out. These fires were all quickly extinguished, and did no damage. Much water from the sea, and from fire-fighting, cascaded into the lower deck spaces through the badly damaged air intakes and air supply ducts on the hangar deck to add to the toll of the damage.
"To the uninitiated, the loud sound of crashing and tearing airplanes, and the banging and tearing of the flimsy metal of the ventilation ducts, and the avalanche of heavy weights being thrown violently from side to side, and the presence of much oily water on the deck, plus a large volume of steam escaping from the ruptured atmospheric exhausts within the enclosed hangar deck space, created a wholly frightening situation. However, regardless of these frightening surroundings, men on the hangar deck were lowered from the overhead, and skidded on the deck in pendulum fashion on the end of lines into this violently moving pile of rubble, and succeeded in securing it and holding the damage to a minimum, when to do so appeared to them to be almost certain death or very serious injury.
An abbreviated summary of major items of damage follows:
Two boilers out of commission; bath evaporators out of commission; all radio transmitters except VHF and TBS out of commission; after emergency diesel out of commission; after gyro compass out of commission; galley ovens out of commission; laundry out of commission; many vent ducts torn out; most of the ventilation motors out; 7 TBMs and 1 F6F(P) damaged beyond repair."
Altamaha (CVE 18)
"Between this time and about 0930, every effort was made to hold the ship on the fleet course. This was very difficult, as the sea was making up rapidly the winds increasing, and the ship tended to yaw, roll heavily, and was in some danger of being pooped. The use of full rudder was continually necessary to maintain this heading. The heavy rolling resulted in the cargo shifting in supply storeroom A-403-A, causing breakage of ammonia bottles with consequent intense fumes in this confined area. The work of securing was accomplished only with the use of rescue breathers, and was completed by about 0845. In the meantime considerable water was flooding in over fantail, (caused by the following seas) and resulted in the after elevator well starting progressively to fill up with sea water. Most of this was shipped through the hangar deck curtains adjacent to the fantail.
At 0845 a report was received that the six-ton aircraft crane (Hyster Karry) had broken loose on the hangar deck and, carrying with it a finger lift, had wrecked three aircraft and two jeeps in its vicinity, and was in danger of breaking through the side of the ship. This piece of equipment had been well secured prior to getting underway, with half-inch wire; however, the heavy rolls had caused the deck fittings to pull completely out of the hangar deck, allowing it to get adrift. Excellent work on the part of the damage control party and the air department accomplished the securing of all this equipment again by 0930. During this time, wind and sea had increased. The barometer was now falling very rapidly, and the wind had started to veer counter-clockwise to North by West. The force at this time was estimated at over 70 knots, the starboard anemometer cups having started to carry away at a reading in excess of 60 knots. It was found impossible to maintain the course down wind without imminent danger of the ship being pooped so badly as to risk capsizing. Speed was increased to eleven and then to twelve knots in an effort to maintain control, but this resulted in long surfing runs down the swells with tremendous rolls at the end. Several instances were recorded on the inclinometer of 29º to starboard, and 31º to port, and it is believed that these figures were somewhat exceeded during the unrecorded rolls. As the Bureau of Ships has indicated that the maximum safe roll of this type vessel is 27½º, considerable anxiety was felt for the safety of the vessel, and it was felt that some other course must be taken to ride out the storm. It was found that the ship assumed a rather comfortable condition with the wind on the starboard quarter, with 30º left rudder (to head down wind), and with a low speed of seven to eight knots. Under these conditions, she rode almost in the trough of the sea, but with the wind about 20º abaft the starboard beam . . . .An attempt was made to back the ship into the wind, the engines going first one and then two thirds astern, but this had no effect in getting the ship out of the trough. Later in the afternoon, the ship was headed into the wind for a short time, but so much engine power was required to maintain steerage under these conditions, that it is not believed that the vessel would have survived the pounding which would have resulted. At about 0948, a change of fleet course of 140º was intercepted over the TBS, and it was decided to try to approximate this course by turning to port (down wind), and taking the wind and seas on the port quarter. At 1009, this was accomplished by going ahead at fifteen knots, at which speed the ship answered full rudder very sluggishly. The roll during this maneuver was tremendous, and shortly after steadying on a course of 090º with the winds from 330º, force estimated from seventy to eighty knots, the planes on the flight deck started carrying away.
. . . . Unfortunately the first plane to carry away after the change in course was immediately adjacent to the forward elevator opening, and dropped down onto the lowered elevator, completely jamming it in the down position . . . . Between this time and 1200, the planes on the after part of the flight deck began to part their securing lines, with the result that they were blown over the starboard side, carrying away life rafts, nets, lines and radio antennas, and inflicting major damage to the 20mm and 40mm battery on the whole starboard side. The wind during this period appeared to have arisen to a force or ninety to one hundred knots; its intensity was almost inconceivable. The barometer had fallen steadily throughout this period, and at 1215 reached the low point of 28.20 . . . .At 1130 a report was received on the bridge that there was a large hole in the side of the ship at the after elevator well, and that compartments below were flooding. Immediate investigation discovered that the flooding was caused by the heavy seas coming in over the fantail as previously discussed, plus a large rupture in the after fire main loop . . . .At 1130, a second plane in the vicinity of the forward elevator carried away, and crashed on top of the first on the elevator below. Planes were continually getting adrift on the flight deck, and crashing into the island, stack, or walkways, usually taking several other planes with them. Even those which did not become adrift were rapidly rendered useless and beyond repair by the terrific force of the wind. The commanding officer frequently saw the wings and tail surfaces of planes still otherwise secured, ripping bodily from their fittings and blown over the side . . . .
. . . At 1230, a third plane, which had been partially secured to the searchlight platform after getting adrift, fell over the edge of the elevator well, but was prevented from going all the way down by heavy manila securing lines. By this time most of the deck load of planes had gone over the side, only some ten renaming, and the ship was consequently riding much easier. Serious doubt exists under the conditions experienced during the afternoon, if the ship would have survived had not the deck load in question been lost . . . .
. . . A quick check showed that the wind had shifted to about 200º, with the result that the ship's heading was now 330º and that we were apparently working ourselves into the dangerous semicircle; and although somewhat south of the center of the typhoon, were heading toward its center. It was realized that the ship must again be brought around to take the wind on the opposite quarter if we were to work ourselves clear. In vies of the almost disastrous rolls resulting in turning down-wind previously, it was decided to try and turn into the eye of the wind. To do this it was necessary to go ahead, first full, and then flank speed, and turns were being made for sixteen knots before the ship could finally be brought into the wind. The intensity at this time had again increased in spite of the rising barometer, and is estimated to have been well in excess of one hundred knots. These are estimates, as the anemometer head had long since been blown away, cup by cup. As this ship has frequently experienced winds of fifty-five to sixty knots over the flight deck, and the winds in question were so far and away stronger than sixty knots relative wind, it is not believed that the forces estimated above are excessive. An idea of the intensity can be appreciated by the fact that when we reached the point of heading directly into the wind, the propellers of three or four planes still, parked on the bow began windmilling at about 200 RPM's (new engines), and a few seconds later theme planes were torn from their moorings and flung like chips over the side. After passing through the eye of the wind, a comparatively easy riding course of about 100º resulted . . . ."
9. The total of aircraft lost overboard from the Altamaha was 31, with 12 additional planes damaged beyond repair.
Kwajalein (CVE 98)
"The wind and sea continued to increase until at 0940; steering (not rudder) control was lost. The ship was accordingly hove to on the starboard tack under a dead slow bell, wind N by W, 45 knots, ship's head 290º. Although little or no directional control could be obtained, it was found that the ship seemed to ride best with the rudder over at 25 degrees right. This brought the wind and sea between one and two points forward of the starboard beam . . . .One cruiser and two destroyers were sighted, but many more ships were tracked in by radar to dangerously close ranges. Rudder and engines were accordingly handled to avoid collision, and it is assumed that other vessels involved did likewise. It is estimated that the full throw of the rudder from side to side resulted in no more than a ten degree change in the ship's head throughout most of the blow..
Severe pounding was encountered from time to time when the flat stern dropped on a rising sea after being lifted clear. The effect of the resultant working of the flight deck expansion joints, probably exaggerated by the aircraft riding up and down on their landing gears as the ship labored, was startling and wonderful to behold. Maximum indicated wind velocities of 80 knots (end of the scale) were encountered between 1100 and 1200. No attempt is made to estimate gusts in excess of that figure. A maximum roll to port of 39 degrees was observed, and is so reported in spite of the First Lieutenant, who maintains that such a roll was impossible with the loading obtaining at the time. Lowest barometer reading was 29.19 at 1300."
Rescue of Survivors by Tabberer.
10. Since Tabberer was successful in rescuing by far the greater number of survivors, a brief account of her activities is of interest.
11. In the vicinity of the Tabberer, the storm reached its peak at 1230 on the 18th, and by 1930 had died down considerably. At 2130, one of her crew heard a shout and saw a light in the water. The ship maneuvered to pick up the man, who was found to be a survivor from the Hull.
12. Tabberer proceeded to search the area, and succeeded in rescuing nine more men by 2320, During the rest of the night, 2 men were picked up, and after daylight, 15 additional survivors were located and pulled in by 0950. Further rescues were made at 1406, 1420, and a group of seven at 1530. Men were also taken on board at 1550, 1600, 1630, and 1830, but no further survivors were found during the rest of the night, in spite of thorough search.
13. On the 20th, a raft with ten Spence survivors was picked up it 1057, two more men at 1106, one at 1115, and one at 1127; this being the last rescue by Tabberer. A total of 5 officers and 36 men of the Hull, and 14 men of the Spence had been saved from the sea.
14. In picking up survivors, the usual procedure was to maneuver the ship up-wind from the man in the water, letting the wind blow the ship down toward him. The equipment need was two cargo nets over the side, several life rings with long lines attached, several 21-thread lines with bowline eyes in the end, and several strong swimmers wearing kapok life jackets with lines attached. As survivors neared the side, lines were thrown or taken to them, by which they were hauled up across the cargo nets, being assisted by two men stationed on the nets.
15. Riflemen were stationed to drive off sharks, which were noted near survivors on two occasions, but which did not attack.
16. Whistles and lights, which had been attached to the life jackets, were of great value in helping to locate survivors, especially at night. Nearly all the men rescued were wearing kapok type of life jackets, which had proved more comfortable in the water than other types."
Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, "Operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas During the Month of December 1944," pp.12-13, and 72-86. World War II Command File, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC. [This document is reproduced identically to the original with the exception that place names and ship names have been changed from all capital letters to first letter capitalization and ship names are italized.]
13 September 2002