On 17 December 1944, the ships of Task Force 38, seven fleet and six light carriers, eight battleships, 15 cruisers, and about 50 destroyers were operating about 300 miles east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea. The carriers had just completed three days of heavy raids against Japanese airfields, suppressing enemy aircraft during the American amphibious operations against Mindoro in the Philippines. Although the sea had been becoming rougher all day, the nearby cyclonic disturbance gave relatively little warning of its approach. On 18 December, the small but violent typhoon overtook the Task Force while many of the ships were attempting to refuel. Many of the ships were caught near the center of the storm and buffeted by extreme seas and hurricane force winds. Three destroyers, USS Hull, USS Spence, and USS Monaghan, capsized and went down with practically all hands, while a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers suffered serious damage. Approximately 790 officers and men were lost or killed, with another 80 injured. Fires occurred in three carriers when planes broke loose in their hangars and some 146 planes on various ships were lost or damaged beyond economical repair by fires, impact damage, or by being swept overboard. This storm inflicted more damage on the Navy than any storm since the hurricane at Apia, Samoa in 1889. In the aftermath of this deadly storm, the Pacific Fleet established new weather stations in the Caroline Islands and, as they were secured, Manila, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In addition, new weather central offices (for coordinating data) were established at Guam and Leyte.
Admiral Nimitz's Pacific Fleet Confidential Letter, 13 February 1945
List of participating commands and ships
Personnel Casualties, 17-18 December 1944
Plane Losses, 17-18 December 1944
Extracts on the typhoon from CINCPAC report, including ship reports
Oral History of Chief Warrant Officer Yorden, USN (Ret.) who was on USS Dewey
For More Information:
Adamson, Hans Christian. Halsey's Typhoons: A Firsthand Account of How Two Typhoons, More Powerful than the Japanese, Dealt Death and Destruction to Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet. New York: Crown Publishers, 1967.
Calhoun, C. Raymond. Typhoon, the Other Enemy: The Third Fleet and the Pacific Storm of December 1944. Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981. [Captain Charles Raymond Calhoun, USN (Ret.) was the commanding officer of USS Dewey during the December typhoon.]
Hoyt, Edwin Palmer. The Typhoon that Stopped a War. New York: D. McKay Co., 1968.
Court of Inquiry into the Typhoon of 18 December 1944 by Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
Related Typhoons and Hurricanes Sources:
Hurricanes and the War of 1812: Documents on Selected Storms Affecting Naval Operations
Samoan Hurricane by Rear Admiral L. A. Kimberly, USN
Typhoons and Hurricanes : Pacific Typhoon June 1945
Typhoons and Hurricanes: Pacific Typhoon at Okinawa, October 1945
Typhoons and Hurricanes: The Effects of Cyclonic Winds on U.S. Naval Operations
Typhoons and Hurricanes: The Storm at Apia, Samoa, 15-16 March 1889