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“The Battle off Samar, Philippines 1944” A Diptych (both images)
“In Harm’s Way”
0724 hours: destroyer USS Johnston fires her ten torpedoes at the IJN cruiser Kumano to begin the Battle Off Samar in the Philippines. Captain Ernest Evans of the Johnston promised the new destroyer would sail “In harm’s way” at her christening ceremony in October 1943. He made good on that promise when he charged the Japanese battleship and cruiser lines through rain squalls while making smoke to cover the escort Carriers of Taffy 3. Johnston records multiple 5-inch and torpedo hits on Kumano and knocks the cruiser out of the battle. Engaging four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and fifteen destroyer, Johnston was massively outgunned versus her enemies. The ship was hit immediately after her torpedo attack by 14- and 8-inch enemy shells. Nonetheless, Johnston continued her attacks for two hours before succumbing to enemy fire. Near the end of the engagements, a Japanese destroyer sails slowly by and her captain renders a hand salute to the Johnston for her actions. Captain Evans received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his valor guiding his destroyer “In harm’s way”.
“Against Overwhelming Odds”
At 0700 hours Lt Commander Robert Copeland addresses the crew of his destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts with these words: “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can”. So begins the Battle Off Samar for the 1,350-ton ship, armed with only two 5-inch guns and 3 torpedoes. Sailing into battle against four enemy battleships, each weighing up to 65,000 tons and armed with 14 to 18-inch guns, cruisers with 8-inch guns and ten torpedoes, plus fifteen destroyers, the little ship faces a nearly insurmountable task. Roberts closes to 4000 yards against four enemy cruisers displacing 16,000 tons each at 0753 and launches her three torpedoes against the cruiser Chokai scoring one hit and numerous 5-inch gun hits inflicting heavy damage on the enemy. Roberts continues to fire 5-inch shells and make smoke in defense of the escort carriers of Taffy 3 until 0851 when she is struck by 8-inch cruiser gun fire and then 14-inch shells from battleships. Roberts founders at 1007 hours with the loss of 89 crew. For her incredible action against the enemy Roberts earns the title: The Destroyer Escort that fought like a Battleship!