Friday, April 18, 2008

Fullbore Friday

Last week we covered SBR The Younger - to bracket the name - this week let's go with The Elder, USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE-413).

There are better stories, but this puts it in a nice summary of her performance during her fierce attack against a superior Japanese force helped save the United States invasion fleet during the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf and earned her the nickname "the Destroyer Escort that fought like a Battleship."
The destroyer escort was part of a screening unit to protect a force of American aircraft carriers. When the enemy opened fire at 7 o'clock that morning, the ROBERTS immediately sought to protect her "flattops." The first step was to lay a smoke screen and then, steaming under cover of her own screen, the ROBERTS approached within 4,000 yards of a Jap heavy cruiser, fired three torpedoes, and returned to the protection of the smoke. One of the torpedoes struck home and started fires in the enemy ship.

Keeping between the main enemy force and her own carriers, the ROBERTS settled back and turned all guns on a Japanese cruiser. One 5-inch gun fired more than 300 rounds of ammunition, all that was available, in 50 furious minutes, scoring at least 40 sure hits.

The rapid fire from this gun was halted when a Jap battleship found the range and blasted the gun out of action with a 14-inch s Six charges were rammed in by hand and fired, although the men knew that an explosion might result from each of them because the gas ejection system was not working.

The seventh round fired in this manner exploded and killed all but three members of the gun crew outright. The gun captain, Paul Henry Carr, Gunner's Mate, Third Class, who was credited generously for the excellent performance there was wounded beside his mount, clutching the last 5-inch shell and struggling to ram the 50-pound projectile into the chamber. Upon the recommendation of his Commanding Officer, Carr was on March 1, 1945 awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

In the next few minutes, the Japs kept sending successive salvos of major caliber projectiles into the foundering destroyer escort. The death blow was a three-gun battleship 14-inch salvo that hit in number 2 engine room, tearing a hole 40-feet long and 10-feet wide in the ship's skin on the port side. Abandon ship was ordered.

Men abandoning the vessel to port launched a life raft on that side, but a breeze blew it into the gaping hole torn by the last salvo. Four men crawled into the aperture, embarked upon the raft, and with every ounce of strength at their command, pushed the raft against the tide of inrushing water and managed to get it outside of the rupture.

This was an important victory because the 120 men that survived had only two other rafts and two floater nets on which to cling until rescue was effected some 50 hours later.
Next time you hear "Finest Traditions of the Naval Service," that is what we are talking about - not leading the set-up for a charity golf tournament.
UPDATE: xformed covered this very well many moons ago. Give it a read as well.

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