|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
|The Captain's Narrative|
|DD692/A7||U.S.S. ALLEN M. SUMNER (DD692)|
|Serial 097||c/o Fleet Post Office|
|San Francisco, California|
|21 December 1944|
|S E C R E T|
|From:||Commanding Officer, USS Allen M. SUMNER|
|To:||Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (Public Relations Officer).|
|Subject:||Narrative of an Engagement between USS ALLEN M. SUMNER and Japanese Forces, 2-3 December 1944 in Ormoc Bay, P.I.|
|Reference:||(a) PacFlt ltr. 48L-44|
1. The following narrative is submitted in accordance with reference (a). The engagement described was unique in that many different types of vessels were involved, and the tactics employed cannot be found in text books. It was entirely unorthodox, but, in the final analysis, proved quite fruitful. I do not feel qualified to relate fully or present a newsworthy account of all that happened that night, for a nightmare is a difficult experience to describe.
2. The early evening of 2 December found the ALLEN M. SUMNER cruising in company with other men-of-war in a more or less quiet atmosphere in the southern section of Leyte Gulf. Prior to sunset, orders had been issued to conduct a raid on Japanese shipping in the general vicinity of Ormoc Bay which is on the northwest side of Leyte Island. Information indicated that the Japs were reinforcing their units at Ormoc during the night, and it was desirable to stop this traffic if possible. Unfortunately, however, the orders referred to had never been received by this vessel so a hasty approach was made to the side of the cruiser which was browsing about in the vicinity. The pertinent messages were received from the big fellow, and, in the last rays of a rapidly declining sun, the USS ALLEN M. SUMNER, COOPER and MOALE departed on the mission.
The approximate distance to our objective was one hundred and sixty miles and had to covered by midnight. The route followed took us through the Surigao Strait, south of Leyte Island, then up the west coast of Leyte to Ormoc Bay. Overhead a high California fog diffused the light of a full moon just enough to make the three ships easily visible from the air. The white foam of a tell-tale wake showed plainly that no barnacles were accumulating on the ship's bottom that night. Surigao Strait had no sooner been entered, when the 'fun' began. Somebody, everybody, began shooting to starboard. Two miles off our starboard beam a plane crashed and burst into flames, but we could not stop or slow; we just kept broiling along.
For the next four hours everything was quiet except for the hazardous passage about one-half mile wide between Canigao and Leyte Island, which we thought might be mined.
We twisted and turned and held our breaths, one ship following the other at a safe distance so that if SUMNER struck a mine, we would be able to warn those following us. After a few minutes (which seemed like hours) we broke out into the open and all was well. We then formed a line with the ships about fifteen hundred yards apart and headed north-west, toward Ormoc Bay, at full speed.
At 2308, w h o o o s h ! A bomb landed about thirty feet off the starboard bow of SUMNER and in less time then it takes to tell fire broke out on the starboard bow. I clearly saw the Frances as it passed over the top of the mast and then the main battery went into action. The next few minutes were hell. Reports came through to the bridge from the various stations reporting men injured, damage, fires, holes, guns out of commission and last but not least "bogies on the screen". From then until 0326 the next morning, we were under continuous air attack. However, the battle was just beginning. We twisted and turned a lot more after the first bomb landed close aboard. It was a good lesson and served as a spark which lighted off the firecracker that exploded with a bang. Members of the crew were fighting mad and ready to take on anything the Japs had to offer. This proved fortunate later. (The next section is missing in the Archives copy supplied to us)
During all this rumpus, shell splashes were popping up all around the ship. I didn't realize at the time that ships, submarines, PT boats, planes, and shore batteries were all firing at us, nor did anyone else. The bombs that kept dropping out of the sky took practically all of my attention and theirs.
The division executed a turn signal to the North, and as I looked over to starboard, a geyser of water shot up over the midship section of the USS COOPER. I made a remark to the air defense officer that the others, referring to COOPER and MOALE, seemed to be catching hell also. That was the last I saw of the COOPER. She went down with her guns blazing.
We were still under fire as we closed in toward the northern part of the Bay. The targets which our instruments had previously found had disappeared under the terrific shelling from the combined gunfire of our three ships. Three or four enemy ships, including two submarines, were still firing at us, but at that time we thought them to be shore batteries. We later discovered this unfortunate fact from Intelligence reports. Apparently they were moored against the high dark jungle and rocks above the shore and could not be seen from the center of the bay. At this time a Jap PT boat dashed out from the dark shore line and was promptly sunk by gunfire.
Another turn was executed by the two remaining ships in order to gain a better perspective of the situation. As we turned, I saw a Jap destroyer headed directly for us, four thousand yards away. He was clearly silhouetted by the flames on the transport and shed which we had previously set afire. All guns commenced their thunderous roar and that was the end of another of Hirohito's dwindling fleet. The tracers from the 40MM guns were so close together that a truck could have driven across the path of their arching destruction, pouring into the vaunted supermen. Those supermen and their ship didn't last long. My last glimpse of the scene was a white haze of smothered steam rising slowly from the water. The spot where a Jap destroyer had previously been, was now calm and peaceful.
Our immediate vicinity, however, was not peaceful. Shells were still landing and bombs were still dropping too close for comfort. It was time to start thinking about getting the hell out of there - and fast! The Jap planes were still overhead and making it very uncomfortable with near misses. They also commenced strafing after unloading their bombs on us. They were not too successful in their repeated attempts, for we succeeded in splashing eight of their much needed aircraft during the four hour period.
After the firing had died down, and we were able to piece together the facts of the weird fight, I drew my own conclusions concerning modern warfare. The people of Mars will have to step up production and renovate their methods if their fierce tradition is to endure. Shells, bombs, machine gun fire, surface ships, submarines, PT boats, planes, all encountered within a period of thirty minutes is rather nerve racking, especially when you are not accustomed to taking them on all at the same time.
Each man did the job for which he was trained, and, in some cases, another man's work as well. Main battery loaders practically dropped in their tracks from exhaustion. They moved more than thirty-five tons of high explosives and sent it screaming over the heads of the monkeys they had been so long hunting. There were no whimpers from the wounded, and it was clearly evident they desired no sympathy. They merely said, "We were just unlucky, but we'll be back". Others were more fortunate. One lookout who had often needed prodding to make use of his binoculars, was (wonderful to relate) actually using them when a bomb or shell fragment struck them, thoroughly demolishing them. They saved his life. Cut and bruised, he was happy to be able to talk about it. Pleading with him was no longer necessary to his standing a vigilant watch. We learned the hard way, but we are now fully aware of what goes on. It was particularly gratifying to all of us who took part in the episode to learn that the friendly natives in the vicinity had piled up the dead Japs like cord wood along the beaches where they were found the next morning.
N. J. SAMPSON.
A sincere Thank You to Ron Babuka who supplied us with this narrative