U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692
USS Cooper's Action Report

SECRET

U.S.S. COOPER (DD695)

% Fleet Post Office,
DD695/A16-3 San Francisco, Cal.
Serial: 00503 7 December 1944

From:

Commanding Officer.
To: Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet.
Via: (1) Commander Destroyer Division 120,
(2) Commander Task Group 77.3,
(3) Commander Task Force 77,
(4) Commander SEVENTH Fleet.
(5) Commander in Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject:
U.S.S. COOPER (DD695), Report of action the night of
2-3 December, 1944.

Reference:

(a) PacFlt conf. ltr. 2CL-44 of 1 January 1944.

Enclosure:

(A) Track chart of movements U.S.S. COOPER (DD695)


Part I.

   1. (a) The U.S.S. COOPER in company with the U.S.S. ALLEN M. SUMNER (DD692) and U.S.S. MOALE (DD693), under the tactical command of ComDesDiv 120, approached Ormoc Bay, Leyte, P.I. at about 2330, zone minus nine, the night of December 2. Course was 020 T, speed 30 knots. Ships were in line of bearing, interval 1500 yards. The U.S.S. COOPER was center ship, with the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER to port and the U.S.S. MOALE to starboard. Guide was in the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER. Numerous bogies were encountered up to midnight, and this vessel took three under fire, one being shot down in flames and seen to crash; the second probably shot down, and the third not believed damaged.

      (b) At about 0002, December 3, surface contact was made, confirmed by the division commander, and at 0003 firing was commenced on the starboard bow at a range of 12,200 yards. This same target was also under the fire of the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER. By 0011 this first target, which appeared to be a large destroyer (two   mounts forward), with troops aboard, was burning, damaged and sinking.

      (c) At 0012 fire was shifted to a second target bearing between 060 and 080 T, range 10,000 yards. This vessel was of a DE size. It was set ablaze and many hits were obtained on the Jap until the U.S.S. COOPER sank at about 0017, December 3. This second target is also believed to have sunk.

   2. (a) On December 2, 1944, while operating as a screening unit of Task Group 77.2 in Leyte Gulf, orders were received about 1700, zone minus nine, to form on ComDesDiv 120 in the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER, with the U.S.S. MOALE. Our mission was to proceed to Ormoc Bay to seek out and destroy Japanese shipping. Until about 2300, except for observing one plane shot down early in the evening by unknown vessels, the approach was uneventful.

      (b) Information intercepted by the U.S.S. COOPER indicated that five vessels of an unidentified type were standing toward Ormoc Bay on December 2. Also, four other vessels were about thirty miles north of these but their course upon sighting by search planes was not towards Ormoc Bay. Channels of approach were reported not believed mined. Brief instructions were transmitted by the division commander concerning the operation.

     (c) Natural order in column was maintained until about 2300, when the three ships were placed in line of bearing (090 - 270 T), interval 1500 yards, and the approach into the bay commenced.

      (d) A large DD carrying troops (many personnel were seen topside) was the U.S.S. COOPER's #1 target, and a vessel of DE size was #2 target. The surface vessels were close to the beach in Ormoc Bay. The types of planes engaged by this vessel are not known.

      (e) Wind: North - 6 knots; Sea - calm; Visibility - 10,000 yards. The moon was rising, and there were numerous alto-cumulus clouds.

PART II
   1. (a) (1) Air Phase.
                  At about 2330, zone minus nine, December 2, an unidentified plane on the port bow was taken under fire by the U.S.S. COOPER's 5"/38's at about 6,000 yards. This plane was hit on the second or third salvo, burst into flames, and crashed about 4,000 yards ahead. At about 2335 another plane was picked up on the port bow and taken under fire by 5"/38, range 4,800 yards. It is believed that the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER also fired on this plane. Hits were believed to have been attained, however no visual confirmation of the plane's crashing can be given. Shortly thereafter a third plane, flying low, was picked up at 3,000 yards on the port bow by CIC. The gun director had a solution at 2,000 yards, fire was commenced, but only two salvos were fired as the target could not be retained on the Fire Control radar. All of these planes utilized land background for an approach course.
      (a) (2) Surface Phase.
                 Upon arrival at the entrance of Ormoc Bay, the SG radar picked up a surface target and fire was opened in accordance with orders of ComDesDiv 120 at about 0003, December 3, range 12,200 yards. The target designated as #1 was slightly on the starboard bow and was also taken under fire by the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER. At approximately the same time, the U.S.S. MOALE opened fire on a target to the northward of the U.S.S. COOPER's target. The U.S.S. COOPER's first salvo was about 200 yards short, and the second hit between number one and two gun mounts. Until 0011, target #1 was hit from stem to stern with the U.S.S. COOPER's salvos. On several occasions during this eight minute period time permitted the commanding officer to have the pleasure of following the tracers to this target and observing the "ball of fire" as the projectiles detonated. Target #1 appeared to be a large destroyer with two mounts forward. There were large numbers of personnel topside. The enemy ship was in flames, thoroughly wrecked and sinking when fire was ceased to get another ship.
      (a) (3) At 0012 the gun director and five inch battery were on target #2, which had been designated by combat, and fire was commenced on a vessel of DE size bearing between 060 and 080 T, range 10,000 yards. A second target just north of ours was also believed to be in this general direction. The first salvo hit, and fire was continued at a salvo interval of about four seconds until check fire was necessary to clear the bearing on the U.S.S. MOALE to starboard. This was caused by the target drawing aft so rapidly due to our speed. The U.S.S. COOPER came right momentarily, resumed fire, and then swung back left, paralleling the formation. Just before reaching the formation course, the ship was hit amidships on the starboard side by what the commanding officer believes was a large type Jap torpedo. The U.S.S. COOPER's last salvo ricocheted off the water close aboard as the ship heeled 45 degrees to starboard. Two gun mounts somehow reloaded with this list, but they were never fired as the ship was on her side and broken in two in less than thirty seconds.

      (a) (4) During the surface engagement, enemy planes were plotted astern of us in the vicinity, but none are known to have approached close enough for an attack. Orders were given to the 20mm and 40mm batteries to take care of any planes that were detected visually.

      (a) (5) From 0003 to 0017 the commanding officer's impression of the battle was similar to an artist's conception in one of our popular "picture" magazines. Guns were firing from ships on both side, two Jap ships were burning, shore batteries were firing at our ships, planes were in the vicinity, and even Jap submarines were present. (This was learned later when U.S.S. COOPER survivors observed two leaving the bay about 0400 the morning of December 3).

      (b) Times utilized in this report are zone minus nine. They are a combination of memory by survivors and the records of the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER and U.S.S. MOALE.

      (c) Bearings are from memory, and courses were obtained from accompanying vessels and from memory.

      (d) The navigational track, Enclosure (A), is approximate, and is reconstructed utilizing the U.S.S. MOALE's and U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER's. All records and our own track chart went down with the ship.

PART III
.
   1. (a) All ordnance material functioned perfectly, and no deficiencies due to lack of training are known or were noted. Fire discipline and communications functioned excellently. Full radar control was used at all times.

      (b) Approximate ammunition expenditures are:

           (1) Air Action - 5"/38 AAC - 56 rounds with flashless powder. (No Mk.32 fuzed could be used due to proximity of land).

           (2) Surface Action - 5"/38 AAC - 300 to 400 rounds with flashless powder.

      (c) Surface gunnery was excellent, and anti-aircraft was good.

   2. (a) Enemy surface gunnery was not impressive in this action, as no early splashes were observed close by. Later splashes up to about 5 inch were observed close aboard, especially on the quarters, but it is not known which were from shore batteries and which from surface vessels. No hits by gunfire were sustained by the U.S.S. COOPER.

      (b) The single torpedo hit that sank the U.S.S. COOPER speaks for itself. The commanding officer feels that with the high speed used, the long torpedo range necessary, and the frequent course changes made, the matter of a hit being obtained was luck.

      (c) Since DesDiv 120 was under fire by both ship and shore batteries, it was impossible to determine which of the numerous splashes close aboard were from ships and which from shore batteries. The commanding officer and a number of others observed flashes along the shore for a distance of several miles or so, and a few gun flashes from our targets during the first part of the U.S.S. COOPER's gun phase with each. In general, most of the splashes were astern.

PART IV
.
   1. The damage to and loss of the U.S.S. COOPER will be the subject of a special report.

   2. (a) and (b). The number of hits made by the U.S.S. COOPER on both target #1 (which was believed to be a destroyer) and target #2, which was of DE size, is unknown. Each time there was an opportunity to glance at the U.S.S. COOPER's gunfire performance, the commanding officer observed hits being made. This is corroborated by the Gunnery Officer, Navigator, director crew and bridge personnel. Both enemy vessels had large fires on board, were wrecked and were very low in the water when last seen. Several members of the U.S.S. COOPER's crew saw and talked to a few Japs in the water early the morning of December 3. One Jap sailor was recovered late December 3. Many Japs were in the water December 4. Their presence the day after the rescue of the U.S.S. COOPER survivors is felt due to the offshore current observed in lower Ormoc Bay. No onshore current was observed, and all survivors were carried first south and then west. Since the U.S.S. COOPER survivors had a four or five mile start on the Japs, it was assumed that our enemies would not show up in the middle of the bay until later. The Japs were not seen to make any attempts to rescue their own personnel.

      (c) Enemy personnel casualties are believed to have been heavy.

PART V
.
   1. (a) Communications functioned smoothly, and there were no casualties.

      (b) Surface search (SG-1) and fire control radars (Mks. 12 and 22) operated in a very highly satisfactory manner, with no casualties. The air search radar (SC-3) was seriously handicapped by our proximity to land, and lobing.

      (c) There were no friendly planes immediately with DesDiv120. A Black Cat conducted searches for the Division, but its performance is not known except that the initial search report was that there were no ships in Ormoc Bay. There were so many plane attacks on the formation that the loss of records prevents any logical discussion by the U.S.S. COOPER. The majority of the attacks were on the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER, which was best silhouetted by the moon. As far as is known, none of the attacks were coordinated ones, but the number of them partially made up for the lack of coordination. It is believed that the Japs fully utilized land background in an attempt to come in undetected, however in most cases it is believed that the SG saved the day since in general all attacks were low. The three planes fired on by the U.S.S. COOPER are fully discussed in Part II.

      (d) Enemy surface tactics are not known. Our attack formation chosen and the conduct of the attack left nothing to be desired. Most of the time, the U.S.S. COOPER fought "bows on", and it is believed the accompanying vessels did likewise. The after mount fired occasionally at Target #1 and some at Target #2 during the action by this vessel. The interval of 1500 yards was a very "comfortable" one and permitted freedom of maneuvering on the part of each vessel. Voice signals were few, and exchange of information between ships was easily accomplished direct to CIC.

      (e) The only deception utilized was frequent changes of course.

      (f) CIC designated targets efficiently, and the fire control party functioned quickly and had rapid and excellent solutions of the problem in all cases.

      (g) Navigation was accomplished by both visual bearings and radar.

      (h) There were no engineering casualties, and no further comment can be made on this department, for only one man survived from both enginerooms and firerooms.

      (i) Fortunately, the supply department provided hot soup and coffee to all stations about one hour before the action. This undoubtedly contributed greatly to the strength of the survivors the next day while they were still in the water.

      (j) Medical supplies in the rafts were in 5" powder tanks. Morphine was used is a few cases to relieve pain. The only known survivor from the medical department is a pharmacist's mate and he was seriously injured, so the morphine was administered by the "laymen" from their knowledge gained in first aid lectures.

   2. The Executive Officer's report undoubtedly could contribute much to the CIC performance, but he and all personnel of CIC are still among those missing.

   3. (a) The formation chosen for such a foray into a harbor is believed to have been a wise choice because additional range in flank searching is possible where land background is so prevalent and decreases the efficiency of the radars, and in addition a double check ahead is attainable, which would not be possible in column. The sea room for radical maneuvering in the case of air attacks was at hand.

      (b) Torpedo targets were not present or were eliminated before the range closed sufficiently. No torpedoes are known to have been fired by any of the ships of the division.

      (c) Unfortunately, other operations prevented "briefing" for this mission. This should be done where possible.

   4. (a) Since all records were lost, the times and events have been reconstructed as best possible. The commanding officer realizes in some instances there may be as much as a five minute error, but has attempted to piece together information obtained from survivors combined with his own memory. In some cases the average of a number of times was taken.

      (b) For an hour or so after being in the water, gunfire on air targets by the U.S.S. A. M. SUMNER and U.S.S. MOALE was observed as they proceeded southward. Shortly after the U.S.S. COOPER was sunk, one of the ships passed nearby at high speed in a southerly direction and may have thrown life rafts to our survivors. Under the existing circumstances the rescue of any of the U.S.S. COOPER personnel by either of the accompanying vessels would have been foolhardy, and undoubtedly would have resulted in another ship being lost or seriously damaged.

      (c) The rescue of the survivors in enemy-held territory was mainly accomplished between 1400 and dark on December 3 in an outstanding performance by PBY Black Cats. One officer and twenty-two men who were ashore were rescued on December 4. The largest load carried by any of the "Cats" was fifty-six survivors. One other had forty-eight, and both of the above loads broke all known existing records.

      (d) All topside personnel in the U.S.S. COOPER wore kapok lifejackets. After the men became tired and could not easily hold on to the rubber life rafts, these jackets were "worth their weight in gold". There were about four rubber boats, two life rafts and three floated nets for the survivors. This permitted the wounded to be out of the water and also allowed rest for "tired swimmers". Whether the boats and rafts were blown off the ship or launched in the few seconds available before the ship sank is not known at this time. The few paddles observed by the commanding officer had their blades shattered, so apparently they were lashed too tightly to the rafts. However, ample driftwood was available for improvised paddles.

PART VI
.
   1. The personnel performance was magnificent, and the U.S.S. COOPER went down fighting. The calmness and coolness exhibited by all hands in their first surface engagement was exemplary. From the time of the hit until the ship had disappeared in less than one minute, the commanding officer noted no confusion and heard not a cry. To date there are one hundred and fifty-eight (158) enlisted men and ten (10) officer survivors out of three hundred and thirty-nine (339) enlisted men and twenty (20) officers on board. Of the survivors twenty-seven (27) enlisted men and three (3) officers required hospital care and are in the U.S.S. HOPE. The remaining survivors suffered only from exposure, cuts and bruises. A detailed survivor list, casualty report, and instances of outstanding performances will be the subject of special letters.
  
M. A. Peterson.
Advance copies to: Cominch,
                                CinCPac (2),
                                ComSEVENTHFlt,
                                ComDesRon 60 for info.

A sincere Thank You to Anne Mansell Moodey who supplied us with this report