USS HALFORD DD480
MEMORANDUM FOR COMMANDER DESTROYER SQUADRON FORTY-FIVE:This from Capt. R. J. Hardy who received the Silver Star for this operation of the Battle of Surigao Strait.
Care Fleet Post Office
San Francisco, Calif.
C O N F I D E N T I A L
29 October 1944
MEMORANDUM FOR COMMANDER DESTROYER SQUADRON FORTY-FIVE:Enclosed is copy of our action report of the Battle of Surigao Strait which may be of interest to you. At present we are en route to Ulithi where, in company with OCD 4 in Louisville, Minneapolis, Portland and Welles & Thorn (two other orphans) we report back to Comthird Fleet for duty. Our orders to depart from Leyte were sudden and as a result our action report was, by direction of CDS 56(Capt. Smoot) who wanted it prior our departure, brief. I will give a few more details in the memorandum.
The OpPlan for the Leyte Operation assigned us to DesRon 56 and, with the usual fire support heavy units, we operated as Task Group 77.2 under Rear Admiral Oldendorf. (Louisville, Portland, Minneapolis, Honolulu, Denver, Columbia, Mississippi, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania. 6 BB, 3 CA, 3 CL and 9 DD of Desron plus HALFORD and so called Desdiv X-Ray, 6 Misc. DD). 12 Oct: Sortied from Manus and joined TG 77.4 (18 CVE's & escorts) 16 Oct: (A-4 Day) fueled DDs, CAs and CLs. 17 Oct: Entered Leyte gulf after minesweepers had partially swept entrance. 18-19 Oct: Pre A Day bombardments. Ross in DesDiv 112 struck 2 mines, but did not sink. Group harassed dawn and dusk by Nip planes. No shore fire above 75 MM. Ross while lying to was dive bombed & further damaged by near miss. UDT work as usual, with minor casualties. Assisted in shooting down 1 Betty. 20 Oct: A Day. Landing went off very smoothly. HALFORD had close support job, firing 400 rounds, H-120 H-60. No air attacks during landing operation. In evening group was attacked by torpedo planes. HONOLULU stopped one fish. HMAS Australia (TG 77.3 close covering group comprising normal 7th fleet ships BOISE, PHOENIX, HMAS AUSTRALIA & SHROPSHIRE, DesDiv 47 plus two HMAS DDs)damaged by suicide dive. An LCI sunk & a Liberty ship damaged and beached. HONOLULU and AUSTRALIA left next day. 21-23 Oct: Usual call fire and screening work. Dawn and dusk air attacks continue with harassing attacks during day. Each evening Nips arrive and take over after our CAP retires. Estimate 50 have been shot down by AA fire to date. PT boats (ours) arrived A+1 day. 24 Oct: All indications point toward attack by strong Jap surface force. Practically all transports departed Jap force apparently consisting of two groups: Northern 4 BBs, 7 CAs, 2 CLs and 10 DDs believed heading for Leyte Gulf from Mindanao Sea via Surigao Strait. TF 38 ordered to take care of San Bernardno Strait and TG 77.2 & 77.3 Surigao Strait. CTF 77 (Comseventyh Fleet) OpPlan 9 reference (b) of action report) directed 30 PTs to proceed south to souther tip of Dinagat Island and establish scouting and attack groups, and CTG 77.2 to deploy TG 77.2 & TG 77.3 across the strait just north of Ribusen Island with BBs in center TG 77.3 on right flank and CAs, CLs, 7 DDs of TG 77.2 on left flank. HALFORD was in ROSS's place as 2nd ship, section two, under CDD 112 (Capt. Conlay). 6 DDs of DesRon 54 were stationed as pickets across strait just south of Hibuson Island. 25 Oct: 0300 Enemy entered strait and attacked by PTs. Two hits estimated. From 0030 - 0330 excellent contact reports from PTs enabled force to be tracked right up the channel. 0300 DD pickets made contact and delivered torpedo attacks from both bows, 3 to 5 hits estimated. 0325 DDs if TG 77.3 attacked from port bow. Several hits estimated and column slowed form 22 to 12 knots (maybe they had some idea what lay north of them if they continued). 0335 CTG 77.2 ordered CDS 56 to send his three sections in. The 2nd and 3rd sections went dow3n the East & West sides respectively, followed after about 5 minutes by the 1st section down the center. Speed 30, course 168 degree True for 2nd section. 0352 Battle line commenced firing, range about 20,000 yards. 0355 Fired half salvo at leading ship, which plot showed stopped just before we fired. As there were 5 or 6 heavy underwater explosions at end of our torpedo running time we feel confident a couple of our fish connected. 6 feet depth setting was used as we were not sure at time target was a BB. Medium speed, range about 9000 yards. Retired by ships left to North. Capt. Conley had originally planned on retiring around Hibuson Island and up the East side, but some three minutes after torpedoes were fired he noticed many splashes just on his starboard bow and decided on and emergency 18 turn, and retirement up the West side. Until after our fish were away very little fire was directed at our section, most of it being concentrated on the center section. A.W. GRANT in center section was hit repeatedly by Jap fire & was under fire for a short period by our cruisers. Estimated 6 or 8 hits of 6 or 8 inch stuff which completely demolished engineering spaces and caused many casualties. She was only DD hit in entire series of torpedo attacks. One PT was lost and a few suffered minor damage. 0405 CAs and CLs opened fire. Observers Note: Those 16, 14, 8, and 6 inch shells lobbing through the air and concentrating on the Jap column make a very pretty sight. The Jap's TEE was crossed before the engagement began and even without the torpedo attacks I don't think they could have lasted long under that fire. Converseley it is the opinion of all hands that they were stopped before the heavy ships opened up on them. They just didn't have a chance of entering the Gulf that night. At about 0500 the cruisers were ordered to proceed south after the cripples. At about 0600, dawn disclosed about six ships burning furiously to the south, all of which sunk or were sunk by cruisers and destroyers by 0700. These were believed to be cruisers of DDs. The two BBs were apparently leading the Jap column, and were believed sunk at point of original torpedo attacks, as they both disappeared from screen prior to dawn. There were about 400 survivors, wreckage and oil in the water at this point. The chase south was called off at about 0700 when a report was received that our CVE's East of Samar were under surface attack by the Jap northern group, which had gotten through the San Bernardino Strait before TF 3G could intercept. TG 77.4 (the CVE's) put up a gallant fight against heavy odds and succeeded in driving off this attack, believe it or not, completely unaided. However, they received considerable damage and lost 2 CVE's the GAMBIER BAY & MIDWAY and 3 escorts, DDs Hoel, and Johnston & S.V. ROBERTS. Details are lacking on this phase of the battle. It is clear that the escorts made a suicide torpedo attack, and the CVE air groups made repeated attacks throughout the day with heavy losses. This Jap force retired through the San Bernardino Strait about three hours before Admiral Halsey and BBs & cruisers from TF 38 could intercept them. Best estimates now of damage to the original Jap northern group consisting of 4 BBs, 7 CAs, 2 CLs and 12 DDs is: sunk 1 CA, 1 DD, damaged 3 BB or CAs and 1 DD all by the CVEs air groups and escorts and probably sunk: 3 CA or BB and 3 DD by TF 38 air groups the 26th during their retirement toward Mindoro Strait. Of the original 16 ships of the southern group the following definite assessment of damage has been made by Com 7th Fleet, most of it substantiated by survivors reports: 2 BB sunk (FUSO & YAMASHIRO, 2 CA, 1 CL and 4 DD sunk. Only 1 CL and 4 DD escaped and these were attacked later in the day by Army bombers from Morotai with as yet unannounced results. To quote Admiral Kinkaid the Jap forces entering Leyte Gulf from the south were "practically annihilated". 26 Oct: Continued deployment as covering force. Under air attack most of day as our own air forces pretty well battered by action the day before. Japs now going in for suicide attacks: DENVER damaged by one of these. CALIFORNIA lost one man. As our ammo and fuel was getting low every opportunity taken to refill between air attacks. OBSERVOR'S NOTE: Very uncomfortable feeling to be tied up to an AE loading ammo when the Betty's & Val's appear. 27 Oct: Two air groups of P38s arrive and air situation cleared considerably. They operated from captured field at Tacloban. 28 Oct: Left Gulf for Ulithi. My only regret of this entire operation is that we had to operate with strangers. However, Capt. Smoot and DesRon 56 were very cooperative at all times and I am sorry we are apparently not assigned to them for the next operation. But all hands await eagerly the return of DesRon 45 so we can get back on our own team. Respectfully, R. J. HARDY.
Many Thanks to Frank Menagh for this Memo.
CLICK ON ANY LINKS TO VISIT THE PAGES: