UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET,
COMMANDER CRUISER DIVISION FOUR,
c/o Fleet Post Office,
San Francisco, California,
6 December 1944.
From: Commander Task Group 77.4 (Commander Cruiser Division FOUR). To: The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet. Via: (1) The Commander SEVENTH Fleet. (2) The Supreme Commander Allied Forces Southwest Pacific Area. Subject: Action Reports - Battle of Surigao Strait, 25 October, 1944.
- Forwarded, The enclosures contain the Battle of Surigao Straits Action Reports of Destroyer Division XRAY, which consisted of U.S.S. Claxton, Aulick, Sigourney, Cony, Thorn and Welles. Endorsements of Commander Destroyer Division XRAY (Commanding Officer U.S.S, Claxton), and Commander Destroyer Squadron FIFTY-SIX are attached to the individual reports.
- During the greater part of this action Destroyer Division XRAY was assigned to the duty of Battle Line Screen. At about 0417 Destroyer Division XRAY was ordered to report to the Officer in Tactical Command, and at 0432 to proceed south, intercept enemy formation heading north and attack with torpedoes. The interception was not completed as all enemy ships headed south prior to the time that Destroyer Division XRAY could reach firing position. Consequently at 0535 this division was ordered to form screen on the cruisers of the Right Flank Forces. Ships of this Division assisted in the sinking of a Japanese destroyer in the southern end of SURIGAO STRAIT after daybreak.
- It is considered that the approach could have bean made more rapidly had both eastern and western groups joined on the engaged side of the Battle Line, which was not firing at this period. The long trip of the eastern group around the disengaged side added greatly to the time of forming.
- The eagerness with which ships of this division joined fire on the remaining Japanese ship afloat after daylight is a clear indication of their regret at not having been able to take a more active part in the night action.
J. B. OLDENDORF.
U.S.S. Claxton (DD571)
5 November 1944.
From: The Commanding Officer To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet. Via: (1) The Commander Destroyer Squadron 56. (2) The Commander Task Group 77.2. (3) The Commander Task Force 77. (4) The Commander Seventh Fleet. (5) The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Subject: Report of Action 24-25 October 1944, the Battle of Surigao Straits, Philippine Islands. Reference: (a) CincPac Conf. Ltr. 2CL-44. (b) U.S. Navy Regulations, Articles 712 and 847(6). Enclosure: (A) Narrative of Action. (B) Chronological Record of Events. (C) TBS Log. (D) Executive Officers Report (E) Track Chart of USS Claxton during Battle of Surigao Straits (Original only). (F) Anti Aircraft Action Report.
- In compliance with the references, the action report of the engegement with enemy surface forces at the Battle of Surigao Straits, Philippine Islands on 25 October 1944 is submitted as enclosures (A) to (F).
N. H. Hubbard.
Advance Copies to:
CominchCopy to (direct)
CO Charles Ausburne
- General Narrative of Action
- During the early morning of 25 October 1944 our landing operations on Leyte Island were threatened by a Japanese surface force, which attempted to enter Leyte Gulf from the south through the Surigao Straits. The enemy forces, believed to consist of at least two battleships, a heavy cruiser, four light cruisers and ten destroyers, was engaged in battle by Task Group 77.2 in Surigao strait and was successfully repelled with extremely heavy and severe losses. Allied losses were relatively minor and consisted of one destroyer, USS A. W. Grant being hit by gunfire, one PT sunk, and several PT's damaged.
- In company with Task Group 77.2, the USS Claxton sortied from Manus Island on 12 October 1944 and proceeded to Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands as unit of the Bombardment and Fire Support Group. Fire support and bombardment missions were conducted by the Claxton on 15, 20, and 21 October during the phase of the initial landings. Since 21 October the Claxton had operated in the Leyte Gulf as a screening unit of Task Group 77.2 and accomplished logistics as times and facilities became available.
- By early afternoon of 24 October intelligence reports clearly indicated that enemy aircraft and naval forces were asssembling westward in the Visayas for an offensive strike against our positions in the Leyte Area and that they would try to enter Leyte Gulf via Surigao Strait sometime during the night of 24-25 October after nineteen hundred. The general plan as established by ComTaskGroup 77.2 provided for Task Group 77.2 to destroy by gunfire at moderate ranges and by torpedo attack the enemy forces attempting to enter Leyte Gulf through Surigao Strait. ComTaskGroup 77.2 then proceeded to organize his available forces in the following manner:
- 77.2 Battleships - Rear Admiral G. L. Weyler in Mississippi.
- BatDiv 3 less New Mexico end Idaho
Mississippi (F) - Captain H. J. Redfield
- Commander BatDiv 4 - Rear Admiral T. D. Ruddock, USN
- BatDiv 4 less Colorado
West Virginia (F) - Captain H. V. Wiley, USN
Maryland - Captain H. J. Rey, USN
- Commander BatDiv 2 - Rear Admiral T. E. Chandler, USN
- BatDiv 2
Tennessee (F) - Captain A. D. Nayer, USN
California - Captain H. P. Burnett, USN
Pennsylvania - Captain C. F. Martin, USN
- Commander Destroyer Division XRAY - Comdr. M. H. Hubbard, USN
- Destroyer Division XRAY
Claxton - Commander M. H. Hubbard, USN
Aulick - Commander J. D. Andrew, USN
Cony - Commander A. W. Moore, USN
Sigourney - Lieut. Comdr. F. Hale, USN
Welles - Lieut. Comdr. J. A. Slaughter, USN
Thorn - Lieut. Comdr. F. H. Schneider, USN
- 77.23 Right Flank Forces: Rear Admiral R. S. Berkey, USN
- CruDiv 15 less Nashville plus RAN Shropshire
- Assigned Destroyers.
- 77.24 Left Flank Forces: Rear Admiral J. B. Oldendorf, USN
- CruDiv 4 plus Minneapolis less Indianapolis
Louisville (F) - Captain S. H. Hurt, USN
Portland - Captain T. G. W. Settle, USN
Minneapolis - Captain H. B. Slocum, USN
- Crudiv 12 less Montpelier and Cleveland
Columbia - Captain M. E. Curts, USN
Denver - Captain A. M. Bledsoe, USN
- Assigned Destroyers.
- Thirty (30) PT boats in ten groups of three each were stationed in Surigao Strait, south of latitude 10°-10' North with orders to report and attack enemy forces entering Surigao Strait.
- The Battle Disposition assumed was similar to disposition A-2 in USF-10A with the battleships in an initial station on latitude 10°-35' North at the northerly entrance of Surigao Strait, patrolling on easterly and westerly courses at five knots between Hibuson Island and Hinunucan Point with the flank forces maintaining stations on the battle line.
Part II - Chronological Narrative of Action
- DesDiv XRAY formed anti-submarine screen for the battle line with Claxton, Cony, and Thorn to the west and Aulick, Sigourney and Welles to the east. Screen Plan #53 from USF-10A was used by tho screening destroyers.
- The enemy was reported to have entered the Surigao Strait in two columns with heavy ships leading each column. The second column entered four miles astern of the first.
- The sky was partially overcast with cumulus and altostratus clouds moving from the east with light winds, calm seas, and fair visibility during darkness up to 2500 yards.
All times Zone -9
- During the late evening and early morning of 24-25 October units of the Seventh Fleet present in the Leyte Gulf area, Philippine Islands, engagad a Japanese surface force in Surigao Strait which was making a bold attempt to force an entry into Leyte Gulf in order to thwart our amphibious landings in the Philippines. The enemy force, apparently in two units, approximately four miles apart, was expected, and our units were well placed to give them a rousing reception.
- Around midnight the enemy forces were contacted by the PT's and taken under attack. The return fire was extremely heavy and our boats were driven off, but not until the torpedo attack had been delivered. The enemy forces entered Surigao Strait at approximately 0030 Item and were first engaged by the picket destroyers assigned to DesRon 54 in two successive torpedo attacks - first section composed the Remey, McGowen and Melvin and the second section the McDermott and Monssen. This attack slowed the enemy force to approximately twelve knots. ComDesRon 56 with its assigned destroyers launched their attack at 0337, followed shortly thereaftor by the cruisers and battleships with gunfire.
- At 0324 the Claxton made rodar contact at 171°T, range 26,000 yards on what was first believed to be the enemy units standing up the Strait. It was soon learned, however, that this contact was CDS 54 and his destroyers retiring at high speed after their torpedo attack. The first radar contact with the enemy was made at 0340 at a range of 26,500 yards, bearing 158°T. Target course was determined as 350°T, speed 20 knots and was calculated to be the leading column consisting of two large ships and at least two smaller ones. Later events indicated this assumption to be correct; in that it was determined that the leading column consisted of two BB's and destroyer escorts. By 0356 our targets had been slowed to 12 knots as a result of the gunfire of our heavies and the torpedo hits of DesRon 56, and commenced a slow turn to the left, apparently having determined retirement was the next best move for them.
- By 0411 the targets had been reduced in number to two; one attempting a retirement on course 190°T at 12 knots. It's efforts useless, because at 0419 this lone target disappeared completely from our radar screen, presumably having been sunk. The second target was picked up at 0357 making 20 knots on a retirment course of 160°T and it was soon determined that he was the only one of the leading column which up to this time had escaped serious damage. By 0417 the Claxton lost radar contact on this single target at a range of 34,000 yards, still making his 20 knots on a southerly course.
- Destroyer Division XRAY received orders from ComTaskGroup 77.2 at 0132 to proceed south down the Strait to conduct a torpedo attak on the retiring enemy units, and upon completion of attack retire to the north up the Strait hugging the coast line all the way. ComDesDiv Xray with three ships in the van and three in the rear of the battle line ordered his units to clear the BB formation and form column natural order astern of the Claxton. The Claxton went to 20 knots on course 120°T upon clearing the battle line and as soon as other ships of first section had formed up came to approach course of 160°T at 25 knots. It was intended to go to 30 knots when second section was closed to 4,000 yds. Radar contact on the retiring enemy unit was regained at 0513 at a range of 31,000 yards. Target, apparently a single unit, was determined to be on an approximate course of 190°T, at a speed of 13 to 14 knots.
- By 0515 we realized that it was going to be a long chase and that daylight would soon arrive with its complications in connection with a surprise torpedo attack. Course of 160°T speed 25 knots was held and plans were made to change course to the south at about 0540 after clearing our cruiser formation, thus placing us in the middle of the Strait. Two additional contacts were established at 0525 and their plot appeared to be very erratic. The tendency showed slow movement on the part of these targets in a southwesterly direction, but by 0536 the contacts disappeared from the screen, presumably having sunk.
- As the division was about to clear the cruiser formation and pursue the single contact we had on the screen at the time, orders were received from ComTaskGroup 77.2 to cease the torpedo attack and join the screen of the left flank cruisers. At 0550 the Claxton took station 4160 in the formation. As daylight came about 0552, the Claxton sighted numerous Japanese survivors in the water very close aboard, and upon orders from ComTaskGroup 77.2, maneuvered independently to pick them up as prisoners. It is estimated that there were a minimum of 150 men within a radius of 2,000 yards. Three prisoners finally decided to come aboard and from appearances there was one Japanese Officer in the group who was ordering all of these men to stay clear of us.
- The Claxton rejoined the formation at 0645 and proceeded to the southward to finish off three burning ships that were sighted on the horizon. By 0715 one fleeing badly damaged destroyer, presumably of the Shigure class, came within gun range and we opened fire. At 0718 the destroyer exploded and sank, after which our course was reversed and the formation proceeded north at 20 knots.
- Contact reports had been received, during the latter part of the engagement, of enemy surface forces striking our escort carrier group to the east of Leyte. Preparations began immediately to set up our forces to repel any attempt by these enemy units to enter Leyte Gulf from the eastward.
- The morning of the twenty fifth brought Jap dive bombers. An attack developed at 1115 followed almost simultanaously by a string of bombs hitting close aboard our starboard bow, no casualties, and the plane being shot down as it crossed the formation. Following this attack the formation maneuvered itself into position for the possible night entry of enemy surface unit from the eastward. This expected force did not arrive.
Part III - Performance of Ordnance Material and Equipment
- During the pursuit of fleeing enemy units the Claxton fired 18 rounds 5"/38 caliber common projectiles and 18 rounds smokeless powder at the severely damaged Shigure class destroyer before she sank with a heavy explosion. Salvo fire was used with all guns in automatic, partial radar control. Salvoes bracketed the target and hits were observed.
- There were no material casualties.
Performance of Enemy Ordnance Material.
Part IV - Comments
- The Claxton had one opportunity to observe the performance of enemy ordnance material. At the time when we were screening the van of the battle line a large caliber salvo landed extremely close aboard and if we had been, as the Japs had undoubtedly figured we were, the leading battleship in the column, it would have resulted in an extremely well placed hit. The salvo pattern was small and was at least a four gun salvo.
- Upon interrogation of the Japanese survivors it was determined that one of the prisoners was a Warrant Officer and could understand and write English very well. He offered the information, which has all been turned over to Naval Intelligence present in the area, that he was a member
of the crew of the Yamashiro which had left Singapore on the 15th of October. He related that his ship and another battleship of the Kongo class (claimed he did not know the name of the other ship) exploded simultaneously and sank almost immediately. He stated that his ship was struck by four torpedoes.
- During the morning of 26 October we sighted three more Japs in the water and upon orders from ComTaskGroup 77.2 proceeded to pick them up as prisoners of war. One was willing to come aboard without much urging, and from him we learned that they were aviation personnel. The boat was lowered and sent to pick up the other two. Long will we remember the Chief Machinist Mate in the bow of the boat twirling a lasso in hot pursuit of this Jap aviator attempting to swim away from the boat. The Chief missed, but the survivor was brought aboard by a firm hand on the seat of his britches. The third was picked up with no difficulty. These aviators, too, were turned over to the Naval Intelligence representatives present in the area.
- During the bombardment period, 15-24 October, and throughout this battle there were no material casualties, other than minor communication failures due to excessive shock of gunfire, which fact in itself evidences on the part of the responsible officers and men a high degree of efficiency and training. The following named officers and men are recommended for citation for the excellent manner in which they were able to bring material into action against the enemy in spite of extremely difficult operating conditions:-Lieutenant Robert G. Smith, USN - Engineering Officer.Recommended sample citations will be forwarded in the near future for the above named officers and men.
Lieutenant (junior grade) Charlie S. Nelson, USNR - Damage Control Officer.
Lieutenant (junior grade) Troy R. Trim, Torpedo Officer.
John Israel Watson, 262 38 54, CGM(AA), USN.
Raymond Nicholas Giunta, 207 18 30, CTN(PA), USN.
Tom Ellis Clyce, 616 34 27 CRT(AA), USNR.
Robert Joseph Horvath, 654 57 87, FC1c, V-6, USNR.