12 November 1944
Commander Task Group 79.11 (ComDesRon 54).
Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.
(1) Commander Task Force 79 (ComTHIRDPhibFor).
(2) Commander SEVENTH Fleet.
Subject: Report of Night Action in Surigao Strait,
Philippine Islands, 24 - 25 October 1944.
Reference: (a) ComSEVENTHFLT Conf. Ltr. 1CL-44 of 24 January 1944. Enclosure: (A) Reproduction of Own and Enemy Tracks as Submitted by Ships of DesRon 54.
1. In accordance with reference (a) the following report is made covering surface action with Japanese surface forces in Surigao Strait, Philippine Islands on the night of 24 - 25 October 1944.
Part I - GENERAL NARRATIVE OF ACTION.
All times mentioned throughout this report are Zone (-) 9 (Item) time.
1. On the night of 24 - 25 October, 1944, DesRon 54, less Wadleigh and Norman Scott were on anti-submarine patro stations. The Mertz and McNair were guarding the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf. Remey, Monssen, McDermut, McGowan and Melvin were patrolling along the southern end of Leyte Gulf. Constant reports from reconnaissance planes and later from PT boats indicated a strong Japanese surface force was headed for Surigao Strait.
This command made initial radar contact with the enemy at 0240 on the 25th and proceeded to launch a torpedo attack as per plan, Remey, McGowan, and Melvin from eastward and McDermut and Monssen from westward. Full salvos, depth setting of 6 feet and intermediate speed were used by all destroyers. It is estimated that the enemy force consisted of two battleships and one cruiser in an approximate column, screened by four destroyers, total number of ships was seven. The enemy was headed on a northerly course at about 18 knots. Several, probably 5 to 6, torpedo hits were made by ships of this squadron. Two ships that appeared to be battleships were definitely damaged by the Eastern Attack Group and forced to drop astern of enemy formation. One ship blew up as a result of torpedo fire from Western Attack Group.
Our attacking destroyers were illuminated by searchlight and star shells and were under enemy gunfire for several minutes. After the torpedoes were launched, DesRon 54 retired at maximum speed zig-zagging behind a smoke screen. No ship of this squadron sustained any material or personnel casualties.
(a) DesRon 54 less Wadleigh and Norman Scott, and 19 patrol craft left Manus on 11 October and escorted 104 LSTs, LCIs and LSMs to Leyte Gulf and arrived in transport area about 0400, 20 October, for the initial assualt on Leyte Island. From then on to the time of the torpedo attack DesRon 54 was assigned A/S screening duties. This command was OTC (CTU 79.11.3) of movement group from Manus to Leyte and then Transport Screen Commander (CTG 79.11) until 0805, 25 October. On the night of 24 - 25 October, prior to the engagement, destroyers were on A/S screening stations as follows:
Stations 3 Melvin " 4 McGowan " 5 Remey " 6 Monssen " 7 McDermut
These stations are shown on Enclousre (A). The primary mission was to prevent enemy submarines from entering Leyte Gulf where a large number of transports were unloading at anchor.
(b) The primary mission of all combatant forces in Leyte Gulf was to defend our transports from any type of enemy attack. DesRon 54 was not included in the striking force or in CTG 77.2 battle plan. Howeverf, when it appeared probable that the enemy would attack in force from the south, CDS 54 informed CTG 77.2 that if contact was made with enemy surface craft a torpedo attack would be launched immediately and that the attacking groups would retire well clear of Task Groups 77.2 and 77.3. CTG 77.2 approved this and the following attack plan was transmitted to DesRon 54, information to CTG 77.2 and 77.3 and ComDesRon 56:
"If surface contact is made in souther Leyte Gulf, CDS 54 will form two attack groups, Western Group CDD 108 in McDermut with Monssen, Eastern Attack Group CDS 54 in Remey with McGowan and Melvin. Attack speed 30 knots. MC NARI and Mertz will remain in vicinity of screening stations Nos. 1 and 2. Will use individual target plan, intermediate
speed setting. After delivery of torpedo attack, retire normal to axis to clear area for CTG 77.2 and &&.3 and then northward near coastline."
Post-attack rendezvous were established as follows: Eastern Attack Group in vicinity of screening station No. 3 and Western Attack Group in vicinity station No. 7.
All interested commands were notified of the above plan. It is considered that the attack and retirement plans eliminated, as far as was practicable, any possibility of friendly forces mistaking the two attacking groups for the enemy. The groups used I.F.F. throughout and retired well clear of any possible line of fire.
This command regretted not being able to include the Mertz and the McNair in the attack plan, but it was considered essential that they remain on A/S patrol off the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf.
At the time of the engagement, this command had no information of the Northern Japanese force headed eastward for San Bernardino Strait. The only possible assumption of the enemy's intention was that he was heading for our anchored transports to annihilate them and probably bombard our shore establishments. It was assumed that the enemy was misinformed of the strength of our battleship and cruiser forces remaining in Leyte Gulf, otherwise his approach to cross the Tee of our main battleline was hari-kari on a mass scale. This command expected the enemy to change course to approximately 340° true shortly after he passed Kanihaan Island and head directly for the Transport area. It was assumed that he would be on that course prior to time to launch the torpedo attack.
The location of friendly PT boats made it highly desirable to launch the torpedo attack north of Latitude 10° - 12' N and and yet no delay the attack enough to embarrass ComDesRon 56 in his attack, details of which were unknown to this command. The timing of the attack was planned accordingly. This resulted in a comparatively slow
approach, but enabled both Groups to increase speed by five knots as soon as they were detected by the enemy.
The Squadron Commmander checked the plot in C.I.C. of all friendly forces and all contact reports up to about 0200 on the 25th at which time he proceeded to the bridge to conduct the attack.
(c) Own forces.
Approximately 30 PT boats were on station in lower Surigao Strait and along the approaches thereto as follows:-
No. of Sections
S.E. of Magusen Point.
Off Kanihaan Island.
Midchannel off Kanhatid Pt., Dinagat Island.
Off Sumilon Island.
S.E. tip Panaon Island.
Bilaa Point, Mindanao.
S.W. tip Panaon Island.
South of Limasawa Island.
Patrol between Agio Point,
Bohol Island, past Camiguin
Island to Sipaca Point, Mindanao.
Commander Task Group 77.2 had deployed his forces, TG 77.2 and 77.3 several miles to the north of screening stations Nos. 3 - 7, prepared to strike any enemy surface entereing Leyte Gulf. Cruisers and destroyers of TG 77.3, right flank force of main body, were operating close to screening stations Nos. 6 and 7. Part of this force was to the south of these stations when our initial approach was started, causing the Western Attack Group to sheer out redically to the left. CTG 77.2 had under his command 6 OBBs, 4 CAs and 20 to 25 destroyers.
This command had 7 DDs on A/S patrol.
To the northward in the transport anchorage areas were our transports, landing craft, train and a close-in screen for A/A and A/S defense.
(d) It is estimated that the Eastern and Western Attack Groups launched their torpedoes against an enemy force consisting of 2 battleships, 1 cruiser and 4 screening destroyers for a total of seven ships. The heavy ships were headed north at about 18 knots, approximately in column. Japanese survivors later identified the battleships to be the Fuso and Yamashiro.
(e) Weather data recorded at 0300 Item, October 25, 1944 was as follows:
Temperature (dry bulb)
Moonrise, Oct 24
Sunset, Oct. 24
Moonset, Oct. 25
0006 (First Quarter
Sunrise, Oct. 25
PART II - CHRONOLOGICAL ACCOUNT OF ACTION.
24 October 1944 (East longitude date). All times zone minus nine.
Instructed DesRon 54 to have all boilers ready to cut in on short notice.
From ComDesRon 54 to CTG 77.2 - "In case of surface contact to southward I plan to make immediate attack with fish and then retire to clear you. If you approve this I will submit plan shortly." 1950 I.
From CTG 77.2 to ComDesRon 54 - "Do you have sameboys as last night?"
From ComDesRon 53 to CTG 77.2 - "Affirmative".
From CTG 77.2 to ComDesRon 54 - "Your 1950 I approved. Retire to cover Dinagat Island and pass between Hibuson and Dinagat. Show I.F.F. Inform me if enemy is in more than one group and composition if possible."
From ComDesRon 54 to CTG 77.2 - "My plan would be to attack from two sides with two groups, one of three and one of two ships. I will give details later. That would require retirement with one group well to the west, I will take other group well to the east. Would that be satisfactory?"
From CTG 77.2 to ComDesRon 54 Info CTG 77.3 - "Your last transmission affirmative. Keep close to shore and inform CTG 77.3 who has right flank. Show I.F.F. as usual." Time 2016 I.
From ComDesRon 54 to DesRon 54, CTG 77.2, CTG 77.3, CDS 56 - "If surface contact is made to southward, CDS 54 will form two attack groups. Western Group ComDesDiv 108 in McDermut with Monssen, Eastern Group ComDesRon 54 in Remey with McGowan and Melvin in that order. Attack speed 30 knots. McNair anbd Mertz will remain in vicinity stations one and two. Will use individual target plan, intermediate speed setting. After delivery of fish retire normal to the axis to clear area for CTG 77.2 and CTG 77.3, and then to north near coast line." Time 2020 I.
Squadron was advised that there were no friendly planes in vicinity. This was later cancelled whenMcGowan learned from San Carlos (AVP 51) that friendly PBYs might be in the area. For an hour and a half during this period McGowan tracked a suspicious plane showing surface vessel I.F.F. code.
A two engine bomber flew over Melvin, course NW, altitude 1500.
From ComDesRon 54 to DesRon 54 Info. CTG 77.2, CTG 77.3 and ComDesRon 56 - "Post-attack rendezvous points - Western Group at west end of screening station #7; Eastern Group at west end of the screening station #3." Time 2256 I.
25 October 1944
Received report relayed from PT 127 who contacted 3 enemy DD and 2 larger ships at 2310 I. Ships were 10 miles SE of Bohol Island headed north.
Received contact report of 2 surface vessels bearing 310°, distance 10 miles, from Caminguin Island.
Monssen had casualty to duplex oil strainer in after fireroom limiting speed to 28 knots for 45 minutes.
Received report from PT 533 who observed three star shells or flares distance 10 miles bearing 230° from south tip of Panaon Island. Believed may have been dropped by a plane.
Received report relayed from PT 127. Contact made at 0123 I, bearing 140, distance 18 miles from Taancan Point.
Checked with CTG 77.2 to insure he was receiving contact reports from PT boats.
Directed Melvin to leave station #3 and take station astern of McGowan in #4 preparatory to forming up for attack.
Received contact report from PT 134 - "Unidentified target proceeding up Surigao Strait abeam south tip of Panaon Island."
Directed DesRon 54 to go to Condition One. Cut in all four boilers.
Received report PT 134 had sighted target, a large ship and had attacked with undetermined results.
Western Group formed column.
Remey started for point one mile south of station #4.
Intercepted report that target being attacked by PTs was trying to drive them off by gunfire.
From ComDesRon 54 to Eastern Group - "Report on this circuit immediately if you pick up a target on your scope."
ComDesRon 108 directed Western Group to prepare to fire torpedoes to port, individual target plan and retire by column countermarch.
From ComDesRon 54 to CTG 77.2 - "I am going to start down in a few minutes."
From ComDesRon 54 to McGowan and Melvin - "Form 18 on CDS 54 distance 500 yards, speed 3, 15 knots."
Western Group headed south course 170°.
From ComDesRon 54 to McGowan and Melvin - "Execute speed 4, follow me."
Western Group changed speed to 20 knots.
From ComDesRon 54 to DesRon 54 - "Standard speed is now 20 knots which we are making."
McGowan made surface contact on SG radar 184° 39,700 yards. Contact faded but regained at 0239 at range 37,600 yards 184°.
Directed ComDesDiv 108 to take charge of Western Attack Group.
Directed DesRon 54 to show I.F.F.
Melvin picked up surface contact 184° T, 33,400 yards, two large pips visible.
McGowan evaluated target as three or more ships in column bearing 184°, 31,000 yards, course 000°.
Increased speed to 25 knots.
Western Group came to 090° then at 0254 to 190° to clear right flank forces.
McDermut made radar contact 158° T, 38,000 yards.
Eastern Group changed course to 135°.
McDermut picked up contact 160°, 29,700 yards. Monssen picked up contact 160°, 32,000 yards.
Eastern Group illuminated by searchlight for 10-15 seconds.
From ComDesRon 54 to Melvin and McGowan - "Am coming to 090° to fire torpedoes. Will take third target, you both take second. ComDesRon 108 the small one and number three".
C.I.C. had sent up a course of 090° which was obviously wrong. The Remey was directed to steady on 120° and ships in column followed.
Ordered ships to make smoke.
To Eastern Group - "Fire when ready."
Eastern Group changed speed to 30 knots.
Eastern Group fired torpedoes
Eastern Grouip illuminated by searchlight which stayed on for a few minutes. Enemy commenced fire. Group began retirement coming to course 021, making smoke, ships zig-zagging independently and making all possible speed.
Salvos falling close to Eastern Group.
ComDesRon 54 reported to CTG 77.2 - "We are being straddled now. We have fired our fish and are retiring to northward."
Western Group turned to course 150°.
Western Group turned back to course 180° making 30 knots.
Western Group directed to standby torpedoes.
Western Group came left to course 130°.
Monssen observed enemy gunfire.
Ships in Eastern Group observed 3 to 5 detonations, not gunfire.
Western Group came right to course 180°.
Western Group directed to fire torpedoes when ready.
Enemy appeared to Melvin to change course to 015°. Left wing enemy destroyer had disappeared.
Torpedoes away - Western Group.
Enemy salvos straddling Western Group.
Searchlight directly on Western Group.
One large enemy vessel appeared to slow down and sheer to right.
Western Group commenced retirement northward making all possible speed. Monssen made smoke.
Enemy ceased fire at Eastern Group.
Target tracked by Remey had slowed to 12 knots and two heavy ships had fallen astern of other ships of enemy force.
Monssen illuminated by green light or flare from westward. Obscured by smoke screen at 0316.
Eastern Group reduced speed to 25 knots.
Detonations and flashes, not gunfire, observed in target area by Western Group. Eastern Group observed one large explosion in target area.
Enemy ceased fire on Western Group.
Monssen ceased smoke.
Eastern Group arrived in post-attack rendezvous northeast of Hibuson Island.
McDermut and Monssen had arrived in post-attack rendezvous.
Ordered DesRon 54 to resume normal screening positions.
About 0257 the Squadron Commander decided that the enemy main body consisted of two very large ships, possibly battleships led by one cruiser in column. Depth setting of all torpedoes was 6 feet, with an actual running depth of 10 feet. It would therefore require several good torpedo hits to stop the largest targets, should they prove to be battleships. Fire distribution was therefore ordered as follows; Remey and McDermut on last ship, McGowan and Melvin on second ship and Monssen on leading target.
Best estimate of enemy formation at this time is given below.
Referring to the chart, Enclosure (A), showing tracks of all five ships, there are considerable discrepancies in indicated positions of the targets at specific times along the track. This is particularly true when attempting to compare the data of the Eastern Group with that of the Western Group. No attempt has been made by this Command to make one composite track of the enemy main body. See remarks under "Navigation" in PART V.
1. Performance of Own Ordnance Material and Equipment.
(a) The performance of ordnance equipment aboard ships of DesRon 54 participating in the attack appears to have been satisfactory, except in the case of the Remey and Melvin. On the Remey two torpedoes failed to fire due to primer failure and the Melvin had one such failure. No comment on the performance of the torpedoes after initial discharge from tubes can be made except that results definitely prove that a number of hits were scored. There was no gunfire from own ships at any time during the attack.
It is felt that destroyers should have more training in making low visibility torpedo attacks at high relative speeds. The standard "TR-1" practice for destroyers develops too slowly due to low speeds of target and ship, to make a realistic problem. Also, such practice runs should be made at night using sections of destroyers as attack groups, so that high speed night station keeping is also introduced into the problem. Whenever practicable the target should consist of two or more ships of different types. Ships of DesRon 54 were afforded an opportunity to make a limited number of "TR-1" rehearsal runs just prior to the commencement of the Leyte Operation. Rehearsal runs using sections for both target and attack groups, were also held enroute Leyte to Hollandia. None of the ships have had an opportunity to actually fire a torpedo practice since last April or May due to the necessities of war. It is strongly recommended that Commander Destroyers, Pacific Fleet, include in his standard practices a torpedo practice which, develops rapidly thus training C.I.C. personnel to work fast and accurately. Target speeds of about 20 knots and own ship speeds of at least 25 knots should be used.
(b) Ammunition Expended.
Ships of DesRon 54 expended a total of 47 Mark 15 torpedoes. No other ammunition was expended.
(c) Effectiveness of Torpedoes.
The torpedoes fired are considered to have been highly effective in slowing down and disrupting the energy formation. There can be no definite evaluation of the damage inflicted upon the enemy by our torpedo attack, however, it can be said that the enemy lost the initiative, never to regain it, and was either stopped or turned back by our and subsequent torpedo attacks. All ships of the Eastern Attack Group reported having seen at least two and possibly as many as five detonations, definitely not gunfire, at the time torpedoes were due to hit. Ships of the Western Group reported two positive and one additional possible detonation at one very large explosion was seen at this time. No evaluation of the type of enemy ships hit can be made. Since all torpedo spreads were directed at the larger ships of the enemy formation, it is presumed that most of the hits observed were on capital ships. The two largest targets were definitely seen to drop astern of the other enemy ships immediately after the Eastern Group's torpedoes arrived in the target area.
(a) Effectiveness of enemy gunnery.
At 0258 the Eastern Attack Group was illuminated by searchlight when the range was about 11,000 yards which was three minutes before torpedoes were fired. Up to that time there was no reason to believe thatthe enemy had detected us. The searchlight made a sweep of the Eastern Group, remaining on the Remey for about 5 seconds. The searchlight remained on only for about 15 seconds. The Jap searchlight was again turned on at about 0301 just as the Remey commenced firing torpedoes. This time the light was trained directly on the Remey. About 15 or 20 seconds after the light was turned on a salvo landed about 2000 yards short of Remey.
A few salvos landed uncomfortably close to Remey spraying water on deck. From this tine until about 0313 the Eastern Group was under enemy fire. Salvo patterns were small and some fell very close to our destroyers; however they were generally on in range and slightly off in deflection. At about 0302 the enemy started using starshell illumination, which at first was probably effective from the standpoint of the Japs. The stars were well placed and very brilliant. Judging from the enemy's use of illumination, he does not entirely trust his fire control radars and must spot and possibly train visually. Enemy gunfire was ineffective as it did not prevent any destroyers from delivering an effective torpedo attack. No large caliber fire was received. The Western Attack Group made their approach and fired torpedoes while the enemy was still engaged in "driving off" the Eastern Group. The fact that the enemy was thus occupied undoubtedly diverted attention from the Western Group, who were apparently not discovered until about the time they fired. It is believed that the searchlight and starshell illumination observed by the Western Group about 0300 was directed at the Eastern Group. They were first illuminated by a searchlight, just as in the case of the Eastern Group, and then taken under fire with illumination being maintained by star shells. Enemy fire on the Western Group was never intense and, as before, was ineffective. The enemy did not seem to have a clear tactical picture of what was going on, or at least did nothing to counter our blown. This might indicate that the Japanese do not yet have PPIs such as ours.
1. Own battle damage.
There was no battle damage inflicted on any destroyer of Squadron 54.
2. Enemy battle damage.
At about 0308, which was the time torpedoes from the Eastern Group should have hit, from two to five explosions, not gunfire, were seen in the direction of the target. Shortly thereafter two of the heaviest ships of the enemy formation were observed to slow down and the formation showed signs of disrupting. The Melvin states that at 0310 the left wing destroyer disappeared from their scope.
At about 0319, which was the time torpedoes from the Western Group should have hit, two positive and one probable detonations were seen. By this time the enemy formation was definitely broken up and showed signs of confusion.
From the above observations it can definitely be stated that torpedo hits were scored on three or four enemy ships including the two largest. Any further statements regarding damage to the enemy as seen by ships of DesRon 54 would be guesses. However, it is interesting to note that later information from prisoners of war established the presence of two battleships (Yamashiro and Fuso), one heavy cruiser, and four destroyers in the enemy force that we attacked, and that all were sunk by torpedoes and/or gunfire.
PART V - SPECIAL COMMENTS
Communications were carried on entirely by voice radio. TBS was used generally and was never overloaded. The restraint of other ships in not using this channel while the attack was in progress was noticed and appreciated. For tactical messages within the Eastern Group MN was used. This circuit was not available to ComDesDiv 108 since Monssen has been unable to obtain MN while operating in the forward areas.
The Fleet [U]HF (34.8 mcs) was not used during the attack.
On McDermut and Monssen Japanese transmissions were heard on this circuit immediately prior to the attack which rapidly increased in volume and were indicative of great confusion as the attack progressed.
The Local Air Warning circuit (3115 kcs) was essential for relaying contact reports from the PT boats which were operating as far as 100 miles to the south and west. It is recognized that the Japanese could have intercepted these messages and learned that their advance was being followed and reported. However, the enemy's subsequent tactics indicated that he had no knowledge that he was been tracked.
(b) Radar performance was good in most cases. The performance of the SG radars was excellent in all cases. The enemy was detected at ranges as great as 39,700 yards and tracked continuously shortly thereafter. The SC radars were of limited value due to land interference, but were not required during the attack. The Monssen reports a disappointing performance of MK IV radar; however, other ships reported normal performance.
There was no indication whatsoever of enemy jamming or use of radar deception.
(c) Air Operations, Own and Enemy.
CAPs was well occupied all of the previous day with enemy planes which were mostly in and around the transport area. The enemy seemed to concentrate on combatant ships. These stepped-up air attacks served as a warning that the enemy was preparing for an attack on our forces in and around Leyte Gulf. From about sunset 24 October until the next morning several suspicious planes were detected in the vicinity of our patrol stations. It is reasonable to conclude that there were one or two enemy snooper planes in the area. There was no indication that that these planes assisted their befuddled friends, except that the brilliant green light seen by the Western Group may have been a float light dropped from a plane.
(d) Own and Enemy Tactics.
1. Own Tactics.
The five destroyers available to the Squadron Commander were divided into two attack groups, one to the eastward and one to westward to launch torpedo attacks from opposite bows of the enemy. The approach was made at 25 knots as it was considered essential to launch our attack to the north of our PT boats patrolling off Kanihaan Island and off Magusen Point. Both groups increased their speed to 30 knots as soon as detected by the enemy. This change in speed probably helped to throw the enemy's gunnery off in deflection.
It was expected that the enemy would come to a course of about 340° true to head for our transports after he passed Kanihaan Island. The Eastern Attack Group started down the Strait on course 180°. At about 0250 course was changed to 150° T and at 0255 to 135° T to head for the firing point. At 0258 course was changed to 120° and at 0259 the order to fire torpedoes when ready was given.
At 0300 speed was increased to 30 knots, and ships in Eastern Group ere then ordered to zig-zag and lay smoke screen. Speed was increased to all possible. Both groups had previously been assigned to their post-attack rendezvous points and retired in accordance with plan, well clear of our forces to the north.
The Squadron Commander conducted the attack from the bridge. C.I.C. tracked own and enemy positions and informed Conn of times to change course and courses to be steered to reach the firing point.
2. Enemy Tactics.
The enemy formation stood up the center of Surigao Strait, main body in column, on a northerly course at about 18 knots. There appeared to be no avoiding maneuvers.
(e) Smoke, Camouflage and Deception.
Stack smoke was used by both attack groups for covering retirement The Eastern Group was ordered to make smoke at 0259, when illuminated by an enemy searchlight. The Western Group was not actually ordered to make smoke, but the Monssen started making smoke at about 0312, since she was then illuminated by the enemy, and reports that the enemy searchlight lost them soon after smoke was laid. Smoke made by the Eastern Group probably prevented the enemy from spotting accurately and may have concealed the McGowan from enemy view entirely. The following diagram shows the relative location of the Eastern Group during retirement and smoke screens:
Note: Remey and Melvin reported salvoes landed close. McGowan did not report any close to her.
The use of smoke is considered to have been effective in screening our retirement and largely reduced the effectiveness of enemy illumination.
Both Attack Group Commanders are of the opinion that the destroyers painted with light and dark contrastingstripes stood out much more sharply than those pained a solid navy blue, when illuminated by enemy searchlight.
The performance of C.I.C.s of ships in DesRon 54 was very good to excellent. The need for more training in low visibility torpedo attacks with high relative speeds is indicated. See comments in PART II, paragraph (a). The Monssen and the McGowan are the only two ships participating in the attack, who have a remote PPI in C.I.C. Early installation on the other ships is desirable as it is a distinct advantage.
The waters in which this action occurred although nearly land-locked are comparatively free of navigational dangers. Except for a few places along the eastern side of Surigao Strait deep draft vessels may be navigated nearly up to the shoreline without danger. The land on either side and the scattered small islands are steep-to and well defined in the PPI of SG radar. For these reasons navigation presented little difficulty and the presence of land was an advantage except during retirement when we were forced to retire in nearly the same direction the enemy was advancing. This kept us within enemy gun range for a longer period of time than if the action had been in the open sea, where we could have retired normal to the enemy course for a longer period of time. None of the ships of the squadron maintained accurate navigational tracks during the attack as there was no apparent need for other than DR and DRT tracks. Navigational fixes were obtained by both groups at about the time they started in for the attack and after retirement commenced. Therefore during the vital part of the attack ships have relied on DRT to determine
their tracks. Due to currents and the usual inaccuracies of the DRT some error was evidently introduced into the various tracks submitted by individual ships. This and the fact that each ship was tracking a different target within the enemy formation accounts for the difference in own and enemy tracks as submitted by the individual ships participating in the attack. See Enclosure (A).
The performance of the Engineering plant and personnel of each ship was excellent.
(i) Lessons Learned, Conclusions, Recommendations.
Standard destroyer doctrine states that with five or less destroyers available only one attack group will be formed. It is believed that the advantages of striking the enemy from opposite bows are so great that the use of two attacking groups as employed by this command was more than justified. The five destroyers launched an unsupported torpedo attack against an enemy force of three heavy ships and four destroyers. A number of torpedo hits were scored. The two heaviest ships were hit and forced to drop astern. Another ship suffered a large explosion. The enemy had lost all initiative and his formation was completely disrupted. The attacking destroyers retired undamaged. The enemy's radar was apparently still inferior to ours. However, the attacking destroyers had one advantage that would have obtained even if the enemy had had equality in radar equipment. Our destroyers merely had the problem of tracking one formation of heavy ships, contact on which was first made at 39,700 yards. We offered the enemy only five small "pips", in two groups and on opposite bows.
Both groups were discovered by the enemy before they reached the firing point and were straddled shortly thereafter. This again proved the wisdom of using intermediate speed setting when attacking enemy heavy ships.
The torpedoes must be delivered at an effective range before the destroyers are disabled and unable to launch a full salvo.
C.I.C. teams should be trained under more realistic conditions than those simulated in the present standard torpedo training practices. It is recommended that after the teams have qualified in the basic "TR-1" runs that an advanced practice be held using target speeds of about 20 knots and attack speeds of 25 to 30 knots. The target should consist of two or more vessels, preferably of different types and the attacking groups should be three destroyers.
The Squadron Commander and ComDesDiv 108 conducted their attacks from the bridge. There are many advantages in the Attack Group Commander being in C.I.C. He can obtain a more complete picture in Combat and would be in a position to quickly check the Evaluator's plot and recommended course changes. In general it is believed that if nothing "unusual or unexpected" happens the attack can best be conducted from Combat, but should the attacking group be taken under heavy fire, a melee develop or any other "unexpected" development take place, the Attack Group Commander can better grasp the situation if on the bridge. It is therefore considered that the unit commander should be on the bridge during the attack and C.I.C. must keep him constantly informed, recommend to him the courses to be steered, evaluation of targets, when within effective range, and furnish all other data required by C.I.C. handbook to ship and torpedo control.
PART VI - PERSONNEL PERFORMANCE AND CASUALTIES.
Commander Destroyer Division 108 and the commanding officers of all five attacking destroyers launched a daring and effective torpedo attack with great skill and gallant devotion to duty.
Cominch (Advance Copy)
CincPac ( 2 " Copies)
ComCruDiv 4 (CTG 77.2)"
FIRST ENDORSEMENT to
DesRon 54 Conf. ltr.
of 12 November 1944.
From: Commander Third Amphibious Force. To: Commander Seventh Fleet. Subject: Report of Night Action in SURIGAO STRAIT, PHILIPPINE Islands, 24-25 October 1944.
1. Forwarded. This attack was well planned andexecuted and resulted in severe damage to the enemy, throwing him into confusion and contributing to the success of the following attack by DesRon 56. This was the initial blow in a series that led to the destruction of this enemy force.
SECOND ENDORSEMENT to:
ltr., serial 055 dated
12 November, 1944.
From: Commander SEVENTH Fleet. To: Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Subject: Report of Night Action in SURIGAO STRAIT, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, 24-25 October 1944.
2. The destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 54 were the first to launch torpedo attacks against the Japanese Southern Force in Surigao Strait. The attack was well executed, resulted in severe damage to the enemy and confused and slowed the movement of the Japanese Force, thereby making it an easier prey for our heavy forces.
C. E. VAN HOOK,