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SURVIVORS TELL STORY; RESCUED BY USS BROWN
Two of the six enlisted men who survived the sinking of the
USS MONAGHAN during a typhoon in the Pacific are in the United
States, their mind still filled with the tension and horror or
their 72 hours in a storm-tossed sea.
two men, rescued by the USS BROWN, are; Joseph Charles McCrane,
Watertender, Second Class U.S.N.R, 30 of 115 Delaware Avenue,
Clementon, New Jersey, and Robert J. Darden, Machinist's Mate
Second Class, USNR 28, of Route One, Jacksonville, North
Carolina. They are the senior survivors of the MONAGHAN. The
remaining survivors are still in the pacific area, recovering
from exhaustion, exposure and shock.
1500-ton destroyer MONAGHAN capsized in December during a
typhoon in the Philippine Sea, with a loss of more than 200
officers and men. The story of its loss and the eventual
rescue by the BROWN of the six survivors is told by McCrane
of us were on the only life raft that was picked up,"
Darden explained, "but seven died or disappeared before
we were rescued. Me I was too busy bandaging injured men and
handing out food and water, trying to make it last, to think
about dying. I guess that's one reason why I just didn't give
up hope like some of the boys."
storm struck suddenly, shortly after dawn, McCrane said. He
was below supervising the filling of two empty oil tanks with
salt-water ballast. The ship had run low of fuel and in
company with the Spence and the Hull, two other destroyers
lost in the same storm, she had been trying to refuel the
night before, it was because of this that her ballast had been
pumped out earlier, but the rough seas caused the abandonment
of the fueling attempts.
got bad around 11 o'clock on the first morning of the storm,
the New Jersey man said, "but I bet there wasn't a man at
that time who didn't think we would get through. Suddenly, I
guess about noon, she began to roll violently to starboard. We
found out later that the wind driving against our port side
was over 100 knots. One of the fellows on the raft who was
topside during the worst part said the starboard whaleboat
dipped water several times and that she rolled over at least
suddenness of the disaster is what surprised us. Before her
final roll, the ship seemed to have gone over just as far as
she did when she went over on her side. Before the final roll
there were 40 or 50 of us in the after gun shelter. We stopped
work and hung on. We began to get scared.
of us were praying like we never prayed before, some of us out
loud, too. The man next to me kept repeating on each roll
"Don't let us down now, Dear Lord. Bring it back, Oh God,
bring it back." We all felt the same way, and soon a few
of the guys joined in. Then was when we came back we'd chant,
"Thanks Dear Lord." The next thing we knew we were
on our side.
broke in at this point in the tale to say that previous to the
MONAGHAN'S tragedy he had looked around to find something to
"Knock myself out with." In case he was trapped
below."I didn't think much of being drowned like a rat in
that gun shelter." He said. "When it came, someone
threw open the hatch," McCrane went on, "And we
started to scramble out. Under the circumstances, most of us
were pretty orderly and there was hardly any hysteria. The
fellows start helping each other, particularly the shorter men
who couldn't reach the hatch."
climbed out of the hatch and stood on a bulkhead. The waves
were knocking me about, but I didn't want to shake loose
because I saw what happened to men who had jumped off as soon
as we heeled. They were pounded to a pulp against the side of
the ship. But finally a big wave shook me loose and I went
scrambling along the ship until I was lucky enough to grab a
depth charge rack. I walked along the torpedo tubes. Another
wave hit me and I went into the air."
next thing I knew I was struggling in the water trying to keep
from being pounded against the ship. Water and oil were
blowing against my face. I was choking and beating the water
with my arms and legs like a puppy. I saw I wasn't getting
anywhere so I calmed down and got away gradually. But I was
losing strength when suddenly someone hollered: "Hey Joe,
grab that raft in back of you, I think it was a fellow named
Guio (Joseph Guio Jr., Gunners Mate, Third Class USNR, of 4020
Washington Street, Holliday's Cove, West Virginia.) Who later
died on the raft. Thirteen of us got to it and hung on the
sides like they did in that Noel Coward movie; (In This
We Serve). I never saw the movie, but I remember those guys
hanging on from a trailer I saw." This was about
1230, McCrane added, and was approximately the time the
MONAGHAN filled up with water and went down completely. The
wind at that time was blowing so hard that the driving salt
spray and oil made it difficult to see more than a few yards
and the survivors were unable to say for sure whether anyone
was on the MONAGHAN at the time. "It looked to me
like there was no one left," he said. "We looked
around for others to help and started to help some of the
badly injured get on the raft. One of these was Ben Holland
(Will Ben Holland, Ships Cook, First Class, USNR, son of
Willian Earl Holland, Rural Route 1, Mc Minnville, Tennessee).
He was a typical of the badly injured with a big gash on the
back of his head and on his foot. Guio, the guy who yelled to
me about the raft, was another. He had part of his foot torn
by Chuck Smith.) These life rafts were a balsa wood ring about
four feet across and 8 or 10 feet long. They had a coarse
weave netting of about 3/8-inch rope fastened to the balsa
wood ring, with a woven wooden slat bottom. The only thing you
could do was hang on to them. Your body was in the water
whether you were on the inside or the outside of the balsa
"Before we got the bottom of the raft down it turned over
four of five times. This meant we had to fish around and help
the wounded back on each time and we were getting pretty tired
and weak. After we got the bottom down we all climbed
aboard--thirteen of us---that first night." I broke out
the emergency rations - Spam, hard biscuits and stuff like
that--and water. I limited them to a biscuit, cup of water two
or three time a day, as soon as we opened that Spam, the
sharks started nosing around. We all ate a little, drank our
mite of water and tried to get some rest. "That first
night we just missed being saved. We saw the lights of a ship
and started hollering and yelling, waving our arms. But she
passed us by without seeing us. About this time I put my arms
and legs around Guio because he was naked and suffering from
the cold. Just then he said, "Joe can you see
anything?" I thought he meant the ship and I told him I
could. "I can't see a thing" he answered.
" A few
minutes later he closed his eyes-- and we got ready for our
first burial at sea. Doil Carpenter, Seaman, First Class, USNR
from California (Address at time of enlistment was 562 East
223rd Street, Torrance, California), said a prayer and we put
Guio, the guy who probably saved my life by yelling about that
raft, over the side.
next day we were all confident we would be picked up. Planes
passed over us, but it was still pretty rough and our little
raft must have been hard to see. A TBF (torpedo plane) went
right over us. That night another fellow died after he had
gone berserk and started to drink salt water. We tried to stop
him too. Another fellow started swimming around the raft and
we lost him as well as Holland, who died of his
next day and night passed about the same way. Another man went
over the side and was lost and two more swam to another
unoccupied raft. They were never seen again. Meanwhile,
McCrane had applied first aid to the remaining men, bandaging
up their cuts and applying sulfa powder and ointment."
broke into McCrane's narrative again to tell how he began to
see a mirage, a pretty, white beach with lights, he too jumped
over the side and started to swim toward the
"beach". Luckily it vanished in time and he returned
to the raft.
water tasted brackish so I thought we were in a sound"
Darden explained. "I got some of the other fellows to
taste it and they agreed with me. Shows how we were beginning
to look pretty grim. He was trying to keep up his hopes as
well as those of the other survivors.
soon we saw some fighter planes come over," he resumed,
"and knew we were either near land or one of our
carriers." They later turned out to be carrier planes.
These two planes banked over us and dropped some of those
water markers. Twenty minutes later we saw the most wonderful
sight in the world, a destroyer steaming at full speed right
few moments later she was alongside with everyone shouting
advice. Someone threw us a line and soon we were safe. She
turned out to be the USS BROWN, a 2100 toner, badly battered
by the storm herself. They told us when we got aboard that a
shark was right on our tails the whole time we were being
rescued. "Well he's welcome to the rest of that Spam,
anyway." (Note by Chuck Smith...I think these were the
only survivors from the Monaghan.)
All told 82 men were picked out of the heaving seas. But 790
men were gone. Three destroyers had been sacrificed to Typhoon
Cobra, and so many other ships had been damaged that the fleet
could not participate in that attack on Luzon. A court of
inquiry blamed the disaster on Admiral Halsey---whatever
problems the weather experts had encountered; he was the
Report from Crew Members of the USS
The destroyer escort USS
Tabberer had rolled 72 degrees to one side and was still
afloat. Although the sea was rough, the rolling was much less
and the peak of the storm had passed Fifty degree rolls no
longer amazed anyone, but the swinging mast finally buckled
and dangled dangerouslly over the starboard side. A damage
control party braved the savage waves that swept over the
slippery deck and cut it loose with a torch. Mast, or no mast,
life was getting back to normal.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lt. Cdr.
Henry Plage a product of Georiga Tech,s ROTC program, headed
his ship for the 3rd Fleet rendezvous. It was Dec. 18, 1944.
The fleet had attempted to fuel at sea after the invasion of
Mindoro in the Philippines so it could continue its attacks
against the Japanese. Instead, the fleet was caught in one of
the worst typhoons in history.
Now at least, everyone on the
Tabberer was breathing easier and the cleaning up had already
begun. Ralph Tucker, chief radioman, was busy rigging an
emergency antenna between the flag bag and the gun mount when
he heard a shout. Looking in the Direction of the cry, he saw
a man off the starboard beam. Tucker yelled, "Man
Plage immediately sailed
downwind and then turned upwind as though he was approaching a
mooring buoy. It was a normal procedure, but he lost steering
control as he slowed speed in the heavy sea and wind. The
ground swells and cross seas drove the bow of the Tabberer
away from the exhausted man. It was maddening
The captain decided to go
upwind. He thought that if he sailed the ship broadside the
wind might blow it toward the man. Once Broadside the steep
rolls dipped the edge of the main deck into the water. Rolling
toward the struggling survivor, everyone on the deck wondered
if he would be rescued or run over. Plage thought the ship and
the crew were like tumbleweed blowing in the breeze.
When closer, Bob Surdam the
exec, shouted to the man to put the line that was thrown under
his arms. Weak, but still conscious, the man did as he was
told. When the ship came out of a slow roll and the water
washed away the man was on the deck as if he were a big fish.
By now he was unconscious and was taken below. The stranger
was obviously not from the Tabberer. When he revived, it was
learned to the crew's Surprise that he was from the USS Hull.
This was the first news in the fleet that a destroyer had
capsized in the Typhoon.
Word about the survivor spread
through the ship like lighting. Men rushed on deck to help.
The 24- and 12-inch searchlights acanned the wild ocean, but
whitecaps were everywhere and looked deceptively like men's
heads. Nevertheless, in another hour or so, 10 stray men were
fished out of the rough sea. Two survivors told Arthur
Carpentier, the engineering officer, that the Tabberer had
passed close by a number of times before they were saved. He
wondered how many other helpless men were out there.
Jim Marks, the Hull's captain,
had stepped off his bridge into the sea and was one of the
lonely men who fought for his life. He must have asked himself
why fate had dealt with him so harshly. Strangely, he
developed a craving for something to eat and chewed on a
whistle. It did not taste very good so he took a piece of
leather from his shoe and chewed away. That was more
About the same time, a few men
from a second destroyer, the USS Spence, Tried to organize
themselves. Their ship, light in fuel, had rolled to about 75
degrees and recovered. A couple of rolls later there was no
George Johnson, a chief
watertender, had been with the Spence since it was a proud
part of Arleigh (31Knot) Burke's Little Beaver Squadron in the
Solomons. Just before the final, he had wandered topside near
the radio room. In no time, the ship lay on it's side and
Johnson walked off the forward stack into the sea.
Johnson stared at the Spence.
It was eerie in the dim, gray light. Soon, the ship broke in
half and went down. The boiler exploded and Johnson thought
the depth charges would be next. Instead, the ship sucked him
deep down into a vacuum. When he returned to the surface his
lungs were ready to burst.
In a few minutes, Johnson found
a 7-foot life raft. Although it seemed impossible to surive in
the raging sea, 29 men surrounded their only hope. Soon the
number of men dwindled. One of the First to die was a young
mess cook, 18 or 19 years old. Near the end, he took a ring
off his finger and told another man to be sure his mother got
it. Other weary men were simply Brushed away by the
Johnson took charge of the
forlorn group. The important thing was to stay awake. Sleepy
men were sure to drown. Johnson decided that the best way to
stay awake was to talk. He talked and talked. After awhile
nobody listened, but he didn't care. He thought, too, of his
wife and the baby daughter he had never seen.
The next day the hallucinations
began. Some saw islands and green grass. One man was positive
he saw a refreshment stand and swam toward it. He never
returned. Even the strong-minded Johnson lost touch with
reality now and then. Oddly, he found that the false images
sometimes helped. They gave hope and passed time.
As the men grew weaker, sharks
seemed more aggressive. For a long time they had quietly
followed the raft. Johnson found some grease and had the men
coat themselves. It was supposed to be an old trick to ward
off sharks. A shark bit a man in the arm and tore off a large
piece of the muscle. Blood spilled around them. Everyone knew
that blood attracted sharks, yet mysteriously they did not
attack again. Maybe the grease worked. Still, no one came to
Plage, on the bridge as dawn
broke, had not given up. In the early hours he picked up six
more men. the sixth man Jim Marks, extremely weak and badly
battered. When the hungry Marks was offered hot soupe he could
even keep it down.
Through the morning the excited
young crew made more rescues. Plage's ship handling came as no
surprise to them. They had often marveled at his skill. He had
a natural talent, they thought, like the gift of a natural
Boatswain's Mate First Class
Louis Purvis worked with Lt. Howard Korth on the nets thrown
over the side. Purvis dived into the warter for someone and
his slackened line tangled on an underwater dome. As seconds
passed men on the deck feared he had drowned Purvis, however,
slipped out of is life jacket and came up on the other side.
His shipmates claimed he was the only man ever keelhauled in
the modern Navy.
One man was too weak to reach
for a life ring when a large shark appeared nearby. Bob Surdam
dived into the sea despite the shark and placed a line around
the man. Robert Cotton, a torpedoman, jumped in to help. The
lucky survivor was Cyrus Watkins of the Hull.
Plage received a message to
procced on a new course for the fleet rendezvous. . As soon as
he changed course, Another man was spotted. This discovery
convinced Plage to make another careful search. He found still
another man and kept searching. By now it was impossible to
reach the rendezvous on time as ordered, When he finally
resumed the course, every one on board hoped there would be
some reason for delay.
In another 20 minutes a
sighting was made two miles away. This had never happened
before. As the ship came closer, the men saw the reason. Seven
men were in a circle. George Sharp, the engineering officer of
the Hull, had insisted on lashing them together. one man had
no life jacket and he was placed in the center. He had spent
the night on a mattress that was about to fall apart when he
came across the little group.
Plage was now three hours late.
As he pondered whether or not to forget his orders, a message
arrived from Adm. William F. Halsey to remain in the area
until the next morning.
By the 20th Johnson's group had
been adrift for 50 hours. only 14 men remained. Soon Johnson
saw a ship approacing that he was certain was Japanese. Then
the ship started firing. This had to be the end. But he was
wrong. It was the Demasted Tabberer firing into the water to
ward off sharks. The 14 became the last survivors. Fifty-five
had been recovered.
Six men from the USS Monaghan,
a third destoryer that had capsized, still drifted in the sea.
Evan Fenn, one of the six, suffered from severe leg
lacerations, but he refused to give up. On the 21st he
confidently told the others they would be rescued that day.
Sure enough he was right. They were discovered by the USS
Brown and became the Monaghan's only survivors. Only 98 men
were rescued by all the ships in the 3rd Fleet. Almost 800
The Tabberer made a strange
sight sailing into the anchorage at Ulithi. When it came
within view of the giant USS New Jersey, Plage received a
blinker message from the battleship' "What type of ship
are you?" The tired Plage replied, "Destroyer
escort. What type are you?" He received no answer.