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18 December 1944
In Memory of my Dad and his shipmates

As father and son go, we've known each other only in our hearts. You were all of 22 when the Lord called you into another service.  Dad, thank you for giving me life and a proud lifetime memory.  I love you mom and dad - RIP.

Webmaster's Note: Do you believe in miracles and that prayers will be answered? 67 years without knowing if one of the faces from the USS Monaghan's crew members pictured here could be my dad? The photo above arrived, thanks to my sister Carolyn Carpenter, this summer (2012). She had searched for me some 40+ years.

On 17 December, 1944, my father's ship, DD-354 .U.S.S. Monaghan was steering toward Leyte Bay on a rendezvous course with the Pacific Task Forces 38 and 58. The Third Fleet was engaged in naval air strikes against Japanese forces in the Philippines.  While the planes had been attacking central Luzon in support of the Mindoro invasion, the carriers and their destroyer protectors were in desperate need of fuel. Dad's ship was assigned to escort duty for the fuel ships of the fleet, an attractive enemy target. She ran at flank speed during the operations and was riding high in the seas from lack of fuel. Then she ran into Typhoon Cobra, described below as "more powerful than any western Pacific encounter with the Japanese."

"In December 1944 as Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet was operating in support of General MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines, the Third Fleet encountered a tropical cyclone more powerful than any western Pacific encounter with the Japanese. The result was three destroyers (the USS HULL, USS MONAGHAN and USS SPENCE) sunk with 800 men lost, 26 other vessels seriously damaged, and 146 aircraft destroyed (16). The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Nimitz said, "It was the greatest loss that we have taken in the Pacific without compensatory return since the First Battle of Savo." Halsey himself described it best. "No one who has not been through a typhoon can conceive its fury," he wrote in his autobiography. "The 70 foot seas smash you. The rain blinds you. The battleship NEW JERSEY once was hit by a 5-inch shell and I did not even feel the impact. The MISSOURI had kamikaze crash on her main deck and repaired the only damage with a paint brush. But the typhoon tossed our enormous ship the MISSOURI as if she were only a canoe."

One eyewitness account speaks to the conditions my dad found himself and his shipmates facing.

"These destroyers were escorting the carriers, and they came out. We're trying to fuel them, and the seas are choppy; I mean, when I say choppy, they're twenty, twenty-five feet waves... They were going to move to another location and commence fueling in the morning again. Well, instead of taking us out of the typhoon they took us back into it. I'm talking about waves that were fifty and sixty feet high. Sometimes you'd see a destroyer, he'd be sitting up on top of a wave and the next time he would be down so low that you couldn't even see the mast. That's how deep the troughs were. There's no way those destroyers could fuel from the tankers."

Another eyewitness offers this account:

We were escorting the Third Fleet oilers. Three destroyers had pumped ballast and were awaiting refueling at sea when the typhoon hit suddenly with great force. All three destroyers, the Hull, Spence, and Monahan capsized within view with tremendous loss of life. We were flag for the division and stationed front of the escort carrier, then called the Coral Sea, and rode out the storm on station. Three of our division got sideways to the wind and lost superstructure and returned to Pearl and were decorated. The last reading on the carrier's anemometer was near three hundred knots, or so we were told. Her planes on deck were blown overboard.

At the height of the storm, I was told one of my depth charges was loose and I was sent on deck. I was stopped going through the hatch and a line was attached around me. When I cleared the lee of the deckhouse the wind smacked me and blew me up and over. The two men who lashed the line yanked me aboard. I would give a lot to learn of these men who saved my life.

The following day we pulled a number of bodies aboard and conducted funerals. This storm is often confused with the one a year later off Okinawa, but was much worse. In a book called "Sea Fights and Shipwrecks", the 1944 storm is described as the worst in recorded history.

David J. Woodland TM2c
USS Lawrence C. Taylor DE 415

Former President Gerald R. Ford in May 1943 served as a pre-commissioning detachment for a new light aircraft carrier, USS Monterey (CVL-26). This was one of the ships in may dad's group. The following is an official record of an account by Lt. Ford who served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board Monterey.

"Monterey was damaged by a fire which was started by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding during the storm. During the storm, Ford narrowly missed being a casualty himself. After Ford left his battle station on the bridge of the ship in the early morning of 18 December, the ship rolled twenty-five degrees which caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The two inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him enough so he could roll and twisted into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated, 'I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard.' "

The fueling day was the first of Typhoon Cobra that claimed 790 lives in the 3d Fleet, and sank Spence (DD-512), Hull (DD-350), and Monaghan. The six survivors, rescued by USS Brown after drifting on a raft 3 days, reported that Monaghan took roll after roll to starboard, finally going over. Of the 6 hands that survived the sinking, 3 perished after rescue. 

From accounts passed on by one of his shipmates to my mom, my dad and other Monaghan crew members remained half in/half out of the water because some of the men were injured and bleeding. Their being in the life raft was their only hope and the area was known to be shark invested. By the second day, most were able to get into the raft. Quietly, without notice in the darkness and the rough seas, we're told Dad joined the watery grave of the Spence, Hull and Monaghan.

Extensive searches of the area, conducted by many ships and aircraft on the 19th, 20th and 21st of December resulted in picking up few survivors from the lost destroyers: 7 officers and 55 men from the Hull, 1 officer and 23 men from the Spence, and 6 men from the Monaghan. A total about 790 men and officers were lost.

Of the tragedy, Admiral Nimitz said, "represented a more crippling blow to the 3d Fleet than it might be expected to suffer in anything less than a major action." Veteran of so many actions against a human enemy, Monaghan fell victim to the sailor's oldest enemy, the perils of the sea.

Monaghan received 12 battle stars for World War II service.

Survivors from the Spence and the Hull




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