Typhoon of 18 December 1944
790 brave men lost at sea
to a natural disaster.




Ave Maria

In The Garden

Amazing Grace
United States naval vessels sunk
Destroyers HULL (DD-350)

United States naval vessels damaged:

Light Carriers COWPENS (CVL-25), MONTEREY (CVL-26), CABOT 
(CVL-28), and SAN JACINTO (CVL-30)

Escort Carrier ALTAMAHA (CVE-18), NEHENTA BAY (CVE-74), CAPE 

Light Cruiser MIAMI (CL-89)

Destroyers DEWEY (DD- 349), AYLWIN (DD-355), BUCHANAN (DD-484), 
DYSON (DD-572), HICKOX (DD-673, MADDOX (DD-731), and BENHAM 

Destroyer Escorts MELVIN R. NAWMAN (DE-416), TABBERER (DE-418), 
and WATERMAN (DE-740)


Fleet Tug JICARILLA (ATF-104)



Thanks to D. T. Rohde CDR USN Ret.(SC) USN

Plankowner Supply Officer USS OAKLAND (CL-95)


Dashing along at 28 knots, a bone in her teeth, and salt spray on the top of 
Number 3 mount, USS OAKLAND (CL-95) was keeping pace with the rest of 
TG 38.2. The Third Fleet, Admiral W. F. "Bull" Halsey was 500 miles east of 
Luzon, in the Philippines, headed for a fueling rendezvous on 17 DEC 44.

OAKLAND, CAPT Kendall S. Reed, was steaming in the cruiser circle as usual. 
500 yards on her starboard quarter was USS COWPENS (CVL-25). Since the 
fueling of the "small boys", in the destroyers, was of primary concern, they started
going alongside the battleships early in the forenoon. However, a moderate 
cross-swell and rising winds that varied from 20 - 30 knots made matters so 
hazardous, several fueling lines having carried away, that Halsey called off the 
operation. Since the aerologists had reported worsening weather, the Force headed
northwestward to evade the typhoon, coming in from the east.

The typhoon appeared to be very capricious, changing course from that originally 
determined, and Halsey ran Southwest, still trying to evade. However, the storm 
appeared to be overtaking the Force. On the morning of 18 DEC, another attempt 
to fuel at 0700 had to be called off as the glass fell steadily. By 0830, the storm 
was a monstrous typhoon, the center only 150 miles from the Third Fleet.

That first day, living in OAKLAND was a little rough, but then, we were used to 
hanging on when the weather was foul. After all, my buddies in the big light 
cruisers (BROOKLYN class) and the heavies used to say when they saw me 
coming ashore on an atoll, "Here comes Rohde from the big destroyer". 
OAKLAND was a 6,000 ton (std. displacement) anti-aircraft cruiser. At full load, 
she was more like 7,500 tons, but she still had the lines of a destroyer. 541'
overall with a 53' beam and a 20' draft doesn't make for too stable a platform in 
high wind and seas. With a rather high superstructure forward, consisting of the 
forward 3 echeloned 5" 38 cal. twin mounts, the bridge and the forward stack, a 
space between, and the after stack and the after 3 echeloned 5" 38 cal. twin 
mounts, there was a lot of sail area.

As I remember, we managed some kind of hot meals in the General Mess that 
first day, although you may be sure that we didn't have the coppers full of 
"hotstuff', rolling as we were. In the Wardroom, we ate food brought up from the 
General Mess, as the stewards and cooks found it impossible to work in the 
Pantry. That night, we slept wedged in our bunks. I had a night watch, evening or 
mid, I can't remember. I sat in the Coding Room, in a chair lashed to the stand of 
the Coding Machine and typed as best I could. When I was relieved, getting down 
three levels of superstructure to my room on the main deck forward of the 
Wardroom was like nothing I had experienced to date. Sometimes my foot landed 
on the ladder tread hard enough to break an ankle, while with the next step, my 
foot might be in "mid-air", as the ship dropped out from under me.

The morning of the 18th dawned, if you could call it that, a dirty grey day, with 
nothing but high scudding clouds and the roar of the gale, the pitching and rolling
of the ship, and the inevitable crashing noises below decks, where gear carried 
away. I remember the Navigator joking that even the Beaufort Scale didn't 
provide for this much wind. The air below decks was fetid; all spaces, not 
necessary to be manned for ship's operation were secured. The Supply Office, the
Main Issue Room and the Ship's Service Activities, except the Ship's Store, were 
closed. With my usual interest in topside operations, I went up to BAT (Battle) I, 
the navigating bridge, atop the Pilot House. I spent most of the forenoon 

The scene from BAT I was spectacular. The seas were 70 feet, and NEW 
JERSEY was rolling like a canoe in a rapids. COWPENS, a CVL of the 
INDEPENDENCE class, was originally laid down as the cruiser HUNTINGTON 
(CL-77). While she was 70' longer than our little cruiser, she was only 20' wider 
in the hewn, yet she had that big flight deck on top of her. Repeatedly, she stuck 
her nose into the seas, and I stood on the wing of the bridge, watching green seas 
pour over her sides for what seemed like minutes on end. Suddenly, a smashing 
sea hit her a quartering blow, and a 40mm. gun tub which protruded from her port 
quarter disappeared before our eyes. Hard on that came the word from CIC that
planes in her hanger deck had broken loose from their moorings, and the damage
control crews were fighting aviation gasoline fires from broken fuel tanks.

Needless to say, I had ordered the Commissary Officer to break out GQ rations - 
canned ham, chicken, and turkey - and to serve cold food, plus coffee, til we ran 
out of this. Sometime in the late morning, I got a call from the wardroom (I was 
still up in BAT 1) that one of the large four cushion settees in the Wardroom Mess 
had broken loose, and was madly sliding from one side to another like an express 
train. I ran down four decks to find the settee crashing back and forth, and the 
steward's mates standing outside the door, slightly less black than usual. I sent 
Washington, the senior steward, to get a couple of storekeepers, and I got some 
heaving line from the nearby bos'n's locker. With the help of the storekeepers, the
heavy settee was corralled by means of making the heaving line fast to the legs, 
and thence to the brackets that the port covers slide on - the only anchors we had. 
These settees are secured to the deck by means of 5/8" bolts which run through
flanges on the feet of the settee and into tapped holes in the steel deck. Enough of
these bolts had sheared off to cast the settee adrift. It tooksome doing to avoid 
getting crushed while getting a line onto each settee. You may better understand
the problem when I tell you that shortly after this episode,the engine room
reported 42 degree rolls on the clinometer. This would have been bad enough in a
DD; with our heavy top hamper, it was highly dangerous.

By the early afternoon, the eye of t he typhoon was only 35 miles away, and the 
winds had increased to a shrieking 93 knots. Up in BAT 1, I stood by the 
starboard alidade stand, looking over the side, and watched the sea rush up to 
meet me, as the ship rolled to starboard. On the roll to port, I was standing at the 
top of an almost 45 degree incline, handing on. It was awesome to look aloft, and 
see the foremast whipping madly in an 84 degree arc across the sky.

Thinking back over the years, I can't remember being afraid. Maybe my 
Norwegian ancestors rode with me that day, or maybe the stark drama of it was 
so great as to rule out anything as mundane as fear. I do know that the thought 
never occurred to me that we might not make it. Of course, if we had known 
what was, at the moment, happening, the demise of HULL, SPENCE and 
MONOGHAM, we might have been worried!

Now there was no zigzagging, no maneuvering. We stayed on course, slowing a 
bit to help the "small boys" maintain station. To port of us, a DD would pitch so 
badly that you could see her forefoot, and then her whole bow disappear in a 
green sea. That night in the Wardroom Mess, with the chairs lashed to the tables,
we tried to eat a cold supper. Somebody let go of a container of catsup for a split 
second, and it went flying off the table to crash against the bulkhead. That comer 
of the Wardroom Mess looked like it might have been a battle dressing station in 
the midst of a terrible battle.

I remember no reports of causalities or of any sea sickness aboard. I think 
everybody was too busy with their assigned duties or in just hanging on. In the 
late afternoon of the third day (19 DEC), the storm seemed to have passed 
beyond us, and the wind gradually subsided to a bearable 35 knots. In spite of
those 42 degree rolls, our turbines continued to drive us on through the boiling
sea, and there were no power failures. We had a good ship, but we were lucky,
too! During the 19th, we heard rumors of lost ships, of the rescue of survivors,
etc. The word was that three DD and 3 DE were lost. Of course, the fmal score
was 2 DD (HULL and MONOGHAM) and I DE (SPENCE). The DD were 
screening ships for the fueling unit, and SPENCE was a Third Fleet Screen ship. 
While the DD were caught with only 70 76% fuel and no water ballot, little 
SPENCE had only 15% fuel and little water ballast.

The talk that went around the ship was that Halsey's aerographers had made a 
miscalculation, so that we rode right into, through and out the other side of a 
typhoon. Years later, I learned according to one authority, that "the typhoon was 
not accurately predicted, the immediate signs of it in the operating area were not 
heeded early enough, and it traveled a capricious path." Admiral Nimitz remarked, 
in reviewing the episode, that "the ston-n took charge."

With the winds abating, Halsey headed the Third Fleet toward Ulithi, and by 22 
DEC, we were moored in Ulithi Atoll. Two days later, my relief, LT R. P. Kypke 
(SC) USN, came aboard, and that night bedlam broke loose when the Captain 
returned from the FLEET FLAG to tell us that we were to leave on 26 DEC for 
UNCLE SUGAR, in company with NEW ORLEANS and MOBILE.

IN WORLD WAR II", pp. 448 - 452, since we were not allowed to keep diaries, 
and I have no written record of any of these events.

This document is the property of CDR. Donald T. Rohde.

copyright @http://www.rtcol.com/~oakland



This Web Page was created by Paul D. Henriott
Last update 20 September 1998 not to updated hereafter
If you have comments,
email me at phenriott@rtcol.com