The Battle off Samar, Oct 25, 1944

Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator
The Loss of USS Gambier Bay, CVE-73
As the Japanese cruisers closed, and despite the heroic efforts of the US Navy screening destroyers and destroyer escorts, and the attacks of US aircraft, the situation became desperate.

No long after 0800 hours, Rear Admiral Sprague, aboard his flagship, the Kalinin, CVE-68 said this:

RADM Sprague said:
It became apparent that the enemy had split up and was advancing two heavy cruisers upon our port quarter to encircle our disposition and cut off our retreat. These two enemy cruisers eventually succeeded in advancing almost abeam of us and closing range at will. Eight and five inch salvos from this advanced wing were delivered from ranges as low as 10,000 yards and resulted in many straddles and many hits. All available aircraft were diverted to this threat. Our own 5"-38 return fire was reaching these heavy cruisers and some hits were being scored. But notwithstanding our desperate efforts, the CA fire was practically continuous and so effective that eventual destruction of all of our ships seemed inevitable.

Finally, at 0820, one of the American carriers, the USS Gambier Bay, CVE-73, an 8-inch shell from the Japanese cruiser Chikuma explodes in the water near the carrier and the resulting concussion knocked a hole the forward engine room plates near the #1 boiler. This massive hole produced uncontrollable flooding and an estimated nineteen-thousand gallons of water per minute rushed in. This flood was too much for battle damage and the drain pumps to control. Soon the bulkhead between the engine room and the forward machine shop failed, resulting in it too being flooded. With that boiler out of action, and taking on more and more water, the Gambier Bay begins a list to port. Her speed is reduced to only eleven knots and she began to fall out of formation. The other Jeep carriers, in mortal danger themselves, pressed on, to the south and the Gambier Bay was left to her fate.
Gambier Bay, hit, listing, and slowing, begins to be left behind.​

The battle damage report after 0825 hours from the Gambier Bay makes all of this plain;

Gambier Bay Damage report said:
Battle Damage Report
The engine room was abandoned shortly after 0825. The safety valves on the boiler were lifted by hand, the booster pump was secured, the fires were out of the boilers, this latter being done by closing the fuel oil quick closing valve. The main condensate and standby feed booster pumps were left running as it was difficult to secure these due to flooding. At the time of abandonment of the engine room the water was at a height of approximately five feet average. Two electrical submersible pumps were lowered down into the escape trunk to help control the flooding. One of the submersible pumps discharge lines was split and the pump had to be secured and a new discharge line put on.

At this time the assistant engineering officer personally evacuated the forward engine room and took station on the second deck assisting in rigging the submersible pumps. Damage control directed Repair Two and Repair Five to check the forward and after bulkheads of the engine room respectively for ruptures of the forward and after bulkheads. Repair Five reported leaks around steam lines, the port shaft and seams of the after bulkhead. This after bulkhead is the forward bulkhead of the machine shop. They were directed to use mattresses and shoring to stop these leaks and strengthen bulkheads. This work was started but not completed.

As stated, the attempts to help the machine shop failed, and it too flooded.

By 0830 first the heavy Japanese cruiser Chikuma and then others close within 6,000 yards of the Gambier Bay and begin pummeling her. Despite heroic efforts by the other escort carrier's gunners, and the USS Johnston, who damages the cruisers superstructure, the firing continues,.

By 0841, the Gambier is burning amidships with a list of 20 degrees to port. She is engaged by the Japanese heavy cruisers Chikuma, Haguro, and Chokai, and also at least one Japanese desteroyer.

Gambier Bay, falling behind the other carriers
The Gambier Bay continues to come under increasing fire as many of the Japanese vessels continue to concentrate on her, rather than leaving her and firing on the other carriers.

At 0845, the Japanese heavy cruisers are all concentrating their accurate fire on Gambier Bay. At this point she continues falling further and further behind the other carriers and is easy prey for the Japanese vessels, as she barely makes way on one engine. A shell strikes the pilot house, killing all of the men in it and the ship loses all steerage way.

Gambier Bay, falling further behind.​

A salvo enters the port engine room of Gambier Bay and destroying #3 boiler. This now leaves the carrier with no propulsion capability at all. Her sate is sealed.
At 0850 hours, the Gambier Bay goes dead in the water. She is hit by 8-inch shells over and over again. Fires and flooding throught the ship are increasing by the minute. Her captain, Captain Viewing realizes his ship is lost. The order for all hands to abandon ship is given. Although she is being systematically destroyed by the Japanese warships, and although the abandon ship order has been given, the

Captain refuses to lower the Stars and Stripes, and the Japanese continue firing on her.



Gambier Bay under heavy fire from a heavy cruiser visible to her right, going dead in the water

The crew of ship then abandoned the carier by all means possible. As they did so, the Japanese cruisers continued pouring 8-inch shells into her. Most of the crew leaves from the starboard side of the ship, the opposite side from which the Tone class heavy cruiser methodically fires at her as she sinks.

At 0907 hours, Gambier Bay rolls over to port and capsizes. By 0911, she has sunk completely...the only US carrier in World War II to be sunk by naval gun fire.

From her Captain:

Captain Viewing said:
After she sank, the enemy ships that had been firing on us went about their business and pursued the remainder of our formation and disappeared from sight. Very shortly after we sank I observed a large Japanese ship dead in the water about three miles to the eastward. We were pretty low in the water hanging on to a life raft bouncing up and down and not feeling too well. I'm not so positive of the identification as to say that I'm entirely right, but I believe it was a battleship of either the KONGŌ or FUSO class since the pagoda type structure would indicate such was the case. Personally, I did not see the stacks but an officer trained in identification is quite certain in his own mind that it was a KONGŌ class battleship since it had two stacks.
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Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator
The next installment will document how admiral Kurita breaks off the attack and begins to retire, but how the battle continues as his forces do.

It will also document the attack on Taffy III by Kamikaze pilots immediately thereafter and the loss of USS St. Lo, CVE-63.

Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator
Japanese Admiral Kurita breaks off the attack:
With his earlier order to order a general attack, the vastly larger and more powerful Japanese task force was attacking the American Taffy carriers and their escorts piece meal.

In so doing, Admiral Kurita lost the strategic initiative and his attack became dis-jointed and not focused on the larger initiative, that of breaking through this small US Navy force and entering the large anchorage at Leyte, where hundreds of US support, amphibious, cargo and tanker vessels were located.

The battleships protecting that anchorage were still to the south, having routed and utterly destroyed the southern forces of the Japanese attack.

But nothing lay between Kurita with his most powerful force, and the anchorage, except these Taffy escort carriers and their few destroyers and destroyer escorts.

And the Japanese force, was having its way with them...even though it was not obvious to Kurita...and that because of the general attack he had ordered.

The in your face, suicidal attack by the American destroyers and destroyer escorts were causing damage...not so much to the battleships....but their torpedoes had scored strong hits on Cruisers.

Because of the way the Japanese ships were advancing however, the torpedo attacks that those DDs and DEs did launch caused many Japanese ships to veer off, and other to assist Japanese ships that were hit. So Kurita's force became fractured...even as they were sinking US ships, and particularly the Gambier Bay.

The other US Escort Carriers were in full retreat.

At the precise time that Kurita should have ordered his vessels back into attack formation and made for the 0920 hours, he made a fateful decision.

Seeing some of his heavy cruisers severally damaged. Seeing the commitment of the US surface forces he was engaging, being engaged by so many aircraft from the Taffy carriers, and finally hearing of the fate of the southern force...Kurita decided to withdraw.

Japanese vessel withdrawing, under air attack​

Although firing between the two sides would continue for some time as they separated, and American aircraft would continue to dog Kurita, this decision turned the Japanese force away when they were on the cusp of achieving a great victory.

There is no doubt that had Kurita's two battleships, particularly the Yamato, and his remaining cruisers and destroyers gotten in amongst the US anchorage...they would have laid it waste and sunk many, many US vessels.

But the decision was made, and it never happened.

Japanese destroyer hit by US bomb​

Kurita's force continued to take damage. US aircraft would ink more ships...but ultimately the Yamato got away, only to face he fate six months later off of Okinawa.

The Loss of the USS St. Lo, CVE-63:

USS St. Lo​

Despite this, further tragedy was not spared the US forces.

The US Taffy carriers continued their withdrawal to escape the range of the Japanese big guns as they too withdrew.

But the Japanese air forces in the areas still had a message to send.

If they Japanese aircraft had been able to attack US forces before the surface engagement, or during it, things may have still turned out different.

But their attacks, the first organized Kamikaze attacks of the war (although numerous individual such attacks had occurred throughout the war), did come in on the US forces, and only about an hour and twenty-five minutes after Kurita turned to the north and withdrew.

At 1047 hours, the task unit came under a concentrated air attack by the Shikishima Special Attack Unit, the Kamikazes.

For forty full minutes, the Taffy carriers were engaged with Japanese kamikiaze aircraft. In addition to the gunfire damage that many had already received, all of them except the Fanshaw Bay were damaged by this air assault.

USS St. Lo explodes after hit by Japanese Kamikaze aircraft​

At 1051 hours, just four minutes into the attack, a Zero, apparently flown buy Lt. Yukio Seki, plowed into the USS St. Lo flight deck . Its bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded on the port side of the hangar deck.

Many aircraft were in the process , of being refueled and rearmed. there. Their fuel immediately erupted, followed by six secondary explosions, including detonations of the ship's torpedo and bomb magazine.

Damage to St. Lo flight deck shortly before abandon ship order is given​

The St Lo was completely engulfed in flames within a few minutes and she sank 30 minutes later, after 1115 hours.

Despite the rapidity of the explosions and sinking, of the 889 men aboard, only143 were killed . The survivors were rescued from the water by USS Hermann, USS John Butler, USS Raymond and USS Dennis. Dennis alone picked up over 400 survivors.

asif iqbal

Lieutenant General
Imperial Japanese navy was a master of deception making the enemy think they are doing one thing but then turn around do the opposite, deception tactics were employed very successfully by Imperial Japan

But as the war went on USN grew in power while IJN only lost power

And few years down the road IJN has lost all of its crack Japanese fighter aces who were also masters at defending their carriers, as a matter of fact the loss of the these pilots was IJN biggest loss at Mid way around 75% of the "Zero" pilots were lost, pilots who Japan couldn't replace

But hell IJN put up a hell of fight in the Pacific they made the Royal Navy at Singapore look like kindergarten they knocked out many top British war ships without losing hardly any of their own

Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator
Imperial Japanese navy was a master of deception making the enemy think they are doing one thing but then turn around do the opposite, deception tactics were employed very successfully by Imperial Japan

But as the war went on USN grew in power while IJN only lost power

IJN put up a hell of fight in the Pacific they made the Royal Navy at Singapore look like kindergarten they knocked out many top British war ships without losing hardly any of their own
This battle of Samar was the crowning play of the Japanese last great effort in terms of set to, large scale naval warfare in the Pacific.

The overall battle, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, was the biggest naval battle in modern history.

See the following youtube documentary for the overall battle, it is long, but also excellent:

The Battle off Samar was one part of that larger battle. All of the rest of the Japanese huge effort was so that this powerful force, Kurita's force, with its battleships and heavy cruisers could get to the American anchorage off Leyte.

The Japanese feints and deceptions worked. Of course Halsey took the bait and took the fast carriers out to meet the Japanese carriers. He had no way of knowing that those carriers only had a few aircraft. Loaded with aircraft, those carriers would have been the greatest threat.

But Halsey had PLENTY of carrier by that time and could have left a few of his escorting Battleships, cruisers, fleet carriers and escort carriers behind to protect the anchorage. Maybe 2 of his nine fleet carriers, and 4 of his 14 escort carriers.

But since he knew there was a strong US battleship force of Leyte, he felt safe doing what he did. So he took EVRYTHING...and ultimately annihilated the Japanese remaining carriers.

Problem was, the battleship force protecting the anchorage was also drawn off to the south to attack the Japanese southern force...which the US battleship force annihilated (which was the last battleship, heavy caliber gunfire engagement between opposing force in history).

So the Japanese great cost...worked. There was nothing heavy to oppose Kurita's large and powerful northern force when it came through San Bernadino Strait...except these thin skinned Jeep carriers in Taffy 3, and their few DDs and DEs escorting them.

Kurita had it in his power to destroy the huge US anchorage in Leyte Gulf supporting the Philippine landings.

But the fierceness of the frontal attack by those US Navy destroyers and destroyer escorts...particularly getting in range and effectively using their torpedoes...and the effectiveness of the Jeep carriers aircraft, convinced Kurita to blink...and he turned around and left when he was on the cusp of a great victory.

But by that point, the fact is, even if he had pressed his attack and tore up the US would have only prolonged the inevitable. The Japanese still lost those carriers. They till lost a huge number of other surface combatants.

Within a month to six weeks, the US anchorage of Leyte would have been back as strong as ever...and this would have only prolonged the war by a month or two...and with the A-Bombs coming on when they did is doubtful that it would have prolonged the war at all.

Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator
For a GREAT (though somewhat dry) documentary of the heroic actions of USS Johnston in the Battle of Samar...see the following documentary:



Junior Member

Taffy 3 was a heroic action by the USN. I, however, think we should revisit this battle with a more objective view instead of the typical David vs Goliath narrative and the ultimate meaningless of the Japanese action.

One could always make a strong case that Japan lost the war at pearl harbor, and every action after was a delay for the eventual American victory through her industrial and technological might.

Battle of Sumar Bay, Center force had a local advantage over Taffy 3, but if one look at the Leyte Gulf campaign, the USN vastly outnumbers the IJN by a factor of 5-6

As Pearl Harbor had already proved, aircraft had made battleship obsolete. In this sense, Taffy 3 and supporting Taffy 2 and 1 numbered 400+ torpedo bombers, dive bombers and fighters. that is 4 fleet carrier worth of aircraft and an torpedo bomber or dive bomber is not less effective from a jeep carrier than a fleet carrier.

88 aircraft sunk the POW and Repulse in 1941

As Jutland have shown, a torpedo attack by destroyer screen can and will likely disrupt gun laying of capital ships.

Now coupled with the fact that centre force was harassed for days by PT boats and air craft prior to the engagement, would only suggest that they entered the battle not in fresh state. Taffy 3 + 1 and 2 was an well rested force.

Thus, is it really that unexpected or triumphant outcome?

Not to take away from the men and machine who served there, If we take away our aww at battleships, the action is not as lopsided as popular history interprets; and infact, a case can be argued that Taffy 3 had an major advantage, especially when shell hits are around the 1-2 hit per 100 shell fired, while airborne ordinance is more like 5%

asif iqbal

Lieutenant General
I also think that in the back of Kuritas mind he was under the impression that he was facing a much larger force than was present because those Jeep carriers had plenty of sorties in the air and naval assets were attacking with much confidence which could have contributed to his withdrawal

Jeff Head

Staff member
Super Moderator

Taffy 3 was a heroic action by the USN. I, however, think we should revisit this battle with a more objective view...
The thread t has been factual and objective. It relates what happened and the time frames it occurred, including the attacks against Kurita's force the day before..

Battle of Sumar Bay, Center force had a local advantage over Taffy 3...
This thread is about the Battle off Samar...not the whole battle of Leyte. I just mentioned aspects of the overall battle to let Asif know what had set this battle up.

And to say that one of those two opposing forces had a "local advantage' is an enormous understatement.

Three destroyers and four destroyer escorts charged into the teeth of battleships, numerous cruisers and eleven destroyers. It was not just a "local advantage," it was an unbelievably overwhelming mismatch.

As Pearl Harbor had already proved, aircraft had made battleship obsolete.
But those large, powerful surface combatants were all that the IJN had at that point that could possibly make a difference. . Their aircraft carriers were important at this point,. So they crafted a plan to get their strength to the point of the battle...and they succeeded.

Now coupled with the fact that centre force was harassed for days by PT boats and air craft prior to the ...
No it was not. It was attacked the day before by aircraft, an though hit, the Yamato was largely unaffected. Her sister ship was sunk...and it took pretty much most of the attacking aircraft to make that happened, as I have noted. Then Kurita feigned a retreat, which Halsey bought, after which Kurita turned back around and continued unmolested through San Bernadinao Strait. With the PT boats you may be thinking about the southern force...but not Kurita's force.

Thus, is it really that unexpected or triumphant outcome?
Off was most definitely was an unexpected and triumphant outcome.

Look Letz, the Japanese whole point was to effect that overwhelming force at the anchorage. And they succeeded in it. This was the thrust of Asif's comment. At that point, that force should have easily broken through and decimated the anchorage. The Japanese knew they were apt to lose a large part their other forces...but they were willing to so they could get Kurita's force on point.

Their goal was to destroy the anchorage, and a few tin cans prevented a MUCH larger and immensely more powerful force from doing that, or at least convinced Kurita's force that more awaited him.

The Japanese used stratagem to fool the US...and succeeded. Off Samar, the US Navy used grit, heroism, and an attack into the face of certain death to fooll the Japanese commander...and they succeeded.

You say that the Battle off Samar was heroic...and it was. That is what this thread is about.

If you believe it was an heroic action...then leave it at that. Seems to me you want to say that...and then go about tearing down the heroism with comments like, "was it really a triumphant outcome?"

Well of course it was!.

I agree, as I stated in my last post, that the Japanese effort was futile. But they made it...and brought the battle to the US forces...ultimately placing the escort vessels of Taffy 3 were in what should have been a completely untenable position. But they heroically charged into death (and many of them did die) and they were instrumental in causing the enemy commander to break off.

This thread is about showing those facts and conditions off of Samar, said and the facts demonstrate it very clearly.


Junior Member
Kurita's failure to 'go for broke' and instead retreat never made any sense to me, given that the IJN was at the 'use it or lose' stage, of which eventually happened in the aftermath of that battle into 1945. Japan gaining an extra month of time at the cost of the entire Center Force would have been much more worthwhile than letting those surviving assets get destroyed piecemeal with little effect on their opposition.