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Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II - Revised, Updated Edition, 2011

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Air Group 4 - Casablanca to Tokyo

Dedicated to those who
served in VT-4, VB-4, VF-4,
VMF-124 and VMF-213

Halsey`s Typhoon
by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Book Review by Gerald W. Thomas, VT-4

Halsey's Typhoon - by Drury and ClavinThe authors of Halsey´s Typhoon, The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue have compiled an engrossing story from research and interviews with survivors of the December, 1944 typhoon in the Pacific during World War II. This major storm, officially labeled "Typhoon Cobra," but commonly called "Halsey`s Typhoon," took the lives of 793 men, capsizing and sinking 3 destroyers, and destroying over 150 aircraft.

This book, released in 2006 by the Atlantic Monthly Press, is a valuable supplement to the 1981 book by Captain C. Raymond Calhoun entitled Typhoon: The Other Enemy. The Calhoun book presents a vivid account of the typhoon from the standpoint of the captain of one of the ships, the USS Dewey. This new account by Drury and Clavin presents interviews and experiences of individual seamen and survivors of the tragedy. Taken together, the two books take the reader into the heart of this ferocious storm with all of the excitement and fear of the many who faced death or drowning.

The USS Hull, battling 90-foot waves and 150 mph winds, was tossed from crest to trough until it eventually turned over. The USS Spense absorbed so much punishment that it literally breaks in half. The USS Monaghan implodes on itself taking more than 90% of its crew to the seabed.  Many sailors below decks had no way of escaping as the ships capsized.

Halsey's Typhoon -- Destroyer

Unidentified destroyer in trouble during the typhoon.

Halsey's Typhoon - Oil-Tanker

An unidentified oil tanker tries to move into fueling position during the typhoon

The worst of the typhoon hit on December 18-19, but the search for survivors continued until December 23. We launched planes to help in the search on December 19, but the destroyers played the major roll in the rescue efforts. Reports indicate that 80 or 90 men were pulled from the sea. They were suffering from a host of maladies, including exposure, saline poisoning, saltwater lesions, and shark and barracuda bites. The confirmed total loss of men was 793.

On the aircraft carriers, planes were torn loose from their tie-down lines and hurled across the flight and hanger decks. The USS Cowpens reported fire raging across the hanger deck-doused only when waves swept into the area. The USS San Jacinto rolled so precipitously that the skipper saw the carriers screws in the air. Pilots were ordered to abandon the Ready Room. Planes broke free and ran amok.

Halsey's Typhoon -- Destroyed Plane

F6F Hellcat wreckage on USS Anzio caused by the typhoon.

The authors of Halsey`s Typhoon tell the story of bravery by a future President of the United States. The planes on the hanger deck of the aircraft carrier USS Monterey were torn loose by the rolls and some exploded and caught fire. The conflagration on the hanger deck was close to sinking the carrier when Lt(jg) Jerry Ford, officer of the deck, assembled a team and successfully controlled the fire. In the process, Ford ended up in the catwalk and barely escaped a toss into the sea.

Basketball on USS Monterey

Playing basketball on the USS Monterey prior to the typhoon. Lt(jg) Gerald "Jerry" Ford is the leftmost of the two players leaping for the ball.

Those of us in Air Group 4 on the USS Essex were very fortunate to be on a larger aircraft carrier. We lost some planes as their tie-down lines were broken, but came out with no major personnel injuries. A quote from Drury and Clavin`s book about the Essex states, "Chief Petty Officer William Christenson, as the officer in charge of the flight deck, worried that his flight crews would be blown overboard by winds approaching gale force, ordered his sailors tied together in six-man teams as they worked around the planes on the flight deck."

On January 3, 1945 a Naval Court of Inquiry was assembled in Ulithi to evaluate the damage and actions taken by personnel during the typhoon. The Court found that the losses of the Hull and Monaghan were due primarily to the inherent instability of the top-heavy Farragut-class destroyers. The Court attached no blame for damage or loss of aircraft on carriers to their commanders. The fleet aerologist, Cmdr Kosco was mildly admonished for relying too greatly on far-off weather reports. Finally, the Court placed much liability on the actions of Admiral Halsey. However, Admiral Nimitz mitigated the Court's findings by stating that Halsey`s mistakes "were errors of judgement committed under stress of war operations and stemming from a commendable desire to meet military requirements."

Most of us in Air Group4, with little knowledge of the Court of Inquiry or the decision-making process for higher levels of command, continued to identify our Task Force leader  "Bull" Halsey as our "fighting Admiral." We welcomed his enthusiasm and leadership in a time of war.

Photos provided by Atlantic Monthly Press, publisher of Halsey´s Typhoon, The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue.

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