SURIGAO STRAIT - The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) transited the Surigao Strait Nov. 18.
During the four-hour voyage through the Philippine islands, the destroyer’s crew learned about an event that shaped Navy history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Throughout the day, Milius Sailors were introduced to the ships, the men and the sacrifices made from Oct. 23 – 26, 1944, the dates U.S. and Japan navies fought a pivotal naval battle of the Pacific during World War II. Passages of Navy history and heritage were read over the ship’s announcing system as Milius approached the geographic location of each battle event.
“I truly believe this crew represents the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before us,” said Cmdr. Mike Rak, Milius’ commanding officer. “There are no throwaway lines in our Sailors’ Creed, and that one in particular resonates with Sailors on Milius.”
The morning began for Milius with an introduction to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Four hours outside the entrance to the Surigao Strait,
“Shipmates, 100 miles dead ahead lies Navy history. Soon we’ll be sailing through hallowed waters,” said Milius’ Command Master Chief Bill Houlihan.
As Milius sailed the Strait, the crew learned of the Battle off Samar, the famous “Crossing of the T” by U.S. battleships, the exploits of Taffy-3 and the enduring relationship between the nations of the Philippines and the U.S.
“It’s one thing to hear about a battle like Leyte Gulf in boot camp or to read about it, but to sail those waters and learn about what those Sailors did, in that exact place, it was amazing,” said Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Teodor Medina.
The Navy lost seven ships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and sunk 27 Japanese vessels. The overwhelming victory allowed U.S. forces to take back the Philippines, a country held by Japan since 1942.
Milius’ recognition of the battle ended less than an hour after exiting the Surigao Strait. A bucket of water was lifted from Leyte Gulf, and placed in a 5’’ gun canister. Enlisted surface warfare insignias earned by Gunner’s Mates Second Class Landon York and Timothy Salmons were dipped into the water from the Gulf, then pinned to the Sailors’ chests in front of the crew on the ship’s flight deck.
“Everything we did today, strengthened this crew,” said Rak. “The more our Sailors know about the sacrifices made by our shipmates at Leyte Gulf, the harder they’ll strive to reach those standards.”
Milius is currently underway on deployment to the 7th and 5th Fleet areas of operation supporting security and stability in the Region.