USS HOPPER, At Sea - Sailors from the Hawaii-based guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) observed a moment of silence Oct. 25 to remember the sacrifice of World War II Sailors who fought and died in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.
Hopper transited the same waters exactly 67 years later to the day of the decisive sea battle.
On Oct. 25, 1944, the Japanese Southern Force - consisting of three battleships, one cruiser and four destroyers - began transiting through the Surigao Strait in the Philippine Islands. The Japanese force was on the same course the Hopper traveled in late October.
The U.S. 7th Fleet-supporting forces in the battle consisted of six battleships, four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers and 39 torpedo boats. Five of the six battleships had been damaged in Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
"It held a significant historical value for future generations to remember, and it was a privilege to travel on the same water our Sailors fought and died," said Petty Officer 1st Class Sean Royce as he experienced Hopper's transit through the same waters.
To the east of Leyte in 1944, were two smaller groups of U.S. Navy ships (Taffy 2 and Taffy 3) guarding the 7th Fleet's flank. Upon first sighting of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the commander of Taffy 2 ordered the launch of all of his aircraft, and he ordered the destroyers to make a smoke screen to hide the carriers' retreat to safety.
During the battle, the destroyer USS Johnston (DD 557) altered course toward the Japanese at flank speed to draw enemy fire away from the carriers. This heroic action prompted the Commander of Taffy 3 to send three other destroyers, USS Hoel (DD 533), USS Heermann (DD 532), and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413); to follow USS Johnston's actions. This disrupted the Japanese formation as they frantically turned their attention toward the destroyers and away from the carriers. The American destroyers suffered great losses but were successful in turning the Japanese attack away from the carriers and saving the 7th Fleet.
According to historian and author James D. Hornfischer, "the three-day series of melees around the Philippines in October 1944 was by multiple measures the most sprawling, spectacular, and horrible naval battle in history. If it was not as decisive, in the word's purest sense, as the victory at Midway, it was the greatest naval battle ever fought for the distances it spanned, for the tonnage of ships sun[k], for the duration of the duels between surface ships, and for the terrible losses of human life."
Hopper Sailors watched the sun go down as their ship transited through the same waters on the anniversary of the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Sailors observed a moment of silence for the brave men, both Japanese and American, who paid the ultimate price.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and support humanitarian/disaster response within 3rd Fleet's 50 million square mile area of responsibility in the eastern Pacific, as well as supporting the nation's maritime strategy when forward deployed.