SAN DIEGO (Oct. 25, 2019) – Twelve survivors of the Battle off Samar gathered for the last time to honor their shipmates during the 75th anniversary memorial service at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Oct. 25.
The survivors of “Taffy 3” remembered Sailors who were lost during the Battle off Samar, a critical battle within the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, took place in the Philippine Sea off Samar Island, in the Philippines. The ceremony included a color guard and band. The attendees honored those who died during the battle with the tolling of a ship’s bell and taps.
Cmdr. Mark Lawrence, the commanding officer of USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) provided closing remarks for the service. He shared his personal ties to the South Pacific, where his grandfather was a junior officer on the USS Growler (SS 215) during World War II. He also spoke about how he helps his Sailors relate to the Taffy 3 survivors.
“It is a daunting task to speak about the history through which you gentlemen lived. It is humbling to reflect on whether the quality of my service does justice to the ideals of our seagoing profession, which you and your shipmates exemplified under the harshest fire,” Lawrence said. “Whether the contest hinged on the speed of our gunnery or the ingenuity of our seamanship, what distinguished those early American crews from the competition was their combat readiness. (It’s) the same combat readiness I speak about with my crew – with the present generation of American Sailors – as our singular charge and highest priority.”
Taffy 3 was a group of destroyers, destroyer escorts, and escort carriers that stood against 27 Japanese ships during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944. For two hours, the 13 ships of Taffy 3 threw everything they had at the Japanese force.
Taffy 3 did not possess the firepower or the armor to oppose the Japanese force. Nevertheless, Taffy attacked, and turned the superior Japanese force away. Five U.S. ships and more than 1,000 Sailors were lost, but the Japanese withdrew amongst the damage and confusion, instead of pressing the attack. The Japanese naval force would never be the same after the battle.
Vice Adm. Richard Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, has encouraged the Surface Force to read about the battles of World War II, and he expected today’s crews to have the same battle-minded resolve.
“The only higher honor a destroyer captain can imagine than the opportunity to speak to the survivors of the ‘Last Stand’ is to be able to reassure you that today’s Sailor has that same will to fight,” said Lawrence.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle off Samar Island destroyed the combat power of the Japanese fleet and ultimately led to the Japanese surrender. This year’s theme for the Navy’s 244th birthday celebration, “No Higher Honor,” draws upon the extraordinary service and sacrifice of the Sailors who fought the greatest sea battle in history with a particular focus on the heroism of the crew of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413), during Leyte Gulf’s Battle off Samar.