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December 18, 2006

December 18, 1944 Pacific

Those who go down to the sea in ships know that the ocean is a dangerous and fickle place.

Today in 1944, a typhoon severely battered Task Force 38, resulting in the loss of three destroyers and damage to numerous other vessels.

On 17 December 1944, the ships of Task Force 38, seven fleet and six light carriers, eight battleships, 15 cruisers, and about 50 destroyers were operating about 300 miles east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea. The carriers had just completed three days of heavy raids against Japanese airfields, suppressing enemy aircraft during the American amphibious operations against Mindoro in the Philippines. Although the sea had been becoming rougher all day, the nearby cyclonic disturbance gave relatively little warning of its approach. On 18 December, the small but violent typhoon overtook the Task Force while many of the ships were attempting to refuel. Many of the ships were caught near the center of the storm and buffeted by extreme seas and hurricane force winds. Three destroyers, USS Hull, USS Spence, and USS Monaghan, capsized and went down with practically all hands, while a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers suffered serious damage. Approximately 790 officers and men were lost or killed, with another 80 injured. Fires occurred in three carriers when planes broke loose in their hangars and some 146 planes on various ships were lost or damaged beyond economical repair by fires, impact damage, or by being swept overboard. This storm inflicted more damage on the Navy than any storm since the hurricane at Apia, Samoa in 1889. In the aftermath of this deadly storm, the Pacific Fleet established new weather stations in the Caroline Islands and, as they were secured, Manila, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In addition, new weather central offices (for coordinating data) were established at Guam and Leyte.

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Structure of a typhoon captured by a Navy ship's radar. This storm was the second tropical storm to ever be observed on radar.

In the event, the Navy decided not to cashier anyone over the decision to not sail around the storm - but it was a near run thing.

Comments on December 18, 1944 Pacific
Eagle1 briefed on December 18, 2006 12:35 PM

Well done.

Thnaks for remembering the 790.

Curt briefed on December 19, 2006 10:23 AM

I have been reading (over "their" coffee) "Halsey's Typhoon". It's on the new shelf at Borders. I'm to chapter 6 and it's a great read so far.

The one I read years ago is "Typhoon: The Other Enemy" and it was written by one of the Mahan Class DD CO's that did make it thru. Both books are great reads on the topic and they cover from the individual view of a tin can sailor in the middle of the storm to the staff and ship building aspects, then to the legal work also.

I'd leave the link, but your spam filter doesn't like my address....

Search my blog for "Mahan" and it should come up in the post about uparmored HMVEES and Mahan DDs

John of Argghhh! briefed on December 20, 2006 07:54 AM

Curt - I just find the fact that "uparmored HMVEES and Mahan DDs" appearing in the same post to be fascinating.

I also think it's a good idea for a Proceedings article.

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