Saturday, April 21, 2007

The 1945 Pacific Typhoon

On June 4th, we refueled and started running from the bad weather that had been forecast. Although we traveled at full speed on the 4th and 5th to try to escape the bad weather, we ended up right in the middle of the typhoon on June 6, 1945. The Destroyers could travel so much faster than we could, so they had pulled away from us to calmer seas, but the rest of the Task Group was intact.
On the morning of the 6th, the Hornet was tossing and pitching so violently that we could not set our breakfast trays on the table because they would have slid off before you could have, grabbed it. All of the planes possible had been moved down to the hangar deck and the few that had to be left topside had been lashed to the deck with steel cables. Our squadron's ready room was just under the flight deck, on the port side about midship. And there was a catwalk leading to the flight deck, just outside our ready room door. We could stand on the catwalk which was about 75 feet above the water line normally and on this morning the waves were so high that you had to look up to see the tops of them part of the time. The battleships and the cruisers alongside looked as if they were under water at least half the time, as the waves were sweeping over their decks completely. All ships had reduced speeds to 6 knots and all were headed directly into the wind. I do believe those sailors aboard the battleships and cruisers should have received submarine pay for the month of June, because on this day, they were spending as much time submerged as they were above water.

At times, only the super structure of the ships could be seen. It was reported that the winds were 138 miles per hour at their peak. All I can say is that I would hate to ever see higher winds, even on land.
On the bow of the hangar deck, there were some new air craft engines stored. These engines came in large crates of plywood, similar to the way refrigerators and heavy appliances were normally packed and they had never been taken out of the crates. The crates were lashed to the bulkhead (wall) with heavy 2 inch ropes but the pitching and tossing of the ship had broken them loose from their moorings and they were sliding to and fro, all over the front of the hangar deck, smashing into the aircraft and banging them up beyond repair. The deck hands were literally lariating the crates, as cowhand would lariat a calf, and as the ship rolled, they would take up the slack and cinch off to prevent further damages to the planes. They finally corralled all four of the loose crates and secured them against further damages.
It was nearly noon before the winds began to subside, and we had been in very turbulent waters since 4:00 a.m.

[note from Merlin Dorfman: - This was actually the second typhoon that Halsey had run the Third Fleet into. The first was in December 1944, during his first turn at commanding the fleet. There were many who wanted Halsey fired after the second one, but he was very popular with the sailors, the public, and Congress, and Admiral Nimitz was able to save his job. (Halsey's staff work was quite sloppy overall, not just in the weather department. He was very inspirational and energetic but was not all that well organized. He has been blamed--not 100% fairly--for communications problems that almost led to disaster during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Spruance on the other hand had very good staff work and his communications were always crisp and accurate).]

1 comment:

Bobby MacP said...

Good morning. I am an amateur ww2 historian and this particular storm came up on my radar last night as I was preparing my log entry for the daily diary. I had studied Halsey's first typhoon from 1944 but was not as familiar with this one. Your story certainly put a face on the struggle the ships must have gone through and I thank you for that.

Bob MacPherson