Monday, December 17, 2012

We Remember
Typhoon Cobra - 17 and 18 December 1944

I served on the USS Hull (DD-945) from 9 December 1977 through 1 December 1978.  The previous USS Hull (DD-350) was lost at sea on 18 December 1944 as the result of a terrible storm which was named Typhoon Cobra. 

During a USS Hull reunion some years ago I had the good fortune to meet several of the survivors of the USS Hull (DD-350) Sinking during Typhoon Cobra.

USS Hull (DD 350) underway - May 1944

USS Hull (DD-350), the third of the Farraguts, was the first to be built by a government shipyard. The new destroyer was assigned to the New York Navy Yard for construction. Hull was named for Captain Isaac Hull, skipper of USS Constitution in her epic battle with the British frigate Guerriere during the War of 1812. She was the fourth United States vessel and the third destroyer to bear the name. The destroyer Hull was laid down 7 March 1933; launched 31 January 1934, sponsored by Miss Patricia Louise Platt; and commissioned 11 January 1935, with Commander R. S. Wentworth commanding.
Like her two sisters following a shakedown cruise, which took her to the Azores, Portugal, and the British Isles, Hull was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. She arrived in San Diego via the Panama Canal 19 October 1935. She began her operations with the Pacific Fleet off San Diego, engaging in tactical exercises and training. The new destroyer maneuvered with the Pacific Fleet for more than five years. , Hull was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. She arrived in San Diego via the Panama Canal 19 October 1935. She began her operations with the Pacific Fleet off San Diego, engaging in tactical exercises and training. The new destroyer maneuvered with the Pacific Fleet for more than five years.

During the summer of 1936, she cruised to Alaska. In April 1937 she took part in fleet exercises in Hawaiian waters, ultimately calling Pearl Harbor her homeport when the fleet transferred from the mainland to the advanced anchorage on 12 October 1939. During this increasingly tense pre-war period, Hull often acted as plane guard to the Navy's Pacific carriers during the perfection of tactics, which would be a central factor in America's victory in World War II. She continued these operations until the outbreak of the war.

The pattern of fleet problems, plane guard duty and patrolling was rudely interrupted 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and other Hawaiian Military facilities. Hull was alongside tender USS Dobbin (AD-3) undergoing repairs, but quickly put her anti-aircraft batteries into operation. Her antiaircraft battery chased off several attackers and assisted in splashing others. As the main object of the raid was battleships, the destroyer suffered no hits and with the end of the attack came extraordinary efforts to raise steam. Scant hours later, she was able to sortie from Pearl to escort USS Enterprise (CV-6) back to the still-smoking port. During the next critical months of the war, Hull operated with Admiral Wilson Brown's Task Force 11, screening USS Lexington (CV-2) in important strikes on Japanese bases in the Solomons. Her return to Pearl Harbor 26 March meant 3 months of convoy duty in the submarine threatened waters between Hawaii, and the West Coast of the United States.

Hull was soon back in the thick of combat however. She sailed, on the first anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, for Suvu, Fiji Islands, to prepare for America's first offensive land thrust, the amphibious assault on Guadalcanal. In company with her sisters, she departed 26 July for the Solomons, and on the day of the landings, 7 August 1942, she fought off enemy air attacks, screened cruisers during shore bombardment, and then took up station as antisubmarine protection for the transports. Next day she helped repel strong enemy bombing attacks, shooting down several of the attackers, and that evening performed the sad duty of sinking transport USS George F. Elliott(AP-13), burning beyond control, the transport's wounds proved too severe for damage control forces. On 9 August, the destroyer sank a small schooner off Guadalcanal, departing that evening for Espiritu Santo. During the difficult weeks on Guadalcanal, Hull made three voyages with transports and warships in support of the troops, undergoing air attacks 9 and 14 September. For the next two years, Imperial Japanese forces felt the presence of the far-ranging destroyer from the Aleutians to the Southern Pacific. DD-350 supported swift strikes against enemy held islands in the Central Pacific, sometimes as a diversion to the true invasion targets, sometimes as a prelude to full-scale landings.

The ship returned to Pearl Harbor 20 October, and spent the remainder of the year with battleship Colorado (BB-45) in the New Hebrides. She sailed 29 January from Pearl Harbor bound for repairs at San Francisco, arriving 7 February 1943. Upon completion, she moved to the bleak Aleutians, arriving Adak 16 April, and began a series of training maneuvers with battleships and cruisers in the northern waters. As the Navy moved in to retake Attu in May, Hull continued her patrol duties, and during July and early August, she took part in numerous bombardments of Kiska Island. The ship also took part in the landings on Kiska 15 August, only to find that the Japanese had evacuated their last foothold in the Aleutian chain.

Hull returned to the Central Pacific after the Kiska operation, arriving Pearl Harbor 26 September 1943. She departed with the fleet 3 days later for strikes on Wake Island, and operated with escort carriers during diversionary strikes designed to mask the Navy's real objective-the Gilberts. Hull bombarded Makin during this assault 20 November, and with the invasion well underway arrived in convoy at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1943. From there, she returned to Oakland 21 December for amphibious exercises. Next on, the island road to Japan was the Marshall Islands, and Hull sailed with Task Force 53 from San Diego 13 January 1944. She arrived 31 January off Kwajalein, screening transports in the reserve area, and through February carried out screening and patrol duties off Eniwetok and Majuro. Joining a battleship and carrier group, the ship moved to Mille Atoll 18 March, and took part in a devastating bombardment. Hull also took part in the bombardment of Wotje 22 March.

The veteran ship next participated in the devastating raid on the great Japanese base at Truk 29-30 April, after which she arrived Majuro 4 May 1944. There she joined Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee's battleships for a thrust into the Marianas and the invasion of Saipan. Hull bombarded Saipan 13 June, covered minesweeping operations with gunfire, and patrolled during the initial landing 15 June. Two days later DD-350 was detached and with other ships steamed out to join Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's fast carriers as the Japanese made preparations to close the Marianas for a decisive naval battle. The great fleets approached each other 19 June for the biggest carrier engagement of the war, and as four large air raids hit the American dispositions fighter cover from the carriers of Hull's Task Group 58.2 and surface fire decimated the Japanese planes. With an able assist from American submarines, Mitscher succeeded in sinking two Japanese carriers in addition to inflicting fatal losses on the Japanese naval air arm during "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". Hull's accurate antiaircraft fire, now considerably more formidable than the .50 cal. machine guns she used at Pearl Harbor just thirty months before, contributed to the "ring of steel" protecting the carriers from the wrath of the Japanese. Mitscher's forces so decimated the ranks of the Imperial Japanese Navy's aircrews that her carriers were never to effectively threaten the Allies again.

During July, the destroyer operated with carrier groups off Guam, and after the assault, 21 July patrolled off the island. In August she returned to Seattle, arriving the 25th, and underwent a yard refit that kept her in the States until 23 October. When she anchored at Pearl Harbor. Hull was assigned to screen the Third Fleet refueling group which kept the fast carriers in the Central Pacific operational, departing 20 November 1944 to rendezvous with fast carrier striking forces in the Philippine Sea.

Suddenly, Hull's luck had changed. Fueling began 17 December, but increasingly heavy seas forced cancellation later that day. The refueling group became engulfed in the approaching typhoon Cobra next day, with barometers falling to very low levels and winds increasing above 90 knots. At about 1100 18 December Hull became locked "in irons," in the trough of the mountainous sea and unable to steer. All hands worked feverishly to maintain integrity and keep the ship afloat during the heavy rolls, but finally, in the words of her commander, Lieutenant Commander J. A. Marks: "The ship remained over on her side at an angle of 80 degrees or more as the water flooded into her upper structures. I remained on the port wing of the bridge until the water flooded up to me, then I stepped off into the water as the ship rolled over on her way down."

The typhoon swallowed many of the survivors, but valiant rescue work by Tabberer (DD-418) and other ships of the fleet in the days that followed saved the lives of 7 officers and 55 enlisted men.

Hull received 10 battle stars for World War II service.

U.S.S. Hull DD - 350 (FARRAGUT class) - As Built

Displacement: 1,365 Tons; Length: 341' 3" (oa); Beam: 34' 3"; Draft, 16'4" (Max);

Battery: 5 - 5"/38 Anti-Aircraft Guns; 4 - .30 cal. Machine Guns; 8 - 21" Torpedo Tubes - 4 per side;
Machinery: 42,800 SHP; Curtis Geared Turbines; Twin Screws;
Speed: 36.5 Knots; Range 6500 NM@ 12 Knots;
Complement: 160

We Remember on 18 December 2012
Sixty Eight Years After
Typhoon Cobra

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