The Japanese fleet had been in hiding since the turkey shoot. We had wounded them but they were not dead. Our scout patrol had spotted them in the Philippians. They were headed for the Leyte Gulf. Now we were about to get some of the surface action the old salts had told us so much about. Everyone was real excited. Our torpedo mounts were loaded with deadly fish. We were only allowed to fire them at targets. There was no practice with these, it was for real.
"Genral quarters! All hands man your battle stations." This command really got your attention. It meant we were about to engage in combat. Of course we had heard it many times before. However, the urgency in the captains voice made this command more exciting. A large Japanese cruiser had been damaged. It was stopped, and we were suppose to finish him off with our torpedoes.
We all knew the dangerous possibilities of the close contact with the enemy's ship. Our maximum gun range was five miles. This ship could hit us eleven miles away. To fire the torpedoes would require that we get in two thousand yards. This was the accurate range of torpedoes from a destroyer.
The enemy ship had slowed down but it was not a sinking pile of junk as had been reported. We came under heavy fire long before we were in gun range.
I think a chill went down all of our backs when the huge ship came into view. It was the largest thing we had ever seen that was shooting back at us. It had been damaged causing about a ten degree tilt on the port side. Our goal was to hit the starboard side with as many torpedoes as possible.
We started our attack run at maximum speed. The approach to our target was a zig-zag course, then turn broad side at two thousand yards to fire the torpedoes. The Japanese were shooting at us with every thing they could fire. I think some of them were even using pistols. We got real lucky and did not take a direct hit from anything but a few small caliber guns.
All of our torpedoes hit the side of the giant ship at one time. We all let out a cheer like a bunch of high school kids at a foot ball game.
The ship exploded and broke in half. It went down in a short time. There were over two thousand sailors on this size ship. No one got off. This sounds cruel but that is what a war is all about; get them before they get you.
This battle was a great moral booster for a bunch of war weary young men. We had begun to think the war was crazy and would never end. Sometimes we would get reports of what was going on with the Germans in Europe. That war was of little interest to us. We had all we could do trying to defeat the Japanese.