‘Survival could not be expected’ (‘Why I may appear to have been writing less of late,’ Part Two of Three)11:01 am July 3rd, 2014
1941. War came. The Navy, sometimes befuddled but even then the wisest of the services, made dad a radio man, on the little destroyer escort Raymond.
As most 20-year-olds would, dad took the rigors of tropical service in stride, writing in his surviving notebook about the traditional ceremony of the pollywogs’ first crossing of the equator under the supervision of King Neptune. But things got serious when Rear Admiral C.A.F. Sprague, commander of the northern escort carrier group of the Seventh Fleet off the island of Samar, looked up on the morning of Oct. 25, 1944, to see the Japanese central force –- the 63,000-ton battleship Yamato, largest in the world with her 18-inch guns, the battleships Nagato, Haruna, and Kongo with full cruiser escort, bearing down on his little task force, which lacked even a single capital ship.
Vice Admiral Tokusaburo Ozawa’s carrier force had drawn off Bull Halsey’s fast battleships to the north, as planned, and Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita’s central force found the San Bernardino Strait undefended. Thousand-pound shells started raining down on the light escort carriers from a range of 15 miles. Naval historians say the little force was probably within five minutes of destruction when Admiral Sprague gave the still astonishing order for the destroyers and even the little destroyer escorts to make smoke . . . and attack.
Aboard the destroyer Johnston, Captain Ernest E. Evans (in a statement sometimes attributed to Lt. Cdr. Robert Copeland of the DE Samuel B. Roberts, which went in a little later, though I’m sure each commander said something similar) told all hands over the bull horn that they were entering ”a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival could not be expected,” but that they would do what damage they could.