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The personal experience and account of
W. E. Lynch

(Electrical Dept.)

On October 25, 1944, I awakened at 0315 item to take over the O.O.D. watch at 0400. After having washed and having had a cup of coffee I went up to the bridge. I read the Captain's night order book and having ascertained our position on the chart I relieved Lt. (jg) Young as O.O.D. at 0350. At that time, I was informed that a Japanese task force of unknown size was standing off the entrance to Leyte Gulf.

At 0400 I had the bugler sound reveille. At 0415 I had the bugler sound flight quarters. At 0430 the ship went to General Quarters. Up to this time the ship was on a course of approximately 240º (T) speed 14 knots. At 0445 we received a signal from the OTC in the U.S.S. Fanshaw Bay execute to follow speed 16, turn to course 040º  (T). At 0450 the information changed speed to 16 knots and changed course to 040º  (T) to launch the first flight. At 0450 we changed speed to 18 knots to enable us to get more wind across the flight deck. At 0503 we completed launching 8 VF and reduced speed to 14 knots to fall back into station. At approximately 0550 we changed course to 220º  (T) and changed speed to 14 knots. At 0624 observed sunrise. At about 0635 we received a TBS transmission from the OTC to set condition 3 at the discretion of the commanding officers. At about 0638 we secured from general quarters and set condition 3 watch 3. At about 0643 I received word from Air Plot that one of the ASP planes from the U.S.S. St. Lo spotted a Japanese Task force 20 miles on the starboard beam of the formation. Almost immediately we received a signal from the OTC to change course to 130º  (T). At this time I looked at the PP1 radar repeater on the bridge and saw the Japanese Task Force bearing 296º  (T) distance 20 miles. At 0647 the ship went to General Quarters. At the same time splashes from gunfire were seen to be falling amid the formation. We received ATBS transmission from the OTC to launch all planes. At approximately the same time I gave orders to the engine room to make all possible speed.

Relieved as O.D.D. by Lt. Comdr. Gellhorn. I proceed by way of the hanger deck to my battle station at the 5" 38 gun on the fantail. As soon as I arrived I noticed that the DD's and the DE's had deployed astern of the carriers and were laying a heavy smoke screen.I observed splashes from enemy gunfire falling amid the formation.

At about 0715 the ship passed thru a rain squall and the Japanese ceased firing until we were once again in good visibility. At approximately 0735 I noticed the splashes once again and they were much closer to the ship.

At approximately 0745 I received orders from gunnery control to open fire on the Japanese cruisers bearing about 200º relative. The approximate range was 8 miles. I commenced firing immediately with the opening range at 17,000 yards. All this time I noticed splashes falling close aboard on the starboard and portside. We were under fire from three enemy ships at this time as determined from the green, red and white splashes close board.

On about the 6th round fired from the 5" gun we scored a hit on a Japanese cruiser. Shortly thereafter I received orders from gunnery control to cease firing because it was believed that the fire from our gun was drawing the enemy fire. At approximately 9815 the ship received its first hit which landed on the after end of the flight deck. The shell pierced the flight deck and started a fire. The 5" gun crew broke out two hoses and played streams of water on the fire and were instrumental in its extinction. After this I instructed all men on the 5" gun crew to put on kapok life jackets to protect them against shrapnel. About the same time I felt that the ship slowed down considerably. At about the same time we received orders from gunnery control to flood all magazines. Gunner F. S. Hughes, who was stationed on the 5" gun, saw to it that they were flooded and I reported this fact to gunnery control.

About 5 minutes later we were given orders to open fire once again but the power was out on the gun, We trained it manually but could not fire because the rammer was jammed due to the near misses. About this time a few people came from below decks onto the fantail. Among these was McMillan MM3/c a member of the M.A.A. force who had a badly mutilated arm. I broke open a first aid box and bandaged his arm.

At about 0845 we received the order to abandon ship. The 5" gun crew cut the floater nets away from the side of the ship and jumped over after it. All of the 5" gun crew and the magazine crew abandoned ship safely. Among the men were Tutchtone, GM3/c, McCoy, GM 2/c, Watkins GM2/c, Gunner F.S. Hughes, Lewis, Cox, Slycord, S1/c, Amundson S1/c, Johnson, STM, Fuller STM, Lopez Steward 3/c, McCuan S1/c, Roach STM, Newton Cox. In addition to these men various other men came to the fantail and leaped over the side. After bandaging McMillan's arm I helped him over the side.

After all personnel were clear of the fantail I went over to the port side of the fantail to see if there was anyone else around. After seeing that there was no one else I went back to the starboard side and at this time another shell hit the fantail on the port side and pierced the deck.  Upon my return to the starboard side I found Lt.(jg) Edmundson lying on deck with his right leg practically torn off by shrapnel. Cain AOM1/c and myself applied a large bandage from the first aid kit and lifted Edmundson over the life lines and threw him into the water. Cain then jumped into the water. I then looked into the hanger deck but could see nothing due to the heavy smoke. I then stuffed my pockets with the rest of the supplies from the first aid kit and was in the process of taking off my shoes before going over the side when another salvo from the Japanese cruisers hit the ship and practically lifted the fantail out of the water and the concussion almost threw me overboard. I didn't bother with my shoes anymore but merely leaped into the water. It is my opinion that we were under fire from 8" and 6" guns from the Japanese cruisers. All totaled the 5" 38 on our ship expended about 30 rounds with 3 hits on Japanese ships.

After getting into the water I saw Commander Ballinger, the executive officer, and headed in his general direction. I then grabbed ahold of a life raft which contained some of the following personnel: Raymaker CM3/c, Harting S1/c, Carrouche Y2/c, Davis, Flatley S1/c, Ens. Mallgrave, Ranking S1/c, Lamp RM2/c, Bartholow S 2/c, Shannon S1/c, Commander Ballinger, and a few other people. We observed the ship roll over to port, then capsize and sink about 0911. We then proceeded to gather as many life rafts and individuals together as possible.

We succeeded in lashing a few rafts together. There were a few seriously wounded individuals who were given the best possible medical treatment that was possible with the supplies on hand. Among the most seriously wounded in my immediate area were: Muniz, WT 2/c, Cowles, MM 3/c Barrett S1/c, Fetkenheier S 2/c, Davis RM 3/c, Laurn WT 1/c, Smith, E.J. GM 3/c and one other man who was a member of the Air Dept. and on mess cooking duty.

During our stay in the water we buried Smith E.J. GM 3/c, Muniz. WT 2/c, Cowles MM 3/c and Laurn WT 1/c and one other man whose name I do not know. About 1500 or 1600 the afternoon of Oct. 25, 1944 our group of life rafts joined another group of life rafts which contained Capt. W.F.R. Vieweg, Commanding Officer of the Gambier Bay.

Upon the joining of the two groups we had assembled approximately 140 men. All of this time there was a Japanese battleship of the Kongo class dead in the water about 8,000 to 10,000 yards away. There was also a Japanese destroyer which was acting as a protector for this big disabled ship.

In the morning of the 26th I noticed that our life raft was overcrowded so I went to another which contained less people. The following personnel were on this life raft:  Berger, S1/c, Miller SK, Christensen RM 1/c, Chapman Aircrewman, Spencer STM, Shlesman TM 3/c, McCoy Aircrewman, Moeschler SK 3/c, Hart, Y2/c, Trapp SK1/c, Zimmerman Y3/c and one other man whose name I do not know.

About 1000 the morning of the 26th we observed a TBM flying overhead and the Captain signaled with a Very Pistol but we were not seen. A little later we fired a cartridge at another approaching plane and threw dyd marker on the water but still we were not seen. About 1300 or 1400 the afternoon of the 26th we sighted land to the westward of us and decided that the best thing to do was try to reach that land or at least approach it to see if it was friendly. Later we learned that it was Samar.

We formed the life rafts in a column with the floater nets astern and tried to make headway in the dirction of the land. At sunset we still saw the land quite prominently and thought it to be about 30 miles away.

About 1900 the night of the 26th Lt. Comdr. Waring and Propes SC1/c approached us in a small life raft headed in the direction of the land. Mr. Waring talked with the Captain and Executive Officer and then proceeded toward the land in his small craft to try to get some assistance for us, and others who were behind us.

About 2100 the morning of the 27th we saw ships, which were headed in our direction. We fired numerous very star cartridges attempting to attract their attention. Our group comprised of about 140 people was picked up between 0330 and 0400 the morning of the 27th by LCI (R) 71. This craft then took us to the anchorage in Leyte Gulf where some were put aboard an LST and myself and others were put aboard the U.S.S. Fremont.

I certify this to be my personal experience from 0315 the morning of the 25th of October 1944 until I went aboard the USS Fremont about 0430 the morning of the 28th of October 1944.

                                                                                    W. E. Lynch

                                                                                    Lt.(jg) USNR

The following named men are men of the 3rd Division who I have spoken to and know are well:

McCoy, GM2/c           -           Smyden GM1/c

Williams, S/1/c             -           Gorrell, S1/c

Taratko, S1/c               -           Meyer, S1/c

Kelly, GM3/c               -           Raymaker, S1/c

Kimball, S1/c               -           Harting, S1/c







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