View Full Version : Pacific typhoon Cobra 18 December 1944

11 Jan 06,, 23:33
I was mailed a copy of a tanker sailors recollection of surviving this typhoon to use in my monthly LCI 450 newsletter. For some unknown reason he failed to name his ship he was on. The story was 6 pages long, more than I could accommodate in my 10 page monthly Deck Log so I went on the internet looking for the story of the typhoon named "Cobra". I'll post the stories in sections as there are several accounts of different ships that either sunk or survived. This is the first account of the Typhoon named Cobra.

USS Hull (DD 350)
Philippine Sea Typhoon Cobra 18 December 1944 -
USS Hull (DD 350) Lt. Comdr. James A. Marks Official Report of his ship capsizing.
"I received a report during the morning from the Engineer Officer that we were well above the required ballasting point, having between 125 and 120 thousand gallons of fuel aboard. This represented a little over 70% of our practicable fueling capacity. In view of the fact that the ship was riding the seas satisfactorily at the time, and that I estimated that we would be fueled on short notice as soon as the heavy weather abated, I did not consider ballasting advisable....
At a time I estimate roughly about 1130, the seas became mountainous, and the wind increased to hurricane proportions. Considerable damage was occurring as the sea grew worse. The motor whaleboat was smashed in at the bow, and finally was torn clear of the boat davits, falling into the sea. Several depth charges were torn loose from the K-guns and were lost overboard. All charges were set on safe, so no damage was done by them. The smokestacks were under terrific strain because of the wind. Up until shortly before the ship turned over, I was greatly concerned that either or both of the stacks might be torn off the ship. One of the pad eyes supporting the mast stay pulled out at the deck. Just before the ship went over I estimated that if one of the stacks had been torn or cut loose, it might have lowered the center of wind pressure on the hull sufficiently to reduce the ship's rolling, but at this point no man could have possibly existed in an exposed position topside long enough to do the job; he would have been quickly blown overboard. Several of the metal covers on ammunition ready boxes were ripped completely off the boxes by the wind. The bridge structure was under such great strain that I was greatly concerned that the structure itself or a portion thereof might be torn off the ship.
In endeavoring to alleviate the heavy rolling of the ship, I tried every possible combination of rudder and engines, with little avail. An attempt was made to bring the ship's head into the sea, but she would not respond. Then an attempt was made to turn away from the wind, and bring it as far on the port quarter as possible, but again the ship would not answer. It was apparent that no matter what was done with the rudder and engines, the ship was being blown bodily before the wind and sea, yawing between headings of 100º and 080º true. At all times until the ship went over; the true wind was from approximately north, which was most of the time abaft the beam.
Shortly before noon, steering control went out on the bridge, but was regained in the steering motor room in a few minutes. The engine telegraphs went out for awhile, but were also reported operating satisfactorily in a few minutes. The chief engineer reported at this time that the forward fireroom blowers had stopped because of heavy amounts of water being taken down the intakes, the after fire room was reported as having taken over, and it is believed that all bells were properly answered...
At this tine the ship took several deep rolls because of high velocity wind gusts. I estimated the rolls to have been about 70 degrees. At one time the Junior Officer of the Deck was catapulted from the port side of the pilot house completely through the air to the upper portion of the starboard side of the pilot house... Shortly after twelve 'o'clock the ship withstood what I estimated to be the worst punishment any storm could offer. She had rolled about 70 degrees and righted herself just as soon as the wind gust reduced a bit . . . . Just at this point the wind velocity increased to an unbelievable high point which I estimated at 110 knots. The force of this wind laid the ship steadily over on her starboard side, and held her down in the water until the seas came flowing into the pilot house itself. The ship remained over on her side (starboard) 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, and I stepped off into the water as the ship rolled over on her way down. The suction effect of the hull was felt, but it was not very strong. Shortly after, I felt the concussion of the boilers exploding under water. The effect was not very strong, and caused me no ill effects. I concentrated my efforts thereafter to trying to keep alive in the mountainous seas which pounded us."

USS Tabberer (DE-418)
In the typhoon Cobra of December 18, 1944 USS Tabberer (DE-418), her radio and radar knocked out, was thought lost. Not lost though as she was busy at the unbelievable feat of picking up 55 survivors from “Cobra’s” heavy seas. Her rescue efforts continued throughout the night, all day on the 19th, and into the 20th. In all, the Tabberer saved the lives of 55 officers and men, both from the Hull and also the Spence. Later, Tabberer was relieved by other units of the fleet. Additionally 36 men, a few of whom belonged to the crew of the typhoon's third victim, the USS Monaghan, were also rescued by the Tabberer. The outstanding rescue efforts during the storm resulted in the awarding of Navy and Marine Corps medals for several crew members, Lieutenant Plage was awarded the Legion of Merit, and the Tabberer, received the Navy Unit Commendation.

11 Jan 06,, 23:37
USS Dewey (DD 349) Typhoon Report
At about 1000 on 18 December, Dewey was steaming on course 180º, wallowing in a quartering sea, but still under control. In order to avoid collision with a carrier which appeared ahead, she came left to 130º, and slowed to 5 knots.
"This slackening of speed, and turn into the wind, resulted almost at once in partial loss of control of the ship. Dewey crossed through her formation from starboard to port. Despite hard rudder and every possible engine combination, it was impossible to come back to the right. It was found that 2/3 ahead on the port engine and 1/3 ahead on the starboard engine, with full right rudder, kept the ship's head close to steady, although even then it persisted in falling slowly to the left (in swinging between 090º and 070º).
At 1015, the barometer read 29.09", wind force 15, from 035º, and the sea had built up considerably, to about force 6. Under these conditions the ship began to pound heavily, and it was necessary to slow to l/3 ahead on the port engine.
With the sea broad on the port bow, the ship rolled heavily to starboard, and lubricating oil suction was lost on every roll of 40 degrees or more, this necessitated stopping the engines. This gradually slackened what little bit of 'way on' we had, and left us practically dead in the water. (It should be noted here that we had previously also tried to head further to the left, into the wind, but not only was this less satisfactory from the standpoint of pounding–it was just as impossible to turn the ship to the left as it was to turn it right!). We therefore found ourselves at a heading of about 090º; almost exactly in the trough of the sea, the wind direction shifting constantly to the left!
Sometimes before this, when it became apparent
that the wind and sea would be continually from the port side, Commander Destroyer Squadron One directed that the ship be heavily ballasted to port. This order was carried out at once, and at maximum pumping rates all the port side fuel oil tanks were filled to capacity; resulting in an unbalanced distribution, with about 30 thousand gallons more to port. (Dewey was at this time fueled to 76% capacity).
The barometer continued to fall rapidly, wind and sea continued to increase, The ship was rolling very heavily to starboard (45º to 55º). Condition 'AFIRM' was set in an spaces. All hands were directed to remain inside, and all hands were further ordered to move to, and remain on, the port side of the ship. (This required little urging–most of them were already complying voluntarily!).
By 1100, the barometer read 28.84"; wind was force 17, from 030º True, sea force 7, and we were rolling even more heavily to starboard (50º to 60º). At this time, several things occurred in rapid succession; steering control was lost from the bridge due to short circuiting of the switchboard in the steering motor room (sea and spray leaked through the mushroom ventilator despite all efforts to make it watertight), and was shifted to hand steering, holding constant full right rudder; lube oil suction was again lost and all engines stopped; heavy seas leaked through engine race hatches (which were dogged down as tightly as they would go), short circuiting the main switchboard, and causing loss, of light and power; pounding seas sprung #1 fireroom starboard hatch open, flooding the air lock and leaking water into the fireroom; seas entered through #2 main forced draft lower blower intake (located on main deck forward starboard) 500 or 1000 gallons at a time, and the situation seemed to be going from bad to worse.
Word had been passed to the steering motor room to form a bucket brigade and keep the water bailed out. Steam fire and bilge and main circulating pumps were reported pumping in the engine rooms and #1 fireroom, and apparently were well able to handle the inflow of ocean.
At about 1130, sound powered telephone circuits began to go 'dead' and in about fifteen minutes, Bridge had contact with C.I.C., and Wardroom, by voice tube. (Mouthpieces were full of salt water). The fierce wind which was raging against us by this tine was such as no one on board had ever experienced before! The spray, driven horizontally across the surface, blotted out the sea from the sight
of those of us on the bridge, and felt like a barrage of thousand of needles against the face and hands. It was impossible to stand against the gale without bracing against the ship's structure. The needle-like spray removed the paint from metal surfaces in many places like a sand blaster. No one had a stitch of dry clothing (nor had we had for hours) and we were in constant danger of falling overboard into the sea almost every time the ship rolled to starboard. By this time (1210) our roll had increased to a consistent 65º, and several officers personally witnessed the inclinometer needle bang against the stop at 73º, hang there for several seconds (while the ship continued to roll - hang - and then after a breathless eternity, roll back). Competent engine room personnel, including the Chief Machinist's Mate, later reported that the engine roan inclinometer also rested against its stop (about 75º) on two or three occasions.
The barometer was still going down - until it finally went completely off the scale, and still kept going! It was so nearly unbelievable that a few of the unusual occurrences must of necessity be related in order to better afford a full appreciation of the situation. For example: On one occasion, an officer fell straight across the pilot house from port to starboard – grabbing a stanchion with both hands on the way, he hung with both feet completely clear of the deck by several feet, pointed directly down at the starboard side, until the ship righted herself several seconds later. An adding machine fell from the cabinet top in one officer's room straight through to the room opposite without ever striking the deck, and finally hit the bulkhead about three feet above deck level. A tube of toothpaste fell across a living compartment from the port longitudinal angle iron, and landed in the corresponding longitudinal angle iron on the starboard side! During this tine, ComDesRon ONE authorized removal of any removable topside weight, but this was considered too dangerous since almost all removable weights were on weather decks which were constantly swept by wind and sea. For a time it was considered advisable to cut off the mast at bridge level; but when cutting equipment arrived on the bridge several minutes later, this too was believed dangerous, since it involved strong possibility of the yardarm punching a hole in the side of the ship. It was inconceivable that the ship could continue to 'take it". On several occasions, the starboard (lee) wing of the bridge dipped under and scooped up solid green water! None of us had ever heard at a ship righting herself from such a roll–but this one did! The storm continued to grow even worse, and at about 1230, the number one stack pulled out from its mooring at the top of the uptake (boat deck level), and fell across the ship, finally hanging limply, completely flattened, over the starboard side of the main deck. This also carried away our whaleboat (which had been scooping water on every roll), and the forward boat davit. Apparently this loss of stack, boat, and davit was a good thing. Almost immediately there was a perceptible change for the better in the way the ship rode. Loss of the stack had several serious disadvantages, however. It caused several flarebacks in #1, fireroom, (burning away the skivvy drawers of one man almost completely), and permitted additional opening to the sea. Also, the steam line to the whistle and siren carried any, and we vented precious boiler pressure steam to the atmosphere for many minutes before it was possible to shut it off. The engineers on watch remained faithfully at their posts, and by their combined efforts in maintaining boiler pressure and operating the pumps, they performed the real work of keeping the ship afloat! At about 1300, the barometer reached its lowest point (27.30 estimated, since it was off the scale), and at 1340 showed its first slight 'rise. We had passed the center of the storm!
During the slight slackening of the wind and sea, which occurred near the center, communications with the engine room spaces was established by messenger. All main propulsion machinery was ready for operation, but since we had safely depended on the ship to bring us through, and had weathered the first half by merely lying to, it was decided to try the same method during the second half. The remainder was almost the exact duplicate of what had gone before, but to an infinitesimal degree not quite so bad, and at about 1800, we were safely through, on a mean heading of 270º True, barometer 29.18", wind force 14, from 240º, sea force 6, at which the we went ahead 1/3 on both engines, and were quickly out of danger.
The behavior of the officers and crew throughout this 10-hour ordeal was a sight which will, never be forgotten. Faced with the constant threat of sudden (seemingly certain) death, there was never the slightest display of panic. Every man was completely calm, and the supply of volunteers who offered to perform tasks which would have been practically suicide had they been allowed to attempt them, was inexhaustible. It can be truly said that
this ship's company (and the ship) conducted themselves in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service!
Except for minor injuries, there were no casualties to, or loss of personnel."

Franco Lolan
03 Feb 06,, 03:10
Bad storm. Living in Florida, I know. I remember going late before a storm to the beach to surf, but it was way too late. The waves were monstrous and the car door almost flew off. Powerlines were falling and exploding around us. I thought my board would fly away. Sand was being blasted around. Serious stuff. That day I understood the power of a hurricane.