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An Excerpt From Don't Die in Bed: The Brief, Intense Life of Richard Halliburton

HALSEY’S TYPHOON

For an idea of what Halliburton and crew encountered, Halsey’s Typhoon offers an example. On December 17, 1944 Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 met a typhoon that claimed many lives and sank ships. Looking through windows of pilothouses, helmsmen saw water in the air, air in the water. They could not tell where sea ended and sky began. Piles of sea drove horizontally against wheelhouse windows. Wind roared through the rigging. Flags hauled down, only a tiny battle ensign flapped raggedly in the storm. Beaten by the typhoon, some ships were locked in irons, the vessels helpless in the eye of the storm and could not come about to a new direction. Ships could not see one another and a captain’s mind was fraught with only one idea—keep to the weather. The bows of small ships, destroyer escorts, plowed into mountains of sea that came crashing down on the wheelhouse.

On aircraft carriers, fighter planes down in the hangar bays tore free of lashings and were hurled into other planes, rupturing fuel tanks and igniting fires. The light carrier Monterey was set ablaze at 0911 with fire so intense despite seas washing over the flight deck that it spread below and she quickly lost steerage. On Monterey eighteen planes were destroyed or thrown overboard by wind. Another sixteen were almost destroyed. Her ventilation system was badly damaged.

Lieutenant Gerald Ford―one day a US President, then a young officer on Monterey―was almost swept overboard. He volunteered to lead a damage control team below. In the bowels of the ship all night, Ford and his men braved stifling smoke and intense heat to put out fires. He had been assigned as athletic officer, assistant navigator and gunnery officer and this, he might have joked years later, was not in his job description.

USS Langley rolled through seventy degrees. A plane broke loose in San Jacinto’s hangar and crashed into several other planes. On Cape Esperance the flight deck erupted in flames. In heaving seas, the damage control team risked their own lives to put it out and they did. Kwajalein rolled so far to port that when she righted, her catwalks came back washing with green water. Flat on the flight deck, crewmen crawled inch by inch to three aircraft torn loose and the men tried to push them from the flight deck before they could do more damage. The men worked and struggled against the storm, expecting any moment to be washed overboard but an hour later they had jettisoned the planes into the ocean.

The destroyer USS Hull could not manage the wind and seas. Her helmsman tried hard rudder, engine reversals, everything, but she was locked in irons in huge troughs of ocean. Northerly wind roared over her port beam and swept everything from the deck, whaleboat, depth charges, and rolled her fifty degrees leeward then four hours later it rolled her again at seventy degrees to the lee. Joe Jambor, Chief Electrician’s Mate, reported to Chief Quartermaster Archie DeRyckere in the wheelhouse that the hatches were blown stem to stern and water was surging in everywhere. A one hundred ten knot gust kept her horizontal long enough for the sea to flood the pilothouse, then rush down her stacks, drowning the engine, filling the compartments below decks. In very short order she was gone. Eighteen officers and two hundred forty-six men were either trapped in her hull or were swept away by the waves.

Around 1500 on Monday, December 18, 1944, the sky revealed tiny patches of blue. That evening crewmen could glimpse stars in fleeting snatches of sky and the wind dropped to sixty knots. The eye of the storm had passed. The fleet was scattered over the Pacific and only slowly did the ships rejoin one another.

Ninety-three men were rescued including a deck hand swept off the flight deck of Anzio by a green sea. Seven hundred seventy-eight sailors were lost or killed while another eighty were injured. One hundred forty-six aircraft were badly damaged or swept overboard. A cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers were seriously damaged and out of action.


This post first appeared on Mind Shadows, please read the originial post: here

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An Excerpt From Don't Die in Bed: The Brief, Intense Life of Richard Halliburton

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