Chapter 11: "Home" for the Holidays

Task Group 38.2 returns to Ulithi Anchorage on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1944. This photograph, taken from HANCOCK CV-19, shows the head of the column turning west into Mugai Channel. Ships (right to left) are VINCENNES CL-64, MIAMI CL-89 and WISCONSIN BB-64. The island of Falalop lies behind VINCENNES.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA Record Group 80-G-259037

USS WISCONSIN BB-64 turns into Mugai Channel ahead of HANCOCK CV-19.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA Record Group 80-G-259039

Ships of the Task Group 38.2 column behind HANCOCK just after she makes the turn. Front to back are CABOT CVL-28, SAN JUAN CL-54 (partially visible), HORNET CV-12, LEXINGTON CV-16, PASADENA CL-65 and ASTORIA CL-90.
-U.S. Navy photo in NARA Record Group 80-G-259040

USS ASTORIA CL-90, last ship in the column, prepares to make the turn into Mugai Channel. This photograph was taken from ASTORIA a few seconds after the previous image from HANCOCK. Left to right are PASADENA, LEXINGTON, HORNET, SAN JUAN and CABOT.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

A final view of the column as USS HANCOCK completes the turn into Ulithi north anchorage. Right to left are CABOT, SAN JUAN, HORNET, LEXINGTON, PASADENA and ASTORIA.
-Jerome Zerbe photo in Brent Jones collection

24 December 1944

The Fast Carrier Task Force returned to Anchorage at Ulithi.  Many ships had some degree of damage from the typhoon, including some with serious structural damage such as USS MIAMI.

USS ASTORIA had weathered the storm comparatively well, but she still suffered its effects.  Both of her Kingfisher floatplanes were damaged beyond repair. The ship officially reported one significant injury, although there were others.

Above and below: C Division sailors sorting mail aboard USS ASTORIA upon return to anchorage on 24 December 1944. Note the Christmas tree aboard ship in the lower photo.
-photos taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

A 1944 card with a wartime holiday theme sent to a USS WILKES-BARRE sailor by his parents.
The card depicts the flags of allied nations.

-from Brent Jones collection

Not all mail and presents made it to USS ASTORIA sailors. Several bags were soaked in transit and were emptied to discover their contents unreadable or destroyed.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Above and below: Entertainment on the ship's fantail featuring an accordion solo backed by the ship's band on Christmas Eve night. Blackout conditions were not strictly observed in Ulithi Anchorage.
-photos taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Above and below: Entertainment on the ship's fantail provided by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night.
-photos taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

25 December 1944: Christmas Day

Christmas turkeys cooking in USS ASTORIA's galley on 25 December 1944.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

26 December 1944
Unknown to most men of the fleet, an official Court of Inquiry was convened the day after Christmas in the wardroom aboard the destroyer tender USS CASCADE AD-16.  Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet, had personally flown to Ulithi to find out what had happened in the typhoon.

The losses in war matériel were staggering:  Three destroyers sunk, three light carriers headed out of theater for repairs, many other ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed.  The losses in personnel were even more devastating: 790 U.S. service personnel were lost at sea, and 80 more were seriously injured.

The Court of Inquiry recorded testimony for the days that followed, and did not reach its conclusions until after Third Fleet had returned to sea for the next stage of Philippine operations.  Its findings were that the preponderance of responsibility lay with Admiral Halsey, and that greater care should have been taken in light of available information and deteriorating conditions.  Halsey's saving grace had been his commitment to stay on station in support of Mindoro operations.

Above and below: V Division sailors cannibalize ASTORIA's remaining damaged Kingfisher for parts on 28 December 1944. The only way to get the plane into the ship's hangar was to remove the wings.
-photos taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

28 December 1944
Following a short holiday rest, the task force began preparations to return to sea. Repairs were made and ships were shifted between task groups to adjust for losses and new arrivals. Third Fleet may have spend Christmas Day at anchor, but they would be underway for the next phase of Philippine operations for New Year's Day 1945.

                                       Continue to CHAPTER 12: OPERATION MIKE I


                                                                 BACK TO SHIP HISTORY


Drury, Bob and Clavin, Tom.  Halsey’s Typhoon.  New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007.

http://commons.Wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page  Wikimedia Commons image database.

Jones, Brent. Private photo and document collection.

Melton, Jr., Buckner F. Sea Cobra. Guillford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2007

MIGHTY NINETY: USS ASTORIA CL-90 cruise book.  1946.

Morison, Samuel Eliot.  History of United States Naval Operations in WWII Vol. XIII: The Liberation of the Philippines.   Boston: Little, Brown and Company Inc., 1959 .

Schnipper, Herman.  Private photo and document collection.

Stafford, Edward P.  The Big E.  New York, NY: Random House, Inc., 1962.

Steichen, Edward (ed.).  U.S. Navy War Photographs, 2nd Edition.  New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc.  1984.

Theaker, Carl.  Private photo and document collection.

www.archives.gov National Archives and Records Administration WWII photo archive.

www.navsource.org  U.S. Navy photo archive.

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