NORFOLK -- The crew of USS Mahan (DDG 72) held a memorial ceremony, Dec. 6, in honor of the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Ormoc Bay in which six crew members from USS Mahan (DD 364) were killed.
One officer and five enlisted Sailors were mortally wounded on Dec. 7, 1944, during the battle off the coast of Leyte, Philippines. Today the ship rang bells for each Sailor lost and played “Taps” to honor their memory.
“There is no regulation that says we must be connected to Sailors from some 70-odd years ago, from a ship that bears the same name as ours, yet we are, because it is right and we must honor those that came before us,” said Cmdr. Zoah Scheneman, the ship’s commanding officer. “We are the caretaker of the “364” story and we must steel ourselves for the future and learn the lessons they taught us in their service.”
Scheneman read excerpts from surviving “364” crew member accounts of that day. The ship had traveled through the Surigao Straits to Ormoc Bay when they were attacked.
“All hell broke loose,” wrote Jim Pratt. “We were hit by three Japanese suicide planes. One plane hit the superstructure so hard the mast was dragging in the water on the port side.”
In a letter sent to the ship just a few days before the ceremony, surviving crew member Wilfred (Bill) Sumner relates a story about the rescue of a special member of the crew.
“Capt. Scotty [Campbell] realized our ship was a wreck and, with no help from other ships to put out the fires and control the exploding ammunition, he ordered ‘abandon ship.’ I remembered that our ship’s mascot, a cocker spaniel named Butch, was below decks in a stern compartment. I went below, called him to me, returned topside and we went overboard together. Most crew members had life jackets and I found one for Butch. We drifted together with our shipmates for about two hours before the destroyer USS Walke (DD 416) approached. None of us would board the Walke until a bucket was lowered and Butch landed on deck.”
“We have stories from our shipmates and we must hold on to them and learn from them,” said Scheneman. He concluded by reminding the crew that they are bound together with their predecessors by a single name – Mahan.
When asked what the definition of a shipmate was, 88-year old survivor, Edwin Young, stated in a letter to the ship, “A shipmate is someone who can count on you, and someone you can count on, when in the worst of circumstances; it is knowing the other person will do his best to do his job and complete the mission no matter what the cost.”
The second USS Mahan (DD 364) was the lead ship of the Mahan-class destroyers in the United States Navy. She was named for Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, a 19th-century naval historian and strategic theorist. Mahan began her Navy service in 1936. DD-364 did not sink on its own. Walke fired a torpedo into her hull after Capt. Scott Campbell decided it would be too dangerous to attempt saving her. There are currently 13 surviving members of DD-364.