LITTLE WOLF AT LEYTE





Synopsis

At dawn, on 25 October 1944, near the northern entrance to Leyte Gulf off the Island of Samar, in the extreme western area of the Philippine Sea, a significant " David vs. Goliath" type of military engagement occurred - a naval battle in which valor, tenacity, and pure old American grit and guts won the day. It was the climactic event of a four-day slugfest known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf; in sum total the greatest naval battle in the history of the world.

This book is the story of a small destroyer escort, the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), known by a voice radio call sign as "Little Wolf". The Roberts, together with three other destroyer escorts, three destroyers, and their brood of six little "jeep" carriers, collectively known as Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy 3), fought Vice Admiral Kurita's mighty armada of four battleships, eight heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and ten destroyers intent on wiping out General MacArthur's forces which were then establishing their beach heads at nearby Leyte Island. During the ensuing battle, Kurita sank the Roberts, two of the destroyers, and one "jeep" carrier.

However, he incurred such fierce and daring resistance by these small American ships, that after two hours Admiral Kurita broke off engagement. With undoubted victory in their sight, this Japanese armada turned and left the scene of battle, withdrawing back through San Bernardino Strait to the safety of the South China Sea. The bravery of the small American forces in this most critical segment of the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, saved MacArthur's landings at Leyte Island and shortened the war in the Pacific.

Vice Admiral T. C. Kinkaid, Commander of the Seventh Fleet, in a report to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, (COMINCH), regarding the actions of the three destroyers and four destroyer escorts, stated:

"By the skillful use of smoke, the launching of daring torpedo attacks, and the refusal to break off action in the face of overwhelming odds and sure losses, this intrepid little group of fighting ships accomplished one of the most heroic and gallant epics of the war."

While told mainly from the vantage point of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), the "little wolf" which gave its all, the story in effect, concerns all of the thirteen little ships of Task Unit 77.4.3, known by its voice radio call sign as "Taffy 3". The valor displayed by the Americans that morning off Samar is well depicted through the eyes of the men on the Samuel B. Roberts, who fought to the finish against overwhelming odds.

This is a story of great heroism and significant pathos. It is a very worthy tale of actual military history; not fiction. The book "comes alive" through many priceless recollections by the survivors.



Current Reviews and Comments:


"Captain (Ret.) Henry Doscher will capture the imagination of every navy man who ever served aboard a fighting ship as he recounts the story of the destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) and follows the exploits of the men who served aboard her from commissioning until she was sunk by Japanese warships on October 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf (Philippines). Join the men as they make a daring torpedo attack on an enemy cruiser. Watch as their ship takes countless hits, and then abandon ship and spend fifty heart-wrenching hours with them in the Pacific Ocean before they are rescued.

Captain Doscher shares intimate experiences of the men who survived the greatest naval battle in history and tells why the victory that unquestionably shortened the War in the Pacific was largely overlooked by the press in 1944. Little Wolf at Leyte paints a clear and vivid picture of life aboard a naval vessel during World War II."

Whitney Felt, Salt Lake City, surviving crew member.



Little Wolf at Leyte is a nifty little book. However, it should not be taken lightly because it contains a most vivid description of a little-known part of the four vast sea battles comprising Leyte Gulf, during October 1944. This is, in a double sense, a griping tale - first of the several major battles that comprised Leyte Gulf, but even more poignant is the sad account of the crew of this small ship (and others like it) that held out against overwhelming odds. Its not "Red October" but it is a fine piece of naval history.

From the extensive book review in the Winter 1997 issue of Amherst, a quarterly publication of Amherst College.



Little Wolf at Leyte is a terrific tale of naval action. Here's a book you'll not only love, but you'll live every page of it…The personal glimpses into the lives of so many crew members makes you feel you are actually on board this small DE during its heroic attack on a far superior Japanese force in the Battle Off Samar. Reading this book will make you proud to have been a part of the same Navy in which men like these served.


February 1997 issue of Shipmate News, published for cruiser veterans of World War II.




Little Wolf at Leyte is an impressive work. I thought I knew the heroic story of "Taffy 3" pretty well, but [it] brought the experience of the USS Samuel B. Roberts so much to life that I felt I had actually been aboard her at the time, and knew each of the men who went through that nightmare. All in all, one of the most exciting war at sea adventures I've ever read.


William D. Shumway, Madison, Wisconsin, Editor, Shipmate News.







CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR A MORE DETAILED VIEW

Track Map of Japanese Center Force (Kurita) and Southern Force (Nishumura and Shima) in their SHO-go plan to crush our landing forces at Leyte. Kurita's track shows: 1- the two 'x' marks in Palawan Passage where our subs, Darter and Dace encountered Kurita on 23 October and sank three cruisers; 2- the "loop" in Shibuyan Sea indicates area where Halsey's planes attacked Kurita on 24 October, causing Kurita momentarily to turn back.

The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) in the Philippine Sea, mid-October 1944. Photo taken from its sister ship the USS Wann (DE-412) as the two ships were maneuvering to exchange guard mail.

USN/NA80-G-284450. USS White Plains (CVE-66) bracketed by shellfire as battle begins. CVE in the foreground begins to launch aircraft.

USN/NA 80-G-288144 Destroyer Escorts to the left begin to make smoke screen in an attempt to protect USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) in right foreground

USN/NA 80-G-287505 USS Gambier Bay begins to burn and fall behind the other "jeep" carriers. It is still being bracketed by enemy salvos splashing in the sea

USN/NA 80-G-270516 The USS St. Lo (CVE-63) explodes in a massive fireball when struck by a kamikaze plane.

Memorial Monument to Task Unit 77.4.3 on Harbor Drive, San Diego, California, near old fleet landing. The Task Unit 77.4.3 monument in San Diego was dedicated on 23 October 1996 in a very impressive military ceremony.



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ADC-OL DESIGNS


Publisher: Eakin Press, Austin, 1996. Hardcover edition, $18.95, plus S&H, and any tax. 1-800-880-8642
Printed and bound at a Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

All text and photos copyright by J. Henry Doscher, Jr. 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Void where prohibited.