USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) History

USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) is a John C. Butler-class escort destroyer of the United States Navy. The hull of the Roberts was laid with her sister ship, the Walter C. Vine, in January 1944. This construction was Brown's accepted production plan, with the two ships placed side by side to gain a production advantage among the available shipyards, plumbing fitters and electricians - who were working on both ships at the same time.

This design approach culminated in the production of some 61 Butler-class destroyers by the end of the war. The "assembly line" mentality also made American workers famous for being able to ram ships time and time again in support of global warsa feat unmatched by any other nation before 1945.

Samuel B. Roberts' destroyer escort appeared in 1941 as a result of the Lend-Lease Act enacted by the U.S. government. Since the end of World War I in 1918, the United States has done well in foreign policy matters, especially in Europe.

By the late 1930s, however, the Nazi scourge had engulfed Poland and the Netherlands, and was now beginning to crack down on Britain, forcing the U.S. government to intervene "indirectly." Through Lend-Lease, the U.S. can now provide supplies to entities they consider allies, eventually including Britain and the Soviet Union, which will receive a large number of weapons. So the Royal Navy received warships from the US to counter the presence of German U-boats bent on sinking escorts from the US to the UK and from the UK to Arctic ports.

The ABS destroyer escort design was developed by Captain E. L. Cochrane, who accepted the British requirement for a small escort and developed the British Destroyer Escort (BDE). Designs were accepted and fifty built, the first six being transferred to the UK. The remainder were reclassified as Destroyer Escorts (DE), and the remaining ships were assigned to the US Navy on January 25, 1943. In the end, for every five escort destroyers launched, four were shipped to the U.S. Navy stockpile and one was shipped to the Royal Navy.

The small ship class has proven to be a fairly effective warfighter in the long run, and can be built at a much lower cost than full-fledged purpose-built destroyers.

These destroyer escorts are only 306 feet (93 m) from bow to stern and have a width (or "width") of 36.8 feet (11.18 m). She only drew 9.5 feet (2.87 m) of water. The "DE 417" was loaded with war materiel, displaced 1,370 tons, and could travel 28.7 knots (33 mph) in "clean" conditions. This speed is possible thanks to her Westinghouse-built gear steam turbine and twin boilers that produce 12,000 shaft horsepower and drive twin screws.

The ship is piloted by 217 sailors and 11 officers.

Encouraging such feats comes at a price. As such, these boats were not heavily armored and were often referred to as "tin cans". With only a 3/8" steel deck allotted to each, in rough seas the DE will float around like a cork in a bathtub. Her armament was modest, with only 2 x 5 in (127 mm) main guns and three torpedoes against surface ships.

For air defense and escort, destroyer escorts are equipped with 4 x 40 mm anti-aircraft guns and up to 10 x 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. The primary weapons suite was primarily used in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), as WWII-era submarines still had to approach the surface to attack the surface ships themselves.

For the anti-submarine warfare mission, 2 depth charge rails, 1 hedgehog and 8 depth charge projectors are installed.

"Sammy B" was named in honor of Samuel Booker Roberts Jr., a naval reservist who was killed on Guadalcanal on September 28, 1942. At the time of his death, Roberts was in command of a landing craft that he was piloting to attract the enemy, thereby diverting attention from receiving ships from the U.S. Marine Corps overwhelmed by Japanese fire. When Mrs Roberts learned that the ship was named after her son, she requested that her youngest son, Jack Roberts, who himself had just completed naval training, be assigned to the ship.

The Admiralty agreed to this request.

Roberts was commissioned on March 31, 1944. After receiving her crew, she began sea trials in Bermuda waters until mid-June. Roberts collided with a whale and damaged its propeller shaft, forcing the boat to return to Norfolk for repairs.

Once repaired, she sailed via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, arriving on August 10, 1944. She was assigned to the Third Fleet in Hawaii and trained with the fleet in local waters.

Assigned to the Seventh Fleet, she provided anti-submarine protection for convoys sailing between Pearl and Enivitok, a coral atoll where ships were stationed before being dispatched to front-line combat areas.

On October 12, 1944, Captain Bob Copland of Sammy B and many other captains were briefed on "Operation Musketeer II" - the planned invasion of the Philippines. Roberts is now part of the battleship Task Force 77.2 under the command of Admiral Oldendorf and the escort Task Force 77.4 under the command of Admiral Sprague.

Roberts and the fleet sailed towards Wright under the callsign "Taffy 3".

During the war, no fleet is complete without an air force, and the Seventh Fleet is escorted by carriers, the smallest aircraft carriers built by the United States, which are themselves protected by the four smallest destroyers (like USS Roberts) and two protection of a standard destroyer. Eighteen infant "flat tops" were divided into three battle groups of six ships each. The fleet consists of 235 fighter jets and 143 torpedo aircraft. Their mission was to protect the invading fleet of Leyte Gulf. Pilots and sailors are reservists with no combat experience.

The carrier is not equipped with enough armor-piercing rounds and torpedoes as they are not expected to be needed. Taffy 3, the northernmost carrier group to cover the invasion of Leyte, will have a heavy responsibility.

According to the operational plan, U.S. Admiral Thomas C. Kincaid believed that Admiral William Halsey's 3rd Fleet was stationed under their operational order and that Task Force 34 (TF 34) Guarding San Bernardino.

To fend off the Japanese threat from the south, Kincaid concentrated its battleships mainly south of the Wright beachhead.

The Japanese Central Forces commanded by Admiral Kurita had by this time been bloodied by American pilots and sailors and now consisted of the IJN battleships Yamato, Nagato, Kongo and Haruna; heavy cruisers Chokai, Haguro, Kumano, Suzuya , Chikuma, Tone; light cruisers Yasaku and Noshiro; and 11 Kagero- and Asashio-class destroyers. The 127mm shells of American destroyers were unable to penetrate battleship and cruiser armor.

The Japanese capital ships were equipped with large-caliber guns, and the IJN Yamato's 18.1-inch (460 mm) guns could drop 2,000-pound shells to a distance of about 25 miles (40 km).

On October 24, Kurita turned his ship eastward towards Leyte Gulf. On the morning of October 25, Kurita's fleet, led by Yamato, left the San Bernardino Strait and went south along the coast of Samar to bomb the landing forces on Leyte Island. Shortly after dawn, the central forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy discovered "Taffy 3", consisting of her 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers and 4 small escort destroyers, commanded by Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. Kurita was convinced he had located the U.S. Third Fleet aircraft carrier guarding the landing force.

The normal maneuver of the Japanese at night was to line up, so now at dawn a shift to air defense formation was ordered. The fleet changed its formation, and Kurita gave the order for an all-out attack. This allows all ships to engage the enemy as each ship's captain sees fit.

Admiral Kurita's unorthodox command would lose his tactical control of the upcoming battle.

At 5:45 a.m., two U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers and two Grumman Wildcat fighter jets were launched from the USS San Lo on a standard anti-submarine mission to investigate four major points of proliferation.

Some high winds were noted, and the CVE pilots did not perform instrument checks, so they stuck to the adage "if the birds don't fly, neither do we." On the Roberts last night, the crew discussed the battleship Oldendorf's victory over the Japanese forces in the South in the Sulagio Strait.

Lieutenant Brooks, driving the TBM from Saint-Lo, spotted the Japanese Central Forces. The original idea was that the ships were part of Admiral Lee's southbound battleships. Brooks came under massive anti-aircraft fire, and at 6:43 a.m., taking stock and calling the Japanese ship to report, Admiral Sprague was skeptical and asked for confirmation. If proven true, Sprague would only be able to muster 5 inches with his heaviest gun.

Still, Sprague ordered all ships to go to general quarters.

Captain Copeland on the USS Roberts received fire 15 miles away, then spoke to the crew over the intercom: "A large Japanese army has been contacted, 15 miles away, consisting of 4 battleships, 8 cruisers and 1 Digital Destroyer". "It will be a battle against overwhelming odds to survive." "We will do what we can." - Destroyers know their job is to sacrifice themselves for the carrier.

In the absence of orders, they organize themselves and approach enemy ships with their artillery, which destroyers can directly sink. Copeland ordered flanking speed, knowing that speed and torpedoes were the destroyer's best offensive weapons. Hear Admiral Sprague's order, "Guys, make a torpedo attack". Therefore, the goal was left to the individual destroyer captains, as there was not time and too few ships for a coordinated attack with consequences. CVEs' aircraft attack ships at full force, even at low altitudes when all bombs are depleted.

USS Roberts was the closest to the Japanese cruiser series, but Copeland was the junior commander and had to be ready for order. Regardless, Copeland decided not to wait, but to keep attacking.

Copeland saw the lead Japanese cruiser and ordered Executive Bob Roberts to keep her course six degrees from the enemy cruiser leader. He ordered 20 knots for the torpedo operation and told the engineering department that when the "fish" was fired, the flanks speed plus whatever else they could get out of the boiler should be made. As Roberts approached the cruiser line, her 5-inch guns wanted to fire, but 13,000 yards from the target, Copeland didn't want to waste precious ammunition. At this range, the 5" gun has little "penetration" to cruiser armor, so it needs to be close.

In addition, the enemy cruisers did not fire on Roberts because Roberts provided such a small forward silhouette at a distance and battlefield smoke obscured their approach.

The plan for USS Roberts was to fire three torpedoes at 45 knots at 5,000 yards from the cruiser. At such speeds, Japanese ships would have a hard time dodging the spread of torpedoes. Cruiser IJN Chokais fired her 8-inch battery towards the US escort carrier behind the USS Roberts. At 4,000 yards (about 2 miles), Roberts' torpedoes were heading for the enemy cruiser.

Copeland ordered left rudder hard and Roberts struggled with the extra boiler power as they tried to back up to the friendly carrier escort. There was cheers as flames erupted on the Japanese cruiser - a direct hit blew the Chokais' bow away. Roberts continued the attack for an hour, maneuvering close enough to use 600 rounds of 5" guns and their 40mm and 20mm antiaircraft guns against Chokai. Just before 9:00, Roberts was hit twice, inflicting damage that destroyed her stern 5" gun. She continued to fire on the cruiser and managed to ignite the bridge and destroy the third turret.

The battleship King Kong aimed its 14-inch batteries at the Roberts and hit them with three shells. The shell opened a 40 x 10 ft hole on her port side. She was launched into the water after her death, and at 9:35 she was ordered to abandon the boat. The Roberts sank in 1005 with 89 men on board. The 120 men were only rescued after they were launched with only three life rafts and spent the next 50 hours at sea.

On November 27, 1944, Roberts was removed from the Naval Register and awarded 1 Battle Star for her actions.

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