The Typhoon Cobra Disaster was an event in the Pacific Ocean in which Typhoon Cobra hit American Task Force 38 near directly, 482 kilometers east of Luzon. The result was the loss of three destroyers; the USS Monaghan (DD-354), USS Spence (DD-512), and USS Hull (DD-350), 146 aircraft thrown into the sea or destroyed entirely by other causes, 790 crew losses, and severe damage to many other ships.

Following these events, the US Pacific Fleet established new weather stations to detect for such threats and give greater warning in places such as the Caroline Islands, and later Manila, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. Furthermore, Admiral Halsey was later investigated for his handling of the situation. [1]

History

Task Force 38 commanded by Admiral William Halsey had been conducting heavy aerial strikes against Japanese airfields for several days prior to its encounter with Typhoon Cobra. The American weather center had first detected a meteorological disturbance on December 16, 1944. On December 18, after receiving wrong information about the location and direction of the storm, Task Force 38 attempted to refuel and sailed directly into the path of the Typhoon. While the weather in the days leading up to to the 18th had been rough, the fleet had not taken heed of the warning signs present and thus not changed its course. Furthermore, there was an ongoing strategic pressure to hold position and maintain support for the American landings at Mindoro and refuel. The fleet was comprised of thirteen aircraft carriers, both regular and light; eight battleships, fifteen cruisers, and numerous other destroyers or support ships.[2]

After suspending its orders to refuel, Task Force 38 set a northwesterly course and entered the storm. Many of the ships quickly began to become separated, using radar to maintain sight of each other. Adding to the fleet's troubles, most of the fuel tanks for the destroyers are near empty. 0825 hours, some ships begin to take minor damage. One of the more serious issues arises when an F6F Hellcat aboard the USS Cowpens breaks free of its harnesses and rolls into a catwalk and catches fire.

The view from the USS Cowpens as it rolls on its side

While it eventually falls overboard, more vehicles and aircraft begin to roll into gun positions and parts of the hanger deck under the effect of 185 kilometer per hour winds. Other aircraft carriers begin to suffer the same effects while rolling in the waves, some even at a 70˚ angle. In fact, the fire damage aboard the USS Monterary nearly destroyed the ship. At 1145 hours, the USS Monaghan capsizes nearly killing all on board quickly followed by the USS Spence and USS Hull.

Despite severe damage to herself and an order to turn back, the destroyer escort USS Tabberer attempted to rescue as many survivors as possible of all three ships. In a search that would last several days, Tabberer manages to rescue some fifty-one survivors. The remaining ships return to Ulithi for repair. 

References

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