I started writing about Taffy III in November 1992 after an ever-growing fascination with my great-uncle's service in World War II on the USS GAMBIER BAY (CVE 73), the Battle Off Samar, and U.S. naval history. My interest started when I was growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (yes, I'm a YOOPER, and proud of it!), far away from the oceans, so it seemed.
My great-uncle Virgil Cox was a plankowner, crewmember, and survivor of the sinking of the GAMBIER BAY. I remember sitting at his kitchen table at a very young age as he and my father exchanged stories of their past military experiences. My father's stories about his service in the Army during the Korean War, though exciting, didn't seem as thrilling as my uncle's real stories about the U.S. Navy in World War II. The Navy seemed like a very interesting place....
On November 6, 1978, during my senior year of high school, I joined the U.S. Navy's Delayed Entry Program. For some reason I decided to sign up for submarines. I went to Boot Camp on 28 June 1979, a mere three weeks after my graduation from Wakefield High School. My assigned unit in basic training was the "Milwaukee Brewers Ball Company #136". The afternoon before reporting to Great Lakes was spent meeting my new Company Commanders and shipmates and touring two local breweries (Schlitz and ?????) in Milwaukee where we drank beer....complements of the Navy. That evening we attended a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.
During my first sea duty command I served as a yeoman-striker on board the ballistic-missile submarine USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (SSBN 600) where I earned my Enlisted Submarine Breast Insignia or "dolphins" as we call them in the submarine service. In a Temporary Duty status I supported USS SAM HOUSTON (SSBN 609) in November/December 1980. ROOSEVELT was decommissioned in February 1981 and I was transferred to Naval Technical Training Center, Meridian, Mississippi where I attended Yeoman "A" School. Upon graduation I was sent to PRE-COMMISSIONING UNIT FLORIDA (SSBN 728) which was under construction at General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, Groton, Connecticut. Shipyard life was very boring so I volunteered in a Temporary Duty status to make one strategic deterrent patrol (#51) onboard USS ANDREW JACKSON (SSBN 619) BLUE, out of Holy Loch, Scotland. My first shore duty assignment was as a courier at Headquarters, Allied Forces Northern Europe, Kolsaas, Norway from April 1983 to April 1985.
In April 1985, due to my father's poor health, I separated from the Naval service and moved back to the U.P. to spend time with him and the rest of my family. It was during this period that I read Edwin P. Hoyt's "The Men of the Gambier Bay" with great interest. This book gives a fine account of the GAMBIER BAY throughout it's brief life.
On August 8, 1985 I reenlisted in the Navy and went back on active duty on September 24. I was then stationed on board the diesel-electric submarine USS DARTER (SS 576), homeported at Sasebo, Japan. DARTER was the namesake ship which gave Vice Admiral Kurita's Centre Force it's wakeup call on October 23, 1944. Outside my office on DARTER was a silver plaque commemorating the earlier DARTER's action in Palawan Passage, which resulted in the sinking of the Japanese heavy cruiser ATAGO and the crippling of the heavy cruiser TAKAO during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. At this time I hadn't made the connection that this was the prelude to the battle where my great uncle's ship was lost. While on DARTER I met my wife and we were married in May 1987.
I spent February 1988 through April 1990 serving aboard the ballistic-missile submarine USS NEVADA (SSBN 733)(BLUE) at Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington. I made four strategic deterrent patrols on her (#s 3, 5, 7, and 9). In 1992, while assigned to Nuclear Field "A" School, Naval Training Center, Orlando, Florida, my interest in the GAMBIER BAY renewed itself. It was during this period that I read with great dedication Adrian Stewart's "The Battle of Leyte Gulf," Hoyt's "The Battle of Leyte Gulf," and Samuel Eliot Morison's "United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume XII, Leyte", which in my opinion, is the finest account of this action ever written. By now, totally engrossed in my study of the Battle Off Samar, I started writing a book about this battle.
Next, in 1993, I was assigned to the fast-attack submarine USS PASADENA (SSN 752) homeported in San Diego. The work on my book continued, whenever my current arduous sea-duty assignment would support it. It was during this period that I began corresponding with various Taffy III Survivor Associations. The people I credit with giving me invaluable information and motivation for my book were the late Tony Potochniak of the USS GAMBIER BAY and VC-10 Association, the late Bill Mercer of the USS JOHNSTON/HOEL Association, and the late Whit Felt of the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS Survivors Association.
1996 was a very busy year for me. In February of that year I transferred to shore duty at Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut (I was also NAVSUBSCOLs Webmaster). Having surfed the internet since June 1994, I had always desired to start my own web site. What better topic could I have chosen than the "Battle Off Samar Home Page". On May 22, 1996 I posted the first few pages on the internet and was immediately amazed at the positive response I received.
In September 1996 I was contacted by Mike McKenna of the USS SAINT LO and VC-65 Survivors Association. He provided me with several combat action photographs, kamikaze strike photographs, action reports, and steadfast guidance. My web page and my book would not have been possible without his superb and loyal help.
After nearly six years of research and writing, in July 1998 my book "The Battle Off Samar - Taffy III at Leyte Gulf" was self-published in Groton, Connecticut. Two-hundred copies were printed locally and 166 were sold to enthusiasts from all over the country. The one other big event in the summer of '98 was the creation of the Escort Carrier Sailors and Airmen Association web site. The tireless planning of
Tony Potochniak was the catalyst and my knowledge of HTML made it a reality. Low-budget, the site was piggy-backed on my BOSAMAR site. The original plan for my book was to have a second printing completed in December 1998 but fate knocked on my door.....I once again received permanent change of station orders.......this time to USS HELENA (SSN 725). I knew my new sea duty assignment would not support a second printing of my book. I left shore duty and Groton, Connecticut in February 1999 and went to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire to report to my new submarine assignment. I did not return home again until June 1999, when at that time we packed up our belongings and moved to San Diego, California, HELENAs new homeport.
My BOSAMAR web site remained static during my many absences at sea. In September 1999 out of necessity, I moved my web site to a new, faster, server, compliments of Tony Potochniak and the Escort Carrier Sailors & Airmen Association which finally purchased a large amount of server space and a domain name of its own.
In June 2000 HELENA departed San Diego on a six-month Western Pacific deployment. Unable to perform updates to the ECSAA web site, the ECSAA Board of Governors replaced me with a new webmaster, without notification. For insight into my dismissal as ECSAA Webmaster, please read my FAQ on the subject, especially If you are a member of ECSAA. Upon my return from deployment in December 2000, out of necessity (read above), I moved my BOSAMAR web site for a second time, the first year (December 2000 to December 2001) funded by the generosity of the ECSAA Board of Governors. I obtained the BOSAMAR.COM domain name and an independent, fast server.
In March 2001, I was contacted by the late John Ibe from the USS SAINT LO and VC-65 Survivors Association who sought the rights to print my book, "The Battle Off Samar - Taffy III at Leyte Gulf", in support of Taffy III Organization's Bob Hope Military Tribute Memorial project in San Diego. Mr. Ibe purchased 500 copies of the Second Edition of my book.
On September 17, 2001 I reported to Naval Base Point Loma (San Diego) for what was to be my last shore duty assignment. Due to Navy manning policy changes (outsourcing) at Point Loma, I was transferred to Deep Submergence Unit, Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, in January 2003.
I retired from the Navy on 1 May 2004. Looking back at my 24-years, 5 months, and 7 days of active duty Naval Service I can say that no matter what you choose to do in life....do it well....give it your all....because in the end....you get what you give. And now in hindsight....it all goes by much too quickly.
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt (Paris Sorbonne, 1910)
In December 2004 I was hired by the U.S. Department of the Treasury - FedSource in Brea, California and served in civil service for 4 years until our agency was closed via a Reduction in Force. My current position is Headquarters Manager and Bookkeeper for a non-profit aviation fraternity at Flabob Airport in Riverside, California.
Thank you for visiting my web site. Pay tribute to the brave men of Taffy III in any way you can. Honor the Missing in Action and Killed in Action of Taffy III.
I look forward to serving you.
ROBERT JON COX, August 2013