from the personal collection of Eugene Ray Perkins F/1c, USNR USS MARCUS ISLAND (CVE 77)
A note from the Webmaster.
The main body of the original document was typed as one large paragraph.
I have taken the liberty of breaking it up into small paragraphs to facilitate reading.
U.S.S. MARCUS ISLAND (CVE 77)
NOTE TO THE CREW #7.
15 November 1944
Subject: Our Recent Operations off Leyte.
1. The following information can be used as a guide in writing letters or can be sent home complete.
2. Copies may be obtained upon request at the Executive Officer's Office.
J. B. VREDENBURGH
Some of the cloud of censorship has been lifted concerning the recent operations in which we have been present. We participated in the operations which culminated in the seizure of Leyte and Samar Islands, the Philippine Islands, and in the defeat and route of the Japanese Fleet the night of the 24th and 25th, and the day of the 25th of October.
On the 24th we were operating off the East Coast of Samar in the vicinity of the Strait which gives entrance to Leyte Gulf. That evening we had rumors that the Jap was up to something but we were still somewhat in the dark as to his exact intentions. During the night of the 24th and 25th the Jap tried to force Surigao Strait and enter Leyte Gulf from the West, but was beaten off with heavy losses by our forces stationed in the Gulf. At the same time a Jap Naval Task Force composed of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers slipped out of the San Bernardino Strait, to the North of Samar Island, and turned South with the probable intention of entering Leyte Gulf from the East.
At dawn on the 25th we launched our regular flights and made ready to continue the schedule for the day. Shortly after this we received a report that one of our search planes to the North had sighted the Jap Force. This was the first indication that there was such a Force in the vicinity. A few minutes later we received word that one of our small CVE Forces to the North was under large caliber gunfire from the Jap Force. Well, we were in somewhat of a quandry at this point because we had not expected such large enemy ships to be so close to us. However, we recovered from the surprise in short order and started the air operations which were to spell the doom of the Jap.
A little while later we received word that the Japs were opening on the Force to the North on which they had been firing and we breathed somewhat easier. But, a few minutes later, our complacency was rudely and completely shattered when we learned that the Jap was most certainly opening on our Northern Force but were CLOSING ON US. WOW-----!?"#$%&'@/:::;;;????6-7/8-----WOW. There wasn't much we could do about it except to relieve those parts of our presence as expeditiously as possible and in a direction which would take us out of range of the Jap eight and sixteen inch guns and give us maneuvering room so that we could launch our planes. We felt like one would feel trying to beat off a Sherman Tank with a twenty-two caliber target pistol using twenty-two short ammunition. During this time we launched quite a few of our aircraft armed to the teeth and with orders to attack the Japs.
While they were forming and getting ready to hit, the Jap was throwing large caliber gunfire at us, which was in no wise pleasant, as one can well imagine. The top-mast of the Jap ship could be seen on the horizon to the North and, with his superior speed, he was closing rapidly. It was quite a sight to see the Jap shells landing around about, making big splashes which shot huge geysers of water into the air. Between salvos we all held our breath, wondering where the next one would fall. However, none of our ships were hit. These ships, that is the CVEs, weren't built to stand up to any ship of the size of a battleship or cruiser and slug it out with them at short range, so it can be well imagined what our chargin must have been to find ourselves in such close proximity to such big stuff. We were all wishing for some turrets full of sixteen inch guns or a few more horse-power so that we could either shoot at the Jap ship or have enough speed to put a bit more ozone between him and us. After a few minutes of dodging around our planes started whacking at the Jap and evidently hurt him pretty badly, because he turned away from us and retired to the Northward. Some minutes later reports began to come in that the Jap was hard hit and seemingly bewildered by the weight of airpower we had thrown at him and was in full retreat to the West, heavily damaged and in great confusion.
During the remainder of the day our status was changed from hunted to hunter and we continued to hit the retreating Jap with everything we had in the way of airpower, continuing to inflict damage on him. Late in the afternoon we learned that there was a large group of Jap dive and torpedo bombers headed our way. We sent fighters to intercept them and made ready aboard ship to repel the attack by gunfire from our anti-aircraft batteries. The fighters intercepted the Jap planes well away from our Force and shot down over half of them. The remaining Jap pilots must have thought over the situation because they turned tail and beat it for home. We didn't see those planes at all from the ship. This ended the night and day which saw us defeat the major portion of the Jap Fleet in a night surface action and a day air-surface action and sent it hightailing for home with their teeth knocked down their throats. It must have been quite a disappointment to the Jap to see all his carefully planned operations blow up in this face. And it was quite an experience for us to be so close to the Jap Force with our thin-skinned ships; yes, quite an experience.
There "ain't no use sayin" we weren't scared when the Jap was lobbin' sixteen inch bullets at us, because we were, and plenty, but everyone went about his business regardless of how he felt and the whole crew came through like veterans, and how!