“Prepare to abandon ship.” Those were the words from the bridge as we huddled in the belly of the USS Dewey (DD-349), flagship of Squadron One, operating in the Pacific during World War II in the midst of the worst typhoon in U.S. naval history. But as the destroyer wallowed in 45-foot, green-water waves swirling over and through her proud coat of buckled and rusted steel, and as the 150-mile-per-hour winds lashed at her superstructure, a miracle guided the floundering ship out of the clutches of Davey Jones.
It was a bright sunny day as we steamed out of Ulithi Lagoon, a small atoll in the Caroline Islands, on 10 December 1944. With seven other destroyers, we were to escort 12 tankers to a rendezvous some 300 miles east of Luzon, where the tankers were to refuel ships of the Third Fleet, which were pounding the Philippines with shells and bombs.
As we approached the rendezvous, the sea grew angry, churning the water and wind.