Shortly after dawn on the morning of 25 October 1944, the crew of the USS Johnston (DD-557), a Fletcher-class destroyer convoying Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy Three)-six small escort carriers, popularly known as jeep carriers-supporting the American invasion of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf, went to general quarters. The officers and sailors of the Johnston could see, just peeking over the horizon, the distinctive pagoda-shape superstructures of Imperial Japanese Navy ships.
To say this was an unusual sight is an understatement: during the Pacific War, fought mostly at night or by long-range aircraft, the warships of Japan and the United States rarely sighted each other in daylight.
Next came the noise: the roar and rumble of 14- and 18-inch shells flying overhead-"like a freight train," recalled one crew member. Manning the 40-mm gun just below the bridge, an 18-year-old Sailor named Bill Emerson heard the Johnston's captain, Commander Ernest Evans, order the engines to flank speed.