The following is presumed to be the official Navy information release about the ROBERTS, prepared soon after the ship was sunk.
Office of Public Information
HISTORY OF USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE 413)
Several direct hits by 8 and 14-inch salvos, scored by heavy Japanese ships, sunk the USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE 413) in the Battle for Leyte Gulf off Samar Island, bringing to an end her valiant slugfest with enemy vessels of superior power.
The ROBERTS dodged torpedoes, and threw punches of her own for fully 50 minutes before the superior numbers and armament of the enemy vessels sent her to the bottom on October 25, 1944.
The destroyer escort was part of a screening unit to protect a force of American aircraft carriers. When the enemy opened fire at 7 o’clock that morning, the ROBERTS immediately sought to protect her “flattops.” The first step was to lay a smoke screen and then, steaming under cover of her own screen, the ROBERTS approached within 4,000 yards of a Jap heavy cruiser, fired three torpedoes, and returned to the protection of the smoke. One of the torpedoes struck home and started fires in the enemy ship.
Keeping between the main enemy force and her own carriers, the ROBERTS settled back and turned all guns on a Japanese cruiser. One 5-inch gun fired more than 300 rounds of ammunition, all that was available, in 50 furious minutes, scoring at least 40 sure hits.
The rapid fire from this gun was halted when a Jap battleship found the range and blasted the gun out of action with a 14-inch s Six charges were rammed in by hand and fired, although the men knew that an explosion might result from each of them because the gas ejection system was not working.
The seventh round fired in this manner exploded and killed all but three members of the gun crew outright. The gun captain, Paul Henry Carr, Gunner’s Mate, Third Class, who was credited generously for the excellent performance there was wounded beside his mount, clutching the last 5-inch shell and struggling to ram the 50-pound projectile into the chamber. Upon the recommendation of his Commanding Officer, Carr was on March 1, 1945 awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.
In the next few minutes, the Japs kept sending successive salvos of major caliber projectiles into the foundering destroyer escort. The death blow was a three-gun battleship 14-inch salvo that hit in number 2 engine room, tearing a hole 40-feet long and 10-feet wide in the ship’s skin on the port side. Abandon ship was ordered.
Men abandoning the vessel to port launched a life raft on that side, but a breeze blew it into the gaping hole torn by the last salvo. Four men crawled into the aperture, embarked upon the raft, and with every ounce of strength at their command, pushed the raft against the tide of inrushing water and managed to get it outside of the rupture.
This was an important victory because the 120 men that survived had only two other rafts and two floater nets on which to cling until rescue was effected some 50 hours later.
The long ordeal at sea was marked by shark attacks and lack of water. Eighteen hours were spent in heavy, oil-covered waters and each man became so saturated with the sticky substance, that he was indistinguishable from the others. One individualist removed some oil-smeared clothes in order to ease his swimming but in so doing exposed the lower portion of his body which was still white, not being covered with oil. A shark was attracted, swam up to the naked survivor, and nudged the exposed portion. The man put his oily clothes back on with haste.
A PC (Patrol Craft), escorting a group of five LCI’s, came upon the group at the start of their third day. The ship’s commanding officer, fearing that some of the men might be dynamite-laden Jap suicide swimmers purposely smeared with oil, approached the survivors with guns manned and ready. He put them to a test by yelling, “Who won the World Series?” “The St. Louis Cardinals” the answer shot back.
The ROBERTS’ life lasted only six months. Built by the Brown Shipbuilding Company, Houston, Texas, the ship was commissioned on April 28, 1944. Lieutenant Commander R. W. Copeland, USNR, who had charge of the ship when it dodged shells at Samar, was the vessel’s commanding officer.
Mrs. Samuel B. Roberts, mother of the ship’s namesake, Samuel B. Roberts, Jr., Coxswain, USNR sponsored the vessel. Coxswain Roberts was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving on the crew of a landing craft that rescued stranded Marines from Guadalcanal under intense enemy fire.
The ROBERTS was a “long hull” type destroyer escort with geared turbine drive and five-inch guns. Other characteristics were: length, 306 feet; beam, 37 feet; full load displacement, 1700 tons.
Retyped from mimeographed report by Richard K. Rohde, 19 April 1999