New book forthcoming on the history of the Samuel B. Roberts by acclaimed author John Wukovits
In For Crew and Country, John Wukovits tells of the most dramatic naval battle of the Pacific War and the incredible sacrifice of the USS Samuel B. Roberts.
On October 25, 1944, the Samuel B. Roberts, along with the other twelve vessels comprising its unit, stood between Japan’s largest battleship force ever sent to sea and MacArthur’s transports inside Leyte Gulf. Faced with the surprise appearance of more than twenty Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, including the Yamato, at 70,000 tons the most potent battlewagon in the world, the 1,200-ton Samuel B. Roberts turned immediately into action with six other ships. Captain Copeland marked the occasion with one of the most poignant addresses ever given to men on the edge of battle: “Men,” he said over the intercom, “we are about to go into a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected.”
The ship churned straight at the enemy in a near-suicidal attempt to deflect the more potent foe, allow the small aircraft carriers to escape, and buy time for MacArthur’s forces. Of 563 destroyers constructed during WWII, the Samuel B. Roberts was the only one sunk, going down with guns blazing in a duel reminiscent of the Spartans at Thermopylae or Davy Crockett’s Alamo defenders. The men who survived faced a horrifying three-day nightmare in the sea, where they battled a lack of food and water, scorching sun and numbing nighttime cold, and nature’s most feared adversary—sharks.
The battle would go down as history’s greatest sea clash, the Battle of Samar—the dramatic climax of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
We recently learned about a new film project being developed about the Battle off Samar. An independent group of filmmakers is working on a virtual recreation of this pivotal American victory in the Pacific during World War II – one of the great “upsets” in naval history. This ambitious project is currently in the research and development process, with a targeted shooting date of 2013.
A brief account of the Fredericksburg, Texas, reunion in December 2009 from author John Wukovits:
I just returned from a five-day reunion of the survivors’ association of the USS Samuel B. Roberts in Fredericksburg, Texas. We enjoyed various presentations at the renowned Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War, including a dedication speech given by President George H. W. Bush and three panel discussions involving the five surviving crew members present (pictured above). The survivors, their families, and other guests enjoyed a heart-warming, emotional week.
The “Spirit of the Sammy B” is Captain Copeland’s thoroughly readable autobiographical account of the DE-413’s short but valiant history. A must read for any one interested in the Samuel B. Roberts or the Battle off Samar.