Ari Phoutrides:  QM1/c


San Pedro Bay, Leyte

December 3, 1944

Yesterday, December 2, 1944, three destroyers from our squadron officially known as Destroyer Division 120, steamed through the Camotes Sea. Their mission was a surprise night bombardment of the Ormoc defenses located on the West Coast of Leyte.

This morning, two of these destroyers limped into San Pedro Bay. An official dispatch was routed to the commander of our squadron describing briefly the results of their mission. Two ships had been damaged by enemy forces. Of the third, it mentioned only "Gelding (the USS Cooper) did not return"

Their mission was unsuccessful. Enemy surface units and aircraft had intercepted our destroyers before they reached their objective. The Cooper was torpedoed and sank in 35 seconds. The remaining two ships underwent fierce surface and air attacks. Survivors of the Cooper, through necessity, were left behind to the strafing Japanese airmen.

The news of the Cooper’s sinking had a strange effect on our crew. We spoke of her in reverent tones. Although she was another ship, she was part of our squadron and one of us. Many of our friends went down with her. It was her first and last action.

The atmosphere was haunting. No one spoke out of turn. What was said was said quietly and briefly. Now, more than ever before, the war seemed fearfully close to us.

Other thoughts went through our minds. Why did the Navy send only three destroyers on such a dangerous mission. Why wasn’t the whole squadron sent. Let’s hope we have a chance to do a double share of work on our next mission….just a little something in remembrance of the Cooper and her men.

Fighting ships to me are human. Without a crew, they are like bodies without life. The Cooper had lost its body, its life, and its very blood.