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The Taffy 3: A David Vs Goliath Story at Sea

Posted on Thursday, February 22, 2024
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by Ian Gargan
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A memorial to Sprague and Taffy 3 next to USS Midway (CV-41)
A memorial to Sprague and Taffy 3 next to USS Midway (CV-41).

Few stories in history exemplified the courage and tactical ingenuity amongst the United States Navy as the story of the Taffy 3. During the Battle for Leyte Gulf a pivotal encounter unfolded off the coast of Samar. Tasked primarily with support operations, this small task force found itself severely ill-equipped for direct engagement with enemy forces. Yet, when the moment of truth arrived, they rose magnificently to the challenge.

Who Were the Taffy 3?

Under the command of Admiral Clifton Sprague, the Taffy 3 consisted of six escort carriers, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts. This group was primarily tasked with providing air support for ground forces and anti-submarine warfare. However, they faced a formidable opponent: a Japanese force that boasted the Yamato, one of the most iconic and powerful battleships ever constructed.

Suddenly, at the break of dawn, October 25th, 1944, the Taffy 3 found themselves under attack by the Japanese fleet. The Japanese intended to decimate the American invasion at Leyte and stumbled upon the fleet escort carriers. This surprise assault forced the Americans into a desperate struggle for survival. Despite the inferior firepower, they launched an aggressive counterattack, unleashing torpedoes, and lying down on a smoke screen to protect the carriers.

Unconventional tactics

Faced with an emergency, the ships resorted to unconventional tactics including the use of depth charges – ordinarily used for warfare against submarines – against surface ships. In an audacious move, the escort carriers began to launch every aircraft they had on board. Some of these planes were simply used to transport torpedoes but, on this day, they were dive bombers. These unconventional tactics actually played a crucial role in the battle. The continuous attacks by the aircrafts to harass the Japanese fleets caused them to maneuver defensively thus disrupting their gunnery and torpedo attacks. Beyond the tangible tactics, the psychological impact of being attacked constantly and unexpectedly caused the Japanese to make poor strategic maneuvers and breaking there spirits.  

The aircrew’s valor was nothing short of extraordinary. With minimal armament, they executed continuous sorties, demonstrating remarkable bravery and ingenuity that complemented the formidable defense mounted by the surface ships.

In true David Vs Goliath fashion, they conquered the Japanese forces with the equivalent of a sling and a stone. The legacy of the Taffy 3 is a testament to the indomitable spirit, tactical brilliance, and human courage to prevail against overwhelming odds. They saved not only the Leyte invasion forces on the ground but made one of the largest battleships ever built to retreat. This year will mark 80 years since this battle, these brave Americans are still in our minds and our hearts.

To read more about great American veterans, click here.

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Donna
Donna
3 months ago

The willingness of those brave men to do all they could to defeat evil is commendable, but never forget who gave them the ability in the first place. I suspect the same source of power was present with them as with David.

Max
Max
3 months ago

Thanks to the tactics and the aggressiveness of the fighting officers, sailors and airman of Taffy 3, the Japanese flotilla decided that it had blundered into a superior naval force and did not want to suffer ship casualties so showed minimal engagement and retreated not realizing or comprehending the battle situation. This naval engagement saved Adm. Halsey’s Butt.

David Coe
David Coe
2 months ago

Thank You for sharing that wonderful story of the Taffy 3, it was the first I heard of it. I am a former U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier/ Vietnam Vet, Take my word for it that story and others like it need to be told far and wide. This Generation needs to know how their freedoms, the freedom they enjoy today were won. “If you do not know where you’ve been, you wont know where you are going”
Dave

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
2 months ago

Sometimes, I wonder if we have the same nerve people like they must have had. But I’m certain of one thing: based on today’s training, we can rest assured that, in any future conflicts, our military will be using proper pronouns and not gender suppressing the enemy.

Robert
Robert
2 months ago

They were the Greatest Generation!

JKHero
JKHero
2 months ago

Near the end of this article, we are told that the U.S. air attack pushed the Japanese into making poor decisions “and breaking there spirits.” HaHaHa — Where spirits ???
Were their spirits there?
Where is AMAC’s editor? Is the editor “there” or “their”?

BP Matt
BP Matt
2 months ago

What a wonderful reminder of what a great nation and people we once were. It’s a shame we are no longer.

Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson
2 months ago

Wonderful reminder of what true bravery and focus looks like.
Could Mr. Gargan be enticed into giving a presentation on this (or similar topics) to the Naval Order of the United States? (www.navalorder.org)

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