Joining the Navy and Boot Camp

Going to Sea on the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)

Supply Runs to the Marshall Islands

Joining Taffy 3

Battle Off Samar

The Sinking of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)

Adrift at Sea and Being Rescued

Being Evacuated

Going Home

A Lost Friend

Reunions

Paul Henry Carr

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Jack Yusen grew up in Queens, New York where he lived with his parents, brother and grandmother and was living there when the war started. His family was in the car when the reports came over the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor. His dad asked where Pearl Harbor was. Yusen was only 15 when the war began for the United States. He had an uncle who had been a boatswain's mate aboard the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43) and saw a lot of action in the Atlantic during World War 1 who told him that if he had to go into the service to choose the Navy. The advice stayed with Yusen for several years. He graduated from high school and got a job in the city. He put off signing up for the draft but one day, while getting off of the subway, Yusen saw a large poster of Uncle Sam calling people to join the Navy. Yusen skipped work and went downtown to the Navy recruiting office and by eleven that morning he was in the Navy. When he got home, his father asked him how work was and Yusen told him that he did not go to work because he joined the Navy. His mother dropped a bowl of soup upon hearing the news. Yusen's parents expected the news. Everyone figured that it was better to choose. Yusen's father told him that most of the draftees would be sent to the Marines. A week later, Yusen received a postcard telling him to report to Pennsylvania Station for boot camp. Yusen's parents drove him to the station and he saw about 200 other guys just like him there with their parents. They were sent to a new camp called USNTS Sampson [Annotator's Note: United States Naval Training Station Sampson]. The camp was in upstate New York near Syracuse University. The program was only seven weeks long. The United States was building ships so quickly in 1944 that the fresh recruits had their training cut short. Yusen was supposed to go to quartermaster school, but all of the advanced schools were closed. They arrived at the barracks and did all the prep work. Yusen enjoyed boot camp. There was a lot of working out. Yusen's uncle told him to listen to his superior officers and he followed that advice. Yusen did not go to any advanced schools after boot camp. He was given a seven day leave after completing boot camp before they were all sent to Boston to wait for their ships. Every day, while waiting for the ships, they were bused to Boston Harbor to be instructed on loading the various guns that were onboard the ships. Other days they would put on fire gear and then go into a burning building to learn how to fight fires. This training went on for about three weeks.

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One day, Jack Yusen heard his name called and he was ordered to report to the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413). Yusen and the other sailors were put on a truck and sent down to the harbor. The truck drove right in between two ships and Yusen got out on the left and marveled at the sheer size of the ship before him. A chief corrected him and told him that the ship he was staring at was a British cruiser. He then pointed to Yusen's ship and Yusen could only see the mast. They all walked over to the ship and the boatswain's mate told them to report to the captain. The captain greeted them and then asked if they had been paid yet. The captain gave each of them ten dollars and told them that they had weekend leave. Yusen and the others went straight downtown to a beer joint. The ship spent several weeks getting work done. The ship was built in Houston then sent to Boston. It still needed eleven more men for a full complement and Yusen was one of them. While in port, Yusen did various jobs on the ship. He got to know 1st Class Boatswain's Mate Red Harrington. Harrington told Yusen when the ship was going to depart. The ship was part of the Atlantic Fleet and they sailed out of Boston as part of a convoy with another destroyer escort, two destroyers, an oiler and the aircraft carrier Ranger [Annotator's Note: USS Ranger (CV-4)]. Shortly after getting off watch Yusen heard a big explosion that rocked the ship. He saw the chiefs grabbing their lifejackets. Everyone thought that a German u-boat was launching torpedoes. They all ran out onto deck and saw blood and pieces of meat in the water. It turned out that a whale had run into the ship. The impact damaged the port propeller shaft. They were sent back to the United States for repairs. Boston did not have any room in the dry docks so they were sent to Norfolk, Virginia. It did not take long for the repairs. While they were there, the Navy reassigned the Samuel B. Roberts to the Pacific Fleet and the sailors had to repaint the ship in Pacific camouflage. It took them three days to get everything done. They sailed down to Florida and got into a convoy of 35 ships to make the journey through the Panama Canal. They saw some bad weather on the first night there. Water started coming up over the bow but they made it to Panama unscathed. They could fit several destroyer escorts in the lock. While passing through they could see airplanes flying over constantly. Yusen could also see guns lining the shore on both sides. Yusen thinks that the Panama Canal was the most heavily guarded place in the world during the war. They got to the West Coast and refueled. From there they set off across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor. Yusen was part of a three man gun crew. In his four hour shifts he would spend an hour with the binoculars and then an hour on the radio. They were told to report anything in the water, even lumber.

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When they [Annotator's Note: Jack Yusen and the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)] arrived at Pearl Harbor the men looked at it in awe. They went through Battleship Row and the men could see the remains of the USS Arizona (BB-39). Harrington [Annotator's Note: Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Red Harrington] told Yusen that he was being promoted to Seaman 1st Class. Yusen was to be responsible for the bow hook. The sight of Pearl Harbor filled the men with new resolve to fight the Japanese. Captain Robert Copeland drilled the men every day from Boston to Hawaii. He called battle stations at all hours of the day and night. Yusen was a second loader but was being trained as a first loader in case of emergency. At Pearl Harbor they went out a few times a week for target practice at planes towing targets. This went on for a while before they were chosen for a convoy of 45 ships to the Marshall Islands. They were assigned to provide cover against submarines and enemy aircraft. They got to the islands and the men were able to get off the ship and play volleyball there. Then they returned to Pearl Harbor. Shortly after arriving back in Hawaii they were ordered back on another supply run to the Marshalls. While underway, the sound man picked up a submarine heading right for them. The submarine was about 10,000 yards away. Yusen was on the radio and told the other guys what was going on. The ship went in and dropped depth charges. Yusen felt like his teeth were going to fall out of his head because of how severely the explosions were shaking the ship. The depth charges sank the submarine and the Samuel B. Roberts was ordered to remain on site until morning. That morning, Yusen went on deck and saw flotsam floating all around the ship. He saw clothes floating on the surface. This made the men feel good that they finally got to see some action. The captain commended the crew and there was some celebration on board the ship. They made it to the Marshalls.

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[Annotator's Note: Jack Yusen served in the Navy as a gunner aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413).] From there they were assigned to Taffy 3 and ordered to report to some island. The harbor there was packed with all manner of ships. There were about 2,000 ships there. They started out for the Philippines with 600 ships holding 280,000 men. They were all on the way to retake the Philippines. The convoy was 35 miles long and 20 miles wide. All of the ships were headed for Leyte. The Samuel B. Roberts was anchored offshore and Yusen headed to shore in a whaleboat to get the mail. While underway, it started to rain and when they returned to where the ship had been they could not find it. This ship had raised anchor and was ready to depart but was still waiting for the whaleboat. Yusen spotted the ship a short distance away. When they reached the ship, Yusen grabbed the front line of the davit and got the boat secured. The waves were rocking the boat. Yusen got hit in the mouth once before getting the boat secured. The captain was waiting on the wing and told Yusen good job when he got aboard. They set off to go to the Philippines but the storm only got worse. Yusen cannot even fully describe how bad the storm got. Everyone coming down the ladder had to stop and wait for the ship to level off. The men could not stay in their bunks. Eventually they got through the storm. There were 600 ships caught in the storm and none of them collided. Yusen credits the ship and her captain with keeping them alive. A lot of planes were washed off the smaller aircraft carriers. Yusen did not get sick during the typhoon. They arrived at the Philippines. On the night of 24 October [Annotator's Note: 24 October 1944], Yusen was on watch for four hours. He thought he saw lightning but another guy told him that it was the battle of Surigao Strait. That was 80 miles away but they could see the flashes and hear the explosions.

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The next morning, Jack Yusen was heading down to get some food when the call to battle stations came over the intercom. Yusen ran onto the deck and was told that ships were approaching. He could hear the shells being fired from the battleship Yamato. Admiral Halsey [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] US Navy Admiral William F. Halsey] had already taken much of the fleet to chase a phantom force led by Admiral Ozawa [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa]. San Bernadino was lightly defended by Taffy 3. The ships were ready for war shortly after battle stations was called. When the Japanese ships came in close Yusen could see the shells flying right over the ship heading for the light carriers. He felt helpless because the Japanese had brought no aircraft and his 40mm cannon would do nothing to a Japanese battleship. Yusen felt like he was standing behind home plate just watching it all. The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) took three eight inch shells aft near the 42 gun. Yusen heard the gunner's mate freaking out and discovered that the cannon had been blasted off the ship. Two of Yusen's best friends, Leonard Goldstein and John Payone [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] were stationed on that gun and Yusen knew immediately that they were gone. The ship took some more hits. They charged on a torpedo run following the USS Johnston (DD-557). The Johnson made several hits during its run but it got shot up in the process. The Samuel B. Roberts followed it and made several more hits on Japanese ships and sank one ship. The captain told the engineers to give the ship everything the engines had because they were never going to use them again. They sailed into a rain squall and nearly collided with the now crippled Johnson. Yusen remembers the Johnson barely even looking like a ship because it had been so mangled by Japanese fire. They spotted Captain Evans [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans] on the stern, conning the ship from aft to steering. Yusen will never forget Evans saluting Copeland as the ship passed by. Evans later went down with the ship. At this point the ships were so close that they could have hit the Japanese with their 40 millimeter cannons. The five inch shells only bounced off the hull of the Japanese ships. It was effective, however, against the bridge and gun positions. The aft five inch gunner's mate, Paul Henry Carr, was firing his gun so quickly it seemed like a machine gun. The front gun fired about 320 times. Yusen watched as eight inch shells flew right over their heads. The Japanese guns could not go low enough to target the ship because of how close the ships were. Eventually the Samuel B. Roberts took a hit from an eight inch shell in the bow that went right through without exploding. A 14 inch shell from a battleship that hit the stern punched a hole that they could have driven a truck through. The ship started listing and they were given the order to abandon ship.

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Jack Yusen remembers the shells flying by sounded like freight trains and the explosions sounding like thunder. Another sailor named James F. "Bud" Comet told Yusen that he needed to cut off the life raft. Yusen climbed down to secure it while waiting for Comet to cut the line. Yusen saw a cook named Doherty walking across the deck and told him that he was waiting for Comet to cut the line. Yusen waited a bit more and another guy came up from the stern. Yusen never saw his face because the man had no arm or shoulder. Yusen never found out who the man was. Yusen decided that something must have happened to Comet and they jumped into the water. The water was on fire from the leaking oil. They swam around the ship and Yusen saw the hole in the stern where the 5 inch gun used to be. The shell knocked out the gun's gas ejection system. It made firing the gun very dangerous. Carr [Annotator's Mate 3rd Class Paul Carr] fired seven more shells after this happened. The eighth shell cooked off and blew up the gun. Some men went to check them out but found most of them dead. One guy was moaning and they rescued him. They found Carr on his knees with a shell in his hands trying to load it into the gun. His chest was open from his neck to his spleen. The rescue team took the shell away from Carr and went to help the other wounded man. When they came back they found Carr with the shell in his hands again trying to load it into the destroyed gun. They took it away again and took Carr out of the gun pit. Carr died on the deck. While passing by the stern, Yusen saw some other rafts floating in the ocean. They set about rescuing some men in the ocean. Yusen remembers seeing Comet on another raft with two ensigns and a chief boatswain's mate. Yusen apologized to Comet for leaving him behind and they started rescuing people. One guy yelled out and the men turned and watched the USS Samuel B. Roberts disappear below the waves. None of the men had dry eyes and then they watched a Japanese cruiser coming right for them. The Japanese were fleeing the area because of how much damage the destroyers had done to them. Yusen and the others thought that they were going to be crushed beneath the ship because it came very close to them. The Japanese captain was right up front in the ship's port and he saluted the men in the water as they passed by. Some of the men responded by flipping the bird.

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[Annotator's Note: Jack Yusen served in the Navy as a gunner aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413). The Samuel B. Roberts was sunk on the afternoon of 25 October 1944 during the Battle Off Samar.] Night came and no one really knew what to do. They had no food, water or medicine to care for the wounded. A guy named Jerry Osborne, who was always friendly to Yusen, had been working in the engine compartment when steam hit him in the face and burned him severely. They heard a noise and they tried to get over to it but the tide changed and they were pulled back out to sea. There were Japanese soldiers on the shore. When the ship went down they were about 48 miles from land. The next morning they spotted sharks in the water. Yusen was terrified. He heard a cry come from the other side of the raft and heard a splash and saw blood in the water. Another guy told Yusen to push the man away before more sharks came and got them. On the second night things got even worse. Men started drinking sea water. Yusen knew enough to not drink it. Guys started to hallucinate. One guy thought he saw his mother and when Comet tried to restrain him the man drew his knife. Comet backed off and no one saw him again. Several more guys died on the second day. Sharks stayed around the boats the entire time they were in the water. One time during the second night Yusen felt something pushing into his right leg. He looked down and saw a big shark pushing him but it eventually left him alone. That night four guys tried to swim for it and died. Yusen could hardly speak for lack of water. He thought that he was going to die. Those injured were still moaning. On the fourth morning they spotted a ship coming their way. No one cared if it was Japanese because they could not last much longer in the ocean. When they spotted the American flag a cry went up. He circled three times. The men in the water started getting angry that he was not picking them up. The ship asked them to identify their ship and the men did so. The ship came in closer and then asked them to name the winner of the World Series. A message was sent to all ships that the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. The men shouted that out and the ship stopped and rescued the men in the rafts. They got to the side and some men came down ladders to get closer to surface. They had armed guards to pick off the sharks. Yusen's injured friend was still moaning and Yusen had a stretcher brought down for Osborne. When Yusen got onto the ship he asked after Osborne and was told that he had just died. Yusen is still amazed that Osborne survived four days in the raft only to die at the moment of his salvation.

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One of the chiefs saw Jack Yusen again at the opening of the Taffy 3 memorial and asked Yusen if he remembered him. Yusen had no idea who he was and the chief said that he was going to send him something. Apparently, the ship was taking pictures and Yusen was in some of them. Yusen has photos of the Samuel B. Roberts [Annotator's Note: USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)] from Texas and Boston as the camouflage changed. A few of the men were not hurt, but they were very tired from trying to help the others throughout the trip. Yusen thought about his parents while he was there. They wiped down the men and took their clothes away. Each man got a shot of whiskey and they were placed on the fantail as the ship headed back to the Philippines. While heading back, the ship came under attack from two Japanese fighter planes. The planes attacked with machine guns and the ship chased them off with its 40mm cannons. Yusen and the others did not even hear this take place because they were all so exhausted. They arrived at Tacloban and were put on the hospital ship USS Mercy (AH-8). Yusen had nothing on. The guys who could walk up the ladder walked. Some of the other guys had to be carried. When Yusen reached the deck of the Mercy he saw a beautiful nurse and passed out right on the deck. The next morning he awoke in a bunk. A pharmacist's mate told him where he was and what was going on. The pharmacist's mate was checking his vitals and suggested that Yusen take a shower to get some more of the oil off. He had a massive breakfast to refill his empty stomach and when he returned to his bunk he finally had clean clothes to wear. They did not fit very well but Yusen was happy to have clothes again. Yusen was told that he was going to be moved and he found a bunch of men from the ships at the back. Yusen found one man from the USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73) who had lost both of his arms and they started chatting. Yusen said that he would pray for him and he reassured the young guy that what they did was good. Both of them started to cry. They were to be sent home but this became a long drawn out affair. Yusen went to ask for paper to write a letter and was taken write a V Mail letter but they had to watch to make sure he did not reveal anything. He dated the letter November 2 and said that he hoped to be home by Christmas. They were put on an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] and sent ashore at Hollandia, New Guinea.

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From New Guinea, Jack Yusen and the other survivors [Annotator's Note: survivors of the 25 October 1944 sinking of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)] were put aboard the SS Lurline to be shipped back to the United States. It took eight days for them to reach Hollandia. They were put in Army tents for three days while waiting for the Lurline to arrive. Captain Copeland [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant Commander Roebrt W. Copeland] made a statement to the men that they were going to interview everyone to get a clear picture of the battle before Copeland traveled to Washington DC to give his full report. From Hollandia, they headed to Brisbane, Australia. It was a ten days voyage for a night in Australia. Yusen and a few others went down to the dock just so they could say they were in Australia. Later, the captain of the Lurline came over the intercom and addressed the entire body of more than 3,000 people to tell them that they were headed for San Francisco and that they would be there in 14 days. They ate mutton constantly. They only had two meals a day because the cooks could not keep up. The night before, the captain told everyone that they would be passing under the Golden Gate Bridge at seven the following morning. Everyone got up early but a dense fog spoiled much of the view until the fog lifted and they were able to see the bridge right before they passed underneath it. Everyone started screaming that they were home but home was still nearly 3,000 miles away for Yusen. The letter Yusen wrote took eight weeks to reach his parents. The captain came over the horn once the ship docked and went through the order of disembarkation. The survivors of the were able to get off first. There were telephone booths down on the wharves. Yusen ran into a phone booth and asked the operator to dial his house collect. The operator told him that it was all paid for and then the phone started to ring. The phone rang twice and Yusen's mother answered. Yusen spent another week and a half in San Francisco while the Navy got him new uniforms and equipment and they figured out how much to pay him. Captain Copeland told the men that he was volunteering to take command of a Fletcher Class destroyer and that he wanted all of his men to be with him. After the men returned to San Francisco, they were sent to the Bremerton Naval Depot in Washington State. That was how Yusen ended his naval career. Yusen remembers everybody onboard the Lurline crying when they passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. He wonders how he got through it all. Yusen still remembers praying to God that if he survived the moment when the shark was ramming him he would go home and marry a nice girl. Yusen did so and later met his wife Ruth. They had been married 62 years by the time of this oral history interview. They have three sons and six grandchildren. Yusen knows that he is very lucky. He knows that many never got that opportunity.

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Jack Yusen still frequently thinks about the men who died [Annotator's Note: when his ship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), was sunk during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944]. One in particular that Yusen thinks of is Joe Lecci. Lecci was from Brooklyn, New York. He had been drafted and became a cook on the Samuel B. Roberts. Lecci became something like a big brother for Yusen. Whenever it rained, Lecci would bring coffee and some food to the guys on deck. On the way from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Lecci told Yusen that he was writing a letter for him and asked Yusen to do the same for him. They wrote the letters and sent them to each other's homes. Lecci's letter asked Yusen to visit his wife and newborn in the event that Lecci didn't make it. Yusen lost his wallet when the ship sank. On the second day back home, Yusen's mother mentioned his shipmates and Yusen remembered the letter and asked if he had received any mail. Yusen called Lecci's house and one of the brothers answered the phone. Lecci had three brothers and three sisters. Yusen told them who he was and that he was close with their brother and asked for permission to visit Lecci's widow and child. They said that that would be fine but told Yusen that the widow would not leave the bedroom. Yusen's uncle, who was a taxi driver, drove Yusen and his father to Brooklyn. When they pulled up to the house there were people all over the street. They started hugging Yusen and eventually he made it inside where another 20 or 30 people were waiting. Yusen went through everything that happened to the ship. Yusen told them that there was a hit right behind Lecci's 20mm cannon. Yusen told the family that Lecci went quick. Lecci's widow would not leave the room but they brought down baby Joe and Yusen held him. About 15 years ago Yusen received a phone call from Joe Lecci, Jr. He was in Seattle and went to visit Yusen. When he arrived, Yusen was stunned by how much he resembled his father.

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Jack Yusen ran into Bud Comet one day in Seattle. The Navy was launching the USS Copeland (FFG-25). Comet found Yusen during the ceremony. Yusen thinks about the battle all the time. They fired about 20 rounds at two Japanese torpedoes. That was all they did during the battle. Yusen thinks the Battle off Samar was the last purely ship to ship battle that will ever be fought. He feels that every guy who lived knew that they had gone into the mouth of hell. The captain [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland] came over the horn to report the task force heading their way and openly stated that they had very little hope of survival. During the torpedo run, Yusen could see the barrels of a cruiser's guns looking right at him. The shells passed right over his head. To this day the sharks are still the first thing that comes to Yusen's mind. They came in packs when the blood came out. Yusen asks God how he managed to be so lucky. From the bow to the bridge the ship was fine except for the one shell that went through. It was the stern that bore the brunt. Yusen acknowledges that there were things that happened that he refuses to talk about in public. There were 96 of the 228 men aboard the ship who were killed either in the battle or during the days adrift. The rest were rescued. Over the years Yusen and a few others used phones to track down all the guys from the ship. Yusen thinks he spent several thousand dollars on phone calls alone trying to track people down. They found about 80 guys to invite them to the reunion. Some did not want to come but many of them did. Many of the men knew that they had been given another chance at life and they made the most of it. Yusen remembers that no one ever got drunk and made a fool of themselves at these banquets and parties. The Navy had a banquet at Annapolis, Maryland for the surviving crew of the Sammy B [Annotator's Note: Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)]. They invited the admiral in charge of the Naval Academy to come to the banquet. At Annapolis, the survivors went to lunch with the brigade of midshipmen. They stood on the steps as the brigade marched in to the sound of the band. At the end of the lunch, a senior stood up and introduced the crew of the Roberts and three cheers went up in the mess hall. As the brigade marched out, some came over and shook Yusen's hand. Several ships were named after crew members of the Roberts. Copeland received his own ship as did Paul H. Carr. Ruth christened one ship. They went to all of the commission ceremonies. Admirals come to these banquets that the survivors hold and Yusen is always amused when they call him Mr. Yusen. He has to tell them that he was a Seaman 1st Class. They are in the Naval War College in Rhode Island. There is a model of the Sammy B there in the rotunda of the main building.

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