USS Cowpens, CVL-25
"The Mighty Moo"

Typhoon Cobra, December 18, 1944

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The following text is taken from the book titled "Halsey's Typhoons" written by Adamson and Kosco and published by Crown Publisher's Inc of New York, 1967. I hope the Writers/Editors of this Book will not mind me using a small sampling of the book here with intent to educate all about the danger of Typhoons and this one in particular, but also to help bring back interest in this Story and help sell their book.

The Book is available at or other Book outlets. See a Review by Richard Cummings and also one on "Halsey's Typhoon" - another book written more recently on the same epic Storm below.

- Jake

Typhoon 'Cobra'Hell began to break loose aboard the CVL Cowpens at 1051 when a Hellcat was freed from her lashings by a 45-degree roll, tumbled onto the nearby catwalk, and started a fire.   Although the fire ended when the burning plane tumbled overboard, it seems to have served as a signal to start a chain reaction.

Tractors and other planes soon broke loose from their lashings and careened wildly on the flight deck.   A second fire was started when a fighter belly tank caught fire from the friction.    Because of wind and seas, fire fighters could not find firm footing but had to lash themselves to the deck to avoid being washed overboard.   In the struggle to push the aircraft over the side, Lieutenant Commander Robert Price, ship's air officer, went overboard and was lost.  (Editor's note:  My father, Lt. Charles White, was the Assistant Air Officer and was also in the detail that went out to jettison the Hellcat.  Nobody knew LCDR Price was missing until the detail came in out of the weather.  My father became the Air Officer and served as such until the war's end.)

When this loss became known throughout the Cowpens, many crewmen recalled her earlier reputation as a jinx ship.  She started this off in Norfolk, Virginia, by running afoul of an antisubmarine net and hanging there like a trapped fish.  Later, at Pearl Harbor, she was rammed by a destroyer.  Off the Marshalls, a "lost" carrier pilot tried to land on her deck, crashed over the side, and killed four gunners.  Some of her complement even began to regret her nickname, "Mighty Moo," which had to be said with a smile by those who used it.  But, as the Cowpens settled down to the business of war and made a very fine showing, the "jinx" faded into limbo.  She had seen a lot of rough weather and a lot of rough fighting, but Typhoon Cobra was harder to handle than both put together.  Winds over 120 knots buffeted her.  She wallowed in monstrous seas, rolling in her struggle as much as 45 degrees which, for a top-heavy carrier with a lot of overhang, is close to the capsizing point.

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U.S.S. COWPENS CVL-25 during Typhoon

Looking back on that storm-tossed day, her captain, now Rear Admiral G. H. DeBaun, U.S.N. (Ret.), recalled that when the Monterey got into trouble, "we on the Cowpens were rolling heavily but so far nothing had got loose.  However, we soon took a roll to starboard which flooded our radar and radio-transmitter room and put our radar and most radio circuits out.  This same roll threw a couple of jeeps and a TBM plane over the starboard side of the flight deck between number two and three stacks.  It also caused a plane on the hangar deck to break loose and go banging around, with the danger of fire, until it was secured again."

Being virtually blinded by the combination of visibility and loss of radar, Captain DeBaun asked for and received permission from Rear Admiral A. E. Montgomery, commander Carrier Task Group 2, to leave the formation and take an easier riding course.  Two destroyers were assigned as guides and escorts.  Of these only the Halsey Powell was able to find the "blinded" Cowpens and to serve as her seeing eye DD through zero-zero weather.

"We were rolling to such an extent that on each roll to starboard the flight deck edge would hit green water on the starboard side," continued Admiral DeBaun.  "The rolls to port were almost as bad but always about five degrees less due to our built-in starboard list.  On the big rolls one could reach down from the starboard wing of the bridge and touch green water as we rolled to starboard.

"All hands not on watch were ordered into their bunks for safety reasons as we left the formation.   Finding an easier course and keeping on it required steering the ship with her engines as the rudder could not keep her from falling off at the low speed we were making through the water.  At all times, I was ably assisted and advised by my Navigator Lieutenant Commander Ed Jarman.

These three images courtesy of our Admin Assistant, Herschel A. Pahl

"We had just come to what we hoped would be an easier riding course when an F6F fighter plane on the afterstarboard corner of the flight deck broke loose and slid into the catwalk and caught fire.  The wind was on the starboard quarter at that time so I had no choice but to turn the ship so as to keep the flames away from the other planes that were parked around it on the flight deck.  Otherwise, I would soon have had the whole deck covered with burning planes.  During the turn to port the F6F was jettisoned, and we were free to return to our easier riding course.  However, before we got back we took a couple of very heavy rolls to starboard which could have been our last but the Good Lord was on our side.  It was during this period that Bob Price disappeared.  No one saw him go overboard, although they remembered seeing him at the F6F as it was being jettisoned.   Bob was an excellent officer and well-loved by his men.

"On one of the big rolls, our radar antenna on the mast carried away and went sailing across the flight deck to port and disappeared into the sea.  About this time our anemometer gave up the ghost, and the rotating cups on the mast took off after the radar antenna to port.   Before the rotating cups carried away, the pointer of the instrument on the bridge was hard against the stop at 120 knots several times and always above 100 knots.   Visibility all during this time was, at most, about half a ship's length due to the heavy rain and the spray from the wind and waves.  As to the degree of roll, our instrument, located in central station, registered only to 45 degrees where the moving arm was stopped by a pin.  We hit the pin several times to starboard for at least 50 degrees.

"A couple of large Air Force bombs (about 2,000 pounds each) picked this time to work loose in the forward bomb magazine.  They started banging around with such force that you could feel it on the bridge seven decks above.  They were finally lassoed and secured; otherwise, the bombs would have, in a very short time, battered themselves through the side of the ship.  The men who secured these loose bombs were all volunteers, and they all risked their lives in saving the ship.  You may wonder how these bombs got adrift and why.  The bomb stowage in our magazines was not designed for so large a bomb and consequently, the storage battens, etc., provided could not be used as these bombs were too large.  Hence a jury rig for securing which failed under typhoon conditions as many other things did.

"After noon conditions improved and by the middle of the afternoon we were out of it.  I have, so far, mentioned only the serious happenings, but there were a few humorous ones, too.   I am sure that there were smiles on the bridge when I lost my footing and skated clear across the bridge from port to starboard on the seat of my pants.  Our aerologist, who had just reported aboard, was a young fellow born and raised in the vicinity of New York City.  I am sure that he had never seen a good line squall or any kind of heavy weather.  After our anemometer carried away I asked him to come up to the bridge to look the weather over, but he never made it until late that afternoon.   Rumor has it that he was slightly under the weather and had so many life preservers on that he just couldn't make the long climb to the bridge.

"I also remember two youngsters in their teens who came up in the middle of things to relieve the lookouts and I heard one of them say to the lookout he was relieving, 'It's a stinker, ain't it?' just enjoying it and not the least bit fearful.

"Some may have considered the Cowpens unlucky, but I didn't.  The only thing wrong with her was the built-in five to seven degree list to starboard that she and all her sister ships had when fueled to capacity.  We were fueled to capacity on the day in question, hence our trouble.  Well, anyway, that big blow did more damage to the Cowpens than the Japs ever succeeded in doing."

* The USS Cowpens CVL-25 was privy to the unconditional surrender of Japan to the Allied forces in Tokyo Bay and the signing of the armistice that ended WWII and our war with Japan.See 'Allied Ships Present in Tokyo Bay During the Surrender Ceremony, 2 September 1945'

Note: A review by Richard Cummings on the Book which this excerpt was taken:

The Real Deal and the First To Tell the Tale, December 31, 2006
By Richard Cummings

"In 1967, Col. Hans Christian Adamson and USAF Capt. George Francis Kosco USN, published "Halsey's Typhoons" with Crown, their magnificant eye witness account of the how two typhoons more powerful than the Japanese, dealt death and destruction to Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet. The book also recounts the dramatic rescue of the survivors, plucked from the sea by heroic Americans, and how Captain Henry Plage, against orders, sailed his ship, the USS Tabberer into typhoon Cobra, making the rescue possible. The first of these typhoons, called Cobra, was the more powerful of the two, and was the one in which Plage defied the odds and made his rescue. Repudiating claims of Drury and Clavin that their "Halsey's Typhoon" tells the "untold rescue," this one came first and tells the story, based not only on an extensive interview with Henry Plage, but on Kosco's own experiences as Admiral Halsey's righthand man. The book contains dramatic photographs of the impact of the storms on the American ships, the rescue and of the rescued survivors.

"With yet another book about typhoon Cobra due out in March (Halsey's Typhoon" deals only with Cobra and not the second typhoon, Viper) there is renewed interest in these dramatic events. It is unfortunate that Drury and Clavin failed to give sufficient credit to Adamson and Kosco's "Halsey's Typhoons," the obvious inspiration for their own title. This does a great disservice to Kosco, a hero in his own right. There are passages in Drury and Clavin's book that are simple paraphrasing of language in the original. Because of this, they should have included "Halsey's Typhoons" and Adamson and Kosco in their acknowledgements. Instead, they merely list it in their bibliography along with dozens of other books, giving the impression that it was of no significant importance, To the contrary,"Halsey's Typhoons, " including the maps tracing the course of both storms, is the real deal, telling the story of the events, including the rescue; Even the map of Cobra's path in Drury and Calvin's book, bears a distinct resemblance to the map in "Halsey's Typhoons," a neglected, almost forgotten, classic that told the story first. It is extremly well written and powerful in its recounting of one of the most significant events in American naval history."

From Google Book Search on "Halsey's Typhoon - a book by Bob Drury, Robert Drury, Tom Clavin, published by Grove Press, 2007:

"Halsey’s Typhoon is the story of World War II’s most unexpected disaster at sea. In the final days of 1944, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey is the Pacific theater’s most popular and colorful naval hero. After a string of victories, the “Fighting Admiral” and his thirty-thousand-man Third Fleet are charged with protecting General MacArthur’s flank during the invasion of the Philippine island of Mindoro. But in the midst of the landings, Halsey attempts a complicated refueling maneuver and unwittingly drives his 170 ships into the teeth of a massive typhoon. Halsey’s men find themselves battling 90-foot waves and 150 mph winds—amid the chaos, three ships are sunk and nearly nine hundred sailors and officers are swept into the Philippine Sea. For three days, small bands of survivors battle dehydration, exhaustion, sharks, and the elements awaiting rescue at the hands of the courageous lieutenant commander Henry Lee Plage, who, defying orders, sails his tiny destroyer escort, the USS Tabberer, back into the storm to rescue drifting sailors. Halsey’s Typhoon is a gripping true tale of courage and survival against impossible odds—and one of the finest untold World War II sagas of our time."

Thank you Richard Cummings for this brilliant Review which draws attention to Typhoon Cobra - and how devastating it was to the Sea lanes in 1944, in hinderance to our War Efforts - and how devastating these terrible storms are to current day Navy and other Sea Traffic. Something, if experienced, can never be forgotten. My own experience with several monstrous storms in 1963 remind me how puney we truly are on this planet of chaos. -

- Jake

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* U.S.S. Cowpens, CVL-25 - Learn about this great ship of the Independence Class