There are no extraordinary men… just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with… William Halsey


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from DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY — NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER

On 7 August 1942, Lt. (jg.) Charles Arthur Tabberer was one of the eight VF-5 pilots who engaged a force of land attack planes and their fighter escort (the latter equipped with Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 fighters of the crack Tainan Air Group), vastly superior in strength, as it attacked the U.S. invasion force off Guadalcanal. Despite the altitude disadvantage, VF-5’s two Wildcat-equipped sections gallantly waded into the fray, suffering grievous losses at the hands of the more experienced enemy. Lt. (j.g.) Tabberer was last seen dogfighting a Zero. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously. 

Named in his honor the USS Tabberer (DE-418: displacement 1,350; 1ength 306’0″; beam 37’7″; draft 13’4″; speed 24.3 knots (trial); complement 222; armament 2 5″, 8 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (Hedgehog), 3 21″ torpedo tubes; class John C. Butler)

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Tabberer (DE-418) was laid down on 12 January 1944 at Houston, Tex., by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 18 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Mary M. Tabberer, widow of the late Lt. (j.g.) Tabberer; and commissioned on 23 May 1944, Lt. Comdr. Henry Lee Plage, USNR, in command.

On 17 December 1944, as Tabberer was steaming in company with the 3d Fleet fueling group to the east of the Philippine Islands, rising wind and a choppy sea forced her to break off preparations to take on fuel. The barometer dropped precipitously as the weather grew worse. By evening, the little warship was fighting a full typhoon. During the night, Tabberer lost steerageway and could not fight her way out of the deep troughs. She frequently took rolls up to 60 degrees and, on several occasions, approached an angle of 72 degrees from the vertical.

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High winds and heavy seas continued to batter Tabberer on the 18th. By 1830, her mast and radio antennae were gone. At 2130, CRM Ralph E. Tucker, however, in the process of rigging an emergency antenna on the stack, perceived a light about 500 yards away on the port beam, prompting Tabberer to immediately alter her course accordingly. Once on board, the sailor reported that he was from destroyer Hull (DD-350) and that his ship had gone down about noon that day. Thus, she was the first ship of the 3d Fleet to learn of the tragedy that had befallen three destroyers of the 3d Fleet on 18 December 1944. Though unable to call for help, she immediately embarked upon a search for other survivors. Her rescue efforts continued through the night, all day on the 19th, and into the 20th. In all, she saved 55 officers and men both from Hull and Spence (DD-512). Later, Tabberer was relieved by other units of the fleet, and they rescued an additional 36 men, a few of whom belonged to the crew of the typhoon’s third victim, Monaghan (DD-354). For their courageous rescue work during the storm, Lt. Robert M. Surdam, USNR, Tabberer’s executive officer, Lt. Howard J. Korth, USNR, the ship’s gunnery officer and a former football player at the University of Notre Dame, BM1c Louis A. Purvis and TM1c Robert L. Cotton would be awarded Navy and Marine Corps medals; Lt. Comdr. Plage would receive the Legion of Merit, and the ship, the Navy Unit Commendation.

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Halsey’s typhoon: the true story of a fighting admiral, an epic storm, and an untold rescue New York: Atlantic Monthly Press: Distributed by Publishers Group West, c 2007 Bob Drury and Tom Clavin World War, 1939-1945 Naval operations, American,  United States. Navy. Fleet, 3rd History, Halsey, William Frederick, 1882-1959 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. Map on lining papers. xix, 322 p., [16] p. of plates: ill., map; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [309]-312) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underli ning or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Halsey’s Typhoon chronicles the epic tale of men clashing against the ruthless forces of war and nature. In December 1944, America’s most popular and colorful naval hero, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, unwittingly sailed his undefeated Pacific Fleet into the teeth of the most powerful storm on earth.

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Three destroyers were capsized sending hundreds of sailors and officers into the raging, shark infested waters. Over the next sixty hours, small bands of survivors fought seventy-foot waves, exhaustion, and dehydration to await rescue at the hands of the courageous Lt. Com. Henry Lee Plage, who, defying orders, sailed his tiny destroyer escort USS Tabberer through 150 mph winds to reach the lost men.

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Thanks to documents that have been declassified after sixty years and dozens of first-hand accounts from survivors — including former President Gerald Ford — one of the greatest World War II stories, and a riveting tale of survival at sea, can finally be told.

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