Battle of Leyte Gulf
After the Battle of Subiyan Sea, Admiral Halsey no longer considered the Japanese Center Force a serious menace, and sent the large deck carriers north to intercept decoy carriers of the Japanese Northern Force off Cape Engano. These events left the escort carriers of Taffy 3 as lone sentinels off Samar, and unaware of the nighttime movement of the Center Force. Shortly after sunrise 25 October, a chance sighting disclosed the masts of enemy battleships and cruisers on the horizon. The enemy force of more than 20 ships had slipped undetected through San Bernardino Strait and down the fog-shrouded coast of Samar, bound for Leyte Gulf. Despite the probable outcome of an engagement between two unequal surface forces, the presence of enemy ships in Leyte Gulf was unthinkable - and Taffy 3 turned to do battle against the enemy. An urgent call for help went out from Taffy 3 as the escort carriers launched planes that performed seemingly impossible feats: scoring hits with torpedoes, bombs, and strafing until their ammunition ran out, then making dummy runs to break the enemy formation and delay its advance. Smoke was laid down to cover the running fight as gallant destroyers dodged in and out of the mist and smoke to charge battleship, cruiser, and destroyer formations point-blank until ordered to cover the escort carriers with more smoke. Gambier Bay and other ships of Taffy 3, aided by planes of Taffy 2 had stopped the powerful Japanese Center Force and inflicted a great loss. Two enemy cruisers were sunk and much damage inflicted on the other ships of this overwhelmingly powerful surface fleet, turned back by the indomitable spirit of the men of the escort carriers and their screen of destroyers and destroyer-escorts. The lone 5-inch gun of Gambier Bay spat out at an enemy cruiser that was shelling her - and destroyer Heerman (DD-532) made an unsuccessful effort under the combined fire of the heavy ships to save Gambier Bay. However, the escort carrier was soon dead in the water as three cruisers closed to point blank range. Fires raged through the riddled Gambier Bay. She capsized and sank with the majority of her nearly 800 survivors rescued by landing and patrol craft dispatched from Leyte Gulf. 121 of her crew were lost in the battle.