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Allen M. Sumner
376' 6" x 40' x 15' 8"
6 x 5"/38 guns (2x3)
12 x 40mm AA guns
11 x 20mm AA guns
10 x 21" torpedo tubes
6 x depth charge proj
2 x depth charge tracks
USN March 25, 1944
USN March 1944
USN April 24, 1944
USN November 7, 1944
Built by Federal Shipbuilding Company in Kearny, NJ. Laid down August 30, 1943 as an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer. Launched February 9, 1944 painted in measure 32 design 3D camouflage. Commissioned March 27, 1944 into the U.S. Navy (USN) as USS Cooper (DD-695) named after Lt. Elmer Glenn Cooper who died in a seaplane accident on February 2, 1938. Sponsored by Mrs. Elmer G. Cooper. Placed under the command of Commander John W. Schmidt.
After a shakedown cruise, on July 23, 1944 departed Boston via the Panama Canal to the Pacific. On September 4, 1944 arrived Pearl Harbor and underwent additional training. On October 23, 1944 departed Pearl Harbor across the Pacific bound for Ulithi.
On November 5, 1944 arrived Ulithi and joined Task Group 38.4 (TG 38.4) as a screen for carriers launching attacks against Luzon, Ormoc Bay and Manila Bay. On November 19, 1944 returned to Ulithi for repairs then departed for Leyte. On November 29, 1944 entered San Pedro Bay and patrolled Leyte Gulf.
On December 2, 1944 at 6:29pm ordered to Ormoc Bay on the western Leyte with USS Allen M. Sumner (DD-692) and USS Moale (DD-693) to intercept a Japanese convoy that intelligence stated was enroute. After 11:00pm, the three destroyers were attacked by Japanese aircraft east of Poro Island in the Camotes Islands. An aerial bomb scored a near miss on Allan M. Sumner scoring a near miss and Cooper's anti-aircraft gunners fired at the aircraft claiming at least one shot down.
On December 3, 1944 after midnight during the Battle of Ormoc Bay, the three destroyers entered Ormoc Bay in a line abreast formation with Cooper in the center. The destroyers made radar contact with Japanese destroyers Kuwa and Take near shore and opened fire at the first target at a range of 12,200 yards claiming their gunfire cause it to catch fire and sink. Next, opened fire on the second target at a range of 10,000 yards until Cooper was forced to cease fire because the enemy ship moved behind Moale but after maneuvering resumed fire and the trio claimed the second target was on fire by 12:11am.
At 12:13am Cooper was hit amidships on the starboard side by a torpedo from Japanese destroyer Take. The explosion caused a large column of water and the force rolled Cooper onto her starboard beam and broke the destroyer into half with the bow and stern protruding above the surface and sank in less than a minute. Afterwards, the other two destroyers continued to defend themselves then withdrew to San Pedro Bay. Cooper was officially stricken from the Navy Register on January 20, 1945. Cooper earned one battle start for her World War II service.
Fates of the Crew
Despite the explosion and rapid sinking, roughly half the crew managed to escape including Commander Mell Peterson. Some of the surviving crew managed to swim to Pilar on Ponson Island while others eventually reached Matlang on Leyte.
Later that afternoon until sunset, PBY-5 Catalina from VPB-34 performed rescues. PBY-5 Catalina piloted by Lt(jg) Joe Frederick Ball rescued 56 and despite being overloaded 3,000 pounds managed to take off after three mile take off run and later earned the Navy Cross. Another PBY-5 Catalina piloted by Lt(jg) Melvin S. Essary rescued 44 crew and later earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). On December 5, 1944 two Catalinas rescued 24 more of the crew from Matlang on Leyte. In total, 10 officers and 158 enlisted men were rescued.
During the explosion and sinking, 191 of her crew went down with the ship and remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Each earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. The missing crew includes: SK1c Claude Vaughn Jr. and F1c Samuel O. Rector.
On May 28, 2005 a memorial plaque was lowered by rope onto the shipwreck that reads:
"U.S. S. Cooper DD-695 sunk by enemy fire on the night of December 2-3, 1944. This plaque is in memory of the 191 men lost that night and who continue to stand watch for their country for all eternity. May they never be forgotten. Presented by the officers and crew of the USS Allen M. Sumner DD 692, USS Moale DD-693, USS Cooper DD-695 Dedicated and placed by Diver Rob Lalumiere May 26, 2005."
On May 29, 2005, SCUBA diver by Rob Lalumiere dove to the shipwreck to a depth of 633' / 192.9m. The dive was supported by the USS Cooper Memorial Project and included veteran and sinking survivor Hank Wagener who observed from aboard the dive boat.
Rob Lalumiere adds:
"I continued down. At about 188 meters the ship (USS Cooper) began to come into view. I immediately saw the dedication plaque which we had lowered the day before. It was still attached to the main line and standing upright with the letters facing me. Perfect I thought and reached over and disconnected it from the line. It fell gently backwards to the deck in its final resting place in what seemed to me to be a perfect position... It was long though, a total of 328 minutes and a final depth of 193 meters (633’). The Cooper was on her side. I didn't have any time to look around but I landed on a very large and flat surface with what looked like a round hole in the deck so it might be a port hole towards the front if there was one there."
In December 2017 RV Petrel conduted a dive on the Cooper. In January 2018, RV Petrel returned her manned submersible Pagoo conducted a dive on the Cooper.
FindAGrave - Lieut Elmer Glenn Cooper (photo)
Naval History and Heritage Command Cooper (DD-695)
NavSource - USS Cooper (DD-695)
Destroyer History Foundation - USS Cooper (DD-695)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Samuel O. Rector
FindAGrave - F1C Samuel O Rector (photo, tablets of the missing)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Claude Vaughn Jr.
FindAGrave - SK1 Claude Vaughn, Jr (tablets of the missing)
Preludes to Victory: The Battle of Ormoc Bay (1997) by William Griggs
Return to History - the dive on the USS Cooper (DD-695) Rob Lalumiere May 29 2005
YouTube "USS Cooper: Return to Ormoc Bay (Trailer)
USSCooper.com website for the film USS Cooper Return to Ormoc Bay
USS Cooper: Return to Ormoc Bay DVD (2006) by Daniel Foster / Bigfoot Entertainment
Thanks to Rob Lalumiere for additional information
633' / 192.9m
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