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Halsey's typhoons.

In early December 1944, Adm. William F. Halsey's 3rd Fleet was supporting the invasion of the Philippine Islands. An unnamed typhoon, having tracked across the Pacific practically unnoticed, caught up to the fleet 300 miles east of the island of Luzon. The storm (later dubbed Cobra by Halsey's fleet aerologist, Cmdr. George F. Kosco), with winds in excess of 130 miles per hour slammed into the task force with devastating results. On 14 December, a Navy PBM from VPB-117 stumbled across a tropical depression 225 miles southeast of the classified location of Halsey's task force. The aircraft penetrated the outer edges of the storm. The first "directed" reconnaissance of a typhoon by a Navy aircraft occurred when a VPB-21 PBM-3 located the typhoon 550 miles west-northwest of Ulithi on the night of 16/17 December. The third flight occurred on 17 December, when an Army Air Forces flight penetrated the eye of the storm. This flight is considered the first official aircraft typhoon reconnaissance in the Pacific. Because of delays in transmitting reports about the storm, Cobra caught Halsey's fleet while still at sea. Three destroyers sank and nearly 30 ships were seriously damaged. More than 790 men were lost and another 80 injured.

In June 1945, a second typhoon (Connie/Viper) struck Halsey's task force during the invasion of Okinawa. A number of Navy patrol aircraft units flew this storm, including VPB-53 flying PBY-5A and PBY-6A Catalinas from Samar. With sustained maximum winds between 80 and 140 mph, this typhoon caused further considerable damage to the Halsey's fleet. Both USS Hornet (CV 12) and USS Bennington (CV 20) lost 25 feet of their forward flight decks. A number of other ships sustained damage, but only six lives were lost.The two storms highlighted the limited ability of contemporary technology to deal with strong storms, but they also spurred the Navy to improve its typhoon/hurricane detection capabilities and invest in cyclone research.
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Publication:Naval Aviation News
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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