By Ensign John Stevens
Electrical Officer, USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55)
Seventy years ago this week, four decades before our ship was even a glimmer in the Navy’s eye, Sailors and Marines fought – and won – the largest battle in naval history under such legendary tacticians as Adm. “Bull” Halsey, Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher and Vice Adm. Thomas Kinkaid.
Submarines stalked their prey in the Palawan Passage under cover of darkness. Swarms of aircraft blotted out the rising sun in the Sibuyan Sea. And in the last documented execution of a classic naval tactic, mighty surface guns “crossed the T” before an enemy formation in Surigao Strait and rained down heavy, concentrated firepower on an already weakened Japanese fleet.
It took well-trained people and orchestrated planning across multiple platforms to and project the kind of power that could turn the tide in the Pacific. It took carriers, cruisers, destroyers, escorts, patrol boats, submarines and aircraft. But more importantly, it took trained, dedicated and ready Sailors operating those platforms, weapons and sensors for their designed purpose.
Today, as we operate and train with multinational partners on deployment as Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 2 flagship in the Mediterranean Sea, the men and women of USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) project that same power as a demonstration of both good will toward our allies and deterrence toward our enemies.
In a rapidly changing and ever more dangerous ocean environment, the Navy’s ability to operate forward and provide presence around the globe helps us build lasting relationships in a twofold sense:
- Training alongside our fellow navies in exercises like this month’s Noble Justification sharpens our skills and keeps us ready to tackle any threat in any environment, while improving how we communicate and work together to achieve common tactical goals.
- Joint operations such as Operation Active Endeavour promote maritime security and maintain freedom of the seas, ensuring the sea lanes are open and safe to support international economic goals.
Yet even with the latest technology for detecting, deterring and engaging modern threats, Leyte Gulf would be just an empty shell without her 350 highly trained and motivated crew members. Her present complement endured a demanding training cycle to prepare for this deployment, participating in multiple challenging events from Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) to Independent Deployer Certification Exercise (IDCERTEX) to Joint Warrior (JW) 14-1 – not to mention a Task Group Exercise (TGEX), Fleet Exercise (FLEETEX) and Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (ARGMEUEX) since deploying with SNMG 2 on June 25. Each time, the crew has performed exceptionally under pressure.
At the “midcourse phase” of our 2014 deployment, each day Leyte Gulf’s crew continues to embody the warfighting spirit and sea power of those who fought in 1944 – VF 15’s fighters catapulting off the flight deck of USS Essex (CV 9) in the Sibuyan Sea, the destroyer USS Johnston (DD 557) charging headlong into the fight off Samar, or the submarine USS Jallao (SS 368) ending the battle with one final torpedo at Cape Engaño.
Threescore and a decade later, on the other side of the globe, Leyte Gulf Sailors still stand the watch just as their predecessors did.