Monday, March 14, 2011

Ship's Namesake

GM3 Paul Henry Carr

Our ship is named after Gunners Mate Third Class Paul Henry Carr, USNR (1924-1944), a native of Checotah, Oklahoma. Carr served as gun mount captain of the after 5 inch gun on the destroyer escort USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE 413). During the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 25 October 1944, SAMUEL B. ROBERTS and a small number of destroyers found themselves as the sole line of defense against a large surface force of Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.

The target of the Japanese force was a group of six American carriers providing aircraft support for the U.S. Army forces on the beaches of Leyte Gulf. The carriers operated aircraft suitable only for support of ground troops, and were helpless against the onrushing force of enemy ships.

Fully aware of the situation they faced, SAMUEL B. ROBERTS and the other "small boys" charged headlong into the Japanese battle force. The aggressive attack must have caught the Japanese admiral by surprise, because he ordered the signal for "general attack" vice the more potent "battle line formation."

The battle was a free-for-all, pitting small destroyers against an overwhelming force of battleships and cruisers. SAMUEL B. ROBERTS fought her way into the thick of the Japanese force and began a head-to-head duel with a heavy cruiser. The two 5 inch guns on SAMUEL B. ROBERTS fired furiously against the cruiser. The destroyer escort avoided the 8 inch and 14 inch shells fired at her.

At times the SAMUEL B. ROBERTS was so close to her target that the cruiser's guns could not be trained low enough to aim at her. SAMUEL B. ROBERTS, meanwhile, knocked out an 8 inch gun mount, destroyed the cruiser's bridge, and caused fires aft. Japanese shells from several ships finally hit their mark, knocking out all power, compressed air, and communications on the destroyer escort.

During the battle, Carr kept his gun mount working continuously, firing over 300 rounds until losing power and air. Carr then began firing rounds by hand, accepting the risk that without air the gun would not cool down between firings. With seven rounds left in the magazine, the tremendous heat in the gun breech "cooked off" a round, exploding the projectile loaded in the gun and killing most of the gun crew.

When a rescue team member made his way into the shattered mount, he found Carr, literally torn open from neck to thigh, attempting vainly to load a shell into the demolished gun breech. The rescue team member took the round from Carr and laid him aside as he began to remove the bodies of the gun crew.

When he returned to the mount, he again found Carr, projectile in hand, trying to load his gun. Carr begged the sailor to help him get off one last round. The sailor pulled him from the mount and laid him on the deck. Carr died a few moments later, beneath the gun he served so well. The crew of the SAMUEL B. ROBERTS finally had to abandon ship, but they did see the Japanese force turn away, believing by the ferocity of the attack that they faced a large and potent foe.

Paul Henry Carr was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.  He is survived by several sisters, who keep an active interest in their brother's ship, USS CARR (FFG 52).

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