LEYTE GULF - As USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) transited the waters of the Surigao Strait on Sept. 27, the ship’s crew took a pause from the busy routine of deployment to honor those who served in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
A collection of naval engagements during October of 1944, Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in world history with nearly 400 ships and over 200,000 Sailors involved. The United States victory in the battle secured the liberation of the Philippines, destroyed the combat power of the Imperial Japanese fleet, and is viewed by historians as a critical juncture in World War II.
The crew assembled on the flight deck for the ceremony which honored the members of the 'Greatest Generation' who fought in Leyte, and to reflect on their own service. Command Master Chief Toyna Grace led a prayer for those who were lost in the battle. Commanding officer, Cmdr. Mark W. Lawrence, provided remarks, and the crew placed a commemorative wreath into the waters of the Leyte Gulf, followed by a traditional three volley gun salute. Information Systems Technician 1st class Brandon Baker and Information Systems Technician 2nd class Luis Contreras had the honor of laying the commemorative wreath into the sea.
“The Sailors of Leyte...remind us that our singular charge and highest priority is to be combat ready and battle-minded, so that when called upon we can respond in the same manner as those who covered themselves in glory here,” said Lawrence.
The ship deployed from its homeport in San Diego in January, but the crew of 315 Sailors has taken time to commemorate significant events in naval history throughout the year. USS Paul Hamilton’s (DDG 60) predecessor ship, USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 590), served in the South Pacific in World War II and earned seven battle stars for her service.
"This was a great opportunity for the crew to honor some of the greatest Sailors in history,” said Grace. “We are always striving to maintain our ties to the past as ‘links in the chain’ of naval history.”
Paul Hamilton’s Sailors have a unique connection to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. One of the seven battle stars earned by USS Paul Hamilton (DD 590) was for her service in the battle. In 2019, members of the crew had the honor of attending the 75th and final reunion of the vaunted surface warriors of Taffy-3, who fought valiantly in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The reunion was attended by survivors of the battle and their families.
“In these waters rests the indomitable spirit of our naval Surface Force – the very archetype of initiative, discipline, and trust for every Phantom Warrior. You are part of this lineage now and I am proud to pay my respects alongside you today,” said Lawrence.
Paul Hamilton, part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, is conducting a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific conducting maritime security operations to enhance partnerships and contribute to peace and stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Operations.