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Navsource Online: Destroyer Escort Photo Archive

Sunk by Japanese gunfire off Samar - 89 of her crew
were lost with the ship and remain on eternal duty

USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413)

Flag Hoist / Radio Call Sign:
N - T - I - K
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive)
Second Row: Presidential Unit Citation - American Campaign Medal - Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 1 star
Third Row: WWII Victory Medal - Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation (retroactive) - Philippine Liberation Medal

Class: John C. Butler
Type: WGT (geared-turbine drive, 5" guns)
Displacement: 1350 tons (light), 1745 tons (full)
Length: 300' (wl), 306' (oa)
Beam: 36' 10" (extreme)
Draft: 11' 0" (draft limit)
Propulsion: 2 "D" Express boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 kts
Range: 6,000 nm @ 12 knots
Armament: 2 - 5"/38 cal. DP guns (2x1), 4 - 40mm AA (2x2), 10 - 20mm AA, 3 - 21" TT, 1 Mk10 Hedgehog, 8 Mk6 Depth Charge Projectors, 2 Mk9 Depth Charge Stern Racks
Complement: 14 / 201
Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) Building and Operational Data:
  • 06 December 1943: Keel laid by the Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.
  • 20 January 1944: Launched and christened, sponsored by Mrs. Samuel B. Roberts
  • 28 April 1944: Commissioned, Lcdr. R. W. Copeland (namesake of FFG 25), USNR, in command
  • 25 October 1944: Sunk by Japanese warships off Samar when hit by a salvo of 14-inch shells. 120 survivors clung to 3 life rafts for 50 hours before being rescued, 89 crewmembers were lost.
  • 27 November 1944: Struck from the Navy Vessel Register after 6 months of service

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    Samuel B. Roberts

    Samuel B. Roberts

    207k Samuel Booker Roberts was born in San Francisco, Cal. on 12 May 1921 and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1939. Called to active duty in 1940, he served in USS California (BB 44) and USS Heywood (APA 6) before being transferred to the troop transport USS Bellatrix (AKA 20).

    In 1942, Bellatrix was assigned to Task Group Four and became part of the Guadalcanal Assault Force. As a coxswain for one of the Bellatrix’s assault (Higgins) boats, Roberts became extensively involved in the landing of Marines ashore and the transporting of supplies from ships at sea to what was a very tenuous beachhead. As a result of the heavy fighting at sea beginning 7 August, Coxswain Roberts was transferred to the Beachmaster unit on the island of Guadalcanal to perform transport and medevac duties. Early on the morning of 27 September 1942, Roberts volunteered for a rescue mission to save a company sized unit of marines who had been surrounded by a numerically superior Japanese force. Initially the rescue group of several Higgins boats were taken under heavy enemy fire and was perilously close to failure. Realizing the state of the rescue mission, Roberts unselfishly volunteered to distract the Jap forces by passing directly in front of their lines and drawing their fire. The decoy act was performed effectively until all the Marines had been evacuated. However, as he was about to withdraw from the range of the Japanese guns, Roberts‘ boat was hit and he was mortally wounded. For his valor and courage in the face of enemy fire Coxswain Samuel Booker Roberts was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

    USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) (April-October 1944) was the first ship named in his honor, she was succeeded by DD 823 (1946 - 1970) and FFG 58 (1986-2015).
    (U.S. Navy Photo, a pencil drawing from the National Archives)
    Robert M. Cieri
    S.B. Roberts 285k 20 January 1944: Houston, Tex. - Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) leaving the ways at Brown Shipbuilding Company.

    (U.S. Navy photo #NH 82850 from the Naval History and Heritage Command)
    Mike Green
    Port Angeles, Wash.
    Samuel B. Roberts 219k USS Samuel B. Roberts photographed in 1944, probably circa June, while off Boston, Massachusetts.

    (U.S. Navy photo #NH 90603 courtesy of Robert F. Sumrall, 1980, from the Naval History and Heritage Command)
    Mike Smolinski
    Clifton, N.J.

    Archive Manager
    DE / FF / LCS Archive
    S.B. Roberts 213k October 1944: the Pacific Ocean - Samuel B. Roberts at sea, wearing camouflage design 32/22D. Taken from USS Walter C. Wann (DE 412) in October 1944, a week or two before she was lost in the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944.

    (U.S. Navy photo #NH 96011 Courtesy of the USS Samuel B. Roberts Survivors Association, 1986, from the Naval History and Heritage Command)
    C. Lee Johnson
    Ships of the U.S. Navy in Dazzle Camouflage
    S.B. Roberts 297k 26 October 1944: the Pacific Ocean - American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944. Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE 73), USS Hoel (DD 533), USS Johnston (DD 557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) were rescued during the days following the action.

    (U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection, National Archives photo #SC 278010 photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof, from the Naval History and Heritage Command)
    Mike Smolinski
    Clifton, N.J.

    Archive Manager
    DE / FF / LCS Archive
    S.B. Roberts 169k 16 July 1945: Norfolk, Va. - Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland, USNR, receives the Navy Cross from Rear Admiral David M. LeBreton, at Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia. Lcdr. Copeland received the Navy Cross for heroism while in command of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. Robert Witcher Copeland was born at Tacoma, Washington on 09 September 1910. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1929, and was commissioned as a Naval Reserve officer in 1935. Copeland practiced law from 1935 until 1940, when he was ordered to active duty during the Navy's pre-World War II expansion. During the War, he commanded USS Pawtucket (YT 7), USS Black Douglas (PYc 45), USS Wyman (DE 38) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413). Following World War II, Copeland resumed his law career while remaining a member of the Naval Reserve, in which he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. Robert W. Copeland died at Tacoma, Washington, on 25 August 1973. In 1979, the guided missile frigate USS Copeland (FFG 25) was named in his honor.

    (U.S. Naval Historical Center photo #NH 90677 courtesy of Mrs. Harriet N. Copeland, 1980, from the Naval History and Heritage Command)
    S.B. Roberts 522k 24 June 2022: from CNN Travel

    It lurks over four miles deep below the Pacific Ocean, split in half and lodged on a slope.

    There's a new world's deepest shipwreck to be identified and surveyed -- and it's the Destroyer Escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), known as the Sammy B. Victor Vescovo, an explorer who has previously completed expeditions to the world's deepest points, located the wreck together on June 22.

    It lies at a depth of 6,895 meters (22,621 feet), in the Philippine Sea. By comparison, Mount Kilimanjaro's peak is 5,896 meters, while the highest permanent settlement in the world, La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, is 5,100 meters (16,700 feet). Previously, the deepest wreck ever identified and surveyed was the USS Johnston, found last year by Vescovo. That lies at 6,469 meters.

    Vescovo, the pilot, and sonar specialist Jeremie Morizet, dove down to trace the wreck from end to end. It has broken into two pieces, lying about 10 meters (33 feet) from each other.

    The Sammy B. sank in the Battle off Samar, on October 25, 1944, in which the US Navy defeated the larger Japanese fleet, east of the island of Samar in the Philippines. It fought three Japanese battleships, including the Yamato, said to be the largest ever constructed. The US ship carried 224 crewmembers, 89 of whom were killed. Captain Robert W. Copeland was one of the survivors.

    The ship "fought ferociously even though she was completely outclassed by the Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers she went up against," Vescovo told CNN.

    "The heroism of her captain and crew is legendary in the Navy, and it was a great honor to find her final resting place. I think it helps bring closure to the story of the ship, for the families of those who were lost and those who served on her. I think that having a ship vanish into the depths, never to be seen again, can leave those affiliated with the ship feeling a sense of emptiness.

    "Finding the wrecks can help bring closure, and also bring details about the battle that perhaps we didn't know before. As we say, 'Steel doesn't lie.'"

    Vescovo, the founder exploration company Caladan Oceanic, and a team from EYOS Expeditions made six dives over eight days looking for the ship, as well as for another US ship, the Gambier Bay. Previous records pointing to the ships' location had been inaccurate, but the team were helped by a custom-built sidescan solar system, as well as exhaustive research.

    Initially they located debris from the Sammy B. -- a three-tube torpedo launcher, which it was the only one of the sunken ships to have. On the final day, they located the wreck.

    Vescovo called it an "honor" to find the ship, saying in a statement that locating it had given the team the chance "to retell her story of heroism and duty."

    "In difficult times, it's important to reflect on those who sacrificed so much, so willingly, in even more difficult times to ensure our freedoms and way of life," he said.

    "I always remain in awe of the extraordinary bravery of those who fought in this battle against truly overwhelming odds -- and won."

    And he told CNN that they hadn't even been sure the trip would succeed.
    "The Sammy B is a small vessel as military ships go, and we weren't really sure that we could find her in the vast and extremely deep ocean where she went down. But with perseverance, some great historical analysis, and a whole lot of deep ocean technology and hard work, we were able to find her and provide a great opportunity to tell her amazing story," he said.

    "It is unbelievably thrilling to find a wreck on the bottom of the deep ocean, given all the difficulties in trying to find them. It is such an immense privilege to be the first person to see them after they went down in battle almost 80 years ago."

    Kelvin Murray, Expedition Leader and Director of Expedition Operations & Undersea Projects for EYOS said, "As ever, there's been an incredible and dedicated effort by the whole team -- the ship's crew, sub team, historians and other specialists. Using a combination of detective work and innovative technology, everyone has pulled together to reveal the final resting place of this tenacious ship.

    "It's been a challenging, thrilling and poignant expedition, one that recognizes the ships and sailors from all nations who fought so hard during this battle. We are all proud of what has been achieved and humbled by what we witnessed."

    The team also went lower to over 7,000 meters to look for one other vessel -- a carrier, called Gambier Bay -- but were unable to find it. They didn't look for the other destroyer, USS Hoel, due to lack of data.

    But the Sammy B. might not be the deepest wreck for too long. The group thinks its new Deep Ocean Search sidescan sonar is the deepest side-scan sonar ever operated on a submersible -- normally, they go up to 6,000 meters, but this has been tested to 11,000 meters, or full ocean depth. The Caladan Oceanic team plans to take it right to the bottom next month.
    Bob Canchola

    Contacts Research
    Associate, Navsource


    John Spivey

    S.B. Roberts 561k
    S.B. Roberts 129k

    Samuel B. Roberts Memorabilia
    Ship's Battle
    Ensign Story
    Samuel B. Roberts
    Courtesy of
    Bob Canchola
    FFG 58 Memorial
    Samuel B. Roberts
    Courtesy of
    Mike Smolinski

    Samuel B. Roberts' History
    View the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE 413) DANFS history entry located on the Naval History and Heritage Command web site.
    View the Adm. Clifton Sprague and Task Unit 77.4.3 Memorial
    This monument is dedicated to the memory of Vice Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague and the 13 ships and 7,300 men of Task Unit 77.4.3,
    also known as "Taffy 3," which were under his command during the Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944 during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

    Samuel B. Roberts' Only Commanding Officer
    Thanks to Wolfgang Hechler & Ron Reeves
    Dates of Command Commanding Officer
    1.) 28 Apr. 1944 - 25 Oct. 1944Lcdr. Robert Witcher Copeland (Tacoma, Wash.) (ret. as Radm, USNR)

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information

    Last Known Reunion, with the Johnston/Hoel Association
    October 2004, San Diego, Cal.
    Contact Name: Richard K. Rohde
    Address: 9045 SW 91st Circle
    City/State: Ocala FL 34481-8404
    Phone: (352) 861-0616
    Note About Contacts

    Contact information is compiled from various sources over a period of time and may, or may not, be correct. Every effort has been
    made to list the newest contact. However, our entry is only as good as the latest information that's been sent to us. We list only
    a contact for the ship if one has been sent to us. We do NOT have crew lists, rosters, or deck logs available. Please see the
    Frequently Asked Questions section on NavSource's Main Page for that information.

    Additional Resources

    USS Samuel B. Robert Survivors Association
    Tin Can Sailors
    The U.S. Navy Memorial
    Destroyer Escort Sailors Association
    The Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
    The Destroyer History Foundation
    Tin Can Sailors Shipmate Registry - USS Samuel B. Roberts
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    This Page Created And Maintained By Mike Smolinski
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    by Paul R. Yarnall, All Rights Reserved.
    Page Last Updated: 26 June 2022