Henry Lee Plage
Henry Lee Plage
|February 10, 1915
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
|September 24, 2003 (aged 88)
|United States Naval Reserve
|Years of service
|Pacific Ocean theater of World War II
|Legion of Merit
Henry Lee Plage (born February 19, 1915 in Oklahoma) was an American naval officer best known for his role in the recovery of sailors from Task Force 38 during Typhoon Cobra.
Before World War II
Henry Lee Plage joined the ROTC at Georgia Tech, where he majored in industrial management and swam competitively. After graduating in 1937, he was commissioned as an ensign of the United States Naval Reserve. He married Marjorie Armstrong and moved to Florida, where he worked as an insurance adjuster. In January 1941, he requested and received active duty, but he was not given sea duty.
World War II
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Plage again requested sea duty. In late 1943, he was assigned to Evarts-class destroyer escortUSS Lehardy as executive officer.
His next command was another Evarts-class, USS Donaldson, which he sailed from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Islands.
In May 1944, Plage assumed his third command, the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Tabberer, upon its commission in Houston. After sea trials, the "Tabby" was sent to the Pacific in the USS Anzio (CVE-57)|Anzio group of TF 38.
Typhoon Cobra Rescue Effort
Admiral William "Bull" Halsey inadvertently sailed TF 38 into a tropical cyclone on December 17, 1944. The storm intensified the following day, capsizing and sinking three destroyers, including the USS Hull (DD-350)|Hull and the USS Spence (DD-512)|Spence, although the rest of the Task Force was not aware of the sinkings. A Tabberer radioman rigging an emergency antenna noticed a light that turned out to be a sailor from Hull on the night of the 18th. After recovering the sailor and learning of the sinking, Tabberer began a search for survivors that recovered 55 officers and men from Hull and Spence. Tabberer repaired her radio and called other ships, who arrived on the 20th and rescued an additional 36 men.
On December 20, Plage sent a memorandum to all hands:
As you all know, we have just been through quite an experience. We were in the middle of the most severe type of storm there is, a tropical typhoon that came up without warning. We were lucky to escape with our lives. The only reason we pulled through was that God was looking out for the old "Tabby".
Every man on board showed a wonderful spirit during the storm. No group of men could have worked harder under trying and dangerous circumstances then you men did.
The forty hours following the storm doubly proved what you men are made of. Most of you went for a total of three days and two night without sleep or rest. I honestly don't think you would have slept for a week if we had stayed in the area looking for just one man. Through your efforts we saved the lives of forty one men from the U.S.S HULL (DD 350) and fourteen men from the U.S.S SPENCE (DD 512), a total of fifty five men.</poem>
Following the typhoon, the Tabberer put into Ulithi. Admiral Halsey visited the ship on December 29 and awarded Lt. Comdr. Plage the Legion of Merit for his "courageous leadership and excellent seamanship." He also commended the crew and presented them with the Navy Unit Commendation.
Plague led the Tabberer on anti-submarine and anti-mine patrols for the remainder of the war, supporting the invasions of Battle of Iwo Jima|Iwo Jima and Battle of Okinawa|Okinawa, and also rescuing four downed airmen.
Plage and the Tabberer conducted anti-mine and escort duty following the Surrender of Japan. He returned Tabberer to San Diego, where it would be decommissioned in April 1946.His next assignment was at the Naval War College. He retired from the Navy in 1954. Plage later worked as a pharmaceutical distributor and in 1980 moved to Ocala, Florida, where he died in 2003 at the age of 88. At the time of Marjorie's death in 1998, Plage had two sons, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. A plaque in his memory can be found at Silver Springs Shore Presbyterian Church, where he and Marjorie were members.
- Smith, Steven Trent (April 2019). "During Halsey's Typhoon, Two Captains Fight A Stormy Fate". Retrieved 9 November 2020.
- Drury, Bob (2007). Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue. New York: Grove Press. p. 59.
- "Henry Lee Plage". Retrieved 9 November 2020.
- "Marjorie Plage (from Ocala Star-Banner)". 9 October 1998. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
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