SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Survivors of the Battle of Leyte Gulf shared their experiences during the 70th anniversary reunion with friends and family in San Diego from Oct. 22 to Oct. 26.
Leyte Gulf survivors from the 13 ships that made up the "Taffy 3" commemorated Sailors that were lost during the Battle of Samar, a critical battle within the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
"We've had a reunion ever year now," said Don Kurtze, a survivor assigned to USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE 70). "I've only missed one, and only because I was at the Mayo Clinic taking care of colon cancer."
A dozen midshipmen from the Naval Academy, Class of 2015, attended the event to pay their respects and take the opportunity to speak to the survivors firsthand.
"It's humbling to be in the presence of these men," said Phil Youngberg, midshipmen, Class of 2015 about speaking with the survivors. "They thank us for our service, but we are thankful for them. We're the new guys, we're the ones that should be giving them the honors."
Survivors shared their experiences and answered questions during an open forum in the ballroom at a local hotel.
"I think it's the ultimate compliment to these Sailors from World War II to know that these future officers want to take their experience and carry it forward," said James D. Hornfischer, a guest speaker and author of 'The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors'.
The Survivors shared their experiences with the visiting senior class of midshipmen and offered them advice for their future naval careers.
"They'll have a lot of good times ahead of them," said Oscar Fields, assigned to USS Fanshaw Bay during the battle. "As long as they learn that there has be mutual respect for those serving under them, they'll go a long way in being a good naval officer."
The survivors and guests also attended a ceremony at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery near the Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial.
"It's amazing to hear their stories, said Pete McDonald, midshipmen, Class of 2015. "The casual heroism of these men is awesome. I'm glad I could be here to hear what they had to say."
This will be the final reunion of the "Taffy 3" survivors.
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