Hans L Jensen
Ens Jensen first to spot the Japanese Central Force at Leyte Gulf
25 October 1944
Ens. Jensen and his crew had taken off at 0551 for ASP (anti-submarine Patrol) from the USS Kadashan Bay part of Taffy 2. After arriving in his assigned sector, his radioman, Don Lehman started picking up a large number of ships at 0630 north of where Taffy 3 was. They had receive no reports ships should be there so he headed out of his sector to investigate.

He broke out of the clouds over Admiral Kurita's Central Force which immediately brought intense anti-aircraft in his direction.  According to William T. Y'Blood in his excellent book,
The Little Giants,
he notes the intense fire could be seen by the lookouts in Taffy 3. He goes on to note Admiral Kurita's ships spotted Taffy 3 shortly thereafter.  This unexpected turn of events not only surprised Adm. Kurita, it upset him. With the pounding and lossess he had suffered on 23 October, his state of mind and the fact he was receiving errounous reports as to what types of ships he had encountered, he thought he was about to take another pounding as he thought he had encountered Bull Hulsey's TF 38. As a result, he made several fatal decisions that morning that would save the Taffy's and our men and supplies at Leyte.

While Admiral Kurita was trying to figure what the heck was happening, Jensen made an unsupported attack on a heavy crusier believe to be the Haguro.  He dropped his (3) 350# depth charges from about 1200 feet and retreated back into the clouds to continue to send radio transmissions to the ships.  He noted a battleship launching a float plane identified as a Pete heading his way.  He let the Pete pass under him and then dove on him...now we have to understand, a TBM is not a FIGHTER, its a torpedeo bomber!  He poured his twin 50s into the wings and fueslage but did not down it. As they pulled out of their dive, Jensen began a roll and found himself upside down with the Pete, his topgunner, Ken Soter proceeded to pound it some more from his 50 caliber.  Last seen, the floatplane was headed back to the battleship.  It was left, as enemy did not have time to recover it.  Noting again from The Little Giants, "Thus Jensen may have had a two prong effect; he was the first to sight the enemy force, albeit with no time to spare, and he may have prevented the enemy from using a spotting plane to maximize their gunfire."

Jensen unable to land aboard the Katie B, headed for the beach (Tacloban) so he could rearm and refuel.  It seems that the army planes and the navy planes did not use the same connection for hanging their bombs.  His top gunner, Ken Soter, using some Navy imagination (bailing wire), managed to modify the pods on the TBM to fit (4) 250# bombs.   But while all this was going on, the Japanese were making some straffing runs on the island plus more and more planes where trying to land. The end result was the muddy field was becoming very dangerous to land and take off from.  In fact, several planes where lost trying to land. However, Jensen did manage to get off and requested a target. He was advised to return to his ship.  However, two Japanese Destroyers  happened to be in his flight path and he dropped his bombs on them scoring direct hits on one destroyer's stern.

For a just turned 20 year old "Kid", Hans Jensen and his two teenage aircrew members had just experienced the greatest day of their young lives by being the first to sight and engage a superior Japanese force with an unsupported attack.  That attack with (3) depth bombs was the start of the greatest naval battle ever fought.

The information used on this page was gathered from the National Archives and Wm T. Y'Blood's The Little Giants and David Wright, nephew of Ens. Jensen.
This photo is believed to have been taken by Don Lehman. The ship is believed to be the Gambier Bay as she is trying to dodge incoming fire from the Japanese Central Force on  25 OCT 1944.  If you are counting....there are 9 plumes. It would have been great if this shot had been in color.  The Japanese were using various colors to range in on the ships.  One CVE crewman noted " They are shooting at us in Technicolor" from The Little Giants.
Jensen's Log Book for October 1944