Escort carrier GAMBIER BAY, on the rear-port quarter of the CVE formation, comes under intense gunfire from the approaching Japanese heavy cruisers. The picture at this point in the battle looked bleak for the Americans. The four Japanese heavy cruisers of Cruiser Division 7 were quickly approaching the escort carriers. They were now closing to within optimum range for their 8-inch guns. On the starboard quarter, Destroyer Squadron 2, led by the light cruiser NOSHIRO was in position to limit Taffy III?s maneuvering space to a southern direction only. Finally, from the rear, the four battleships came down the middle adding their heavy guns to the free-for-all. Rear Admiral Sprague?s options were very limited. He had to sacrifice his screening ships to save the escort carriers. In the photo above, a trail of thick black smoke hangs across the water as escort carrier USS GAMBIER BAY (CVE 73) at left continues to become the focal point of Japanese gunfire.