Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944

Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944


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Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944

American Plans
Japanese Plans

Opposing Fleets
Brief Overview
Detailed Account
Build-up to Battle
23 October
24 October
25 October
The Battle of Cape Engano
The Battle of the Surigao Strait
The Battle of Samar
26 October
Conclusion

The battle of Leyte Gulf (22-26 October 1944) was one of the largest and most complex naval battles in history and ended as a massive American victory that effectively destroying the fighting capability of the Japanese navy.

American Plans

The American plans had evolved significantly during the summer of 1944. The original plan had been for a landing on Mindanao, the southernmost of the main Philippine islands. Next would be a larger scale invasion of Leyte, nearer the centre of the islands and then the invasion of the largest of the islands, Luzon. In mid-June the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested abandoning the invasion of Luzon and instead going straight from Leyte to Formosa. Unsurprisingly this angered MacArthur, who had promised to return to the Philippines after being forced to leave the islands in 1942. In late July MacArthur, Nimitz and Roosevelt met on Hawaii, and the invasion of Luzon was confirmed. The campaign in the Philippines was to begin in December 1944.

Preliminary operations began on 6 September when aircraft from Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 38 bombarded the Palau Islands, 550 miles to the east of Mindanao. That island was attacked on 9-10 September, triggering a false invasion alarm. Next came an attack on the Visayan Islands, in the centre of the Philippines. This went so well that Admiral Halsey, commander of the US Third Fleet, suggested a new plan. Instead of waiting until December and then carefully advancing from south to north through the Philippines, he believed that the Japanese were so off balance that an almost immediate invasion of Leyte would be a success. This suggestion reached Roosevelt and Churchill while they were meeting at Quebec. The two leaders were in favour of this daring idea, but MacArthur was un-contactable, having decided to accompany a force that was about to attack Morotai and that was operating radio silence. MacArthur's chief of staff made the decision for him, and approved the new plan. Leyte would be invaded on 20 October.

MacArthur's troops were to land on the good beaches on the east coast of Leyte. The engineers would then build airfields on the difficult ground inland and they would be used to support both the fighting on Leyte itself and the landings on Luzon. The 7th Fleet would provide direct support, both from the big guns of the battleships and cruisers and from the aircraft on the escort carriers. The 3rd Fleet would provide cover against any attempt by the Japanese navy to intervene.

The Japanese Plan

The Japanese also spent the summer of 1944 working on a grand plan. They were now entirely on the defence, and so Operation Victory (Sho-Go) was a defensive one. The Japanese high command decided that four different American moves were possible - an invasion of the Philippines or Formosa in the south, the Kuriles in the north or even a direct attack on the Home Islands. In the south Sho-1 was the defence of the Philippines and Sho-2 the defence of Formosa. As had happened repeatedly since Pearl Harbor the Japanese were obsessed with the idea of the 'decisive battle', a single massive battle that if it ended in a Japanese victory could save the day.

By the autumn of 1944 the Japanese fleet was widely scattered. The main battle fleet was based at Lingga, a small island east of Sumatra and south of Singapore. This location had been chosen because it put the fleet close to its main sources of fuel. The carrier force had retreated to the Inland Sea in the Japanese Home Islands where new naval aviators were being trained.

The Sho-1 plan took advantage of this deployment. Admiral Ozawa with his force of carriers was to approach the Philippines from Japan. His role was to pull the main American carriers and fast battleships away from Leyte Gulf leaving the invasion fleet vulnerable to attack. Ozawa's northern fleet was being deliberately sacrificed in an attempt to win a decisive battle. He had the carriers but he didn’t have trained naval aviators, so his ships were effectively toothless. Ozawa's original role had been to take part in the main battle, but after the destruction of his last effective air groups in mid-October he suggesting the diversionary tactic.

The main fleet at Lingga was to split into two. Admiral Kurita was to take the largest and most powerful part of the fleet, I Striking Force, through the middle of the Philippines. He was to emerge from the San Bernadino Strait, north of Leyte, and sweep south to attack in the invasion fleet. Kurita objected to the plan - not because he saw any flaws in the operation itself, but because he didn't see the point in risking the entire fleet for an attack on transport ships that would probably already have been loaded when the Japanese arrived. His objections were overruled.

The second part of the main fleet, under Admiral Nishimura, was to pass through the Philippines further south and emerge from the Surigao Strait, between Mindanao and Leyte. He was to attack the invasion fleet from the south.

Finally Admiral Shima, with the smallest force (II Striking Force), was to sail from Japan via Formosa and join Admiral Nishimura. Shima hadn't originally been included in the plan but had persuaded his superiors to let his small force take part. The Japanese hoped that these three southern fleets could break into Leyte Gulf and inflict crushing losses on the landing craft, supply vessels and smaller warships supporting the invasion of Leyte.

Opposing Fleets

US

Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet was the main American striking force in the Pacific. At Leyte Gulf it contained fifteen fleet carriers, seven modern fast battleships, twenty one cruisers and fifty eight destroyers. His ships were armed for combat with Japanese battleships and carriers. Halsey's main weakness was that he had contradictory orders - his main role was to find and destroy the Japanese fleet, but he was also there to protect the invasion fleets in Leyte Gulf.

Admiral Kinkaid's 7th Fleet was dedicated to supporting the ground troops. He had sixteen escort carriers, six 'old' battleships including several sunk at Pearl Harbor, eleven cruisers and eighty six destroyers. This was a powerful force, but did have one weakness. His carriers and battleships were armed for coastal bombardment, with high explosive shells and bombs, and carried very few armour piercing shells or bombs. When Kinkaid found himself facing Japanese battleships this caused great problems.

Japan

Admiral Ozawa's Northern or Main Force was coming from the Inland Sea in Japan, where his carrier air groups had been carefully reconstructed. He had four carriers, including the Zuikaku, one of the best Japanese carriers of the war and a veteran of Pearl Harbor. The other three were all light carriers produced by converting support ships that had been designed with that in mind - Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda. Many of the aircraft allocated to the carrier force were lost in the battle off Formosa (12-16 October 1944), and at Leyte Gulf he only had around 100 aircraft and very few experienced air crews.

Admiral Kurita commanded I Striking Force, which approached the battle from Brunei. At the heart of I Striking Force were the battleships Yamato and Musashi, the largest battleships in the world with nine fearsome 18.1in guns. Kurita also had Kongo and Haruna, two pre First World War battlecruisers that had been turned into battleships in the late 1920, and the Nagato, a 16in battleship launched in 1919. This powerful force was supported by twelve cruisers and fifteen destroyers.

Admiral Nishimura, coming from Brunei, was given the two old battleships Fuso and Yamashiro, one cruiser and four destroyers. His only chance of success would come if Kurita or Ozawa had drawn almost the entire US fleet north away from the Surigao Strait.

Admiral Shima's II Striking Force (coming from Formosa) was the weakest of the Japanese fleets, and only contained three cruisers and four destroyers.

This gave the Japanese a total of four carriers, nine battleships, nineteen cruisers and thirty one destroyers. Despite the presence of the carriers, the most dangerous units were the battleships, which included the two largest and potentially most powerful in the world.

Brief Overview

The Japanese plan came quite close to success. The fighting began when two American submarines discovered Kurita's force on 23 October, sinking two cruisers (Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 23-24 October 1944). This battle continued on 24 October when American aircraft sank the battleship Musahi. Admiral Halsey then detected Ozawa's carrier force and decided to head north to deal with this apparent threat. The bait had been taken.

The key day of the battle was 25 October when three separate battles were fought. In the north Halsey sank all four Japanese carriers (Battle of Cape Engano). In the south Kinkaid intercepted and destroyed Nishimura's fleet (Battle of Surigao Strait), and Shima decided to turn back.

The Japanese came closest to success in the centre. With Halsey in the north and Kinkaid in the south the northern approaches to Leyte Gulf were only protected by escort carriers and destroyers. Kurita emerged from the San Bernardino Strait, turned south, and found Taffy Three, one of three task groups of six escort carriers. The American carriers turned and tried to reach relative safety. Their destroyer escorts made valiant attempts to interrupt the Japanese attack, while their aircraft made repeated attacks on the Japanese battleships. One escort carrier was sunk, but Kurita then decided to regroup and return to his original task in Leyte Gulf (Battle of Samar). Kurita spent the rest of the day chasing ghosts off Samar, before giving up and retiring through the San Bernardino Strait. With a bit more determination he could have inflicted a serious defeat on Taffy Three, and possibly done real damage to the invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf.

Detailed Account

Build-up to Battle

The pre-invasion attacks on Japanese bases between the Philippines and the East China Sea soon paid an unexpected dividend. On 10 October Mitscher attacked Okinawa. He then turned south and on 12 October attacked Formosa. This time the Japanese responded in some strength, having mis-interpreted the massive American air strikes as the start of an invasion. Admiral Toyoda issued the instructions to begin Sho-1 and Sho-2, and Japanese navy aircraft rose to attack the Americans. The resulting battle off Formosa (13-16 October 1944) was a massive American victory. Over 600 Japanese aircraft were destroyed. In return the Japanese managed to damage two cruisers. The Japanese claimed a massive victory and the destruction of eleven carriers and two battleships. The belief that they had crippled American naval air power played a part in the planning for the attack on Leyte Gulf. It also helped to convince the Japanese defenders of the Philippines that the first signs of the upcoming invasion weren't genuine, and instead were either false alarms or just American ships fleeing from the defeat.

The invasion began on 17 October when a small force of US Rangers landed on Suluan Island, at the mouth of Leyte Gulf. A Japanese lookout reported sighting two battleships, two carriers and six destroyers off the island (the attack force actually contained two light cruisers, four destroyers and eight destroyer transports). Admiral Toyoda decided this was indeed the start of the invasion, and issued the orders that set the Japanese fleets in motion. His colleagues on the Philippines weren't convinced

On 18 October the Americans captured Homonhon and Dinagat Islands, at the entrance to Leyte Gulf, where they erected navigation lights. The defenders of the Philippines still didn't realise the attack was imminent, but back in Japan Toyoda issued the orders for Sho-1, after getting Imperial approval.

The naval bombardment of Leyte began on 19 October, and did massive amounts of damage to the Japanese defences on the Leyte beaches.

A-Day on Leyte was 20 October (MacArthur deliberately didn't use the more normal D-Day, which was now closely linked to the Normandy invasion in the public imagination). The landings went well - the Philippines were far too large for the Japanese to defend in the same way as was familiar from smaller islands, and the garrison of Leyte was both badly outnumbered and in some confusion. The Americans were ashore, and by the end of the first day 100,000 tons of supplies had been landed.

The first preliminary move came on 22 October when the Japanese fleets sailed from Brunei, heading for the Philippines. Kurita left first, as he had the longer journey, and Nishimura followed in the afternoon. Four separate Japanese fleets were now heading for the massive American armada in and around Leyte Gulf.

23 October

The battle of Leyte Gulf began well to the west of the Philippines on 23 October (battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 23-24 October, although this battle began outside that sea). Darter and Dace, two American submarines, found Kurita's fleet while it was sailing along the north coast of Palawan Island in the South China Sea. The American subs attacked Kurita and sank two cruisers, including his flagship Atago. A third cruiser was crippled and had to return to Brunei, taking two destroyers as a screen.

24 October

On the morning of 24 October a Japanese scout plane based on Luzon found Task Force 38, sailing to the east of the island. The Japanese Navy had more aircraft based on Luzon than on Ozawa's carriers, and during the morning of 24 October just over 200 Japanese land based naval aircraft attacked the task force. For about an hour the Japanese were fought off, but just as the main attack ended the light carrier Princeton, part of TG 38.3, was hit by a single Japanese dive bomber. Prolonged efforts to save the carrier failed and eventually she was sunk by American torpedoes. Most of her crew survived, but an explosion caused heavy casualties on the cruiser Birmingham, one of the ships taking part in the fire fighting effort.

Ozawa's carrier aircraft then made an appearance. At about 11.45 about two thirds of his aircraft attacked Halsey's fleet but without any success. The inexperienced carrier aviators then flew on to land on Luzon. At this point Halsey probably didn't realise that these aircraft came from a carrier force, but Ozawa was finally located by American scout planes in the afternoon.

Further south the IV Air Army (General Tominaga) attacked the 7th Fleet in Leyte Gulf, but again with little effect, although the escort carriers were forced to concentrate on air defence instead of close support. The Japanese lost around 70 aircraft in this attack.

Halsey's carriers also went onto the offensive on 24 October, launching five separate air strikes against Kurita, spread out from 9am until the mid-afternoon. The main victim of these attacks (battle of the Sibuyan Sea) was the giant battleship Musashi which sank after being hit by multiple torpedoes and bombs. A heavy cruiser was also badly damaged and forced to turn back. At around 15.30 Kurita decided to temporarily turn back to avoid coming under aerial attack in the narrow San Bernardino Strait. This move was seen by the Americans, who believed that Kurita might be retiring from the area. Instead after just under two hours he turned back east and headed into the San Bernardino Strait unobserved.

Halsey now had a choice to make. His orders from Nimitz were to protect the invasion fleet unless a chance came up to destroy the Japanese fleet. He now knew of three Japanese forces. To the north was Ozawa with four carriers and two battleships. To the west was Kurita, who had been battered all day, lost the biggest battleship in the world and begun a possible retreat. To the south was Nishimura with a force that wasn't really a threat to Kinkaid's 7th Fleet. Halsey decided that he could combine his two tasks by leading his 3rd Fleet north to destroy the Japanese carrier force. In every earlier battle of the Pacific War this would have been the correct decision - the carriers were now the most dangerous weapon in the naval armoury and the highly skilled aviators of Pearl Harbor and the year that followed could have caused havoc if they reached the invasion fleets. Halsey's real mistake was that he failed to make sure that someone was watching Kurita and the San Bernardino Strait. He and Kinkaid both assumed that the other fleet was carrying out that task and in the event neither did.

Halsey has also been criticised for deciding to attack the Japanese carrier fleet in the first place, largely on the grounds that it was carrying very few aircraft, but there is no way that Halsey could have known this. The Japanese had only recently deployed large numbers of naval aircraft in the battles off Formosa, and Halsey had just been attack twice by naval aircraft on 25 October. As far as he knew the four carriers and two modified battleships in the north were all carrying their full complement of aircraft. Halsey's mistake was not making sure a suitable force was watching the San Bernardino Strait.

25 October

Although there had been some hard fighting on the previous days the main part of the battle took part on 25 October when there were three separate engagements. In the north Halsey attacked Ozawa and sank all four of his carriers (Battle of Cape Engano). In the south Oldendorf's battleships crushed Nishimura's attack (Battle of the Surigao Strait). The crisis came in the centre, where Kinkaid's escort carriers were unexpectedly attacked by Kurita's battle fleet (Battle of Samar). Here the Japanese came closest to success, sinking one carrier and threatening to wipe out an entire task group of six, before Kurita unexpectedly withdrew from the battle.

The Battle of Cape Engano

In the north the Americans won an easy victory. Halsey found Ozawa's carriers at dawn and send in five air strikes. He sank all four of the carriers and one destroyer and was about to complete the destruction of the Japanese fleet when urgent signals from Kinkaid and a stinging message from Nimitz finally forced him to turn south in an attempt to intercept Kurita.

The Battle of the Surigao Strait

In the south the fighting was equally one sided. Admiral Oldendorf, with the six old battleships of the 7th Fleet, blocked the exit from the Surigao Strait. Nishimura's ships were attacked by PT boats in the strait and by torpedoes from American destroyers as they approached the exit. One battleship and two destroyers were sunk and a third forced to turn back. By the time Nisihimura reached the American battleships he only had one battleship, one cruiser and one destroyer. In the resulting gun battle the battleship was sunk and the cruiser very badly damaged. It escaped for the moment but was sunk while attempting to escape. Only the destroyer reached safety. Shima realised the battle was lost and turned back, saving his ships. Their escape was aided by news from the north, where Kurita's battleships had emerged into Leyte Gulf. Oldendorf had to cancel the pursuit and turned north to prepare for a possible second battle.

The Battle of Samar

The most dangerous of the battles came in the centre. Kurita emerged unnoticed from the San Bernardino Strait, turned south and headed towards Leyte Gulf. He then found Admiral Sprague's Taffy 3, of six escort carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer escorts. Sprague conducted a skilful fighting retreat, harassing the Japanese with his aircraft (despite their lack of armour piercing bombs) and destroyers. During the fighting the carrier Gambier Bay was sunk as were three of the escorts. Sprague's small group was close to defeat when Kurita decided to withdraw from the battle, reform his fleet and resume his advance into Leyte Gulf. The Japanese also suffered losses - three cruisers were sunk on the day and a fourth badly damaged.

Kurita turned away at 9.11am. It took two hours for his fleet to come back together. He then turned south and headed towards Leyte Gulf and the American shipping. At about 11.40 his scouts reported sighting a battleship (falsely) and Kurita turned aside to try and catch it. He then turned south again, before at 12.35 he decided to turn back north and try and find an American carrier group believed to be 100 miles to his north. In fact Halsey's carriers were much further north, and out of range. Kurita steamed north all afternoon in an attempt to find this phantom force, before at around 6pm he finally gave up and made his way back into the San Bernardino Strait heading west. The last surface naval battle of the Second World War was over.

26 October

The battle of Leyte Gulf rather faded away on 26 October. Halsey sent aircraft to attack the retreating Kurita, but they only succeeded in sinking one cruiser. The battered remnants of the Japanese Navy escaped, but not to fight another day.

Conclusion

The battle of Leyte Gulf was a massive Japanese defeat. The Japanese navy lost three battleships, four carriers, ten cruisers and nine destroyers, a total of 300,000 tons of shipping. The Americans only lost 37,000 tons of shipping, including one light carrier and two escort carriers. The Americans could easily replace these losses - they already had one hundred carriers of various types in the Pacific by October 1944! The Japanese Navy was crippled by its defeat at Leyte Gulf. The destruction of a large part of their surface fleet meant that the Americans were free to advance into the Philippines and then towards Japan without any fear of a major naval clash. The best the Japanese could manage was the final suicidal sortie of the giant battleship Yamato, sunk during an attempt to reach Okinawa.

Even if Kurita had been more determined on 25 October there was a limit to how much significant damage he could have done. As the Japanese commanders were aware, by 25 October most of the American transport ships were empty. He could have inflicted more damage on Taffy 3, but while that would have been embarrassing for the Americans it wouldn't have set them back. The loss of transport ships might have been more significant, but even that could only have delayed the final Japanese defeat. The Japanese Navy had found its decisive battle, unfortunately for Japan that battle had been lost.


Ahoy - Mac's Web Log

War in the Pacific.
It was the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th. of December 1941 that precipitated the United States into WW2. Japanese forces moved swiftly, occupying Hong Kong, Singapore and Java in quick succession, in April 1942, they overran the Philippines, Corregidor surrendered, and President Franklin Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur to escape to Australia to lead the Allies' fight back from that base.

May of 1942 saw the Battle of the Coral Sea, probably a draw, but a strategic victory for the Allies, stopping the Japanese from a seawards invasion of Port Moresby, forcing them to fight overland in New Guinea.

Midway came the next month in June, this indeed was a US victory.

On May 30/June 1, the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour with 3 midget submarines, 2 were sunk, 1 escaped, never to be seen again. The only real damage, the sinking of the old accommodation ferry HMAS Kuttabul, with the loss of 23 lives.

The Japanese invaded Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomons in May, resulting in Admiral Ernest King USN in mounting Watch Tower, a US landing of Marines to wrest these strategically placed islands back from the Japanese.

The Battle of Savo Island occurred on the night of the 9th. of August 1942, with the loss of 4 heavy Allied cruisers and 1,000 sailors.

Now, over August/November 1942 the future of the Pacific War was decided in and around the Solomon Islands, with the Naval Battles of the Solomons, these proved disastrous for the Japanese Navy, depriving their Carrier force of much of its trained aircrews, which could not be replaced. A string of victories in New Guinea followed, the capture of Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea, and the Admiralty Islands squatting close to the equator, set up American forward bases to act as a springboard for the return to the Philippines.

Roosevelt backs MacArthur against Nimitz to go for the Philippines.
In July of 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt traveled to San Diego, to embark in USS Baltimore, a heavy cruiser, which now sailed for Honolulu. The President hosted a dinner on board with Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur, he turned to the General with:

Without any hesitation MacArthur responded with :

Nimitz now strongly argued to by pass the Philippines and attack Formosa, once acquired, this base would allow the Japanese mainland to be bombed, and the supply line between the East Indies and Japan harried, to quench the flow of oil and essential supplies needed to prosecute their war.

Whilst Roosevelt could appreciate the cogency of this advice, he listened to MacArthur who reminded him of the US promise at the time of the loss of the Philippines, to liberate this territory from the Japanese yoke, to break this promise with an election looming in the US in November, might well reflect in the President being turned against by the American voters. The political argument prevailed, and the date to invade the Philippines was set for

October 1944.

Battle of the Philippine Sea.
This Battle took place but 4 months before the US landings at Leyte. It was here that the IJN made a major attempt to defeat once and for all the US Carrier Forces. Using 9 Carriers and 473 aircraft, the Japanese faced a massacre.

US Task Force 58, the Fast Carrier Force, destroyed about 200 Japanese aircraft in one afternoon. Three Japanese carriers were sunk, and over two days, nearly 500 land and sea based aircraft were shot down. This decisive defeat of Japanese air power at sea would subsequently benefit the US Naval Forces that were to converge upon the Philippines at Leyte in October of 1944.

United States Submarines Success.
By August 1944, US submarines had practically swept the Pacific Ocean clean of the Japanese Merchant Fleet. Sinkings totalled 2.8 Million tons.

The need for Japan to hang on to the Philippines.
To avoid losing the war in the Pacific, it was paramount for Japan to hold the Philippines. To thwart the expected US invasion of this area, it was left to the Japanese Navy, whose battleships and heavy cruisers were in the main still intact. Their aircraft carriers, largely bereft of aircrews, might only have a decoy role to play out.

The Japanese Plan.
Vice Admiral Ozawa, with 4 Carriers, 2 battleships, 3 light cruisers and 6 destroyers would sail down from the north , trailing their coat in an attempt to draw off the main US covering force for the landings at Leyte. Meanwhile, two forces containing battleships would penetrate the central Philippines to fall upon the invasion shipping crowded in Leyte Gulf. Rear Admiral Nishimura with the weaker and southern force would sail through Suriago.

Strait south of Leyte. The central force commanded by Vice Admiral Kurita, with 5 battleships, 10 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 15 destroyers would push through San Bernadino Strait, sail down the coast of Samar, and attack the US invasion force from the North East.

Strength of the Japanese and US Naval Forces at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. (Table 1)

The Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Over the period of 23 - 26 of October 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was made up of 5 engagements, these consisted of:

Chart for the five battles

US Third and Seventh Fleets.
Vice Admiral Kinkaid commanded the Seventh Fleet, charged with husbanding the landing forces for the Leyte operation, his force consisted of some 738 ships containing many different class of vessel. It included a large cruiser group, some old battleships that had survived Pearl Harbor, and a large number of the housemaids of the Navy, the destroyers.

The Third Fleet under the command of Bull Halsey who in turn reported to Admiral Nimitz, in Command of Central Pacific, was supposed to provide cover for the Seventh Fleet. Suprisingly no overall Naval Commander was appointed for this campaign, as Kinkaid reported to MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Command, this split of the Naval Command led to much confusion in the forthcoming engagements, and very nearly led to a total strategic disaster for the Allied forces.

The drawing showing the Naval Command structure to go inhere please. Terry, could the first chart go in here please, plus the chart of Kurita's force?

1. Two US Submarines attack Japanese forces in the Palawan Passage.
Early on the 23rd. of October, the first contact was made with the Japanese ships, Kurita's Central Force was sighted by US Submarines Darter and Dace in the Palawan Passage. They fired a spread of torpedoes, Admiral Kurita's flagship, the heavy cruiser Atago was torpedoed and sunk, Maya also sank, whilst Takao being severely damaged was escorted away by two destroyers to Brunei, and took no further part in the proceedings. Unfortunately Darter ran aground on a shoal, had to be abandoned, and was stripped clean of anything that may be valuable to the enemy.

Kuritas Formation in the Palawan Passage

Composition of Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet.
We should have a look in some detail at the composition of Halsey's Third Fleet, so that it is clear what ships the Admiral had at his command to take on Kurita's Fleet that had turned westwards to regroup after tangling with the two US Submarines Darter and Dace.

American Third Fleet.

Admiral William Halsey in command in the battleship, New Jersey.

This huge fleet in the main was made up by Task Force 38, under the command of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher in the Fleet Carrier Lexington.

TF38, was known as the Fast Carrier Force, made up by 8 Fleet Carriers, 9 Light Carriers, 8 Battleships, 6 Heavy Cruisers, 9 Light Cruisers, and 59 Destroyers.

In turn, it broke down into 4 distinct Task Groups:-

Task Group One, or TG 38.1.
With Vice Admiral John McCain in command in the Fleet Carrier Wasp.

He had 3 Fleet Carriers, 2 Light Carriers, 4 Heavy Cruisers, 2 AA Light Cruisers, and 14 Destroyers.

Task Group Two or TG 38.2.
With Rear Admiral Gerald Bogan in command in the Fleet Carrier Intrepid.

He had 1 Fleet Carrier, 2 Light Carriers, 2 Battleships, 3 Light Cruisers and 16 Destroyers.

Task Group Three or TG 38.3.
With Rear Admiral Frederick Sherman in command in the Fleet Carrier Essex.

He had 2 Fleet Carriers, 2 Light Carriers, 2 Battleships, 3 Light Cruisers, 1 AA Light Cruiser and 17 Destroyers.

Task Group Four or TG 38.4.
Rear Admiral Ralph Davison in command in the Fleet Carrier Franklin.

He had 2 Fleet Carriers, 2 Light Carriers, 2 Battleships, 2 Heavy Cruisers, and 11 Destroyers.

Halsey decides to sent off two groups to Ulithi to restore and rearm.
On the 22nd. of October, Halsey with somewhat unfortunate timing, decided to detach two of his Task Groups, namely:- Davison's TG 38.4 and McCains TG 38.12, ordering them to proceed to the US Fleet Base at Ulithi, to both restore and rearm their ships.

When Darter sent off her enemy report to Halsey that they were in contact with Admiral Kurita's Central Force, the Third Fleet Commander ordered Davison to about turn and bring his group back to rejoin him, but he allowed McCain's Task Group to continue on to Ulithi. TG 38.1 with 3 Fleet Carriers and 2 Light Carriers was by far the strongest of all the 4 Carrier Groups.

Halsey's decision to detach the two groups, but recall one, robbed the Third Fleet of almost 40% of its air power.

Kurita takes his Central Force Eastwards into the Palawan Passage.
The Japanese Admiral having regrouped after losing three cruisers from his force now entered the Palawan Passage aiming to pass through the San Bernadino Strait, sail down the east side of the Island of Samar, and set upon the American invasion force in Leyte Gulf.

On the 24th. of October, carrier aircraft from the Third Fleet found this large Japanese force, Bogan's Task Group was the closest to the enemy, his group also was the smallest, with one Fleet Carrier Intrepid and two Light Carriers.

The most northern of the Carrier groups was Sherman's TG 38.3, it was now heavily attacked by Japanese bombers land based on Luzon, three separate raids, each of which contained 50/60 incoming bombers. Although both the US carriers fighters and AA fire put up a valiant defence, one enemy dive bomber broke through, hitting the Light Carrier Princeton with a bomb, causing fires and a subsequent explosion in her torpedo stowage, and resulting in her abandonment.

The cruiser Birmingham alongside rendering assistance was caught up in the explosion, and suffered horrendous crew casualities. Six separate waves of US carrier aircraft pounded Kurita's ships inflicting major damage on his force.

Musashi, a sister ship to the mighty Yamato was pounded by successive waves of US carrier borne aircraft, a number of torpedo hits slowed her down , she dropped astern to become even more vulnerable, until finally at 1935 ( 7.35 PM ) she capsized and sank, reportedly hit by 10 bombs and up to 19 torpedoes.

Kurita could ill afford to lose one of his premier battleships, his pride already severely dented by having to swim for it after Darter sank his flagship under him. The heavy cruiser Myoko was forced to retire having taken a torpedo hit, several other of this group were hit by bombs by managed to stay and keep up with the force.

Although Kurita when attacked had turned away, he now resumed a course for San Bernadino Strait, still with a formidable fleet of 4 Battleships, 6 Heavy Cruisers, 2 Light Cruisers and about 12 Destroyers.

His Commander- in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Toyoda sent Kurita a signal:-

"All forces will dash to the attack, trusting in divine assistance."

Something even more was going to be needed for Admiral Kurita and his ships!

But what about the Southern Japanese force?
Two separate groups, one with two old Battleships under Nishimura, and a smaller one under Shima were making for the Suriago Strait area in an attempt to fall upon the US invasion ships.

American aircraft had sighted both these groups on the morning of the 24th. of October, it was believed that the Seventh Fleet had sufficient muscle to deal with them in due course.

Halsey makes momentous decision to go after the Japanese Northern Force.
Some historians name it as Halsey's Blunder. The Third Fleet was the stopper, plugging the outlet from San Bernadino Strait. The Japanese decoy Northern Force had not been found by US ships until late on the 24th. of October, but one of its aircraft had sighted Sherman's Task Group Three at 0820 ( 8.20 AM ) that morning, and at 1125 ( 11.25 AM ) Ozawa launched from his carriers a strike of 76 aircraft, it however did not inflict any damage on the US ships.

The Japanese pilots were so inept, they failed to return to their mother ships, and landed on airfields in Luzon.

Now at last, at 1540 ( 3.40 PM ) on the 24th. of October, Halsey knew where Ozawa's battleships were located, an hour later, one of his search aircraft found the Japanese carriers.

Halsey decides.
It was now, that Halsey made up his mind to take the bait of the Japanese decoy force led down from the North by Admiral Ozawa, it was too tempting a target to miss. Having found the Japanese carriers which he felt were the main threat to the invasion force at Leyte Gulf, Admiral Bull Halsey also believed them to be the main prize which he desperately wanted to claim for himself.

He now decided to take all Three Task Groups away from their blocking and support role, outside San Bernadino Strait, he ordered all his carriers plus their supporting 6 fast battleships to steam northwards to intercept Ozawa's force, and in daylight hours of the 25th. of October, and annihilate them all.

Halsey took no steps at all to protect the Seventh Fleet from the onrushing Japanese Central Force steaming for the exit at San Bernandino Strait.

Vice Admiral Kinkaid in Command of the Seventh Fleet totally uninformed of Halsey's move.
Worse still, Halsey did not bother to inform Kinkaid he was leaving his invasion force bereft of any protection from his Third Fleet.

At 2022 ( 8.22 PM ) on the 24th. of October, Kinkaid had picked up a signal from Halsey to his Task Group Commanders indicating that he, as commander of the Third Fleet was going North with the three carrier Groups to take on the enemy Northern force.

An earlier radio intercept by the Seventh Fleet had outlined a plan from Halsey to form Task Group 34, a powerful group to include the Third Fleet 6 fast battleships to be commanded by Vice Admiral Willis Lee. It was reasonable for Kinkaid and his staff to presume that this "Task Force 34 will be formed "signal, meant they would become the guardians of the San Bernandino Strait gate, they also assumed that the Three Groups mentioned by Halsey referred to the Three Carrier Groups.

Not in Kinkaid's wildest dreams did he ever consider the exit from San Bernandino Strait would be left totally unguarded, with not even a warning picket destroyer sitting on watch. So, Vice Admiral Kinkaid went blissfully on planning to meet the envisaged threat from the Japanese Southern force expected in Suriago Strait.

The Seventh Fleet.
Let us look at what forces Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid actually had at his disposal.

The Admiral used as his flagship, the amphibious command ship Wasatch.

All up, the Seventh Fleet numbered some 738 ships, many of whom were amphibious warfare vessels, these divided into 2 groups - the Northern Attack Force, TF 78, commanded by Rear Admiral Daniel Barbey, and the Southern Attack Force, TF 79, under Vice Admiral T.S. Wilkinson.

The 7th. Fleet Bombardment and Fire Support Group.
Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf in command with the heavy cruiser USS Louisville his flagship.

This group of 6 older Battleships, many survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 4 Heavy Cruisers *( including the Royal Australian Navy HMAS Shropshire ) 4 Light Cruisers, * and 29 Destroyers. ( including the Royal Australian Navy Tribal HMAS Arunta.)

* Note : The difference between a Heavy and a Light Cruiser, is that the former mounts 8 inch guns throwing a 256 pound shell, whilst the latter mounts 6 inch guns, with a shell weight of but 100 pounds.

HMA Ships, Shropshire and Australia taken from USS Phoenix at Leyte in 1944.
Of course Phoenix became the Argentinian General Belgrano, to be sunk by the
British Submarine HMS Conquerer, in the Falklands war.
Peter Flavahin kindly sent it to me.

Escort Carrier Group TG 77.4

Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague in the Escort Carrier Sangamon.

Task Unit 77.4.1 Taffy One.

6 Escort Carriers and 7 Destroyers.

Task Unit 77.4.2 Taffy Two.

Rear Admiral Felix Stump in Escort Carrier Natome Bay.

6 Escort Carriers including Ommaney Bay,* and 8 Destroyers.

* Note: This carrier was amongst the invading force for Lingayen Gulf, on the 4th. of January 1945, when but a few miles from my ship HMAS Shropshire, which I had joined in the previous November, was hit by a single Japanese Kamikaze aircraft crashing into the flight deck. It penetrated through to the Hangar, starting a tremendous fire, and the ship had to be abandoned. One of our destroyers fired a torpedo to sink her that evening, there was a colossal explosion, and an amazing fire ball engulfed the wreck, which quickly sank.

It was my first experience of a Kamikaze attack and its deadly result.

Task Unit 77.4.3 Taffy Three.
Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague in the Escort Carrier Fanshaw Bay.

6 Escort Carriers and 7 Destroyers.

The Battle of Suriago Strait.
Vice Admiral Nishimina's force made up of 2 old Battleships, Yamashiro and Fuso, the Heavy Cruiser Mogami and 4 Destroyers Mishishio, Asagumo, Yamagumo and Shigure, had entered the Mindano Sea and were steaming towards the exit of Suriago Strait, it had been planned that Vice Admiral Shima would follow on with his 2 Heavy Cruisers, 1 Light Cruiser, and 4 attendant Destroyers.

Jesse Oldendorf had been ordered by Kinkaid to put his force plus 39 PT Boats in place, to prevent the Japanese ships from moving through Suriago Strait whence they could attack the landings on the beaches at Leyte. These PT Boats were spread out covering a large area, 15 in the north, 15 in the centre and the remaining 9 cruising south of the Strait.

Chart of Battle of Suriago Strait

The destroyers were closest to the Strait exit, with the 6 old Battleships, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Maryland, behind the Destroyer screen, but able to fire over the top of them. On the right flank were the Cruisers, HMAS Shropshire, Phoenix, and Boise with Rear Admiral Berkley commanding, on the left flank, the cruiser Louisville with the flag of Rear Admiral Oldendorf, plus the cruisers, Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, and Columbia.

In addition, to the east of Leyte were a number of Destroyer Squadrons on patrol, Desron 54 with 5 DD's, Desron 24 with 6 DD's, including HMAS Arunta, Des Div Xray with 5 DD's, Desron 56, 9 DD's, plus a final 3 Destroyers.

It was anticipated that the outlying PT Boats would be the first units to sight the approaching Japanese force, and would raise the alarm.

Nishimura's Southern Force had been sighted by carrier aircraft and attacked, some minor damage had been inflicted on the Battleship Fuso, and an escorting Destroyer, but not sufficient to prevent them from maintaining their place in the line.

The Japanese line of command was not clear cut, although overall command was vested in Admiral S. Toyodo based ashore, Nashimura of the Southern Force C reported to Vice Admiral Kurita of Southern Command, and Shima commanding the 2nd. Strike force was responsible to Vice Admiral of the South West Command of the 5th. Fleet.

He was in fact senior to Nashimura, who had the Battleships in his charge, whilst Shima had to be content with the Cruiser force. There appeared to be no coordination between the two ship groups as they proceeded toward Surigao Strait.

The Japanese plan had Nishimura arriving off the invasion beaches at 0500 ( 5 AM ) on the 25th. of October, to destroy MacArthur's landings, and Shuma was scheduled to arrive an hour later with his Cruisers to finish the job. The two groups had not worked together before, and already Shuma was two hours behind Nashimura's force, it did not look good for them.

At about 2215 ( 10.15 PM ) PT Boats 130, 131, and 152 loosed their torpedoes at the Japanese fleet, without any tangible result. PT 152 was hit by a shell from a Japanese Destroyer, putting her radio out of action, and delaying the relay of an enemy report to Oldendorf.

The US Battle fleet stood off Suriago Strait waiting to execute their commanding Admiral's plan, to put into effect of crossing the "T" used by Lord Nelson to defeat the enemy ships as they sailed in line ahead to be cut off, and then be destroyed by our broadsides, and in fact limit the nunber of guns the enemy could bring to bear on the Allied ships. Ships on the right flank were steaming at only 10 knots, the PT Boats were still in action, and the northern cruisers could see searchlights in action.

At 0026. ( 0.26 AM ) Oldendorf finally learned that the Japanese ships were moving through Suriago Straits, but it took until 0215 ( 2.15 AM ) for the radar operators in Shropshire to detect Nashimura's Fleet at a range of 20 miles. The destroyers moved in at 30/35 knots, closing to only 4.3 miles before 47 torpedoes were on their way, hits were claimed. One on the Battleship Yamashiro, but she kept on steaming, two hits on the Battleship Fuso, stopped her, Yamagama was sunk, Mishishio stopped, and Asagumo had her bows blown off.

It was now Shima's fleet's turn to face the wrath of the Allied destroyers, just after 0325 ( 3.25 AM ) Desron 24, which included HMAS Arunta launched a torpedo attack, and turned away.

About 0338 ( 3.38 AM ) the Fuso blew up and broke in two, the main Battlefleet was about to let loose, and Arunta was warned "To get the hell, out of there" as she was in the line of fire and in extreme danger.

At 0353 ( 3.53 AM ) all hell broke loose, the 6 US Battleships opened fire at 11 miles range, the 4 heavy Cruisers, the 4 light cruisers all joined in. Shropshire opened fire at a range of 9 miles, closing in to 7 miles. Hundreds of tons of both armour piercing and high explosive shells were poured into the Japanese Fleet. Shropshire alone fired 32 by 8 inch gun broadsides, over the space of just over 12 minutes and 40 seconds, playing her part in assisting to sink the Battleship Yamashiro.

Mogami became a blazing wreck, but the Destroyer Shigura somehow survived. Nishimura had perished with his ship. Asukuma in Suma's formation had been torpedoed, and the Admiral decided to retire, but his Flagship collided with the blazing Mogami, and became badly damaged.
Aircraft from the 7th. Fleet carriers finally disposed of the burning Mogami.

At 0721 ( 7.21 AM ) the Asagumo who had her bow blown away was sunk, and now Odendorf called off his light forces from the chase of harrying fleeing Japanese ships.

The Battle of Suriago Strait was finally over, Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf and his ships had scored a resounding victory.

In hindsight it became the last great sea battle of all time, never to have a surface to surface fight between Battleships slugging it out ever again.

HISTORY HAD INDEED BEEN WRITTEN AT SURIAGO STRAIT!

Leyte Gulf Track Chart at an important phase

Battle off Cape Engano.
Engano is a Spanish word stemming from enganar, meaning to be fooled. That is exactly what the Japanese Admiral Ozawa had in mind when he lured Halsey and his Third Fleet away from their watch off San Bernandino Strait, he dangled his carriers in the face of Admiral Halsey, it was too much, and too good for him not to go after them with every ship in his fleet.

Ozawa's 4 carriers were virtually without aircraft to either operate a protective CAP or
take on any offensive role. When the US carrier aircraft finally found the Japanese carriers and accompanying ships, the destruction of the carriers was but a matter of time. All 4, Zuiho, Zuikaku, Chiyoda and Chitose, plus a cruiser and 2 destroyers were sent to the bottom.

The Japanese Admiral Ozawa did survive, really the only enemy Admiral at Leyte to achieve his objective, and be able to hold his head up high.

Battle off Samar.
But back to Leyte and the beaches.

By the morning of the 25th. of October, 114,000 US troops had swarmed ashore on the Leyte beaches, and about 200,000 tons of supplies had been put ashore. Many of the empty transport ships had left the area, but many more with their full loads were milling around in the vicinity of the landing area.

Taffy Three patrolled off the east coast of Samar in support of the troops that had landed at Leyte. At 0630 ( 6.30 AM ) Kurita and his Centre Force had burst through the San Bernandino Strait and were on a course of 170 degrees, heading for the landing beaches, but expecting to run into Halsey's Third Fleet.

Lookouts in the Battleship Yamato's crows nest sighted mastheads, and thought they belonged to Carriers from the Third Fleet, never before had they seen mastheads of escort carriers, Kurita was unaware he had run into Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's Taffy Three Group, 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers, and 4 destroyer escorts. Indeed a rather puny match for his force.

Chart showing Kurita's force about to fall on Taffy Three in the Battle off Samar

The Yamato's 18 inch main armament fired at the American ships, to splash dangerously close to the flagship Fanshaw Bay, his lookouts reported pagoda type masts, and Sprague knew he was in diabolical trouble, Japanese Battleships had his force under fire. Kinkaid sent off frantic messages to Halsey:-

"Urgently need fast BB's Leyte Gulf at once.", at 0900 ( 9 AM ) another was despatched:-

"Our CVE's being attacked by 4 BB's, 8 cruisers, plus others. Request Lee cover Leyte at top speed. Request fast Carriers make immediate air strikes."

Halsey responded including where his forces were at the time, to tell Kinkaid his assistance was not possible as his Fleet were too far north, as he had cleared off after Ozawa. In sheer desperation Kinkaid had sent off an uncoded message, ie in plain language.

By now Halsey was seriously alarmed, but now his boss Admiral Chester Nimitz chimed in with:-

"TURKEY TROTS TO WATER GG WHERE IS RPT ( repeat ) WHERE IS TASK FORCE 34 RR THE WORLD WONDERS."

Now when sending a coded message it was standard practice to preface and end a message with a nonsense phrase. Hence the beginning " Turkey Trots To Water" and " The World Wonders" ending. Normally the person decoding messages would delete both start and ending nonsense sentences, but apparently the signalman doing this job inadvertently left the last phrase "THE WORLD WONDERS." still in the signal given to Halsey. He reportedly became very angry, tearing off his cap, and throwing it on the deck of his bridge, but having taken the decision to chase after Ozawa, he and his Third Fleet were stranded, miles to the north, unable to offer any help to Kinkaid and his forces at Leyte. His 6 fast Battleships were despatched at speed to the south, but arrived a day after the Japanese had departed, too late to be of any use.

By sending off his battleships, they could not chase, catch, and destroy Ozawa's battleships, they thus missed out at both ends. If Halsey had but stayed on guard off San Bernandino Straits, there seems little doubt he could have clobbered Kurita's battleships.

Now! Follow this link http://www.odyssey.dircon.uk/Halsey_decision.htm to read all about HALSEY"S DECISION, from the US Navy Official History by Samuel Elliott Morison.

With the help of smoke from his destroyers and a fortutious rain squall, Taffy Three hid briefly. Between the Jeep aircraft and torpedo attacks by the destroyers the Japanese were mauled, but at a high price. Hoel, Johnston, and Roberts, plus the Escort Carrier Gambier Bay were all sunk, and the remaining 4 destroyers were all badlky damaged.

In turn Kurita's force lost, heavy cruisers Suzyo, Chikuma, and Chokai, and Kumano severely severely damaged.

At 0923 ( 9.23 AM ) when Taffy Two showed up, Kurita unexpectedly turned to the north and disengaged.

At last The Battle of Leyte Gulf was all over, the landing beaches safe, and General MacArthur had "INDEED RETURNED."

Acknowledgement.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my personal debt to a number of sources about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, they sailed the dangerous and often rough seas around the Philippines long before my clumsy attempt to navigate them.

  • John DiGiantomasso who readily agreed to my request to make use of his charts, and set me out on my first course.
  • The sitehttp://www.odyssey.discon.uk/Halsey_decision.htm gave me a feeling of the magnitude of Halsey's decision to leave San Bernandino Strait unguarded and chase north after Ozawa's ships.
  • The monumental work of S. E. Morison's: History of US Naval Operations in WW2, VolumeXII, Leyte. is a reference anyone contemplating studying these battles must read. His diagrams depicting phases of these engagements brought a clarity for me to often here to fore confused scenarios.
  • The Leyte Gulf track chart at an important stage is drawn from Winston S Churchill's Second World War, Cassell, London, 1954.
  • Stan Nicholls, a former shipmate, whose book HMAS Shropshire, includes a personal account of the Battle of Sureiagio Strait, in which the ship played an important role. I joined her immediately after her return to Manus from the Leyte landings, to spend almost 2 happy years in the best ship I ever sailed in, with a great company.
  • To many who have ventured here before me, I offer my sincere THANK YOU!
  • To conclude, I must add my thanks to Terry Kearns from Atlanta Georgia, who nurses and manages my site, without his expertise and dedication, Ahoy. Mac's Web Log would not be possible.

Mackenzie J. Gregory, Melbourne, Australia. 16th. of May 2003.

This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.


The Japanese Operational Plan

Vice Admiral Ozawa, with four aircraft carriers and a dozen other ships, would come down from the North and draw off the main American covering force. Meanwhile two powerful battleship forces would penetrate the Central Philippines and then converge on the invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf.

The southern and weaker of these battleship forces, commanded by Rear Admiral Nishimura, would penetrate through Surigao Strait just south of Leyte. The more powerful of the two battleship forces, the Central Force under the command of Vice Admiral Kurita, containing five battleships including the giant Yamato and Musashi ( the largest warships in the world ), 10 heavy and 2 light cruisers, and 15 destroyers, would penetrate through San Bernadino Strait, sail down the coast of Samar, and fall on the American invasion fleet from the north-east.

The American Forces - Third and Seventh Fleets

The landing forces for the Leyte operation were organised under Vice Admiral Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet. This consisted of 738 vessels, of many different types, including a powerful force of cruisers and old battleships as well as a large number of destroyers. Seventh Fleet was intended to be covered and supported by US Third Fleet under Admiral Halsey. Halsey's fleet came under Admiral Nimitz' Central Pacific command, while the Seventh Fleet came under General Macarthur's Southwest Pacific Forces. There was thus no overall naval commander during the campaign, which almost inevitably led to great confusion in the forthcoming battle, and in the event nearly led to a strategic disaster for the Allies.

Comparative Strength of the Opposing Naval Forces
The table below shows the huge numerical superiority enjoyed by US naval and air forces.
However, it should be noted that these forces had to cover the invasion fleet and the US land forces ashore, and that in addition the Japanese were able to deploy some hundreds of land-based aircraft against the American fleet. On the other hand, the table does not take account of the disparity in quality of the opposing forces, in particular the great qualitative superiority - at this stage of the war - of the US aircraft and aircrew. This and their overall advantage in numbers of aircraft conferred overwhelming air superiority on the Allied fleet - and this air superiority was to prove the decisive factor in the coming battle.
Navy Large carriers Small Carriers Aircraft Embarked Battleships Cruisers Destroyers
United States 8 24 1712 12 24 141
Japan 1 3 117 9 20 34


Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23-26, 1944

[October 23, 2013] The Battle of Leyte Gulf, formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of WWII and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.

Today I’m honoring those who fought so valiantly in this most important naval battle.

Also, happy belated birthday to the U.S. Navy, having been established on October 13, 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress.

The feature image photograph is “The Battle Line” from Life Magazine

The photograph on this page is of the light aircraft carrier Princeton on fire, east of Luzon, 24 October 1944.

For the best book available is by Thomas J. Cutler. The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD, 1994.

There are some good, but not great “Battles for Leyte Gulf” websites available for viewing.

Here are two with good information:

The first is the U.S. Department of Defense (some good links at the bottom of the main page):

Probably the best website on the battle is privately maintained by Mr. Ken Friedman:


The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944







The last great surface fleet action began with the Japanese decsion to counter MacArthur's amphibious landing on Leyte in the Philippines. Splitting their fleet and using their suddenly impotent carrier force to lure Halsey's American carriers away from the scene, the Japanese fleet met the Americans in an epic four-day running battle, very well set out in Thomas Cutler's book The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944 and in James D. Hornfischer's The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour .

All the elements of war are present - the "fog" caused by missed communications, misunderstood communications and human failings and yet, out of chaos, came victory for the Americans.

One Japanese fleet sails into the narrow Surigao Strait and finds an American force waiting with mines, torpedo boats and a classic "crossing the T" force of battleships. The "Battle of Surigao Strait" is the last surface action of big gun ships in history.

A second Japanese force exits San Bernandino Strait and runs into a rag-tag collection of Escort carriers and gets engaged by little destroyer escorts and the "Taffys" - an engagement so furious that the Japanese mistook the escorts for cruisers and the escort carriers for Halsey's fleet.

Out of the smoke of battle come the great ships and crews who refused to give up the fight in the "Battle of Samar". The "small boys" -destroyers and destroyer escorts Samuel B. Roberts , Hoel , Heermann and Johnston fought a furious rear-guard action to allow their slow escort carriers to attempt a run to safety. Hoel sunk. Roberts sunk. Johnston sunk. But only after attacking and attacking and weaving their way back to the attack against faster, bigger and better armed ships. Stinging the Japanese ships and slowing their advance as they tried to figure out what they were dealing with. And the pilots of Navy planes, simulating strafing runs without ammunition.

The courage of the Americans causes the Japanese to withdraw, never to pose a serious threat to the US Navy again.

Days to remember and to honor those who fought and died in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Good summary here. Army view here. Info on USS Johnston (DD-557) here. Hoel here. Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) here. Gambier Bay here. St Lo here.

Medal of Honor citation for CDR Earnest Evans, CO of Johnston reads:

UPDATE: Added information about the loss of USS St Lo, sunk by a Kamikaze on October 25, 1944.


The Battle of Leyte Gulf : 23-26 October 1944

The last great naval battle of World War II, Leyte Gulf also is remembered as the biggest naval battle ever fought anywhere, and this book has been called the best account of it ever written. First published in hardcover on the battle's fiftieth anniversary in 1994 and drawing on materials not previously available, it blends history with human drama to give a real sense of what happened--despite the mammoth scope of the battle. Every facet of naval warfare was involved in the struggle that engaged some two hundred thousand men and 282 American, Japanese, and Australian ships over more than a hundred thousand square miles of sea. That Tom Cutler succeeded at such a difficult task is no surprise. The award-winning author saw combat service aboard many types of ships during his naval career, and as a historian and professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College, he has studied the battle for many years.

Cutler captures the milieu, analyzes the strategy and tactics employed, and re-creates the experiences of the participants--from seaman to admiral, both Japanese and American. It is a story replete with awe-inspiring heroism, failed intelligence, flawed strategy, brilliant deception, great controversies, and a cast of characters with names like Halsey, Nimitz, Ozawa, and MacArthur. Such an exciting and revealing account of the battle is unlikely to be equaled by future writers.

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf is usually described as the largest naval battle in history.* For the American navy, it opened an era of dominance that lasts until the present day. For the Imperial Japanese . Читать весь отзыв

THE BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF: 23-26 October 1944

In this compelling account, retired combat veteran Cutler (Strategy/US Naval Academy Brown Water, Black Berets, 1988) offers balanced criticism and praise of the American performance in a critical WW . Читать весь отзыв


Battle of Leyte Gulf

On October 23, 1944, the Allies launched the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific.

Ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they invaded the Philippines. Months earlier, General Douglas MacArthur had been called out of his retirement to command U.S. Army forces there. Following that invasion, he and his men retreated to the Bataan Peninsula and later Corregidor.

U.S. #1424 was issued on MacArthur’s 91st birthday.

By February 1942, the situation was bleak and President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave for Australia. Forced to leave his men behind, MacArthur did as he was ordered, but promised, “I shall return.” The 70,000 American and Philippine men he left behind were captured that April and taken on a lengthy death march that claimed thousands of their lives. After Corregidor surrendered a month later, the Philippines were in complete Japanese control.

U.S. #1869 – Admiral Chester Nimitz helped plan the battle.

At first, the Allies had no immediate plans to liberate the Philippines. But by 1944, campaigns in New Guinea and the Central Pacific brought MacArthur’s forces within striking distance of the Philippines.

Item #4902610 – Leyte Gulf proof card picturing Admiral William Halsey, who commanded the Third Fleet there.

Following extensive debate, Allied leaders decided to liberate the Philippines in late 1944. Expecting fierce fighting from the Japanese, the Allies assembled the largest landing force ever used in a Pacific campaign – more than 750 ships participated in the invasion. Fulfilling his promise “I shall return,” MacArthur waded ashore at Palo beach on October 20, 1944. It had taken MacArthur more than two and a half years and many brutal battles to keep his pledge made at Corregidor.

In response, the Japanese developed a plan, Sho-Go 1, which would split their Navy into four forces. The Center Force began battle with Allied ships on October 23 at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, losing three ships.

The next day, the Southern Force met the Allies in the Suriago Strait, losing three more ships and being forced to withdraw. American Admiral William Halsey watched as Japanese ships left the strait and followed, leaving the landings at Leyte unprotected. This was the Japanese plan all along.

Item #M94-9 – Leyte Gulf first day postal card.

After sinking another four Japanese ships, Halsey learned of the critical state at Leyte and quickly retuned. Though the Japanese had a larger force, they retreated, fearing potential attacks by American aircraft. In the end, the Japanese lost 27 ships, more than 10,000 sailors, and most of their airplanes. The battle marked the Japanese Navy’s last large-scale operation. Despite Japan’s new strategy, the battle ended in a major victory for the United States. The Japanese Navy had been crushed, leaving Japan unprotected and exposed to an assault.

U.S. #PH486 – Philippines stamps were overprinted “Victory” in the months following the liberation.

The Battle for Leyte Gulf is often considered the greatest naval battle in history. In a desperate last effort to win the war, the Japanese unleashed a terrifying new weapon – kamikazes – suicide pilots who would crash planes filled with explosives onto Allied warships. Before the war ended they had sunk or damaged over 300 U.S. ships.

Click here to see lots of photos from the Philippine Campaign and Leyte Gulf.


Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944 - History

Map Description
History Map of WWII: the Pacific 1944

The Western Pacific, New Guinea, and the Philippine Islands

The Invasion of Leyte (King II)
October 17-20, 1944

The Battle of Leyte Gulf
October 23-26, 1944



Credits
Courtesy of the United States Military Academy Department of History.


Sidelights of the 75th Anniversary of the Leyte Landings: a Japanese Officer who became an unlikely hero of Dulag, Leyte

The author, German Palabyab flanked by Australian Ambassador James Stevens Robinson and his wife Rhonda at the Price Mansion.

The ground zero of the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Leyte Landings last October 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2019 were naturally at Palo, Dulag and Tacloban City, Leyte. The official celebration was generally low-key with the absence the Guest of Honor, His Excellency President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who was represented by Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, National Security Adviser. The Embassy of the United States of America had a modest official delegation led by Mr. John C. Law, Charge D’Affaires instead of a more ranking diplomat considering the major role of the US in the historic event being commemorated. Other than His Excellency, Steven James Robinson, who is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, and His Excellencies, Jose Gaspar Dos Reis Correia Piadade, Ambassador of Timor-Este, and Songkalenuangmuninthone, Ambassador of Laos, all the other members of the Diplomatic Corp who attended were of lesser ranks like Minister Yasushi Yamamoto, Charge D’affaires, Embassy of Japan, Mr. Sigit Himawab, Defense Attaché’, Embassy of Indonesia, and Mr. Nguyen Thai Giang, Second Secretary Embassy of Vietnam. The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office was represented by USEC Ernesto Carolina, Administrator while nonagenarian Justice Manuel Pamaran, President of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines represented all the Philippine War Veterans.

Mr. Ota telling the true-to-life story of Captain Yamazoe, a beloved officer and a gentleman who commanded the Dulag Garrison from May 1942 until July 1944 just before the Leyte Landings drove them out of Dulag. His story was fictionalized in the book.

No wonder, Mr. German P. Palabyab, educator, economist, retired career government service officer, journalist and author of “The Saga of Leyte Gulf”, historical fiction chose the 75th Anniversary of the Leyte landings as his venue to launch his historical fiction last October 18 and 19, 2019 in Palo and Tacloban City. According to Mr. Palabyab, he wrote the historical fiction to focus the attention of the rest of the world, the Millennial and Post-millennial Filipino-Americans towards the importance of the Leyte landings and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in altering the course of history and paving the way for the end of world War II.

At the historic Price Mansion, the seat of the restored Commonwealth government of the Philippines and the command post of General Douglas McArthur after the landings in October 20, 1944, along Justice Romualdez Avenue, Tacloban City , “The Saga of Leyte Gulf” was launch publicly on October 19, 2019, , in honor of the oldest living war veterans, the uniformed men and women of the Philippine Armed Forces, the JCI members, guest and dignitaries headed by His Excellency, Steven James Robinson, Ambassador of Australia and his wife, and other representatives of Tingog Party List and Sangyaw Foundation.

The book was likewise launched at the Live Free Symposium at the Leyte Academic Center in Palo Leyte. This was an even more appropriate venue for the second public introduction of the historical fiction because the author was asked to talk on the significance of the Leyte Landings, the Battle of Leyte Gulf and their impact in shaping the history of the Philippines and its people. The book actually went beyond describing the historical events in Leyte by tracing the beginnings of Filipino immigration to the US in the 1930s and the difficult journey to their empowerment in the 1990s, through its fictional characters.

The bonus was the dinner hosted by Mayor Alfred Romualdez at Patio Victoria in San Jose, Tacloban City in honor of the delegation from the City of Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Japan, their sister city, led by Assemblyman Yusuke Ota. Mr. Ota upon receipt of his complimentary copy of “The Saga of Leyte Gulf” was almost emotional in expressing his gratitude as he related the remarkable true-story of Captain Isao Yamazoe, who was fictionalized in the book. It turned out that he personally traced the family of Captain Yamazoe in Japan, met an 85-year old lady almost ten years ago in Dulag, who relayed to him first-hand the story of Captain Yamazoe. Mr. Ota brought the grand-son of Captain Yamazoe to Tacloban and Dulag and has been bringing Japanese pilgrims from Fukuyama City to Capoocan and Dulag during the last ten years, to pay homage to the almost six-thousand soldiers (who were mostly from Fukuyama) who died in a single bloody engagement in Capoocan, Leyte at the Battle of Breakneck Ridge. This was a highly documented encounter during the liberation of Leyte in history books and of course fictionalized at “The Saga of Leyte Gulf”.

Assemblyman Yusuke Ota of Fukuyama City receives a copy of The Saga of Leyte Gulf at the dinner reception held in their honor at Patio Victoria on October 20, 2019.

The author is now more convinced that the timely launch of his book will facilitate more interest and story-telling to stress the importance of the Leyte landings and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in world history in general. CNN, the BBC and the American networks extensively covered the 75th Anniversary of the landings at Normandy, France.

The uniformed men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the author, and two UP Sigma Deltan guests (Queenie Alvarez, left, the author, and Hazel Madamba from Washington D.C.) at the Price Mansion event.


The Battle of Leyte Gulf at 75: A Retrospective

LCDR Thomas J. Cutler, USN (Ret.) is perhaps the leading authority on the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He has been reading, analyzing, and writing about this epic encounter for many decades. In 1994, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary, he authored The Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944.

During his over two decades-long military career, Cutler did a tour in Vietnam, served in several types of warships, and completed nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy (as a senior lecturer and associate chairman of the history department). He is an accomplished author of numerous books and scholarly articles. In addition, he is a recipient of several awards, including the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year (2004) and the Naval War College Distinguished Fleet Professor Award (2019). He is the Gordon England Chair of Professional Naval Literature at the Naval Institute.

Readers may be pleasantly surprised to learn Cutler’s most recent book, The Battle of Leyte Gulf at 75: A Retrospective, is not just an updated and polished version of his previous volume. Instead, the current edition is an anthology, compiled and edited by Cutler. He contributed a general introduction as well as prefaces to both major parts of the book. Cutler also submitted two articles and the epitaph.

The book is divided into two main sections: Part I.: “Original Essays” and Part II.: “The Archives.” In the first section, Cutler notes “eleven eminent historians have contributed original essays … each offering a unique perspective” (p. 15). The essays comprise over half the book and present various viewpoints on specific aspects of the battle. This sort of collection is not available in a traditional history. Cutler concedes he gave each essayist cart blanche. As a result, the essays can be “eclectic” and “random” (pp. 12+15). Nevertheless, the observations are quite informative and edifying. For example, essayist A. Denis Clift, in “Leyte Gulf Reminiscences,” tapped the extensive, oral history holdings at the Naval Institute for such gems as CAPT Robert E. Dornin’s “King Bawls Out Halsey.” Dornin’s recollection stands in contrast with Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey’s account that CNO Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King told him “’You’ve got a green light on everything you did’” (p. 305). Readers, hoping to learn VADM Willis A. Lee’s reaction to the battleship-centered Task Four 34 not being formed earlier, can turn to Paul Stillwell’s “’Where Is Task Force 34?’: The Frustration of Admiral Lee.”

“The Archives” include thirteen submissions which were originally published in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings or Naval History. Articles in “The Archives” present readers with viewpoints of several participants in the battle, most especially Fleet Admiral Halsey, VADM Jesse B. Oldendorf, RADM Tomiji Koyanagi, and ADM James L. Holloway III, as well as from historians and experts.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf encompassed four major engagements: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar. Cutler notes, while he generally discourages his students from using superlatives, they certainly apply to this battle. Words such as gargantuan, greatest, most multifaceted, epic, landmark, and more are appropriate. While it was a great American victory – the Imperial Japanese Navy would not be able to assemble an effective force thereafter – it was tainted with “embarrassing errors” and mired in controversy (pp. 117, 288, 337).

Cutler identifies elements of the battle which stand out: its size, the possibility it may have been the world’s last great fleet engagement, the controversy about ADM Halsey’s “Bull’s Run,” VADM Takeo Kurita’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and the bravery of sailors and aviators at the Battle off Samar (p. 2).

James D. Hornfischer, in his essay, wrote, Kurita’s Center Force was “routed by pygmies and turn[ed] for home.” “But the final legacy of the Battle off Samar should be one of appreciation and inspiration, not recrimination” (pp. 192-93). This kind of crisp and incisive writing can be found throughout the book.

Cutler notes, quite correctly, both novices and scholars have much to gain by reading this volume. However, the former may want to read Cutler’s earlier book or one of the more than twenty other full-length treatments of this complicated and overlapping battle before proceeding to his 2019 publication. In addition, the composition of this volume lends itself to a fair amount of repetition, as contributors – of necessity – had to put their essays in context. A formal bibliography and index would have been helpful, though chapter endnotes provide a wealth of information, as do the maps and pictures.

In this collection, Cutler observed each new book on the epic Battle of Leyte Gulf “is only able to contribute without ever finalizing” (p. 2). If Cutler’s book is not the final word, it certainly is an outstanding contribution to the historiography on this subject. This anthology has added significantly to the ongoing debate about this landmark, but controversial battle. It provides a much better understanding of not only what happened and what might have been at Leyte Gulf in October 1944, but also why. Cutler’s The Battle of Leyte Gulf at 75: A Retrospective will take pride of place alongside his earlier 1994 publication on the bookshelf of any serious student or scholar of World War II in the Pacific.

[Editor’s Note: In 2018, a year before LCDR Cutler’s book was published, Mr. Calouro proof-read a draft of Stillwell’s contribution. He was not informed where it might be published, and was not aware he would later be reviewing the final work.]

The Battle of Leyte Gulf at 75: A Retrospective. By Thomas J. Cutler. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2019.

Ed Calouro is an adjunct instructor in the History Department at Rhode Island College and a freelance writer.


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Comments:

  1. Meztilabar

    Well done, your idea will be useful

  2. Ranen

    Thank you for the warm welcome)

  3. Febar

    Great topic

  4. Lindberg

    I absolutely disagree



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