Battle of Leyte Gulf
Overview
 
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history
Largest naval battle in history
The title of "largest naval battle in history" is disputed between adherents of criteria which include the numbers of personnel and/or vessels involved in the battle, and the total tonnage of the vessels involved...

.

It was fought in waters near the Philippine
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 islands of Leyte
Leyte Island
Leyte is an island in the Visayas group of the Philippines.The island measures about 180 km north-south and about 65 km at its widest point. In the north it nearly joins Samar, separated by the San Juanico Strait, which becomes as narrow as 2 km in some places...

, Samar
Samar Island
Samar is an island in the Visayas, within the central Philippines. The island is divided into three provinces: Samar province, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar. These three provinces, along with the provinces on the nearby islands of Leyte and Biliran are part of the Eastern Visayas region...

 from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte
Battle of Leyte
The Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II was the invasion and conquest of the island of Leyte in the Philippines by American and Filipino guerrilla forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who fought against the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines led by...

 as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 supplies.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history
Largest naval battle in history
The title of "largest naval battle in history" is disputed between adherents of criteria which include the numbers of personnel and/or vessels involved in the battle, and the total tonnage of the vessels involved...

.

It was fought in waters near the Philippine
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 islands of Leyte
Leyte Island
Leyte is an island in the Visayas group of the Philippines.The island measures about 180 km north-south and about 65 km at its widest point. In the north it nearly joins Samar, separated by the San Juanico Strait, which becomes as narrow as 2 km in some places...

, Samar
Samar Island
Samar is an island in the Visayas, within the central Philippines. The island is divided into three provinces: Samar province, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar. These three provinces, along with the provinces on the nearby islands of Leyte and Biliran are part of the Eastern Visayas region...

 from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte
Battle of Leyte
The Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II was the invasion and conquest of the island of Leyte in the Philippines by American and Filipino guerrilla forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who fought against the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines led by...

 as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

's 3rd and 7th Fleet
United States Seventh Fleet
The Seventh Fleet is the United States Navy's permanent forward projection force based in Yokosuka, Japan, with units positioned near Japan and South Korea. It is a component fleet force under the United States Pacific Fleet. At present, it is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with...

s. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf included four major naval battles: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar
Battle off Samar
The Battle off Samar was the centermost action of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, which took place in the Philippine Sea off Samar Island, in the Philippines on 25 October 1944...

, as well as other actions.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is also notable as the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze
Kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

 attacks. Also worth noting is the fact that Japan at this battle had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, a clear demonstration of the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.

Background

The campaigns of August 1942 to early 1944 had driven Japanese forces from many of their island bases in the south and central Pacific Ocean, while isolating many of their other bases (most notably in the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a sovereign state in Oceania, east of Papua New Guinea, consisting of nearly one thousand islands. It covers a land mass of . The capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal...

, Bismarck Archipelago
Bismarck Archipelago
The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean and is part of the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea.-History:...

, Admiralty Islands
Admiralty Islands
The Admiralty Islands are a group of eighteen islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, to the north of New Guinea in the south Pacific Ocean. These are also sometimes called the Manus Islands, after the largest island. These rainforest-covered islands form part of Manus Province, the smallest and...

, New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

, Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

, and Wake Island
Wake Island
Wake Island is a coral atoll having a coastline of in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu west to Guam east. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior...

), and in June 1944, a series of American amphibious landings supported by the U.S. 5th Fleet's Fast Carrier Task Force
Fast Carrier Task Force
The Fast Carrier Task Force was the main striking force of the United States Navy in the Pacific Ocean theatre of World War II.The Fast Carrier Task Force was known under two designations. The Navy made use of two sets of upper command structures for planning the upcoming operations...

 captured most of the Mariana Islands
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

 (bypassing Rota
Rota (island)
Rota also known as the "peaceful island", is the southernmost island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the second southernmost of the Marianas Archipelago. It lies approximately 40 miles north-northeast of the United States territory of Guam...

). This offensive breached Japan's strategic inner defense ring and gave the Americans a base from which long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers could attack the Japanese home islands. The Japanese counterattacked in the Battle of the Philippine Sea
Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a decisive naval battle of World War II which effectively eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy's ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States' amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War...

. The U.S. Navy destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers (and damaged other ships) and approximately 600 Japanese aircraft, leaving the Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 (IJN) with virtually no carrier-borne airpower or experienced pilots.

For subsequent operations, Admiral Ernest J. King and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

 favored blockading Japanese forces in the Philippines and attacking Formosa (Taiwan)
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 to give the Americans and Australians control of the sea routes between Japan and southern Asia. U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 championed an invasion of the Philippines, which also lay across the supply lines to Japan. Leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands would be a blow to American prestige and a personal affront to MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously pronounced, "I shall return." Also, the considerable air power the Japanese had amassed in the Philippines was thought too dangerous to bypass by many high-ranking officers outside the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

, including Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, GCB, USN was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet , for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas , for U.S...

. However, Nimitz and MacArthur initially had opposing plans, with Nimitz's plan centered on an invasion of Formosa, since that could also cut the supply lines to southeast Asia. Formosa could also serve as a base for an invasion of mainland China, which MacArthur felt was unnecessary. A meeting between MacArthur, Nimitz, and President Roosevelt helped confirm the Philippines as a strategic target, but had less to do with the final decision to invade the Philippines than is sometimes claimed. Nimitz eventually changed his mind and agreed to MacArthur's plan.
It was also estimated that an invasion of Formosa would require about 12 divisions of U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

. This was more land power than the Americans could muster in the whole Pacific Ocean area at that time, and the entire Australian Army was engaged in the Solomon Islands, on New Guinea, in the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

, and on various other Pacific islands. The invasion of Formosa would require much larger ground forces than were available in the Pacific in late 1944, and would not have been feasible until the defeat of Germany freed the necessary manpower.

It was eventually decided that MacArthur's forces would invade the island of Leyte
Leyte
Leyte is a province of the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. Its capital is Tacloban City and occupies the northern three-quarters of the Leyte Island. Leyte is located west of Samar Island, north of Southern Leyte and south of Biliran...

 in the central Philippines. Amphibious forces and close naval support would be provided by the 7th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral
Vice admiral (United States)
In the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps, and the United States Maritime Service, vice admiral is a three-star flag officer, with the pay grade of...

 Thomas C. Kinkaid
Thomas C. Kinkaid
Thomas Cassin Kinkaid was an admiral in the United States Navy during World War II. He built a reputation as a "fighting admiral" in the aircraft carrier battles of 1942 and commanded the Allied forces in the Aleutian Islands Campaign...

. The 7th Fleet at this time contained units of the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

, including the County-class
County class cruiser
The County class was a class of heavy cruisers built for the British Royal Navy in the years between the First and Second World Wars. They were the first post-war cruiser construction for the Royal Navy and were designed within the limits of the Washington Naval Conference of 1922...

 heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

s HMAS Shropshire
HMS Shropshire (73)
HMS Shropshire was a Royal Navy heavy cruiser of the London sub-class of County class cruisers. She is the only warship to have been named after Shropshire, England. Completed in 1929, Shropshire served with the RN until 1942, when she was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy following the...

 and , and the destroyer , and possibly a few warships from New Zealand and/or the Netherlands.

The U.S 3rd Fleet—commanded by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., with Task Force 38 (TF 38, the Fast Carrier Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

 Marc Mitscher
Marc Mitscher
Admiral Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher was an admiral in the United States Navy who served as commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific in the latter half of World War II.-Early life and career:...

) as its main component—would provide more distant cover and support for the invasion. A fundamental defect in this plan was that there would be no single American naval admiral in overall command. This lack of a unified command, along with failures in communication, was to produce a crisis, and very nearly a strategic disaster, for the American forces. (Fuller 1956, Morison 1956). By coincidence, the Japanese plan, using three separate fleets, also lacked an overall commander. The American options were apparent to the IJN. Combined Fleet
Combined Fleet
The was the main ocean-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Combined Fleet was not a standing force, but a temporary force formed for the duration of a conflict or major naval maneuvers from various units normally under separate commands in peacetime....

 Chief Soemu Toyoda prepared four "victory" plans: Shō-Gō 1 was a major naval operation in the Philippines, while Shō-Gō 2, Shō-Gō 3 and Shō-Gō 4 were responses to attacks on Formosa, the Ryukyu
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

 and Kurile Islands respectively. The plans were for complex offensive operations committing nearly all available forces to a decisive battle, despite this substantially depleting Japan's slender reserves of fuel oil.

On 12 October 1944, the U.S. 3rd Fleet under Admiral Halsey began a series of carrier raids against Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands
Aerial Battle of Taiwan-Okinawa
The Aerial Battle of the Taiwan Seas took place between October 12 and 16, 1944, off the eastern coast of the island of Taiwan, and was fought by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the approaching Task Force 38 of the United States Third Fleet and was one of a series of Air raids on Japan...

, with a view to ensuring that aircraft based there could not intervene in the Leyte landings. The Japanese command therefore put Shō-Gō 2 into action, launching waves of air attacks against 3rd Fleet's carriers. In what Morison refers to as a "knock-down, drag-out fight between carrier-based and land-based air" the Japanese were routed, losing 600 aircraft in three days, almost their entire air strength in the region. Following the American invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese Navy made the transition to Shō-Gō 1.

Shō-Gō 1 called for Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa
Jisaburo Ozawa
was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. He was the last Commander-in-Chief of Combined Fleet. Many military historians regard Ozawa as one of the most capable Japanese flag officers.-Biography:...

's ships—known as the "Northern Force"—to lure the main American covering forces away from Leyte. Northern Force would be built around several aircraft carriers, but these would have very few aircraft or trained aircrew. The carriers would serve as the main bait. As the U.S. covering forces were lured away, two other surface forces would advance on Leyte from the west. The "Southern Force" under Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima would strike at the landing area via Surigao Strait. The "Center Force" under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita
Takeo Kurita
Vice Admiral was a vice-admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.-Early life:Kurita was born in Mito city, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1889. He was sent off to Etajima in 1905 and graduated from the 38th class of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1910, ranked 28th out of a class of...

—by far the most powerful of the attacking forces—would pass through San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea, turn southwards, and then also attack the landing area.

This plan was likely to result in the destruction of one or more of the attacking forces, but Toyoda later explained this to his American interrogators as follows:

The submarine action in Palawan Passage (23 October)

(Note: this action is referred to by Morison as "The Fight in Palawan Passage", and is elsewhere occasionally referred to as "the Battle of Palawan Passage").

As it sortied from its base in Brunei, Kurita's powerful "Center Force" consisted of five battleships , ten heavy cruisers , two light cruisers ( and ) and 15 destroyers.

Kurita's ships passed Palawan Island around midnight on 22–23 October. The American submarines and were positioned together on the surface close by. At 00:16 on 23 October, Darters radar detected the Japanese formation at a range of 30000 yd (27,432 m). Her captain promptly made visual contact. The two submarines quickly moved off in pursuit of the ships, while Darter made the first of three contact reports. At least one of these was picked up by a radio operator on Yamato, but Kurita failed to take appropriate anti-submarine precautions.

Darter and Dace traveled on the surface at full power for several hours and gained a position ahead of Kurita's formation, with the intention of making a submerged attack at first light. This attack was unusually successful. At 05:24, Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes, at least four of which hit Kurita's flagship, the heavy cruiser Atago. 10 minutes later, Darter made two hits on Atagos sister ship Takao with another spread of torpedoes. At 05:56, Dace made four torpedo hits on the heavy cruiser Maya (sister to Atago and Takao).

Atago and Maya quickly sank. Takao turned back to Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

 escorted by two destroyers—and was followed by the two submarines. On 24 October, as the submarines continued to shadow the damaged cruiser, Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal. All efforts to get her off failed, and she was abandoned. Her entire crew was, however, rescued by Dace.

Takao returned to Singapore. She was joined in January 1945 by Myōkō.

Atago had sunk so rapidly that Kurita was forced to swim in order to survive. He was rescued by one of the Japanese destroyers, and he then transferred to the battleship Yamato.

The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October)

Around 08:00 on 24 October, the Center Force was spotted and attacked entering the Sibuyan Sea
Sibuyan Sea
The Sibuyan Sea is a small sea in the Philippines that separates the Visayas from the northern Philippine island of Luzon.-Description:It is bounded by the island of Panay to the south, Mindoro to the west, Masbate to the east, and to the north Marinduque and the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon Island.The...

 by VF-20 squadron F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, VB-20 SB2C-3 Helldiver dive bomber
Dive bomber
A dive bomber is a bomber aircraft that dives directly at its targets in order to provide greater accuracy for the bomb it drops. Diving towards the target reduces the distance the bomb has to fall, which is the primary factor in determining the accuracy of the drop...

s, and VT-20 Avenger
TBF Avenger
The Grumman TBF Avenger was a torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air or naval arms around the world....

 torpedo bomber
Torpedo bomber
A torpedo bomber is a bomber aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes which could also carry out conventional bombings. Torpedo bombers existed almost exclusively prior to and during World War II when they were an important element in many famous battles, notably the...

s from of Halsey's 3rd Fleet. Despite its great strength, 3rd Fleet was not well-placed to deal with the threat. On 22 October, Halsey had detached two of his carrier groups to the fleet base at Ulithi
Ulithi
Ulithi is an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, about 191 km east of Yap. It consists of 40 islets totalling , surrounding a lagoon about long and up to wide—at one of the largest in the world. It is administered by the state of Yap in the Federated States of...

 to provision and rearm. When Darters contact report came in Halsey recalled Davison's group but allowed Vice Admiral McCain
John S. McCain, Sr.
John Sidney "Slew" McCain Sr. was a U.S. Navy admiral. He held several command assignments during the Pacific campaign of World War II....

—with the strongest of TF 38's carrier groups, to continue towards Ulithi. Halsey finally recalled McCain on 24 October—but the delay meant that the most powerful American carrier group played little part in the coming battle, and that 3rd Fleet was therefore effectively deprived of nearly 40% of its air strength for most of the battle. On the morning of 24 October, only three groups were available to strike Kurita's force, and the one best positioned to do so—Bogan
Gerald F. Bogan
Gerald Francis Bogan was a United States Navy Admiral.Bogan authored a confidential memorandum that was leaked by Captain John G. Crommelin during the Revolt of the Admirals in September 1949. His memo described the situation in the Navy as follows, "The morale of the Navy is lower today than at...

's Task Group 38.2 (TG 38.2)—was by mischance the weakest of the groups, containing only one large carrier——and two light carriers (the failure to promptly recall McCain on 23 October was also effectively to deprive 3rd Fleet, throughout the battle, of four of its six heavy cruisers).
Planes from carriers Intrepid and of Bogan's group attacked at about 10:30, making hits on the battleships Nagato, Yamato, and Musashi, and severely damaging the heavy cruiser Myōkō. A second wave from Intrepid, and later attacked, with VB-15 Helldivers and VF-15 Hellcats from Essex, scoring another 10 hits on Musashi. As she withdrew, listing to port, a third wave from Enterprise and hit her with 11 bombs and eight torpedoes.

Kurita turned his fleet around to get out of range of the aircraft, passing the crippled Musashi as his force retreated. He waited until 17:15 before turning around again to head for the San Bernardino Strait; Musashi capsized and sank at about 19:30.

Meanwhile, Vice-Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi had directed three waves of aircraft from his First Air Fleet based on Luzon
Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

 against the carriers of Rear Admiral Sherman's TG 38.3 (whose aircraft were also being used to strike airfields in Luzon to prevent Japanese land-based air attacks on Allied shipping in Leyte Gulf). Each of Ōnishi's strike waves consisted of some fifty to sixty aircraft.
Most of the attacking Japanese planes were intercepted and shot down or driven off by Hellcats of Sherman's combat air patrol, most notably by two fighter sections from Essex led by Commander David McCampbell
David McCampbell
Captain David McCampbell was an American naval aviator, who became the US Navy’s all-time leading ace with 34 aerial victories during World War II. The third-highest scoring US flying ace of World War II, he was the highest-scoring to survive the war.McCampbell was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and...

 (who is credited with shooting down nine of the attacking planes in this one action). However, one Japanese aircraft (a Yokosuka D4Y
Yokosuka D4Y
The D4Y Navy Type 2 Carrier Dive bomber was operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Its Allied reporting name was "Judy". The D4Y was one of the fastest dive-bombers of the war, and only the delays in its development hindered its service, while its predecessor, the slower fixed gear Aichi D3A...

3 Judy) slipped through the defences, and at 09:38 hit the light carrier with a 551 lb (249.9 kg) armor-piercing bomb which caused a severe fire in Princetons hangar. Her emergency sprinkler system failed to operate, and fires spread rapidly. A series of explosions followed. The fires were gradually brought under control, but at 15:23 there was an enormous explosion (probably in the carrier's bomb stowage aft), causing more casualties aboard Princeton, and even heavier casualties—more than 300—aboard the cruiser which was coming back alongside to assist with the firefighting. Birmingham was so badly damaged that she was forced to retire. Other nearby vessels were also damaged. All efforts to save Princeton failed, and she was finally scuttled
Scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

—torpedoed by the light cruiser —at 17:50.

In all, U.S. 3rd Fleet flew 259 sorties—mostly by Hellcats—against Center Force on 24 October. This weight of attack was not nearly sufficient to neutralize the threat from Kurita. It contrasts with the 527 sorties flown by 3rd Fleet against Ozawa's much weaker Northern Force on the following day. Moreover, a large proportion of the Sibuyan Sea attack was directed against just one ship, Musashi. This great battleship was sunk, and cruiser Myōkō crippled, but every other ship in Kurita's force remained battleworthy and able to advance.

As a result of a momentous decision about to be taken by Admiral Halsey, Kurita was able to proceed through San Bernardino Strait
San Bernardino Strait
The San Bernardino Strait is a strait in the Philippines. It separates the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon island from the island of Samar in the south.-Filipinos and San Bernardino Strait:...

 during the night, to make an unexpected and dramatic appearance off the coast of Samar on the following morning.

Task Force 34 / San Bernardino Strait

After the Japanese Southern and Center forces had been detected, but before Ozawa's carriers had been located, Halsey and the staff of 3rd Fleet, aboard the battleship , prepared a contingency plan to deal with the threat from Kurita's Center Force. Their intention was to cover San Bernardino Strait with a powerful task force of fast battleships supported by two of the 3rd Fleet's fast carrier groups. The battleship force was to be designated Task Force 34 (TF 34) and to consist of four battleships, five cruisers and 14 destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee
Willis A. Lee
Willis Augustus "Ching" Lee, Jr. was a Vice Admiral of the United States Navy during World War II. Lee commanded the American ships during the second night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal and turned back a Japanese invasion force headed for the island...

. Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison of TG 38.4 was to be in overall command of the supporting carrier groups.

At 15:12 on 24 October, Halsey sent an ambiguously worded telegraphic radio message to his subordinate task group commanders, giving details of this contingency plan:
Halsey sent information copies of this message to Admiral Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters and Admiral King in Washington. But he did not include Admiral Kinkaid (7th Fleet) as information addressee. The message was picked up by 7th Fleet, anyway, as it was common for Admirals to direct radiomen to copy all message traffic they detected, whether intended for them or not. As Halsey intended TF 34 as a contingency to be formed and detached when he ordered it, when he wrote "will be formed" he meant the future tense; but he neglected to say when TF 34 would be formed, or under what circumstances. This omission led Admiral Kinkaid of 7th Fleet to believe that Halsey was speaking in the imperative, not the future tense, and so he concluded that TF 34 had been formed and would take station off San Bernardino Strait. Admiral Nimitz, in Pearl Harbor, reached exactly the same conclusion. Halsey did send out a second message at 17:10 clarifying his intentions in regard to TF 34:
Unfortunately, Halsey sent this second message by voice radio, so 7th Fleet did not intercept it, and Halsey did not follow up with a telegraphic message to Nimitz or King. The serious misunderstanding caused by Halsey's ambiguous wording of his first message and his failure to notify Nimitz, King, or Kinkaid of his second clarifying message was to have a profound influence on the subsequent course of the battle.

Halsey's Decision (24 October)

The 3rd Fleet's aircraft failed to locate Ozawa's Northern (decoy) force until 16:40 on 24 October. This was largely because 3rd Fleet had been preoccupied with attacking Kurita and defending itself against the Japanese air strikes from Luzon. So, oddly enough, the one Japanese force that wanted to be discovered was the only force the Americans hadn't been able to find. On the evening of 24 October Ozawa intercepted a (mistaken) American communication describing Kurita's withdrawal, and he therefore began to withdraw too. However, at 20:00 Soemu Toyoda ordered all his forces to attack "counting on divine assistance." Trying to draw 3rd Fleet's attention to his decoy force, Ozawa reversed course again and headed southwards towards Leyte.

Halsey was convinced that the Northern Force constituted the main Japanese threat, and he was determined to seize what he saw as a golden opportunity to destroy Japan's last remaining carrier strength. Believing that the Center Force had been neutralized by 3rd Fleet's air strikes earlier in the day in the Sibuyan Sea, and that its remnants were retiring, Halsey radioed (to Nimitz and Kinkaid):
The words "with three groups" proved dangerously misleading. In the light of the intercepted 15:12 24 October "…will be formed as Task Force 34" message from Halsey, Admiral Kinkaid and his staff assumed, as did Admiral Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters, that TF 34—commanded by Lee
Willis A. Lee
Willis Augustus "Ching" Lee, Jr. was a Vice Admiral of the United States Navy during World War II. Lee commanded the American ships during the second night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal and turned back a Japanese invasion force headed for the island...

—had now been formed as a separate entity. They assumed that Halsey was leaving this powerful surface force guarding San Bernardino Strait (and covering Seventh Fleet's northern flank) while he took his three available carrier groups northwards in pursuit of the Japanese carriers. But Task Force 34 had not been detached from his other forces, and Lee's battleships were on their way northwards with the 3rd Fleet's carriers. Halsey had consciously and deliberately left San Bernardino Strait absolutely unguarded. As Woodward wrote "Everything was pulled out from San Bernardino Strait. Not so much as a picket destroyer was left".

Halsey and his staff officers ignored information from a night reconnaissance aircraft operating from the light carrier that Kurita's powerful surface force had turned back towards San Bernardino Strait, and that after a long blackout the navigation lights in the Strait had been turned on. When Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan
Gerald F. Bogan
Gerald Francis Bogan was a United States Navy Admiral.Bogan authored a confidential memorandum that was leaked by Captain John G. Crommelin during the Revolt of the Admirals in September 1949. His memo described the situation in the Navy as follows, "The morale of the Navy is lower today than at...

—commanding TG 38.2—radioed this information to Halsey's flagship, he was rebuffed by a staff officer, who tersely replied "Yes, yes, we have that information." Vice Admiral Lee, who had correctly deduced that Ozawa's force was on a decoy mission and indicated this in a blinker message to Halsey's flagship, was similarly rebuffed. Commodore Arleigh Burke
Arleigh Burke
Admiral Arleigh Albert '31-knot' Burke was an admiral of the United States Navy who distinguished himself during World War II and the Korean War, and who served as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.-Early life and naval career:Burke was born in Boulder,...

 and Commander James Flatley of Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

 Marc Mitscher
Marc Mitscher
Admiral Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher was an admiral in the United States Navy who served as commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific in the latter half of World War II.-Early life and career:...

's staff had come to the same conclusion. They were sufficiently worried about the situation to wake Mitscher, who asked "Does Admiral Halsey have that report?" On being told that Halsey did, Mitscher—knowing Halsey's temperament—commented "If he wants my advice he'll ask for it" and went back to sleep.

The entire available strength of 3rd Fleet continued to steam northwards, away from San Bernardino Strait.

The Battle of Surigao Strait (25 October)

Nishimura's "Southern Force" consisted of the battleships and , the heavy cruiser , and four destroyers. This force left Brunei after Kurita at 15:00 on 22 October, turning eastward into the Sulu Sea
Sulu Sea
The Sulu Sea is a body of water in the southwestern area of the Philippines, separated from the South China Sea in the northwest by Palawan and from the Celebes Sea in the southeast by the Sulu Archipelago. Borneo is found to the southwest and Visayas to the northeast.Sulu Sea contains a number of...

 and then northeasterly past the southern tip of Negros Island into the Mindanao Sea. Nishimura then proceeded northeastward with Mindanao Island to starboard and into the south entrance to Surigao Strait
Surigao Strait
Surigao Strait is a body of water in the Philippines located between the islands of Mindanao and Leyte. This strait connects the Bohol Sea with Leyte Gulf and is regularly crossed by ferries that transport goods and people between Visayas and Mindanao...

, intending to exit the north entrance of the Strait into Leyte Gulf
Leyte Gulf
Leyte Gulf is a body of water immediately east of the island of Leyte in the Philippines, adjoining the Philippine Sea of the Pacific Ocean, at . The Gulf is bounded on the north by the island of Samar, which is separated from Leyte on the west by the narrow San Juanico Strait, and on the south by...

 where he would add his firepower to that of Kurita's force.

The Second Striking Force—commanded by Vice Admiral Kiyohide Shima—consisted of heavy cruisers Nachi (Flag), and Ashigara, light cruiser Abukuma, and destroyers Akebono, Ushio, Kasumi, and Shiranuhi.

The Southern Force was attacked by U.S. Navy bombers on 24 October but sustained only minor damage.

Because of the strict radio silence imposed on the Center and Southern Forces, Nishimura was unable to synchronise his movements with Shima and Kurita. When he entered the narrow Surigao Strait at 02:00, Shima was 25 nmi (28.8 mi; 46.3 km) behind him, and Kurita was still in the Sibuyan Sea, several hours from the beaches at Leyte.

As the Southern Force approached Surigao Strait, it ran into a deadly trap set by the 7th Fleet Support Force. Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had a substantial force. There were six battleships: , , , , , and ; all but Mississippi had been sunk or damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and since repaired, Tennessee and West Virginia having being rebuilt since then. There were the 8 in (203.2 mm) and 6 in (152.4 mm) guns of the four heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

s ( (flagship), , and HMAS Shropshire) and four light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

s . There were also the smaller guns and torpedoes of 28 destroyers and 39 motor torpedo boats (Patrol/Torpedo (PT) boats
PT boat
PT Boats were a variety of motor torpedo boat , a small, fast vessel used by the United States Navy in World War II to attack larger surface ships. The PT boat squadrons were nicknamed "the mosquito fleet". The Japanese called them "Devil Boats".The original pre–World War I torpedo boats were...

). To pass through the narrows and reach the invasion shipping, Nishimura would have to run the gauntlet of torpedoes from the PT boats followed by the large force of destroyers, and then advance under the concentrated fire of the six battleships and their eight flanking cruisers disposed across the far mouth of the Strait.

At 22:36, one of the PT boats—PT-131—first made contact with the approaching Japanese ships. Over more than three-and-a-half hours, the PT boats made repeated attacks on Nishimura's force. They made no torpedo hits, but sent contact reports which were of use to Oldendorf and his force.

As Nishimura's ships entered Surigao Strait they were subjected to devastating torpedo attacks from the American destroyers disposed on both sides of their line of advance. At about 03:00, both Japanese battleships were hit by torpedoes. Yamashiro was able to steam on, but Fusō exploded and broke in two when she was torpedoed by . Two of Nishimura's four destroyers were sunk; another, , was hit but able to retire, and later sank.

The classical account summarized above has been questioned recently because additional evidence has come to light. Fuso survivor Hideo Ogawa, interrogated in 1945, also wrote an article on the battleship's last voyage. He says that "shortly after 0400 the ship capsized slowly to starboard and Ogawa and others were washed away." Fuso was hit on the starboard side by two or possibly three torpedoes. One of these started an oil fire. The fuel used by IJN ships in this period was poorly refined and had a tendency to burst into flame; burning patches of fuel were most likely the source of the myth of Fuso blowing up. It is extremely unlikely that a vessel as strongly built as a battleship could be blown in half and the halves remain upright and afloat, so the classic version of Fusos fate is also extremely improbable. Accordingly, it is likely that the Morison account is incorrect in this detail. There are rumours of Fuso being either the largest ship to be sunk with all hands, or did leave survivors, but refused to be rescued by American or Japanese vessels, and foundered, while the rest did eventually survive long enough to reach land but were killed by Filipino natives. Some believe Asagumo picked up Fuso survivors, only for all to perish when the destroyer sank.

At 03:16, West Virginias radar picked up the surviving ships of Nishimura's force at a range of 42000 yd (38,404.8 m) and had achieved a firing solution at 30000 yd (27,432 m). West Virginia tracked them as they approached in the pitch black night. At 03:53, she fired the eight 16 in (406.4 mm) guns of her main battery at a range of 22800 yd (20,848.3 m), striking Yamashiro with her first salvo. She went on to fire a total of 93 shells. At 03:55, California and Tennessee joined in, firing a total of 63 and 69 14 in (355.6 mm) shells, respectively. Radar fire control
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

 allowed these American battleships to hit targets from a distance at which the Japanese battleships—with their inferior fire control systems—could not return fire.

The other three U.S. battleships, equipped with less advanced gunnery radar, had difficulty arriving at a firing solution. Maryland eventually succeeded in visually ranging on the splashes of the other battleships' shells, and then fired a total of 48 16 in (406.4 mm) projectiles. Pennsylvania was unable to find a target and her guns remained silent.

Mississippi only obtained a solution at the end of the battle-line action, and then fired just one (full) salvo of twelve 14 in (355.6 mm) shells. This was the last salvo ever to be fired by a battleship against another heavy ship, ending an era in naval history.

Yamashiro and Mogami were crippled by a combination of 16 in (406.4 mm) and 14 in (355.6 mm) armor-piercing shells, as well as the fire of Oldendorf's flanking cruisers. turned and fled but lost steering and stopped dead. Yamashiro sank at about 04:20, with Nishimura on board. Mogami and Shigure retreated southwards down the Strait.

The rear of the Southern Force—the "Second Striking Force" commanded by Vice Admiral Shima—had departed from Mako
Mako Guard District
The was the major navy base for the Imperial Japanese Navy in Taiwan before and during World War II. Located in at Mako ), , the Mako Guard District was responsible for control of the strategic Straits of Taiwan and for patrols along the Taiwan and China coastlines and in the South China Sea...

 and approached Surigao Strait about 40 mi (34.8 nmi; 64.4 km) astern of Nishimura. Shima's run was initially thrown into confusion by his force nearly running aground on Panaon Island after failing to factor the outgoing tide into their approach: Japanese radar was nearly useless due to excessive reflections from the many islands. The radar was equally unable to detect ships in these conditions, especially PT boats, as PT-137 hit the light cruiser Abukuma with a torpedo which crippled her and caused her to fall out of formation. Shima’s two heavy cruisers ( and ) and eight destroyers next encountered remnants of Nishimura's force. Seeing what he thought were the wrecks of both Nishimura's battleships (actually the two halves of Fusō), Shima ordered a retreat. His flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

, Nachi, collided with Mogami, flooding Mogamis steering-room and causing her to fall behind in the retreat; she was sunk by aircraft the next morning. The bow half of Fusō was sunk from gunfire by Louisville, and the stern half sank off Kanihaan Island. Of Nishimura's seven ships, only Shigure survived. Shima’s ships did survive the Battle of Surigao Strait but they would be sunk in further engagements around Leyte, while Shigure survived long enough to escape the debacle but eventually succumbed to the submarine , which sank her off Kota Bharu
Kota Bharu
Kota Bharu is a city in Malaysia, is the state capital and Royal City of Kelantan. It is also the name of the territory in which Kota Bharu City is situated. The name means 'new city' or 'new castle/fort' in Malay. Kota Bharu is situated in the northeastern part of Peninsular Malaysia, and lies...

, Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

, with 37 dead.

What Louisville's action report actually says is "0529 firing 2 salvos – 18 rounds – at a large fire bearing 160 True, range 18,900 yards. Fire was then shifted to a second target bearing 180 T at the same range. …The first target is what has been termed the 'Fuso fire,' while the second was Mogami." Morison and a number of others have presumed the fire surrounded part of Fuso still afloat. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The Battle of Surigao Strait was the last battleship-versus-battleship action in history. It was also the last battle in which one force (the Americans, in this case) was able to "cross the T
Crossing the T
Crossing the T or Capping the T is a classic naval warfare tactic attempted from the late 19th to mid 20th century, in which a line of warships crossed in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing the crossing line to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of...

" of its opponent. However, by the time the battleship action was joined the Japanese line was very ragged and consisted of only one battleship (Yamashiro), one heavy cruiser and one destroyer, so that the "crossing of the T" was notional and had little effect on the outcome of the battle.

The Battle off Samar (25 October)

Prelude

Halsey's decision to take all the available strength of 3rd Fleet northwards to attack the carriers of the Japanese Northern Force had left San Bernardino Strait completely unguarded.

It had been generally assumed by senior officers in 7th Fleet (including Kinkaid and his staff) that Halsey was taking his three available carrier groups northwards (McCain's group, the strongest in 3rd Fleet, was still returning from the direction of Ulithi
Ulithi
Ulithi is an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, about 191 km east of Yap. It consists of 40 islets totalling , surrounding a lagoon about long and up to wide—at one of the largest in the world. It is administered by the state of Yap in the Federated States of...

) but leaving the battleships of TF 34 covering San Bernardino Strait
San Bernardino Strait
The San Bernardino Strait is a strait in the Philippines. It separates the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon island from the island of Samar in the south.-Filipinos and San Bernardino Strait:...

 against the Japanese Center Force. In fact, Halsey had not yet formed TF 34, and all six of Willis Lee's battleships were on their way northwards with the carriers, as well as every available cruiser and destroyer of the Third Fleet.

Kurita's Center Force therefore emerged unopposed from San Bernardino Strait at 03:00 on 25 October and steamed southward along the coast of the island of Samar. In its path stood only the 7th Fleet's three escort carrier units (call signs 'Taffy' 1, 2, and 3), with a total of 16 small, very slow, and unarmored escort carriers, protected by a screen of lightly armed and unarmored destroyers and smaller destroyer escort
Destroyer escort
A destroyer escort is the classification for a smaller, lightly armed warship designed to be used to escort convoys of merchant marine ships, primarily of the United States Merchant Marine in World War II. It is employed primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but also provides some protection...

s (DEs). Despite the losses in the Palawan Passage and Sibuyan Sea actions, the Japanese Center Force was still very powerful, consisting of four battleships (including the giant ), six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and 11 destroyers.

The battle

Kurita's force caught Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague
Clifton Sprague
Vice Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick Sprague was a World War II-era officer in the United States Navy.-Biography:...

's Task Unit 77.4.3 ('Taffy 3') entirely by surprise. Sprague directed his carriers to launch their planes, then run for the cover of a rain squall to the east. He ordered the destroyers and DEs to make a smoke screen to conceal the retreating carriers.

Kurita, unaware that Ozawa's decoy plan had succeeded, assumed that he had found a carrier group from Halsey's 3rd Fleet. Having just redeployed his ships into anti-aircraft formation, he further complicated matters by ordering a "General Attack", which called for his fleet to split into different divisions and attack independently.

The destroyer was the closest to the enemy. On his own initiative, Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...

 Ernest E. Evans
Ernest E. Evans
Ernest Edwin Evans was an officer of the United States Navy who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II.-Biography:...

 steered his hopelessly outclassed ship into the foe at flank speed. Seeing this, Sprague gave the order "small boys attack", sending the rest of Taffy 3's screening ships into the fray. Taffy 3's two other destroyers, and , and the destroyer escort , attacked with suicidal determination, drawing fire and disrupting the Japanese formation as ships turned to avoid their torpedoes.

Meanwhile, Thomas Sprague (no relation to Clifton) ordered the 16 carriers in his three task units to launch their aircraft equipped with whatever weapons they had available, even if these were only machine guns or depth charges. He had a total of some 450 aircraft at his disposal, mostly FM-2 Wildcat and TBM Avenger torpedo bombers. The air counterattacks were almost unceasing, and some, especially several of the strikes launched from Felix Stump
Felix Stump
Felix Budwell Stump was an admiral in the United States Navy and Commander, United States Pacific Fleet from July 10, 1953 until July 31, 1958....

's Task Unit 77.4.2 (Taffy 2), were relatively heavy.

The carriers of Taffy 3 turned south and retreated through the shellfire. , at the rear of the American formation, was sunk, while most of the other carriers were damaged.

Admiral Kurita withdraws

The ferocity of the defense seemingly confirmed the Japanese assumption that they were engaging major fleet units rather than helpless escort carriers and destroyers. The confusion of the "General Attack" order was further compounded by the air and torpedo attacks, when Kurita's flagship Yamato turned north to evade torpedoes and lost contact with the battle. Kurita abruptly broke off the fight and gave the order 'all ships, my course north, speed 20', apparently in order to regroup his disorganized fleet. Turning again towards Leyte Gulf, Kurita's battle report stated that he received a message indicating that a group of American carriers was steaming north of him. Preferring to expend his fleet against capital ships rather than transports, Kurita set out in pursuit and thereby lost his opportunity to destroy the shipping in Leyte Gulf. After failing to intercept the non-existent carriers, Kurita finally retreated towards San Bernardino Strait. Three of his heavy cruisers had been sunk, and the determined resistance had convinced him that persisting with his attack would only cause further Japanese losses. Kurita was also influenced by the fact that he did not know that Ozawa had lured Halsey away from Leyte Gulf. Kurita remained convinced that he had been engaging elements of the 3rd Fleet, and that it would only be a matter of time before Halsey surrounded and annihilated him. Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague wrote to his colleague Aubrey Fitch after the war, "I ... stated [to Admiral Nimitz] that the main reason they turned north was that they were receiving too much damage to continue and I am still of that opinion and cold analysis will eventually confirm it."

Almost all of Kurita's surviving force succeeded in escaping. Halsey and the 3rd Fleet battleships arrived too late to cut him off. Nagato, Haruna and Kongō had been moderately damaged by air attack from Taffy 3's escort carriers. Kurita had begun the battle with five battleships. On their return to their bases, only Yamato remained battleworthy.

As the desperate surface action was coming to an end, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi put his 'Special Attack Force' into operation, launching kamikaze attacks against the Allied ships in Leyte Gulf and the escort carrier units off Samar. The escort carrier of Taffy 3 was hit by a kamikaze aircraft and sank after a series of internal explosions.

The Battle of Cape Engaño (25–26 October)

Ozawa's "Northern Force" comprised four aircraft carriers
(—the last survivor of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the light carriers , , and ), two World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 battleships partially converted to carriers ( and —the two after turrets had been replaced by a hangar, aircraft handling deck and catapult, but neither battleship carried any aircraft in this battle), three light cruisers , and nine destroyers. His force had only 108 aircraft.

Ozawa's force was not located until 16:40 on 24 October, largely because Sherman's TG 38.3—which as the northernmost of Halsey's groups—was responsible for searches in this sector. The force which Halsey was taking north with him—three groups of Mitscher's TF 38—was overwhelmingly stronger than the Japanese Northern Force. Between them, these groups had five large fleet carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s , five light fleet carriers , six battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s , eight cruisers (two heavy and six light), and more than 40 destroyers. The air groups of the 10 U.S. carriers present contained a total of more than 600-1,000 aircraft.

At 02:40 on 25 October, Halsey detached TF 34, built around the 3rd Fleet's six battleships and commanded by Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee. As dawn approached, the ships of Task Force 34 drew ahead of the carrier groups. Halsey intended Mitscher to make air strikes followed by the heavy gunfire of Lee's battleships.
Around dawn on 25 October, Ozawa launched 75 aircraft to attack the 3rd Fleet. Most were shot down by American combat air patrols, and no damage was done to the U.S. ships. A few Japanese planes survived and made their way to land bases on Luzon.

During the night, Halsey had passed tactical command of TF 38 to Admiral Mitscher, who ordered the American carrier groups to launch their first strike wave, of 180 aircraft, at dawn—before the Northern Force had been located. When the search aircraft made contact at 07:10 this strike wave was orbiting ahead of the task force. At 08:00, as the attack went in, its escorting fighters destroyed Ozawa's combat air patrol of about 30 planes. The US air strikes continued until the evening, by which time TF 38 had flown 527 sorties against the Northern Force, sinking Zuikaku, the light carriers Chitose and Zuihō, and the destroyer Akizuki, all with heavy loss of life. The light carrier Chiyoda and the cruiser Tama were crippled. Ozawa transferred his flag to the light cruiser Ōyodo.

The crisis – US 7th Fleet's calls for help

Shortly after 08:00 on 25 October, desperate messages calling for assistance began to come in from 7th Fleet, which had been engaging Nishimura's "Southern Force" in Suriago Strait since 02.00. One message from Kinkaid, sent in plain language, read: "MY SITUATION IS CRITICAL. FAST BATTLESHIPS AND SUPPORT BY AIR STRIKES MAY BE ABLE TO KEEP ENEMY FROM DESTROYING CVES AND ENTERING LEYTE." Halsey recalled in his memoirs that he was shocked at this message, recounting that the radio signals from the 7th Fleet had come in at random and out of order because of a backlog in the signals office. It seems that he did not receive this vital message from Kinkaid until around 10:00. Halsey later claimed that he knew Kinkaid was in trouble, but had not dreamed of the seriousness of this crisis.

One of the most alarming signals from Kinkaid reported that, after their action in Surigao Strait, 7th Fleet's own battleships were critically low on ammunition. Even this failed to persuade Halsey to send any immediate assistance to 7th Fleet. In fact, the 7th Fleet's battleships were not as short of ammunition as Kinkaid's signal implied, but Halsey did not know that.

From 3000 mi (2,606.9 nmi; 4,828 km) away in Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nimitz had been monitoring the desperate calls from Taffy 3, and sent Halsey a terse message: "TURKEY TROTS TO WATER GG FROM CINCPAC ACTION COM THIRD FLEET INFO COMINCH CTF SEVENTY-SEVEN X WHERE IS RPT WHERE IS TASK FORCE THIRTY FOUR RR THE WORLD WONDERS
The world wonders
"The world wonders" was a phrase used as security padding in an encrypted message sent from Admiral Chester Nimitz to Admiral William Halsey, Jr. on October 25, 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf...

." The first four words and the last three were "padding" used to confuse enemy cryptanalysis
Cryptanalysis
Cryptanalysis is the study of methods for obtaining the meaning of encrypted information, without access to the secret information that is normally required to do so. Typically, this involves knowing how the system works and finding a secret key...

 (the beginning and end of the true message was marked by double consonants). The communications staff on Halsey's flagship correctly deleted the first section of padding but mistakenly retained the last three words in the message finally handed to Halsey. The last three words—probably selected by a communications officer at Nimitz's headquarters—may have been meant as a loose quote from Tennyson's poem on "The Charge of the Light Brigade
Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a charge of British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. The charge was the result of a miscommunication in such a way that the brigade attempted a much more difficult objective...

", suggested by the coincidence that this day, 25 October, was the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava
Battle of Balaclava
The Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 October 1854 during the Crimean War, was part of the Anglo-French-Turkish campaign to capture the port and fortress of Sevastopol, Russia's principal naval base on the Black Sea...

—and was not intended as a commentary on the current crisis off Leyte. Halsey, however, when reading the message, thought that the last words—"THE WORLD WONDERS"—were a biting piece of criticism from Nimitz, threw his cap to the deck and broke into "sobs of rage". Rear Admiral Robert Carney
Robert Carney
Robert Bostwick Carney was an admiral in the United States Navy who served as commander-in-chief of the NATO forces in Southern Europe and then as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower administration.-Early years:Born in Vallejo, California, Carney graduated from the Naval Academy in...

, his Chief of Staff, confronted him, telling Halsey "Stop it! What the hell's the matter with you? Pull yourself together."

Eventually, at 11:15, more than three hours after the first distress messages from 7th Fleet had been received by his flagship, Halsey ordered TF 34 to turn around and head southwards towards Samar. At this point, Lee's battleships were almost within gun range of Ozawa's force. Two-and-a-half hours were then spent refuelling TF 34's accompanying destroyers.

After this succession of delays it was too late for TF 34 to give any practical help to 7th Fleet, other than to assist in picking up survivors from Taffy 3, and too late even to intercept Kurita's force before it made its escape through San Bernardino Strait.

Nevertheless, at 16:22, in a desperate and even more belated attempt to intervene in the events off Samar, Halsey formed a new task group—TG 34.5—under Rear Admiral Badger, built around Third Fleet's two fastest battleships—Iowa and New Jersey, both capable of a speed of more than 32 kn (39 mph; 62.7 km/h)–and TF 34's three cruisers and eight destroyers, and sped southwards, leaving Lee and the other four battleships to follow. As Morison observes, if Badger's group had succeeded in intercepting the Japanese Center Force it would have been seriously outgunned by Kurita's battleships.

Cruisers and destroyers of TG 34.5, however, caught the destroyer Nowaki—the last straggler from Center Force—off San Bernardino Strait, and sank her with all hands, including the survivors from Chikuma.

Battle of Cape Engaño – Final Actions

When Halsey turned TF 34 southwards at 11:15, he detached a task group of four of its cruisers and nine of its destroyers under Rear Admiral DuBose, and reassigned this group to TF 38. At 14:15, Mitscher ordered DuBose to pursue the remnants of the Japanese Northern Force. His cruisers finished off the light carrier Chiyoda at around 17:00, and at 20:59 his ships sank the destroyer Hatsuzuki after a very stubborn fight.

When Admiral Ozawa learned of the deployment of DuBose's relatively weak task group, he ordered battleships Ise and Hyūga to turn southwards and attack it, but they failed to locate DuBose's group, which they heavily outgunned. Halsey's withdrawal of all six of Lee's battleships in his attempt to assist Seventh Fleet had now rendered TF 38 vulnerable to a surface counterattack by the decoy Northern Force.

At about 23:10, the American submarine torpedoed and sank the light cruiser Tama of Ozawa's force. This was the last act of the Battle of Cape Engaño, and—apart from some final air strikes on the retreating Japanese forces on 26 October—the conclusion of the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

Criticism of Halsey

Halsey was criticized for his decision to take TF 34 north in pursuit of Ozawa, and for failing to detach it when Kinkaid first appealed for help. A piece of U.S. Navy slang for Halsey's actions is 'Bull's Run', a phrase combining Halsey's newspaper nickname "Bull" (in the U.S. Navy he was known as 'Bull' Halsey) with an allusion to the Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

 in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

In his dispatch after the battle, Halsey justified the decision as follows:
Halsey also argued that he had feared that leaving TF 34 to defend the strait without carrier support would have left it vulnerable to attack from land-based aircraft, while leaving one of the fast carrier groups behind to cover the battleships would have significantly reduced the concentration of air power going north to strike Ozawa.

However, Morison states that Admiral Lee said after the battle that he would have been fully prepared for the battleships to cover San Bernardino Strait without any carrier support. Moreover, if Halsey had been in proper communication with 7th Fleet, it would have been entirely practicable for the escort carriers of TF 77 to provide adequate air cover for TF 34—a much easier matter than it would be for those escort carriers to defend themselves against the onslaught of Kurita's heavy ships.

It may be argued that the fact that Halsey was aboard one of the battleships, and "would have had to remain behind" with TF 34 (while the bulk of his fleet charged northwards to attack the Japanese carriers) may have contributed to this decision, but this is in all likelihood a minor point. It has been pointed out that it would have been perfectly feasible (and logical) to have taken one or both of 3rd Fleet's two fastest battleships (Iowa and/or New Jersey) with the carriers in the pursuit of Ozawa, while leaving the rest of the Battle Line off San Bernardino Strait (indeed, Halsey's original plan for the composition of TF 34 was that it would contain only four, not all six, of the 3rd Fleet's battleships); thus, guarding San Bernardino Strait with a powerful battleship force would not have been incompatible with Halsey personally going north aboard New Jersey.

Probably a more important factor was that Halsey was philosophically against dividing his forces; he believed strongly in concentration as indicated by his writings both before World War II and in his subsequent articles and interviews defending his actions. In addition, Halsey may well have been influenced by the criticisms of Admiral Raymond Spruance, who was widely thought to have been excessively cautious at the Battle of the Philippine Sea
Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a decisive naval battle of World War II which effectively eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy's ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States' amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War...

 and so allowed the bulk of the Japanese fleet to escape. It also seems likely that Halsey was influenced by his Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Robert "Mick" Carney
Robert Carney
Robert Bostwick Carney was an admiral in the United States Navy who served as commander-in-chief of the NATO forces in Southern Europe and then as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower administration.-Early years:Born in Vallejo, California, Carney graduated from the Naval Academy in...

, who was also wholeheartedly in favor of taking all 3rd Fleet's available forces northwards to attack the Japanese carrier force.

However, Halsey did have reasonable and in his view, given the information he had available, practical reasons for his actions. First, he believed that Admiral Kurita's force was more heavily damaged than it was. While it has been suggested that Halsey should have taken Kurita's continued advance as evidence that his force was still a severe threat, this view cannot be supported given the well-known propensity for the members of Japanese military to persist in hopeless endeavours to the point of suicide. So in Halsey's estimation, Kurita's weakened force was well within the ability of Seventh Fleet to deal with, and did not justify dividing his force.

Second, Halsey did not comprehend just how badly compromised Japan's naval air power was and that Ozawa's decoy force was nearly devoid of aircraft. Halsey, in a letter to Admiral Nimitz on October 22, 1944 (three days before the Battle off Samar) wrote that Admiral Marc Mitscher believed "Jap naval air was wiped out." Mitscher, with Admiral Spruance at the Battle of the Philippine Sea (the Marianas Turkey Shoot
Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a decisive naval battle of World War II which effectively eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy's ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States' amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War...

) drew his conclusion from the very poor performance made by the Japanese. Halsey ignored Mitscher's insights, and made an understandable and, to him, prudent threat-conservative judgment that Ozawa's force was still capable of launching serious attacks. Halsey later explained his actions partly by explicitly stating that he did not want to be "shuttle bombed
Shuttle bombing
Shuttle bombing is a tactic where bombers fly from their home base to bomb a first target and continue to a different location where they are refuelled and rearmed. The aircraft may then bomb a second target on the return leg to their home base...

" by Ozawa's force (a technique whereby planes can land and rearm at bases on either side of a foe, allowing them to attack on both the outbound flight and the return) or to give them a "free shot" at the US forces in Leyte Gulf. He was obviously not similarly concerned with giving Kurita's battleships and cruisers a free shot at those same forces.

The fact that Halsey made one seemingly prudent threat-conservative judgment regarding Ozawa's aircraft carriers and another rather opposite judgment regarding Kurita's battleships probably reflects his understandable bias toward aircraft carriers as the prime threat of the war. At Leyte Gulf, Halsey failed to appreciate that under certain circumstances battleships and cruisers could still be extremely dangerous, and ironically, through his own failures to adequately communicate his intentions, he managed to bring those circumstances about.

Clifton Sprague—commander of Task Unit 77.4.3 in the battle off Samar—was later bitterly critical of Halsey's decision, and of his failure to clearly inform Kinkaid and 7th Fleet that their northern flank was no longer protected:
Regarding Halsey's failure to turn TF 34 southwards when 7th Fleet's first calls for assistance off Samar were received, Morison writes:
Instead, as Morison also observes:
Perhaps the most telling comment is made laconically by Vice Admiral Lee in his action report as Commander of TF 34 —

Losses

The losses in the battle of Leyte Gulf were not evenly distributed throughout all forces, the destroyer —despite her unequal fight with the enemy—finished the battle with only six of her crew dead. More than 1,000 sailors and aircrewmen of the Allied escort carrier units were killed. As a result of communication errors and other failures, a very large number of survivors from Taffy 3 were not rescued for several days, many dying unnecessarily as a consequence.

Due to the long duration and size of the battle, there are varied account as to the losses which occurred as apart of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and losses that occurred shortly before and shortly after. One account of the losses lists the following vessels:

Allied Losses

The United States lost six front line warships during the Battle of Samar:
  • 1 Light Carrier:
  • 2 Escort Carriers: and (the first major warship sunk by a kamikaze
    Kamikaze
    The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

     attack.)
  • 2 Destroyers: and
  • 1 Destroyer Escort:
  • 4 other American ships were damaged.

Japanese Losses

The Japanese lost 26 front-line warships during the Battle of Leyte:
  • 1 Fleet Aircraft Carrier: , flagship of the decoy Northern Forces
  • 3 Light Aircraft Carriers: , , and
  • 3 Battleships: (former flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet), and
  • 6 Heavy Cruisers: , , , , , and
  • 4 Light Cruisers: , , , and
  • 9 Destroyers: , , , , , , , , and

Aftermath

The Battle of Leyte Gulf secured the beachhead
Beachhead
Beachhead is a military term used to describe the line created when a unit reaches a beach, and begins to defend that area of beach, while other reinforcements help out, until a unit large enough to begin advancing has arrived. It is sometimes used interchangeably with Bridgehead and Lodgement...

s of the U.S. Sixth Army
U.S. Sixth Army
The Sixth United States Army is a field army of the United States Army.-History:It was first activated in January 1943, commanded by Lieutenant General Walter Krueger. Under the code name Alamo Force, it assumed control of the majority of US Army units involved in Operation Cartwheel, the campaign...

 on Leyte against attack from the sea. However, much hard fighting would be required before the island was completely in Allied hands at the end of December 1944: the Battle of Leyte
Battle of Leyte
The Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II was the invasion and conquest of the island of Leyte in the Philippines by American and Filipino guerrilla forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who fought against the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines led by...

 on land was fought in parallel with an air and sea campaign in which the Japanese reinforced and resupplied their troops on Leyte while the Allies attempted to interdict them and establish air-sea superiority for a series of amphibious landings in Ormoc Bay
Ormoc Bay
Ormoc Bay is a bay on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. The bay is an inlet of the Camotes Sea. The city of Ormoc lies at the head of the bay and exports rice, copra and sugar. The World War II Battle of Ormoc Bay took place from November 11 until mid-December in Ormoc Bay during late 1944....

—engagements collectively referred to as the Battle of Ormoc Bay
Battle of Ormoc Bay
The Battle of Ormoc Bay was a series of air-sea battles between Imperial Japan and the United States in the Camotes Sea in the Philippines between 11 November and 21 December 1944, part of the Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II. The battles resulted from Japanese operations to...

.

The Imperial Japanese Navy had suffered its greatest loss of ships and crew ever. Its failure to dislodge the Allied invaders from Leyte meant the inevitable loss of the Philippines, which in turn meant that Japan would be all but cut off from its occupied territories in Southeast Asia. These territories provided resources which were vital to Japan, in particular the oil needed for its ships and aircraft, and this problem was compounded because the shipyards, and sources of manufactured goods such as ammunition, were in Japan itself. Finally, the loss of Leyte opened the way for the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

 in 1945.

The major IJN surface ships returned to their bases to languish, entirely or almost entirely inactive, for the remainder of the war. The only major operation by these surface ships between the Battle for Leyte Gulf and the Japanese surrender was the suicidal sortie in April 1945 (part of Operation Ten-Go), in which the battleship Yamato and her escorts were destroyed by American carrier aircraft.

The first use of kamikaze
Kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

 aircraft took place following the Leyte landings. A kamikaze hit the Australian heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

  on 21 October. Organized suicide attacks by the "Special Attack Force" began on 25 October during the closing phase of the Battle off Samar, causing the destruction of the escort carrier St. Lo.

J.F.C. Fuller
J.F.C. Fuller
Major-General John Frederick Charles Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO was a British Army officer, military historian and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorising principles of warfare...

, in his The Decisive Battles of the Western World, writes of the outcome of Leyte Gulf:
Months after the battle the US Navy knew that the American public had to be told something. The battle had been too large, involved too many US military personnel and had resulted in too much loss of life just to ignore. To this end the US Navy provided most of the information to the publication Popular Mechanics
Popular Mechanics
Popular Mechanics is an American magazine first published January 11, 1902 by H. H. Windsor, and has been owned since 1958 by the Hearst Corporation...

 to publish an article on the battle showing the American public that the battle had gone exactly as Halsey had planned. It was several years before the true story of Halsey's decision to leave the San Bernardino Strait unguarded became known to the American public.

Memorials

  • At the U.S. Naval Academy, in Alumni Hall, a concourse is dedicated to Lt. Lloyd Garnett and his shipmates on , who earned their ship the reputation as the "destroyer escort that fought like a battleship" in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
  • The Essex-class aircraft carrier was named for the battle.
  • The Ticonderoga-class cruiser is named for the battle.

Audio/visual media


External links

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