The Battle of Leyte Gulf. 23 - 26 October 1944

(See more pictures here and here)

Allied forces land at Leyte October 1944
Allied forces land at Leyte October 1944
To set the scene here I propose to briefly review the War in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to this period in 1944.

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:

"Douglas, where do we go next?"

Without any hesitation MacArthur responded with :

"The Philippines Mr. President."

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.

The fleets

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)


Ships and Aircraft

United States





Large Carriers






Small Carriers
























Aircraft Embarked



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:

  1. Two US Submarines attack the Japanese Fleet in the Palawan Passage.
  2. The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea.
    Here, Task Force 38 carrier aircraft were pitted against the main Japanese surface of ships.
  3. The Battle of Suriago Straits.
    The last great sea battle of all time, the largest ship to ship action since Jutland in 1916.
  4. The Battle of Cape Engano.
    The US Third Fleet destroyed the Japanese aircraft carriers, indeed their last action at sea.
  5. The Battle off Samar.
    US escort carriers with their protecting destroyer screen struggle with running into the main Japanese surface force.

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.

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

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.


Leyte Gulf Track Chart at an important phase

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

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:-


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 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."

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 agony of Kinkaid and his units facing Kurita's battleships desperately seeking the whereabouts of Vice Admiral Ching Lee, and his fast battleships spelled out in the Battleship History Leyte Gulf Part 6. The recent work by Doctor Kenneth Friedman on the Battle of Leyte Gulf adds both to the literature and information about those desperate times in October 1944.
  • The monumental work of S. E. Morison's: History of US Naval Operations in WW2, Volume XII, 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.

(See more pictures here and here)

(Source of the charts:


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