Archive for October, 2013

hornetisland

Originally I planned on writing the haunted story of the USS Hornet after completing the story of my father’s time on the carrier but then I thought that it is a story for Halloween.  After all, the USS Hornet is considered the most haunted ship in the Navy, past or present.

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The USS Hornet (CV-, CVA and CVS-12) is a floating history of the US Navy where in her years of service, she housed a hospital, a tailor shop, a cobbler shop, three barbershops, and seven galleys.  She is the size of three football fields and could carry 3,500 servicemen.  Her history is spectacular with much already reported in my previous posts; however I’ll sum up her record:  Nine battle stars for military service, In WWII, her pilots destroyed 1,410 Japanese aircrafts and almost 1.3 tons of enemy cargo.  If ever there was a ship that would be haunted, it would be the Hornet since In her 27 years of service, there were 300 deaths from battles, accidents and suicides.  The USS Hornet holds the Navy record for the most suicides.  Very sad statistics.

Now a museum docked at the Alameda Naval Air Station in California, she is reported to be full of ghosts.  There has been a lot of unexplained phenomena reported by tourists and staff members since she arrived in Alameda and many skeptics are now believers.

  • unusual noises
  • items that come up missing
  • apparitions
  • Psychics and ghost hunters have investigated and agree that the activity is probably souls of the departed sailors carrying out their final orders.
  • People reported the feeling that someone touched or grabbed them when no one else was about
  • The spotted servicemen have not all been Navy
  • Report of ghostly figures that are real looking.  They blend in with the living.  They appear dressed in uniform, patrolling the hallways and carrying out their duties
  • They have been spotted on decks, climbing ladders and in the Combat Information Center.
  • Toilets mysteriously flush by themselves
  • Lights turn on and off on their own.
  • Men have been heard talking but no one is present.

The steam room is one of the most haunted sections of the USS Hornet.  One sailor believed to have died in the steam room remains there as he doesn’t know that he is dead.

Engine Room #1 was one of two engine rooms that provided propulsion power to the Hornet. Eight boilers produced the steam required to generate 150,000 horsepower.

Engine Room #1 was one of two engine rooms that provided propulsion power to the Hornet. Eight boilers produced the steam required to generate 150,000 horsepower.

There has also been a report of ghosts that are not American.  One spirit is believed to be a Japanese pilot who had been a prisoner of war on board during WWII.  He allegedly went mad in the small cell and inhabits the room and is still trying to get out.

Another ghost that is often seen is Admiral Joseph “Jocko” Clark who served as commander during WWII.

Here are a few of the witness accounts from the following website:  http://www.its.caltech.edu/~drmiles/ghost_stories.html  There are several more like these.

In early February, 2009 I was volunteering on USS Hornet with a group of my fellow US Coast Guardsmen. We were painting a compartment and a few of us were wearing white Tyvek paper suits. When our paint started running low I went off in search of the Hornet worker that was supplying our paint, getting lost in the process. As I wandered the passageways I came off a “side” passage onto the starboard main passageway, one deck below the hangar deck. I saw what I thought was one of my coworkers stepping off the main hall onto a side passage about 25 feet away from me. I called out to him but he kept walking and when I got to the hall he stepped into, there was a chain blocking the entrance and it was an empty compartment! Needless to say I was confused, but kept walking and eventually found my way back to the room we were painting. When I saw the coworker I thought I had seen earlier, I mentioned to him that I had called him in the passageway but he told me that he hadn’t left the room for about an hour. Later when I mentioned this to the Hornet employees, one lady said that I had seen the “Dress Whites Ghost”, apparently an apparition of a sailor wearing his dress white uniform!

Bob Eiess
Coast Guard Island
Alameda, California

I love ghost stories and shows on tv about ghost and ghost investigations. About 3 or 4 years ago, I visited the Hornet with my family and about 15 other people from our church. I knew stories about seeing soldiers at certain parts of the ship, and kept my eyes open, but didn’t see anything. After the tour, before we were leaving, my mom and I stopped off at the bathroom. We were the only ones in there, and when we went to wash our hands we were chatting. When we got over to the sinks, we could hear two guys talking (one of them actually sounded like a kid perhaps) pretty loud; not loud enough to understand what they were saying, but loud enough that we noticed and had to talk over them. We figured that there was a men’s restroom next door to the women’s, but when we walked out there wasn’t, so we just figured someone must have been outside talking and we just didn’t see them. A few months later, we were watching a ghost show and they talked about the Hornet. Sure enou gh, they showed the bathroom we were in and talked about reports of men talking near the sinks! It was very creepy and I for sure will never go there at night for one of those overnighters!

Katie

shifty.jones@gmail.com

My husband and I went with my aunt to tour the USS hornet. At the end of the day when the tours were closing down, my husband drug me off into a section of the ship that was obviously not open to tourists. The hallways were dark, the side rooms had bed frames just tossed into them, debris strewn all over like a trash heap. I was getting nervous we would either get lost or get into trouble for being in a section that was closed. Suddenly a full uniformed officer came from around the corner. I knew for sure we were in trouble. He walked past us. He never made ANY eye contact, no acknowlegdment of our presence what so ever. He then turned into one of the rooms about 10 feet ahead. We followed behind him, and when passing the side room he went into, again piled high with bed frames and what not, he was gone. I told my husband we had to get out of there. Just then my camera crashed to the floor. The camera came apart from the strap. I have owned this camera for 8 years. Ne ver before and never since has the camera come off the strap. I think back now – and I think what sent off alarms was the lack of air movement as he walked by, and NO acknowldgement that we were even there. I truly believe we saw a ghost!

Kathleen

katpickett@comcast.net

I was recently aboard the USS Hornet on a 4H Exchange Club trip with my host family and took lots of pictures but when I got home and started looking through the pictures I took, I noticed in the medical wing in one of the rooms I took a picture and when I took it the chair in the picture was empty and when I looked at the picture that night chills ran up my spine when I seen someone sitting in the chair in that picture that was wearing something that looked like an old time pilots helmet and looked like he was tied down. I asked all the people that were on that trip if they would look at the picture and they did and saw the same thing I did. Take it this was down in medical operating wing on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 around 4:25 pm.

Steven Shirk

walnutst@hotmail.com

Here is a video about the haunted USS Hornet.

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John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf).  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 and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.  Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts.  In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.  In Part 2, I wrote about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.  In Part 3, I wrote about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait.  For Part 4, I will write about the Battle of Surigao Strait.

Here is an episode of the television show, Victory at Sea.  Episode 19, broadcast in 1953 was the Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Battle of Surigao Strait (25 October 1944)

 The Battle of Surigao Strait

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Nishimura’s “Southern Force” consisted of the old battleships Yamashiro and Fusō, the heavy cruiser Mogami, and four destroyers.  

Shoji Nishimura

Shoji Nishimura

Imperial Japanese Navy battleships Fusō (foreground) and Yamashiro (background)

Imperial Japanese Navy battleships Fusō (foreground) and Yamashiro (background)

Cruiser Mogami

Cruiser Mogami

This mini fleet left Brunei after Kurita at 15:00 on 22 October, turning eastward into the Sulu Sea 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 the Surigao Strait, intending to exit the north entrance of the Strait into Leyte Gulf where he would add his firepower to that of Kurita’s force.

Mindanao Island

Mindanao Island

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

Kiyohide Shima

Kiyohide Shima

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Japanese cruiser Abukuma

Japanese cruiser Abukuma

The Southern Force was attacked by US 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 synchronize his movements with Shima and Kurita. When he entered the narrow Surigao Strait at 02:00, Shima was 25 nmi (29 mi; 46 km) behind him, and Kurita was still in the Sibuyan Sea, several hours from the beaches at Leyte.

As the Southern Force approached the Surigao Strait, it ran into a deadly trap set by the 7th Fleet Support Force. Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had a substantial force.

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf

There were six battleships: West Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania; all but Mississippi had been sunk or damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor and since repaired, Tennessee, California, and West Virginia having been rebuilt since then.

index

bb46-5

USS Mississippi 6

index

USS California

USS California

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There were also the 35 8-inch (203 mm) guns of the four heavy cruisers (USS Louisville (flagship), Portland, Minneapolis and HMAS Shropshire) and 54 6-inch (152 mm) guns of four light cruisers (Denver, Columbia, Phoenix and Boise).

USS Louisville

USS Louisville

USS Portland

USS Portland

USS Minneapolis

USS Minneapolis

HMS Shropshire

HMS Shropshire

There were also the smaller guns and torpedoes of 28 destroyers and 39 motor torpedo boats (Patrol/Torpedo (PT) boats). 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 (Ensign Peter Gadd), operating off Bohol, 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 as it streamed northward. Although no torpedo hits were scored, the PT boats did send contact reports which were of use to Oldendorf and his force.

Remarkably, Nishimura’s ships slipped through the gauntlet of PT boats unscathed. However, a short time later, their luck ran out as they were subjected to devastating torpedo attacks from the American destroyers disposed on both sides of their axis 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 USS Melvin (DD-680).

fusburnTwo of Nishimura’s four destroyers were sunk; another, Asagumo, was hit but able to retire, and later sank.

Zuikaku's crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku’s crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku sinking Zuikaku, striking her flag and sinking, while her crew salutes. 843 of her soldiers will go down with her. View looks aft from the rear of the carrier's island, with radio antenna masts folded horizontal on her starboard side. Note her sharp list to port. A 25mm single anti-aircraft machine gun is mounted on the flight deck, at the lower right.

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 Fuso‘s fate is also extremely improbable. Accordingly, it is likely that the Morison account is incorrect in this detail. There are rumors 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 Virginia‘s radar picked up the surviving ships of Nishimura’s force at a range of 42,000 yd (38,000 m) and had achieved a firing solution at 30,000 yd (27,000 m). West Virginia tracked them as they approached in the pitch black night. At 03:53, she fired the eight 16 in (410 mm) guns of her main battery at a range of 22,800 yd (20,800 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 (360 mm) shells, respectively. Radar fire control 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 US 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 (410 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 12 14-in 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 and 14-in armor-piercing shells, as well as the fire of Oldendorf’s flanking cruisers. Shigure 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.

Yamashiro and Shigure ride into the Valley of death

Yamashiro and Shigure ride into the Valley of death

The rear of the Southern Force—the “Second Striking Force” commanded by Vice Admiral Shima—had departed from Mako and approached Surigao Strait about 40 mi (35 nmi; 64 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 almost 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 (Nachi and Ashigara) 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, Nachi, collided with Mogami, flooding Mogami‘s 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 by gunfire from 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 USS Blackfin (SS-322), which sank her off Kota Bharu, Malaya, 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 the part of Fuso still afloat. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The Battle of Surigao Strait was one of the only two battleship-against-battleship surface battles in the entire Pacific campaign of World War II (the other being the Naval Battle during the Guadalcanal Campaign) and 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” 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.

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf).  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 and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.  Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts.  In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.  In Part 2, I wrote about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.  During my research for the previous post, I discovered a part of the separate story that needs a separate posting so for part 3, I write about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait.  This post can be summed up in one phrase “Communication Breakdown.”

Leyte Assault, 20-25 October 1944

Leyte Assault, 20-25 October 1944

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 New Jersey, prepared a contingency plan to deal with the threat from Kurita’s Center Force.

USS New Jersey (BB 62)

USS New Jersey (BB 62)

Their intention was to cover the San Bernardino Strait with a powerful task force of fast battleships supported by two of the 3rd Fleet’s equally swift 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.

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

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

Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison

Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison

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:

BATDIV 7 MIAMI, VINCENNES, BILOXI, DESRON 52 LESS STEVEN POTTER, FROM TG 38.2 AND WASHINGTON, ALABAMA, WICHITA, NEW ORLEANS, DESDIV 100, PATTERSON, BAGLEY FROM TG 38.4 WILL BE FORMED AS TASK FORCE 34 UNDER VICE ADMIRAL LEE, COMMANDER BATTLE LINE. TF 34 TO ENGAGE DECISIVELY AT LONG RANGES. CTG 38.4 CONDUCT CARRIERS OF TG 38.2 AND TG 38.4 CLEAR OF SURFACE FIGHTING. INSTRUCTIONS FOR TG 38.3 AND TG 38.1 LATER. HALSEY, OTC IN NEW JERSEY.

—Morison (1956)

Halsey sent information copies of this message to Admiral Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters and Admiral King in Washington; however 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 Halsey was speaking in the imperative, not the future tense, so he concluded TF 34 had been formed and would take station off the 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:

IF THE ENEMY SORTIES (THROUGH SAN BERNADINO STRAIT) TF 34 WILL BE FORMED WHEN DIRECTED BY ME.

—T.J. Cutler (1994)

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 1944)

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’s Centre force and defending itself against the Japanese air strikes from Luzon. Thus, ironically, the one Japanese force that wanted to be discovered was the only force the Americans had not been able to find. On the evening of 24 October, Ozawa intercepted a (mistaken) American communication describing Kurita’s withdrawal; 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 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 the Center Force had been neutralized by 3rd Fleet’s air strikes earlier in the day in the Sibuyan Sea, and its remnants were retiring, Halsey radioed (to Nimitz and Kinkaid):

CENTRAL FORCE HEAVILY DAMAGED ACCORDING TO STRIKE REPORTS.
AM PROCEEDING NORTH WITH THREE GROUPS TO ATTACK CARRIER FORCES AT DAWN

—Morison (1956)

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—had now been formed as a separate entity. They assumed that Halsey was leaving this powerful surface force guarding the San Bernardino Strait (and covering the 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 the 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”.

Light Carrier, USS Independence

Light Carrier, USS Independence

Halsey and his staff officers ignored information from a night reconnaissance aircraft operating from the light carrier Independence that Kurita’s powerful surface force had turned back towards the San Bernardino Strait, and that after a long blackout, the navigation lights in the strait had been turned on.

0500_ijn_web

When Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan—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.

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

” 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 and Commander James Flatley of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’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, leaving the San Bernardino Strait completely unguarded.

As in most endeavors today, communication is an important aspect of carrying out an operation.  As I continue my research, I will see if this serious breakdown in communication will have a major effect on the war.  In my next post, part 4 of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, I will write about the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October 1944.