Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

The world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

A VF-11 F6F getting a wave off while another Hellcat taxies out of the way, Dec. 1944 on USS Hornet (CV-12).

A VF-11 F6F getting a wave off while another Hellcat taxies out of the way, Dec. 1944 on USS Hornet (CV-12).


The famous "Murderers Row" at Ulithi lagoon, December 1944, as seen from USS Wasp (CV-18): USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), and USS Hancock (CV-19).

The famous “Murderers Row” at Ulithi lagoon, December 1944, as seen from USS Wasp (CV-18): USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), and USS Hancock (CV-19).

The ship’s log did not specifically mention this; however according to Wikipedia, in the months following the Battle Leyte Gulf, Hornet attacked enemy shipping and airfields throughout the Philippines. This included participation in a raid that destroyed an entire Japanese convoy in 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 from 11 November-21 December 1944, part of the Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II. The battles resulted from Japanese operations to reinforce and resupply their forces on Leyte and U.S. attempts to interdict them.

Battle of Ormoc Bay Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II

Battle of Ormoc Bay
Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II

After the Battles at Leyte Gulf in late October, the Japanese commander in the Philippines, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, believed that the United States Navy had suffered severe casualties and that the Allied land forces might be vulnerable.

Tomoyuki Yamashita

Tomoyuki Yamashita

Accordingly, he began to reinforce and resupply the garrisons on Leyte.  The Japanese ran nine convoys to the island, landing around 34,000 troops from the 1st, 8th, 26th, 30th, and 102nd divisions. Ormoc City at the head of Ormoc Bay on the west side of Leyte was the main port on the island and the main destination of the convoys.

Decryption of messages sent using the PURPLE cipher alerted the Allies to the concentration of Japanese shipping around Leyte, but they initially interpreted this as an evacuation. However, by the first week of November the picture was clear, and the Allies began to interdict the convoys.

Codename Purple by the United States, was a diplomatic cryptographic machine used by the Japanese Foreign Office just before and during World War II.  The machine was an electromechanical stepping-switch device.  The information gained from decryption was eventually code-named Magic within the US government.  The codename “Purple” referred to binders used by US cryptanalysts for material produced by various systems; it replaced the Red machine used by the Japanese Foreign Office. The Japanese also used Coral and JADE stepping-switch systems.

The Japanese PURPLE machine. At the end of World War II, the Japanese destroyed nearly all of their code machines, and very few parts exist today. This fragment is on display at the National Cryptologic Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of National Cryptologic Museum, NSA)

The Japanese PURPLE machine. At the end of World War II, the Japanese destroyed nearly all of their code machines, and very few parts exist today. This fragment is on display at the National Cryptologic Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of National Cryptologic Museum, NSA)

TA-3 and TA-4 (Japanese)

On 8-9 November, the Japanese dispatched two convoys from Manila to Ormoc Bay. The convoys were spaced one day apart so that the destroyers escorting the first convoy could double back and escort the second. However, the convoys were spotted on November 9 and attacked by land-based aircraft of the Fifth Air Force.

Battle of Ormac Bay

Battle of Ormac Bay

On 10 November the 38th Bomb Group, based on Morotai, sent 32 B-25 Mitchells escorted by 37 P-47 Thunderbolts to attack TA-4 near Ponson Island.

Reaching the convoy just before noon, the B-25s attacked at minimum altitude in pairs, sinking the two largest transports, disabling a third, and sinking two of the patrol craft escorts, at a cost of seven bombers, for which the group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.

On 11 November, U.S. 3rd Fleet commander Admiral William F. Halsey ordered an attack by 350 planes of Task Force 38 on the combined convoys.

Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Four destroyers — Shimakaze, Wakatsuki, Hamanami and Naganami — and three transports were sunk. Rear Admiral Mikio Hayakawa went down with Shimakaze.

DD Shimakaze - off Leyte 11 November 1944

DD Shimakaze – off Leyte 11 November 1944


A Japanese destroyer Wakatsuki burns off Leyte, Philippine Islands after being attacked by U.S. carrier planes, 11 November 1944. 350 U.S. Navy aircraft sank the destroyers Hamanami, Naganami, Shimakaze, and Wakatsuki and all the transports of a convoy 80 km north-east of Cebu, Philippines (10.50N 124.35E).

A Japanese destroyer Wakatsuki burns off Leyte, Philippine Islands after being attacked by U.S. carrier planes, 11 November 1944. 350 U.S. Navy aircraft sank the destroyers Hamanami, Naganami, Shimakaze, and Wakatsuki and all the transports of a convoy 80 km north-east of Cebu, Philippines (10.50N 124.35E).

TA-5 (Japanese)

Convoy TA-5 left Manila on 23 November for Port Cataingan and Port Balancan. Of the six transports, five were sunk by air attack.

U.S. destroyer sweeps

USS Pursuit (AM 108)

USS Pursuit (AM 108)


USS Revenge (AM-110)

USS Revenge (AM-110)

Bad weather in late November made air interdiction less effective, and the U.S. Navy began to send destroyers into Ormoc Bay. Canigao Channel was swept for mines by the minesweepers Pursuit and Revenge, and the four destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 22 (DesRon 22) under the command of Captain Robert Smith (Waller, Pringle, Renshaw and Saufley) entered the bay, where they shelled the docks at Ormoc City.

USS Waller (DDE-466)

USS Waller (DDE-466)

An Allied patrol plane radioed a message to the division noting that a surfaced Japanese submarine (I-46) was south of Pacijan Island and heading for Ormoc Bay. The division headed south to intercept; and, at 01:27 on 28 November, Wallers radar picked up the target just off the northeast coast of Ponson Island. Waller disabled I-46 with her first shots and, unable to submerge, she could only return fire with her deck guns until she sank at 01:45.

TA-6 (Japanese)

Two transports escorted by three patrol vessels left Manila on 27 November. They were attacked by American PT boats in Ormoc Bay on the night of 28 November and by air attack as the survivors left the area.  (Night of November 28/29, 1944, PT 127 and PT 331 torpedoed and sank IJN subchaser No. 52 and Patrol Boat No. 105 at Ormoc Bay.)

Crew of PT 127

Crew of PT 127


PT 331

PT 331

All five ships were sunk.

Another U.S. destroyer sweep on the night of 29-30 November in search of a reported convoy resulted only in the destruction of a few barges.

TA-7 (Japanese)

A convoy of three transports departed Manila on 1 December, escorted by destroyers Take and Kuwa under the command of Lieutenant Commander Masamichi Yamashita.

Japanese destroyers KUWA and TAKE

Japanese destroyers KUWA and TAKE

Two groups of transport submarines also took part in the operation.

The convoy was docked at Ormoc City when it was engaged at 00:09 on 3 December by three ships of U.S. Destroyer Division 120 (DesDiv 120) under the command of Captain John C. Zahm (Allen M. Sumner, Cooper and Moale).

USS Allen M Sumner (DD-692)

USS Allen M Sumner (DD-692)


USS Cooper (DD-695)

USS Cooper (DD-695)


USS Moale (DD-693)

USS Moale (DD-693)

The U.S. ships sank the transports as they were unloaded but came under heavy attack from Yokosuka P1Y “Frances” bombers, shore batteries, submarines that were known to be in the harbor, and the Japanese destroyers.

The Yokosuka P1Y Ginga was a twin-engine, land-based bomber developed for the Japanese Imperial Navy in World War II. It was the successor to the Mitsubishi G4M and given the Allied reporting name "Frances".

The Yokosuka P1Y Ginga was a twin-engine, land-based bomber developed for the Japanese Imperial Navy in World War II. It was the successor to the Mitsubishi G4M and given the Allied reporting name “Frances”.

Kuwa was sunk and Commander Yamashita was killed. Take attacked Cooper with torpedoes and escaped, though with some damage. Cooper sank at about 00:15 with the loss of 191 lives (168 sailors were rescued from the water on 4 December by Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats).

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat, and later an amphibious aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.

The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an American flying boat, and later an amphibious aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.

At 00:33, the two surviving U.S. destroyers were ordered to leave the bay, and the victorious Japanese successfully resupplied Ormoc Bay once more. This phase of the Battle of Ormoc Bay has gone down in history as the only naval engagement during the war in which the enemy brought to bear every type of weapon: naval gunnery, air attack, submarine attack, shore gunnery and mines.

Ormoc Bay U.S. troop landings

Major General A.D. Bruce (standing) during World War II

Major General A.D. Bruce (standing) during World War II

On 7 December, the 77th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Andrew D. Bruce, made an amphibious landing at Albuera, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) south of Ormoc City.

HEAVY MACHINE GUNS COVER CROSSING of the Antilao River by men of the 77th Division at Ormoc.

HEAVY MACHINE GUNS COVER CROSSING of the Antilao River by men of the 77th Division at Ormoc.

The 77th Division’s 305th, 306th, and 307th Infantry Regiments came ashore unopposed, but naval shipping was subjected to kamikaze attacks, resulting in the loss of destroyers Ward and Mahan.[1]

58_big

USS Mahan (DD-364)

USS Mahan (DD-364)

Other operations

All five transports of convoy TA-8 were sunk on 7 December by air attack, and the escorting destroyers Ume and Sugi were damaged.

Convoy TA-9 entered the bay on 11 December and landed troops, but two escorting destroyers, Yūzuki (by air attacks) and Uzuki (by PT boats), were sunk and the third, Kiri, was damaged.

 Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Yuzuki.

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Yuzuki.


Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Uzuki, the second Japanese warship to bear that name.

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Uzuki, the second Japanese warship to bear that name.

Aftermath

By fighting this series of engagements in Ormoc Bay, the U.S. Navy was eventually able to prevent the Japanese from further resupplying and reinforcing their troops on Leyte, contributing significantly to the victory in the land battle. The final tally of ships lost in Ormoc Bay is: U.S. — three destroyers, one high speed transport, and two LSMs; Japan — six destroyers, 20 small transports, one submarine, one patrol boat and three escort vessels.

Historian Irwin J. Kappes argued that naval historians have unjustly neglected the importance of these engagements, writing:

“In the end, it was the rather amorphous Battle of Ormoc Bay that finally brought Leyte and the entire Gulf area under firm Allied control. From 11 November 1944 until 21 December, the combined efforts of Third Fleet carrier planes, Marine fighter-bomber groups, a pincer movement by the Army’s 77th Division and the First Division plus a motley assortment of destroyers, amphibious ships and PT boats trounced the now semi-isolated Japanese in a series of skirmishes and night raids. And because of poor weather conditions air support for most of these surface actions was almost non-existent.”

 

 

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

The world is still at war and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

I should have included the following photograph in my posts about October 1944.

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944. Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

Overhead view of an ammo ship replenishing USS Hornet (CV-12), October 1944. Note the forward antenna masts half way up.

Nov-Dec 1944 – Shipping and land strikes in the Philippine area, support of the Mindoro invasion.(According to ship’s log)

Third Fleet aircraft carriers at anchor in Ulithi Atoll, 8 December 1944, during a break from operations in the Philippines area. The carriers are (from front to back): USS Wasp (CV-18), USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), USS Hancock (CV-19) and USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). Wasp, Yorktown and Ticonderoga are all painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 10a. Photographed from a USS Ticonderoga plane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (Photo #: 80-G-294131).

Third Fleet aircraft carriers at anchor in Ulithi Atoll, 8 December 1944, during a break from operations in the Philippines area. The carriers are (from front to back): USS Wasp (CV-18), USS Yorktown (CV-10), USS Hornet (CV-12), USS Hancock (CV-19) and USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). Wasp, Yorktown and Ticonderoga are all painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 10a. Photographed from a USS Ticonderoga plane.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (Photo #: 80-G-294131).

The ship’s captain is still Captain Austin K. Doyle 9 August 1944 – 1 August 1945

doyle_austin_k

The Battle of Mindoro was a battle in World War II between forces of the United States and Japan, in Mindoro Island in the central Philippines, from 13-16 December 1944, during the Philippines campaign.  In a war history found on the website Fold3, I learned the following about the USS Hornet (CV-12) for December 1944:

Strikes made in support of Mindoro Invasion.  The ship got underway on 10 December from Ulithi.  The 100,000th mile-stone was passed on December 13, 1945.  During the next three days, flying in support of the airborne and amphibious landings in Mindoro Island, the Hornet’s pilots piled up 400 combat sorties against airfields and shipping in the Luzon area, meeting little air opposition.  Foul weather soon cancelled other operations and the ship returned to Ulithi on December 24, 1944.  This brief and unexpected respite from the strain of combat over the Christmas holidays was deeply enjoyed by all hands.  Five days later, however, the breathing spell was over, and the ship weighed anchor once again.

 

Sixth Army Operations, Mindoro and Marinduque Islands, December 1944

Sixth Army Operations, Mindoro and Marinduque Islands, December 1944

Summary

Troops of the United States Army, supported by the United States Navy and U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF), made an amphibious landing on Mindoro and defeated Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) forces there.

USS LCI(L)-1018 disembarking her troops at Mindoro during the Luzon campaign, 12 to 18 December 1944.

USS LCI(L)-1018 disembarking her troops at Mindoro during the Luzon campaign, 12 to 18 December 1944.

There was no significant opposition from the Imperial Japanese Navy, nor from the Japanese Army and Navy Air Forces, except for kamikaze (suicide) attacks on American ships.

USS LST 472 Struck by Kamikaze, December 15, 1944

USS LST 472 Struck by Kamikaze, December 15, 1944

The Japanese force in Mindoro was not large, and was eliminated in three days. The Army was assisted in the campaign by guerrillas from the local Filipino population.

A propaganda poster depicts the Philippine resistance movement during the first year of Japanese occupation. Following the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, the Philippine guerrilla movement provided valuable behind the lines intelligence reports to Allied strategists, as well as ambushing the occupying Japanese forces.

A propaganda poster depicts the Philippine resistance movement during the first year of Japanese occupation. Following the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, the Philippine guerrilla movement provided valuable behind the lines intelligence reports to Allied strategists, as well as ambushing the occupying Japanese forces.

The U.S. captured Mindoro to establish airfields there, which would be in fighter range of Lingayen Gulf in northern Luzon Island, where the next major amphibious invasion of the Philippines was planned. Ground-based fighter cover was necessary for this operation. Mindoro could also serve as the advanced base for U.S. troops going to fight in Luzon.

Background

For the invasion of Luzon, U.S forces needed air bases that were closer to the northern island than Leyte Island. Mindoro was the logical choice. Located not too far south of Luzon, and being about one-half the size of New Jersey, Mindoro is mostly covered by hills and mountains, with a few narrow plains along its seacoasts. Almost daily rains and high humidity, caused by clouds moving up from the south trapped by the high peaks made it a breeding ground for malaria and other tropical diseases. However, Japanese defenses on the island were minimal.

The airfields recently constructed at Leyte were deemed unreliable, so potential additional airfields in Mindoro appealed to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the commanding general of this theater of operations.

General Douglas MacArthur

General Douglas MacArthur

But taking Mindoro was a daunting task. The northeastern coast was best suited for amphibious landings, but was exposed to what was left of Japanese air power on Luzon, so this was ruled out. The town of San Jose on the southwest corner, though nearer to Mangarin Bay, Mindoro’s best deepwater port, was the spot chosen by his planners.

Modern day photograph of Southwestern Mindoro Island, Philippines

Modern day photograph of Southwestern Mindoro Island, Philippines

The U.S. Sixth Army under Lieutenant General Walter Krueger was assigned to seize Mindoro.

General MacArthur and Lieutenant General Krueger discuss the progress of the Philippine campaign aboard a PT boat in October 1944

General MacArthur and Lieutenant General Krueger discuss the progress of the Philippine campaign aboard a PT boat in October 1944

Krueger, in turn, gave the task to Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff’s 24th Infantry Division, with the 19th Infantry and the separate 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team of Lieutenant Colonel George M. Jones to spearhead the assault.

Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff

Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff

Insignia of the 24th Infantry Division

Insignia of the 24th Infantry Division

Insignia of the 19th Infantry Regiment

Insignia of the 19th Infantry Regiment

George M. Jones as a Colonel during the Philippines Campaign (1944–45).

George M. Jones as a Colonel during the Philippines Campaign (1944–45).

Insignia of the 503rd Infantry Regiment

Insignia of the 503rd Infantry Regiment

The main threat to the amphibious assault vessels and supporting warships was land-based Japanese kamikaze planes. The Japanese had begun the deadly practice as a desperate measure during the final stages of the Battle of Leyte and widened its use by December 1944.

Landing ship LSM 20 sinks off Philippines after kamikaze attack on December 5, 1944

Landing ship LSM 20 sinks off Philippines after kamikaze attack on December 5, 1944

In early December, USAAF and USN airplanes attacked Japanese air bases to destroy potential kamikazes before they could attack. U.S. aviators claimed more than 700 planes destroyed on the ground.

On 13 December 1944, two days before the scheduled assault on the island, kamikazes struck at the Navy task force bringing the landing force. The light cruiser USS Nashville was hit by a kamikaze, killing over 130 men and wounding another 190.

USS Nashville II-8

Brigadier General William C. Dunkel, the commander of the landing force, was among the injured. Other kamikaze attacks damaged two tank landing ships (LSTs, for Landing Ship, Tank) and disabled several other ships.

The Battle

On December 15, 1944, the invasion of Mindoro began. The clear weather allowed the full use of American air and naval power, including six escort carriers, three battleships, six cruisers and many other support warships against light Japanese resistance. Because of inadequate airstrip facilities in Leyte, the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team came ashore in Mangarin Bay with the landing force instead of jumping. Destroyers provided fire support for the troop landings and anti-aircraft protection for the ships in the transport area. Two LSTs struck by kamikazes were abandoned and sank.

LST-738 burning after she was hit by a kamikaze off the Mindoro landing beaches, 15 December 1944. USS Moale (DD-693) is nearby. Note the hole in LST-738's starboard side, just forward of the large "738" painted there. Smoke in the left distance may be from LST-472, which was also hit by the kamikaze attack.

LST-738 burning after she was hit by a kamikaze off the Mindoro landing beaches, 15 December 1944. USS Moale (DD-693) is nearby. Note the hole in LST-738’s starboard side, just forward of the large “738” painted there. Smoke in the left distance may be from LST-472, which was also hit by the kamikaze attack.

In one heroic action, the destroyer USS Moale (DD-693), under the command of Commander Walter M. Foster, went alongside the burning LST-738 (which was loaded with aviation fuel and ordnance) to rescue crewmembers. Several explosions aboard LST-738 caused damage to Moale as she pulled away. Some pieces of shrapnel were two feet square and they put four holes in Moale‘s hull. Gunner’s Mate Ed Marsh reported that a one-gallon jar of vaseline from the LST’s cargo splattered on one barrel of his twin 40 mm Bofors AA gun, providing unwelcome lubrication. Moale suffered one casualty and thirteen wounded. In addition, Moale also rescued 88 survivors.

There were 1,000 defending Japanese soldiers stationed on Mindoro. Another 200 survivors from ships sunk off Mindoro en route to Leyte were also present. The defenders were outnumbered and outgunned. Some 300  Japanese manning an air raid warning station at the island’s northern end put up a stiff fight against a company of the 503rd, but except for mopping up, the island was secure within 48 hours.

Aftermath

The defending Japanese forces on Mindoro suffered some 200 killed and 375 wounded. The survivors fled into the jungles, where they lurked till the end of the war. The 24th Infantry Division lost 18 men and had 81 wounded.

By the end of the first day, Army engineers were at work preparing airfields. Two were completed in thirteen days. These airfields allowed U.S. aircraft to provide direct support for the Luzon invasion. The Mindoro airfields were also used by long-range bombers, especially USAAF B-24 Liberators, to attack Japanese shipping from Formosa to Luzon. These bombers also operated over the South China Sea, and combined with the Navy to blockade shipping between Japan and south-east Asia.

B-24 Liberators

B-24 Liberators

USS Hornet (CV-12) Air Group 11 consisting of pilots of VF-11 F6F's, VB-11 SB2C's and VT-11 TBF's taken at Ulithi in late December 1944 just before the start of their cruise to the South China Sea.

USS Hornet (CV-12) Air Group 11 consisting of pilots of VF-11 F6F’s, VB-11 SB2C’s and VT-11 TBF’s taken at Ulithi in late December 1944 just before the start of their cruise to the South China Sea.

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 wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait.  For Part 5, the Battle of Samar.  For Part 6, the Battle Cape Engaño.  For this final installment in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, I will write about the criticisms of Admiral Halsey (some of which I mentioned throughout), a recap the losses experienced by all participants in these critical battles and the aftermath.

Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Bull’s Run

Among the criticism of Halsey in the Battle of Leyte Gulf was 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 US Navy slang for Halsey’s actions is Bull’s Run, a phrase combining Halsey’s newspaper nickname “Bull” (in the US Navy he was known as “Bill” Halsey) with an allusion to the Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War.  There were two battles of Bull Run (Manassas) but maybe the slang referred to both.

1st Battle of Bull Run

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

In his dispatch after the battle, Halsey justified the decision as follows:

Searches by my carrier planes revealed the presence of the Northern carrier force on the afternoon of 24 October, which completed the picture of all enemy naval forces. As it seemed childish to me to guard statically San Bernardino Strait, I concentrated TF 38 during the night and steamed north to attack the Northern Force at dawn.
I believed that the Center Force had been so heavily damaged in the Sibuyan Sea that it could no longer be considered a serious menace to Seventh Fleet.

Halsey also argued that he had feared leaving TF 34 to defend the strait without carrier support as that 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.

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Admiral Lee said after the battle that he would have been fully prepared for the battleships to cover the 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.

USS New Jersey - Pacific - 1944-45

USS New Jersey – Pacific – 1944-45

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 the 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 the 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 and so allowed the bulk of the Japanese fleet to escape. Halsey was also likely influenced by his Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Robert “Mick” Carney, who was also wholeheartedly in favor of taking all of 3rd Fleet’s available forces northwards to attack the Japanese carrier force.

Rear Admiral Robert "Mick" Carney

Rear Admiral Robert “Mick” Carney

However, Halsey did have reasonable and, in his view, given the information he had available, practical reasons for his actions.

  1. Halsey believed 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 members of the Japanese military to persist in hopeless endeavors 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.
  2. 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 22 October 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) drew his conclusion from the very poor performance of 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 he did not want to be “shuttle bombed” 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.

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

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:

In the absence of any information that this exit [of the San Bernardino Strait] was no longer blocked, it was logical to assume that our northern flank could not be exposed without ample warning.

In his book, The History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote the following regarding Halsey’s failure to turn TF 34 southwards when 7th Fleet’s first calls for assistance off Samar were received:

If TF 34 had been detached a few hours earlier, after Kinkaid’s first urgent request for help, and had left the destroyers behind, since their fueling caused a delay of over two and a half hours, a powerful battle line of six modern battleships under the command of Admiral Lee, the most experienced battle squadron commander in the Navy, would have arrived off the San Bernardino Strait in time to have clashed with Kurita’s Center Force… Apart from the accidents common in naval warfare, there is every reason to suppose that Lee would have “crossed the T” and completed the destruction of Center Force.

Instead, the mighty gunfire of the Third Fleet’s Battle Line, greater than that of the whole Japanese Navy, was never brought into action except to finish off one or two crippled light ships.

—Morison (1956), pp. 336–337

Perhaps the most telling comment is made with just a few words by Vice Admiral Lee in his action report as Commander of TF 34 —

No battle damage was incurred nor inflicted on the enemy by vessels while operating as Task Force Thirty-Four.

—Task Force 34 Action Report: 6 October 1944 – 3 November 1944

Losses

The losses in the battle of Leyte Gulf were not evenly distributed throughout all forces; for instance, the destroyer USS Heermann—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 large number of survivors from Taffy 3 were unable to be rescued for several days, and died unnecessarily as a consequence.

USS Heermann

Due to the long duration and size of the battle, accounts vary as to the losses which occurred as a part 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 Leyte Gulf:

  • One Light Carrier: USS Princeton

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Princeton

  • Two Escort Carriers: USS Gambier Bay and St. Lo (the first major warship sunk by a kamikaze attack)
Gambier Bay (CVE-73) under Japanese fire during the Battle of Samar. The smudge in the upper right corner is a Japanese heavy cruiser. US Navy photo. img URL: http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/0307304.jpg

Gambier Bay (CVE-73) under Japanese fire during the Battle of Samar. The smudge in the upper right corner is a Japanese heavy cruiser. US Navy photo. img URL: http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/0307304.jpg

USS St. Lo Burning from a Kamikaze

USS St. Lo Burning from a Kamikaze

  • Two Destroyers: Hoel and Johnston
Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944 American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944. Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) were rescued during the days following the action. Photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944
American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944.
Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) were rescued during the days following the action.
Photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof.
Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

  • One Destroyer Escort: USS Samuel B. Roberts
  • Four other American ships were damaged.

Japanese losses

The Japanese lost 26 front-line warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf:

  • One Fleet Aircraft Carrier: Zuikaku (flagship of the decoy Northern Forces).
Zuikaku's crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku’s crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

  • Three Light Aircraft Carriers: Zuihō, Chiyoda, and Chitose.
Zuihō during the Battle of Cape Engano

Zuihō during the Battle of Cape Engano

his light carrier of the Japanese NavyÂ’s Chitose Class lies dead in the waters off Luzon following attacks by Helldivers and Avengers on 24 October 1944

his light carrier of the Japanese NavyÂ’s Chitose Class lies dead in the waters off Luzon following attacks by Helldivers and Avengers on 24 October 1944

  • Three Battleships: Musashi (former flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet), Yamashiro (flagship of the Southern Force) and Fusō.
Battleship Musashi under fire October 1944

Battleship Musashi under fire October 1944

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

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

  • Six Heavy Cruisers: Atago (flagship of the Center Force), Maya, Suzuya, Chokai, Chikuma, and Mogami.
Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Atago photo from 1939

Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Atago photo from 1939

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Cruiser Mogami

Cruiser Mogami

  • Four Light Cruisers: Noshiro, Abukuma, Tama, and Kinu.
Japanese cruiser Abukuma

Japanese cruiser Abukuma

  • Nine Destroyers: Nowaki, Hayashimo, Yamagumo, Asagumo, Michishio, Akizuki, Hatsuzuki, Wakaba, and Uranami.
Destroyer Akizuki

Destroyer Akizuki

Aftermath

The Battle of Leyte Gulf secured the beachheads of the US Sixth Army on Leyte against attack from the sea.

National Archives 111-SC-349595 General MacArthur and soldiers walk from LSTs through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.

National Archives 111-SC-349595
General MacArthur and soldiers walk from LSTs through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.

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 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—engagements collectively referred to as the Battle of Ormoc Bay.

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A destroyer escort is blown apart by a direct hit

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A destroyer escort is blown apart by a direct hit

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A large transport is straddled by bomb bursts

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A large transport is straddled by bomb bursts

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 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 her ships and aircraft. 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 in 1945.

ryukyu_islands_30th_parallel

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.

yamexplodes

The first use of kamikaze aircraft took place following the Leyte landings. A kamikaze hit the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Australia 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.

Japanese Kamikaze Pilots 1944

Japanese Kamikaze Pilots 1944

J.F.C. Fuller, in his The Decisive Battles of the Western World, writes of the outcome of Leyte Gulf:

The Japanese fleet had [effectively] ceased to exist, and, except by land-based aircraft, their opponents had won undisputed command of the sea.

When Admiral Ozawa was questioned… after the war he replied ‘After this battle the surface forces became strictly auxiliary, so that we relied on land forces, special [Kamikaze] attack, and air power… there was no further use assigned to surface vessels, with the exception of some special ships’.

And Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister, said he realized the defeat at Leyte ‘was tantamount to the loss of the Philippines.’

As for the larger significance of the battle, he said, ‘I felt that it was the end.’

Months after the battle, the US Navy knew 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 to publish an article on the battle showing the American public that the battle had gone exactly as Halsey had planned.

Cover of Popular Mechanics Magazine, February 1945.  I do not know if this is the issue in question.

Cover of Popular Mechanics Magazine, February 1945. I do not know if this is the issue in question.

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.

 

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 wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait.  For Part 5, the Battle of Samar.  In Part 6, I will write about the Battle Cape Engaño.

The Battle of Cape Engaño (25–26 October)

leyte_map_annotated

Ozawa’s “Northern Force” comprised four aircraft carriers (Zuikaku—the last survivor of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the light carriers Zuihō, Chitose, and Chiyoda), two World War I battleships partially converted to carriers (Hyūga and Ise—the two aft turrets had been replaced by a hangar, aircraft handling deck and catapult, but neither battleship carried any aircraft in this battle), three light cruisers (Ōyodo, Tama, and Isuzu), and nine destroyers. His force had only 108 aircraft.

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku (left center) and (probably) Japanese aircraft carrier Zuiho (right) under attack by U.S. Navy dive bombers during the battle off Cape Engaño, October 25, 1944. Both ships appear to be making good speed, indicating that this photo was taken relatively early in the action. Both carriers are emitting heavy smoke. Note heavy concentration of anti-aircraft shell bursts in lower right and right, and a SB2C "Helldiver" diving in the lower left.

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku (left center) and (probably) Japanese aircraft carrier Zuiho (right) under attack by U.S. Navy dive bombers during the battle off Cape Engaño, October 25, 1944. Both ships appear to be making good speed, indicating that this photo was taken relatively early in the action. Both carriers are emitting heavy smoke. Note heavy concentration of anti-aircraft shell bursts in lower right and right, and a SB2C “Helldiver” diving in the lower left.

Ozawa’s force was not located until 16:40 on 24 October, largely because Sherman’s TG 38.3—which was 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 carriers (Intrepid, Franklin, Lexington, Enterprise, and Essex), five light fleet carriers (Independence, Belleau Wood, Langley, Cabot, and San Jacinto), six battleships (Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington), eight cruisers (two heavy and six light), and more than 40 destroyers. The air groups of the 10 US carriers present contained 600-1,000 aircraft.

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN  Portrait photograph, taken circa 1942. From RAdm. Samuel Eliot Morison photographic files. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN
Portrait photograph, taken circa 1942.
From RAdm. Samuel Eliot Morison photographic files.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

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 US 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.

h73071

Chitose class Carrier under attack, near miss Leyte gulf. This ship was finished off at 1630 by cruiser gunfire, East of Luzon, 25 October 1944.

Chitose class Carrier under attack, near miss Leyte gulf. This ship was finished off at 1630 by cruiser gunfire, East of Luzon, 25 October 1944.

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 Surigao 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 he knew Kinkaid was in trouble, but he had not dreamed of the seriousness of this crisis.

One of the most alarming signals from Kinkaid reported, 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 the powerful 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 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 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 first four words and the last three were “padding” used to confuse enemy cryptanalysis (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”, suggested by the coincidence that this day, 25 October, was the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava—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, 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 (37 mph; 59 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.

Rear Admiral Laurance Toombs DuBose

Rear Admiral Laurance Toombs DuBose

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.

USS Mobile 10

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 Jallao torpedoed and sank the light cruiser Tama of Ozawa’s force.

USS Jallao (SS-368)

USS Jallao (SS-368)

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.

In my next post, I will bring this major battle of World War II to a close with a summary of losses on both sides, a little about the criticism of Admiral Halsey and the aftermath of this series of battles.

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 wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait.  For Part 5, here is the Battle of Samar.

The Battle of Samar (25 October)

Battle of Samar

Battle of Samar

Prelude

You may recall from a previous part that 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.  Senior officers in 7th Fleet (including Kinkaid and his staff) generally assumed 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), but leaving the battleships of TF 34 covering the 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 escorts (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 Yamato), six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and 11 destroyers.

g378525

The battle

Kurita’s force caught Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague’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.

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Kurita, unaware that Ozawa’s decoy plan had succeeded, assumed 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 USS Johnston was the closest to the enemy. On his own initiative, Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans steered his hopelessly outclassed ship into the foe at flank speed. The Johnston fired its torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Kumano, damaging her and forcing her out of line. 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, Hoel and Heermann, and the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, attacked with suicidal determination, drawing fire and disrupting the Japanese formation as ships turned to avoid their torpedoes.

uss-samuel-b-roberts-de413

However, as the Japanese fleet continued to approach, Hoel and Roberts were hit multiple times, and quickly sank. After expending all of its torpedoes, Johnston continued to fight with its 5-inch guns, until it was sunk by a group of Japanese destroyers.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague (no relation to Clifton) ordered the sixteen escort carriers in his three task units to immediately launch all their aircraft equipped with whatever weapons they had available, even if these were only machine guns or depth charges.

Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague

Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague

Collectively, Sprague had a total of some 450 aircraft from these 16 carriers at his disposal. Although most of these aircraft were older models, such as the FM-2 Wildcat and TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, the fact that the Japanese force had no air cover of its own meant that American planes could commence their attacks unopposed. Consequently, the air counterattacks were almost unceasing, and some, especially several of the strikes launched from Felix Stump’s Task Unit 77.4.2 (Taffy 2), were relatively heavy.

TBF Avenger

TBF Avenger

The carriers of Taffy 3 turned south and retreated through the shellfire. Gambier Bay, at the rear of the American formation, became the focus of the battleship Yamato and sustained multiple hits before capsizing at 09:07. Several other carriers were damaged but were able to escape.

Rescue of men from USS Gambier Bay (VC-10)

Rescue of men from USS Gambier Bay (VC-10)

Admiral Kurita withdraws

The ferocity of the defense seemingly confirmed the Japanese assumption that they were engaging major fleet units rather than merely 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 to regroup his disorganized fleet. Turning again towards Leyte Gulf, Kurita’s battle report stated he had received a message indicating 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. In addition, Kurita’s decision was no doubt influenced by the fact that he did not know that Ozawa had lured Halsey’s entire fleet away from Leyte Gulf. Poor communication between the separate Japanese forces and a lack of air reconnaissance meant that Kurita was never informed that the deception had been successful, and that only a small and outgunned force stood between his battleships and the vulnerable transports of the invasion fleet. Thus, Kurita remained convinced that he had been engaging elements of the 3rd Fleet, and 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 battle worthy.

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 St. Lo of Taffy 3 was hit by a kamikaze aircraft and sank after a series of internal explosions.

The St. Lo burns after a kamikaze hits the flight deck on the morning of October 25, 1944.

The St. Lo burns after a kamikaze hits the flight deck on the morning of October 25, 1944.

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.

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USS Mississippi 6

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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.

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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.