Flashback – Battle of Leyte Gulf part I
This momentous event was previously only briefly mentioned. The four Naval Battles that occured in three days time certainly deserve much more. Since an explosion of action occured with such a multitude of vessels, I have added a map for both this section and part 2 in an attempt to clarify my explainations.
To begin the story of Leyte Gulf, one must first relate what had occured at Formosa. Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome commanded the Second Air Fleet as they spotted the first wave of Admiral Mitscher’s aircraft carrier’s 1,378 sorties flying in at them on 12 October 1944. Fukudome felt that his “Tojos” and “Zekes” outnumbered the Americans and relished seeing planes drop like flies – until he realized that they were his own planes. One-third of the Japanese fighters, plus damage to hangers and other ground installations was the end result. By the time the third wave of American aircraft arrived, no enemy planes were in the air, so they bombed randomly and at will. Six hundred Japanese aircraft had been destroyed. Some of the enemy did manage to instill damage to the cruisers Canberra and the Houston and reported back to Fukudome that Halsy’s fleet was severely crippled. It is apparent that Japan was already using young and inexperienced pilots.
Halsey had the Third Fleet containing Mitscher’s 16 fast carriers, 6 new battleships and 81 cruisers and destroyers. (This must have been quite an overwhelming sight to see on the high seas.) MacArthur controlled the Sixth Army (200,000 men), General Kenney’s Fifth Air Force on five islands and Admiral Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet. All this arrived in Leyte Gulf at the island’s east coast. Japanese Admiral Toyoda, who devised the enemy’s battle plan, divided his navy into three forces: Admiral Takeo’s Center Force coming from Singapore while Admiral Nishimura’s Southern Force came from the south through Surigo Strait with the rear-guard under Admiral Kiyohide right behind them. The third part, the Northern Force was a weak link with only four aircraft carriers. And, then there was Admiral Ozawa, who came from Japan with only two battleships and eleven light cruisers and destroyers to be used as a decoy.
On 23 October, Kurita’s Center Force was spotted by two American submarines, the Dace and the Darter and Halsey was notified. The Third Fleet turned east. The next morning, a serch plane from the Enterprise and a bomber from the Fifth Air Force located Nishimura’s Southern Force. Mitscher’s carrier planes were ordered to attack the Kurita fleet. Fukudome sank the Princeton </em, but left Kurita without air support, his superbattleships, the Musaski and the Yamato </em, were forced to use their 16" and 18" guns with the sanshikidon shells. (6,000 steel pellets per shell). U.S. bombers from the Cabot and Intrepid managed to hit the Myoko, Yamato and the Musaski. Darter & Dace sunk the Atago & Maya and damaged the Takan. Darter unfortunately ran aground shortly after and the Dace left to assist her. Pilots from the Enterprise & Essex chimed in on a battle that looked like chaos and sounded like the end of the world.
Kurita turned westward after the Musaki was sunk. This caused Halsey to feel that the Center Force was no longer a threat and went in search for the main danger. What he was to discover was Ozawa’s Northern Force (the decoy). Working without ample intelligence information, Halsey swallowed the bait, just as Yamato had expected in his original plan. Halsey attacked. With miscommunication between Admirals Halsey and Lee, Halsey raced north while Kurita’s Center Force and Nishimura’s Southern Force returned to Leyte Gulf.
MacArthur was furious to find that Halsey had endangered the landing troops, but the admiral felt that he answered only to Nimitz and his primary order was the destruction of the enemy wherever he had the chance.
PT boats darted toward Nishimura to launch torpedoes, none scored, but the position information was transmitted. The destroyer Remey fired and sunk two Japanese destroyers and 39 PT boats prepared to cross the “T” (This maneuver is where one fleet cuts in front of the enemy in single file allowing every ship to fire broadside while the enemy can only use their forward guns). With the absence of aircraft, this was perfect and they blocked the Japanese from entering the gulf.
Oldendorf on the Louisville held his guns quiet until the enemy was at 15,600 yards and then ordered, “Open fire.” Every ship opened up at once. Within 18 minutes, the battleships West Virginia, California, Tennesse, Maryland & Mississippi fired approximately 270 shells from their 14″ and 16″ guns. The cruisers blasted at least 4,000 rounds from their 6″ and 8″ guns and the destroyers launched torpedoes. All but one of Nishimura’s vessels were crippled or sunk. Only the destroyer Albert W. Grant was damaged. The Japanese rear-guard Southern Force retreated.
Remember to click on any photo to enlarge for better viewing.
Posted on February 28, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged Admiral Halsey, ancestry, family history, History, Leyte, Leyte Gulf, Military, Military History, Navy, nostalgia, Pacific War, Philippines, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.