The Battle For Leyte Gulf

By Myles Seiple


The U.S. met Japan in the Leyte gulf in an attempt to cut off Japanese supply line that came out of the Philippines and traveled to the rest of the Japanese army scattered across the Pacific. The U.S. was successful but it was not an easily accomplished victory. The U.S. did not have a lead commander, but instead different admirals that for the most part had their own plans and one very loose central plan. Because of this poor planning when the battle started the U.S. third fleet was tricked by a Japanese decoy while the U.S. fifth fleet went into the Suriago Strait where they were then attacked heavily by Japanese naval and air forces. The third fleet then fended off three hard-hitting Japanese attacks. Another attack was launched against the fifth fleet because the Japanese decoy lured the third fleet away from the San Bernardino Strait which allowed another wave of attack against the fifth fleet which was once again deterred by the Americans. The Battle for Leyte Gulf was a great victory for the U.S. because it destroyed much of the Japanese Naval fleet and also cut off supply lines to the rest of the Pacific coming out of the Philippines and its surrounding islands.

U.S. light carrier "Princeton" after being destroyed by Japanese aircraft.

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THE BATTLE FOR LEYTE GULF 25 October 1944: Off the Central Philippines (Lt. Robb White, USNR, Public Relations, CinCPac)

In the first engagement between carriers and surface ships within gun range in the Pacific since CVE's six little jeep carriers, whipped four battleships, eight cruisers, and 10 destroyers. Taffy Two, the Natoma Bay, Manila Bay, Ommaney Bay, Savo Island, Kadashan Bay, and Marcus Island, under the command of Admiral Stump, who although a pilot and experienced aviator, is also a seaman and a fighter, stopped the Japanese fleet; turned it away from the stricken ships of Taffy Three as it tried to utterly destroy them. Its own ships have been saved. This band of little ships threw the Japs back, mauled his ships and defeated him.

Captain Rutheford's account of the Battle of Leyte Gulf October 1944: Philippines

One of the things that's confusing a lot of people, and it still does, I think, was the Battle of Leyte, where Kurita, (VADM Kurita, Commander First Striking Force, at Leyte Gulf) after getting into the Leyte Gulf, was in an enviable position with Halsey (ADM Halsey, Commander Third Fleet) charging out after the Japanese somewhere. In the next five minutes or so, (Kurita) could completely disrupt the whole Leyte operation. It might inflict extremely serious damage to us. He, for some unexplainable reason, reversed his course and left the area, sparing our transports and those flattops we had down there and all those people. If he had just stayed another five minutes, he could have made a shambles out of Leyte Gulf. Why did he retreat?


The mission of the combatant vessels on the night of 24-25 October was to protect our forces and shipping by denying entrance of enemy forces into Leyte Gulf, and to destroy any enemy forces encountered. The doctrine, as expressed by the O.T.C. (CTG 77.2), was to engage the enemy at medium ranges of about 20,000 yards. The Task Group Commander's plan was to patrol across the north entrance to Surigao Straits in battle disposition in the vicinity of Latitude 10°-40' N prepared to engage any force attempting to enter Leyte Gulf. Two groups of enemy forces were approaching the Leyte Gulf area -- one from the South consisting of 2 BB's, 2 Cruisers and several DD's via Southern Surigao Straits -- and one consisting of BB's, CA's and DD's approaching from the North via San Bernardino Straits. it was calculated that these two s would arrive in Leyte Gulf about dawn on October 25, 1944. Apparently CTG 77.2 deployed his forces to protect the gulf against the enemy southern force, at the same time being not far from the eastern entrance to the gulf in case the enemy northern force was not stopped by the Third Fleet and our light carrier forces in that vicinity.


Tactics. The enemy had been fighting through day air attacks and night destroyers and MTB attacks but kept doggedly on. He appeared to be in two groups in column, 3,000 to 4,000 yards apart zig zaging. heavy ships appeared to be in each group. Speed was about seventeen knots, course north. Searchlights were used briefly several times and firing was rapid and brief. Apparently the enemy had no information of the fleet interposed in his path. our f was spread nearly across the straits in a crescent shaped disposition crossing the T. The plan was to open fire on the battle line at about 20,000 yards, and the battle line commander ordered opening fire at 26,000. When 26,000 yards was passed without being sure of the target, the CO felt no compunction about delaying, as such action agreed with the plan. In fact, with our preponderous of force, even if the enemy opened fire first the range would soon be enough to assure blowing him out of the water quickly. Also we were short of ammunition and wanted every shot to count.

Enterprise CV-6 Captain Cato D. Glover, covers Enterprise's role in the largest sea battle in history: the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26 October 1944

This Task Group rendezvoused with Task Group 38.3 in the late afternoon about 120 miles east of SAN BERNARDINO STRAIT. After sunset both groups proceeded westward at high speed. Task Group 38.3 had been under heavy air attack during the afternoon. The PRINCETON was seriously damaged and that group did not rendezvous until late in the evening.

Yamato (Battleship, 1941-1945) -- in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 22-26 October 1944 (Japanese Perspective)

On 20 October 1944, U.S. Forces landed on the Island of Leyte, the first of the Japanese-held Philippine Islands to be invaded. In response, the Japanese Navy activated the complex "Sho-Go" Operation, in which several different surface and air forces would converge on the Philippines to try and drive off the Americans. As part of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's Center Force, Yamato moved up to Brunei Bay, Borneo, to refuel and then steamed toward the operational area in company with four other battleships, ten heavy cruisers and numerous other warships. On 23 October, while west of the Philippines, the Center Force was attacked by the U.S. submarines Darter (SS-227) and Dace (SS-247). Three heavy cruisers were torpedoed and two sunk, including Kurita's flagship,Atago. The Admiral then moved to Yamato, which served as his flagship for the rest of the operation.

The battle of Leyte Gulf: Imperial Japanese Navy point of view (by NGTM_1R05) (The Battlefield; Surigao Strait 1944)

The Battle of Surigao Strait was, ironically, not a part of the initial Japanese plan for Leyte Gulf. Dubbed “Sho-1”, that plan was devised to repel a landing in the Philippine Islands. The carriers would feint from direction of Japan and draw off Fast Carrier Forces Pacific Fleet; the surface fleet would approach through San Bernardino Strait, attack the landing force and destroy it, and then withdraw to the south. Surigao Strait would not be their entry point, but their eventual method of escape.

BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF: 2009 by The History Channel: 1944 Battle of Leyte Golf, Philippines

Leyte Gulf was decisive in that it destroyed much of the remaining Japanese surface fleet while virtually ending Japan’s ability to move resources from Southeast Asia to the home islands. Japanese losses included four aircraft carriers, three battleships, six heavy and four light cruisers, and eleven destroyers, along with several hundred aircraft and over 10,500 sailors. Allied losses were one light carrier, two escort carriers, two destroyers and one destroyer-escort. Despite overall failure, however, the Japanese showed that with determination they could still press home attacks against an Allied armada with huge technical and material advantages.

Ahoy - Mac's Web Log:The Battle of Leyte Gulf. 23 - 26 October 1944

US Task Force 58, the Fast Carrier Force, destroyed about 200 Japanese aircraft in one afternoon. Three Japanese carriers were sunk, and over two days, nearly 500 land and sea based aircraft were shot down. This decisive defeat of Japanese air power at sea would subsequently benefit the US Naval Forces that were to converge upon the Philippines at Leyte in October of 1944.

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