The End of the Japanese Navy: The Battle Leyte Gulf
This timeline of the Battle of Leyte Gulf is based on the Naval Chronology 1944 of Byrd archive with additions from the book Fast Carriers: The Forging of an Air Navy, by Clark G Reynolds, 1968.
1944 Pacific Theater
09/15 Fri. 1st Marine Division (Maj. Gen. W. H. Rupertus) lands at Peleliu, Palau Islands.
09/17 Sun. Army troops land on Angaur, Palau Islands, supported by carrier-based aircraft and naval gunfire
09/21 Thu. Aircraft from 12 carriers (Vice Adm. M. A. Mitscher) commence 2-day attack against Japanese shipping and airfields on Luzon, P. I.
09/24 Sun. Aircraft from 12 carriers (Vice Adm. M. A. Mitscher) attack aircraft, ground installations, and shipping in the Visayas, P. I.
09/28 Thu. Marines occupy Ngesebus and Kongauru Islands in the Palau Islands, under cover of naval aircraft and gunfire support.
10/08 Sun. Land-based aircraft from the Marianas Islands increase tempo of air strikes on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands.
10/10 Tue. Aircraft from fast carrier task force (Vice Adm. M. A. Mitscher) composed of 17 carriers, escorted by 5 battleships, 14 cruisers, and 58 destroyers bomb Japanese shipping and shore facilities on Okinawa and other islands in the Ryukyus.
10/11 Wed. Aircraft from two carrier task groups (Vice Adm. J. S. McCain and Rear Adm. R. E. Davison) attack airfields and other enemy facilities in northern Luzon, P. I.
10/12 Thu. Carrier-based aircraft from Third Fleet (Adm. W. F. Halsey) commence 5-day attack against enemy shipping, airfield facilities, and industrial plants on Formosa and northern Luzon, P. I. These strikes meet with intensive counterattacks by Japanese aircraft.
10/13 Fri. Peleliu Island in the Palau Islands is secured.
10/15 Sun. Aircraft from carrier task group (Rear Adm. R. E. Davison) bomb targets in the Manila area, Luzon, P. I.
10/17 Tue. Aircraft from carrier task group (Rear Adm. R. E. Davison bomb Japanese airfields on Luzon, P. I.
Army troops are landed on Suluan and Dinagat Islands at the entrance to Leyte Gulf, P. I.
10/18 Wed. Aircraft from three task groups of the Third Fleet (Adm. W. F. Halsey), including 13 carriers, attack Japanese installations and shipping in northern Luzon
and the Manila area, P. I.
Cruiser task group (Rear Adm. J. B. Oldendorf) bombards enemy shore installations on Leyte, P. I.
Army troops land on Homonhon Island at the entrance to Leyte Gulf, P. I.
10/19 Vice Adm. Onishi of the Japanese Philippine First Air Fleet activates the Kamikaze Corps for suicide raids on U.S. Naval shipping.
The U.S. Third Fleet organization
- The Task Force 38 plan was basic- eliminating the threat of Japanese air attacks and surface attacks around the Philippine islands before the invasion by MacArthur and his land forces
- Initial attacks centered on the Formosa Area Oct. 12-15
- Japanese resistance was strong but inexperienced pilots led to another "Marianas Turkey Shoot"
- Next phase would center on the Philippine islands with raids on Luzon and the, return to Manila Oct. 15-18
- Halsey after missing Coral Sea and Midway wanted to destroy the Japanese Fleet and truly make a name for himself as a carrier commander. A lot had changed since 1942.
"Wild Bill" Halsey
- Halsey would require alot of help from his subordinates who understood the large fleet tactics that were now being used.
- Halsey was not a true fast carrier commander it was Mitscher and McCain that were the true tacticials.
- Halsey felt the Japanese would respond after the initial invasion of the islands with a possible combined naval and surface attack.
- Intelligence reports showed the Japanese force led Adm. Shima was retreating away from Formosa with his strong force of surface ships.
- With this info Halsey allows the start of rotating his task forces to the base at Ulithi for R and R.
TG 38.1 led by Adm. McCain first to go.
The Japanese Plan
10/20 Fri. Army forces land on Leyte, P. I., supported by naval gunfire and carrier-based aircraft. The overall commander is Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the naval commander is Vice Adm. T. C. Kinkaid, and the ground troops are commanded by Lt. Gen. W. Krueger.
MacArthur "Returns" to the Philippines
Back to the Philippines is a story in Soldier magazine by Heike Hasenauer about MacArthur's campaign.
10/23 Mon. Battle for Leyte Gulf (13-16 October) opens as United States submarines off Palawan Island sight and attack the Center Force of three Japanese naval groups moving on Leyte in a major effort to drive United States forces from the Philippines. Two enemy cruisers are sunk and a third was left too damaged to continue
- It had been Adm. Kurita and his large force that had been discovered and attacked first.
- The forces led by Nishimura, Shima and Ozawa were still undetected.
- They would all be sighted by the early morning of 10/24. Remaining contact with them would be a problem for the U.S. pilots all during the battle.
- Halsey made a mistake by allowing McCain to sail 600 miles from the battle on his way to Ulithi before recalling them to join the rest of the fleet.
- McCain's force contained 5 carriers that would be needed to defend the passage ways to the invasion area from Japanese attack.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf Map
map from ILN 1944/11/4
10/24 Tue. Battle for Leyte Gulf (23-26 October) continues. Carrier-based aircraft (Vice Adm. M. A. Mitscher) locate and heavily attack the Japanese Center Force south of Mindoro in the Sibuyan Sea
- the Southern Force moving through the Sulu Sea
- Land based Enemy aircraft counterattack United States forces.
- During the night, the United States fast carriers move north from San Bernardino Strait to be in a position for dawn strikes against the enemy Northern Force
- The Japanese Center Force moves through San Bernardino Strait and south toward Leyte Gulf.
- This would be the most crutial day during the battle
- Force "A" Kurita was heavily attacked and later turned away after the battleship Musashi was sunk by U.S. carrier based planes
- Japanese land based planes were able to cripple the U.S. carrier Princeton forcing it later to be sunk by U.S. ships
- Ozawa in the north with decoy force begins to reveal his carriers position with radio transmissions
- Halsey decides with Kurita turned away he can now focus his attention on the enemy carriers located to the North leaving the beaches defended by Seventh Fleet led by Adm. Kinkaid
- Halsey turns complete Task Force 38(without McCain group) north all at night all a very dangerous operation. The force is slow moving because of Halsey inexperience in tactics.
- This is even after Kurita is discovered heading east through the San Bernadino Strait by the night fighters from the Independance at 8:06P.M.
- Kinkaid interprets Halsey dispatches feeling elements of Task Force 38 will stay and guard San Bernadino Strait. It would be the battle line of Task Force 34 led by Adm. Lee
- Halsey decides to take TS 34 with TS 38 north rather than split up his force.
- Everyone else thinks TS 34 will be defending the San Bernadino Strait.
- Lack of communication between Halsey and Kinkaid becomes the downfall of the attack. Halsey and Kinkaid were operating seperatly from each other but dependent also.
- If Halsey carries plan through Seventh Fleet left without air cover and open for attack from Luzon.
- Seventh Fleet was composed of the following:
- 6 Battleships that had been raised from the attack on Pearl Harbor that were slow and mainly used for invasion bombardment
- 18 Escort Carriers for Anti-Sub and support of the landings not for attacks on shipping
- Destroyers for picket patrols and close support for the invasion.
- Kinkaid realizes his exposure and attempts to contact Halsey to send help for the possible night attack
- Kurita decides to turn his fleet around for an engagement the next day in Leyte Gulf.
- Shima and Nishimura forces now heading for the Surgao Strait to attack the U.S. invasion fleet from the South the attack begins early in the morning of 10/25.
Map of Middle Section of the battle
10/25 Wed. Battle for Leyte Gulf (13-16 October) continues.
- Japanese Southern Force enters Surigao Strait where it is engaged and virtually destroyed by Rear Adm. J. B. Oldendorf's force of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and motor torpedo boats (Battle of Surigao Strait).
- The Japanese Center Force, including 4 battleships and 5 cruisers, having passed into the Philippine Sea during the night, attacks 6 escort carriers and screening vessels commanded by Rear Adm. C. A. F. Sprague (Battle off Samar).
- After inflicting severe damage on this light United States force, the enemy Center Force retires without molesting the landing operations in the Leyte Gulf area.
- Carrier aircraft from Third Fleet (Adm. W. F. Halsey) locate and strike the Japanese Northern Force. Four Japanese carriers and other vessels are sunk (Battle off Gape Engano)
Map of Northern Section of the battle
Map of Southern Section of the battle
United States naval vessels sunk, Battle for Leyte Gulf:
- In south Nishimura Force eliminated and Shima Force retreats after seeing what happenned
- Kurita begins his attack in the morning led by battleship Yamato.
- Kinkaid now sending messages "pleading" for relief from the Japanese attacks to Halsey.
- Nimitz interceps messages and sends message to Halsey "Turkey Trots to Water. From Cincpac. Where is, repeat, where is Task Force 34. The World Wonders"
- Ozawa realizes his decoy mission succeeded by the enormity of the U.S. air attack on his naval force.
- Halsey forced to turn south to save Kinkaid after message from Nimitz.
- He leaves after inflicting severe damage on the Northern Japanese force.
- Seventh Fleet Escort carriers and Destroyers able to repel Kurita. "Taffy 1, 2and 3"
- An account of the Taffy 1, 2and 3 during the Battle of Samar
- Kurita fearful of being trapped and destroyed by the many U.S. carriers retreats.
- Kamikaze attack would start in greater numbers on U.S. ships after the battle.
- Escort carrier ST. LO (CVE-63), by suicide plane
- Escort carrier GAMBIER BAY (CVE-73), by naval gunfire
- Destroyer HOEL (DD-533), by naval gunfire
- Destroyer JOHNSTON (DD-557), by naval gunfire
- Destroyer escort SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (DE-413), by naval gunfire
- A total of 6 ships were lost totaling 37,000 tons
Japanese naval vessels sunk, Battle for Leyte Gulf:
- Carrier ZUIKAKU, by carrier-based aircraft
- Light carrier CHITOSE, by carrier-based aircraft and surface craft
- Light carrier CHIYODA, by carrier-based aircraft
- Light carrier ZUIHO, by carrier-based aircraft
- Battleships FUSO and YAMASHIRO and MUSASHI by surface craft
- Heavy cruisers CHIKUMA, CHOKAI and SUZUYA, by carrier-based aircraft
- Heavy cruiser MOGAMI, by carrier-based aircraft and surface craft
- 26 total ships at 306,000 Tons losses.
10/26 Thu. Battle for Leyte Gulf (23-26 October) ends as carrier-based and Army aircraft bomb the retiring Japanese ships which have survived the previous days' action.
- This would be the last major naval action during the war.
- The only real form of attack on U.S. naval ships would be the Kamikaze attacks. They would prove to be very effective.
- Adm. Kurita really missed a chance to deal decisive blow to the U.S. invasion fleet. This was supposed to be a suicide mission and he chose to withdraw rather than continue fighting.
- Lack of recon by Japanese airplanes limited success.
- Communication between land based planes and surface ships doomed the plan to failure.
- The last sizable attack would be from the Yamato of Okinawa on a suicide mission.
- Communication between the fleets was the greatest failure of the battle.
- Halsey was vague in his plans and failed to tell Kinkaid what he was going to do when he headed north.
- Kinkaid failed to get word from Halsey until it was almost to late.
- Later combined invasion operations would not be independent from each other. They would all be under one commander on the scene and all of the Naval forces.
- Task Force 58 be reformed under Adm. Mitscher and would remain unopposed for the remainder war with the exception for the Kamikaze attacks during the Iwo Jima and Okinawa operations.
- Halsey started to fall from grace as commander after Leyte. He would continue causing trouble by steering Task Force 38 into two typhoons in 1944-1945.
10/27 Fri. Aircraft from two carrier task groups (Rear Adm. F. C. Sherman and Rear Adm. R. E. Davison) attack enemy ships and installations in the Visayas and northern Luzon area, P. I.
- Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle ever to take place. It involved over 244 ships and men than ever before. It eliminated the Japanese Navy from being any type of effective weapon.
- The U.S. submarine fleet now able to maintain a complete blockade on the mainland Japan.
10/28 Sat. Aircraft from carrier task group (Rear Adm. R. E. Davison) bomb Japanese shipping near Cebu, P. I. United States naval vessel sunk
10/29 Sun. Aircraft from carrier task group (Rear Adm. G. F. Bogan) strike enemy airfields and shipping in the Manila area, P. I.
revised 5/1/95 by A. J. Lutz for the WWII Timeline