Leyte Gulf

Oct 2015
935
Virginia
This is the 75th anniversary (24 -25 Oct 1944) of "one of the greatest naval actions of all time", that "comprised every type of naval warfare devised up to that time." "An imperishable part of our national heritage." according to Morrison.
One can only admire the skill, courage and determination exhibited by the sailors and airmen on both sides, but divided command NEARLY led to serious losses for the US (as it had at Savo Island in 1942 (?))

Admiral Kinkaid (CO 7th Fleet) commanded "Central Philippenes Attack Force", (essentially the amphibious forces and their air and gunfire support) while Admiral Halsey (CO 3rd Fleet) commanded the Fast Carrier Task Force. In the odd command structure of the Pacific War, Kinkaid and Halsey carried out one operation under different Theater Commands (Kinkaid under MacArthur's Southwest Pacific, Halsey under Nimitz' Pacific Ocean Area) neither had a superior below the President and JCS.

Halsey's orders required him to "cover and support Southwest Pacific Forces.. in seizure and occupation of all objectives in the central Philippenes". But also contained the clause..."In case opportunity for destruction of a major portion of the enemy fleet is offered or can be created, such destruction becomes the primary task."

In the Marianas campaign, Spruance commanded both the carriers AND the amphibious force and did NOT aggressively go after the Japanese Fleet, and was criticized for it. At Leyte Halsey commanded only the carrier-fast battleship force and did. Communication confusion between Halsey and Kinkaid re the detachment of the fast battleships (TF 34) allowed Kurita's force to pass thru San Bernardino Strait, and only the courageous fight of the "Taffys" and Kurita's failure of nerve prevented a serious setback.

Anybody want to argue about divided command, competing objectives, TF34, USS New Jersey vs Yamato, or naming ships after politicians and leaving the names of fighting ships and sailors like "Johnston", "Samuel B Roberts" and "Earnest E Evans" et al (viz Yorktown, Lexington, Laffey, Tang, Wahoo) vacant on the US Navy List? (Sorry, a pet peave)
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,630
Dispargum
I think Spruance did the right thing at Philippine Sea, and Halsey should have practiced the Spruance policy at Leyte Gulf. Halsey's orders allowing him to abandon the amphibious force and go after the Japanese fleet invited disaster.

Is anyone aware of US intelligence estimates of Japanese naval aviation in the fall of '44? After suffering those kinds of losses at the Turkey Shoot, did anyone seriously believe the Japanese carriers had been restocked with new, fully trained and experienced pilots in only four months?
 
  • Like
Reactions: sparky

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,011
Kansas
This is the 75th anniversary (24 -25 Oct 1944) of "one of the greatest naval actions of all time", that "comprised every type of naval warfare devised up to that time." "An imperishable part of our national heritage." according to Morrison.
One can only admire the skill, courage and determination exhibited by the sailors and airmen on both sides, but divided command NEARLY led to serious losses for the US (as it had at Savo Island in 1942 (?))

Admiral Kinkaid (CO 7th Fleet) commanded "Central Philippenes Attack Force", (essentially the amphibious forces and their air and gunfire support) while Admiral Halsey (CO 3rd Fleet) commanded the Fast Carrier Task Force. In the odd command structure of the Pacific War, Kinkaid and Halsey carried out one operation under different Theater Commands (Kinkaid under MacArthur's Southwest Pacific, Halsey under Nimitz' Pacific Ocean Area) neither had a superior below the President and JCS.

Halsey's orders required him to "cover and support Southwest Pacific Forces.. in seizure and occupation of all objectives in the central Philippenes". But also contained the clause..."In case opportunity for destruction of a major portion of the enemy fleet is offered or can be created, such destruction becomes the primary task."

In the Marianas campaign, Spruance commanded both the carriers AND the amphibious force and did NOT aggressively go after the Japanese Fleet, and was criticized for it. At Leyte Halsey commanded only the carrier-fast battleship force and did. Communication confusion between Halsey and Kinkaid re the detachment of the fast battleships (TF 34) allowed Kurita's force to pass thru San Bernardino Strait, and only the courageous fight of the "Taffys" and Kurita's failure of nerve prevented a serious setback.

Anybody want to argue about divided command, competing objectives, TF34, USS New Jersey vs Yamato, or naming ships after politicians and leaving the names of fighting ships and sailors like "Johnston", "Samuel B Roberts" and "Earnest E Evans" et al (viz Yorktown, Lexington, Laffey, Tang, Wahoo) vacant on the US Navy List? (Sorry, a pet peave)
 
Apr 2014
172
New York, U.S.
I have no problem with the command structure that existed at Leyte Gulf.
I think the main problem was the order that Nimitz gave to Halsey. Halsey was given a choice of either staying on the defensive to protect Leyte Gulf or going on the offensive. When Ozawa’s carriers were spotted, the ever aggressive Halsey chose the second option bringing the entire firepower of 5th Fleet.
Halsey toyed with the idea of detaching TF34 (4 battleships and supporting cruisers and destroyers) and 2 carrier groups but declined this option.
The sad part is that Halsey could have had his cake and eat it. He possessed an enormously large carrier stroke force and could have detached the above mentioned forces and still have enough carrier forces to decisively deal with Ozawa.

What if: The naval battle of San Bernardino St.
Before dawn, the carriers launch reconnaissance aircraft. They spot Kurita’s force coming through the strait and radio
back the information to the carriers. The carriers launch a full scale attack of torpedo planes and dive bombers. At the same time the battleships race to close the distance with the Japanese.
The American air assault does minimal damage but causes Kurita’s fleet to lose formation in their desperate maneuvering to avoid the American planes. The American battleships and cruisers now engage the Japanese. The ensuing battle is a draw but Kurita decides to retire .
The carrier planes, refueled and rearmed, launch a second attack on the retreating Japanese fleet. They inflict further damage on the enemy.
The outcome is a tactical victory for the Americans.
 

Triceratops

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,016
Late Cretaceous
Surigao Strait, the last action in which battleships engaged other battleships, namely IJN Fuso & Yamashiro, brought under fire by a US Battle Group which included the battleships, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Maryland and Tennessee., all except Mississippi being Pearl Harbor veterans.

A full 12 gun salvo from Mississippi fired at Yamashiro marked the end of an era in naval warfare.

Yamashiro, right centre, comes under intense fire while leading the Japanese battle force.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,011
Kansas
Short video about Surigao Strait:

It is astonishing the level of competency and confidence the US navy had by this stage of the war. Obviously they had much greater forces at their disposal, but really this attack was over before the first cruiser of battleship had even engaged the enemy.
 
Oct 2015
935
Virginia
Quite an advance in destroyer torpedo technique since 1942 by DESRONs 54 (5 ships hit and 3 sunk - Captain Coward had commanded USS Sterett at the Battle of Guadalcanal 11/13/42), 24 and 56. Battleship gunnery was a little ragged, probably from lack of experience firing at ships at night.

A dawn gunfire action at the exit of San Bernardino Straight between TF34 (Washington, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Alabama - commanded by admiral W A Lee - who sank the Kirishima) and the Japanese Center Force (Yamato, Nagato, Kongo, Haruna) would have been an even more epic climax to the era of the line of battle.
 
Last edited:

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,630
Dispargum
Battleship gunnery was a little ragged, probably from lack of experience firing at ships at night.
Or lack of of practice lol.
Probably not a lack of practice at loading and aiming the guns but a lack of practice at maneuvering at night in battle conditions. On a couple of occasions US cruisers and destroyers sailed in front of US battleships, forcing the battleships to hold fire until they once again had a clear line of sight/fire at the enemy. A better trained/practiced fleet would have avoided masking each other's fire.