I’ve talked about the Battle of Leyte Gulf a couple times here recently, and since it pretty much wrapped up on the October 26, 1944, let’s put a bit of closure on it. In short, it went very well for “us” and very badly for “them”.
We saw how the Battle got off to a bad start for the Japanese around Palawan Island. We also discussed how a vastly inferior fleet drove off a much larger force by flailing its arms and legs wildly and throwing everything it had at it (including a kitchen sink or two). But let’s look at a couple of other engagements.
I mentioned Japan’s Southern Force the other day. Well, the morning that “David met Goliath” to the north, the Southern Force met its doom. Consisting of a couple battleships, a heavy cruiser (none other than our friend Mogami from Midway), and a handful of destroyers, the small but powerful force ran full-on into Admiral Jesse Oldendorf’s larger and more powerful force in the narrow Surigao Strait. Comprised of six battleships (most of which had been damaged or sunk at Pearl Harbor), heavy cruisers, destroyers, and even PT boats, this armada was able to “Cross the T” and put the steel to Admiral Nishimura’s fleet: this would be no “David versus Goliath” encounter. When the smoke cleared, the final battleship-versus-battleship encounter in naval history showed most of Nishimura’s fleet as just memories.
Meanwhile, Bull Halsey’s group, decoyed to the north, put the hurt on Japan’s Northern Force, sinking three carriers and a destroyer, and then was forced to race south in an effort to engage Kurita’s powerful Center Force.
But the Japanese had taken enough of a beating, and those ships still above water retreated. The U.S. Navy lost 3 small carriers, a pair of destroyers, and a destroyer escort. Japan’s side of the ledger was much, much worse. They had lost 4 carriers, 3 battleships (including the massive Musashi), a dozen destroyers, and numerous cruisers. What’s more, the loss of the waters around the Philippines meant Japan’s main supply lines were now mostly severed as well. The ships returning to Japan would, for the most part, not have enough fuel to set sail again, except on one-way suicide runs. For all intents and purposes, the Battle of Leyte Gulf ended Japan’s naval presence in the Pacific.