My Short Story Has Been Selected for Publication in an Anthology

Recently I entered a short story contest held by the Short Story and Flash Fiction Society who will be publishing an anthology with the theme “Reunions”.  I am proud to announce that my story, Naval Reunion and Memories has been selected to be included.  I will let you know when the publication is finished and how to purchase a copy but you can also follow the progress at the society’s website at the link above.

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Blog Hiatus

I am taking a blog hiatus. Without going into details, I am dealing with health issues with my mom and with working all day and being at the hospital most evenings, it is best to take a blogging break. I’ll be back.

This Week in World War II – The USS Hornet (CV-8) Lost

world-war-2THIS WEEK IN WORLD WAR II

The USS Hornet (CV-8) Lost

News of the sinking of the USS Hornet CV-8

News of the sinking of the USS Hornet CV-8

If you follow my other blog, USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story, you know that my father’s carrier was named in honor of the USS Hornet (CV-8).  On October 26, 1942, the last U.S. carrier manufactured before America’s entry into World War II, the Hornet, is damaged so extensively by Japanese war planes in the Battle of Santa Cruz that it must be abandoned.  This is a repost from my blog of October 26, 2013.

USS Hornet (CV-8) under fire

USS Hornet (CV-8) under fire

 U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. "Suicide" dive bomber, in photo No. 1, has just crashed into the leading edge of the stack. Note smoke coming from hangar deck due to bomb hits aft.

U.S.S. HORNET during morning attack. “Suicide” dive bomber, in photo No. 1, has just crashed into the leading edge of the stack. Note smoke coming from hangar deck due to bomb hits aft.

In a desperate attempt to save USS Hornet, the heavy cruiser USS Northampton has taken the crippled carrier in tow. The eight degree list to starboard is clearly visible. It was at this time that the second fatal attack was made on Hornet by torpedo bombers from Junyo.

In a desperate attempt to save USS Hornet, the heavy cruiser USS Northampton has taken the crippled carrier in tow. The eight degree list to starboard is clearly visible. It was at this time that the second fatal attack was made on Hornet by torpedo bombers from Junyo.

The battle for Guadalcanal was the first American offensive against the Japanese, an attempt to prevent the Axis power from taking yet another island in the Solomon chain and gaining more ground in its race for Australia. On this day, in the vicinity of the Santa Cruz Islands, two American naval task forces had to stop a superior Japanese fleet, which was on its way to Guadalcanal with reinforcements. As was the case in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the engagement at Santa Cruz was fought exclusively by aircraft taking off from carriers of the respective forces; the ships themselves were not in range to fire at one another.

Japanese aerial fire damaged the USS Enterprise, the battleship South Dakota, and finally the Hornet. In fact, the explosions wrought by the Japanese bombs that rained down on the Hornet were so great that two of the Japanese bombers were themselves crippled by the blasts, and the pilots chose to dive-bomb their planes into the deck of the American carrier, which was finally abandoned and left to burn. The Hornet, which weighed 20,000 tons, had seen battle during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (its commander at the time, Marc Mitscher, was promoted to admiral and would be a significant player in the victory over Japan) and the battle of Midway.

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While the United States losses at Santa Cruz were heavy, the cost in aircraft to the Japanese was so extensive—more than 100, including 25 of the 27 bombers that attacked the Hornet—that they were unable finally to reinforce their troops at Guadalcanal, paving the way for an American victory.

Footnote: The Hornet lost at Santa Cruz was the CV-8; another Hornet, the CV-12, launched August 30, 1943, led a virtually charmed life, spending 52 days under Japanese attack in many battles in the Pacific, with nary a scratch to show for it. That is, until June 1945, when it was finally damaged—by a typhoon.  My father was on board during this typhoon.  Yet another experience that I would have liked to hear him tell about.

The bow of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) showing damage received in a typhoon on 5 June 1945. The flight deck has been bent downwards over the bow and the plating torn away revealing the control position for the starboard catapult.

The bow of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) showing damage received in a typhoon on 5 June 1945. The flight deck has been bent downwards over the bow and the plating torn away revealing the control position for the starboard catapult.

Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge – Haikus for Halloween

Submitted for Sunday Photo Fiction

spf

The Assignment: The idea of Photo Fiction is write a story of around 100-200 words (which is also called Flash Fiction) based on a photo as a prompt. In this particular photo fiction, the story must be based on the photo below.  To read stories written by others, click on the links tool below.  It dawned on my today that I have been participating in this challenge for more than a year.  I decided to create an anthology of these stories which you can access from a menu at the top of my page.

This week I am taking a break from my serial story to create a Halloween themed post.

Credit: Al Forbes

Credit: Al Forbes

Haikus for Halloween

Late Autumn chilled air
Costumed children fill the streets
Play tricks for a treat

It’s all hallows eve
Ghost and ghouls come out tonight
Their goal, to give fright

Stirring the caldron
Witches dance in the coven
Chanting spells laughing

At the costume ball
Dance with mystery partners
Unmasked at Midnight

It’s time for giving
Trick or Treat for UNICEF
Drop coins in the box

Bobbing for apples
Hands tied behind your back
Dunk head, capture the prize

The house is haunted
Do you dare to enter here?
Ghostly visitors

Carve scary pumpkins
Jack-o-lantern’s evil grin
His glow lights the night

 

 

 

Mondays Finish the Story – The Colony (Part 4)

Submitted for Mondays Finish the Story

This flash fiction weekly challenge began on October 6, 2014 and I decided to join it the first week.  Welcome to Mondays Finish the Story! In this challenge we are provided with photo and the opening line of a story. The challenge is to finish the story in 100-150 words!   If you also want to give it a try, you can read all about the challenge at the link at the top.  There has been a twist this week in that we are provided with the end of the story instead of the opening line.

I started this challenge with a serial story that I will run for a few weeks.  To start from the beginning, you can find Part 1 HERE. The story continues with The Colony (Part 4).

2014-10-27-bw-beacham1

2014-10-27-bw-beacham1

 “Little did we know that Grandpa was a collector.”

Of course this was not what the Captain and his team heard.  As they hid in the bushes, what seemed like adolescent aliens floated from behind them.  The aliens, like their human counterparts were so wrapped up in themselves they failed to notice the team.  The alien teenagers continued in their language.

“Last time we came to Earth, it was those old metal contraptions humans move about in.  He loaded up the cargo bay with those trucks and now we have to haul them everywhere we go.”

“What’s he collecting this time?”

“I didn’t know why he had those cages but I just came from the clearing and he has humans in them.  If he plans on bringing them on board, I don’t know where he will put them.”

The Captain signaled the team to ready their weapons and to move on his signal.

Come back for next week’s Mondays Finish the Story to see how the story continues.

What Happened on October 28th – The Gateway Arch

On this day in 1965, construction is completed on the Gateway Arch, a spectacular 630-foot-high parabola of stainless steel marking the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Missouri.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis Missouri

Gateway Arch, St. Louis Missouri

The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-born, American-educated architect Eero Saarinen, was erected to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and to celebrate St. Louis’ central role in the rapid westward expansion that followed.

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As the market and supply point for fur traders and explorers—including the famous Meriwether Lewis and William Clark—the town of St. Louis grew exponentially after the War of 1812, when great numbers of people began to travel by wagon train to seek their fortunes west of the Mississippi River. In 1947-48, Saarinen won a nationwide competition to design a monument honoring the spirit of the western pioneers. In a sad twist of fate, the architect died of a brain tumor in 1961 and did not live to see the construction of his now-famous arch, which began in February 1963. Completed in October 1965, the Gateway Arch cost less than $15 million to build. With foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, its frame of stressed stainless steel is built to withstand both earthquakes and high winds. An internal tram system takes visitors to the top, where on a clear day they can see up to 30 miles across the winding Mississippi and to the Great Plains to the west. In addition to the Gateway Arch, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial includes the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse of St. Louis, where two of the famous Dred Scott slavery cases were heard in the 1860s.

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The image on this page is an animated image of the construction of the Gateway Arch between February 29, 1964 – October 28, 1965. There are nine images in this animation that show the Arch at different points during its construction.

Today, some 4 million people visit the park each year to wander its nearly 100 acres, soak up some history and take in the breathtaking views from Saarinen’s gleaming arch.

What Happened on October 27th – New York City Subway Opens

At 2:35 on the afternoon of October 27, 1904, New York City Mayor George McClellan takes the controls on the inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit system: the subway.

Mayor George McClellan at the controls of the first NYC Subway train, 1904.

Mayor George McClellan at the controls of the first NYC Subway train, 1904.

While London boasts the world’s oldest underground train network (opened in 1863) and Boston built the first subway in the United States in 1897, the New York City subway soon became the largest American system. The first line, operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), traveled 9.1 miles through 28 stations. Running from City Hall in lower Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal in midtown, and then heading west along 42nd Street to Times Square, the line finished by zipping north, all the way to 145th Street and Broadway in Harlem. On opening day, Mayor McClellan so enjoyed his stint as engineer that he stayed at the controls all the way from City Hall to 103rd Street.

334829-mayor-george-mcclellan-was-the-first-to-drive-the-new-subway

At 7 p.m. that evening, the subway opened to the general public, and more than 100,000 people paid a nickel each to take their first ride under Manhattan. IRT service expanded to the Bronx in 1905, to Brooklyn in 1908 and to Queens in 1915. Since 1968, the subway has been controlled by the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA). The system now has 26 lines and 468 stations in operation; the longest line, the 8th Avenue “A” Express train, stretches more than 32 miles, from the northern tip of Manhattan to the far southeast corner of Queens.

Every day, some 4.5 million passengers take the subway in New York. With the exception of the PATH train connecting New York with New Jersey and some parts of Chicago’s elevated train system, New York’s subway is the only rapid transit system in the world that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter how crowded or dirty, the subway is one New York City institution few New Yorkers—or tourists—could do without.

New-York-City-Subway-Map-4.mediumthumb

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Final)

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

Originally posted on my other blog USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story

 

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf). The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history. Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts. In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944. In Part 2, I wrote about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea. In Part 3, I wrote about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait. For Part 4, I wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait. For Part 5, the Battle of Samar. For Part 6, the Battle Cape Engaño. For this final installment in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, I will write about the criticisms of Admiral Halsey (some of which I mentioned throughout), a recap the losses experienced by all participants in these critical battles and the aftermath.

Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey – Commander US Third Fleet at Leyte Gulf

Bull’s Run

Among the criticism of Halsey in the Battle of Leyte Gulf was his decision to take TF 34 north in pursuit of Ozawa, and for failing to detach it when Kinkaid first appealed for help.

A piece of US Navy slang for Halsey’s actions is Bull’s Run, a phrase combining Halsey’s newspaper nickname “Bull” (in the US Navy he was known as “Bill” Halsey) with an allusion to the Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War. There were two battles of Bull Run (Manassas) but maybe the slang referred to both.

1st Battle of Bull Run

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

In his dispatch after the battle, Halsey justified the decision as follows:

Searches by my carrier planes revealed the presence of the Northern carrier force on the afternoon of 24 October, which completed the picture of all enemy naval forces. As it seemed childish to me to guard statically San Bernardino Strait, I concentrated TF 38 during the night and steamed north to attack the Northern Force at dawn.
I believed that the Center Force had been so heavily damaged in the Sibuyan Sea that it could no longer be considered a serious menace to Seventh Fleet.

Halsey also argued that he had feared leaving TF 34 to defend the strait without carrier support as that would have left it vulnerable to attack from land-based aircraft, while leaving one of the fast carrier groups behind to cover the battleships would have significantly reduced the concentration of air power going north to strike Ozawa.

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Admiral Lee said after the battle that he would have been fully prepared for the battleships to cover the San Bernardino Strait without ‘any’ carrier support. Moreover, if Halsey had been in proper communication with 7th Fleet, it would have been entirely practicable for the escort carriers of TF 77 to provide adequate air cover for TF 34—a much easier matter than it would be for those escort carriers to defend themselves against the onslaught of Kurita’s heavy ships.

It may be argued that the fact that Halsey was aboard one of the battleships, and “would have had to remain behind” with TF 34 (while the bulk of his fleet charged northwards to attack the Japanese carriers), may have contributed to this decision, but this is in all likelihood a minor point.

USS New Jersey - Pacific - 1944-45

USS New Jersey – Pacific – 1944-45

It has been pointed out that it would have been perfectly feasible (and logical) to have taken one or both of 3rd Fleet’s two fastest battleships (Iowa and/or New Jersey) with the carriers in the pursuit of Ozawa, while leaving the rest of the battle line off the San Bernardino Strait (indeed, Halsey’s original plan for the composition of TF 34 was that it would contain only four, not all six, of the 3rd Fleet’s battleships); thus, guarding the San Bernardino Strait with a powerful battleship force would not have been incompatible with Halsey personally going north aboard New Jersey.

Probably a more important factor was that Halsey was philosophically against dividing his forces; he believed strongly in concentration as indicated by his writings both before World War II and in his subsequent articles and interviews defending his actions. In addition, Halsey may well have been influenced by the criticisms of Admiral Raymond Spruance, who was widely thought to have been excessively cautious at the Battle of the Philippine Sea and so allowed the bulk of the Japanese fleet to escape. Halsey was also likely influenced by his Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Robert “Mick” Carney, who was also wholeheartedly in favor of taking all of 3rd Fleet’s available forces northwards to attack the Japanese carrier force.

Rear Admiral Robert "Mick" Carney

Rear Admiral Robert “Mick” Carney

However, Halsey did have reasonable and, in his view, given the information he had available, practical reasons for his actions.

  1. Halsey believed Admiral Kurita’s force was more heavily damaged than it was. While it has been suggested that Halsey should have taken Kurita’s continued advance as evidence that his force was still a severe threat, this view cannot be supported given the well-known propensity for members of the Japanese military to persist in hopeless endeavors to the point of suicide. So, in Halsey’s estimation, Kurita’s weakened force was well within the ability of Seventh Fleet to deal with, and did not justify dividing his force.
  2. Halsey did not comprehend just how badly compromised Japan’s naval air power was and that Ozawa’s decoy force was nearly devoid of aircraft. Halsey, in a letter to Admiral Nimitz on 22 October 1944 (three days before the Battle off Samar) wrote that Admiral Marc Mitscher believed “Jap naval air was wiped out.” Mitscher, with Admiral Spruance at the Battle of the Philippine Sea (the Marianas Turkey Shoot) drew his conclusion from the very poor performance of the Japanese. Halsey ignored Mitscher’s insights, and made an understandable and, to him, prudent threat-conservative judgment that Ozawa’s force was still capable of launching serious attacks. Halsey later explained his actions partly by explicitly stating he did not want to be “shuttle bombed” by Ozawa’s force (a technique whereby planes can land and rearm at bases on either side of a foe, allowing them to attack on both the outbound flight and the return), or to give them a “free shot” at the US forces in Leyte Gulf. He was obviously not similarly concerned with giving Kurita’s battleships and cruisers a free shot at those same forces.

The fact that Halsey made one seemingly prudent threat-conservative judgment regarding Ozawa’s aircraft carriers and another rather opposite judgment regarding Kurita’s battleships probably reflects his understandable bias toward aircraft carriers as the prime threat of the war. At Leyte Gulf, Halsey failed to appreciate that under certain circumstances battleships and cruisers could still be extremely dangerous, and ironically, through his own failures to adequately communicate his intentions, he managed to bring those circumstances about.

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Clifton Sprague—commander of Task Unit 77.4.3 in the battle off Samar—was later bitterly critical of Halsey’s decision, and of his failure to clearly inform Kinkaid and 7th Fleet that their northern flank was no longer protected:

In the absence of any information that this exit [of the San Bernardino Strait] was no longer blocked, it was logical to assume that our northern flank could not be exposed without ample warning.

In his book, The History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote the following regarding Halsey’s failure to turn TF 34 southwards when 7th Fleet’s first calls for assistance off Samar were received:

If TF 34 had been detached a few hours earlier, after Kinkaid’s first urgent request for help, and had left the destroyers behind, since their fueling caused a delay of over two and a half hours, a powerful battle line of six modern battleships under the command of Admiral Lee, the most experienced battle squadron commander in the Navy, would have arrived off the San Bernardino Strait in time to have clashed with Kurita’s Center Force… Apart from the accidents common in naval warfare, there is every reason to suppose that Lee would have “crossed the T” and completed the destruction of Center Force.

Instead, the mighty gunfire of the Third Fleet’s Battle Line, greater than that of the whole Japanese Navy, was never brought into action except to finish off one or two crippled light ships.

—Morison (1956), pp. 336–337

Perhaps the most telling comment is made with just a few words by Vice Admiral Lee in his action report as Commander of TF 34 —

No battle damage was incurred nor inflicted on the enemy by vessels while operating as Task Force Thirty-Four.

—Task Force 34 Action Report: 6 October 1944 – 3 November 1944

Losses

The losses in the battle of Leyte Gulf were not evenly distributed throughout all forces; for instance, the destroyer USS Heermann—despite her unequal fight with the enemy—finished the battle with only six of her crew dead. More than 1,000 sailors and aircrewmen of the Allied escort carrier units were killed. As a result of communication errors and other failures, a large number of survivors from Taffy 3 were unable to be rescued for several days, and died unnecessarily as a consequence.

USS Heermann

Due to the long duration and size of the battle, accounts vary as to the losses which occurred as a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and losses that occurred shortly before and shortly after. One account of the losses lists the following vessels:

Allied losses

The United States lost six front line warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf:

  • One Light Carrier: USS Princeton

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Princeton

  • Two Escort Carriers: USS Gambier Bay and St. Lo (the first major warship sunk by a kamikaze attack)
Gambier Bay (CVE-73) under Japanese fire during the Battle of Samar. The smudge in the upper right corner is a Japanese heavy cruiser. US Navy photo. img URL: http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/0307304.jpg

Gambier Bay (CVE-73) under Japanese fire during the Battle of Samar. The smudge in the upper right corner is a Japanese heavy cruiser. US Navy photo. img URL: http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/0307304.jpg

USS St. Lo Burning from a Kamikaze

USS St. Lo Burning from a Kamikaze

  • Two Destroyers: Hoel and Johnston
Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944 American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944. Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) were rescued during the days following the action. Photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944
American survivors of the battle are rescued by a U.S. Navy ship on 26 October 1944.
Some 1200 survivors of USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) were rescued during the days following the action.
Photographed by U.S. Army Private William Roof.
Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

  • One Destroyer Escort: USS Samuel B. Roberts
  • Four other American ships were damaged.

Japanese losses

The Japanese lost 26 front-line warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf:

  • One Fleet Aircraft Carrier: Zuikaku (flagship of the decoy Northern Forces).
Zuikaku's crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku’s crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

  • Three Light Aircraft Carriers: Zuihō, Chiyoda, and Chitose.
Zuihō during the Battle of Cape Engano

Zuihō during the Battle of Cape Engano

his light carrier of the Japanese NavyÂ’s Chitose Class lies dead in the waters off Luzon following attacks by Helldivers and Avengers on 24 October 1944

his light carrier of the Japanese NavyÂ’s Chitose Class lies dead in the waters off Luzon following attacks by Helldivers and Avengers on 24 October 1944

  • Three Battleships: Musashi (former flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet), Yamashiro (flagship of the Southern Force) and Fusō.
Battleship Musashi under fire October 1944

Battleship Musashi under fire October 1944

Imperial Japanese Navy battleships Fusō (foreground) and Yamashiro (background)

Imperial Japanese Navy battleships Fusō (foreground) and Yamashiro (background)

  • Six Heavy Cruisers: Atago (flagship of the Center Force), Maya, Suzuya, Chokai, Chikuma, and Mogami.
Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Atago photo from 1939

Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser Atago photo from 1939

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Cruiser Mogami

Cruiser Mogami

  • Four Light Cruisers: Noshiro, Abukuma, Tama, and Kinu.
Japanese cruiser Abukuma

Japanese cruiser Abukuma

  • Nine Destroyers: Nowaki, Hayashimo, Yamagumo, Asagumo, Michishio, Akizuki, Hatsuzuki, Wakaba, and Uranami.
Destroyer Akizuki

Destroyer Akizuki

Aftermath

The Battle of Leyte Gulf secured the beachheads of the US Sixth Army on Leyte against attack from the sea.

National Archives 111-SC-349595 General MacArthur and soldiers walk from LSTs through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.

National Archives 111-SC-349595
General MacArthur and soldiers walk from LSTs through the water onto Leyte Island, Philippines, October 1944.

However, much hard fighting would be required before the island was completely in Allied hands at the end of December 1944: the Battle of Leyte on land was fought in parallel with an air and sea campaign in which the Japanese reinforced and resupplied their troops on Leyte while the Allies attempted to interdict them and establish air-sea superiority for a series of amphibious landings in Ormoc Bay—engagements collectively referred to as the Battle of Ormoc Bay.

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A destroyer escort is blown apart by a direct hit

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A destroyer escort is blown apart by a direct hit

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A large transport is straddled by bomb bursts

JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A large transport is straddled by bomb bursts

The Imperial Japanese Navy had suffered its greatest loss of ships and crew ever. Its failure to dislodge the Allied invaders from Leyte meant the inevitable loss of the Philippines, which in turn meant Japan would be all but cut off from its occupied territories in Southeast Asia. These territories provided resources which were vital to Japan, in particular the oil needed for her ships and aircraft. This problem was compounded because the shipyards and sources of manufactured goods such as ammunition, were in Japan itself. Finally, the loss of Leyte opened the way for the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands in 1945.

ryukyu_islands_30th_parallel

The major IJN surface ships returned to their bases to languish, entirely or almost entirely inactive, for the remainder of the war. The only major operation by these surface ships between the Battle for Leyte Gulf and the Japanese surrender was the suicidal sortie in April 1945 (part of Operation Ten-Go), in which the battleship Yamato and her escorts were destroyed by American carrier aircraft.

yamexplodes

The first use of kamikaze aircraft took place following the Leyte landings. A kamikaze hit the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Australia on 21 October. Organized suicide attacks by the “Special Attack Force” began on 25 October during the closing phase of the Battle off Samar, causing the destruction of the escort carrier St. Lo.

Japanese Kamikaze Pilots 1944

Japanese Kamikaze Pilots 1944

J.F.C. Fuller, in his The Decisive Battles of the Western World, writes of the outcome of Leyte Gulf:

The Japanese fleet had [effectively] ceased to exist, and, except by land-based aircraft, their opponents had won undisputed command of the sea.

When Admiral Ozawa was questioned… after the war he replied ‘After this battle the surface forces became strictly auxiliary, so that we relied on land forces, special [Kamikaze] attack, and air power… there was no further use assigned to surface vessels, with the exception of some special ships’.

And Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister, said he realized the defeat at Leyte ‘was tantamount to the loss of the Philippines.’

As for the larger significance of the battle, he said, ‘I felt that it was the end.’

Months after the battle, the US Navy knew the American public had to be told something. The battle had been too large, involved too many US military personnel and had resulted in too much loss of life just to ignore. To this end, the US Navy provided most of the information to the publication Popular Mechanics to publish an article on the battle showing the American public that the battle had gone exactly as Halsey had planned.

Cover of Popular Mechanics Magazine, February 1945.  I do not know if this is the issue in question.

Cover of Popular Mechanics Magazine, February 1945. I do not know if this is the issue in question.

It was several years before the true story of Halsey’s decision to leave the San Bernardino Strait unguarded became known to the American public.

 

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 6)

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

Originally posted on my other blog USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story

October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf). The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history. Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts. In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944. In Part 2, I wrote about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea. In Part 3, I wrote about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait. For Part 4, I wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait. For Part 5, the Battle of Samar. In Part 6, I will write about the Battle Cape Engaño.

The Battle of Cape Engaño (25–26 October)

leyte_map_annotated

Ozawa’s “Northern Force” comprised four aircraft carriers (Zuikaku—the last survivor of the six carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the light carriers Zuihō, Chitose, and Chiyoda), two World War I battleships partially converted to carriers (Hyūga and Ise—the two aft turrets had been replaced by a hangar, aircraft handling deck and catapult, but neither battleship carried any aircraft in this battle), three light cruisers (Ōyodo, Tama, and Isuzu), and nine destroyers. His force had only 108 aircraft.

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku (left center) and (probably) Japanese aircraft carrier Zuiho (right) under attack by U.S. Navy dive bombers during the battle off Cape Engaño, October 25, 1944. Both ships appear to be making good speed, indicating that this photo was taken relatively early in the action. Both carriers are emitting heavy smoke. Note heavy concentration of anti-aircraft shell bursts in lower right and right, and a SB2C "Helldiver" diving in the lower left.

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons
Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku (left center) and (probably) Japanese aircraft carrier Zuiho (right) under attack by U.S. Navy dive bombers during the battle off Cape Engaño, October 25, 1944. Both ships appear to be making good speed, indicating that this photo was taken relatively early in the action. Both carriers are emitting heavy smoke. Note heavy concentration of anti-aircraft shell bursts in lower right and right, and a SB2C “Helldiver” diving in the lower left.

Ozawa’s force was not located until 16:40 on 24 October, largely because Sherman’s TG 38.3—which was the northernmost of Halsey’s groups—was responsible for searches in this sector. The force which Halsey was taking north with him—three groups of Mitscher’s TF 38—was overwhelmingly stronger than the Japanese Northern Force. Between them, these groups had five large fleet carriers (Intrepid, Franklin, Lexington, Enterprise, and Essex), five light fleet carriers (Independence, Belleau Wood, Langley, Cabot, and San Jacinto), six battleships (Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington), eight cruisers (two heavy and six light), and more than 40 destroyers. The air groups of the 10 US carriers present contained 600-1,000 aircraft.

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN  Portrait photograph, taken circa 1942. From RAdm. Samuel Eliot Morison photographic files. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN
Portrait photograph, taken circa 1942.
From RAdm. Samuel Eliot Morison photographic files.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

At 02:40 on 25 October, Halsey detached TF 34, built around the 3rd Fleet’s six battleships and commanded by Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee. As dawn approached, the ships of Task Force 34 drew ahead of the carrier groups. Halsey intended Mitscher to make air strikes followed by the heavy gunfire of Lee’s battleships.

Around dawn on 25 October, Ozawa launched 75 aircraft to attack the 3rd Fleet. Most were shot down by American combat air patrols, and no damage was done to the US ships. A few Japanese planes survived and made their way to land bases on Luzon.

During the night, Halsey had passed tactical command of TF 38 to Admiral Mitscher, who ordered the American carrier groups to launch their first strike wave, of 180 aircraft, at dawn—before the Northern Force had been located. When the search aircraft made contact at 07:10, this strike wave was orbiting ahead of the task force. At 08:00, as the attack went in, its escorting fighters destroyed Ozawa’s combat air patrol of about 30 planes. The US air strikes continued until the evening, by which time TF 38 had flown 527 sorties against the Northern Force, sinking Zuikaku, the light carriers Chitose and Zuihō, and the destroyer Akizuki, all with heavy loss of life. The light carrier Chiyoda and the cruiser Tama were crippled. Ozawa transferred his flag to the light cruiser Ōyodo.

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Chitose class Carrier under attack, near miss Leyte gulf. This ship was finished off at 1630 by cruiser gunfire, East of Luzon, 25 October 1944.

Chitose class Carrier under attack, near miss Leyte gulf. This ship was finished off at 1630 by cruiser gunfire, East of Luzon, 25 October 1944.

The crisis – US 7th Fleet’s calls for help

Shortly after 08:00 on 25 October, desperate messages calling for assistance began to come in from 7th Fleet, which had been engaging Nishimura’s “Southern Force” in Surigao Strait since 02:00. One message from Kinkaid, sent in plain language, read: “MY SITUATION IS CRITICAL. FAST BATTLESHIPS AND SUPPORT BY AIR STRIKES MAY BE ABLE TO KEEP ENEMY FROM DESTROYING CVES AND ENTERING LEYTE.” Halsey recalled in his memoirs that he was shocked at this message, recounting that the radio signals from the 7th Fleet had come in at random and out of order because of a backlog in the signals office. It seems that he did not receive this vital message from Kinkaid until around 10:00. Halsey later claimed he knew Kinkaid was in trouble, but he had not dreamed of the seriousness of this crisis.

One of the most alarming signals from Kinkaid reported, after their action in Surigao Strait, 7th Fleet’s own battleships were critically low on ammunition. Even this failed to persuade Halsey to send any immediate assistance to the powerful 7th Fleet. In fact, the 7th Fleet’s battleships were not as short of ammunition as Kinkaid’s signal implied, but Halsey did not know that.

From 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 km) away in Pearl Harbor, Admiral Nimitz had been monitoring the desperate calls from Taffy 3, and sent Halsey a terse message: “TURKEY TROTS TO WATER GG FROM CINCPAC ACTION COM THIRD FLEET INFO COMINCH CTF SEVENTY-SEVEN X WHERE IS RPT WHERE IS TASK FORCE THIRTY FOUR RR THE WORLD WONDERS.” The first four words and the last three were “padding” used to confuse enemy cryptanalysis (the beginning and end of the true message was marked by double consonants). The communications staff on Halsey’s flagship correctly deleted the first section of padding but mistakenly retained the last three words in the message finally handed to Halsey. The last three words—probably selected by a communications officer at Nimitz’s headquarters—may have been meant as a loose quote from Tennyson’s poem on “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, suggested by the coincidence that this day, 25 October, was the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava—and was not intended as a commentary on the current crisis off Leyte. Halsey, however, when reading the message, thought that the last words—”THE WORLD WONDERS”—were a biting piece of criticism from Nimitz, threw his cap to the deck and broke into “sobs of rage”. Rear Admiral Robert Carney, his Chief of Staff, confronted him, telling Halsey “Stop it! What the hell’s the matter with you? Pull yourself together.”

Eventually, at 11:15, more than three hours after the first distress messages from 7th Fleet had been received by his flagship, Halsey ordered TF 34 to turn around and head southwards towards Samar. At this point, Lee’s battleships were almost within gun range of Ozawa’s force. Two-and-a-half hours were then spent refuelling TF 34′s accompanying destroyers.

After this succession of delays it was too late for TF 34 to give any practical help to 7th Fleet, other than to assist in picking up survivors from Taffy 3, and too late even to intercept Kurita’s force before it made its escape through San Bernardino Strait.

Nevertheless, at 16:22, in a desperate and even more belated attempt to intervene in the events off Samar, Halsey formed a new task group—TG 34.5—under Rear Admiral Badger, built around Third Fleet’s two fastest battleships—Iowa and New Jersey, both capable of a speed of more than 32 kn (37 mph; 59 km/h)–and TF 34′s three cruisers and eight destroyers, and sped southwards, leaving Lee and the other four battleships to follow. As Morison observes, if Badger’s group had succeeded in intercepting the Japanese Center Force it would have been seriously outgunned by Kurita’s battleships.

Cruisers and destroyers of TG 34.5, however, caught the destroyer Nowaki—the last straggler from Center Force—off San Bernardino Strait, and sank her with all hands, including the survivors from Chikuma.

Battle of Cape Engaño – final actions

When Halsey turned TF 34 southwards at 11:15, he detached a task group of four of its cruisers and nine of its destroyers under Rear Admiral DuBose, and reassigned this group to TF 38. At 14:15, Mitscher ordered DuBose to pursue the remnants of the Japanese Northern Force.

Rear Admiral Laurance Toombs DuBose

Rear Admiral Laurance Toombs DuBose

His cruisers finished off the light carrier Chiyoda at around 17:00, and at 20:59 his ships sank the destroyer Hatsuzuki after a very stubborn fight.

USS Mobile 10

When Admiral Ozawa learned of the deployment of DuBose’s relatively weak task group, he ordered battleships Ise and Hyūga to turn southwards and attack it, but they failed to locate DuBose’s group, which they heavily outgunned. Halsey’s withdrawal of all six of Lee’s battleships in his attempt to assist Seventh Fleet had now rendered TF 38 vulnerable to a surface counterattack by the decoy Northern Force.

At about 23:10, the American submarine Jallao torpedoed and sank the light cruiser Tama of Ozawa’s force.

USS Jallao (SS-368)

USS Jallao (SS-368)

This was the last act of the Battle of Cape Engaño, and—apart from some final air strikes on the retreating Japanese forces on 26 October—the conclusion of the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

In my next post, I will bring this major battle of World War II to a close with a summary of losses on both sides, a little about the criticism of Admiral Halsey and the aftermath of this series of battles.

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 5)

John T. Ryan US Navy

John T. Ryan US Navy

Originally posted on my other blog USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story

 October 1944 continues and my father, Seaman First Class, John Thomas Ryan is still serving on the USS Hornet (CV-12).

20-26 Oct 1944 – Strikes on Leyte supporting invasion of the Philippines as stated in the ships log for the USS Hornet (CV-12).

In my previous post I wrote about the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf). The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the Battles for Leyte Gulf, and formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history. Since the Battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions, I decided to break the story into multiple parts. In Part 1, I covered the background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944. In Part 2, I wrote about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea. In Part 3, I wrote about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait. For Part 4, I wrote about the Battle of Surigao Strait. For Part 5, here is the Battle of Samar.

The Battle of Samar (25 October)

Battle of Samar

Battle of Samar

Prelude

You may recall from a previous part that Halsey’s decision to take all the available strength of 3rd Fleet northwards to attack the carriers of the Japanese Northern Force had left San Bernardino Strait completely unguarded. Senior officers in 7th Fleet (including Kinkaid and his staff) generally assumed Halsey was taking his three available carrier groups northwards (McCain’s group, the strongest in 3rd Fleet, was still returning from the direction of Ulithi), but leaving the battleships of TF 34 covering the San Bernardino Strait against the Japanese Center Force. In fact, Halsey had not yet formed TF 34, and all six of Willis Lee’s battleships were on their way northwards with the carriers, as well as every available cruiser and destroyer of the Third Fleet.

Kurita’s Center Force therefore emerged unopposed from San Bernardino Strait at 03:00 on 25 October and steamed southward along the coast of the island of Samar. In its path stood only the 7th Fleet’s three escort carrier units (call signs ‘Taffy’ 1, 2, and 3), with a total of 16 small, very slow, and unarmored escort carriers, protected by a screen of lightly armed and unarmored destroyers and smaller destroyer escorts (DEs). Despite the losses in the Palawan Passage and Sibuyan Sea actions, the Japanese Center Force was still very powerful, consisting of four battleships (including the giant Yamato), six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and 11 destroyers.

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The battle

Kurita’s force caught Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague’s Task Unit 77.4.3 (‘Taffy 3′) entirely by surprise. Sprague directed his carriers to launch their planes, then run for the cover of a rain squall to the east. He ordered the destroyers and DEs to make a smoke screen to conceal the retreating carriers.

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

Kurita, unaware that Ozawa’s decoy plan had succeeded, assumed he had found a carrier group from Halsey’s 3rd Fleet. Having just redeployed his ships into anti-aircraft formation, he further complicated matters by ordering a “General Attack”, which called for his fleet to split into different divisions and attack independently.

The destroyer USS Johnston was the closest to the enemy. On his own initiative, Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans steered his hopelessly outclassed ship into the foe at flank speed. The Johnston fired its torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Kumano, damaging her and forcing her out of line. Seeing this, Sprague gave the order “small boys attack”, sending the rest of Taffy 3′s screening ships into the fray. Taffy 3′s two other destroyers, Hoel and Heermann, and the destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, attacked with suicidal determination, drawing fire and disrupting the Japanese formation as ships turned to avoid their torpedoes.

uss-samuel-b-roberts-de413

However, as the Japanese fleet continued to approach, Hoel and Roberts were hit multiple times, and quickly sank. After expending all of its torpedoes, Johnston continued to fight with its 5-inch guns, until it was sunk by a group of Japanese destroyers.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague (no relation to Clifton) ordered the sixteen escort carriers in his three task units to immediately launch all their aircraft equipped with whatever weapons they had available, even if these were only machine guns or depth charges.

Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague

Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague

Collectively, Sprague had a total of some 450 aircraft from these 16 carriers at his disposal. Although most of these aircraft were older models, such as the FM-2 Wildcat and TBF Avenger torpedo bombers, the fact that the Japanese force had no air cover of its own meant that American planes could commence their attacks unopposed. Consequently, the air counterattacks were almost unceasing, and some, especially several of the strikes launched from Felix Stump’s Task Unit 77.4.2 (Taffy 2), were relatively heavy.

TBF Avenger

TBF Avenger

The carriers of Taffy 3 turned south and retreated through the shellfire. Gambier Bay, at the rear of the American formation, became the focus of the battleship Yamato and sustained multiple hits before capsizing at 09:07. Several other carriers were damaged but were able to escape.

Rescue of men from USS Gambier Bay (VC-10)

Rescue of men from USS Gambier Bay (VC-10)

Admiral Kurita withdraws

The ferocity of the defense seemingly confirmed the Japanese assumption that they were engaging major fleet units rather than merely escort carriers and destroyers. The confusion of the “General Attack” order was further compounded by the air and torpedo attacks, when Kurita’s flagship Yamato turned north to evade torpedoes and lost contact with the battle. Kurita abruptly broke off the fight and gave the order ‘all ships, my course north, speed 20′, apparently to regroup his disorganized fleet. Turning again towards Leyte Gulf, Kurita’s battle report stated he had received a message indicating a group of American carriers was steaming north of him. Preferring to expend his fleet against capital ships rather than transports, Kurita set out in pursuit and thereby lost his opportunity to destroy the shipping in Leyte Gulf. After failing to intercept the non-existent carriers, Kurita finally retreated towards San Bernardino Strait. Three of his heavy cruisers had been sunk, and the determined resistance had convinced him that persisting with his attack would only cause further Japanese losses. In addition, Kurita’s decision was no doubt influenced by the fact that he did not know that Ozawa had lured Halsey’s entire fleet away from Leyte Gulf. Poor communication between the separate Japanese forces and a lack of air reconnaissance meant that Kurita was never informed that the deception had been successful, and that only a small and outgunned force stood between his battleships and the vulnerable transports of the invasion fleet. Thus, Kurita remained convinced that he had been engaging elements of the 3rd Fleet, and it would only be a matter of time before Halsey surrounded and annihilated him. Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague wrote to his colleague Aubrey Fitch after the war, “I … stated [to Admiral Nimitz] that the main reason they turned north was that they were receiving too much damage to continue and I am still of that opinion and cold analysis will eventually confirm it.”

Almost all of Kurita’s surviving force succeeded in escaping. Halsey and the 3rd Fleet battleships arrived too late to cut him off. Nagato, Haruna and Kongō had been moderately damaged by air attack from Taffy 3′s escort carriers. Kurita had begun the battle with five battleships. On their return to their bases, only Yamato remained battle worthy.

As the desperate surface action was coming to an end, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi put his ‘Special Attack Force’ into operation, launching kamikaze attacks against the Allied ships in Leyte Gulf and the escort carrier units off Samar. The escort carrier St. Lo of Taffy 3 was hit by a kamikaze aircraft and sank after a series of internal explosions.

The St. Lo burns after a kamikaze hits the flight deck on the morning of October 25, 1944.

The St. Lo burns after a kamikaze hits the flight deck on the morning of October 25, 1944.