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and Chiyoda), two World War I battleships partially converted to carriers (Hyūga and Ise—the two aft turrets had been replaced by a hangar, aircraft handling deck and catapult, but neither battleship carried any aircraft in this battle), three light cruisers (Ōyodo, Tama, and Isuzu), and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.

h73071

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.

g378525

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.

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 4)

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 will write about the Battle of Surigao Strait.

Here is an episode of the television show, Victory at Sea. Episode 19, broadcast in 1953 was the Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Battle of Surigao Strait (25 October 1944)

 The Battle of Surigao Strait

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Nishimura’s “Southern Force” consisted of the old battleships Yamashiro and Fusō, the heavy cruiser Mogami, and four destroyers.

Shoji Nishimura

Shoji Nishimura

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

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

Cruiser Mogami

Cruiser Mogami

This mini fleet left Brunei after Kurita at 15:00 on 22 October, turning eastward into the Sulu Sea and then northeasterly past the southern tip of Negros Island into the Mindanao Sea. Nishimura then proceeded northeastward with Mindanao Island to starboard and into the south entrance to the Surigao Strait, intending to exit the north entrance of the Strait into Leyte Gulf where he would add his firepower to that of Kurita’s force.

Mindanao Island

Mindanao Island

The Second Striking Force—commanded by Vice Admiral Kiyohide Shima—consisted of the heavy cruisers Nachi (Flag) and Ashigara, the light cruiser Abukuma, and the destroyers Akebono, Ushio, Kasumi, and Shiranui.

Kiyohide Shima

Kiyohide Shima

Myoko8726all4

Japanese cruiser Abukuma

Japanese cruiser Abukuma

The Southern Force was attacked by US Navy bombers on 24 October, but sustained only minor damage.

Because of the strict radio silence imposed on the Center and Southern Forces, Nishimura was unable to synchronize his movements with Shima and Kurita. When he entered the narrow Surigao Strait at 02:00, Shima was 25 nmi (29 mi; 46 km) behind him, and Kurita was still in the Sibuyan Sea, several hours from the beaches at Leyte.

As the Southern Force approached the Surigao Strait, it ran into a deadly trap set by the 7th Fleet Support Force. Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had a substantial force.

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf

There were six battleships: West Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania; all but Mississippi had been sunk or damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor and since repaired, Tennessee, California, and West Virginia having been rebuilt since then.

index

bb46-5

USS Mississippi 6

index

USS California

USS California

h67584

There were also the 35 8-inch (203 mm) guns of the four heavy cruisers (USS Louisville (flagship), Portland, Minneapolis and HMAS Shropshire) and 54 6-inch (152 mm) guns of four light cruisers (Denver, Columbia, Phoenix and Boise).

USS Louisville

USS Louisville

USS Portland

USS Portland

USS Minneapolis

USS Minneapolis

HMS Shropshire

HMS Shropshire

There were also the smaller guns and torpedoes of 28 destroyers and 39 motor torpedo boats (Patrol/Torpedo (PT) boats). To pass through the narrows and reach the invasion shipping, Nishimura would have to run the gauntlet of torpedoes from the PT boats followed by the large force of destroyers, and then advance under the concentrated fire of the six battleships and their eight flanking cruisers disposed across the far mouth of the Strait.

At 22:36, one of the PT boats—PT-131 (Ensign Peter Gadd), operating off Bohol, first made contact with the approaching Japanese ships. Over more than three-and-a-half hours, the PT boats made repeated attacks on Nishimura’s force as it streamed northward. Although no torpedo hits were scored, the PT boats did send contact reports which were of use to Oldendorf and his force.

Remarkably, Nishimura’s ships slipped through the gauntlet of PT boats unscathed. However, a short time later, their luck ran out as they were subjected to devastating torpedo attacks from the American destroyers disposed on both sides of their axis of advance. At about 03:00, both Japanese battleships were hit by torpedoes. Yamashiro was able to steam on, but Fusō exploded and broke in two when she was torpedoed by USS Melvin (DD-680).

fusburnTwo of Nishimura’s four destroyers were sunk; another, Asagumo, was hit but able to retire, and later sank.

Zuikaku's crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku’s crew jettisoning explosives, 25 Oct 1944

Zuikaku sinking Zuikaku, striking her flag and sinking, while her crew salutes. 843 of her soldiers will go down with her. View looks aft from the rear of the carrier's island, with radio antenna masts folded horizontal on her starboard side. Note her sharp list to port. A 25mm single anti-aircraft machine gun is mounted on the flight deck, at the lower right.

The classical account summarized above has been questioned recently because additional evidence has come to light. Fuso survivor Hideo Ogawa, interrogated in 1945, also wrote an article on the battleship’s last voyage. He says that “shortly after 0400 the ship capsized slowly to starboard and Ogawa and others were washed away.” Fuso was hit on the starboard side by two or possibly three torpedoes. One of these started an oil fire. The fuel used by IJN ships in this period was poorly refined and had a tendency to burst into flame; burning patches of fuel were most likely the source of the myth of Fuso blowing up. It is extremely unlikely that a vessel as strongly built as a battleship could be blown in half and the halves remain upright and afloat, so the classic version of Fuso‘s fate is also extremely improbable. Accordingly, it is likely that the Morison account is incorrect in this detail. There are rumors of Fuso being either the largest ship to be sunk with all hands, or did leave survivors, but refused to be rescued by American or Japanese vessels, and foundered, while the rest did eventually survive long enough to reach land, but were killed by Filipino natives. Some believe Asagumo picked up Fuso survivors, only for all to perish when the destroyer sank.

At 03:16, West Virginia‘s radar picked up the surviving ships of Nishimura’s force at a range of 42,000 yd (38,000 m) and had achieved a firing solution at 30,000 yd (27,000 m). West Virginia tracked them as they approached in the pitch black night. At 03:53, she fired the eight 16 in (410 mm) guns of her main battery at a range of 22,800 yd (20,800 m), striking Yamashiro with her first salvo. She went on to fire a total of 93 shells. At 03:55, California and Tennessee joined in, firing a total of 63 and 69 14 in (360 mm) shells, respectively. Radar fire control allowed these American battleships to hit targets from a distance at which the Japanese battleships—with their inferior fire control systems—could not return fire.

The other three US battleships, equipped with less advanced gunnery radar, had difficulty arriving at a firing solution. Maryland eventually succeeded in visually ranging on the splashes of the other battleships’ shells, and then fired a total of 48 16 in (410 mm) projectiles. Pennsylvania was unable to find a target and her guns remained silent.

Mississippi only obtained a solution at the end of the battle-line action, and then fired just one (full) salvo of 12 14-in shells. This was the last salvo ever to be fired by a battleship against another heavy ship, ending an era in naval history.

Yamashiro and Mogami were crippled by a combination of 16-in and 14-in armor-piercing shells, as well as the fire of Oldendorf’s flanking cruisers. Shigure turned and fled, but lost steering and stopped dead. Yamashiro sank at about 04:20, with Nishimura on board. Mogami and Shigure retreated southwards down the Strait.

Yamashiro and Shigure ride into the Valley of death

Yamashiro and Shigure ride into the Valley of death

The rear of the Southern Force—the “Second Striking Force” commanded by Vice Admiral Shima—had departed from Mako and approached Surigao Strait about 40 mi (35 nmi; 64 km) astern of Nishimura. Shima’s run was initially thrown into confusion by his force nearly running aground on Panaon Island after failing to factor the outgoing tide into their approach; Japanese radar was almost useless due to excessive reflections from the many islands. The radar was equally unable to detect ships in these conditions, especially PT boats, as PT-137 hit the light cruiser Abukuma with a torpedo which crippled her and caused her to fall out of formation. Shima’s two heavy cruisers (Nachi and Ashigara) and eight destroyers next encountered remnants of Nishimura’s force. Seeing what he thought were the wrecks of both Nishimura’s battleships (actually the two halves of Fusō), Shima ordered a retreat. His flagship, Nachi, collided with Mogami, flooding Mogami‘s steering room and causing her to fall behind in the retreat; she was sunk by aircraft the next morning. The bow half of Fusō was sunk by gunfire from Louisville, and the stern half sank off Kanihaan Island. Of Nishimura’s seven ships, only Shigure survived. Shima’s ships did survive the Battle of Surigao Strait, but they would be sunk in further engagements around Leyte, while Shigure survived long enough to escape the debacle, but eventually succumbed to the submarine USS Blackfin (SS-322), which sank her off Kota Bharu, Malaya, with 37 dead.

What Louisville’s action report actually says is, “0529 firing 2 salvos – 18 rounds – at a large fire bearing 160 True, range 18,900 yards. Fire was then shifted to a second target bearing 180 T at the same range. …The first target is what has been termed the ‘Fuso fire’, while the second was Mogami.” Morison and a number of others have presumed the fire surrounded the part of Fuso still afloat. There is no evidence to support that claim.

The Battle of Surigao Strait was one of the only two battleship-against-battleship surface battles in the entire Pacific campaign of World War II (the other being the Naval Battle during the Guadalcanal Campaign) and was the last battleship-versus-battleship action in history. It was also the last battle in which one force (the Americans, in this case), was able to “cross the T” of its opponent. However, by the time the battleship action was joined, the Japanese line was very ragged and consisted of only one battleship (Yamashiro), one heavy cruiser and one destroyer, so that the “crossing of the T” was notional and had little effect on the outcome of the battle.

Haibun Thinking – When Life is No Longer Living

Submitted for Haibun Thinking

haibun4plus21 Welcome to Haibun Thinking. A weekly writing challenge to create verse, prose and haiku using prompts from all areas of art including – but not limited to – movies, songs, art, photography etc.  It is all explained at the link above.  Use the link tool to submit your haibun and read others.  If you don’t know how to write the form haibun, there is information about it at the link above too.

It is Art Week, so we are presented with a painting and a photograph to write our story and haiku.  The photograph is quite interesting and can be viewed at the above link; however I have chosen the painting for my Haibun.

© Anja Partin

© Anja Partin

 

“I’m glad it’s the weekend and I can finally relax here with you and Sarah.”

“Was it a rough week, Russell”

“You know Lisa, it seems lately that many of them are but I don’t want to spoil our weekend with my office war stories.”

“I just put Sarah to bed about ten minutes ago.  She may still be awake if you want to say good night.”

Russell went to the back of the cabin and entered his daughter’s room.  He spent a few minutes looking down at his sleeping child.  “Oh well.  At least we have a three day weekend together.”

As Russell came back, Lisa poured two glasses of wine and settled on the sofa.  He joined her and asked, “So what did my two favorite ladies do today?”

“Oh it was a glorious day.  I just love it here on the Cape.  Sarah and I ran through a meadow and picked wildflowers.”

Russell smiled and leaned forward to kiss his wife.

“I really love this age with Sarah.  She’s old enough to carry on a conversation but still young enough to want me to hold her.  She said the funniest thing the other day.  I can’t even remember what it was but we really laughed for a long time.”

Russel continued to smile at his wife but on the inside, he was lost.  He barely knew his own daughter and he and his wife have become strangers.  His job has taken over his life and his life was no longer living.  Having to be away for weeks or even months sometimes with limited trips home is not what he expected when he made partner.  It was time for a change.

“Lisa, what would you say if I said I wanted to leave the firm and open my own practice?  I want to get back to practicing the kind of law I originally fell in love with.  At first it will be a lot less money but I’ll be home and able to spend more time with you and Sarah.”

In answer, Lisa took her husband in her arms and held on like she would never let go.

Time lost forever

Lovers becoming strangers

Change is in the air

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 3)

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. During my research for the previous post, I discovered a part of the separate story that needs a separate posting so for part 3, I write about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait. This post can be summed up in one phrase “Communication Breakdown.”

Leyte Assault, 20-25 October 1944

Leyte Assault, 20-25 October 1944

Task Force 34 / San Bernardino Strait

After the Japanese Southern and Center forces had been detected, but before Ozawa’s carriers had been located, Halsey and the staff of 3rd Fleet, aboard the battleship New Jersey, prepared a contingency plan to deal with the threat from Kurita’s Center Force.

USS New Jersey (BB 62)

USS New Jersey (BB 62)

Their intention was to cover the San Bernardino Strait with a powerful task force of fast battleships supported by two of the 3rd Fleet’s equally swift carrier groups. The battleship force was to be designated Task Force 34 (TF 34) and to consist of four battleships, five cruisers and 14 destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee.

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Vice Admiral Willis A Lee

Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison of TG 38.4 was to be in overall command of the supporting carrier groups.

Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison

Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison

At 15:12 on 24 October, Halsey sent an ambiguously worded telegraphic radio message to his subordinate task group commanders, giving details of this contingency plan:

BATDIV 7 MIAMI, VINCENNES, BILOXI, DESRON 52 LESS STEVEN POTTER, FROM TG 38.2 AND WASHINGTON, ALABAMA, WICHITA, NEW ORLEANS, DESDIV 100, PATTERSON, BAGLEY FROM TG 38.4 WILL BE FORMED AS TASK FORCE 34 UNDER VICE ADMIRAL LEE, COMMANDER BATTLE LINE. TF 34 TO ENGAGE DECISIVELY AT LONG RANGES. CTG 38.4 CONDUCT CARRIERS OF TG 38.2 AND TG 38.4 CLEAR OF SURFACE FIGHTING. INSTRUCTIONS FOR TG 38.3 AND TG 38.1 LATER. HALSEY, OTC IN NEW JERSEY.

—Morison (1956)

Halsey sent information copies of this message to Admiral Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters and Admiral King in Washington; however he did not include Admiral Kinkaid (7th Fleet) as information addressee. The message was picked up by 7th Fleet, anyway, as it was common for admirals to direct radiomen to copy all message traffic they detected, whether intended for them or not. As Halsey intended TF 34 as a contingency to be formed and detached when he ordered it, when he wrote “will be formed” he meant the future tense; but he neglected to say ‘when’ TF 34 would be formed, or under what circumstances. This omission led Admiral Kinkaid of 7th Fleet to believe Halsey was speaking in the imperative, not the future tense, so he concluded TF 34 had been formed and would take station off the San Bernardino Strait. Admiral Nimitz, in Pearl Harbor, reached exactly the same conclusion. Halsey did send out a second message at 17:10 clarifying his intentions in regard to TF 34:

IF THE ENEMY SORTIES (THROUGH SAN BERNADINO STRAIT) TF 34 WILL BE FORMED WHEN DIRECTED BY ME.

—T.J. Cutler (1994)

Unfortunately, Halsey sent this second message by voice radio, so 7th Fleet did not intercept it, and Halsey did not follow up with a telegraphic message to Nimitz or King. The serious misunderstanding caused by Halsey’s ambiguous wording of his first message and his failure to notify Nimitz, King, or Kinkaid of his second clarifying message was to have a profound influence on the subsequent course of the battle.

Halsey’s decision (24 October 1944)

The 3rd Fleet’s aircraft failed to locate Ozawa’s Northern (decoy) force until 16:40 on 24 October. This was largely because 3rd Fleet had been preoccupied with attacking Kurita’s Centre force and defending itself against the Japanese air strikes from Luzon. Thus, ironically, the one Japanese force that wanted to be discovered was the only force the Americans had not been able to find. On the evening of 24 October, Ozawa intercepted a (mistaken) American communication describing Kurita’s withdrawal; he therefore began to withdraw, too. However, at 20:00, Soemu Toyoda ordered all his forces to attack “counting on divine assistance.” Trying to draw 3rd Fleet’s attention to his decoy force, Ozawa reversed course again and headed southwards towards Leyte.

Halsey was convinced the Northern Force constituted the main Japanese threat, and he was determined to seize what he saw as a golden opportunity to destroy Japan’s last remaining carrier strength. Believing the Center Force had been neutralized by 3rd Fleet’s air strikes earlier in the day in the Sibuyan Sea, and its remnants were retiring, Halsey radioed (to Nimitz and Kinkaid):

CENTRAL FORCE HEAVILY DAMAGED ACCORDING TO STRIKE REPORTS.
AM PROCEEDING NORTH WITH THREE GROUPS TO ATTACK CARRIER FORCES AT DAWN

—Morison (1956)

The words “with three groups” proved dangerously misleading. In the light of the intercepted 15:12 24 October “…will be formed as Task Force 34″ message from Halsey, Admiral Kinkaid and his staff assumed, as did Admiral Nimitz at Pacific Fleet headquarters, that TF 34—commanded by Lee—had now been formed as a separate entity. They assumed that Halsey was leaving this powerful surface force guarding the San Bernardino Strait (and covering the Seventh Fleet’s northern flank), while he took his three available carrier groups northwards in pursuit of the Japanese carriers. But Task Force 34 had not been detached from his other forces, and Lee’s battleships were on their way northwards with the 3rd Fleet’s carriers. Halsey had consciously and deliberately left the San Bernardino Strait absolutely unguarded. As Woodward wrote: “Everything was pulled out from San Bernardino Strait. Not so much as a picket destroyer was left”.

Light Carrier, USS Independence

Light Carrier, USS Independence

Halsey and his staff officers ignored information from a night reconnaissance aircraft operating from the light carrier Independence that Kurita’s powerful surface force had turned back towards the San Bernardino Strait, and that after a long blackout, the navigation lights in the strait had been turned on.

0500_ijn_web

When Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan—commanding TG 38.2—radioed this information to Halsey’s flagship, he was rebuffed by a staff officer, who tersely replied “Yes, yes, we have that information.

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan

” Vice Admiral Lee, who had correctly deduced that Ozawa’s force was on a decoy mission and indicated this in a blinker message to Halsey’s flagship, was similarly rebuffed. Commodore Arleigh Burke and Commander James Flatley of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s staff had come to the same conclusion. They were sufficiently worried about the situation to wake Mitscher, who asked, “Does Admiral Halsey have that report?” On being told that Halsey did, Mitscher—knowing Halsey’s temperament—commented, “If he wants my advice he’ll ask for it” and went back to sleep.

The entire available strength of 3rd Fleet continued to steam northwards, leaving the San Bernardino Strait completely unguarded.

As in most endeavors today, communication is an important aspect of carrying out an operation. As I continue my research, I will see if this serious breakdown in communication will have a major effect on the war. In my next post, part 4 of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, I will write about the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October 1944.

Mondays Finish the Story – The Colony (Part 3)

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 3).

Photo Credit: 2014*10*20-bw-beacham

Photo Credit: 2014*10*20-bw-beacham

 The recovery team traveled to the island’s interior. Their tracking devices no longer accessed satellite GPS; so it became necessary for the Captain to rely on maps. Having marked Doctor Power’s last known location, Captain West hoped they’d find the colonists soon.

One of the team gestured for the Captain to come close. “Do you hear that low rumbling? I think it is voices but it is so faint, I can’t make out the words,” whispered Seaman Jones.

“We must be near. Stay alert men.”

As the team approached a group of bushes on the edge of a clearing, they saw creatures floating around busy at varied tasks.

“What are they doing Captain?

“I think we are looking at the alien females. I don’t see the colonists so my guess is they are somewhere with the alien males.

“I think I know where,” said Seaman Jones pointing at the sky. “Do you remember that old saying, “X marks the spot?””

 

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

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 2)

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. Today for Part 2, I write about the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.

The four main actions in the battle of Leyte Gulf: 1 Battle of the Sibuyan Sea 2 Battle of Surigao Strait 3 Battle of (or 'off') Cape Engaño 4 Battle off Samar. Leyte Gulf is above 2 and to the left of 4. The island of Leyte is to the left of the gulf.

The four main actions in the battle of Leyte Gulf: 1 Battle of the Sibuyan Sea 2 Battle of Surigao Strait 3 Battle of (or ‘off’) Cape Engaño 4 Battle off Samar. Leyte Gulf is above 2 and to the left of 4. The island of Leyte is to the left of the gulf.

The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October 1944)

Around 08:00 on 24 October, the Center Force was spotted entering the Sibuyan Sea and attacked by VF-20 squadron F6F-5 Hellcat fighters, VB-20 SB2C-3 Helldiver dive bombers, and VT-20 Avenger torpedo bombers from USS Enterprise of Halsey’s 3rd Fleet.
The Japanese "Center Force" leaves Brunei Bay, Borneo, on 22 October 1944, en route to the Philippines. Ships are, from right to left: battleships Nagato, Musashi and Yamato; heavy cruisers Maya, Chokai, Takao, Atago, Haguro and Myoko. Courtesy of Lieutenant Tobei Shiraishi. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-fornv/japan/japsh-xz/yamato-k.htm

The Japanese “Center Force” leaves Brunei Bay, Borneo, on 22 October 1944, en route to the Philippines.
Ships are, from right to left: battleships Nagato, Musashi and Yamato; heavy cruisers Maya, Chokai, Takao, Atago, Haguro and Myoko. Courtesy of Lieutenant Tobei Shiraishi.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-fornv/japan/japsh-xz/yamato-k.htm

Despite its great strength, 3rd Fleet was not well-placed to deal with the threat. On 22 October, Halsey had detached two of his carrier groups to the fleet base at Ulithi to provision and rearm.

It was called "Murderer's Row." Aircraft carriers lined up across Ulithi Lagoon. Ulithi was used as the major "secret" naval base during WWII. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

It was called “Murderer’s Row.” Aircraft carriers lined up across Ulithi Lagoon. Ulithi was used as the major “secret” naval base during WWII. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

When Darter‘s (A US Submarine) contact report came in, Halsey recalled Davison’s group, but allowed Vice Admiral McCain—with the strongest of TF 38’s carrier groups, to continue towards Ulithi. This will turn out to be a poor decision by Admiral Halsey. In order to be clean in my understanding of the different groups in this part of the theater, I needed to understand the individual sections of TF 38. I found a document online that details out which ships were part of which group under TF 38. Here is Vice Admiral McCain’s Task Force 38.1 This is the group I just wrote that Halsey didn’t recall back from going to Ulithi for supplies with the other parts of the taskforce on October 22, 1944.

Task Group 38.1: Vice Admiral J.S.Mccain
USS Hornet (CV8) This had to be an error and should be CV-12 as the CV-8 was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz in 1943.
USS Wasp (CV18)
USS Hancock (CV19)
USS Monterey (CV26)
USS Cowpens (CV25)
USS Pensacola (CA24)
USS Chester (CA27)
USS Salt Lake City (CA25)
USS Boston (CA69)
USS San Diego (CL53)
USS Oakland (CL95)
USS Brown (DD546)
USS Conner (DD582)
USS Cowell (DD547)
USS Case (DD370)
USS Cummings (DD365)
USS Cassin (DD372)
USS Downes (DD375)
USS Dunlap (DD384)
USS Fanning (DD385)
USS Farenholt (DD491)
USS Grayson (DD435)
USS Izard (DD589)
USS McCalla (DD488)
USS Woodworth (DD460)

Halsey finally recalled McCain on 24 October—but the delay meant the most powerful American carrier group played little part in the coming battle, and the 3rd Fleet was therefore effectively deprived of nearly 40% of its air strength for most of the engagement. On the morning of 24 October, only three groups were available to strike Kurita’s force, and the one best positioned to do so—Bogan’s Task Group 38.2 (TF 38.2)—was by mischance the weakest of the groups, containing only one large carrier—USS Intrepid—and two light carriers (the failure to promptly recall McCain on 23 October had also effectively deprived 3rd Fleet, throughout the battle, of four of its six heavy cruisers).

USS Intrepid (CV-11)

USS Intrepid (CV-11)

Planes from carriers Intrepid and Cabot of Bogan’s group attacked at about 10:30, making hits on the battleships Nagato, Yamato, and Musashi, and severely damaging the heavy cruiser Myōkō.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944 Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea.
This hit did not produce serious damage.

A second wave from Intrepid, Essex and Lexington later attacked, with VB-15 Helldivers and VF-15 Hellcats from Essex, scoring another 10 hits on Musashi.

A USS ESSEX ordnanceman carries ammunition to the ship's F6F Hellcat fighters, 24 October 1944. -Paul Madden photo from NARA collection

A USS ESSEX ordnanceman carries ammunition to the ship’s F6F Hellcat fighters, 24 October 1944.
-Paul Madden photo from NARA collection

As Musashi withdrew, listing to port, a third wave from Enterprise and Franklin hit her with an additional 11 bombs and eight torpedoes.

20.5

Kurita turned his fleet around to get out of range of the aircraft, passing the crippled Musashi as his force retreated. He waited until 17:15 before turning around again to head for the San Bernardino Strait. After being struck by at least 17 bombs and 19 torpedoes, Musashi finally capsized and sank at about 19:30.

IJN Admiral Takijiro Onishi

IJN Admiral Takijiro Onishi

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi had directed three waves of aircraft from his First Air Fleet based on Luzon against the carriers of Rear Admiral Sherman’s TG 38.3 (whose aircraft were also being used to strike airfields in Luzon to prevent Japanese land-based air attacks on Allied shipping in Leyte Gulf). Each of Ōnishi’s strike waves consisted of some 50 to 60 aircraft.

Most of the attacking Japanese planes were intercepted and shot down or driven off by Hellcats of Sherman’s combat air patrol, most notably by two fighter sections from Essex led by Commander David McCampbell (who is credited with shooting down nine of the attacking planes in this one action). However, one Japanese aircraft (a Yokosuka D4Y3 Judy) slipped through the defences, and at 09:38 hit the light carrier USS Princeton with a 551 lb (250 kg) armor-piercing bomb. The resulting explosion caused a severe fire in Princeton‘s hangar and her emergency sprinkler system failed to operate.
The light aircraft carrier Princeton afire, east of Luzon, 24 October 1944.

The light aircraft carrier Princeton afire, east of Luzon, 24 October 1944.

As the fires spread rapidly, a series of secondary explosions followed. The fires were gradually brought under control, but at 15:23 there was an enormous explosion (probably in the carrier’s bomb stowage aft), causing more casualties aboard Princeton, and even heavier casualties – 233 dead and 426 wounded – aboard the light cruiser Birmingham which was coming back alongside to assist with the firefighting. Birmingham was so badly damaged, she was forced to retire. Another light cruiser and two destroyers were also damaged. All efforts to save Princeton failed, and after the remaining crew were evacuated, she was finally scuttled—torpedoed by the light cruiser Reno—at 17:50.
The light carrier USS Princeton explodes at 1523 on 24 October 1944 - after being bombed by a Japanese aircraft during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. The light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) is visible on this side of the Princeton. Birmingham was seriously damaged in the explosion, which caused more than three hundred casualties aboard the cruiser. [This is an official US Navy photograph, probably taken from the battleship USS South Dakota]

The light carrier USS Princeton explodes at 1523 on 24 October 1944 – after being bombed by a Japanese aircraft during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.
The light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) is visible on this side of the Princeton. Birmingham was seriously damaged in the explosion, which caused more than three hundred casualties aboard the cruiser.
[This is an official US Navy photograph, probably taken from the battleship USS South Dakota]

Of Princeton’s crew, 108 men were killed, while 1,361 survivors were rescued by nearby ships. USS Princeton was the largest American ship lost during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
g270437

In all, US 3rd Fleet flew 259 sorties—mostly by Hellcats—against Center Force on 24 October. This weight of attack was not nearly sufficient to neutralize the threat from Kurita. It contrasts with the 527 sorties flown by 3rd Fleet against Ozawa’s much weaker Northern Force on the following day. Moreover, a large proportion of the Sibuyan Sea attack was directed against just one ship, Musashi. This great battleship was sunk, and cruiser Myōkō crippled, but every other ship in Kurita’s force remained battleworthy and able to advance.

In my research I note that there is a story within the story of the Battles of Leyte Gulf that warrants a separate posting. It is part of the October 24th story but too lengthy to include here. It is a story of communication and miscommunication and the devastating results. So in my next part, read about Admiral Halsey’s decisions and the San Bernardino Strait.

What Happened October 20th – 26th: The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Part 1)

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).

Second Battle of the Philippine Sea (Leyte Gulf) – largest naval battle in history. I will tell this part of the story in multiple parts (anticipating five parts) because 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. For Part 1, I will cover background and the submarine action in Palawan passage on October 23, 1944.

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.

image002

It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the US Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

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. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. ka·mi·ka·ze (kä m -kä z ). n. 1. A Japanese pilot trained in World War II to make a suicidal crash attack, especially upon a ship

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

A Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane shown swooping down on a U.S. warship in a dramatic action in World War II. In the three-day battle of Leyte Gulf, in Oct. 1944, the Japanese threw the suicide planes into action for the first time in a desperate effort to save their fleet. (AP Photo)

By the time of the battle, Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, demonstrating the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.

Background

The campaigns of August 1942 to early 1944 had driven Japanese forces from many of their island bases in the south and central Pacific Ocean, while isolating many of their other bases (most notably in the Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Admiralty Islands, New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Wake Island), and in June 1944, a series of American amphibious landings supported by the US 5th Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force captured most of the Mariana Islands (bypassing Rota). This offensive breached Japan’s strategic inner defense ring and gave the Americans a base from which long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers could attack the Japanese home islands. The Japanese counterattacked in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The US Navy destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers (and damaged other ships) and approximately 600 Japanese aircraft, leaving the IJN with virtually no carrier-borne airpower or experienced pilots. You can read about many of the 1944 engagements especially the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot in my previous posts.

Admiral Ernest J. King

Admiral Ernest J. King

For subsequent operations, Admiral Ernest J. King and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff favored blockading Japanese forces in the Philippines and attacking Formosa (Taiwan) to give the Americans and Australians control of the sea routes between Japan and southern Asia.

300px-Douglas_MacArthur_lands_Leyte1

“I have returned” — General MacArthur returns to the Philippines with Philippine President Sergio Osmena to his right, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo at his rear, and Sutherland on his left. Photo taken by Gaetano Faillace

US Army General Douglas MacArthur championed an invasion of the Philippines, which also lay across the supply lines to Japan. Leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands would be a blow to American prestige and a personal affront to MacArthur, who in 1942 had famously pronounced, “I shall return.”

The considerable air power the Japanese had amassed in the Philippines was thought too dangerous to bypass by many high-ranking officers outside the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Admiral Chester Nimitz. However, Nimitz and MacArthur initially had opposing plans, with Nimitz’s plan centered on an invasion of Formosa, since that could also cut the supply lines to Southeast Asia. Formosa could also serve as a base for an invasion of mainland China, which MacArthur felt was unnecessary. A meeting between MacArthur, Nimitz, and President Roosevelt helped confirm the Philippines as a strategic target, but had less to do with the final decision to invade the Philippines than is sometimes claimed. Nimitz eventually changed his mind and agreed to MacArthur’s plan.

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

Pictured above: MacArthur, Roosevelt & Nimitz on board USS Baltimore, July 1944

It was also estimated that an invasion of Formosa would require about 12 divisions of US Army soldiers and Marines. This was more land power than the Americans could muster in the whole Pacific Ocean area at that time, and the entire Australian Army was engaged in the Solomon Islands, on New Guinea, in the Dutch East Indies, and on various other Pacific islands. The invasion of Formosa would require much larger ground forces than were available in the Pacific in late 1944, and would not have been feasible until the defeat of Germany freed the necessary manpower.

It was eventually decided that MacArthur’s forces would invade the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. Amphibious forces and close naval support would be provided by the 7th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as MacArthur’s Navy.

The 7th Fleet at this time contained units of the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, including the County-class heavy cruisers HMAS Shropshire and Australia, and the destroyer Arunta, and possibly a few warships from New Zealand and/or the Netherlands.

The US 3rd Fleet—commanded by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., with Task Force 38 (TF 38, the Fast Carrier Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher) as its main component—would provide more distant cover and support for the invasion.

For the Leyte operation,  as 'Task Force 38,' and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet,   the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers.   Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class,  the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class),  a ship with a matchless combat record.

For the Leyte operation, as ‘Task Force 38,’ and constituting almost all of the US Third Fleet, the Fast Carrier Force contained nine large fleet carriers and eight light carriers. Of the nine heavy carriers eight were of the new Essex Class, the ninth being the old Enterprise (of the Yorktown Class), a ship with a matchless combat record.

A fundamental defect in this plan was there would be no single American naval admiral in overall command. Kinkaid and his 7th Fleet fell under MacArthur as Supreme Allied Commander Southwest Pacific, whereas Halsey’s 3rd Fleet reported to Nimitz as C-in-C Pacific Ocean Areas. This lack of a unified command structure, along with failures in communication, was to produce a crisis, and very nearly a strategic disaster, for the American forces.

By coincidence, the Japanese plan, using three separate fleets, also lacked an overall commander. The American options were apparent to the IJN.

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Soemu Toyoda is an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy

Combined Fleet Chief Soemu Toyoda prepared four “victory” plans: Shō-Gō 1 was a major naval operation in the Philippines, while Shō-Gō 2, Shō-Gō 3 and Shō-Gō 4 were responses to attacks on Formosa, the Ryukyu and Kurile Islands, respectively. The plans were for complex offensive operations committing nearly all available forces to a decisive battle, despite this substantially depleting Japan’s slender reserves of fuel oil.

On 12 October 1944, the US 3rd Fleet under Admiral Halsey began a series of carrier raids against Formosa and the Ryukyu Islands, with a view to ensuring the aircraft based there could not intervene in the Leyte landings. (See a previous blog post) The Japanese command therefore put Shō-Gō 2 into action, launching waves of air attacks against 3rd Fleet’s carriers. In what Morison refers to as a “knock-down, drag-out fight between carrier-based and land-based air”, the Japanese were routed, losing 600 aircraft in three days, almost their entire air strength in the region. Following the American invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese Navy made the transition to Shō-Gō 1.

Shō-Gō 1 called for Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa’s ships—known as the “Northern Force”—to lure the main American covering forces away from Leyte.

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Vice Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy

Northern Force would be built around several aircraft carriers, but these would have very few aircraft or trained aircrew. The carriers would serve as the main bait. As the US covering forces were lured away, two other surface forces would advance on Leyte from the west. The “Southern Force” under Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima would strike at the landing area via Surigao Strait.

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

The “Center Force” under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita—by far the most powerful of the attacking forces—would pass through San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea, turn southwards, and then also attack the landing area.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

Photographed just prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ships are, from left to right: Musashi, Yamato, a cruiser and Nagato.

This plan was likely to result in the destruction of one or more of the attacking forces, but Toyoda later explained this to his American interrogators as follows:

Should we lose in the Philippines operations, even though the fleet should be left, the shipping lane to the south would be completely cut off so that the fleet, if it should come back to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel supply. If it should remain in southern waters, it could not receive supplies of ammunition and arms. There would be no sense in saving the fleet at the expense of the loss of the Philippines.

—United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) – ‘Interrogations of Japanese Officials’

The submarine action in Palawan Passage (23 October)

As it sortied from its base in Brunei, Kurita’s powerful “Center Force” consisted of five battleships (Yamato, Musashi, Nagato,Kongō, and Haruna), ten heavy cruisers (Atago, Maya, Takao, Chōkai, Myōkō, Haguro, Kumano, Suzuya, Tone and Chikuma), two light cruisers (Noshiro and Yahagi) and 15 destroyers.

centerforKurita’s ships passed Palawan Island around midnight on 22–23 October.

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

Map of the Philippines with Palawan highlighted

The American submarines Darter and Dace were positioned together on the surface close by.

USS Darter (227)

USS Darter (SS-227)

USS Dace (227)

USS Dace (SS-227)

At 00:16 on 23 October, Darter‘s radar detected the Japanese formation at a range of 30,000 yd (27,000 m). Her captain promptly made visual contact. The two submarines quickly moved off in pursuit of the ships, while Darter made the first of three contact reports. At least one of these was picked up by a radio operator on Yamato, but Kurita failed to take appropriate antisubmarine precautions.

Darter and Dace traveled on the surface at full power for several hours and gained a position ahead of Kurita’s formation, with the intention of making a submerged attack at first light. This attack was unusually successful. At 05:24, Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes, at least four of which hit Kurita’s flagship, the heavy cruiser Atago. Ten minutes later, Darter made two hits on Atago‘s sister ship, Takao, with another spread of torpedoes. At 05:56, Dace made four torpedo hits on the heavy cruiser Maya (sister to Atago and Takao).

Atago and Maya quickly sank. Takao turned back to Brunei escorted by two destroyers—and was followed by the two submarines.

Sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Atago sunk by planes from the U.S.S. Natoma Bay CVE-62 on October 25, 1944 at the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

Japanese Heavy Cruiser Maya torpedoed October 23, 1944

On 24 October, as the submarines continued to shadow the damaged cruiser, Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal. All efforts to get her off failed, and she was abandoned. Her entire crew was, however, rescued by Dace.

Takao returned to Singapore. She was joined in January 1945 by Myōkō.

Atago had sunk so rapidly, Kurita was forced to swim to survive. He was rescued by one of the Japanese destroyers, and he then transferred to the battleship Yamato.

In my next post, I will continue with this campaign in Leyte Gulf with the The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea (24 October, 1944)

Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge – When Clear, You Can See For Three Miles

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.


On the September 14, 2014 Sunday Photo Fiction I wrote a trilogy.  I decided that I would try expanding those stories for a few weeks.  The titles will not be Train Track Trilogy each week but will have three or a version of three in the title but be a continuation.  Here are the stories in order:

Train Track Trilogy

Three Tales in a Bubble

The Unleashing of Three Dragons

Three Strokes to Stay Above Water

Three Tons of Debris

Today, please enjoy When Clear, You Can See For Three Miles

Credit: Al Forbes

Credit: Al Forbes

When Clear, You Can See For Three Miles

Kim didn’t have $25,000. In her bedroom, she began filling a suitcase with clothes and personal items. She put what little cash she had as well as the jewelry from Mark in her handbag. Kim didn’t know where she would go, but it was clear to her that she needed to be miles away.

———-

My baby was conceived in love and is part of me,” thought Dara. She put away the brochure and left the house. Walking briskly because of the late autumn temperature, Dara soon reached the oceanfront. Dropping coins into the telescope, Dara looked out at sea but eventually she turned to looking down the beach. Miles down, a mother was racing around with a small child. The mother caught the boy and lifted him into a hug. It was clearly a scene of pure joy.

———-

“What do we do next George?”

“This information on his transport provides avenues of research. Through these avenues, I will find out if he definitely was onboard and what the records upon arrival in New York can tell us.”

“I am so glad I met with you George.”

“I don’t want to give you false hope Krista. We are still miles away from the truth but the journey has become more clear.”

 

The World’s Outstanding Women (WOW): Harriet Chalmers Adams

WOMENS-symbolThroughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways.  Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women.  There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them.  Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include?  I welcome your suggestions.  Would you like to guest blog one of the world’s outstanding women?  Let me hear from you.

When my daughter was in grade school one year she had to prepare a presentation on a great explorer.  Most of the well-known and famous ones had already been picked by other students.  She was permitted to choose from the remainder of the list or find one not on the list but get it approved.  When she came home with the list, I noticed that there weren’t any woman on the list.  I just knew there had to be a great woman explorer so my daughter and I turned to the internet.  We found a wonderful one and because of this school project, she became know to me.   Meet Harriet Chalmers Adams.

Harriet Chalmers Adams

Harriet Chalmers Adams

 

I’ve wondered why men have so absolutely monopolized the field of exploration. Why did women never go to the Arctic, try for one pole or the other, or invade Africa, Tibet, or unknown wildernesses? I’ve never found my sex a hinderment; never faced a difficulty which a woman, as well as a man, could not surmount; never felt a fear of danger; never lacked courage to protect myself. I’ve been in tight places and have seen harrowing things.

 

Born in Stockton, California to Alexander Chalmers and Frances Wilkens, she was educated by private tutors. On October 5, 1899 she married Franklin Pierce Adams. In 1904, Adams went on her first major expedition, a three-year trip around South America with her husband, during which they visited every country, and traversed the Andes on horseback.

Photograph taken by Harriet Chalmers Adams

Photograph taken by Harriet Chalmers Adams

In a later trip she retraced the trail of Christopher Columbus’s early discoveries in the Americas, and crossed Haiti on horseback.

harriet8

Adams served as a correspondent for Harper’s Magazine in Europe during World War I. She was the only female journalist permitted to visit the trenches. Later, she and her husband visited eastern Bolivia during a second extended trip to South America.

French WWI soldiers in a dense wood squat down to warm by a fire.  Photograph by Harriet Chalmers Adams

French WWI soldiers in a dense wood squat down to warm by a fire. Photograph by Harriet Chalmers Adams

From 1907 to 1935, she wrote twenty-one articles for the National Geographic Society that featured her photographs, including “Some Wonderful Sights in the Andean Highlands” (September 1908), “Kaleidoscopic La Paz: City of the Clouds” (February 1909) and “River-Encircled Paraguay” (April 1933). She wrote on Trinidad, Surinam, Bolivia, Peru and the trans-Andean railroad between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso.

In 1925, Adams helped launch the Society of Woman Geographers. In all, Adams is said to have travelled more than a hundred thousand miles, and captivated hundreds of audiences. The New York Times wrote “Harriet Chalmers Adams is America’s greatest woman explorer. As a lecturer no one, man or woman, has a more magnetic hold over an audience than she.”

left to right) Gertude Mathews Shelby, Marjorie Turnbull, Lucille Sinclair Douglass, Blair Niles, Delia Akeley, Grace Murphy, Gertrude Emerson Sen, Harriet Chalmers Adams. June 1932.

left to right) Gertude Mathews Shelby, Marjorie Turnbull, Lucille Sinclair Douglass, Blair Niles, Delia Akeley, Grace Murphy, Gertrude Emerson Sen, Harriet Chalmers Adams. June 1932.

She died in Nice, France, on July 17, 1937, at age 61. She is interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California.