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.
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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.

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2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    These pictures you find are so amazing to see and my heart goes out to all the men on board

    Like