The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the single largest naval battle in history. Leyte Gulf is located in the Phillipines
, towards the south-east side. In October of 1944, the US Army
landed a substantial invasion force to recapture the islands, which were once defended by General Douglas MacArthur
. In his parting address, during his hasty retreat
from the invading Japanese forces, MacArthur promised, "I will be back." The political and strategic value of the Phillipines in the summer of 1944, ensured the accuracy of this prediction.
The U.S. Navy's Third Fleet, under the direction of Admiral
William "Bull" Halsey was in charge of the safety of the landing force, as well as the destruction of any enemy Japanese carriers that might attack. Additionally, Vice Admiral
Thomas Kinkaid, in charge of the Seventh Fleet, was directly involved with the protection of the landing forces at Leyte Gulf.
The Japanese could not afford to lose the Phillipines, because it was the primary source of resources, so they enacted their battle plan, Sho Ichi Go
. This plan called for 4 forces (typical of most World War Two Japanese battle plans, it was complex and required a diversionary force) to attack Leyte Gulf. The decoy force, commanded by Jisaburo Ozawa, would contain all of the remaining carriers, and would attempt to lure the American forces away from Leyte Gulf. Meanwhile, 3 striking forces, led by Takeo Kurita, would meet at the gulf and strike the American landing vessels.
Although the decoy worked, and lured Halsey away on a wild goose chase
after carriers containing no planes (thanks to the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot
), Kurita's three forces were severely mauled
by Kinkaid in an ambush he set up against the oncoming forces (he actually crossed the T
twice!). Two of the three attacking forces were decimated
, but the other one, led by Kurita, and containing the two Japanese super-battleships
, slipped past Halsey and attacked the vulnerable escort carriers
and support vessels. A heroic defense by several destroyer
s scared Kurita into fleeing, on the brink of a great victory.
Instead it was a huge success for the American forces, and marked the beginning of the end of the war for the Japanese.