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Leyte Gulf: a Japanese perspective


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Ariecho #1 Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:39 PM

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The following posts were part of a little project I put together a couple weeks ago, to commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Leyte Gulf.  The goal (in principle approved by CatStalker) was to have him post the Japanese part on October 23rd and the US part on October 24th.  He must have been pretty busy though, as he hasn't even read any of them), so I will post them on behalf of the team who put a lot of efforts into them.
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So, and before you comment on the following posts, I will ask you one BIG favor.  If you have any positive comment to make, reflect them to those who wrote the stories, not me.  I'm just the coordinator.  In other words, please NO +1.  Reserve them to NGTM_1R and Guardsman322nd.  They are the ones who deserve them.
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The battle of Leyte Gulf

(by Ariecho)

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Between October 23 and October 26, 1944, naval forces of the United States, Japan, and to some extent Australia, clashed in what is now known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but should really be named the Battlesof Leyte Gulf.  Several books have been written on the subject, and everybody knows about the dramatic events that happened in the area, whether it is the odyssey of the USS Johnston, the sinking of the battleship Musashi, or the end of the Princeton.  Some historians considered the Japanese attack a suicidal attack in the real sense of the word: not because they didn't have any chance, but because some high ranking naval officers thought it wouldn't be honorable for the Imperial Japanese Navy to survive what they thought was an already lost war.  Admiral Kurita himself sent the following message to his subordinates:
"I know that many of you are strongly opposed to this assignment.  But the war situation is far more critical than any of you can possibly know. Would it not be shameful to have the fleet remain intact while our nation perishes?  I believe that the Imperial General Headquarters is giving us a glorious opportunity.  Because I realize how very serious the war situation actually is, I am willing to accept even this ultimate assignment to storm into Leyte Gulf..  
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You must all remember that there are such things as miracles.  What man can say that there is no chance for our fleet to turn the tide of war in a decisive battle?  We shall have a chance to meet our enemies.  We shall engage his task forces.  I hope you will not carry your responsibilities lightly.  I know that you will act faithfully and well."
By October 1, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Navy had a grand total of 75 ships available, not counting some 15 older destoyers.  They committed 65 at Leyte plus 1 of the aforementioned older destroyers.  Against them, the Allied forces had a comparable number of ships, with 3 major differences:  The Japanese fleet at Leyte was the entire Japanese fleet, the Allied fleet was "only" 4 Task Groups.  Out of the 65 Japanese ships, only 14 were capital ships or aircraft carriers.  In comparison, Task Force 38 had 9 aircraft carriers, 8 light aircraft carriers, and 6 battleships.  Even if Japan had managed to pull an ace off their sleeves at Leyte, they could only build an equivalent of 75,000 tons of ships per month, while the Allied numbers were not even comparable.  All in all, Leyte could not be won by Japan, and yet, they still came...
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The following is a series of articles written by a team of World of Warships' members on the North American forum.  The first two parts are a review of the battle, as seen from the Japanese side, and we will then offer you another review, from the US side.  Finally, I'll invite you to read a testimony from someone who had a family member present at Leyte.  So, and as they say in theaters: sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
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The battle of Leyte Gulf: Imperial Japanese Navy point of view

(by NGTM_1R)
(The Battlefield; Surigao Strait)
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Planning and Approach
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The Battle of Surigao Strait was, ironically, not a part of the initial Japanese plan for Leyte Gulf. Dubbed “Sho-1”, that plan was devised to repel a landing in the Philippine Islands. The carriers would feint from direction of Japan and draw off Fast Carrier Forces Pacific Fleet; the surface fleet would approach through San Bernardino Strait, attack the landing force and destroy it, and then withdraw to the south. Surigao Strait would not be their entry point, but their eventual method of escape.
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That plan was put into motion in the afternoon of the 18th of October. Battleships Fuso and Yamashiro, diehard cruiser Mogami, the three ships of Destroyer Division 4, lucky destroyer Shigure, and Vice Admiral Kiyohide's Shima's 2YB were all slated for tasks they would not actually carry out. The battleships, Mogami, and destroyers were to accompany Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita's 1YB through San Bernardino Strait. 2YB was assigned to Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's Southwestern Area Fleet and expected to spend the battle ferrying soldiers between Manila and Leyte.
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Yet these were not to be. Before darkness on the 18th, Mikawa ordered 2YB to stand by and await developments. He believed he already had enough ships, and to immobilize two heavy and one light cruiser plus their destroyer screen when the Imperial Japanese Navy was committing everything to a do-or-die final effort seemed unsound to him. Imperial Headquarters had crafted their plan for Shima's force with exactly the opposite belief; 2YB was far too small to send off to battle alone. Immediately, everyone set out their own plans for 2YB. Headquarters wanted to stick to the plan in hopes of getting the Army to commit more troops; Ozawa's carrier forces wanted 2YB back for a second decoy and planned to add a destroyer squadron as well as battleships Ise and Hyuga to it for a more tempting target; Kurita's 1YB didn't want them.
(Kiyohide Shima during the war.)

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As the staffs battled it out through the 19th and 20th, and Kurita's fleet dropped anchor at Brunei Bay, another fateful decision was made. From on high, only two hours after the actual landings at Leyte began, came the suggestion that perhaps it would be better to split Kurita's forces, and attempt a penetration of Leyte Gulf from both the north and the south. As the day wore on, Mikawa essentially rebelled against headquarters in Toyko and directed Shima to do as he wished. Shima immediately began lobbying hard to operate jointly, but not directly with, Kurita's force. Late that night, Shima sent his proposed plan to Kurita: 2YB would attack from the south via Surigao Strait while 1YB attacked from the north via San Bernardino Strait.

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(Shima's flagship Nachi, via shipbucket and BB1987)
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It was a bold plan, foolhardy even. Shima proposed to send his force of three cruisers and seven destroyers alone through Surigao Strait. If the Americans sent even a fraction of the forces they were known to have available, Shima faced certain destruction. Kurita's reaction is not known, but the timing indicates this may have factored into his decision to accept the suggestion from Headquarters that he detach some forces and attack from both directions. Yet Tokyo was still arguing with Mikawa.
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While Mikawa continued to fight with Tokyo over the proper employment of Shima's force, and Shima quietly fumed on the sidelines as three of his destroyers were stripped away, October 21st at 1700 saw the final pre-operation conference in 1YB. As Kurita's operations officer laid out the orders for the detachment of BatDiv 2 to attack via Surigao Strait, Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura apparently showed no reaction to the change that separated his two old battleships from the more powerful and quicker ones of BatDiv 1 and BatDiv 3.
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(Shoji Nishimura after his promotion to Vice Admiral)
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While the entire operation was being carried out in the belief that it was better for the Navy to sail to battle and die than survive while Japan was destroyed, BatDiv 2 had special cause to be worried. They'd been nearly ordered to certain death once already during the Marianas landings. Fuso and Yamashiro were old, having been laid down before World War I and completed during that conflict, and were possibly the least-modernized warships in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Their speed was too slow for modern operations, their plates leaked, and even in a culture as devoted to politeness as that of Japan it was common to refer to them with derogatory terms. If there were two battleships that the IJN was willing to throw away, it was Fuso and Yamashiro.
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Nishimura's force was to be off Talcoban an hour and thirty minutes before Kurita's. A mere seven ships, alone against whatever the Americans could throw at them for 90 minutes. Their survival was improbable and it is likely that Nishimura was expected to lead his command to its destruction. Certainly things were communicated to the crews that way. One of Fuso's survivors stated their mission was described to them as a “special attack” (the Japanese euphemism for kamikaze missions), while Captain Tomoo Tanaka of destroyer Michishio said that his officers thought themselves to be participating in a “suicide mission, and none of them expected to return.”
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By noon of October 22nd, the pieces finally fell into place; Shima's desire to attack from the South was confirmed and Nishimura's force was given the same mission. The orders of each force contained no reference to the other, being crafted independently and coming from different commands. Nishimura would set out for Surigao at 1530 that day. Shima was at sea, headed down the west coast of Luzon to Coron where he would refuel. Combining the two would require Shima to speed up considerably, or Nishimura to slow down. Shima was loathe to speed up; he was hoping to get the three destroyers of DesDiv 21 back if they could refuel quickly enough from their previous assignment, and he feared that a rendezvous at or near Surigao in the darkness would provoke a friendly-fire incident between the two forces. (In the event, DesDiv 21 was detected and bombed by aircraft from USS Franklin the next morning for one destroyer damaged and one sunk, so they never came) Nishimura was loathe to slow down, as he considered it vital to transit the Strait and arrive in attack position off Talcoban before dawn so as to give his relatively small force any chance to accomplish their mission. With this, any chance to combine the two groups effectively went out the window, and their relative fates were sealed.
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Morning of October 24th
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Action would open for them on October 24th, as at 0855 radar on Nishimura's flagship Yamashiro reported enemy aircraft. Destroyer Asagumo reported visually sighting the enemy ten minutes later, and prepared to open fire at about 0901. Main battery on Yamashiro and Fuso loaded 14” Type 3 Sanshikidan shells and opened fire at maximum range, hoping to disrupt the target-selection process. A mixed group of fighters and bomb-armed torpedo aircraft dove on Yamashiro, while the dive bombers split their attentions between Fuso and Mogami.

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(Fuso and Mogami under air attack)
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(Fuso, during the same attack)
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Yamashiro was strafed, bombed, and rocketed. Twenty men in exposed positions were killed and bullets penetrated the bridge and injured at least one person, while a near-miss to starboard started a bad leak by opening the seam between armor belt and torpedo blister. Fuso suffered worse on the surface. One bomb struck just behind and to the right of Number Two turret, penetrating the armored deck and detonating inside the space for No. 1 secondary battery and killing its crew. The blast opened some seams and started a minor leak. Another bomb landed on the stern, where Fuso's floatplanes were being prepped for takeoff. There was at least one secondary detonation of a float-plane depth charge, which blew a hole in the side of the stern above the waterline, while the floatplanes' fuel tanks were shattered by shrapnel from the blast, dumping burning avgas onto the deck. Mogami, with its last two floatplane crews sweating out the attack on their catapults, had its plane-handling deck strafed but no bombs struck home. The attack was over within half an hour.
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To the others, Fuso appeared to be in trouble. A huge cloud of smoke covered the battleship's stern. But it wasn't as bad as it looked; damage control crew jettisoned the burning floatplanes and had the fires out within 25 minutes. Yamashiro actually had it worse, as the plates had sprung at the join between the belt armor and torpedo bulge down nearly a third of the length of the ship. Flooding in the starboard bilge caused the battleship to list 15 degrees at one point, but eventually the pumps and counterflooding of the port bilge brought the ship back to normal.
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The mystery of this attack is destroyer Shigure. While after the war it was said that she took a hit to the forward turret, injuring six and killing five, the same man who said this originally later denied it and pointed out that Shigure would have her forward turret in action that evening at full effectiveness. Dockyard records of repairs for Shigure after Leyte do not mention any work being done to repair damage to the forward turret either.
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Nishimura and his men expected to face an increasing barrage of air attacks, but at those attacks never came. While those few aircraft were working them over, the US carriers were preparing to attack a far more interesting target: Kurita's much larger group. With that, they were given a reprieve.

Edited by Ariecho, 28 October 2013 - 10:57 PM.


Discussing with a British officer: "You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour." "Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most."
Robert Surcouf (French Corsair)


Ariecho #2 Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:39 PM

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Afternoon of October 24
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After noon, Nishimura called the commanding officers of his ships to Yamashiro for a conference. Kurita's fleet was being pounded on according to reports coming in over the radio. This was disturbing; Kurita's fleet was the lynchpin of the operation. The only thing to be done was to continue on course; if the enemy that had attacked him that morning was still watching, they might perceive the intent to attack up Surigao and yet turn their wrath away from Kurita to less valuable targets.
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Mogami's floatplanes had scouted the route the early that day and would do so again after night fell, from their temporary base on at Cebu on the island of the same name. They reported the presence of no ship larger than a destroyer at or around Surigao Strait on their first sortie, though they did see a disturbing number of PT boats. The discussion aboard Yamashiro turned to how best to cope with the torpedo boats, and it was decided to detach Mogami and DesDiv 4 to sweep Sogod Bay, to the west of Surigao's southern end, where it was suspected that enemy torpedo-armed craft would lurk. They would leave the formation just before dusk and rejoin it in the darkness, after which all ships would proceed up Surigao Strait. As everyone left the conference again, Nishimura signaled his intentions to Kurita and to Shima.
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Shima increased the speed of 2YB. Kurita was being held up (interestingly, it appears Nishimura did not know this) by the air attacks. Nishimura's force was going to be alone off Tacloban even longer than before, and so would 2YB. Their chances were even more slim than at the start, but they could be improved by closing the gap between the two forces. The increase in speed was meant to do that.

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(The Heavy Cruisers of Surigao; Mogami and Nachi via Shipbucket and BB1987)
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As the sun set, Mogami and the destroyers separated for their sweep. Bohol Island was sighted ahead.
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Evening of October 24
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2YB was steadily gaining from the speed-up, their overtaking point seeming to be about the northern exit from Surigao. This was excellent news to both parties, giving nearly double the number of destroyers and their torpedoes to the force from either perspective. Aboard Shigure at 2252, lookouts called out a warning: enemy torpedo boats, starboard quarter. The forward turret loaded starshell and fired to illuminate. Yamashiro turned to evade any torpedoes already in the water and the starboard secondary battery loaded starshell, firing a single salvo for illumination and then opening fire with lethal projectiles at 2258. Fuso, a kilometer astern of Yamashiro, didn't open fire; it seemed the Americans were already turning away. Shigure pursued and set fire to one of the enemy boats, believing they sank it when the fire went out, as well as claiming a kill on another with a direct hit. Shigure returned to station after twenty-three minutes. To the south, at 2300, destroyer Ushio of 2YB sighted star shell on the horizon as Yamashiro engaged the PTs.
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Mogami also spotted starshell around 2310, but having heard nothing over the radio assumed things were going well and continued with DesDiv 4. Sogod Bay was empty, housing neither torpedo boats nor destroyers. Mogami's Captain Ryo Toma reported this fact over voice radio and added his estimated time to rejoin...45 minutes late. The return signal indicated the battleships would wait up, holding a course across the mouth of Surigao. Captain Toma was too optimistic however, as his hydrophones soon picked up the sound PT propellers to starboard. Lookouts never sighted them; a searchlight sweep revealed nothing. The PTs launched their torpedoes in peace from 1,800 yards...only to have some run erratically and the rest miss. Then destroyer Yamagumo charged into them, illuminating with searchlights. Three minutes of engagement lead Yamagumo to think it had sunk them all, and the destroyer turned to rejoin the formation.
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This set the pattern for the PT boat attacks. They would close, be sighted, attack ineffectually or not at all, and be chased away with the Japanese thinking they had sunk them. Tensions ran high, and at 0023 Mogami reported “ship silhouette, apparently enemy” over voice radio, giving its bearing as 200 degrees a moment later. That would put the contact between the Mogami group and the battleships. Shigure saw it too, bearing 40 degrees, and loaded starshell again. Starshell burst over the enemy ship, but at the same time other starshells went off over the battleships! At the last moment, Nishimura and Captain Toma both realized what was happening: the two forces were seeing each other. Visibility started to deteriorate as weather made up, and the two groups lost sight of each other again, still maneuvering to rejoin.
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At 0105 Fuso's lookouts sighted a ship silhouette off the port bow. Mogami and the destroyers were supposed to be somewhere behind, and it was assumed enemy. Lieutenant Takatsugu Yamagata, commanding the port secondary battery of the battleship, did not wish to take the chance. A light flashed from the target, and he opened fire. (Possibly without orders; Fuso's survivors do not recall any orders to track the target or open fire being passed.) Immediately the radio came alive; Fuso's target was not an enemy ship but Mogami. Mogami cut hard to port and switched on her recognition lights as Fuso opened fire. One of Fuso's shells struck Mogami, aft and to port where it penetrated into sickbay. By luck it failed to explode, but shrapnel from the bulkhead being torn open killed three of Mogami's crew. Rear Admiral Masami Ban, captaining Fuso, must have been mortified. With this last incident, the two forces rejoined and headed up the straight.
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(The Way It Breaks Down: The Battle)
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Surigao, October 25th
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At 0126 Vice Admiral Shima's voice was heard on Yamashiro's bridge, informing Nishimura that if he wished to pass information to 2YB it could be done easier and faster by using the voice radio. Nishimura sent an update this way an hour later. Shima ceased his zigzags and rang up 26 knots, the best speed that offered even remote fuel economy yet fast enough to make life hard on the torpedo boats he'd just been informed were about. Yet at 0148 Nishimura sent an order to his ships via non-voice radio. The reasons are unknown as all his ships were in voice-radio range, but it has been speculated he did so not to pass orders, but to speak to posterity: he wished Kurita, Ozawa, and C-in-C Combined Fleet to know that he was going up the strait alone, without Shima.
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Around 0205 another PT attack came in. Once again the boats were spotted, illuminated, and driven off, ships making emergency turns to comb the torpedo wakes. Before the action was over another group attacked 0215, while destroyer Michishio was still using its searchlight to illuminate the first attacking group. As action died down at 0235, Nishimura again spoke with Shima, reassuring him that though the attacks had been fierce, they had also been ineffective. He still expected battle to be joined in earnest hours away, off Talcoban and Dulag.
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He was wrong. The Japanese force was shifting from approach to battle formation, Shigure, on the port bow, spotted three ships to starboard and ahead eight kilometers away. Yamashiro's secondary batteries swung out and loaded starshell as the battleship's searchlights came on, while Fuso decided to use main and secondary battery both. At 0307 Fuso fired her first main battery salvo in anger. Then at 0308 several things happened at once. Destroyer Yamagumo warned of torpedo tracks to port, and Shima called on the radio circuit, worried by the babble of reports from Nishimura's force. A minute later, Fuso was hit by American destroyer torpedoes.
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Mogami recorded one hit, aft, on the starboard side. Fuso listed and began to slow, and Mogami moved to take her position in the formation. Aboard Fuso, the hit aft was noted, but so was another to forward. A survivor from Turret Number 1 recalled a shock as though he was in a truck driving into a concrete utility pole, followed by a steep list that started to settle back after a few moments. No. 2 powder magazine heard the strikes of two separate torpedoes, and perhaps a third. The lights went out, but the electrically operated magazine elevators still functioned. Mogami noted a fire on deck as well, but none of Fuso's survivors were in position to know about that if it happened. Fuso never radioed a damage report and possibly her voice radio was knocked out by shock damage. The end result was that Nishimura and those aboard Yamashiro never knew Fuso was falling out of formation.
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Mogami's floatplanes were about as well, dropping flares. One was dropped in perfect position to silhouette a new threat on the other side, and DesDiv 4 turned their torpedo tubes out to engage. Yamashiro opened fire with her secondaries, and Mogami with main battery. To Shigure veterans, what followed next must have seemed a nightmare; American torpedoes from the new targets crashed into the destroyers of DesDiv 4 ahead of her. It was like the Battle of Vella Gulf all over again. Two, maybe more, torpedoes crashed into Yamagumo six hundred meters ahead, and there was a bright flash and a huge explosion. Shigure's navigator reported the sinking as having taken three seconds. Mogami, further distant, logged “0333 Water pillar rises at Yamagumo. Her bow and stern are seen above the water. 0355 Water pillar at Yamagumo disappeared. She is nowhere to be seen.” Only two of Yamagumo's crew survived the sinking, and the only clue of what really happened is that No. 1 magazine did not detonate, as one of the survivors was there when the ship was hit. Asagumo, at the head of the line, took a torpedo in the bow and her forecastle tore off and fell into the sea, back to No. 1 turret. Michishio, between the other two, thought itself self safe when a torpedo crashed into the port engine room just under the second torpedo mount, the explosion breaching the centerline bulkhead and flooding the machinery spaces rapidly. Shigure and Mogami both reported that Michishio was hit again, forward, as her bow was broken as well. The ship would sink within fifteen minutes, and only four of her crew survived. Shigure barely escaped destruction herself, crossing the wakes of three torpedoes that had passed ahead. Even Yamashiro wasn't safe, taking hit under the quarterdeck that started a small fire. To be safe, No. 5 and No. 6 magazines were flooded. Nishimura may not have known how bad it was. His radio telegram at 0330 reported only the damage to Yamashiro and that two of his destroyers were drifting.
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Fuso, to the south, was starting to have serious trouble. From No. 1 turret came reports that the powder and shell magazines were flooding of their own accord, and the trim was down by the bow; water was starting to was over the starboard forecastle. The ship turned south and away from combat, making ten knots. The list to starboard was growing worse.

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(Fuso before the end; photopainting from combinedfleet.com.)
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Shima to the south and still outside Surigao was having troubles of his own. The PTs had found him too. Cruiser Abukuma detected the attack too late and took a single hit, portside just forward of the bridge. It sheered out of formation and dropped speed to ten knots. Around 0330 searchlights and starshell was seen ahead, and reports of enemy ships were being heard. Nishimura's force needed support now, not later, and Shima increased speed to 28 knots and headed up Surigao.
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To the south, Fuso was in dire condition. The turret crews were be ordered to abandon their guns and assemble amidships starboard. As they arrived, the ship lurched forward and Abandon Ship was ordered. Listing heavily to starboard with bow underwater, the ship suddenly corkscrewed to port as it went over. The upper part of the bridge structure tore loose in the process as the ship went through 45 degrees to port, then Fuso went down by the bow. Her survivors reported seeing her rudder in the air, and her screws still turning as the ship went under. The time was somewhere between 0325 and 0350. The survivors in the water, watching the ship sink, suddenly became aware they were in the midst of huge pool of oil. Many of them swam for their lives, knowing that the Borneo fuel oil was apt to catch fire at the slightest excuse. The lucky ones got away before the inevitable happened and the oil slick roared up in flames. Ultimately, only ten men would survive to return to Japan of Fuso's 1630 crew.
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At 0331, Yamashiro opened fire again. Another group of destroyers was making a run. Again, too slow. Eighteen seconds later one torpedo struck Yamashiro amidships to port. In addition to flooding a boiler room and reducing the battleship to five knots, it also damaged the intercom system extensively. Nishimura ordered his other ships to proceed independently, in effect admitting Yamashiro was no longer capable of combat. He wasn't giving his ship enough credit as ten minutes later it was back up to 18 knots.
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The Americans weren't done yet. Destroyers making another torpedo run opened gunfire as well this time. Shigure saw Mogami taking hits on her deck at 0342, but Mogami's action report makes no mention. Asagumo, still floundering about bowless, was the main victim, catching fire brightly. Mogami tried to retaliate, but smokescreens and the inability of her Type 22 radar to distinguish ships from a land background thwarted her. Yamashiro returned fire as well. Shigure was making a mess of things, trying to talk to “Fuso” which was in fact Yamashiro, and confusing Nishimura. Nishimura got on the radio, requesting Fuso's maximum speed.
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Fuso of course heard nothing, as its position was on the seabed. And at 0350 the answer of what happened next changed dramatically as the US cruisers to either side of Strait's exit opened fire on Yamashiro and Mogami. Two minutes later, so did the battleships across the front. Mogami immediately veered out to port, trying to avoid the malestrom descending on Yamashiro and to unmask her torpedo battery.
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(The way it looks from the other side; the view from the US cruisers, looking downrange.)
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Mogami reported the first salvo directed at her landed two hundred meters to starboard. Shigure made smoke, but realized that since the gunfire was radar-directed it wouldn't help. Shigure couldn't see the muzzle flashes of enemy ships, only their shell tracers. Yamashiro was rocked by cruiser guns and battleship fire struck near the bridge and high in the tower, knocking out the radar and starting fires. Turrets 1 and 2 elevated and returned fire nonetheless. They kept shooting, but a salvo from an American battleship pierced the conning tower below the bridge, destroying the wardroom which was a temporary sickbay, and others struck amidships. The ship swung out to bring amidships turrets to bear as well, despite the flame-wracked hellscape its upper deck had become.
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Mogami, sheering out to fire torpedoes, abruptly encountered three American DDs lurking behind. Mogami tried to signal them, mistaking them for Shima's ships or Asagumo and Michishio. Instead, she received a heavy dose of 5” gunfire. Mogami caught fire, which drew the wrath of heavier American units. No. 3 turret and No. 3 engine went out of action quickly. On the bridge an argument was occurring. Most of the officers wanted to withdraw. Yamashiro was burning out control and looked to be done for despite still firing. The navigator argued vehemently for continuing the attack, and seemed to bringing the other officers around, when the discussion suddenly became moot: two 8” shells struck the bridge and another hit the air defense platform above it. Every officer on the bridge was killed instantly. Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Shuichi Yamamoto found himself the most senior crew member left alive in the area of the bridge, and while a check was being made to see who was the senior surviving officer, the cruiser needed to be steered. He called down to the steering room two decks below to take over steering control and turn away from the battle. Moments after that, more shells wiped out No. 1 engine room and and No. 4 engine room, leaving Mogami with only one engine.

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(Yamashiro and Shigure under fire from a rather famous painting about the battle.)
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Shigure's troubles were bad, as some of the allied shooting at the other two was poor and landing around her, but she was unable to raise her sister ships by voice radio. Mogami was somewhere, lost in the darkness; Yamashiro was easy to spot but was being slowly torn to shreds and if there was a part of the battleship burning Shigure's officers were not aware of it. At 0358 US cruisers began to target Shigure directly, and then at 0400 Shigure's officers spotted Mogami again when she burst into flames. Weaving desperately at 32 knots the destroyer did not seem long to live. The gunnery officer, struggling to coach his guns onto a target but unable to find one, yelled to the bridge that they seemed to be the last Japanese ship afloat. Ahead was Hibuson Island, but they couldn't see any enemy ships: smoke screens concealed them and their radar couldn't tell Allied ships from land. Yamashiro seemed to be turning out control, and to Shigure's officers that was the sign the battle was lost. Shigure turned away, and then immediately was hit by an 8” shell. Though it failed to detonate, hitting the quarterdeck, it went down through the ship tearing open seven oil tanks and the No. 5 crew space, and left a forty-meter gash in the starboard shaft room's floor. The main steering engine was knocked out and two crewmen were killed. It was time to go, or Shigure would, in the words of her gunnery officer “die a dog's death” without having fired a shot against the main American force.
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Yamashiro was now alone. She burned from stem to stern, so badly that even her 6” barbettes and 5”/40 AA guns were visible in silhouette against the flames. No.3 turret was gone, a battleship shell having penetrated while the gun was loading and the resulting detonations blew the turret apart. Still Yamashiro fought on, seemingly unstoppable, through shellfire thick enough to be walked on. The turn Shigure saw was probably under hand steering, but it was not out of control. No. 4 turret engaged the source of fire to the north, while the No. 1 and No. 2 turrets fought with the rapid-firing group ahead. The secondaries joined in the ahead target, while the ones on what was theoretically the “unengaged” side found some DDs to pick on. Another destroyer squadron charged in from the engaged side to launch torpedoes and Yamashiro's secondary battery lashed out, definitely hitting one of them. They returned a torpedo hit around 0407, in the starboard engine room. Yamashiro lost speed again, but built back up to 12 knots by 0409. Turret No. 2 went out of action, either jammed in train or somehow pierced by small enough shell its detonation didn't destroy the mount. It is around this period that the last known words of Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura were spoken, in which he ordered it sent out by radio telegraph to Kurita that his mission was completed and he would proceed until annihilated.
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Abruptly the gunfire ceased at 0409. Yamashiro, aflame from the stack aft, its conning tower having been apparently attacked by a horde of steel-eating termites, with only two main battery turrets working, turned to the southwest and ceased fire. Whether Yamashiro was trying to escape or link up with Shima is unknown. After what must have been hundreds of shell hits, the old battleship still managed to increase speed again to 15 knots. Her port list was bad, but not critical, and Yamashiro might yet live to fight again. Then two torpedoes crashed into her starboard side in the machinery spaces. Yamashiro instantly lost power and went dead in the water. The loss of pumping capacity or simply now having far too many flooding compartments to combat overwhelmed damage control. The port list started to increase rapidly and reached 45 degrees. Abandon Ship was ordered tool ate, as from the time Abandon Ship was ordered to the time the ship was fully submerged was between two to five minutes. Of her crew, also only ten would survive to return to Japan.
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2YB had been listening to the battle on the radio and seen the light of shells and fires ahead. They had passed the flaming oil that marked the grave of Fuso at 0405, seeing two large fires. Ashigara's bridge watch concluded the flames were the remains of Fuso and Yamashiro. At 0411, Shima's view of the situation was that the top end of Surigao was blocked by enemy forces using radar-controlled gunfire and that Nishimura's force was dead or dying. They had not been heard on the radio for some time. Nonetheless, 2YB would attack. They pushed through a smoke screen and confronted another further up the Strait. 10,000 yards ahead to the right was a large ship on fire, so badly shot up it could not be identified. Another ship, smaller, off the starboard quarter was burning. Radar detected hostile ships, two or more, dead ahead range eleven kilometers. The destroyers of 2YB raced ahead to attack and the cruisers launched torpedoes.
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To port, the blazing wreck of a ship resolved itself into Mogami. No. 3 turret was secured fore and aft, ruined, barrels tilted crazily and blacked by the explosion that had destroyed it. The other two were trained full to starboard. The forecastle was pocked with shell hits everywhere, the area around the torpedo tubes was burning and exploding, and the aircraft deck was afire. There was no sign the ship had ever had a mainmast. Mogami appeared dead in the water, and indeed just dead; there was no sign anyone aboard was still alive.
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It was not so. Mogami was alive, and Nachi's navigator realized abruptly that she was closing. Nachi's course would take it across Mogami's bow, and they had assumed the cruiser stationary, but now there was an obvious bow wake and Mogami had to be making at least eight knots and more. Mogami tried to avoid the collision, but her communications were by runner and her steering manual, and would never respond in time. Nachi would have to avoid the collision if it was to be avoided. Though Nachi tried, they didn't quite make it. The two heavy cruisers crunched into each other, Mogami's bow slicing into Nachi's anchor deck. The time was 0423.
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Nachi's damage-control crew sprang into action, but Mogami found itself barely injured at all. Shima recalled his destroyers; his ship was no longer fit for battle and the close look at Mogami had given him a good idea of what his likely fate was if he pressed the attack. Shima sent a dispatch to that effect at 0435, stating “This force has concluded its attack and is withdrawing from the battle area in order to plan subsequent action.” Shima was fine 2YB being destroyed in action, but only if by so doing he accomplished something. At this moment, that didn't seem likely.
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As Shima headed south he encountered Shigure, who was dead in the water because of a steering engine breakdown. Nachi ordered all surviving ships to fall in behind, but Shigure, unable to steer, could not comply and reported “My steering engines are out of order.” Nachi's damage-control reported the cruiser could do 18 knots. Slow, but just barely enough for combat. Shima wanted to go back in. His staff talked him out of it. “We may die anytime,” they said, implicitly stating that death in action must be for the good of the nation, not for its own sake, and so changed Shima's mind.


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Ariecho #3 Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:40 PM

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Running, October 25
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Shima was retiring, Mogami making its painful way as well, and Shigure was dead in the water unable to steer. Mogami fell in behind Shima but lagged. Then the ready ammunition for 5”/40 guns No. 3 and No. 4 started going off, making the fire amidships worse and hampering efforts to fight it. The torpedo tubes were still loaded to starboard, and portside mounts also had one torpedo in each tube as well. A last-ditch effort managed to get four of the starboard torpedoes over the side, but the others exploded. Ironically this appears to have blown a good deal of burning material over the side and helped the firefighting efforts, but also destroyed the ventilation for the machinery spaces. It was possible to restart No. 2 engine, but the room was rendered uninhabitable; the damage control party restarted the engine and left it in a safe setting, with Mogami only able to hope it kept running unattended. Asagumo, still afloat but reduced to 9 knots by her shattered bow, turned up and tried to form up with Mogami but couldn't move fast enough.
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Shigure and Asagumo were near each other at 0455 when the US PTs turned up again. Shigure opened fire, trying to drive them off, but still couldn't steer. Commander Nishino, her captain, shouted for flank speed; steering or not sitting still was a death sentence. Asagumo turned to fight, crippled or not. Once again the PTs launched and missed, once again the Japanese thought they had sunk them.
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At 0515 crippled Abukuma sighted the rest of 2YB retiring and turned south as well, but could only make 12 knots. As dawn broke, waterspouts appeared alongside Mogami, and it was obvious the enemy had come to chase. Mogami could either run away at 15 knots or shoot with its remaining two turrets and no fire control while letting healthy enemies close the range and probably destroy her. She chose to run. The flames amidships and on the aircraft deck reignited and blazed high. Asagumo, too, was taken under fire. Shells crashed into her stern and just when the little ship appeared doomed, the firing stopped. Mogami also got away for now. Shigure, ahead of even 2YB, gave every sign she was running for her life at flank speed.

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(Shima's Other Heavy Cruiser: Ashigara via Shipbucket and BB1987)
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Mogami again caught up with 2YB around 0615, and Nachi and Mogami exchanged signals. The PTs were still about, as Mogami had a run-in with one at 0600. Abukuma was joining 2YB's formation again as well, and preparing to transfer Rear Admiral Kimura, the commander of Shima's destroyers, when abruptly more PTs intervened again. A submarine periscope was sighted as well, only for destroyer Ushio to charge and see at the last moment it was just a floating bit of bamboo. The PTs were driven off again, but more of them turned up until 0645 to harass Mogami, and Shigure too stumbled through PT attacks until 0700.
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With dawn came the planes. Four were spotted overhead at 0710 and the Japanese commenced firing AA at 0717. They passed over Abukuma and destroyer Kasumi, ignored 2YB, and drawn in by the smoke column attacked Mogami. Mogami fought back with both operating main battery turrets and HA Mount No. 2, as well as all the machineguns that still worked. Surprisingly, the four aircraft didn't press their attacks because of the sheer volume of Mogami's fire.
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Asagumo, still in Surigao Strait, met her own PT troubles, but her engines had gone out. She was in the process of abandoning ship when torpedoed again at 0702. Asagumo's remaining sailors manned her guns and shot back, and in so doing sealed her fate. Over the horizon came a half-dozen American ships and they naturally assumed the fire was directed at them, responding in kind. Asagumo went under at 0721.
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The TBFs came and went, dropping towards at Shima's group unsuccessfully around 0855. The next to fall under attack was Mogami, as fifteen planes came in at 0730. In the midst of this attack around 0800, the engines which had been left alone because the compartments were uninhabitable failed. Then at 0805 came the bombs, setting fire to forward avgas storage tanks. By 0900 with destroyer Akebono alongside to fight the fire, a damage-control party fought their way to engine-room No. 2 to try and restart it, only to discover the hatch was red-hot. Forward magazines were ordered flooded, but only two of them still had working flooding mechanisms. No. 1 magazine wouldn't flood and flames were coming aft from the bow. Akebono came alongside to take off the crew at 1030, informing Shima of it, and then taking off the crew. Mogami, in the words of her survivors, performed them one last service by remaining afloat for the three-hour rescue operation. Then Akebono torpedoed her at 1256 and she sank at 1307.

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(Sole Survivor: Shigure, via Shipbucket and BB1987)
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With that it can be said the Battle of Surigao Strait came to a close; the travails of 2YB from then on were part of the larger pursuit and mop-up action after the Battle of Leyte Gulf itself ended.


Discussing with a British officer: "You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour." "Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most."
Robert Surcouf (French Corsair)


Ariecho #4 Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:41 PM

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Center Force

(by Guardsman322nd)

Strategic Situation.
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After the Battle of the Marianas (Battle of the Philippine Sea) at the end of June 1944, the Imperial Japanese Navy was in desperate need of retraining and refitting before they could consider giving effective battle again.  The one thing that the Japanese need to do this was the one thing that they did not have: Time.  The Americans moved at a relentless pace, and the Imperial General Headquarters (IGH) knew this.  The only question was where?  With the Fall of the Marianas the inner portion of the Empire was laid bare and the Americas could attack anywhere they chose.  The three likely locations, though, were figured to be the Philippines, Taiwan, and the Ryukyus.  As such IGH drew up three new plans for the “decisive battle”, one for each of the three locations.  On 17 October, 1944, it was confirmed that the Allied forces were moving against the Philippines.  Since the carrier force had not been able to recover from its mauling at the Battle of the Marianas, in part because of air raids by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey on Taiwan in the days before the invasion, it was decided to use this force to attempt to lure Halsey's carriers to the north away from the landing beaches.  With this being done, the rest of the Japanese fleet was to approach the landing site and destroy as much of the American force as possible before escaping back the way they had come from.
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Battle of Leyte Gulf: Center Force: Palawan Passage
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After receiving orders for the activation of Sho Ichi Go, Operation Victory One, the major surface units of the Imperial Navy left their training grounds off Lingga Roads in Indonesia on 18 October, 1944 moving to Brunei Bay to refuel before commencing the attack.  In this force were seven Battleships, eleven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nineteen destroyers.  This force arrived at Brunei on 20 October, 1944 to refuel before counter attacking the invading American forces.  On 21 October it was decided to split this fleet in two, most of the force, consisting of five Battleships, ten heavy cruisers, and fifteen destroyers, would continue under the command of Vice-Admiral Kurita Takeo through the Sibuyan Sea, while the rest of the force known as Force C was was to split from the main force to attack from a different direction.

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Vice-Admiral Kurita Takeo
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In the morning of 22 October, 1944 Kurita's force weighed anchor and departed Brunei Bay to meet the American Fleet in battle.  Kurita's course took the fleet along the western most island of the Philippines, Palawan.  The fleet was sailing in two groups separated by about 6,500 yards, each had two columns of heavy ships, with a screen of destroyers on each flank, and one column of destroyers between the two of heavy ships.  At 05:33 on 23 October, 1944, the heavy cruiser Atago, Kurita's Flagship, was hit by four torpedoes and set ablaze, sinking at 05:53 with the loss of 360 men.  Just moments later two more torpedoes slammed into the Takao, crippling her and forcing her to retire back to Brunei under escort from the destroyer Naganami.  Then at 05:57, the heavy cruiser Maya was torpedoed, sinking at 06:05 with the loss of 336 men.  As a result, before any enemy formation was met, Kurita had lost three of his heavy cruisers and one of his destroyers.

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Battle of Leyte Gulf: Air Attacks on the American Fleet
Starting at 08:30 on 24 October, 1944, that Japanese made a series of air attacks on the American Task Group 38.3.  Most of these attacks were dealt with quickly, with the only notable success being the sinking of the light carrier Princeton.  As a result, Kurita advanced through the Sibuyan Sea without air cover as all available planes were directed into the counter-attack.
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Battle of Leyte Gulf: Center Force: Sibuyan Sea
At 08:10 on 24 October, 1944, Kurita's Center force spotted search planes over their position.  The Japanese knew that they could expect massive air attacks in the near future.  The American planes first arrived at 1026 and in five separate attacks continued until 1530. In the first attack the heavy cruiser Myoko was torpedoed and forced to retire at 10:29 with her speed cut to 15 knots.

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The only other major loss to center force, however, was the super-battleship Musashi, absorbing a total of nineteen torpedo hits, seventeen bombs, and eighteen near-misses during the five attacks.

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Musashi under attack in the Sibuyan Sea

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Even so, it was not until 19:36 that she capsized to port in the Visayan Sea.

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Other ships were damaged, but none to the point that they were forced to fall out of formation.  At 15:30, Kurita, having suffered under air attack for most of the day, gave the order for the fleet to reverse course.  At 17:15, having not come under attack since 15:30, Kurita again reversed course, entering the San Bernardino Strait at 23:30, expecting to find the American fleet on the other side.
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Battle of Leyte Gulf: Center Force: Battle off Samar
By 00:35 25 October, 1944, Kurita's Center Force had exited the San Bernardino Strait to find the water ahead of them, instead of being filled with American forces, completely empty.  Since there were no enemy forces in front of him, as surprising as that was, Kurita could only continue on to the objective of the American landing site.
At 05:49, the Japanese spot American forces approximately East by South of their formation.  The sightings are reported as between five and seven fleet carriers escorted by cruisers and destroyers.  At 05:52, Kurita ordered for an increase in speed to 24 knots, and at 06:03 he ordered a general attack.  This threw away Kurita's largest advantage as it left it to the individual ship's captains to determine the proper course of action.  This is even more surprising since Kurita, who believed that he was facing the fleet carriers that had so ravaged his fleet the previous day, did not adopt a formation to protect against the expected air attacks.  By ordering a general attack, he lost the advantage of command control in the action.

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After having the target obscured by squalls for a few minutes at the start of the engagement, the Japanese force, having turned to pursue the American force was attacked by forces reported to be cruisers, though they were actually destroyers.  As a result of the destroyer's torpedo attack, the heavy cruiser Kumano was hit at 06:27, heaving her bow almost severed as a result of the hit.  At the same time, American planes had started to attack the Japanese force, and a near-miss on the heavy cruiser Suzuya caused her speed to drop to 20 knots, forcing her out of line.  At the same time several hits were scored on the attacking ships, though they remained afloat.  After this attack, the Americans began deploying smoke to hide the carriers.  At 06:53, the American destroyers attacked again.  As the result of an early torpedo salvo in this attack that was originally aimed at the Haruna, the Yamato was forced to change course, taking her out of the battle and further reducing Kurita's ability to effectively control the action.

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Heavy Cruiser Chikuma

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Though the fighting continued non-stop, it was not until 07:41 that something else major happened, when the Chikuma, Haguro, Chokai, a light cruiser, and a destroyer all found range on the Gambier Bay, one of the aircraft carriers, causing such damage that she sank at 08:07.  At 07:51, the Haguro was hit by a shell amidships, causing a fire,and sending her in circles for a short time.  At 08:11, Kurita, believing that he had dealt major damage to Fleet Carrier task force and having received what turned out to be faulty reports that there was another such force to the north within striking distance, ordered Center Force to reform on him and proceed north.  Before acting on this though, many of the ships chose to pursue the still fleeing American ships.  As a result, both the Chikuma and the Chokai suffered extensive damage, resulting in both ships being scuttled at 14:30 and 10:00-10:30 respectively.  At 11:30, the Suzuyawas sunk by aerial attack, having taken at least three torpedo hits.  Kurita took his force to the north, but came to meander in the area until 11:36, when he finally began to take his force to the north, thus bring the Battle off Samar to an end.

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American Escort Carriers coming under fire

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Battle of Leyte Gulf: Center Force: Retirement
Center Force was attacked throughout 26 October by carrier aircraft from Halsey's fleet, but little damage was done, and only three more destroyers were lost, one to gun fire at 00:00 25/26 October, and the other two by air attack while separated from the main force south of Mindoro.  Afterwards, the remnants of the Combined Fleet either retreated south, where there was fuel, but little ammunition, or back to the Home Islands, where there was ammunition, but no fuel.  Out of the original force that had left Brunei Bay on 22 October, 1944, only four battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers remained, though this did not matter much as this action marked the last time that the Japanese Imperial Navy would make a significant bid for control of the seas.
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Sources:
Cutler, Thomas. The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944. 1994. Reprint, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001
Dull, Paul. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945).  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1978.
Ireland, Bernard. Leyte Gulf 1944: The world's greatest sea battle. New York: Osprey Publishing, 2006
Morison, Samuel Eliot.Leyte: June 1944 - January 1945. Vol. 12 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. 1953. Reprint, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011
Parshall, Jonathan.  “Imperial Japanese Navy page.” 2011. http://www.combinedfleet.com/(Assesed 10/10/2013) (used for TROM for multiple ships)
Tully, Anthony. Battle of Surigao Strait. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Edited by Ariecho, 24 October 2013 - 10:54 PM.


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Ariecho #5 Posted 24 October 2013 - 10:54 PM

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Tomorrow, I'll post the work from the US side.


Discussing with a British officer: "You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour." "Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most."
Robert Surcouf (French Corsair)


NGTM_1R #6 Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:06 PM

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It's here, it's here \o/
But we do not tell our children stories of monsters so that they will know monsters exist. You knew monsters existed before you could speak, before you could walk. You were told stories of monsters because those stories had heroes. You were told stories of monsters so that you would know monsters can be defeated.

Ariecho #7 Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:11 PM

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View PostNGTM_1R, on 24 October 2013 - 11:06 PM, said:

It's here, it's here \o/
^^
Here is (as well as Guardsman) where you should send your +1.


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bellin2002 #8 Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:13 PM

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At first i ws going to post "So you just copy-pasted Ariecho?"
Then i realized you are Ariecho
Merpedy Merp Merp
Bellin: Eater of Wiki Copy-Pastes

Ariecho #9 Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:16 PM

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View Postbellin2002, on 24 October 2013 - 11:13 PM, said:


At first i ws going to post "So you just copy-pasted Ariecho?"
Then i realized you are Ariecho
Well, be aware though that someone just started an account named "Aricho".  The same "Aricho", for some reason that I'd really like to have an answer about, is able to enter my private messages (at least one), although he's not able to participate in them.


Discussing with a British officer: "You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour." "Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most."
Robert Surcouf (French Corsair)


CrazyHeinz #10 Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:37 PM

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Superb write-up Ariecho.

Guardsman322nd #11 Posted 25 October 2013 - 01:51 AM

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View PostCrazyHeinz, on 24 October 2013 - 11:37 PM, said:

Superb write-up Ariecho.

He just posted it, NGTM and myself wrote these pieces.  And do note that Ariecho stated so right up front.

Ariecho #12 Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:06 AM

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View PostGuardsman322nd, on 25 October 2013 - 01:51 AM, said:

He just posted it, NGTM and myself wrote these pieces.  And do note that Ariecho stated so right up front.
Yes please.  I hoped to have CatStalker post the entire articles himself, but it didn't work.  The real stuff came from NGTM and Guardsman.


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Amayet #13 Posted 25 October 2013 - 02:12 AM

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Wow ... It is indeed a nice write-up.  What a great idea to have the story told from the Japanese point of view.  +1 to both NGTM_1R and Guardsman.  Thanks for the effort though, Aricho.

AnimalLover #14 Posted 25 October 2013 - 03:06 AM

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Major +1 to you ariecho for just putting it up there. It was good of you to do that. Also, I'm giving you a +1 because you said not to: that kind of modesty and deflection of positive credit deserves recognition.

Windhover118 #15 Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:17 AM

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It is my greatest regret that in times like these I have but one +1 to give.
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JeeWeeJ #16 Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:55 AM

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Great work guys! +1's to both of you! :great:


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RainbowDash54 #17 Posted 25 October 2013 - 10:41 AM

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I can just said two words.
So Awesome!!!

+1 for two of you.


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Tanz #18 Posted 25 October 2013 - 11:18 AM

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Awesome work  :great:


iron_horse_thunderbolt #19 Posted 25 October 2013 - 04:40 PM

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Terrific work you two! +1 to the two of you.

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Guardsman322nd #20 Posted 25 October 2013 - 09:01 PM

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Ariecho, it has occurred to me that through a communication error, we failed to cover the Battle of Cape Engano section of the Battle.  If I wrote this up, would you be willing to edit it into the post stating "Tomorrow, I'll post the work from the US side." ?