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    Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita

    Vice Admiral Takeo KURITA was born in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1889. He graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1910 and served as a midshipman on cruisers Kasagi and Niitaka. Kurita specialized in the employment of torpedoes and was often given command of destroyer groups as he rose through the ranks. By the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kurita possessed the rank of rear admiral, commanding the 7th Cruiser Division. Kurita was involved in the invasion of Java in the Dutch East Indies and participated in the raid on Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean. Kurita's forces saw action at Midway, losing the cruiser Mikuma. He received a promotion to Vice Admiral in 1942 and was reassigned to the 3rd Battleship Division. He fought at Guadalcanal, leading his battleships in a naval bombardment on Henderson Field and caused significant damage. He also participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Kurita replaced Admiral Kondo as the commander of the 2nd Fleet, dubbed Center Force by the Allies. His best known actions were in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where he had both the battleships Yamato and Musashi at his disposal, alongside a plethora of other battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. However, his fleet did not include any aircraft carriers. In the Sibuyan Sea, he was ambushed by submarines and attacked by naval aircraft from Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet, causing him to withdraw. In the actions, Kurita was forced to transfer his flagship to Yamato after his first flagship, Atago, was sunk in the submarine ambush. However, Kurita eventually decided to turn around, encountering an American fleet at Samar. He misidentified them as the 3rd Fleet, when he really happened across the paltry forces of Taffy 3. The fleet was poorly coordinated, especially when Yamato was forced to turn away from the battle in order to evade torpedoes and Kurita became unable to access the battle as it unfolded. Heavy cruisers Chokai, Suzuya, and Chikuma were lost in the battle against Taffy 3 and air support of Taffies 1 and 2, while Kurita's forces sunk destroyers Johnston and Hoel, destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, and escort carriers Gambier Bay and St. Lo. Kurita eventually ordered a general withdrawal after receiving news that the Japanese fleets to the north and south were broken by Halsey's and Kinkaid's fleets and Halsey was hastily returning to the gulf. Kurita was barely able to avoid meeting Halsey's fleet as he was harrassed by aircraft during his retreat. Kurita's conduct in the battle was heavily criticized by his superiors, particularly because he did not fight to the death, and Kurita was reassigned as commandant at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy for the rest of the war. Kurita deeply resented his superiors, who ordered him to commit suicidal attacks while they were in relative safety, and believed that he should only die if it was necessary. Much of Kurita's character as a naval leader is in reflection of his command at Leyte Gulf. He was seen as a timid leader who only considered warships as worthy military targets, following the traditions of naval officers of his generation. However, Kurita valued the lives of his men, above all else. Without sufficient air support, he had no confidence in his fleet's ability to defend themselves against the American carrier fleets at Leyte Gulf. After the war, he lived simply as a scrivener and masseur, speaking little of his experiences until shortly before his death. Of what he did say, Kurita expressed that he believed that the war was already over before he entered Leyte Gulf. A young American naval officer visited his home shortly after war's end, recalling "It really made an impression of me. The war was just over. Less than a year before, Kurita had been in command of the largest fleet that was ever put together. And there he was out there: chopping potatoes." Vice Admiral Kurita passed away in 1977 at the age of 88, survived by his wife Hiroko and son Yukitake. His grave is at Tama cemetery in Fuchu, Tokyo. Some further reading: Interrogations of Japanese officials, conducted by the Naval Analysis Division of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey No. 09 -- Battle of the Philippine Sea, Battle for Leyte Gulf (KURITA Takeo, Vice Admiral and CIC of 2nd Fleet) No. 29 -- Pearl Harbor, Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf (FUCHIDA Mitsuo, Captain and Air Staff Officer to CIC of Combined Fleet) No. 35 -- Battle off Samar, October 1944 (KOYANAGI Tomiji, Rear Admiral and Chief of Staff to 2nd Fleet during Marianas & Philippine Sea actions) No. 36 -- Battle off Cape Engano, 24-25 October 1944 (OHMAE Toshikazu, Captain and Chief of Staff to CIC of 3rd Fleet) No. 41 -- Battle off Samar, October 1944 (OTANI Tonosuke, Commander and Operations Officer to CIC of 2nd Fleet during Leyte Gulf) No. 55 -- Battle for Leyte Gulf, October 1944 (OZAWA Jisaburo, Admiral and CIC of Combined Fleet during Leyte Gulf) No. 82 -- Movements of Japanese 2nd Fleet in Pacific (SHIKI Tsuneo, Captain and Senior Staff Officer to CIC of 2nd Fleet from Jan 1943 to Aug 1944)
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