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Carrier aircrews estimated they destroyed planes at Formosa, while Japan admitted half as many—still a heavy blow. Yet Tokyo, still slurping its homemade brew, gleefully announced sinking three dozen American ships, including battleships and carriers. Even the normally level-headed Kamikaze master, Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, thought his airmen had destroyed three carriers and three other ships.
In truth, two U. From bases in Japan and the East Indies the Imperial Navy launched a three-pronged response with carriers, battleships, and scores of escorts. The sprawling, four-day slugfest began on October Halsey had released two groups to head eastward for replenishment when the crisis broke. Vice Admiral Thomas C. In the Sibuyan Sea—another front of the Battle of Leyte Gulf located on the western side of the Philippines—carrier airpower destroyed one of the largest battleships afloat. Ten aircraft fell to Japanese AA, but it was the first time carrier planes sank a battleship underway, unassisted by surface combatants.
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It would not be the last. Kurita had already lost two cruisers to submarines and another turned back with bomb damage, but after regrouping he continued his mission to enter Leyte Gulf, unknown to Halsey. Meanwhile, Japanese land-based aircraft posed a serious threat to the fast carriers. Winging seaward in three large formations, they were intercepted by relays of F6Fs well managed by fighter-direction officers. But fighters were spread thin.
In Task Group In the next ninety minutes McCampbell claimed nine kills—the all-time U. The light cruiser Birmingham CL came alongside to take off survivors when a huge secondary explosion swept the would-be rescuer, inflicting nearly seven hundred casualties. Princeton was scuttled after an eight-hour ordeal, losing men. She was the first American fast carrier sunk since Santa Cruz and remained the last.
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Carrier aviators claimed kills on October 24, the second highest count of the war. Mitscher assumed that Third Fleet had the information, but for reasons still unclear, Halsey ignored it. Mitscher, informed of the developing situation, declined to intervene with Halsey. An Avenger sighted large ships with pagoda masts emerging from San Bernardino strait and radioed the alarming news. Sprague faced four battleships, eight cruisers, and eleven destroyers. One Wildcat pilot made twenty-six runs, most of them without ammunition.
THE USS ENTERPRISE IN WORLD WAR TWO
Unable to outrun the enemy, the knot CVEs were chased down. Gambier Bay CVE succumbed to cruiser guns, as did three of the escorts. After HMS Glorious in , she was only the second aircraft carrier sunk by surface ships. Just as an historic victory lay on the horizon, he disengaged. Still, Taffy Three remained in peril. That afternoon St.
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Lo CVE , originally named Midway , was attacked by a single Zero that made no effort to pull out of its dive. Wracked by fire, the little flattop went down, first victim of the Special Attack Corps: the Kamikaze had arrived. Six more CVEs were tagged that day. In his haste, he committed a severe blunder, leaving San Bernardino unguarded. Bull Halsey was more a fighter than a thinker. An instinctive warrior, he rode to where he imagined the guns were sounding. Only when the stunning news arrived of Japanese battleships pounding Taffy Three did he realize that he had been snookered.
Worse, he wasted an hour or more ranting and sulking before deciding on a course of action. Ozawa lay more than four hundred miles from the Taffies, and Halsey was in between. The ensuing clash could only go one way. Starting at a. Mitscher launched aircraft, the first of six strikes totaling more than five hundred sorties.
The on-scene coordinators were air group commanders from TG We wanted all the carriers, with maybe a BB or CA for the cherry on top. Winters directed his squadrons against Zuikaku , Zuiho , and the larger escorts.
He noted:. The heavy haze of AA smoke trailing off the quarter gave good windage for our dive bombers as we pushed over. The ships were using new anti-aircraft stuff with wires and burning phosphorous shells which put up all different-colored fire and smoke around our planes. The boys were as cool as any professionals working in a hospital or law office.
The Zuiho limped on, burning, but the Zuikaku stopped and started to die on one side. She needed no more, but hung in there for awhile, and her AA battery was nasty. In the excitement, I stayed down too low not very professional , and got some holes in my left wing. I knew it would be a long afternoon, so I throttled back to almost stalling speed and leaned out the fuel to practically a back-firing mixture.
Winters assigned subsequent air groups according to his target priority, and watched Zuiho sink, then Zuikaku capsize. Quietly, and it seemed to me, with dignity. Thus perished the last survivor of the Pearl Harbor attackers.
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The light carrier Chiyoda lingered a bit longer. Hugh Winters and wingman Ensign Barney Garbow had witnessed something unprecedented—they saw three aircraft carriers sink during one mission. Halsey dispatched four cruisers and nine destroyers as a pickup team to complete the execution. They sank Chiyoda late that afternoon and pummeled a remaining destroyer. Carrier planes continued scouring Philippine waters during October 26 and 27, picking off a light cruiser and four more destroyers.
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It brought Japanese losses in the four-day battle to twenty-six combatants, totaling three hundred thousand tons. The Battle of Leyte Gulf officially entered the books as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, though most of the action occurred nearly one thousand miles from the June turkey shoot. Despite an unprecedented level of destruction inflicted upon the Japanese WW2 navies, the Battle of Leyte Gulf left a sour taste in many American mouths. Halsey stayed, and as events would show, he remained beyond all accountability. Historians still debate whether the Battle of Leyte Gulf represented the sixth flattop battle.
Purists insist that it did not, because the carrier versus carrier phase was totally one-sided. Even upon deployment, many Imperial Navy pilots could only launch from their flight decks, being untrained in shipboard landings. In any case, Leyte was the last time that carrier-based aircraft—or any others—sank opposing carriers at sea.
The attackers sent Intrepid , Franklin , and Belleau Wood stateside for repairs that would take between two and four months. It was becoming increasingly obvious: the only way to defeat the Kamikaze was to kill him, as he could not be deterred.
source Toward that end, the navy asked for help from the Marines. With a shortage of carrier fighters to combat Kamikazes, the Pacific Fleet began training leatherneck Corsair squadrons in carrier operations. They had a rough initiation to Western Pacific weather, suffering heavy losses, but they paid their way. Eight more Marine squadrons joined them in the new year. Meanwhile, nature reminded the U.