April 15, 2010
From October 23-26, 1944, the United States and Japan were engaged in the Battle of Leyte Gulf near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon. This battle is known as the largest naval battle in history. The naval battles Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar are included in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Allied forces, under the command of Admiral William Halsey, went into battle with 8 fleet carriers, 8 light carriers, 18 escort carriers, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers, and 141 destroyers and destroyer escorts. The Japanese, lead by Admiral Soemu Toyoda sent almost all that remained of the surface fleet; 1 fleet carrier, 3 light carriers, 9 battleships, 14 heavy cruisers, 6 light cruisers, 35+ destroyers. This was the first battle in which the Japanese employed kamikaze attacks. Already luck was not on Japan’s side; Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied forces had sea vessels.
Initial landings were to take place on the island of Leyte with the ground forces lead by General Douglas MacArthur. Aware of the planned Allie invasion, the Japanese initiated plan Sho-Go 1 to block the invasion which required them to mobilize nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels divided into four separate forces. Earlier on October 20, United States soldiers had invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy to isolate Japan and cut off the country’s oil supplies. Deprived of fuel, Japan’s navy suffered heavy losses from which it never recovered.
The first step was to lure the Third Fleet away from Leyte Gulf through the use of a decoy. As the U.S. Seventh Fleet covered the sea east of Leyte, supporting MacArthur's landings, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet was on the coast of Samar Island, prepared to handle the...