Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Our last trip down History Lane today is the Battle of Leyte Gulf, itself actually a series of battles around the Philippine Islands, by the naval forces covering the Army landings on Leyte of 20 October, and Gen. MacArthur's promised return to the islands. Counting all the various task forces and combatants over its unfolding course, it was the largest naval battle in history.
In a series of multiple and widely-separated engagements from the 23-26 of October 1944, including the last time battleships fired salvos at other battleships, the US Navy traded the loss of 6 American ships for the destruction of 28 Japanese ships, essentially wiping the IJN off the board as anything to consider for the balance of the war, less than three years after the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.
To do the whole any sort of justice in a humble blog post is beyond possibility, except to note the tens of thousands of combatants engaged in the great struggle there.
Coming only four months after the June carriers v. carriers engagement nicknamed the Marianas Turkey Shoot, wherein Japan lost three carriers and over 500 aircraft, the multi-day Battle of Leyte Gulf ensured the eventual success of the Philippines' liberation, and paved the way for the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa the next year, and consigned the Japanese Home Islands to months of endless B-29 bomber raids, firebombing Tokyo and turning most of the country's cities to ashes, culminating in the atomic bomb drops at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following August.
It thus provides a last chapter to one noteworthy day of military history, and a fitting lesson that whenever possible, it's probably best not to poke a more powerful country in the eye unless you'd like your head ripped off.