Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Leyte Gulf

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.


Anonymous said...

I was waiting for this one!
The heroism of the "Tincan Sailors" so eloquently described by Hornfischer remains one of those epics sadly less well known than they should be.
This battle should also provide a well-earned STFU to anyone thinking "Bull" Halsey was some kinda great Admiral; gimme Ray Spruance ANY TIME
Boat Guy

JT said...

I was just going to comment on the necessity reading Hornfischer's book but someone beat me to it.

As Captain Marko Ramius famously said: "Halsey acted stupidly,"


Irish said...


Hi Aesop, Could this be the next crisis? Like the potential of the Ebola one.

Aesop said...

I think not.
Plague is mainly a problem in Madagascar, it being still the Third World.

For the First World, it requires mainly a trip to the pharmacy, and ordinary infection control measures. (The same ones studiously ignored during the Ebola outbreak.)
Plague is curable with about $20 worth of doxycycline. You can even buy the necessary dosage from suppliers of fish antibiotics.

Ebola is incurable, and kills between 50-90% of those infected, and leaves even survivors afflicted for life.

Irish said...

Thanks for the info. The media seems to be hyping it with the references to "Black Death" and millions died.. etc etc etc.

Aesop said...

If this were 1300AD, they'd have a point.

Plague untreated can definitely kill you, but it's bacterial, i.e. the exact thing antibiotics are geared to wipe out.

Which is why, unlike plague, Ebola is a thing. We have nothing that can prevent nor fight it, except staying away, and treating the symptoms aggressively. When they do that, at $50K per case, in BL-IV hospital wards, they can get survival rates up to 90%. We have 11 BL-IV beds in the entire country, for all 300M of us.

And survival from Ebola is much like polio, chicken pox, or HSV I: you'll still be paying for it forever. Best not to get it in the first place.

Billrla said...

A hearty and sincere "thank you" for today's posts about Agincourt, Balaclava, and Leyte Gulf. Now, I finally know where Raglan sleeves and Cardigan sweaters came from. Darn, and I am probably on some watch list, just for saying so.

George True said...

Amen, Boat Guy. The battle off Samar Island was one of the greatest mismatches in naval history. Were it not for the incredible heroism of the tin can sailors of Taffy 3, outnumbered and heavily outgunned, the American transports and the forces already ashore would have been mauled. I have read 'The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors'multiple times, and still enjoy every re-read. It is a pity that young people today are never exposed to works like this, as opposed to the relentless 'America is evil and rayciss' narrative they are fed in school and in media.

Aesop: I have been enjoying the history lessons of recent days and your accompanying commentary.

Papa said...

We're probably on dome sort of list for remembering history, and forbid, applying dome of its lessons and principals to the present.

Papa said...

Regarding Leyte:
I've wondered what it was like to be on the crew of the tin cans, specifically the Johnston, when you realize the Capt. broke from the line/Task Force, and heading towards bigger enemy ships.

Papa said...

Papa said...

Papa said...

Aesop said...

The line, in this case, being escort carriers, some 15 of them, and all lightly armed and little armored, I suspect he and his officers figured it was time to go from picket to pitbull.
And they did.

"Tincan Sailors" is sitting in my pile of "to Read" stuff, where it landed after my last trip to visit Iowa BB-61 in nearby Long Beach, after fortuitously landing amongst a party of half a dozen retired Naval officers and their families, as the sole artillery Marine in the little band, whose former section chief had served in the Marine detachment on the New Jersey around the world and off Beirut in 1982-3.

The tour was fantastic, the group was splendid, and the docent we drew was a true gentleman and scholar.
Anyone with a museum ship, let alone one of the Iowa-class, nearby to visit should avail themselves of the opportunity at their earliest convenience.

The book is one of a dozen or more patiently awaiting my attention.

Anonymous said...

You should move it to the top of the pile. All of Hornfischer's works are worthy reading but THIS one; especially in this month should be the first.
08 JarHead huh? We have something in common.
Friend of mine from the Teams was in Beirut when some 16" rounds got shot into the Bekkaa valley; he said afterwards was the only quiet day of his tour, didn't know there were any birds left in town but you could hear them sing on that day only.
Boat Guy

Aesop said...

Yeah. Section chief related the happiest day on the Jersey was the day the ship got the OK to shell positions ashore.
Worst for him was the day he wasn't paying attention to the 1MC, cracked a deck hatch for a smoke break, and a main turret salvoed and threw him @$$ over teakettle back inside and down a ladderwell.

They were warned by the Israelis about possible terrorists loading speedboats with explosives and ramming the ship.
The skipper's drill for that was to do a 180, have the boatswains lower two guys over the side underway with buckets of haze grey paint and brushes, paint over the scorch mark, haul them in, do another 180, and continue to sail.

Unlike the aluminum tub toys most skippers had to command, there wasn't much anything you could jam in a speedboat that he was worried would do too much damage to the 30" of so of steel armor belts around the hull.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Friend of mine who served aboard called her the "Fat Lady" for that view astern. Saw her anchored off the Strand at dawn one day, broadside; the pride to be descended from people who designed, built and operated such things was palpable. Then I think of Little Crappy Ships and what's goin on now...I HATED most of my time in the Fleet; but it was a damn sight better fighting force than we have today.
Boat Guy

loren said...

While living in the North Bay area, I read that the Iowa was going to be towed under the Golden Gate at 2am the next morning. I figured to be the only person there but there must have been thousands.
She came in under lights and water canon salute from the fire boats. Magnificent. Brought a tear to the eye from all around.