Battle of Leyte Gulf

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, was fought between Allied and Japanese forces in the seas surrounding the island of Leyte from 23 October to 24 October 1944. It is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and one of the largest naval battles in modern history, as well as the first battle in which the Japanese launched kamikaze attacks and the last battleship-versus-battleship action in naval history. The battle was in fact not a single battle but a campaign consisting of four interrelated battles: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño, and the Battle of Samar as well as related actions.

Background

Admiral Chester Nimitz took command of the devastated American Pacific Fleet at the end of 1941 and commanded the rebuilding of the force. In 1943, the Pacific campaign had driven the Imperial Japanese Army from many of its island bases in the Solomon Islands and in 1944, Allied Forces supported by large carrier forces had made a series of amphibious landings and captured the Northern Mariana Islands. The Japanese counterattacked in the Battle of the Philippine Sea but were driven off by the Americans and the Allies were able to establish air and sea superiority over the Central Pacific.

Admiral Ernest J. King and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in favor of attempting to block Japanese forces in the Philippines and attacking Formosa to give the Allies control of the routes between Japan and southern Asia. General Douglas MacArthur favored an invasion of the Philippines, taking the country out of Japanese hands.

In 1944, General MacArthur advanced up New Guinea's northern coastline hoping to liberate the Philippines. U.S. President Roosevelt headed for a summit with his two commanders in the Pacific -- General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. MacArthur persuaded Roosevelt to liberate the Philippines, saying that if he decided to bypass the country, the American people might see him as having broken a promise made in his name, and refuse to vote for him in the November 1944 elections. After more debate, the joint Chiefs of Staff decided that American forces would invade the Philippines in December 1944.

Aftermath

The Battle of Leyte Gulf secured the beachheads of the U.S. Army on Leyte against attack from the sea. The Imperial Japanese Navy was not fully eliminated, but it also failed to dislodge the Allied invaders from Leyte. The loss of Leyte opened the way for the invasion of the Ryuku Islands in 1945. Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi launched the first kamikaze attacks against the Allied ships in Leyte Gulf but was hampered by bad weather and fuel shortages.

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Citation

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