Battle of cape engano

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by cunliffe, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. cunliffe

    cunliffe New Member


    Shortly before midnight 24 October Halsey's three available carrier groups made rendezvous off Luzon and began a high-speed run northwards to strike the Japanese Northern Force at daybreak. Halsey now passed tactical command of Task Force 38 to Vice Admiral Mitscher.
    During the run northward the ships which were to make up Task Force 34 were detached from the carrier groups and Task Force 34 was officially formed at 0240 October 25, with Vice Admiral Lee as Officer in Tactical Command. This force swept northwards in the van of the carrier groups. Halsey's intention was that they would follow up with gunfire the carriers' attacks on Ozawa's ships.

    At 0430 Mitscher ordered his carriers to begin arming their first deckloads and to be ready to launch aircraft at first light. He in fact launched his first attack groups, 180 aircraft in all, before the Northern Force had been located, and had them orbitting ahead of his carrier force while he was waiting for the first contact reports to come in from his search aircraft.

    The first contact came at 0710. At 0800 Third Fleet's attacks on Ozawa began, meeting little opposition. Task Force 38's air strikes continued until the evening, by which time Mitscher's aircraft had flown 527 sorties against the Northern Force, had sunk Ozawa's flagship Zuikaku (last survivor of the six carriers which had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor) and two of the three light carriers, crippled the remaining light carrier, and sunk a destroyer, aswell as damaging other ships.

    Meanwhile, at 0822 when Mitscher's second strike was approaching the Northern Force Halsey in New Jersey received an urgent signal in plain language from Kinkaid saying that the Seventh Fleet escort carriers were under attack off Samar and that assistance from Third Fleet's heavy ships was desperately needed. This was the first of a succession of pleas for help received by Halsey, which he ignored and continued to ignore for nearly three hours, despite their including an alarming report that the Seventh Fleet battleships were low on ammunition. Halsey continued to have Task Force 34 race to the north, while the men of Taffy Three were fighting for their lives and the Leyte invasion itself was being placed in jeopardy.

    At 1000 the Third Fleet Commander received a message from Admiral Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and Halsey's immediate superior. The message, as handed to Admiral Halsey, read -


    This message, indicating that Nimitz was alarmed about the safety of the Seventh Fleet and considered that the Third Fleet battleships should be in action off Samar, eventually persuaded Halsey to turn Task Force 34 around and send it south again. Rear Admiral Bogan's carrier group was also pulled out of the attack on Ozawa's force and sent south to provide air cover and support for Lee's force.

    When Lee's battleships were pulled out at 1115 they were almost within gunfire range of the Japanese Northern Force.

    Ironically it was by this time too late - if Halsey had turned Lee's force around when he first received Kinkaid's call for assistance the battleships and the cruisers (although not the destroyers which were low on fuel, but might in the circumstances have been left behind) could have arrived off San Bernadino Strait in time to cut off Kurita's withdrawal. As it was, Kurita's force, still containing four battleships and five heavy cruisers, had escaped through the Strait before the Third Fleet's heavy ships arrived there. All Task Force 34 could then accomplish was to sink the straggling Japanese destroyer Nowaki.

    [B]In any event, even if Task Force 34 had been turned southwards immediately after 0822, it would have arrived too late to have given any assistance to the ships of Taffy Three, other than in picking up survivors.[/B]

    When the bulk of Task Force 34 was pulled out of the attack on Ozawa four of its cruisers and nine destroyers were detached under the command of Rear Admiral DuBose to proceed northward with the carriers. At 1415 Mitscher ordered DuBose to pursue Ozawa's ships. His cruisers sank the carrier Chiyoda at around 1700 and the American surface force at 2059 sank the destroyer Hatsuzuki after a stubborn fight.

    At about 2310 the US submarine Jallao torpedoed and sank the light cruiser Tama of Ozawa's force. This was the end of the Battle off Cape Engano, and - apart from some final air strikes on the retreating Japanese forces on 26 October - the end of the Battle for Leyte Gulf.

    The US had lost one light carrier and two escort carriers, two destroyers and a destroyer escort.

    Between 23 and 26 October the Imperial Navy had lost one large carrier (the Zuikaku), three light carriers, three battleships including the giant Musashi, six heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and twelve destroyers.
    "The Japanese fleet had [effectively] ceased to exist, and, except by land-based aircraft, their opponents had won undisputed command of the sea. When Admiral Ozawa was questioned on the battle after the war he replied 'After this battle the surface forces became strictly auxiliary, so that we relied on land forces, special [Kamikaze] attack, and air power . . there was no further use assigned to surface vessels, with the exception of some special ships.' And Admiral Yonai, the Navy Minister, said that he realised that the defeat at Leyte 'was tantamount to the loss of the Philippines.'

    jrj1701 likes this.
  2. jrj1701

    jrj1701 Member

    I read in Herman Wouk's "War and Remembrance" that the last line in Nimitz's message to Halsey was added by the radioman that transmitted the message. Is this true or myth?
  3. R Leonard

    R Leonard Active Member

    It is called padding . . . it is generated by the sender and appears at the beginning and the end of a message. Serves two purposes: (1) serves as a garble check . . . actual words that don't make any particular message and (2) provides bulk to a message that does not have any significance, thus making, just in case, a cypher harder to crack. In this particular case:

    start padding: "Turkey trots to water"
    message text: "where is repeat where is task force 34"
    end padding: "the world wonders"

    The padding, start and end, should have been stripped out by Halsey's communicators. For some reason they left the end padding in the message, thus starting a small conflagration on the flag bridge.
    jrj1701 likes this.
  4. jrj1701

    jrj1701 Member

    Thanks. That's basically what was said in the book, yet I have always wondered.

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