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Flying Tiger, Hidden Eagle
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Force at la Difensa
Sabotaging Hitler’s Heavy Water
Soviet Offensive in the Arctic
The Failure of Strategic Bombing
Dutch Harbor: Unraveling of Japan’s Pacific Strategy
Ed Ramsey, 26th Cav Reg (Philippine Scouts)
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45: An Operational Overview
Strategic Culture of the IJN
Battles of Luneville: September 1944
Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
Lodge Act Soldier
The Fate of the Kido Butai
Air Recon in WWII
Turning East: Hitler's only option
Resupply Operations to Malta, 1942
WWII Veteran Interview
Why Arnhem?
Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan
The Battleship USS Oregon
US Army in Czechoslovakia '45 to '48
Jewish Resistance in WWII
Battle for Seaports
Banzai Attack on Attu
End of the Battle of the Java Sea
Texas National Guard in WWII
How Arnhem was Lost
Saga of Ormoc Bay
Silent Service of the Pacific
USS Wahoo
Polish Cavalry: A Military Myth Dispelled
Confucian Martial Culture
Operation Market Garden
Legacy of WWII Sub Veterans
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Arnhem Startline
Bushido: Valor of Deceit
British Offensive Operations
Sir Winston Churchill
American Stubbornness at Rimling
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Small Battle: Big Implications
Harris Class APA's
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Why the Bulge Didn't Break
American Forces in WWII
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Interview of a WWII Veteran
Failure and Destruction
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Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
Was Hitler right to invade Russia?
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Surface Actions of World War II
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
Japan's Monster Sub
Popski's Private Army
The Soviet Formula for Success
Japan's TA Operation
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
The Failure of Operation Barbarossa
The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Only the Admirals were Happy
Bicycle Blitzkrieg - Singapore
Good Grief Sir, We're in Trier!
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How Hitler Could Have Won
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Waffen SS - Birth of the Elite
Nomonhan and Okinawa
Der Bund Deutscher Mädel
Rulers of the World: Hitler Youth
Breakout From the Hedgerows
Yalta
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Motivation of the Einsatzgruppen
Pearl Harbor and Midway
Amphibious Assaults during WWII
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Sea Lion vs. Overlord
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Battle of the Barents Sea
Anzio: The Allies' Greatest Blunder
US Army in WWII
Battle of Mers-el-Kebir
Hitler's Ultra-Secret Adlerhorst
The Wilhelm Gustloff Disaster
The 88th Infantry in Italy

Irwin J. Kappes Articles
Japan's Monster Sub
Japan's TA Operation
Wilhelm Gustloff - Marine Disaster
Battle of the Barents Sea
Battle of Leyte Gulf
Anzio - Blunder of WWII
Mers-el-Kebir: A Battle Between Friends
Hitler's Ultra-Secret Adlerhorst

Recommended Reading


Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945


The Battle Of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action


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The Battle for Leyte Gulf Revisited
The Battle for Leyte Gulf Revisited
by Irwin J. Kappes

By any measurement, the Battle for Leyte Gulf was the greatest naval battle in history. That has never been in doubt. But there is much about the recounting of that battle that is open to challenge.

First, let's take a look at the names historians have given to the Great Battle. It turns out that they can't even agree on that. Some call it "The Battle of Leyte Gulf" (whereas two of the four "battles" that comprise it weren't fought anywhere near Leyte Gulf). Others call it "The Battle for Leyte Gulf" which makes a lot more sense. Only one thing: The battle was by definition fought for control of the Gulf, but at the end of it on October 25, 1944 the Allies still did not control the area. The Tokyo Express was still re-supplying Japanese troops which continued to hold about two-thirds of the island of Leyte. And a month after the famous battle enemy strength had more than doubled. This hardly suggests a major victory.

In one sense, the four battles that make up the Great Battle (Battle of Surigao Strait, Battle of Sibuyon Sea, Battle Off Cape Engano and Battle Off Samar) did sound the death knell of the Japanese fleet as a fighting force. But after all, words do mean something. And because "The Battle for Leyte Gulf" didn't change the situation on the ground in any important way, it can't go down as a major victory unless the largely unknown fifth battle is included as part of it. It was that battle that determined the final fate of the Japanese in the central Philippines.

The Battle of Ormoc Bay started on November 11, 1944 and ended on December 21st. Why those dates? On the 11th of November, Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet carrier planes were first to raid Ormoc Bay—the major Japanese supply base on Leyte's west coast. They struck a major blow by sinking four destroyers and five transports. General MacArthur himself declared the end of the battle, and of combat operations in the region, on December 21 when he said, "This closes a campaign that has had few counterparts in the utter destruction of the enemy's forces with the maximum conservation of our own…" But between November 11 and December 21 there were almost daily surface and air operations constituting a drumbeat of destruction for Japanese reinforcement attempts.

Why has this Battle of Ormoc Bay escaped the attention of historians? The men who wrote the history are all gone now but a few answers suggest themselves. First, most naval battles took place over a short span such as a day or two, but there are exceptions. Take the naval battle of Guadalcanal, which began on August 7, 1942 and ended on December 30th.

Then too, some historians may have seen the action in Ormoc Bay as little more than a series of skirmishes because the largest ships involved were destroyers. But that wouldn't explain why other acknowledged "battles" were fought only by destroyers. One example is the Battle of Vella Gulf.

One is compelled to conclude that the writers of WWII history had a naval bias that is not appropriate in an era with a great degree of command integration. Since the purpose of the Battle for/of Leyte Gulf was to secure the Gulf area, any fair-minded assessment has to include the contributions of Army land forces—particularly the 77th Division, destroyer squadrons that raided enemy re-supply bases on the island, and Marine Fighter-Bomber groups that dealt heavy blows to Japanese shipping.

The truth is that historians were apparently too eager to write "finis" to the Great Battle after the Japanese fleet cut and ran after the Battle Off Samar. MacArthur was right in establishing December 21 as the end of the battle. But he had always referred to it as "The Leyte Campaign". Naval historians of the time would naturally shun such terminology because it was suggestive of land and sea forces. And writers with a naval bias were not about to share credit for victory in this one, so the name of the battle remains today as "The Battle for/of Leyte Gulf". But MacArthur's designation makes far better sense. After all, isn't it a bit confusing to use the term "battle" to describe another battle which is itself made up of four other battles?

* * *

Copyright © 2003 Irwin J. Kappes

Written by Irwin Kappes. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Irwin Kappes at:
ijkapp@yahoo.com.

About the author:
Mr. Kappes served in U.S. Navy on destroyers in the Atlantic and Pacific during WWII. He holds an MBA from Boston University and retired after a 32 year advertising career with the Du Pont Company. He was also a retired Vice President with United States Hosiery. He is married and his hobbies include painting, writing, and travel. His hometown is New Castle, PA. and presently living in Tinton Falls, NJ.

Published online: 06/08/2003.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of MHO.
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