November 22, 2003

Turkey Trots to Water...

The Thirteen-Year-Old is reading Eagle Against the Sun--the part about the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Admiral Nimitz to Admiral Halsey:

TURKEY TROTS TO WATER GG WHERE IS RPT WHERE IS TASK FORCE 34 THE WORLD WONDERS

The Japanese plan should have worked--given how bull-headed Admiral Halsey was--save for the fact that Admiral Kurita had "a disturbing tendency to always doubt the success of any mission he had been assigned... timidity, indecisiveness, and irresolution," and for Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's willingness to attack the Japanese main force with seven destroyers and six small escort carriers:

CITATION: The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to TASK UNIT SEVENTY-SEVEN POINT FOUR POINT THREE, consisting of the U.S.S. FANSHAW BAY and VC-88; U.S.S. GAMBIER BAY and VC-10; U.S.S. KALININ BAY and VC-3; U.S.S. KITKUN BAY and VC-5; U.S.S. SAINT LO and VC-65; U.S.S. WHITE PLAINS and VC-4; U.S.S. HOEL, U.S.S. JOHNSTON, U.S.S. HEERMANN, U.S.S. SAMUEL B. ROBERTS, U.S.S. RAYMOND, U.S.S. DENNIS and U.S.S. JOHN C. BUTLER for service as set forth in the following CITATION

"For extraordinary heroism in action against powerful units of the Japanese Fleet during the Battle off Samar, Philippines, October 25, 1944. Silhouetted against the dawn as the Central Japanese Force steamed through San Bernardino Strait towards Leyte Gulf, Task Unit 77.4.3 was suddenly taken under attack by hostile cruisers on its port hand, destroyers on the starboard and battleships from the rear. Quickly laying down a heavy smoke screen, the gallant ships of the Task Unit waged battle fiercely against the superior speed and fire power of the advancing enemy, swiftly launching and rearming aircraft and violently zigzagging in protection of vessels stricken by hostile armor-piercing shells, anti-personnel projectiles and suicide bombers. With one carrier of the group sunk, others badly damaged and squadron aircraft courageously coordinating in the attacks by making dry runs over the enemy Fleet as the Japanese relentlessly closed in for the kill, two of the Unit's valiant destroyers and one destroyer escort charged the battleships point-blank and, expending their last torpedoes in desperate defense of the entire group, went down under the enemy's heavy shells as a climax to two and one half hours of sustained and furious combat. The courageous determination and the superb teamwork of the officers and men who fought the embarked planes and who manned the ships of Task Unit 77.4.3 were instrumental in effecting the retirement of a hostile force threatening our Leyte invasion operations and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

Posted by DeLong at November 22, 2003 04:54 PM | TrackBack

Comments

"Admiral Kurita had 'a disturbing tendency to always doubt the success of any mission he had been assinged...'"

Perhaps, but remember that at Leyte this was compounded by the fact that his ship was sunk by US submarines on the way there, he spent hours in the water before being fished out exhausted and as traumatized as any human being would be, then went right back into the command chair where he sat still without any sleep (IIRC) until the battle was joined.

I don't know about you, but all that might leave me feeling a little spooked. Some people have really challenging jobs.

"For Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's willingness to attack the Japanese main force with seven destroyers and six small escort carriers... Citation:"

They said Sprague at Leyte showed he possessed in spades three things every superior combat commander needs: composure in the face of adverse surpise, the ability to quickly make the most of every resource available, and luck on his side.

Posted by: Jim Glass on November 22, 2003 09:20 PM

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have you asked your kids whether this is how they prefer to be described on your weblog?

I just know that at no age did I ever want my parents to call me "the xx-year-old". I would have preferred substantially more-insulting terms that didn't use my age as an identifier.

Posted by: wcw on November 22, 2003 10:00 PM

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I think it's perfectly fine to refer to a child by age in this context in that: A) he avoids broadcasting too much of his personal life and B) it conveys the necessary information (you don't need to know his son's name).

Posted by: Michael on November 22, 2003 10:46 PM

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And only devoted followers of this blog know which is the boy and which the girl.

DeLong is justly proud of his progeny. They will curse him for five to ten more years for this, then thank him forever after.

Posted by: bad Jim on November 23, 2003 02:38 AM

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I find it hard to recall ever reading of a battle or a chess match which wasn't described as being settled by the blunder of the loser.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on November 23, 2003 06:25 AM

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There were blunders on both sides. Sho was a desperate plan, and Kurita would have had no chance if Halsey had left the fast battleships behind when he chased after Ozawa's feint (like everyone initially assumed he did--the whole point of the "where is TF34" message).

However, there's little doubt that Halsey in Kurita's place would have pressed on to the landings. Kurita's failure to do so after the astounding good luck in getting to the critical point was unforgiveable, if perhaps understandable.

Posted by: Cecil Turner on November 23, 2003 06:59 AM

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I think one contributing factor may have been that the Japanese knew that they had already lost the war, while the Americans knew that they were clearly winning.

There is a possibly apocryphal quote attributed to a sailor on rRear Admrial Sprague's flag bridge: "God damn it sir, they're getting away!"

The Japanese can have their Kamikazes. I'll take the men of Taffy Three.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on November 23, 2003 07:12 AM

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"the world wonders" in the message from Nimitz to Halsey was random padding added to increase the cryptographic security of transmissions (normal message endings are not entirely random, which reduces the security of the entire cypher).

the receiving radioman left it in, and when Halsey read it he almost literally blew up.

the sending radioman was disciplined in some . . . appropriate way.

Posted by: Troy on November 23, 2003 08:15 AM

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found SEM's history of the navy in ww2 while in grammer school. happened to read the account of this battle and my recollection was that the jeep carriers ran into the japanese by accident. The story was that the destroyers were sent against the japanese cruisers to screen the carriers who ran at top, very low, speed away from the japanese. The destroyers knew it was a suicide mission but did a hell of a job to the extent that the japanese thought they were larger ships. The japanese used armor piercing shells in response to this mistake. Some of the shells passed through the american ships without exploding. Aircraft from the carriers attacked the japanese and when ammo ran out made false runs to divert attention from the carriers.
SEM's histories are highly recommended.
At the same time I read the book about the effects of neuclear weapons and knew that this type of ww2 warfare would never happen again, atleast on this scale.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on November 23, 2003 08:55 AM

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Battle OF Leyte Gulf or Battle FOR Leyte Gulf. The following webpage places the battle of late October in historical context: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/articles/leytegulfrevisited.aspx

Posted by: Charles on November 23, 2003 01:33 PM

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This supplies the general order/sequence of battle: http://www.battleship.org/html/Articles/History/Leyte5.htm

Posted by: Charles on November 23, 2003 01:52 PM

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