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Leyte Gulf: what if the whole 1st Striking Force had attacked through Surigao Strait?

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Brutal Truth, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    SHO-1 prescribed a pincer attack on Leyte Gulf with Nishimura attacking through the Surigao Strait and the main force under Kurita through the St. Bernardino Strait. I wonder if attacking through Surigao Strait with the whole force would have been a better option for the Japanese. As it turned out Kurita was detected and ambushed by two US submarines West of Palawan and was then attacked by carrier aircraft while crossing the Sibuyan Sea, suffering crippling losses. The route to Surigao was shorter and would have avoided the subs in the dangerous waters of Palawan. The whole force could have arrived earlier if they had chosen to force the Surigao Strait in daytime. Kurita left Brunei at 7:00 on 22 October, Nishimura at 15:00 on the same day. If the whole force had left in the morning they could have arrived in the strait in the late afternoon. Of course, considering Japanese proficiency in night fighting they may have preferred to cross at night anyway. It's likely they would have been detected, because Nishimura was indeed bombed on the morning of 24 October. However only one or two US Task Groups would have been in position to attack. If Ozawa decoy force had moved faster it is also possible that Halsey would had sailed to the north earlier and left only Oldendorf to deal with Ozawa. Then the climatic surface battle the Japanese had prepared for would have occurred. Meanwhile Shima could have tried to sneak through St. Bernardino Strait during the night instead of following Nishimura in the south. Difficult to say what the result would have been, but it seems a simpler plan than the one that was actually carried out. I have the impression that Japanese plans for naval operations were often unnecessarily complicated. Ideas?
     
  2. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    Hi! Sorry I posted this in the wrong section, I thought it was a discussion about operational choices for the battle of Leyte rather than alternate history. Anyway, I would be interested to see your opinions about this. I haven't seen any historians of this battle commenting about the plan to split the battleship force and attack from two directions. Maybe it made no difference in the end, but the route through the Sibuyan Sea gave more time to the Americans to track Kurita.
     
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  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    1. I thought the US had the advantage at night with radar control
    --a. radar and capping the T = problems for the Japanese ?
    2. would not such a large force have been reported to Halsey?
     
  4. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Japanese seemed to prefer to overcomplicate their plans to the point of almost forcing failure to occur.

    There would have had to have been a single overall commander and if they followed form, there probably could have been three separate battle groups with three separate commanders.
    As it was, the two groups that sailed up the Surigao Strait made no effort to coordinate. I am not even sure the two commanders, Shima and Nishimura, even spoke to each other prior to sailing. I know they didn't because of wireless use restrictions while at sea.

    Also, neither southern admiral had any contact with Kurita as he bungled his way through the San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea and met up with Taffy 3.

    Even with the additional heavy assets in the south, Oldendorf's and Weyler's battleships enjoyed the use of excellent radar (Mississippi not withstanding) and would have have inflicted significant effect on any Japanese forces trying to transit the strait, pretty much with a single ship Japanese front facing an American battleline broadside.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Of course...
    Finding all the battleships together on the morning of the 24th, would pull Halsey's carriers to them like a magnet.

    Ozawa's decoy force finds nothing but empty sea, as Halsey heads after the battleships. No search aircraft find Ottawa's decoy force, so there is no Cape Engano.
     
  6. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..I was was wondering about that .....so, there is no significant chance that Ozawa could decoy Halsey to the north?
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    As I recall beyond a Japanese fondness for complex, multi prong task groups working to a 'common' goal two other factors dictated separate groups. Command differences between fleet commanders (mot just a Halsey problem) and severe fuel/supply issues that forced the dispersion of major units nearer to oil supplies. The matter was further complicated by a need to respond to various possible US/Allied attack options such as Singapore, Taiwan, ,Home Islands. The Philippines seemed the most likely to them, but had to consider all options.
     
  8. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    I think there would have been some chance if it had arrived earlier. As you can see from this map, and from other maps of the SHO-1 plan, he didn't follow a direct route to the south:
    Leyte Gulf: The Pacific War’s Greatest Battle

    Maybe he could have also left Japan earlier. The plan had Nishimura and Kurita arrive in the Leyte Gulf on the morning of the 25th. They could have arrived to the Surigao Strait in the afternoon of the 24th if they had left Brunei together on the morning of the 22th. If Ozawa had arrived east of Cape Engano in the morning of the 24th I think he could have been detected earlier and drawn Halsey to the north, leaving only Kinkaid and Oldendorf to face the surface force.
     
  9. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...I mean
    ..I mean with the departing dates as they were....?
     
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'll have to go back see if I can find the source concerning the oil situation,
    The IJN was having a compound problem of fuel oil availability, which had most of the fleet moored at Lingga Roads and inadequate installations there to fuel the ships.

    The Combined Fleet was based in the south because there were not enough tankers to supply oil for war production and fleet needs. The Midway endeavor had about tapped out fuel stocks in the home islands and the only successful submarine warfare campaign in history was in full swing, sinking Japanese shipping at a prodigious rate.
    Regardless, there were issues getting ships fueled, then delays encountering submarines, which combined with the imposed prohibition against radio usage, resulting in a profoundly disjointed commitment to battle.

    Given the large number of Japanese warships transiting Palawan and other waters west of the Philippines in the all ships to the south proposition, ample warning would have gone out to allow the 3rd Fleet to range further south, allowing the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea to have been fought in the straits along the northern coast of Mindanao instead, using 7th Fleet air assets in addition to Halsey's 3rd. This is provided, of course, if the theater commanders of 3rd and 7th fleets can manage to talk to each other and allow coordination with the two fleet commands.

    I don't think the Japanese will to fight was as strong as was previously and they significantly underestimated the tenacity of US forces at this point in the war, a.e.b. by the actions of Taffy 3 off Samar.
     
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