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What if kurita had ignored Taffey 3 and continued to the Leyte invasion beachead?

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by Dracula, Oct 12, 2018 at 10:08 AM.

  1. Dracula

    Dracula Member

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    We all know the strategy and history of the different engagements between the IJN and the U S Navy between October 24th and 25th. What would have happened, if Kurita, had passed on attacking and chasing Taffy 3 and instead had concentrated, on his mission, to attack the different beachheads?

    The invasion was launched on October 20th and the Kurita alert was broadcast, at roughly 6:30 am, on the morning of October 25th. When Kurita was sighted ,by Taffy 3, he was still 1 to 2 hours away from the beach heads. The Tenth Corp and 24th Corp had had almost 5 days of uninterrupted assault to expand the width and depth of their beacheads. By the time of the Kurita sighting, both Corp's had moved miles inland and had linked up, effectively expanding their control over the coastline, for a good thirty miles. The Corp units were scattered over probably more than a 100 square miles of Leyte Island. Mountains of supplies had already been moved inland and away from the beach.

    The questions that I have are,
    How many transports were still in the area? How long would it take them to get the hell out of there to out of sight, out of mind range, and what kind of surface escort did they have and you know that they had one. What kind of damage could Kurita really have done? He could tear up the beach supplies and lob shells inland but he is shooting blindly and at 10's of square miles. With the exception of beach supplies, inland supply dumps had already been established. The Japanese army was in no shape to exploit a beach raid. What was the point, except for perhaps the honor of the IJN?


    Kurita is sighted at 6:30ish, still a couple of hours away from the beach heads. He blows past Taffy 3, but now Taffy 3 is trailing and preparing for a full air assault. Taffy 2 and Taffy 1, both to the South, the same. That is potentially 400 hundred aircraft getting prepared to launch a prolonged assault on some 22 IJN ships. They may not have ideal strike munitions , but still, that's a massive amount of damaging firepower. Kurita would have been trapped, by Islands to his North and West, enduring hours of prolonged and coordinated air assault, from his rear, from the East, and the South. Kurita could expect this air assault to continue, even after he stopped bombarding the beach heads and tried to make his escape South through the Surigao Strait.

    Kurita has been pummeled for hours. He would have taken brutal punishment and there is still the X-factor, to deal with. How big was the escort force for the transport group and would they and the Pearl Harbor battleships have engaged, if they felt that Kurita's force had been badly damaged enough to take a shot at slaughtering, what was left of the IJN surface fleet?.


    Which scenario would have had a better strategic outcome for the U S forces? Kurita attacking Taffy 3 and then retreating back through the San Bernardino or Kurita's surface force being trapped against Leyte Island and getting pummeled for hours, by air attack, and then potentially being engaged by an American surface force, rested and undamaged.

    Which do you pick?

     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018 at 10:14 AM
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The landing area was defended by Oldendorf's surface task group, which had seen off the Japanese forces of Nishimura and Shima a few hours earlier in Surigao Strait. A few of his cruisers and destroyers had gone down the strait to finish off stragglers but would rejoin in time for a battle with Kurita. About half of his destroyers had fired their torpedoes, but he was reinforced by additional DDs that had been screening the transports. In a daylight engagement, all six of his battleships would be fully effective.

    As you say, Kurita would be suffering attrition from the Taffies' aircraft for a couple of hours before he ran into the American surface fleet. One lucky break for the Americans: steaming east to get out Kurita's path was also into the wind for flight operations. Incidentally Taffy 2 was located to the east of Taffy 3, close enough that a couple of its destroyers came under fire from either Kongo or Haruna. The three DDs attached to each of the Taffies might find a way to intervene in the battle, although they would not need to make the sort of desperate attack that Johnston, Hoel, and Heerman did historically.

    Any damaged Japanese ships that fell out of formation would be in a particularly bad situation.

    And of course Halsey was heading back with Task Force 34 and his carriers, plus McCain's TG 38.1 returning from the east (it had been detached to refuel).

    So I see it being a death ride for Kurita, with no chance of impacting the landing or land operations.

    Ironically if the offloaded transports tried to evacuate Leyte Gulf, they would be running right across Kurita's path, so I expect they would remain in place. MacArthur had already moved ashore, so his flagship, the cruiser Nashville, might join the action.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018 at 11:59 AM

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