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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.

  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
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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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
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  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I believe that the Japanese forces were first spotted by a anti submarine patrol aircraft from one of the taffies. Not sure where the spotting report was when the engagement started with Taffy 3. Originally the Japanese identified Taffy 3 as being composed of fleet carriers and cruisers.

    Oldendorf's battleships might have been able to get to the area the transports were in before the Japanese battleships did but it would be close from what I've read as they conducted a short pursuit as well. Furthermore they didn't have a lot of AP ammo left with the ships with the best radar having expended a fair amount of what they did have. See:
    History and Technology - Performance of US Battleships at Surigao Strait - NavWeaps

    There were a lot of DD's at the transport anchorage in any case as well as some cruisers (Mac was on one). Halsey was also headed back at full steam. by the time the IJN units reached the anchorage he may have been in range to launch air strikes, especially if the planes could land and refuel on the CVEs.

    A lot would depend on just how they reacted to the CVEs. As it was due to combing torpedoes and attacking Taffy3 the IJN formation was badly scrambled. If they in some way avoid Taffy3 that might not happen but it would take time to move around them and going through them would still likely result in the torpedo attacks as they were in the way to the anchorage.
     
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  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Something I ran across in The World Wonder'd by Robert Lundgren, Clifton Sprague's thoughts around 0723 as Taffy 3 was steaming eastward:

    "In the squall, I did some thinking. I didn't like my easterly course, because I felt the Japs were not being drawn as far from San Bernardino Strait as I'd like. I wanted to pull the enemy out where somebody could smack him, for if we were going to expend ourselves I wanted to make it count. Furthermore, I felt I should run southwest to meet whatever help might be coming to me out of Leyte Gulf. And I wanted to keep myself between the enemy fleet and our landing operations to the southwest. It was a hard decision to make, but at 0730 I changed course to the southeast and then to the south."

    His first instinct had been the natural one of steaming east, which both allowed the CVEs to launch whatever planes they had ready and took them away from the Japanese, but he soon decided that there were priorities other than self-preservation. Of course at this point the Japanese were coming for Taffy 3, which argued for the "make it count" rationale. However if Kurita had opted to ignore his unexpected contact and continue southwest towards his assigned objective, the two forces would have been rapidly separating. The superior speed of the Japanese would make it difficult for Sprague to interpose in their path even if he wished to in this situation.
     
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  5. the_diego

    the_diego Member

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    I thought the 6 battleships came off Surigao Strait dangerously low on ammo?
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    They had expended about 17% of their AP ammunition and had from 13 to 30 rounds per gun remaining, not ideal, but they were capable of fighting another engagement. As we see on the table lwd provided, most of them also had a good supply of HC, although they had been firing that in support of the landing.
     
  7. Dracula

    Dracula Member

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  8. FightingJ

    FightingJ New Member

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    Hard to say. If Oldendorf's ships would have come up to support, but stacking up the numbers, its hard to tell who would have won in another battle line fight. AFAIK The Center Force had Yamato and 3 other battleships, tons of heavy cruisers, and plenty of destroyers. 7th Fleet's battleship force had the 6 PH ships, 4 heavy cruisers, a number of light cruisers, and plenty of PT boats and destroyers.(not too sure about this data though). The American battleships were low on ammunition, but out numbered the Japanese. Plus, TG 34.5 with Iowa and New Jersey was on its way, and they may or may not have arrived in time to prevent attacks on the transports. Overall, I'm thinking the Japanese still would have been forced to leave, just if the transports supporting the invasion would be seriously damaged is questionable.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There's a question on whether or not Oldendorf's BBs could make it back before the Japanese got to the landing area. The transports probably would have left. I don't think there were many PT boats left near the landing area and most of those that were at Surigao had fired their torpedos as had most of the DDs there. The fast battleships probably wouldn't have made it in time but planes from the carriers might have especially if they were going to land ashore or on the Taffy's. There were however a lot of DD's still in the area as well as at least one heavy cruiser. Oldendorf's BBs had a fair amount ammo left but some of them were a bit short on AP ammo. Against Yamato HE might have been a better choice anyway. Yamato was clearly superior to the US battleships and might have been able to take on 2 of the standards but Nagato was on a par with a 16" standard and the other Japanese battleships would be in trouble vs a standard. Lee's battleships (the fast ones) had practiced firing by radar through smoke. I'm not sure if Oldendorf's would have tried it but with their radar they would have had an edge (the Japanese had radar as well but it wasn't as well integrated into their fire control systems nor had they used it much. In any case it becomes the death ride for the IJN that was foreseen if they go for the landing zone. The question is what does it cost the US?
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    There was no question of the Japanese getting through to the transports unopposed. Oldendorf's battleships never entered Surigao Strait, just cruised back and forth across the entrance, and they were never out of range of the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf. Several cruisers and destroyers including Oley's flagship Louisville went down the strait to investigate results and finish off cripples, but they could return promptly if needed.

    Morison cites nine DDs (five of Destroyer Squadron 21 and four of Desron 49) detached from the landing force to reinforce Oldendorf; these would have their full load of torpedos. The cruiser Nashville which had been MacArthur's flagship would also be available. The remainder of Desron 49 (4-5 ships) had been escorting empty transports back to Hollandia but were recalled.

    Brooklyn and Cleveland class CLs were comparable in size and fighting power to CAs and better armored than any heavy cruiser on either side except Minneapolis, a whole different category from true light cruisers like Agano or Abukuma.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In previous discussions some have suggested that Oldendorf's battleships might not have been able to make it back to prevent the Japanese force from entering Leyte Gulf. I'd have to look at the time lines in some detail to be sure. What assumptions you make could be key as well. If Yamato has to turn away to comb torpedoes and the middle force has to reorganize after a "general pursuit" then Oldendorf probably has plenty of time. If on the other hand the Japanese just bull there way through and avoid pursuing the Taffys the results may differ.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Whoever keeps suggesting that must not have consulted maps or track charts which are easily available. Oldendorf's battleships, and most of the rest of his force, never went anywhere that they would have to "make it back" from.

    Here's a chart from Morison showing the position of the battle line:

    [​IMG]

    Source on this one was not identified, but it shows a larger picture:

    [​IMG]

    And a map that shows the whole Leyte Gulf and approaches:

    [​IMG]

    And Oldendorf's own words from a 1959 interview (my bolding):

    ... Admiral Kinkaid's order to prepare for night action came as no surprise. ... It was obvious that the objective of the Japanese Forces was the destruction of our transports and that my mission was to protect them at all costs. In order to accomplish my mission, the force under my command must be interposed to between the enemy and the transports. I realized that I must not lose sight of my mission no matter how much I might be tempted to engage in a gunnery duel with him.

    I selected the position of the battle line off Hingatungan Point because it gave me the maximum sea room available and restricted the enemy's movements. This position also permitted me to cover the eastern entrance to the Gulf should the Central Force under Admiral Kurita arrive ahead of the Southern Force. I selected the battle plan from the General Tactical Instructions and modified it to meet the conditions existing, i.e., lack of sea room to maneuver and possible enemy action. ... I thought that quite possibly he planned to slip some of his light forces into the Gulf by passing them to the eastward of Hibuson Island after the battle line was engaged. For that reason I stationed the preponderance of my light forces on the left flank. One duty which was never delegated to my staff was the drafting of battle plans.


    — US Naval Institute Proceedings
    April 1959[14]
     
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  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Usually, it is a "difference" of objective, ie. those suggesting such a move are not thinking of the battleline steaming about 12NM and forming a defensive line between Kurita and the transports...What they are thinking of is the OBBs moving to join/rescue Taffy 3, or else blocking San Bernadino Straight(paying no nevermind that Kurita had already past through there before the main action at Surigao took place). However, the majority of Oldendorf's supporting cruisers and destroyers were south pursuing the remaining Japanese ships.

    That being said, there was somewhere around 50+ US DDs, DEs, and DMSs in the general vicinity of the transport fleet, which certainly could have done their share of damage if called upon.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    That makes sense although I looking at the charts and remembering some of the suggestion I think the people that said it were just confused. I don't remember what forum it was on but someone said that his BBs couldn't make it back to defend the eastern entrances to the bay. Now some of the DDs and possibly cruisers that were further down the straight may have had that problem but thanks to the graphics above it's pretty clear that Oldendorph's battle line could. My gut feeling all along was that it could but someone sounding authoritive made me question.it. Again thanks for posting the charts.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Weren't most of their planes land based? I seem to recall that reading that the IJN carriers had very few aircraft on board.
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    About 115-120 carrier aircraft suitable to attack the enemy, and those that survived the attack on US forces flew to land bases in the Philippines. Only a few returned to the Japanese carriers.

    IIRC, only the Zuikaku was at a near full compliment of aircraft, the 3 light carriers not so much, less than 20 each.
     
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  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Interestingly, Prados states in his book "Storm Over Leyte", that the reconstituted air group for the 4 carriers had 174 aircraft between them. Now in his post-war interrogation, Ozawa recounts that he sent about 150 of his aircraft to Formosa, and his carriers had only around 100 aircraft left. I wonder where these additional aircraft came from? Even, if you include the hybrid battleships, there is still a fairly large discrepancy.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Possibly it may have to do with when he sent them to Formosa. Wiki gives the airgroups of the two hybrids as 22 that gives 218 for the carrier group Looking at Wiki though it states the hybrids didn't have any planes for this op. See:
    Leyte Gulf order of battle - Wikipedia
    and it lists 116 planes with the carriers. Perhaps the hybrids planes were some of those sent to Formosa. On the other hand wiki at:
    Battle of Leyte Gulf - Wikipedia
    Lists the carriers as having 108 planes.

    *** edit for ***
    I think this is the source of the 116 aircraft:
    Orders of Battle - Battle off Cape Engaño - Battles of the Pacific - World War II - NavWeaps
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    HP Willmott's 2005 Leyte book is where I found 116. The numbers breakdown matches with the NavWeaps, but Willmott breakdown the A6Ms to diffentiate between fighters and fighter-bombers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018

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