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Battle off Samar - Japanese take hits

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Battle off Samar
The forces
Taffy 3 comes under attack
USS Johnston
USS Hoel
Carriers under attack
Japanese take hits
Seventh Fleet's calls for help
Aftermatch
Criticism of Halsey
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Japanese take hits

USS Kitkun Bay prepares to launch her Wildcat fighters, while USS White Plains is straddled by 14 inch shells.
Taken under 5-inch gunfire by the destroyers and destroyer escorts, the Japanese cruiser Chokai was hit amidships, starboard side, most likely by the carrier Kalinin Bay. This shell in and of itself did little damage (a 5-inch shell carries a 9 kilogram payload), but the oxygen-powered type 93 torpedoes carried by the Japanese ships were prone to exploding and the hit induced just such an explosion. A single type 93 torpedo carries a 490 kilogram warhead and the Chokai was equipped with eight tubes. This explosion inflicted serious damage, causing the Chokai to drop out of formation. Within minutes, an American aircraft dropped a 500-pound bomb on her forward machinery room. Fires began to rage and she went dead in the water. Later that day, she was scuttled by torpedoes from the destroyer Fujinami.

After the destroyer Johnston put a Mk-15 torpedo into the Kumano, blowing off her bow, she retired towards the San Bernadino strait, where she suffered minor damage from aerial attack.
The Japanese cruiser Chikuma maneuvering after sustaining torpedo damage.

The Chikuma engaged the U.S. escort carriers, helping to sink Gambier Bay, but came under fire from the American destroyer Heermann and heavy air attack. Chikuma inflicted severe damage on Heermann, but was soon hit by an aerial torpedo attack and immobilized. Her crew was taken off by the destroyer Nowaki and Chikuma was scuttled in the late morning of 25 October 1944. While withdrawing from the battle area, Nowaki was herself sunk, with the loss of all but one of Chikuma’s surviving crewmen.

Kurita withdraws

The Japanese cruiser Chikuma maneuvering after sustaining torpedo damage.
Though many of Kurita's ships had not been damaged, the air and destroyer attacks had broken up his formations, and he had lost tactical control. His flagship Yamato had been forced to turn north in order to avoid torpedoes, causing him to lose contact with much of his task force. The ferocity of the determined, concentrated sea and air attack from Taffy 3 had already sunk or crippled the heavy cruisers Chōkai, Kumano, and Chikuma, confirming to the Japanese that they were engaging major fleet units rather than escort carriers and destroyers. Kurita was at first not aware that Halsey had already taken the bait and that his battleships and carriers were far out of range. He had also been deceived by fierce offensive attacks that had come only from a light force that on paper didn't have the firepower to be a serious threat. Soon, signals from Ozawa had disabused him of the notion that he was attacking the whole of the 3rd Fleet, which meant that the longer he continued to engage, the more likely it was that he would suffer devastating air strikes from Halsey's main attack carriers which were even more threatening than the tiny force of Taffy 3.

Finally, Kurita received word that the Southern force that he was to meet up with had been destroyed the previous night. Calculating that the fight was not worth further losses, and believing he had already sunk or damaged several American carriers, Kurita broke off the engagement at 09:20 with the order: "all ships, my course north, speed 20". He reshaped course for Leyte Gulf, but became distracted by reports of another American carrier group to the north. Preferring to expend his ships against capital ships rather than transports, he turned north after the non-existent enemy fleet, and ultimately withdrew back through San Bernardino Strait.

As he retreated north and then west through the San Bernardino Strait, the smaller and heavily damaged American force continued to press the battle. While watching the Japanese retreat, Sprague heard a nearby sailor exclaim: "Damn it, boys, they're getting away!" In retreat, Nagato, Haruna and Kongo were severely damaged from the torpedoes of Taffy 3's destroyers and escorts.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 April 2009 19:51 )