Battle of the Philippine Sea

Battle of the Philippine Sea
Battle of the Philippine Sea
Part of World War II, Pacific War
Zuikaku and two destroyers under attack
The carrier Zuikaku (center) and two destroyers under attack by U.S. Navy carrier aircraft, June 20, 1944
Date June 19–20, 1944
Location The Philippine Sea
Result Decisive American victory
United States United States Fifth Fleet Japan Combined Fleet
Commanders and leaders
United States Raymond A. Spruance
United States Marc A. Mitscher
Empire of Japan Jisaburō Ozawa
Empire of Japan Kakuji Kakuta
7 fleet carriers
8 light carriers
7 battleships
79 other ships
28 submarines
956 aircraft
99,000 personals
5 fleet carriers
4 light carriers
5 battleships
43 other ships
450 carrier-based aircraft
300 land-based aircraft
Casualties and losses
123 aircraft destroyed
1 battleship damaged[1]
3 fleet carriers sunk
2 oilers sunk
550–645 aircraft destroyed[1]
6 other ships damaged

The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a decisive naval battle of World War II which effectively eliminated any follow-on threat of large scale carrier task force based offensive operations by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Part of the wider Pacific War, this action occurred on June 19–20, 1944 off the Mariana Islands as the U.S. sent in an amphibious attack across Saipan's beaches and screened against any interfering land-sea forces of Imperial Japan. It was soon termed by Americans the 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot'[2] for the one sided loss ratio inflicted upon the naval air forces of Japan after a chance comment likening the event to an organized fall 'Turkey Hunt' by a sailor watching the American fleet's concentrated firepower knock plane after plane down before they could reach attack range on the carriers. A similar kill efficiency was experienced by the radar-directed centrally coordinated fighter intercepts over the less experienced Japanese pilots.

It was the fifth of five and by far the largest 'aircraft carrier versus aircraft carrier' battle in history, and came about as the Americans invaded Saipan because the Japanese staff judged that it could pin the American Fleet against the island while the Americans were protecting their transports and the beachhead. It was fought between the carrier aircraft put up by the United States Navy's Fleet and both the land based and carrier launched naval air craft launched by the Imperial Japanese Navy's Combined Fleet and Japan's island garrisons. The Japanese naval staff had hoped to resume offensive carrier operations in early 1944 and while still training pilots and new carrier crews decided to counterattack against the U.S. invasion fleet as the U.S. attacked the across the beaches of Saipan—in the first stages of its Mariana Islands invasion.

The engagement proved disastrous for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and some 550–645 aircraft[1] and hundreds of pilots[3]. The program "Weapons Races" stated that radar directed detection and interception allowed the Americans to intercept and surprise 370 inbound Japanese over fifty miles from the carriers and destroy about 250 in just that one encounter.[4] Japanese aircraft which got through the Air Screen faced not only the deadly new firepower of the highly effective VT fused anti-aircraft shells but also the new and evolving command and control command philosophy which concentrated anti-aircraft firepower as never before.

These changes were because the Americans now utilized and were becoming practiced with the new radar-based Command Information Center concepts which, beginning with early stumbling initiatives in 1942 battles, continued to grow and morph and bear effectiveness in return for experimentation. The proof was in the vast amounts of anti-air defensive firepower delivered on target. Such institutional self-criticisms were very alien to Japanese society. Another clear benefit of the new doctrines and organizational measures was that, unlike the overburdened radio channels and lost messages experienced in the battle of Midway, the U.S. fleet had sufficient frequencies and communications training, discipline, experience and doctrine to maintain good command coordination and control during the largest such battle ever.



On 19 April 1943, Admiral Mineichi Koga succeeded Yamamoto as Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet. Under his direction in September 1943, Imperial Japanese Navy Headquarters decided the time was right to return to the offensive in the Pacific. But soon, because U.S. forces were attacking Japanese-held islands in the course of its “island hopping campaign” attack against the Japanese Sea lines of communications (SLOCs) so the offensive planning could not be sustained despite ample sufficient naval aircraft production rates because the lack of carrier trained pilots meant the air fleets could not be manned— and the Americans were attacking the land bases.

The staff, morphed their planning into a carrier assisted battle fleet smash of a U.S. invasion fleet pinned trying to protect transports and forces it'd landed. This 'battleships are still king' conceptualization was still prevalent in some U.S. circles as well, but not in the operational commanders. The battle fleet sortie concept was very similar in concept to that intended by the late Admiral Yamamoto in the battle of Midway, as is no surprise as many of the officers planning that were still on the General Staff of the Combined Fleet. In their planning it was believed that the lack of offensive air power could be addressed by deploying strong land-based air forces—a natural connection, for Japan had taken pains to seed the pacific with base after base that could control the SLOCs around themselves.

Operations in the early planning were initially conceived and planned for early 1944, assuming an attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet whenever it launched its next minor offensive. Unfortunately, while the U.S. fleet was not on the offensive as 1943 drew to a close, it was in fact busy integrating and training up multiple new technologies, vast reinforcements, and developing new operational doctrines that made it far more effective than the Japanese early war experience could imagine when it did resume operations, and when it did, it went after the air bases in a succession of raids purpose-designed to deplete and defeat their control of the SLOC around themselves. It took U.S. commanders over a year and a half to incorporate radar into its practices after the first of them had been on board for long periods, far worse off were the Japanese commanders who had no inkling or notion of the power of the new technology, and the U.S. was coming forth in strength both with huge numbers, but several key technologies.

In March, Japan's combined fleet again lost its commander in an aircraft, this time during a Pacific hurricane. Under direction of the newly appointed Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, a finalized plan for the new conditional 'offensive'—dubbed "Plan A-Go", or "Operation A-Go"[5]—was adopted in early June 1944, then within weeks, quickly adapted to mousetrap the American fleet now detected in the process of invading Saipan.

Strategically, the Japanese commanders considered Guam, Tinian, and Saipan as part of an inner air-sea defense ring surrounding and protecting their home island chain in a ring of land based fighter and bomber bases. Japan had attacked the Aleutian Islands earlier in the war for another similar inner ring air base in this defense in depth strategic vision. In the prior year, the U.S. fleet had worked its way over or past other such strongholds in their steady progression across the Central Pacific islands, the offensive serving to continue weakening the Japanese naval air capabilities, so the Imperial Staff could figure the Marianas would come under similar attack and—while revising their offensive ambitions the Japanese staff also ordered prepared defenses and planning for various likely island bases they believed would be likely targets.

The whole basis Japanese war plan had from the start always been to inflict so severe and painful losses upon the Americans that the American public would become war weary and demand a negotiated settlement. American technology advances and material production capacity effectively canceled this strategic assumption by holding down U.S. casualties, and American-Allied spirits didn't flag, but grew more resolved as the war went on.

Furthermore, the U.S. commanders would turn the strategy around on the Japanese. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and General Douglas McArthur made the air power protected (island) 'fortress stronghold' strategy work in reverse for the U.S. by applying large fighter strikes to surprise, overwhelm and suppress local and nearby island air bases and their mobile forces eliminating the material assets needed for the Japanese plan to be effective. Both commands then followed up by invading a select key Japanese base by amphibious assaults where they'd emplace their own bases—before hopping farther up the Japanese supply chain (SLOC) to take other key strong points—thus hopping step by step from key position to key position inexorably; strategically and tactically neutralizing the remnant forces and war material left behind on the bypassed Japanese bases.

That McArthur's forces applied this strategy along the long length of New Guinea instead of against isolated island bases is immaterial, for the dense triple-canopy jungles of New Guinea effectively demanded Sea Lines of Communication just to move a few miles. Similarly, it didn't matter that the General's offensive strikes were lead sometimes by borrowed aircraft carrier strikes or the Army Air Corps' long ranged P-38 fighters of the U.S. Fifth Air Force. These cut off garrisons effectively withered —most of the time towards near starvation, except as they turned their energies and efforts to local food production and away from military operations—as they could no longer be supplied save by submarine or daring but fuel wasteful high speed destroyer runs, and material deficiencies could no longer be fixed. Consequently, the Japanese more often than not evacuated units bypassed rather than continuing to stretch logistics supporting units in untenable situations. The Japanese society, for cultural reasons had difficulty training replacement pilots and no long term preparatory training program had been anticipated in pre-war planning that would enable the country to overcome their tradition caused cultural bottleneck causing a shortage of new pilots until well into the war. Many of these air to air losses are also largely attributed to the obsolescence of the Japanese aircraft for where the United States had researched and designed entire new classes to cope with the Japanese early war equipment superiority. Culturally the Japanese war society's entrenchment in the Bushido 'way of the warrior' philosophy suggested few such similar improvements from the 'obedient unquestioning warriors' in the field sent up the ladder to the leadership in the top down cultural hierarchy. The Japanese simply had no such feedback mechanism to duplicate the free wheeling out-spoken American character providing quick and effective pointed complaint feedback to designers.

Hence before the end of 1942 the allied navies had by and large overcome most of the technological edge's Japan's ships and planes had held at the war start and furthermore by mid-1943 had the improvements in rapid mass production or were already updating ships and deploying improved aircraft in a continual process of improvement to correct such deficiencies. The Allied educational training practices similarly had geared up and flexibly adapted to new developments, along the way totally revising the way the American fleet operated with the parallel development of both the Combat Information Center and doctrine, training and practices to get the most out of the new communications and sensor technologies.

Most of Japan's more skillful and experienced pilots had died during the two years of attrition of near continual engagements as the U.S. stabilized the theater in 1942 with the blooding battles at Coral Sea and Midway where they checked and all but stopped Japanese expansion. The war events then began draining down the talent level of Japan's land based air forces as well with progressive air fleet activities in the New Guinea campaign and the tentative U.S. offensive, the battle of attrition that was the Guadalcanal campaign which by the fall of 1942 had decimated the average skill level of Japan's land and sea based pilots by taking out the best of them in the grinding battles. In 1943-44 other island war engagements just exacerbated the problem from the Japanese point of view as the U.S. fast carrier task groups began purposefully to raid and pound Japanese island stronghold specifically to reduce their air power and ability to protect shipping.

Moreover, the U.S., Australian, and British cultures and societies had added a comparative flood of well trained systematically seasoned pilots themselves trained by seasoned pilots recently rotated from the front to the 'finishing school' training commands. Additional training and experience effects from the long pilot shortage was the resultant inexperience of the Japanese carrier deck crews, not just its newbie aircrews flying the same unimproved well understood planes with the same old weaknesses, for in contrast to the U.S. Navy's operational tempo which had grown steadily from mid-1943—Japan's older and newly commissioned aircraft carriers sat in port awaiting hastily trained pilots to arm and justify their existence while the U.S. Fleet had totally re-equipped with the more modern Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter, which was specifically designed to be superior to the Japanese Zero. Further, the increased operations had just further seasoned its better-trained and more experienced airmen and replacement, while training up fleet personel from Seaman to Admiral on other important new developments from its Combat Information Center organized and directed fleet anti-air defenses, to radar-directed combat air patrols, and the deployment of the VT Fuze in ship-based anti-aircraft artillery where task group CIC's directed the massed gunfire of neighboring ships.

The Japanese fleet, commanded by Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, consisted of five large carriers (Taihō, Shōkaku, Zuikaku, Junyō, and Hiyō), four light carriers (Ryuho, Chitose, Chiyoda, and Zuihō), five battleships (Yamato, Musashi, Kongō, Haruna and Nagato) and supporting cruisers, destroyers, and oilers.

On June 12, 1944 U.S. carriers started a series of air strikes on the Marianas, convincing Admiral Toyoda that the U.S. was preparing to invade. This move came as a surprise; the Japanese had expected the next U.S. target to be farther to the south, either the Carolines or the Palaus. Therefore, the Marianas were protected with only 50 land-based aircraft. On June 13, U.S. forces began bombardment operations for invading Saipan; in response, Toyoda ordered a fleet-based counterattack. The main portions of the fleet, consisting of six carriers and several battleships, rendezvoused on June 16 in the western part of the Philippine Sea and completed refueling on June 17.

American response

The Japanese fleet was sighted on June 15 by American submarines and by the next day Admiral Raymond Spruance, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, was convinced that a major battle was at hand. By the afternoon of June 18, Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, aboard his flagship (the carrier USS Lexington) had his Task Force 58 (the Fast Carrier Task Force) formed up near Saipan to meet the Japanese attack.

TF-58 consisted of five major groups. In front (to the west) was Vice Admiral Willis Lee's Task Group 58.7 (TG-58.7), the "Battle Line", consisting of seven fast battleships (Washington, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, South Dakota and Alabama). Just north of them was the weakest of the carrier groups, Rear Admiral William K. Harrill's TG-58.4 of three carriers (Essex, Langley and Cowpens). To the east, in a line running north to south, were three groups each containing four carriers: Rear Admiral Joseph Clark's TG-58.1 (Hornet, Yorktown, Belleau Wood and Bataan); Rear Admiral Alfred Montgomery's TG-58.2 (Bunker Hill, Wasp, Cabot and Monterey) and Rear Admiral John W. Reeves's TG-58.3 (Enterprise, Lexington, San Jacinto and Princeton). The capital ships were supported by eight heavy cruisers, 13 light cruisers, 58 destroyers, and 28 submarines.

Shortly before midnight on June 18, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz sent Spruance a message from Pacific Fleet Headquarters indicating that the Japanese flagship was approximately 350 miles (562 km) to the west-southwest of Task Force 58. This was stated as based on a "fix" obtained by radio direction-finding, but was more probably due to decryption of intercepted Japanese naval messages.

Mitscher realized that if Task Force 58 were to advance westward, there was a strong chance of a night surface encounter with Ozawa's forces. He therefore conferred with Lee and inquired whether Lee favored such an encounter. The battleship commander was not enthusiastic about a night engagement with Japanese surface forces, despite his new ships outclassing most of the Japanese battleships, feeling that his crews were not adequately trained for such an action. Shortly after his discussion with Lee, Mitscher asked Spruance for permission to head west during the night to reach what would be an ideal launch position for an all-out aerial assault on the enemy force at dawn.

However, Spruance refused. Throughout the run-up to the battle he had been concerned that the Japanese would try to draw his main fleet away from the landing area using a diversionary force, and would then make an attack around the flank of the U.S. carrier force — an "end run" — hitting the invasion shipping off Saipan. He was therefore not prepared to let Task Force 58 be drawn westward, away from the amphibious forces, as he was aware that Japanese operational plans frequently relied on diversionary forces. On this occasion, however, there was no such aspect to the Japanese plan; there was no ruse and no diversionary force.


Map of Battle of the Philippine Sea

Early actions

At 05:30 on June 19, TF-58 turned northeast into the wind and started to launch their air patrols. The Japanese had already launched their morning search patrols using some of the 50 aircraft stationed on Guam, and at 05:50, one of these, a Mitsubishi Zero, found TF-58. After radioing his sighting of U.S. ships, he attacked one of the destroyers on picket duty and was shot down.

Thus alerted, the rest of the Guam forces began forming up for an attack, but were spotted on radar by U.S. ships, and a group of F6F Hellcats from the Belleau Wood were sent to investigate. The Hellcats arrived while aircraft were still launching from Orote Field. Minutes later, additional radar contacts were seen, which were later discovered to be the additional forces being sent north from the other islands. A huge battle broke out; 35 of the Japanese aircraft were shot down, and the battle was still going an hour later when the Hellcats were recalled to their carriers.

Japanese raids

Fighter aircraft contrails mark the sky over Task Force 58, June 19, 1944

The recall had been ordered after several ships in TF-58 picked up radar contacts 150 miles (240 km) to the west around 10:00. This was the first of the raids from the Japanese carrier forces, with 68 aircraft. TF-58 started launching every fighter it could, and by the time they were in the air, the Japanese had closed to 70 miles (110 km). However, the Japanese began circling to regroup their formations for the attack. This 10-minute delay proved critical, and the first group of Hellcats met the raid, still at 70 miles (110 km), at 10:36. They were quickly joined by additional groups. Within minutes, 25 Japanese aircraft had been shot down, against the loss of only one U.S. aircraft.

The Japanese aircraft that survived were met by other fighters, and 16 more were shot down. Of the remainder, some made attacks on the picket destroyers USS Yarnall and USS Stockham but caused no damage. Three or four bombers broke through to Lee's battleship group, and one made a direct hit on the USS South Dakota, which caused many casualties, but failed to disable her, being the only Japanese success throughout the battle. Not one aircraft of Ozawa’s first wave got through to the American carriers.

F6F-3 landing aboard 'Lexington' (CV-16) — Task Force 58 flagship

At 11:07, radar detected another, much larger attack. This second wave consisted of 107 aircraft. They were met while still 60 miles (97 km) out, and at least 70 of these aircraft were shot down before reaching the ships. Six attacked Rear Admiral Montgomery’s group, nearly hitting two of the carriers and causing casualties on each. Four of the six were shot down. A small group of torpedo aircraft attacked Enterprise, one torpedo exploding in the wake of the ship. Three other torpedo-aircraft attacked the light carrier Princeton but were shot down. In all, 97 of the 107 attacking aircraft were destroyed.

The third raid, consisting of 47 aircraft, came in from the north. It was intercepted by 40 fighters at 13:00, while 50 miles (80 km) out from the task force. Seven Japanese aircraft were shot down. A few broke through and made an ineffective attack on the Enterprise group. Many others did not press home their attacks. This raid therefore suffered less than the others, and 40 of its aircraft managed to return to their carriers.

USS Bunker Hill is nearly hit by a Japanese bomb during the air attacks of June 19, 1944.

The fourth Japanese raid was launched between 11:00 and 11:30, but pilots had been given an incorrect position for the US fleet and could not locate it. They then broke into two loose groups and turned for Guam and Rota to refuel. One group flying toward Rota stumbled upon Montgomery’s task group. Eighteen aircraft joined battle with American fighters and lost half their number. A smaller group of nine Japanese dive bombers of this force evaded U.S. aircraft and made attacks on the USS Wasp and the USS Bunker Hill, but failed to make any hits. Eight of these aircraft were shot down in the process. The larger group of Japanese aircraft had flown to Guam and were intercepted over Orote Field by 27 Hellcats while landing. Thirty of the 49 Japanese aircraft were shot down, and the rest were damaged beyond repair. Aboard the Lexington afterward, a pilot was heard to remark "Hell, this is like an old-time turkey shoot!"[citation needed] Since then, this lopsided air battle has been known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

Most of those who successfully evaded the US fighter screens were aviators who were seasoned veterans of the six-month Japanese advance early in the Pacific war, the South Pacific campaign and survivors of the Battle of Midway.

Submarine attacks

At 08:16 the submarine USS Albacore had sighted Ozawa’s own carrier group and began an attack on the closest carrier, which was Taihō, the largest and newest carrier in the Japanese fleet and Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s flagship. As Albacore was about to fire, however, her fire-control computer failed, and the torpedoes had to be fired “by eye”.

Taihō had just launched 42 aircraft as a part of the second raid. Four of Albacore’s torpedoes were off-target. Sakio Komatsu, the pilot of one of the recently-launched aircraft, sighted one of the two which were heading for Taihō and crashed his aircraft on it, but the last torpedo struck the carrier on her starboard side, rupturing two aviation-fuel tanks. At first, the damage did not appear to be very serious.

Another submarine, USS Cavalla, was able to maneuver to an attack position on the 25,675-ton carrier Shōkaku by about noon. The submarine fired a spread of six torpedoes, three of which struck the Shōkaku. Badly damaged, the carrier came to a halt. One torpedo had hit the forward aviation fuel tanks near the main hangar, and aircraft that had just landed and were being refueled exploded into flames. Ammunition and exploding bombs added to the conflagration, as did burning fuel spewing from shattered fuel pipes. With her bows subsiding into the sea and fires out of control, the captain gave orders to abandon ship. Within minutes, total catastrophe struck the vessel. Volatile gas fumes had accumulated throughout the vessel, and when an aerial bomb exploded on the hangar deck, a series of terrific explosions simply blew the ship apart about 140 miles (230 km) north of the island of Yap. The carrier rolled over and slid beneath the waves taking 887 navy officers and men plus 376 men of Air Group 601, a total of 1,263 men in all, to the seabed. There were 570 survivors, including the carrier's commander, Captain Hiroshi Matsubara. Futile attempts were made by destroyer Urakaze to destroy the submarine, but Cavalla escaped with relatively minor damage due to depth charge near misses from Urakaze.

Meanwhile, Taihō was falling victim to poor damage control. On the orders of an inexperienced damage-control officer, her ventilation system had been operating at full-blast in an attempt to clear explosive fumes from the ship. This instead had the effect of spreading the vapors throughout Taihō. At 17:32, she suffered a series of catastrophic explosions caused by the accumulated fumes igniting near an electric generator on the hangar deck. Of her complement of 1,751, a total of 1,650 crewmen were lost.

U.S. counterattack

Japanese Carrier Division Three under attack by United States Navy aircraft from Task Force 58, late afternoon, June 20, 1944. The heavy cruiser circling at right, nearest to the camera, is either Maya or Chōkai. Beyond that, is the small aircraft carrier Chiyoda.

TF-58 sailed west during the night to attack the Japanese at dawn. Search patrols were put up at first light.

Admiral Ozawa had transferred to the destroyer Wakatsuki after Taihō had been hit, but the radio gear onboard wasn't capable of sending the number of messages needed, so he transferred again, to the carrier Zuikaku, at 13:00. It was then he learned of the disastrous results of the previous day and that he had about 150 aircraft left. Nevertheless, he decided to continue the attacks, thinking there were still hundreds of aircraft on Guam and Rota, and started planning new raids for June 21.

American searches failed to locate the Japanese fleet until 15:40. However, the report made was so garbled that Mitscher knew neither what had been sighted nor where. At 16:05, a clearer report was received, and Mitscher decided to launch a large strike, even though there were only 75 minutes until sunset and his aviators didn't normally land at night because of the risk of significant losses due to landing mishaps. The attack went in at 18:30.

Ozawa had been able to put up very few fighters to intercept the incoming U.S. attack — no more than 35, according to later estimates, but these few were skillfully handled, even though the Japanese antiaircraft fire was intense. The U.S. raid, however, contained 550 aircraft, and the majority were able to press the attack.

The first ships sighted by the U.S. strike were oilers, and two of these were damaged so severely that they were later scuttled. The carrier Hiyo was attacked and hit by bombs and aerial torpedoes from four Grumman Avengers from Belleau Wood.

Hiyō was set afire after a tremendous blast from leaking aviation fuel. Dead in the water, she slipped stern first under the waves, taking the lives of 250 officers and men. The rest of her crew, about one thousand, survived to be rescued by Japanese destroyers. The carriers Zuikaku, Junyō, and Chiyoda were damaged by bombs, as was the battleship Haruna. Twenty American aircraft were lost in this strike.

At 20:45, the first U.S. aircraft began to return to TF 58. Knowing his aviators would have difficulty finding their carriers, Mitscher decided to fully illuminate his carriers, shining searchlights directly up into the night, despite the risk of attack from submarines and night-flying aircraft. Picket destroyers fired starshells to help the aircraft find the task groups. Despite this, 80 of the returning aircraft were lost, some crashing on flight decks, the majority going into the sea. Many of the crews were rescued over the next few days.


That night, Admiral Ozawa received orders from Toyoda to withdraw from the Philippine Sea. U.S. forces gave chase, but the battle was over.

The four Japanese air strikes involved 373 carrier aircraft, of which 130 returned to the carriers, and many more were lost on board when the two carriers were sunk on the first day by submarine attacks. After the second day the losses totaled three carriers, more than 433 carrier aircraft, and around 200 land-based aircraft. Losses on the U.S. side on the first day were only 23, and on the second 100, most of them resulting from the night landings.

The losses to the Japanese were irreplaceable. Of the Japanese naval air arm, only 35 out of Admiral Ozawa's 473 aircraft were left in a condition fit to fly. In the Battle of Leyte Gulf a few months later, their carriers were used solely as a decoy because of the lack of aircraft and aircrews to fly them.

The Japanese forces, which had not told the truth of battles since the Battle of Midway, which they had presented as a victory, had revealed the actual accounts of the simultaneous Battle of Saipan to the public, but the extent of the disaster of the Battle of the Philippine Sea led them to continue the obfuscating of defeats with it.[6]

Spruance was heavily criticized by many officers after the battle (and continues to be to this day) for his decision to initiate battle cautiously rather than exploiting his superior forces and intelligence data with a more aggressive posture; by failing to press the attack earlier and more forcefully, his critics argue, he might well have squandered the opportunity to envelop and destroy the entire Japanese strike force. However, it is instructive to compare Spruance's caution (particularly his suspicion of a diversionary force) with Admiral Halsey's later impetuous pursuit of an actual diversionary force at the Battle of Leyte Gulf that left inferior U.S. forces open to an attack off Samar by a Japanese surface action group composed of battleships, cruisers and destroyers. Furthermore, Spruance's conservative battle plan, while not destroying all of the Japanese aircraft carriers, did effectively drive the final nail into the coffin of the Japanese naval aviation forces by killing most of the remaining trained pilots and destroying their last operational reserves of naval aircraft. Without the time or resources to build sufficient aircraft and train experienced pilots, the surviving Japanese carriers were mere shadows of their former selves, a fact the Japanese recognized by using them as sacrificial decoys at Leyte Gulf. With the effective crippling of her best striking arm, Japan was increasingly forced to rely on land-based kamikaze suicide aircraft in a last-ditch effort to stave off total U.S. naval and air supremacy.


  1. ^ a b c Shores 1985, p. 205.
  2. ^ Shores 1985, p. 189.
  3. ^ Note-n1: So many planes were destroyed on the ground or intercepted transferring between bases that despite comparisons with captured surviving Japanese records, careful postwar analysis could not refine these estimates despite a massive prolonged effort.
  4. ^ "The Race for Radar and Stealth", 2006, Weapons Races program on the Military Channel affiliate of the Discovery network, rebroadcast periodically.
  5. ^ "History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II" pp. 260-61;; Strategic Victory in the Marianas Liberation of Guam; Capture of Saipan and Tinian
  6. ^ Edwin P. Hoyt, Japan's War, p 352 ISBN 0-07-030612-5

See also

United States Navy in World War II‎


  • Bryan III, Lt. Cmdr. J. Mission Beyond Darkness: The story of USS Lexington's Air Group 16 June 20, 1944 attack on the Japanese carrier fleet as told by the men who flew that day (1945)
  • Buell, Thomas B. The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987).
  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
  • Lacroix, Eric; Linton Wells (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-311-3.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot, New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944–August 1944, vol. 8 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (1950).
  • Shores, Christopher. Duel for the Sky: Ten Crucial Battles of World War II. Grub Street, London 1985. ISBN 978-0713716016
  • Smith, Douglas V. (2006). Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm's Way. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591147948.
  • Tillman, Barrett, (2006) Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II.
  • Y'Blood, William T. (1981). Red Sun Setting: The Battle of the Philippine Sea. Annapolis, Maryland: US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-994-0.

External links

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