Operation Sho 1 and the Battles for Leyte ( “the Second Battle of the Philippines Sea” )


This complex series of events, combining MacArthur’s infantry and “his Navy” (7th Fleet) and the ships of Halsey’s Task Force 38, began on October 17, 1944.  TF 38 supported the landings, and became involved in a series of naval battles from Oct. 23 through Oct. 26.

Excerpts from “The End of the Japanese Imperial Navy” by Masanori Ito (Ito devoted 72 pages analyzing Sho (Victory) 1 (Philippines Region)  –  the “decisive navy battle to destroy the American Fleet”):    The order to activate Operation Sho 1 was given on the night of 17 October,  following verification of the enemy’s landing an Suluan. With proper reconnaissance Japan might have detected the assembling of enemy forces at Hollandia (MacArthur’s invasion forces) and activated Sho 1 as early as 10 October, or at least by 14 October, when the giant U.S. Naval force sortied . . .

It is a fascinating look at the series of battles from the Japanese perspective.  From the last few pages:  . . .  The Japanese defeat at the battle of Leyte Gulf was indeed miserable.  Losses came to 3 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 9 cruisers, 13 destroyers, and 5 submarines, for a total of 34 ships; while the enemy only lost four.  The score was one-sided to an extent rarely seen in warfare.  It was a complete revenge for Pearl Harbor.

A fundamental cause of this debacle must be attributed to the operation objective, which was really an invitation to disaster.  The Sho 1 Operation orders were the death warrant of the Combined Fleet.  It was beyond common sense to think that a surface force could sortie for enemy territory 1,000 miles distant, without air cover, and hope to have a chance of attacking transports which were protected by vastly superior enemy forces.

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