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The Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Last Fleet Action

H. P. Willmott

Publication Year: 2005

"The Battle of Leyte Gulf was an extremely unusual battle. It was unusual on five separate counts that are so obvious that they are usually missed. It was unusual in that it was a series of actions, not a single battle. It was unusual as a naval battle in that it was fought over five days; historically, naval battles have seldom spread themselves over more than one or two days. It was unusual in terms of its name. This battle involved a series of related actions subsequently grouped together under the name of just one of these engagements, but in fact none of the actions were fought inside Leyte Gulf.... More importantly, it was unusual in that it was a full-scale fleet action fought after the issue of victory and defeat at sea had been decided, and it was unusual in that it resulted in clear, overwhelming victory and defeat." -- from Chapter One

The Battle of Leyte Gulf -- October 22-28, 1944 -- was the greatest naval engagement in history. In fact the battle was four separate actions, none of which were fought in the Gulf itself, and the result was the destruction of Japanese naval power in the Pacific. This book is a detailed and comprehensive account of the fighting from both sides. It provides the context of the battle, most obviously in terms of Japanese calculations and the search for "a fitting place to die" and "the chance to bloom as flowers of death." Using Japanese material never previously noted in western accounts, H.P. Willmott provides new perspectives on the unfolding of the battle and very deliberately seeks to give readers a proper understanding of the importance of this battle for American naval operations in the following month. This careful interrogation of the accounts of "the last fleet action" is a significant contribution to military history.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Twentieth-Century Battles


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pp. vii

List of Maps

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pp. viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix

List of Diagrams

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pp. x

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pp. xi-xii

In the preparation of this book acknowledgment must be made to those who, over many years and whether in the form of conferences, letters, or general conversation, provided me with the basis of knowledge and critical facility that made this work possible. ...

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One The Nature of War and of Victory

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pp. 1-11

One is tempted to suggest that there are only two problems in the study of naval history: naval historians and naval officers. The study of naval power and naval history is the prerogative of those who lack either or both. Those with naval power are never to be found in the ranks of theorists and commentators ...

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Two The Option of Difficulties: The American Situation in the Aftermath of the Victory in the Philippine Sea

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pp. 12-34

War lends itself to the sound bite as instant wisdom, but amid the clichés and the wisdom that single sentences allegedly impart to proceedings, two perhaps have relevance to the situation that confronted the United States in the wake of her navy’s victory in the Philippine Sea in June 1944. ...

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Three The Search for Solutions: The Japanese Situation in the Aftermath of Defeat in the Philippine Sea

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pp. 35-57

What does a nation and its navy do after “the decisive battle,” which the navy had gone to war and sought to fight and win and on which the security and well-being of the nation was dependent, has been fought and lost? In an obvious sense, the only sensible thing that Japan could have done was to have sought an end to the war ...

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Four Preliminaries: 6–18 October 1944

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pp. 58-78

On the afternoon of Friday, 6 October 1944, Task Groups 38.2 (Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan) and 38.3 (Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman) sailed from Ulithi. Task Group 38.1 (Vice Admiral John S. McCain) had sailed from Seeadler harbor, at Manus, on 4 October, and Task Group 38.4 ...

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Five Advance and Contact: 18–24 October 1944

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pp. 79-135

After two days of initial sweeping, clearance, and fire upon Japanese positions ashore in the course of which one LCI was lost and one seaplane tender and two destroyers were damaged,1 American troops were put ashore on northeast Leyte on 20 October. On the day of the assault landings the American formations put ashore ...

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Six The Great Day of Wrath: 25 October 1944

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pp. 136-216

Accounts of the naval battle for the Philippines invariably follow the three sets of action of 25 October 1944 singly and in sequence, namely the action in the Surigao Strait involving the formations of Nishimura and Shima, the surface action off Samar that involved Kurita’s battle formations, ...

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Seven The Naval Battle for the Philippines: The Postscript, 26 October–30 November 1944

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pp. 217-236

Historically, battle, whether on land or at sea, has possessed three terms of reference: it has been fought in line of sight, at very short range, and within the hours of daylight of a single day. When making such a definition, the exceptions that prove the rule immediately and forcefully present themselves. ...

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Eight To Pause and Consider: Blame, Responsibility, and the Verdict of History

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pp. 237-266

This account of the naval battle for the Philippines has sought to avoid the problems normally associated with accounts of the battle of Leyte Gulf. It has sought to provide full and detailed coverage of the four main actions, 24–25 October, that together constitute the battle, and it has sought to properly set out ...


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pp. 267-332


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pp. 333-372

Primary Sources

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pp. 373-376

Secondary Sources

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pp. 377-382


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pp. 383-398

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003515
E-ISBN-10: 0253003512
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253345288

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos, 9 maps
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Twentieth-Century Battles