The Official Newsletter of the
Shenandoah Valley Chapter #313
Korean War Veterans Association
Volume 12, Issue 03
Paul E. Bombardier, Editor
An Epic saga of the Tin Can Navy.
A Narrative submitted by Ray Ewing.
The invasion of Leyte, Philippine Islands in October 1944 was supported by the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet under the command of Vice Adm. Thomas Kincaid. Because this Fleet was under the overall command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur the men often referred to themselves as “MacArthur’s Navy”. This fleet consisted of older battleships that had been raised and overhauled from the Pearl Harbor disaster, cruisers, destroyers and small escort carriers and supporting vessels. These escort carriers (CVEs) cheaply built, were intended for transporting aircraft to needed areas and the provide air cover and support for invading forces. They were protected by a screen of destroyers and destroyer escorts, “Tin Cans”.
To the North and East lay the mighty Third fleet under the command of Adm. William “Bull” Halsey comprised of the latest fast carriers and battleships tasked with providing overall support and cover. This fleet has often been calorized as the most powerful fleet ever assembled.
USS New Jersey (BB-62) Admiral Halsey’s Flagship.
Imperial Japanese Navy in its last desperate effort to change the course of the war in the Pacific planned a three prong attack to obstruct and destroy the invasion force. First there was a force steaming from Japan toward the Philippines from the North in hopes of drawing the Third Fleet away from its supporting responsibilities.
A Southern Force approached the Leyte Gulf through the Surigao Straits north of Mindanao as the heavy main fleet, the Center Force approached Leyte Gulf through the San Bernardino Straits.
In short Adm. Halsey, not fully aware of the threat, fell for the ruse to the north and pulled all the Third Fleet out in pursuit of this Northern Force without fully apprising headquarters of his actions. When Adm. Nimitz monitoring the action back in headquarters at Pearl Harbor realized the full extent of the threat and that Halsey was not in place, wired a message asking “where is Halsey?” with an unintentional ending phrase “the world wonders”. He was well underway to the north.
This left only the rather widely spread Seventh Fleet to support and defend the invasion force. The major arm of this fleet composed of the battleships and cruisers lay off shore while the escort carriers and their support and screen vessels lay close in. Divisions of this taskforce was known as Taffy 1, Taffy 2 and Taffy 3, and lay from Mindanao northerly to Samar.
In night action the Seventh Fleet’s 6 battleship group under the command of Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf was able to inflict
(Cont. on next page 6).)