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Syanda

The Battle off Samar, or why Carriers and DDs are OP

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Yes, that's "off", not "of", since it happened off the coast of Samar, one of the islands of the Philippines. Oddly, it's one of the lesser known naval engagements of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, despite being described as the US Navy's finest hour, bar none.

 

 So let's lay the scene. The American invasion of Japan-held Philippines in underway. The US 7th fleet, under MacArthur's command, is in charge of shepherding the Leyte Invasion Force. Supporting the invasion are small escort carrier groups, named the Taffy units. One of these, Taffy 3, consisted of six Casablanca-class escort carriers, weighing in at 7800 tons each. These are not the kind of tier 9-10 carriers we see in-game. Comparing a fleet carrier to an escort carrier is like comparing a luxury home to a shack. At this time, the Taffy 3 carriers were in charge of transporting planes and carrying out ground strikes against land targets. Babysitting them are 3 Fletcher-class Destroyers (DDs), the Hoel, Heerman, and Johnston, weighing in at 2050 tons each, as well as 4 John C. Butler-class Destroyer Escorts (DEs), the John C. Butler, Samuel B. Roberts, Dennis, and Raymond. Even smaller and less-armed then DDs, DEs weigh in at only 1350 tons, and carry two 5" guns to a DD's five, and 3 torpedoes to a DD's 10.

 

Unfortunately for Taffy 3, they were about to be recipients of a Japanese plan to wipe out the invading American forces. On the morning of October 25th, 1944, Taffy 3 faced a matchup that would have sent WoT/WoWS players screaming about how broken MM is.

 

Facing Taffy 3 is Admiral Kurita's Centre Force, consisting of the Nagato (32,720 tons), Kongo and Haruna (Kongo-class, 37,187 tons each), Kumano and Suzuya (Mogami-class, 13,670 tons each), Tone and Chikuma (Tone-class, 15,443 tons each), Haguro (Myouko-class, 13,500 tons), Choukai (Takao-class, 15,781 tons), as well as two light cruisers (Yahagi and Noshiro) and 11 destroyers. And of course, Kurita himself had his flag on the monstrous Yamato. Weighing in at 70,527 tons at full load, Yamato alone outmassed and outgunned the entire American force. And the first sign Taffy 3 got of the Japanese force against them was when Centre Force was already in gun range and ready to commence firing.

 

Yet, despite this absolutely unfair matchup, the Americans held. In the general melee that ensued, the American DDs and DEs fought hopeless delaying actions against the advancing battleships and cruisers. Of note was the DD Johnston, who immediately laid down a smokescreen and conducted a solo torpedo run against the entire advancing fleet (which some WoWS players would call a useless and stupid suicide run). Amazingly, Johnston made it into torpedo range and fired her full spread, blowing off Kumano's bow and forcing Kongo to turn away to avoid eating torps. Other destroyers and DEs began engaging the attacking cruisers and battleships in close-range gun duels. Samuel B. Roberts fought Chikuma with her two 5" guns and was winning until Kongo intervened. Yamato was forced to turn away from the battle by oncoming torpedoes launched from one of the DDs. Chikuma came under heavier fire from other DDs, and was damaged sufficiently that she eventually sank after the battle. And throughout the entire engagement, planes launched from the escort carriers harassed the advancing Japanese ships, forcing them to evade bombs, torpedoes, anti-ground rockets and even gunfire, as well as dry runs from bluffing planes that had already expended their ammunition. A near miss from aircraft caused Suzuya's torpedoes to explode, crippling and eventually sinking her, and unlucky Choukai received a critical hit from the single 5" gun that escort carriers were armed with, detonating her torpedoes and critically damaging her. Choukai immediately took a direct bomb hit from an airstrike, which eventually forced her to be scuttled.

 

Yet, the American forces paid the price, losing Johnston, Hoel, and Samuel B. Roberts, as well as one of the escort carriers (the first and only time America lost a carrier to naval gunfire). And despite their losses, the Japanese were in full position to wipe out Taffy 3 with their remaining ships. But bizarrely, on the cusp of victory, the Japanese admiral ordered his fleet to retreat. Harried by incessant attacks and paranoid about superior American reinforcements emerging, Kurita ordered all his forces to rendezvous with the Yamato and return home. The Americans, against all odds, won the Battle off Samar, and their attitude was summed up by a crewman onboard one of the escort carriers: "Goddammit, guys, they're getting away!"

 

For an excellent read about the Battle off Samar, I highly recommend James D. Hornfischer's The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. Alternatively, I invite you all to check out the wikipedia write-ups of the battles and the various ships. The Battle off Samar is one of the most exciting naval engagements in the Pacific theatre of war, and its a shame that it gets overshadowed by other, more well-known battles.

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I remember reading that Admiral Kurita had no hope left for the war by that time, and this hopelessness was a big reason for his retreat, and that one of the US destroyer crewmen wanted to wait so they could "suck the battleships into 40mm range."

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I remember reading that Admiral Kurita had no hope left for the war by that time, and this hopelessness was a big reason for his retreat

 

The entire war plan to assault the landings at Leyte was essentially supposed to be a one-way trip for the entire navy, one last gasp effort to seize victory or perish. Amazingly, Kurita decided NOT to do so when given his "heaven-sent opportunity" to break through Taffy 3 and hit the landing forces. To be fair, Kurita's state of mind had to be incredibly unstable by the Battle of Samar, after having been out of contact with Nishimura's force (which had been annihilated at Surigao Strait) and having lost Musashi to air attacks. With his own fleet taking air attacks while seemingly failing to destroy Taffy 3, Kurita basically gave up and ran home.

 

that one of the US destroyer crewmen wanted to wait so they could "suck the battleships into 40mm range."

 

One of the escort carrier crewmen, actually.

Edited by Syanda

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Beta Tester
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Ah Taffy 3. My Go to style when i use my USN DD's. get in close guns blazing then fire the Torps.

 

Best way to describe my USN DD gameplay Johnston.

 

Doco from youtube: 

Edited by Lupis

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Beta Tester
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Imagine if things goes the other way around if Admiral Kurita push harder and make correct decisions.. still these kind of battles which matters choices does affect the entire outcome of one operation...

 

and don't forget the initial stages of the Pacific War.. The Attack on Pearl Harbor which would devastate the US Pacific Fleet if Admiral Nagumo Proceeds with the Second or Third Attack.. and the Showdown in Midway which if he chose to launch all of 1st Carrier and 2nd Carrier Group to attack the US Fleet with their Current Load Out..(Contact Bombs) 

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History will do change if that happens. if either of those turning points in the war happen in the way that our History Class and Veterans told us about.

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If Kurita had pushed, he'd still be up against the planes of Taffies 1 and 2, and the survivors of Taffy 3 who would be utilizing the airfield after their flattops were sunk. Furthermore, 7th fleet still had Oldendorf's battle line, which although was running low on AP ammunition after wrecking the Nishimura fleet, would likely still have been sufficient to deal with the damaged survivors of Centre Force. It's highly doubtful that Kurita would've successfully repulsed the invasion fleet - if he had continued as planned, we'd probably read about the sinking of Yamato, Kongou and Nagato a bit differently. 

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I see nothing that makes DD's and CV's OP in that battle. 

 

The only thing that was OP there were the BALLS OF ADAMANTIUM and NERVES OF TITANIUM that those Destroyer crews had in taking on the overwhelming  Japanese fleet. The sheer bravery of those men is to be saluted.

 

The best way to sum up that battle is this quote:

 

"With Courage, Nothing Is Impossible"

Edited by RighteousFury

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Just think about Yamato and the other BB bombarding Leyte and Samar full of infantry. That'll be a very horrifying picture in history if they succeeded. 

This would then prolong the war as the Philippines is a very strategic position in order to cut off the Imperial Japanese Forces in other southeast asian countries.

It was a good thing that upon the invasion of the american fleet, the IJN CVs were sunk in the battle of midway and reduced their aircraft strength. :D

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