- Series: Twentieth-Century Battles
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Indiana University Press; First edition (April 14, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0253352428
- ISBN-13: 978-0253352422
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 56 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,464,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Battle of Surigao Strait (Twentieth-Century Battles) Hardcover – April 14, 2009
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"Aims to sort out the discrepancies that have crept in over time to standard accounts of the battle... a confused and complex night action. Of special interest is Tully's exploitation of fresh source materials." —Malcolm Muir, Jr., author of Black Shoes and Blue Water: Surface Warfare in the United States Navy, 1945–1975(Malcolm Muir, Jr., author of Black Shoes and Blue Water: Surface Warfare in the United States Navy, 1945–1975)
"If the vibrant international community of experts who study the Pacific War and discuss and debate it online can be seen as a mafia, then Anthony Tully is its consigliere. Whenever a question arises about the battle history of World War II in the Pacific--what really happened after the fleets collided, dive-bombers entered their dives, and shot met plate--he is the indispensable man. In this book he paints Admiral Nishimura's high-speed run into history with an entirely fresh palette of detail, from the command decisions to the after-action reports. It offers naval history buffs something fresh and easy to relish on almost every page" —James D. Hornfischer, author of Ship of Ghosts and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors(James D. Hornfischer, author of Ship of Ghosts and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors)
"[I]n Battle of Surigao Strait Anthony Tully has managed to trace the complicated flow of and reason for events on the nights of 24-25 October with a skill and aplomb that forces one to reconsider previously held views." —Naval History, October 1, 2009(Naval History 2009-01-00)
"Tully's narrative is clear and clarifies a confused night battle in restricted waters. He disputes several perceived truths about the battle by giving the reader a complete record of what each ship was doing at each stage of the battle." —Military Review
, May-June 2010
"With copious endnotes, an extensive and interesting bibliography and thorough index, this book is worth buying by serious students of the Pacific War and for institutional libraries with a strong military history focus." —The Journal of Naval History, 2010(The Journal of Naval History 2010-01-00)
"The skilful incorporation of personal testimony from those involved is what really elevates this work above run-of-the-mill naval history and turns it into something special." —Warship, 2011(Warship 2011-01-00)
"By giving a fuller view of the Japanese side, Tully's work forces a substantial revision of the traditional picture of the battle. Battle of Surigao Strait is not only military history based on scrupulous use of a plethora of new source materials, but is a spanking good read. Highly recommended." —War in History, 18(2)(War in History)
About the Author
Anthony P. Tully is an independent scholar and historian of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He is author (with Jon Parshall) of Shattered Sword, a study of the Battle of Midway. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
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And since was the LAST battleship on battleship engagement EVER, and 5 of the 6 US battleships that participated were veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese thought they put them out of the war for good, yet here they were Oct. 24-25, crossing the Japmese T in a night action. Night battles used to be the Japanese forte.
I’ll leave the rest to the raeder’s imagination. I actually bought two. One for my son, a Surface Warfare Officer currently serving in the United States Navy.
Surigao Strait was one of the most one-sided naval victories in history, with the US Navy sinking two battleships and three destroyers, for the loss of no ships and only 36 men -- from their own misplaced shells -- and the final time battleships would slug it out in a "fire-away Flanagan" from the 19th century. When USS Mississippi checked fire in that battle, it signaled the end of the 'line-of-battle' that had stretched all the way back to the beginning of gunpowder.
Interestingly, the battleships at this engagement included five that had been beaten up at Pearl Harbor, exacting revenge on their Japanese tormentors for the 1941 humiliation.
Mr. Tully did a tremendous job in researching and writing this book, and the detail is immense, and the narrative flows. I highly recommend this work to any serious student of the Pacific War.
It really needs an editor/proofreader. There are a number of typos, and also a lot of clumsy syntax that distracts from the narrative. But worst of all are the maps.
1. The map of the Philippines is general, and has very few labels. Yet the author continuously refers to ship positions in relation to certain islands. One has no idea where those islands are. I had to go online and print out my own map of the PI.
2. The map of the approaches is tiny, and is only one of the plates in the picture section of the book. It should have been full page. Worse, the longitude is wrong. The map correctly has 120E passing thru (unlabeled) Coron Island. Then the longitude numbers decrease rather than increase as one goes Eastward. Thus it shows 115E passing thru Samar, rather than 125E.
3. The more detailed map of the battle has the longitude correct, but inexplicably leaves out the initial, and very successful, torpedo attack by Coward's tin can's.
That said, this is a most valuable addition to the literature on Leyte Gulf, and has found a permanent place on my bookshelf.
This new book shows that this view of the operation is simplistic. The book starts with the Japanese staff planning for the operation, and while this seemed odd to an American reading it, I began to realize why as the action unfolded. The battle in Surigao Strait happened when and where it did because the Japanese planned it that way -- C not because of anything that happened on the American side. The Japanese plan to disrupt a US invasion of the Philippines, "Sho-Go 1", was necessary strategically because our occupation of these islands would create a barrier in the sea lines of communication between Japan and their sources of oil and rubber in the Southeast Asian islands they had conquered at the beginning of the war. This would separate the IJN's fuel sources from its repair yards and ammunition sources, eliminating it as a fighting force however many ships were still intact, and naturally, could not be tolerated by C in C Combined Fleets.
The author shows how Combined Fleets worked out a plan that took advantage of the rather limited resources they still had at this stage of the war. By bringing in Japanese sources that were unavailable to Morison, such as the memoirs of survivors (published in Japanese between 1945 and 1980) and official records, he shows that the Second Striking Force was conceived as a diversion to Kurita's main assault on Leyte (the one that was turned back in the more celebrated Battle off Samar). He also makes it evident that the Second Striking Force's instructions, which have been known to historians for a long time, need to be seen in the proper light. V-Adm. Nishimura, CO of the force, was essentially being ordered to sacrifice his force to make the USN concentrate on Surigao rather than San Bernardino Strait where the main attack was coming. In Japanese culture you don't have to spell this out in the text of the orders -- the Admiral understood all too well what was being asked of him, a fact that becomes evident as the author leads us through his actions and radio reports to C in C Combined Fleets. Instead, the impression one gets in this first part of the book is that for a rapidly collapsing empire, Japan still boasted a staff corps that predicted the time frame and targets of the US landings in the Philippines quite accurately, as well as planning their counter-stroke with impressive skill. This is far from concentrating forces only at the intended battle site so they could be defeated piecemeal, a criticism leveled at the Japanese by Morison. It is still questionable if Combined Fleets might have been too clever. They had a plan for two diversions within a single operation, and perhaps that was just getting too complex in a theater where they had already lost air superiority.
The author also lets us get to know some of the Japanese commanders, and his portraits ring profoundly true. The force Admiral Nishimura is given includes two frumpy old battleships left over from the previous war, Fuso and Yamashiro. To stiffen this force -- the old ladies had been serving as training ships in home waters for several years -- Combined Fleets gave him the new cruiser Mogami, whose Captain Toma thought he was being thrown away on this operation and viewed the old battleships with thinly veiled contempt. This contempt was unfortunately fed by two friendly fire incidents in which Mogami was fired upon by its own side. Nishimura, an expert on torpedo warfare, was convinced his force could get through the narrow strait (ten miles wide) even if it was defended by torpedo boats. He hadn't expressed an opinion as to whether the same held true against destroyers. Nishimura comes across as a man worthy of our respect. He took on a mission he knew was probably suicidal but carried it out to the letter. He remained at his post till the flagship sank under him, ordering the crew to abandon ship but making no attempt to save himself. That the Japanese survivors, after they got together in POW camps and postwar, talked it over among themselves and decided the whole debacle was his fault is a monstrous injustice that the author has done his best to undo.
The account is very readable and keeps you on the edge of your seat as the forces meet and all hell breaks loose. The Japanese push aside the US PT boats guarding the entrance, then advance up the strait. In this battle weather played an amazingly strong role. It was one of those humid, misty, still nights with rain squalls passing across the area that those of us who have lived in the tropics know so well, and in that environment, the fact that the US had effective radar while the Japanese relied more on their powerful night binoculars and lookouts put the latter at a profound disadvantage as the US destroyers formed up for a torpedo attack. The Japanese fired back with their much superior torpedoes, as well as their guns. They achieved little. When they closed to gun range the US force of cruisers and older battleships -- many of them Pearl Harbor survivors -- got the chance to open up with their big guns. Most of the Japanese force was annihilated, only Mogami, another cruiser, and a destroyer managing to turn around and retreat (the former at 14 knots, with 3 of her 4 engine rooms flooded and abandoned and the one remaining engine running in a space that was so hot it could no longer be manned). Ironically, US Adm. Oldendorf had concentrated his entire force at the exit to Surigao Strait to achieve this overwhelming advantage in force, which was exactly what Japan's planners intended. Had Kurita's First Striking force, its flagship Yamato the biggest battleship ever built, not turned back after its encounter with the destroyers and "Jeep carriers" of Taffy 3 off Samar, the Japanese planners would have gotten what they wanted -- Kurita could have transited San Bernardino strait into Leyte Gulf unopposed, with some possibility he could have attacked the transports providing logistics to Macarthur's landing force before Oldendorf could maneuver to intercept. (In addition, Oldendorf's battleships had expended most of their armor-piercing ammunition at Surigao Strait, so had there been a Battle of Leyte Gulf it might have ended badly for the Allies.) This result was "helped" by US Admiral Halsey's falling for the bait of the Japanese Northern Force of aircraft carriers under Adm. Ozawa and pulling all of his forces away from San Bernardino Strait to chase them, including the more modern US battleships that Oldendorf thought were left to guard the strait. In short, the Leyte Gulf warfare, like most warfare, was marked by humans doing what they do -- displaying bravery, foolhardiness, or cowardice, and making decisions poorly or well using the inadequate data they had available to them.
So, a classic story of war at sea is told in this book. That is not to say it's without problems. A few minor irritations persist through the text, what I like to call an ¡°informality¡± not consistent with the great events being chronicled. It almost seems that the author¡¯s notes or rough draft were typeset and became the final text. "Through¡± is spelled ¡°thru¡± most of the time ¨C acceptable for road signs but not proper English on either side of the Atlantic. More jarring is the author¡¯s familiar use of nicknames current at the time: Adm. Oldendorf is ¡°Oley" every now and then. I'm sure he was really called that by his crews (if not to his face by his staff); American tradition certainly includes nicknames for people whose real names have more than 2 syllables. However, that doesn¡¯t make it appropriate in a history book. Even worse is the author's use of USN abbreviations for Japanese units. The sentence "The four DD¡¯s formed up for a torpedo attack¡± is too self-consciously jargon for me, even if they were USN destroyers. When they are IJN destroyers it really doesn¡¯t work at all, and it's even worse when they are called ¡°DesRon 2"! It might be that the IJN had a "Destroyer Squadron 2", but using the USN abbreviation just makes the text confusing. Erring on the other side, the author also fails to explain what ¡°Sho-Go¡± means in Japanese, leaving us uncertain if it is a code name, a descriptive name, or an acronym (remember, the Japanese don't use the same alphabet as we do; perhaps "sho¡± is one character and ¡°go¡± is another).
This is a very worthwhile book in spite of its minor flaws. It is likely to remain unchallenged as the definitive account of the battle until there is a forensic investigation of the wreckage on the bottom of Surigao Strait.