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Leyte Gulf: Armada in the Pacific Paperback – 1969
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The series as a whole is slightly outdated by the disclosures from Allied codebreaking, and suffered from being whipped together in a hurry, but they remain then and now a fine introduction to conflict in the 20th century -- if you can find them.
Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history, and probably the last major fleet engagement the world will ever see, now that the Soviet Navy has gone out of business. It involved every aspect of 20th-century naval warfare -- carrier strikes, submarine attacks, battleship "Fire-Away Flanagans," destroyer torpedo attacks, Kamikaze attacks, immense controversies, and an amphibious assault. Some of the largest, powerful, and well-known warships in history (to that time) were involved in the battle, along with obscure destroyer escorts and escort carriers, meeting ghastly fates. The only thing lacking was an all-out battleship slugfest between the US Navy's modern battleships and any edition of their nautical rivals.
The canvas of this battle was the ocean surrounding the Philippine Islands, and the combatants were the two largest and most powerful navies in the world, the US Navy, which was probably the best arm the United States fielded in the war, and the Imperial Japanese Navy, gambling its surviving ships, planes, and men on one last desperate throw of the dice to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.
When the smoke cleared and the guns fell silent, the Japanese pagoda forecastles headed back in retreat, leaving behind four carriers, three battleships, and a number of cruisers and destroyers on the Pacific bottom. The US Navy took some losses, missed a chance to completely eviscerate some of the surviving ships, but the equation came out the same -- the Imperial Japanese Navy was finished as a coherent fighting force. There would be a few more scattershot sorties by individual ships -- the Yamato's kamikaze voyage to Okinawa and the cruiser Haguro's doomed run to Singapore are two examples -- but Leyte Gulf marked the final effort of the Imperial Japanese Navy's battle line and carrier fleet. Leyte Gulf wiped the Imperial Japanese Navy off the Pacific Ocean.
Donald MacIntyre was a serving Royal Navy officer turned naval historian, so he bring's a seaman's eye to this incredible battle, combined with a great deal of research and understanding. It's difficult to tell the story of this lengthy and widespread battle in the slim limits of a Ballantine book, but Capt. MacIntyre does a fine job. The usual excellent Ballantine maps and photographs back up his effort...one photograph is haunting, a poorly-focused shot of the Japanese battleships departing from Singapore's Lingga Roads on their ill-fated voyage, in the gathering dusk. It is the last time the Imperial Japanese Navy's battlefleet ever goes to sea.
Because of the tight format, there isn't much for deckplate accounts, but the big picture decisions are covered well, along with an entire chapter on Vice Adm. Bill Halsey's decision-making process. I have often felt that Halsey should have been at Philippine Sea and Spruance at Leyte Gulf -- the results would have been much better in both situations for the Americans.
However, none of this detracts from the power. Leyte Gulf is a gripping naval battle, and Donald MacIntyre renders a gripping introductory account of it in this book.
What with a desperate enemy on the ropes. Who hopes to hold on to their ill gotten Empire against some very unfriendly Americans led by the Navy's version of Patton - Admiral William "Bull" Halsey.
What follows is one glorious fight what with some very effective Submarine attacks, the Last Battleship Fight where the enemy gets their T crossed, the Destruction/ Sacrifice of the Japanese Aircraft Carriers, the Japanese Battle Line going against Jeep carriers & the Bulls Run. It's one hell of a story and its told very well indeed!