Led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, more than 100,000 American soldiers landed on Leyte Island, Philippines, on October 20, 1944, prepared to finally put a stop to the ongoing abuse of the Japanese soldiers. The battle that took place on the island has to be one of the most frightening ever recorded during the entire history of the Pacific. This signaled the end of Japan’s tyranny in the country.
In May 1942, the US succumbed to Japan’s power. American forces were defeated by Japanese forces, which forced General MacArthur to flee from the Philippines. To make matters worse, General Wainwright was also captured. But before leaving the country, MacArthur made a promise to come back and make the Japanese surrender. The US knew that in order to succeed, they needed to weaken Japanese soldiers’ defenses. This led them to the planning of their amphibious landing in Leyte, the sole purpose of which was to abolish the Japanese fleet that was stationed in the gulf.
However, Japanese officers were smart and have anticipated the US’ intentions. They came up with Operation Sho-Go in an attempt to confuse the U.S. 3rd Fleet, with the hopes that this would steer clear from the fight that was to happen on the island. The Japanese fleet included seven battleships, 11 heavy cruisers, and 19 destroyers – this was considered the largest ocean task force during the war. But the American soldiers were not about to back down. Armed with their submarines and aircraft carriers, they met the Japanese fleet on October 23rd. This marked the beginning of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Meanwhile, Japanese troops that consisted of about 80,000 soldiers tried to defend their stand as American soldiers were adamant to take control of Leyte Island. In 67 days, American troops’ courage and physical bravery triumphed; they successfully subdued the island. The remaining Japanese soldiers who have been in hiding during this time were not ready to give up just yet and tried to fight until the end, choosing death over surrendering to their greatest foe. The fight cost the Japanese more than 55,000 soldiers in just a course of two months and an additional of 25,000 more during the mopping up operations in 1945. In comparison, there were only about 3,500 U.S. forces casualties, a far cry from the 80,000 deaths in the Japanese’ camp.
The same scenario was seen in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Both parties lost soldiers during the fight. The Princeton, an American carrier, was sunk by the Japanese, which killed 500 men in the process. Similarly, the Japanese lost their battleship Musashi, destroyed by an American aerial attack, taking with it 1,000 lives that included the ship’s captain. In three days, 36 Japanese warships were destroyed while the Americans on the other hand lost three. Hungry to win against their enemies, the Japanese resorted to using suicide bombers or Japanese kamikaze, also known as the “divine wind”. The American aircraft carrier St. Lo was one of their victims – a kamikaze pilot drove straight to it.
The battle ended with General MacArthur successfully recapturing Philippines from the hands of Japanese soldiers. It was the end of Japan’s rule over the country. They sacrificed 5,000 kamikaze pilots only to face defeat and the end of the Japanese Imperial fleet.
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