The Battle for Leyte Gulf

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE BATTLE OFF CAPE ENGAÑO

Vice Admiral Ozawa, commander of the Japanese Northern Force of carriers, entered the Battle for Leyte Gulf expecting, he said, the "complete destruction" of his fleet. In that expectation he was not to be disappointed, at least in so far as his carriers were concerned. His attitude, however, was dictated neither by the Shinto Code nor by Oriental fatalism, but by a deliberate plan. Under interrogation in Tokyo after the war, Ozawa fully confirmed the purpose of his mission as it was indicated in the plans for the Sho Operation. When asked to characterize the primary purpose of his mission, the admiral replied without hesitation:

"A decoy, that was our first primary mission, to act as a decoy. My fleet could not very well give direct protection to Kurita's force because we were very weak, so I tried to attack as many American carriers as possible, and to be the decoy or target for your attack. I tried to let Kurita's fleet have little attack from you. The main mission was all sacrifice. An attack with a very weak force of planes comes under the heading of sacrifice of planes and ships." Ozawa gave Admiral Toyoda credit for originating this plan.

Deliberate sacrifice of the remaining Japanese naval air power, while undoubtedly a desperate measure, was not so desperate and revolutionary as it might at first appear. The sacrifice had, in effect, already been made by Toyoda when he stripped Ozawa's carriers of more than half their planes for the defense of Formosa. Already seriously depleted and unable to rebuild their strength in time for the defense of

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