The End of the War
(October 1944-September 1945)
As the war in Europe drew to a close the British became increasingly concerned about the future of the ' Grand Alliance', and particularly about the role of the Soviet Union. When the Americans began to withdraw troops from Europe to finish off the Pacific war it was obvious that the Soviet Union would be overwhelmingly powerful on the Continent. Both Roosevelt and Truman refused to consider delaying the shipment of these troops and felt that British warnings were part of a sinister attempt to play the Russians off against the Americans in order to strengthen their position in Europe. With Britain facing a severe financial crisis and clearly relegated to the status of a second-rate power, there was precious little that could be done but to give way to the Americans. This did nothing to lessen the fury in Whitehall at having to listen to American denunciations of British imperialism and power politics, so frequently delivered with equal measures of platitude and hypocrisy.
The Japanese entrusted the land defence of the Philippines to General Yamashita, the victor of Malaya, but they staked everything on a battle at sea. Yamashita was to pin down the landing forces while the navy lured the American fleet to the north where it would be destroyed in a pincer movement. The Americans landed first at Leyte, a small island in the central Philippines, in order to divide the Japanese forces. The ensuing naval battle in Leyte Gulf was the largest naval engagement of all time. There were in fact four separate battles in which classic tactics of 'crossing the T' by Admiral Oldendorf's battleships were combined with the modern technique of sinking ships from aircraft carriers. The Japanese used their kamikaze pilots for the first time, but not to much effect. In the course of the battle, an unusually confused and confusing encounter,