SORTIE OF THE IMPERIAL FLEET
Only once in the two years that had passed since the hard- pressed, bitterly fought days of Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal had the Japanese Fleet ventured out in strength to offer battle. Even in the critical actions of 1942 nothing like full scale commitments had been made on either side, and while the Battle of the Philippine Sea brought out a large part of the enemy fleet the engagement had been confined to air action. None of our many landing operations in 1943 and, with the single exception of the Marianas, none in the following year had been challenged by major forces of the Japanese Navy.
The westward sweep of our Pacific offensive had by the fall of 1944 converged in two mighty thrusts aimed at the Philippine Islands, flanking them from the east and south. On September 15 simultaneous landings were made on Peleliu Island of the Palau Group and on Morotai in the Moluccas. The Peleliu landing brought the Central Pacific Forces, under the command of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, to the Western Caroline Islands within five hundred miles east of Mindanao. The path of their advance had been westward from the Gilbert Islands through the Marshalls and Marianas. By the landing on Morotai General Douglas MacArthur advanced the frontier of his Southwest Pacific Forces, which had pushed northwest along the coast of New Guinea, to within three hundred miles southeast of Mindanao. The Philippines lay ahead as the next great objective.
Would the landing in the Philippines precipitate the long-