THE BATTLE OFF SAMAR
Dawn of the 25th found the three escort carrier groups of the Seventh Fleet moving slowly westward at fourteen knots from their assigned night stations seaward into positions closer to Leyte Gulf. The day's missions, which they started launching at earliest dawn, included not only the routine combat and antisubmarine patrols for their own ships and those in the gulf, but air support and spotting missions for the troops ashore as well as strikes against enemy ships retiring from the battle of Surigao Strait. It promised to be an active day, with several long-distance flights scheduled, and perhaps for that reason the northernmost of the three CVE groups moved in closer to land than usual.
Admiral Kinkaid had ordered two searches of the sea area between San Bernardino Strait and the escort carriers, one by night and one at dawn. By a fateful miscarriage in operations, however, both searches proved ineffective. Nothing was heard from the Black Cats sent up to the Strait at night, and the dawn search assigned the CVE Ommaney Bay of the southernmost group was not launched until the sun was more than half an hour high and the usefulness of the search was already lost.
The fact was that attention was naturally focused on exciting events to the southward in Surigao Strait. By interception of messages some of the CVE's had been able to follow the course of the battle. Anticipating an opportunity for air strikes on cripples the following morning, Kinkaid had ordered all carriers of the Middle Group to be prepared at