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Battle of Surigao Strait

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The Battle of Surigao Strait was, to date, the final line battle in naval history. Yamashiro was the last battleship to engage another in combat, and one of very few to have been sunk by another battleship during World War II. This was also the last battle in which one force (the Americans, in this case) was able to cross the T of its opponent, enabling the U.S. ships to bring all their firepower to bear on the Japanese ships.

The Battle Edit

Surigao straight

The Battle of Surigao Strait.

Nishimura's "Southern Force" consisted of the battleships Yamashiro and Fusō, the cruiser Mogami, and four destroyers. They were attacked by bombers on October 24 but sustained only minor damage.

Because of the strict radio silence imposed on the Central and Southern Forces, Nishimura was unable to synchronise his movements with Shima and Kurita. When he entered the narrow Surigao Strait at about 02:00 Shima was 40 km behind him, and Kurita was still in the Sibuyan Sea, several hours from the beaches at Leyte.

As they passed the cape of Panaon Island, they ran into a deadly trap set for them by the 7th Fleet Support Force. Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had six battleships (Mississippi, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania, all but the Mississippi having been resurrected from Pearl Harbor), eight cruisers (heavy cruisers USS Louisville (Flagship), Portland, Minneapolis and HMAS Shropshire, light cruisers USS Denver, Columbia, Phoenix, Boise), 28 destroyers and 39 Patrol/Torpedo boats. To pass the strait and reach the landings, Nishimura would have to run the gauntlet of torpedoes from the PT boats, evade two groups of destroyers, proceed up the strait under the concentrated fire of six battleships in line across the far mouth of the strait, and then break through the screen of cruisers and destroyers.

At about 03:00, Fusō and the destroyers Asagumo, Yamagumo, and Mishishio were hit by torpedoes launched by the destroyer groups. Fusō broke in two, but did not sink. Then at 03:16, USS West Virginia's radar picked up Nishimura's force at a range of 42,000 yards (38 km) and had achieved a firing solution at 30,000 yards (33 km). She tracked them as they approached in the pitch black night. At 03:52, West Virginia unleashed her eight 16 inch (406 mm) guns of the main battery at a range of 22,800 yards (25 km), striking the leading Japanese battleship with her first salvo. At 03:54, USS California and USS Tennessee opened fire. Radar fire control allowed these American battleships to hit targets from a distance at which the Japanese could not reply because of their inferior fire control systems. Yamashiro and Mogami were crippled by a combination of 14-inch (356mm) and 16-inch (406 mm) armour-piercing shells. Shigure turned and fled, but lost steering and stopped dead. Yamashiro sank at 04:19.

Aftermath Edit

At 04:25, Shima's two cruisers (Nachi and Ashigara) and eight destroyers reached the battle. Seeing what they thought were the wrecks of both Nishimura's battleships (actually the two halves of Fusō), he ordered a retreat. His flagship, Nachi, collided with Mogami, flooding the latter's steering-room. Mogami fell behind in the retreat and was sunk by aircraft the next morning. The bow half of Fusō was destroyed by Louisville and the stern half sank off Kanihaan Island. Of Nishimura's seven ships, only Shigure survived.

References Edit

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