The Chrysler Building
Musashi

Japan's Super-Battleship MUSASHI was the largest and most fearsome ship ever built.  Literally the size of the Chrysler building, she was three times heavier than our largest aircraft carriers, and twice as heavy as our largest battleships.


On Oct. 24, 1944 Lambert and 259 other fliers from the carriers Essex, Enterprise, Intrepid, Franklin, and Cabot, fell upon the MUSASHI in wave after wave of attacks that lasted nine hours.

Her 21-inch thick armored hull withstood 19 confirmed torpedo hits and 17 direct bomb hits before she finally sank.  A detailed account of Lamberts own attack in the third wave at 1:31 PM, is found at:

http://www.combinedfleet.com/musashi.htm

Vice Admiral Kurita knew there was little chance for victory during daylight engagements due to the American's superiority in carrier aircraft.  When the General Headquarters in Tokyo ordered one anyway, Kurita despaired but sent the following words of encouragement to his senior officers:


"I know that many of you are strongly opposed to this assignment.  But the war situation is far more critical than any of you can possibly know.  Would it not be shameful to have the fleet remain intact while our nation perishes?  I believe that the Imperial General Headquarters is giving us a glorious opportunity.  Because I realize how very serious the war situation actually is, I am willing to accept even this ultimate assignment to storm into Leyte Gulf.  You must all remember that there are such things as miracles."


It turned out the Japanese almost got their miracle thanks to a controversial decision by Admiral Bull Halsey...

End of the Musashi

The end of the MUSASHI.  Notice the destroyer under attack by four bombs in the background.


1,023 of MUSASHI's 2,399 crew are lost including her skipper.  Twenty minutes before she sank, the badly injured Rear Admiral Inoguchi retired to his cabin and was not seen again.

The battle of Leyte Gulf consisted of four major clashes on Oct. 23-25, involving 282 ships and 200,000 sailors and airmen.  Japan's losses included three battleships, four aircraft carriers, nine cruisers, and a dozen destroyers sunk.  America lost three destroyers and three light carriers.


V. G. Lambert put torpedoes in both the Super-Battleship MUSASHI and the heavy carrier ZUIKAKU.

Which side received a miracle?  As soon as the MUSASHI sank on the 24th, Admiral Halsey sailed his Third Fleet (which included Lambert on the ESSEX) northward all night to attack Ozawa's carriers that were irresistible targets because they were temporarily short of aircraft and poorly defended.  This is often described as a Japanese trap, but in fairness, Halsey mistakenly thought the Japanese fleet had suffered enough damage to be ineffective for some time.  He knew if Japan's remaining carriers could be sunk, U.S. forces would be freed of that threat forever.


All four of Ozawa's carriers were sunk on the 25th.  Unfortunately, Halsey had wrongly assumed Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet was guarding the San Bernardino Straight.  Instead, Kinkaid was protecting hundreds of troop ships filled with two hundred thousand American soldiers and Marines staged to fulfill MacArthur's pledge to retake the Philippines.  To everyone's amazement, the surviving portion of the Japanese fleet under Admiral Kurita sneaked back and attacked Kinkaid's much smaller Seventh Fleet in the Battle off Samar.  Our Seventh Fleet was nearly overwhelmed.  Halsey got frantic requests for help and soon realized he had underestimated Kurita's resources.  But he could not help - for he was twelve hours to the north with his aircraft in the air.


8:22 AM, Kinkaid radios:  "Fast Battleships Are Urgently Needed Immediately At Leyte Gulf."


9:00 AM, Kinkaid needs it all:  "Request Immediate Strike By Fast Carriers"


9:05 AM, Kinkaid is desperate:  "Need Fast Battleships AND An Air Support"


9:07 AM. Kinkaid describes the mismatch: "4 Battleships, 8 Cruisers Attack Our Escort Carriers"


9:27 AM, Halsey replies:  "Task Group 38.1 with 5 Carriers and 4 Cruisers Has Been Ordered To Assist You"

                                       But when Halsey reveals how far north he is, everyone's heart sinks.


10:00 AM, Nimitz in Hawaii rages at Halsey: "Where are the fast battleships of the 3rd fleet?"

                                                              "Where is, REPEAT, Where Is Task Force 34, The World Wonders?"


At this, Halsey is so unnerved he throws his hat to the deck and begins to sob.  It's as if he's rending his clothes in Biblical fashion.  An aide shakes him by the shoulders and says, "What in the hell's the matter with you?  Pull yourself together!"  It is Halsey's epiphany.  The specter of a decimated U.S. Seventh Fleet unable to protect 200,000 GI's in unarmed troopships, is too much to bear.


10:05 AM, Kinkaid, losing warships and appalled that the Japanese fleet can come and go as it pleases complains: "Who is guarding the San Bernardino Strait?".


11:00 AM, Kinkaid, running out of ammunition and discouraged that help is so far away; radios this mournful message: "the enemy returns to attack."



At that very moment, precisely at 11:00 AM, Vice Admiral Kurita, the most brilliant and fearless tactician in the Japanese Imperial Navy, inexplicably broke off his devastating attack on the U.S. Seventh Fleet and steamed away in the opposite direction - over the horizon.  The reason for Kurita's withdrawal was never clearly explained by the Admiral, even after intense interrogation by U.S. officials after the war had ended.  Attempts by historians to explain Kurita's decision are unsettling, because all of their explanations put together, remain inadequate to explain what happened.  It was as if God put a hook in his jaw.

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