Death of the Japanese Fleet – Part VI

Death of the Japanese Fleet – continued

A hungry Task Force 58

American submarines had been shadowing the tiny fleet, and Hackleback reported her location. Next morning the Japanese were tracked as they came in circular formation zigzagging into battle…Adm. Mitscher’s search planes were out.

At 0823 that morning an Essex plane found the Japanese and sent a report on their course and speed. Admiral Mitscher told Admiral Spruance, who asked Adm. N.L. Deyo if he wanted to take the ships. So few were they, so little the risk to the Americans, that it was like playing a game. It was nothing like the battles of Leyte. There was something languid, and a bit supercilious even, about the American approach to the problem. One could not blame them; their superiority was such that the issue was not in doubt from the moment the Japanese ships sailed. The only question was who was going to dispose of these gnats.


Admiral Mitscher’s boys were hungry. Task Firce 58 began to put forth its strike planes, and here is the story of what happened next from the report of Air Group 10 aboard the Intrepid, one of Admiral Radford’s carriers.

“The air groups of Task Group 58.1 and Task Group 58.3 approached the target abeam of each other about 6,000 feet- the ceiling. The Japanese fleet was sighted at 4 miles with only part of the enemy taskgroup visible through broken clouds a 2,500 feet. Task Group 58.3 planes were directed to orbit clear of the target.

After investigating the enemy formation and finding it in a circular disposition with the Yamato as the center, the planes of Task Group 58.1 were directed to attack. At the completion of their attack the Agano (type cruiser) was practically dead in the water, listing to port and burning astern of the formation with one DD to protect her. The planes of Task Group 58.3 were directed to attack, all VT (torpedo bombers) and VB (dive bombers) on the Yamato and the VF (fighters) on the DDS, except the Bataan VT were ordered to attack the Agano and VF the escorting DD.”

In other words, it was a well coordinated, patient attack. The Japanese were below; there were hundreds of American planes o attack them, and the only thing to be feared was the Japanese antiaircraft fire. As early in the war off Singapore and at Pearl Harbor it had been learned that airplaes could indeed sink battleships, the lesson was told again sharply this day against the mightiest ship in the world.

Here is a bit of the account from the report of the bombers of Air Group 83:

“Planes were loaded with 1,000 lb general-purpose bombs. Fighters initiated the attack, preceding bombers and torpedo planes; Ltjg Gibbs scoring the first hit on the Jap battleship Yamato forward of the superstucture on the port side. Ltjg Scheiss hit a cruiser amidships; Ens Comstock 10 ft off the bow of one of the destroyers; and Ens. G Harris 10 feet off the starboard beam of another destroyer…”

They parceled the targets out, Yamato and the other ships twisted and turned and fought back as gamely as they knew how. Squadron 83 left her smoking slightly and still under way. The torpedo planes all went in on Yamato and began to get hits.

Here is part of Torpedo 83s report:

Lt. Beeson’s division approached from the Yamato’s port bow and entered into the torpedo run just a short interval of time and distance behind…As the Yamato swung to the staroard, its port beam was presented in full and all 4 pilots declared afterwards that it gave them the best target they ever had at any time in their torpedo training exercise. Lt. Beeson, Ltjg Roe and Ens Shranger all claim hits; pilots and crewmen among them saw at least 2 torpedo explosions. Ens. Baas was out of position and he observed his torpedo wake pass astern, run under a Terutsaki (destroyer) off the BB’s starboard quarter, and then disappear.”

Ensign Barrett, another pilot, also missed Yamato, but it was his luck that his torpedo ran hot and straight into the port side of a destroyer on the Yamato‘s starboard quarter, exploded- and the Japanese destroyer sank.

That is the way it went.

It seemed that the Americans could do nothing wrong that day, and the Japanese nothing right. If they had been sent out to show how brave me could accept slaughter and overwhelming odds, they did jst that. At the end of it, with the hundreds of planes having struck, the Americans lost just 10 planes and 12 airmen.

The Japanese force died in agony…Five torpedo hits in the port side of Yamato made a death trap of the engine and boiler rooms; they had to be flooded, and the flooding caught the engine room crews, who had no chance.

All in all there were 5 waves of attack, and each one did more damage than the last, until by 1620, having fought the fight of her life without hope since just after 1230, the Yamato suffered several internal explosions and went down. Three hours later, assessing the damage, Admiral Mitscher reported to Admiral Spruance that they had sunk Yamato, a cruiser, a light cruiser, 2 destroyers, and had damaged 3 or 4 others that got away. Four destroyers went home, limping, with some survivors. But Yamato lost 2,400 of her 2,700 officers and men that day. The cruiser Yahagi lost nearly 500,the cruiser Asashimo lost over 300, and on the 7 destroyers some 400 men were killed.

After Okinawa was secured, Admiral Spruance departed and soon the Third Fleet was on the rampage, doing what Admiral Halsey love3d best and what he did best, hitting the enemy hard where it hurt most.

This time, in the summer months of 1945, the place to hit and hurt most was the Japanese homeland, and it was here that the last bitter end of the Japanese surface navy was played out.

On July 24, the Third Fleet was off the coast of Japan. and the pilots of the task force were smashing Japanese installations, with so little oppositionthat it was hardly believable. Of course there was reason. Japanese aircraft factories were still functioning, Japan was still fighting the war, but she was saving everything for those last desperate hours on the beaches, when her leadeers expected the blood of the invaders to turn the water red.

Continued to steam in Task Group 38.4 toward the operating area“, said the laconic report of Yorktown for July 24.

Sweeps and strikes began at 0445 against our prime target, which was combatant shipping in the vicinity of Kure naval base”.

Yorktown finished 120 combat sorties, and although damage was difficult to assess Yorktown pilots “poured it on” the AG (transport) Settsu, the cruiser Oyodo, the light cruiser Hosho, and the cruiser Tone, and scored additional heaqvy damage to a minimum of about 14,000 tons of shipping, as well ast to 6 airfields.

There was virtually no airbone opposition, except over Bungo Suido where 10 to 12 Franks and Jacks were encountered. Yorktown pilots shooting down one Jack and damaging one l. On the On the airfields, 4 unidentified aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 9 unidentified were damaged. In addition, 3 locomotives were destroyed and 2 damaged, plus other attrition to miscellaneous installations.

On the 25th the Third Fleet struck again, and on the 26th and 27th replenished, and on the 28th played out the last of the drama of the naval forces of Japan. On that 28th again the pilots hit the Kure area.

According to Halsey’s records, “An assessment of the damage for the day revealed that Yorktown claimed a number of hits and near misses on the Haruna, the Oyodo, the Tone, and old cruiser, and a destroyer or destroyer escort. Photographs showed the main deck of the Haruna completely blown off for a distance of about 65 ft astern of the Nol. 4 turret, wile the Oyodo was last seen by pilots listing heavily to starboard in an extensive oil slick“.

Admiral Halsey‘s Third Fleet did as much damage in the two air raids on Kure naval base as if they had engaged in a dangerous naval battle at sea. ( major capital ships were sunk or put out of action.

There is was…the end of the Japanese fleet, and the end of the carrier war. Just a few days later came Hiroshima, and the end of it all.

Source: THE CARRIER WAR, Author: Edwin P. Hoyt – Avon Books 


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