The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.
It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar from 23–26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the U.S. Navy's 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf included four major naval battles: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is also notable as the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. Also worth noting is the fact that Japan at this battle had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, a clear demonstration of the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.
The losses in the battle of Leyte Gulf were not evenly distributed throughout all forces, the destroyer USS Heermann—despite her unequal fight with the enemy—finished the battle with only six of her crew dead. More than 1,000 sailors and aircrewmen of the Allied escort carrier units were killed. As a result of communication errors and other failures, a very large number of survivors from Taffy 3 were not rescued for several days, many dying unnecessarily as a consequence.
Due to the long duration and size of the battle, there are varied accounts as to the losses which occurred as apart of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and losses that occurred shortly before and shortly after. One account of the losses lists the following vessels:
The United States lost six front line warships during the Battle of Samar:
1 Light Carrier: USS Princeton
2 Escort Carriers: USS Gambier Bay and St. Lo (the first major warship sunk by a kamikaze attack.)
2 Destroyers: Hoel and Johnston
1 Destroyer Escort: USS Samuel B. Roberts
4 other American ships were damaged.
The Japanese lost 26 front-line warships during the Battle of Leyte:
1 Fleet Aircraft Carrier: Zuikaku, flagship of the decoy Northern Forces
3 Light Aircraft Carriers: Zuihō, Chiyoda, and Chitose
3 Battleships: Musashi (former flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet), Yamashiro and Fusō
6 Heavy Cruisers: Atago, Maya, Suzuya, Chokai, Chikuma, and Mogami
4 Light Cruisers: Noshiro, Abukuma, Tama, and Kinu
9 Destroyers: Nowaki, Hayashimo, Yamagumo, Asagumo, Michishio, Akizuki, Hatsuyuki, Wakaba, and Uranami