WW2, What if Kurita did not see Taffy 3 at Leyte Gulf?

What if Taffy 3 had been in the squall line to the east of its actual position when Kurita’s fleet sailed past? How bad would the Allies loses have been? Would Halsey have been kicked out of the Navy? Finally how would this change the course of the war and history?
Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Leyte_Gulf#The_Battle_off_Samar_.2825_October.29

Kurita loose on the invasion fleet would be a disaster. Lots of ships sunk, lots of lives lost. Of course Kurita would then have been trapped by the returning US fleet and destroyed in turn.

Total effect on the course of the war: zero. By that time the war was decided.

Regarding Halsey, hying off after a decoy fleet and leaving the invasion to be saved by the insane suicidal courage of escort carriers and tin cans didn’t ruin his career, as ignonimous and silly as it sounds (and probably did sound at the time). Even if there had been significant costs to the landing force, as long as the landings continued (held beachhead, started breakout), it wouldn’t have mattered, regardless of cost. Halsey’s mission was to make sure McArthur’s op succeeded, and I don’t think he would have been punished much if the landings succeeded in spite of his own failure. The fact that there wasn’t much organized resistance from the Japanese until breakout would have supported this outcome.

OTOH, if the landings had failed (too many casualties at the beachhead, or too much logistical losses to sustain a breakout), the search for the responsible party might have come upon Halsey’s failure to maintain his station and carry out his assigned mission. Hard to know if it would have rolled downhill and spared Halsey, though.

It wouldn’t have been that much of a disaster. US troops were already ashore at Leyte in overwhelming force by this point; Kurita making it to the transports wasn’t going to change that. There’s a very good chance he’d have run into Oldendorf’s battleline while engaged with the transports, which would have sunk or driven him off. As a side note, Oldendorf had more than enough ammunition to engage and defeat Kurita; the idea that he didn’t came from Kinkaid’s understandably panicked messages to Halsey asking where the hell he was, where the hell TF34 was since it wasn’t pounding on Kurita, and why his first knowledge that Kurita had sailed straight through San Bernardino Strait totally unmolested wasn’t even a spotting report by a picket left behind by Halsey but rather incoming shellfire.

That said,

Halsey’s mission was to protect the landing operation, something he singularly failed to do. I agree he’d have escaped being shit canned as he did historically, but IMO he should have been. He was entirely derelict in his duty at Leyte Gulf. He didn’t keep everyone informed of his actions or inactions, took his fast battleships with him chasing the decoy force instead of detaching them as TF34 to guard the northern approaches as he was supposed to have done, and didn’t in fact leave even a single destroyer as a picket to look after the northern approach. He even kept TF34 racing in the wrong direction at Ozawa’s decoy force for three and a half hours after Kinkaid sent the message MY SITUATION IS CRITICAL. FAST BATTLESHIPS AND SUPPORT BY AIR STRIKES MAY BE ABLE TO KEEP ENEMY FROM DESTROYING CVES AND ENTERING LEYTE.

Being ashore doesn’t cut it,the troops would need a hell of a lot of supplies, each and every day.

Run out of food?

Run out of ammo ?

Not good.

Halsey should have faced court-martial for his dereliction of duty. Kurita only turned tail and ran because he thought that Halsey was still there shelling him. In the short term it could have meant the destruction of the landing force and Kincaid’s force and set the war back a year. In the long term it might have meant more atom bombs used on Japanese targets. Whoever set up the decoy carriers really had Halsey’s number.

Totally agree.


Kurita’s confusion and timidity made him susceptible to the mad-dog out-of-their-minds defensive charge that started when Earnest Evans commanded the Johnston to flank speed to attack a capital ship task force in which Kurita’s flagship (Yamato) outweighed all of Taffy 3 combined.

Halsey vowed to avoid the controversy surrounding Spruance’s handling of the Battle of the Phillippine Sea, which may explain some of his eagerness/aggressiveness.

But he should have left a covering force watching the straits.

He was flying his flag from a battleship. Maybe he didn’t want to be hanging around the straits while his fleet attacked the carriers up north. Dunno. I suppose he could have shifted his flag…

Spruance’s handling of the Battle of the Philippine Sea resulted in one of the most lopsided victories in Naval history. Halsey sure avoided that. The people then and now who criticize Spruance are unfit to command. He followed orders in providing cover and sucked in almost every naval aviator the Imperial Navy had left. Halsey abandoned his mission to chase bait like a glory hungry amateur and failed to destroy Kurita’s fleet, which was within his grasp. The world waits.

That’s missing the point. The troops and supplies were already ashore in enough strength to assure the Japanese had no chance of driving the Americans off of Leyte. Had Kurita reached the transports all he could have managed to do would be to push back the timetable slightly; he had no chance of defeating the invasion. The cost would have been the effective destruction of his force; Oldendorf’s battleline substantially outnumbered and outgunned him. The situation wasn’t like the one Mikawa faced at Savo Island in August 1942 where he could have ended the Guadalcanal campaign in one fell swoop by continuing on to the transports after his victory.

While Kurita was convinced he was facing a stronger force than he actually was, it wasn’t the only reason he turned and disengaged. In spite of the odds, he had taken substantial losses and damage and his force had become badly disorganized in the fight. Of his 6 heavy cruisers, Chōkai, Suzuya and Chikuma had been sunk and the other three had taken varying degrees of damage. His flag on the Yamato had been forced to turn north to avoid being torpedoed and was out of range of the fight. As a result Kurita had lost tactical control of the fight. His only options were to break off, continue the action with his force in disorder, or reform his fleet before continuing the action, which was a bad option as he was already under heavy air attack.

Troops ashore without ammunition or food could be easily massacred.

A soldier weakened by hunger, and armed only with a bayonet is no match for someone armed only with a rifle with full magazines…

Tell that to the Marines on Guadalcanal.

If there were ever US admirals that should have been cashiered, it should have been Fletcher and Turner.

No sorry, but you could be the toughest, best trained soldier on Earth and you’ve still got no chance, if someone with a loaded rifle fires at you from even fifty yards away and you’re only chance of retaliation is to bayonet charge them.

And thats not even taking into consideration trying to move fast through jungle and uncertain footing.

Chōkai was heavily damaged when the single(!) 5" gun(!!) on an escort carrier(!!!) set off the Long Lance torpedoes she was carrying. That’s just embarrassing.

A lot like the first Guadalcanal naval engagement (Savo.) The USN will have its ass handed to it but the bridgehead will hold until the navy recovers.

The USN did not have its ass handed to it because most of it was not there, which I think is a point to this thread. Taffy 3 didn’t even lose much, considering what it was up against.

I think the OP is inviting the possibility that the USN DOES lose a lot of ships, even worse than Savo. What then?

Not a thing. By that time we were producing new carriers faster than the RJN could ever sink them in their wildest dreams. Sheer weight of numbers was going to destroy the Japanese, no matter what they did.

Concur. I think what may not be obvious is how weak the strategic situation was for the Japanese forces. Despite a large presence in the Philippines, they really were struggling to receive adequate supplies, which could only get worse in the long term, and their airpower had been all but neutralized.

A complete breakthrough by Kurita into the transports would have been a tragedy in terms of losses, and possibly affected the confidence of the supporting forces for future operations, but it would have been unlikely to have defeated the invasion, simply because the Japanese lacked the ability to bring down anything else to finish off the hypothetically disadvantaged Americans. This was essentially their last shot – they would not be able to bring down major reinforcements even had an additional miracle driven off the American surface fleet (remember, Kurita’s putative breakthrough into the transports would do nothing to affect the surface fleet’s strength).

And even if a third miracle had occurred and the invasion troops been defeated, the Americans could bring back more and try again, against a garrison that would not have been significantly resupplied.

In that sense the battle was “too little, too late” all along for Japan – the best they could hope for would not have “won.” They were sacrificing almost everything for a chance at making American victory in the Philippines more expensive.

Well, the OP does not appear to me to contemplate the US losing any carriers if Kurita hit the transports; just transports.

But yeah, if Kurita shot up the landing support ships…and Godzilla ate the entire US Navy, things do start to look up for the Japanese in general.

Except for Tokyo, of course.