Battle of Surigao Strait

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The Battle of Surigao Strait was part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the last battle in history to be fought without any input from aircraft. It was fought between the fire support ships of the American Seventh Fleet and the entire Japanese Southern Force on the night of October 24–25. It was a decisive American victory.


Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had in his command six battleships (four Pearl Harbor survivors), five heavy cruisers, and four light cruisers, which he set up across Surigao Strait, the fifteen-mile-wide stretch of water between Leyte and Hibuson Island. A fleet of thirty-nine PT boats were the "eyes" of the fleet for lack of aircraft.

The Japanese commander, Vice Admiral Nishimura, had in his van two battleships and a heavy cruiser with four destroyers; behind, in his rear, were two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, and four destroyers. Nishimura's goal was to break in to Leyte Gulf and massacre the American transports there.


The radar-equipped PT-131 made contact with the Japanese van four minutes before midnight on October 24, and the patrol of three boats attacked with torpedoes after radioing Oldendorf a report. All the way up the Strait, patrol boat harassed the enemy vessels, but hit none; they, however, kept the American commanders aware of the situation.

At two o'clock in the morning, the Japanese chased the last torpedo boats away, only to meet a destroyer division half an hour later. The American destroyers began firing torpedoes at 3 AM, hitting the battleship Fuso badly and slightly damaging the other (the Yamashiro). One Japanese destroyer was also sunk, and two more were damaged badly. Not a single hit was scored on an American destroyer. Ten minutes later, a second torpedo attack was launched. The Yamashiro was hit again, though she did not stop, and a damaged destroyer was disabled. Nishimura took no turns or any kind of evasive action.

At 3:51 AM, the American battle line, (which had capped the enemy's "T") opened fire on the three remaining Japanese ships: battleship Yamashiro, heavy cruiser Mogami, and destroyer Shigure. The Shigure escaped with one minor hit, but the Yamashiro and Mogami were pounded by a hail of shells ranging in size from six inch to sixteen inch. The six American battleships (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, Maryland, and Mississippi)were undamaged; only one hit was scored on the destroyer Albert W. Grant.

At 4:09 Oldendorf, hearing that several American destroyers were being hit by friendly fire, ordered cease-fire. The Yamashiro was hit by two torpedoes and finally sank at 4:21, but the Mogami and the Shigure retired, meeting with Rear Admiral Shima's secondary force, which, seeing the destruction of the van, quickly retired.


At 5:30 AM, the cruisers Denver, Portland, and Louisville, in pursuit of the enemy fleet, spotted the shattered Mogami, but, seeing her condition, decided she would sink on her own. She was later finished off by carrier-borne TBM Avengers at 8:45. The crippled destroyer Asagumo was disposed of by Denver and Colombia.