Everyday History
Battle of Palawan Passage
Daily History World War II in the Philippines

The Battle of Palawan Passage ensued: Oct. 22, 1944

On this day in 1944, the Battle of Palawan Passage ensued when the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 2nd Fleet, dubbed the Central Force and headed by Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita, was attacked by two American submarines as it sortied through the passage.

The fleet, which was composed of five battleships (including the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi), 10 heavy cruisers (including the Kurita’s flagship Atago), two light cruisers and 15 destroyers, left Brunei early morning of this day and was on its way to Leyte Gulf via San Bernardino Strait to oppose the American landing forces.

The Central Force was among the three fleets that the Imperial Japanese Navy sent as a response to the American invasion of Leyte that began on Oct. 20, 1944. The other two fleets were the Northern Force by Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa and the Southern Force led by Vice Admirals Shoji Nishimura and Kiyohide Shima.

The Central Force would strike the US Seventh Fleet in Leyte Gulf as it delivered the American landing forces, while the Northern Force would lure away the US Third Fleet, which served as the Seventh Fleet’s protection. The Southern Fleet, meanwhile, would attack Leyte from the south via the Surigao Strait.

The following day, the Central Force was ambushed by the American submarines Darter and Dace, which sank heavy cruisers Maya and Kurita’s flagship Atago. Kurita and his crew were rescued by the Japanese destroyer Kishinami and transferred to the battleship Yamato.

Battle of Palawan Passage is one of the several naval battles that are part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf.

After the Battle of Palawan Passage, the Japanese fleet proceeded to its destination after the attack, passing through Sibuyan Sea (where it engaged in another battle with American naval bombers on Oct. 24, 1944) to reach San Bernardino Strait.

References

Morison, Samuel E. “Leyte, June 1944 – January 1945”. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. XII. Boston: Little & Brown. 1956

Interrogation of: Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita.” Interrogations of Japanese Officials. United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Naval Analysis Division. October 16-17, 1945. Accessed via HyperWar

Reports of General MacArthur.” The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Vol. 1, Washington D.C. Department of the Army, 1950. Accessed via the US Army Center of Military History website.

Trivia Question:

What was the name of the Japanese heavy cruiser that turned back to Brunei after sustaining damage during the attack?

Yesterday’s answer: Paulo Jaro

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