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Surigao (125.488E 9.781N) is located on the northernmost point of Mindanao in the Philippines. It is the location of one of two straits permitting access for large ships from the Philippine Sea to the central Philippine Islands. It is also the site of some low-grade iron ore deposits, producing about 1.1 million tons a year in 1941.
U.S. Navy. Via Morison (1958)
During the Battle of Leyte
Gulf, a Japanese battleship force under Nishimura Shoji attempted to
transit Surigao Strait to attack the Allied amphibious invasion
forces of 7 Fleet.
However, the force was sighted
and bombed by American aircraft at 0918 on
24 October. Nishimura kept coming anyway, not even pausing to meet up
with a supporting cruiser force
under Admiral Shima. Roscoe (1953)
suggests that Nishimura deliberately avoided the rendezvous in order
not to come under the command of Shima, who was a few months senior in
Oldendorf, commanding 7 Fleet's battle line, laid a careful trap for Nishimura. He deployed his PT boats far down the strait, mostly for their reconnaissance value, but the boats would also attempt to pick off some of Nishimura's force with their torpedoes. Nishimura would then encounter a force of destroyers lurking against both shorelines. Finally, Nishimura would find the Allied battle line positioned against the mouth of the strait, ready to cross his "T".
Nishimura hit the first line of PT boats at about 2200 hours. These reported his approach but inflicted no casualties. At 0200 the first group of Allied destroyers attacked. By the time the Japanese opened fire, the destroyers had already launched their torpedoes and were withdrawing. Nishimura failed to take evasive action, and at 0207 Fuso was hit and blown in half. The two floating sections burned brightly and caused some confusion, since they appeared to be two burning ships.
A second group of destroyers attacked minutes later. This time Nishimura attempted to evade, but his maneuver brought part of his destroyer screen directly into the path of the Allied torpedoes. Yamagumo and Michishio were sunk and Asagumo was badly damaged and forced to withdraw. Yamashiro was also damaged by a single torpedo, but Nishimura sent off a final message at this point claiming that Yamashiro was unimpaired in its fighting ability. However, a third Allied torpedo attack all but crippled Yamashiro.
Meanwhile, at 0251, the main Allied battle line had opened fire. Yamashiro finally rolled over and sank at 0310, while Mogami was badly hit while attempting to withdraw. Mogami was further damaged in a collision with Nachi from Shima's supporting force. Seeing the devastation ahead of him, Shima prudently withdrew, with a "clean-up" force of Allied cruisers and destroyers in pursuit.
The next morning, American aircraft found Mogami and so damaged her that the Japanese took off the crew and scuttled her. The Allied "clean-up" force finished off Asagumo and damaged Abukuma, which was later sunk by aircraft.
The battle was almost completely one-sided. The most serious damage
suffered by the Allies was heavy damage to destroyer Albert W. Grant, mostly from friendly fire. Nishimura has
been heavily criticized by historians for his unimaginative, robotic
march to death, but it seems likely Nishimura was deliberately seeking
honorable death in battle for himself and his men.
|Force C (Nishimura)
||Sunk by torpedoes
|BB Yamashiro||Sunk by torpedoes and gunfire
||Crippled by torpedoes, gunfire and aircraft and scuttled
||Sunk by torpedoes|
||Damaged by torpedoes|
||Sunk by torpedoes|
to Force C (Shima)
||Slightly damaged in collision
||Damaged by torpedoed and sunk by aircraft|
|BB West Virginia|
|Left Flank (Oldendorf)|
|DD Richard P. Leary|
|DD Albert W. Grant||Severely damaged
|DD Heywood L. Edwards|
||Royal Australian Navy
||Royal Australian Navy|
Temperatures: Jan 83/74, Apr 87/74, Jul 88/76, Oct 87/75, record 99/66
Rainfall: Jan 24/21.4, Apr 19/10.0, Jul 13/7.0, Oct 17/10.7 == 147.8" per annum
Pearce and Smith (1990)
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