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Surigao

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.

Battle of Surigao Straits


Night action at Surigao Strait
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 rank.

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.

Japanese order of battle

Force C (Nishimura)     

 
BB Fuso
Sunk by torpedoes

BB Yamashiro Sunk by torpedoes and gunfire

CA Mogami
Crippled by torpedoes, gunfire and aircraft and scuttled

DD Michishio
Sunk by torpedoes

DD Asagumo
Damaged by torpedoes

DD Yamagumo
Sunk by torpedoes

DD Shigure

Attached to Force C (Shima)     


CA Nachi
Slightly damaged in collision with Mogami

CA Ashigara

CL Abukuma
Damaged by torpedoed and sunk by aircraft

DD Akebono


DD Ushio

DD Shiranuhi

DD Wakaba


DD Hatsushimo

DD Hatsuharu

Allied order of battle

Battle Force (Oldendorf)     

 
Battle Line (Weyler)     


 
BB Mississippi



BB Maryland


BB Tennessee



BB California



BB Pennsylvania



BB West Virginia


Destroyer Division "X-Ray"




DD Claxton     




DD Cony




DD Thorn




DD Aulick    




DD Sigourney     



DD Welles

Left Flank  (Oldendorf)      


Heavy Cruisers     




CA Louisville



CA Portland




CA Minneapolis


Light Cruisers (Hayler)     




CL Denver



CL Columbia


Destroyer Squadron 56     




DD Newcomb     



DD Richard P. Leary     



DD Albert W. Grant      Severely damaged


Destroyer Division 112




DD Robinson     



DD Halford     



DD Bryant     



DD Heywood L. Edwards     



DD Bennion     



DD Leutze     

Right flank (Berkey)     



CL Phoenix



CL Boise



CA Shropshire     
Royal Australian Navy


Destroyer Squadron 24     



 
DD Hutchins    




DD Daly    




DD Bache    




DD Killen    




DD Beale    




DD Arunta
Royal Australian Navy


Destroyer Squadron 54     




DD Remey    



DD McGowan    



DD Melvin    



DD Mertz    


Destroyer Division 108




DD McDermut    



DD Monssen    



DD McNair    

39 PT


Climate Information:

Elevation 20’

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

References

Dull (1978)
Morison (1958)

Pearce and Smith (1990)

Roscoe (1953)

Van_Royen__Bowles_(1952)


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