Sixty six years ago on October 26, 1944 the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, ended in a resounding American and Australian victory and essentially the total annihilation of the what was left of the once mighty Imperial Japanese Navy. The battle took place over several days and was so large in geographic scale, manpower, firepower and ships, it could and at times is considered to be four separate naval battles: Battle of the Subiyan Sea, Battle of Surigao Strait, Battle of Cape Engano and the Battle of Samar.
The Americans alone had 8 carriers, 24 escort carriers, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers and 141 destroyers along with 1,712 aircraft to throw into the battle against 1 carrier, 3 small carriers, 9 battleships, 20 cruisers and 34 destroyers with 117 carrier based aircraft (there were land based aircraft also available) for the Japanese. There were numerous additional smaller craft such as submarines, PT boats, landing ships, etc. available to one degree or another. By the conclusion of the battle the Americans had lost 3 escort carriers, 2 destroyers and one destroyer escort to Japanese losses of 1 carrier, 3 small carriers, 3 battleships, 10 cruisers and 11 destroyers. It was the end of the Japanese Navy as a fighting force. American casualties totaled 3,500 while the Japanese lost 10,000 men.
It was nothing more than General MacArthur’s ego and stubborn streak that kept the Nashville from the heat of the battle. MacArthur was aboard Nashville as the flagship of the invasion and Admiral Kinkaid has requested MacArthur leave the ship and establish his HQ ashore as the battle was developing. MacArthur was adamant about staying on Nashville and wanted to be a part of the developing naval battle but Kinkaid would not commit Nashville to the battle line while the general was on board. Finally, MacArthur relented on October 24. As it was, Nashville saw action, dogged continuous air attacks and had a Japanese torpedo launched by a plane pass no more than 15 yards off her starboard stern.
It is highly unlikely the world will ever see such massive naval forces engage in direct combat again.