Editors Note: The Battle of the Philippine Sea has usually been characterized as mainly an air-to-air fight and is popularly known as ” The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”. However. a large number of ComSubPac and ComSub-So Westpac boats played an important role preceding the actual “Turkey Shoot”.
Bits and pieces of the full story of submarine involvement have been widely published, but mainly as scattered individual events; such as in the story of HARDER and the destroyers. Therefore, the full impact of their importance to the big picture is not generally recognized. The author has documented here a concise chro11ologica/ picture of the role the Submarine Force played in the invasions of Saipan, Guam and Tinian, and of course, in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
“Mr. Messner has asked that his article be dedicated to VADM Patrick Hannifin, who as a Lieutenant then as a liet1· te11at1t Commander, was his Skipper in DIODON and Qualified him in Submarines.” VADM Hannifin was honored as the 2012 Naval Submarine League’s Distinguished Submariner.
Historians write about the Battle of the Philippine Sea, often referred to as the Great Mariana Turkey Shoot, and inevitably focus on the overwhelming victory U.S. carrier pilots had over their Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) counterparts. Few, however, researched the contribution Pearl Harbor submarines under the command of Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, ComSubPac, and Fremantle submarines under the command of Admiral Ralph W. Christie, ComSubSo Wes Pac, made to the outcome of this battle. This paper then looks at the role of the Submarine Force leading up to and during the battle when Task Force (TF) 58, under the capable leadership of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, an integral part of Admiral Raymond Spruance’s 5th Fleet, was having its field day during Operation Forager. It should be noted that the Battle of the Philippine Sea was not a planned event, it was kindled by Operation Forager.
Operation Forager was the code name for the Mariana Campaign which consisted of the retaking of Guam and invasion and capture of Saipan and Tinian, two other islands in the Mariana chain which had been under Japanese control since 1920. American interest in the Marianas dates back to the Spanish American War of 1898. Spain having lost the war, ceded control of the Philippine Islands to the U.S. and had no further reason to maintain a presence in the Marianas. As a result, on 0 I February 1898, Spain ceded control of Guam to the United States and sold their rights to the other 14 islands in the Mariana chain to Germany for $4,500,000. Gennan at this time was also busy establishing trading colonies in the neighboring Marshall Islands and Carolines.
With Germany’s defeat in World War I, control of their Pacific colonies was mandated to Japan by the League of Nations in I 920 greatly expanding Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere ambitions. Henceforth the Marshalls, Carolines and Marianas, Jess Guam, were to be collectively known as the Mandates. During this period and leading up to the onset of World War II, Japan maintained the utmost secrecy in the Mandates. Tourism and trade were discouraged and a strong level of suspicion prevailed that Japan was establishing military bases on the islands contrary to League of Nations directives. Therefore it should have been no surprise to the Washington D.C. politicians and the military leaders that on 10 December I 941, three days after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded and overran Guam.
Under the command of Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inouye and the 4th Fleet, Rear Admiral Aritomo Goto in heavy cruiser AOBA led the invasion fleet consisting of four heavy cruisers which had sailed from Japan’s Inland Sea via the Bonin islands, and four destroyers, nine transports, some miscellaneous auxiliary ships and the minelayer TSUGARU which had sailed from the mandated island of Saipan. (Later Adm. Goto was to lead IJN Cruiser Division Six in the Battle of Savo Island, a disastrous defeat for the Americans). The occupation force landed an estimated 5,000 troops plus a special forces unit of about 700. Resistance by the garrison of 250 sailors and 150 marines was recognized as suicidal by the Governor and within several hours articles of surrender were signed.
Within a month the majority of military and civilian PoWs were shipped to Japan and interned for the duration. Many of the local Chamorros fed and protected the few Americans who escaped to the mountains and, in spite of intense pressure from the Japanese, remained loyal to the United States. Japan did little to militarize Guam but did use it as a small navy and air base. Saipan remained the keystone of Japanese presence in the Marianas.
For the next 2 Y2 years Guam remained under Japanese control as the U.S. didn’t have the where-with-all to reclaim the strategic island. It took the U.S. fully two years to amass resources strong enough to go on the offense in the Pacific. Operation Galvanic, the retaking of the Gilbert Islands in November ’43, marked the beginning of reclaiming the central Pacific islands followed closely by Operation Flintlock, the invasions of the Marshalls in January/February ’44. The commissioning of six new large carriers (CVAs) in ’43 made this possible. The new CVAs were YORKTOWN 11, INTREPID, HORNET II, LEXINGTON II, BUNKER HILL and WASP II.
RECLAIMING THE PACIFIC
The Quadrant Conference held in Quebec in August ’43 established for the first time the double thrust approach in the Pacific. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was to lead the thrust in the Central Pacific which included the Gilberts, Marshalls, Carolines, Marianas (Guam, Saipan & Tinian) and lwo Jima leading to Japan. General Douglas A. MacArthur was to lead the thrust through southeast Asia which included New Guinea, Mindinao, Luzon, Formosa and ultimately Japan. Securing the Gilberts in November ’43 got the ball rolling, and the Sextant Conference held in Cairo, Egypt in early December ’43 gave Nimitz and MacArthur the green light to proceed.
With the Sextant Conference’s authorization, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on 12 March ’44 prioritized Operation Forager as next in line after the Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands were safely secured. Reasons for proceeding with Operation Forager were three fold. First, the Navy needed advanced naval bases from which to operate -especially for ComSubPac. Guam and Saipan offered safe harbors for the Fleet and reduced the distance from Pearl Harbor to Japan by 2,000 nautical miles (Note: Pearl Harbor to Tokyo = 3,382 nautical miles, Guam to Tokyo • 1,354 nautical miles). Second, the Army Air Corp was looking for advanced bases for their new B-29 long range bomber. Saipan and Tinian had airfields constructed covertly by the Japanese which would support a round trip to Japan for a B-29. Thirdly, Guam was an American possession which had been over run by the Japanese on IO December ’41 and we had, if for no other reason, a moral obligation to free the native civilians from Japanese oppression.
As a prelude to any invasion of the Marianas, and more near term the invasion of the Marshalls, the strongly fortified Japanese navy base on Truk in the Carolines had to be neutralized. To accomplish this, Operation Hailstone was devised. Hailstone was launched on 17 February ’44 and consisted of Mitscher’s TF 58 temporarily diverted from the Marshalls to raid/bomb what was left of the Combined Fleet anchored at Truk. The air squadrons from CV As ENTERPRISE, YORKTOWN II, ESSEX, INTREPID & BUNK.ER HILL and light carriers (CVLs) CABOT, BELLEAU WOOD & COWPENS, bombed everything in sight, and the devastation was so complete the Japanese abandoned Truk. The flight crews didn’t learn until later that Admiral Mineichi Koga, CinC Combined Fleet (Yamamoto’s successor), had moved the majority of the fleet to Palau one week earlier.
BLOCKADE OF TRUK:
Eleven U.S. submarines participated in Operation Hailstone in a new tactical coordinated assignment -a blockade. Submarines SEAL II, SEARA VEN & DARTER served as lifeguards and were positioned off eastern approaches to Truk, the direction from which TF 58’s aircraft came. Eight additional submarines, SKA TE It, TANG, SUNFISH, ASPRO, BURRFISH, DACE, GA TO & PERMIT, were positioned in an arc around the north and westerly sectors of the island to catch any fleeing enemy ships. Two were successful -TANG & SKATE II both sank one enemy ship.
One the night of 16 February ’44, SKATE, under the command of William P. Gruner sighted what she identified as a heavy cruiser. At 1743 she fired a spread of four torpedoes from the bow tubes and heard four explosions. Periscope observations confirmed fire and smoke but no sinking. SKA TE tailed the target until 0200 the next morning when she disappeared from radar. Post war records indicate she sank the light cruiser AGANO of 7,000 tons fleeing north from Truk.
From a convoy of two cargo marus and an abundance of six small escort vessels, TANG sunk her first enemy ship on 17 February ’44 under the command of Richard O’Kane. It was 7,700 ton maru in the northeast sector of the Truk area. She fired a stem shot spread of four fish set at a shallow depth of six feet for the target’s demise.
Lifeguard duty for SEARA VEN rewarded three aviators from one of YORKTOWN’s torpedo bombers by fishing them out of the briny.
With Truk neutralized, TF 58 set a course for Guam and the Northern Marianas. No reconnaissance missions or fly overs of the islands had occurred since its occupation in December ’41. No information as to where the Japanese had built airfields was available so TF 58’s mission was a hunt, seek and destroy enemy airfields when and if found. Commanded by Rear Admiral Alfred Montgomery, Task Group (TG) 58.2’s target areas included the islands of Guam and Saipan, and TO 58.3, commanded by Rear Admiral Frederick Sherman, focused on Tinian and Rota. This they did successfully on 23 February ’44, and according to Japanese records, destroyed over 160 aircraft and sunk two 4,800 ton marus in the harbor.
BLOCKADE OF MARIANAS:
Prior to TF 58’s raid on Guam, five U.S. submarines, SEARA VEN, SUNFISH, TANG, APAGON & SKIPJACK II were directed to established a blockade line west of the area to catch any ships fleeing toward friendlier havens. SUNFISH and TANG were successful in this endeavor.
SUNFISH under command of Edward Selby sank two marus around daybreak of 23 February. The first was not the carrier UNYO as originally thought but the freighter SHINYUBARI MARU of 5,300 tons. The second, just hours later, was a maru of 4,000 tons damaged with a spread of three torpedoes set at a depth of 12 feet. A second surface attack dispatched the target with a single torpedo from a stem shot set sat a depth of eight feet according to her war patrol report. She was credited with two ships sunk totaling 9,400 tons.
TANG, as stated, was under command of Richard O’Kane who had been XO on WAHOO (SS-238) under Mush Morton. He was now exercising his authority on his first patrol as the man in charge. On the night of 22 February TANG crossed paths with a five ship convoy in which O’Kane was successful in destroying two of the marus, the FUKUYAMA MARU of 3,600 tons and the Y AMASHIMO MARU of 6,800 tons. Two days later a three ship convoy heading west was sighted. TANG disposed of two freighters one of which O’Kane thought was a tanker but was later identified as the ECHIZEN MARU of 2,500 tons. The next day a third convoy was sighted. TANG using her last four torpedoes was credited with sinking the freighter CHOKO MARU of 1,800 tons, but her official war patrol report indicates that on attack #6 all four torpedoes missed. However, five ships for a total of over 21,000 tons was the final tally for the Mariana patrol.
As mentioned above, the JCS on 12 March ’44 prioritized Operation Forager as next in line after the Gilberts and Marshalls had been secured. Target date of 11 June ’44 was set. Between the initial reconnaissance raid of the Marianas on 23 February and the first invasion landing scheduled for 15 June on Saipan, submarines assigned patrol areas between Japan and the Marianas were put on the alert to watch for massive troop ship movements bringing reinforcements to the islands. The Japanese called this Operation Matsu.
Within a week, on 29 February, TROUT was given a heads up from CombSubPac in Pearl to watch for a convoy of four large transports escorted by three destroyers in her sector. This was Operation Matsu #1. TROUT, commanded by Alfred Clark, made contact and sunk the SAKITO MARU of 7,1OO tons and damaged the 11,400 ton AKI MARU. Records show that 2,500 of 4,100 troops being moved from Manchuria to Saipan were lost with all their equipment. This proved to be a costly encounter as the destroyer escorts counterattacked and TROUT was never heard from again.
Note: TROUT was a Portsmouth naval shipyard boat commissioned in November ’41. Her crew numbered 81.
Two weeks later, on 12 March, SANDLANCE under the command of Malcom Garrison, was alerted by Pearl regarding a large convoy which had sailed from Tokyo for the Marianas loaded with reinforcement troops -Operation Matsu #2. SANDLANCE altered course and headed south toward the Bonins. She successfully intercepted this convoy consisting of five big freighters, several small ships, several destroyers acting as escorts and the light cruiser TATSUTA. In one set up Garrison fired four stem tubes and two bow tubes sinking the cruiser and the 4,600 ton KOKUYO MARU as well as damaging another freighter. The maru sinking took over 1,000 troops and their equipment out of the equation. Prior to this attack, SAND LANCE was positioned off the coast of Honshu an in three separate attacks between 28 February and 03 March sank three cargo marus.
Assigned to the Empire waters with Bafford Lewellen at the helm, POLLACK was patrolling in the area between Honshu and the Bonin Islands. On 20 February she sunk a 5,000 ton Maru using two torpedoes set at a depth of six feet. Five days later in the same area she is credited with sinking a destroyer of 1,400 tons with a spread of six torpedoes from the bow set at six feet. Shortly thereafter two marus were sighted. Lewellen fired two bow shots at one and two stem shots at the other -both targets of 7 ,500 tons went down. On 03 April, POLLACK was three to four hundred miles to the northeast off the coast of Honshu when she crossed paths with Matsu #4, a seven transport convoy outbound from Tokyo and headed for Saipan and Guam with reinforcements. With her last two torpedoes POLLACK damaged a passenger/cargo maru of 4,300 tons and headed for Pearl. She was credited with sinking four ships for a total of 21,000 tons.
SEAHORSE, a Pearl Harbor boat with Slade Cutter at the helm, proved to have a busy agenda. On 08 April in the vicinity of Saipan, SEAHORSE came across a convoy headed for Saipan -Operation Matsu #3. Cutter Jet loose with a spread of six torpedoes and sunk two marus. The ARATAMA MARU of 6,700 tons and the KIZUNA WA of 1,900 tons went down loaded with troops and supplies for the defense of Saipan and Guam. The next night the same convoy was overtaken with 15 to 20 ships still afloat. Cutter, with several setups foiled, was able to dispatch the BISAKUMARU, a 4,500 ton freighter. Within the next two weeks, Cutter was credited with sinking a Japanese submarine, R0-45, and a 5,200 ton freighter, the AKIGAWA MARU. This was Cutter’s third patrol on SEAHORSE. He had amassed an amazing record of sinking five ships on each of the patrols. Records show that 1500 troops were rescued from SEAHORSE’s exploits, but all equipment was lost. The patrol terminated in Brisbane, Australia.
GREENLING’s War Patrol Log is very sketchy except to say that between 02 and 29 April ’44 she was on a special reconnaissance mission of the Marianas. The CO was James D. Grent. Few ships were sighted and no attacks were made, but one can assume the photographs taken aided the planners in selection of the beaches to be stormed on Saipan, Guam and Tinian.
18 April ’44 was another dark day for the U.S. Submarine Forces. Gudgeon, on her Ith war patrol was lost near Saipan. There is some confusion on the date as 07 June ’44 has also been reported, but 18 April from data available is more credible. She was under the command of Robert Bonin on his 151 patrol. Exact cause of her demise is not known.
(NOTE: GUDGEON was a Mare Island Naval Shipyard boat commissioned in April ’41. She is credited with sinking the first Japanese submarine in WWII. Her crew numbered 78).
TRIGGER encountered homebound Matsu #5 on 26 April after discharging troops at Palau, a Japanese stronghold west of the Marianas. The convoy consisted of four big transports escorted by a destroyer and three frigates. Fredrick Harlfinger, in command, with the venerable Ned Beach as XO, made four separate attacks firing all but one of his torpedoes. TRIGGER was given wartime credit for sinking five ships. The first attack sunk two cargo (AK) marus and damaged two more. This was done with a spread of only four torpedoes set at six feet depth. The second and third attacks sunk the two damaged AK rnarus with a spread of four and six torpedoes respectively -all set at six feet. Firing three stern tubes, the fourth attack took out one of the escorts. All attacks were witnessed by periscope observations according to the war patrol reports. The five sinkings represented a loss of 33,000 tons of shipping capacity to Japan.
Note: After this patrol, Ned Beach went on TIRANTE (SS-420) as XO with Medal of Honor recipient George Street as CO. After one patrol on TIRANTE, for which he was awarded the Navy Cross, Beach got his own command, PIPER (SS-409)).
SILVERSIDES left Fremantle, Australia for the Marianas on her l01h war patrol. As author Clay Blair states in Silent Victory, skipper John Coye “operated like a one-boat wolf pack”. On 10 May she sank three ships heading for Port Arpa, Guam. This was a seven ship convoy with escorts from Operations Matsu #5. The targets included the freighter OKINAWA MARU of 2,200 tons, the transport MIKAGE MARU of 4,300 tons and the converted gunboat CHOAN MARU II of 2,600 tons. Amazingly this was done with one spread of six torpedoes from the forward room. Ten days later, a stern shot of four torpedoes added another converted gunboat, the SHOSEI MARU, of 1,000 tons to the list. Then on 29 May another convoy bringing aviation gas into Saipan yielded two ships, the SHOKEN MARU of 2,000 tons and the HORAIZAN MARU of 2,000 tons. Six more torpedoes set at a depth of eight feet did the job. Coye expended 24 torpedoes in the process of sinking six ships totaling over I 5,000 tons. One source states that 1,500 troop reinforcements did, however, make it to the islands sans equipment. SIL VERSIDES, out of torpedoes, headed for the barn -Pearl Harbor.
Two months after her maiden patrol in these waters, SANDLANCE returned from Pearl for her second patrol still under the command of Malcom Garrison. On 03 May off Saipan SANDLANCE sunk a Chicago class maru at anchor with a forward spread of three torpedoes -estimated size at 5,800 tons. On 11 May just west of Guam and Saipan an AK maru of the KYUSKU class was sighted with an escort. An attack yielding two hits succeeded in damaging the maru which apparently sank later. Three days later off the coast of Arpa, Guam, a MITAKESAN MARU class AK of 4,400 tons was sunk with two hits from the four bow tubes and the depth set at ten feet. Finally on 17 May in two separate attacks, two more AK marus, the TAIHOKU MARU of 8,300 tons and FUKKO MARU of 3,800 tons, were sunk just west of Guam and Saipan. Both were stern shots with spreads of four torpedoes. A war time credit of four ships for 22,000 tons was given for the patrol, SANDLANCE terminated the patrol in Fremantle.
A member of wolf pack dubbed Blair’s Busters assigned to patrol the active Mariana area, SHARK, on her maiden patrol out of Pearl Harbor, got her initiation on an out bound convoy of Operation Matsu #6 on 02 June. SHARK under command of Edward Blakely sunk the 4,700 ton CHIYO MARU, thought to be a tanker, and damaged a second maru with a forward room four tube setup. Two days later, the sinking of a troop ship could not immediately be confirmed as SHARK was driven deep. However, postwar records show that the ship indeed was sunk and 7,200 troops and 22 tanks went swimming. On the next day, 05 June, Blakely sighted two freighters and fired a spread of three torpedoes at each set at a depth of eight feet. Down went TAMAHIME MARU of 3,000 tons and TAKAIKA MARU of 7,000 tons carrying 3,300 troops and eleven tanks to Saipan. SHARK was given credit for sinking four ships totaling 32,000 tons.
Also a member of Blair’s Busters wolf pack, PINTADO, along with help from SIL VERSIDES and SHARK, dogged a convoy of three freighters and two escorts on 31 May soon after arriving in the Marianas. On his second attempt to penetrate the screen, CO Bernard Clarey let loose with a spread of six torpedoes to disintegrate the 4,700 ton TOHO MARU with five hits. The sixth torpedo damaged a medium size cargo maru. A week later on 06 June, Clarey found a 2,800 ton tanker loaded with gasoline, and four stern torpedoes took KASHIMASAN MARU to the bottom. Later that day a second opportunity crossed PINTADO’s bow. Clarey fired a spread of six torpedoes at overlapping targets reporting that he had sunk a London type maru of 7,000 tons and a Giosyn type maru of8,000 tons. He got a wartime credit for both.
It was estimated that Blair’s Busters during the first week of June were responsible for the Joss of 1,400 Japanese troops and the 5,600 that were rescued by escort vessels which did manage to land on Saipan had lost all their equipment -arms, ammunition, tanks, trucks, fuel, etc.
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief (CinC) of the Imperial Japanese Navy from August 1939 until his death in April ’43, developed a strategic plan called the Z Plan or Operation Z as it was better known. Operation Z envisioned a quick victory in a decisive battle early in the war. Yamamoto, like most Japanese naval leaders, admired, almost idolized, Admiral Togo’s victory over the Russian Fleet at Port Arthur in ’08. To continue this victory streak, he felt a decisive battle early in the war, staged somewhere to Japan’s benefit, and before America could muster all her industrial strength, was the only key to victory. He was so impressed with the British victory over the Italians at Taranto in November ’40 and the use of air power that he modeled his plans accordingly -i.e., the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was in the clear minority when he professed that the day of the battleship was over. It was not a popular stance.
(Note: Yamamoto learned to fly when he was a Captain in ’23, and in ’29 he commanded the aircraft carrier AKAGI, one of the six carriers in the Pearl Harbor raid 12 years later. No doubt he was an early enthusiast of naval aviation).
Yamamoto died when his plane, a Mitsubishi Betty, a GM4 twin engine fighter/bomber, was shot down over Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, by U.S. P-38s from Henderson field on Guadalcanal. Operation Z did not die with him as Admiral Mineichi Koga, his successor as CinC Combined Fleet, adopted it. Koga envisioned that when the Z Plan was launched it most likely be in the Philippine Sea area (how right he was). His plan called for all the naval strength the navy could muster plus reinforced air and ground defenses in and around the Philippine Sea. He issued the orders calling for troop reinforcement of the Marianas, and as stated above, TROUT, on 29 February ’44, intercepted one of the first of such convoys sinking one troop laden maru and damaging another before she met her demise at the hands of the IJN escorts.
Koga didn’t live to see the plan’s execution as he died in an unexplained airplane crash in the Philippines. He was flying from Palau to Davao on the south coast of Mindanao, the Philippines southern most island, in March ’44.
(Note: Steven Trent Smith’s outstanding book, The Rescue, details how a copy of the Z Plan was retrieved by Philippine guerrillas from another plane crash carrying Admiral Shigeru Fukudome and eventually wound up in American hands).
Koga’s successor was Admiral Soemu Toyoda, the commander of Japan’s largest naval base at Yokosuka. He assumed his duties in early May, and as naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison states, “Toyoda, like his predecessors, firmly believed in joining battle with the Pacific Fleet at the earliest opportunity.” He adopted the Z Plan, updated it, called it the A-Go Operation Plan and wasted little time in putting it in motion by ordering the Fleet to assemble at Tawi Tawi in anticipation of the decisive battle. A line was drawn from the Marianas through the Palaus south of the Vogelkop of New Guinea, and when the Americans penetrated that line, the signal for full scale execution would be given. On 20 May he issued the orders “Prepare for Operation A-Go”. This put the fleet in standby mode.
At this time much of the Combined Fleet had been moved to Lingga Roads, across the straits from Singapore. Carrier Division (CarDiv) 1, consisting of the carriers TAIHO, SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, had been home ported here for the last two months. Fuel oil was the reason. The JJN was experiencing a critical shortage of fuel oil for its ships. American submarines were playing havoc with the shipping lanes from the oil fields in Borneo to Japan. Not enough tankers were getting through to fuel the thirsty naval vessels. By moving much of the fleet to Lingga Roads, oil from the Borneo ports of Tarakan and Balikpapan was in far less in danger of being diverted to King Neptune.
In compliance with Toydoa’s orders, CarDiv I, under Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, sailed for Tawi Tawi on 11 and 12 of May. Tawi Tawi is the western most island in the Sulu Archipelago which reaches from the southwest corner of Mindanao, P.1. to the northeast comer of Borneo. Its strategic location is on the main convoy route from Makassar Straits north to the ports of Manila, Formosa and the home land, Japan. This was considered an ideal place from which to sortie in any direction. It also put the fleet within 180 miles of Tarakan for easy access to fuel oil.
A Fremantle boat, LAPON was on her outbound leg when, on 13 May off the west coast of Borneo, she sighted a convoy consisting of three carriers (CVs), five heavy or light cruisers (CAs/CLs) and three destroyers (DDs). This was part of Ozawa’s CarDiv 1 moving from Lingga Roads enroute to Tawi Tawi. Lowell Stone, in command, tried to close on the targets, but air cover from the carriers spotted the periscope and alerted the destroyers who promptly started a depth charge attack. The DD’s were not dangerously close but kept LAPON down long enough for the convoy to move out of range. A contact report was made to Admiral Christie’s command in Fremantle, and LAPON continued on to her patrol area in the South China Sea where she was credited with sinking two AKs for 15,000 tons.
Another Fremantle boat, BONEFISH in the Celebes Sea, was down to her last six torpedoes when she got word to head for Sibutu Passage to investigate enemy activity. Sibutu Passage separates Tawi Tawi from Borneo with the Celebes Sea to the south and the Sulu Sea to the north -the main thoroughfare between the two seas. On 14 May, skipper Thomas Hogan reported seeing a convoy of three battleships (BBs), three CAs, one CL, one CV and six DDs heading for the Tawi Tawi anchorage. She tried to give chase but the swift currents of the strait prevented her from closing. This was the remaining part of Ozawa’s CarDiv 1 as they had departed Lingga Roads on consecutive days, and the makeup was distinctly different from that of LAPON’s. On 16 May, BONEFISH came back for a second look and, as Blair in Silent Victory pens it, “saw a grand sight inside the anchorage -six carriers, four or five battleships, eight heavy cruisers, light cruisers, and many destroyers”. Ozawa’s Fleet had indeed arrived at Tawi Tawi as well as CarDiv 2 and 3 from Japan. With this last report, BONEFISH headed for the barn. She was credited with sinking three AKs and a DD on this patrol.
CarDiv 2, under command of Rear Admiral Takaji Joshima, with carriers JUNYO, HIYO and RYUHO, was home ported at Kure, the big navy base in the Inland Sea in Japan proper. He also put to sea on the 11th of May for Tawi Tawi to join forces with Ozawa’s new Mobile Fleet arriving on the 16th. Likewise, CarDiv 3, under the command of Rear Admiral Sueo Obayashi, with carriers CHITOSE, CHIYODA and ZUIHO also at Kure followed Joshima out of the Inland Sea through Bungo Suido Straits to the Pacific and headed for the Tawi Tawi rendezvous. This put nine carriers and their aircraft at Ozawa’s disposal. (Note: Admiral Joshimas had been CO of the carrier SHOKAKU -one of the six carriers during the Pearl Harbor attack of 07 December.)
Another fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki was located at Batjan, which is a small island in Indonesia west of New Guinea’s Vogelkop, east of Celebes and lying on Molucca Passage. The fleet consisted of the two large battleships, MUSASHI and YAMATO, seven cruisers, seven or eight destroyers, a couple of minelayers and some miscellaneous other small ships. It was here in support of IJN’s Operation KON, the plan to reinforce the strategic island of Biak just north of the Vogelkop. MacArthur’s troops were at the front door. Priorities, however, were soon going to change its mission.
Davao Gulf on the south shore of Mindanao was an IJN stag-ing area for what was to be known as Supply Force Two, Admiral Ugaki’s support fleet. RA Y’s patrol area, assigned by ComSoW-esPac, was the area just to the southeast of Mindanao. On l4 May, she sighted a convoy of one carrier, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser and three destroyers headed into the gulf. Two days later, the same convoy exited the gulf, but RAY could not effect an attack position. The convoy headed for Tawi Tawi to rendezvous with Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet, but the carrier in the convoy sighting is suspect. All nine carriers of interest are in CarDiv l, 2 or 3. This would make a 10th carrier which is not recorded in any other records. In any event, Brooks Harral, in command, was not to be denied. RAY hung around the area and was rewarded on 22 and 23 May. She crossed paths with a 15 ship convoy and with an eight torpedo setup, sank a cargo ship, troop ship, tanker and mine layer on the 22nd. The next day she fired a ten torpedo spread at the remainder of the same convoy, and added another cargo and troop ship to her battle flag. Harral didn’t believe in skimping on torpedoes. He got a war time credit for sinking six ships of 42,000 tons. The sinking of these ships put a big dent in Ugaki’s and ultimately Ozawa’s, supply force.
While Admirals Lockwood’s and Christie’s submarines were busy in the Celebes Sea and Sibutu Passage, Admiral Mitscher’s TF 58 was busy in the central Pacific. TG 58.6, consisting of CV As ESSEX, and WASP II, CVL SAN JACINTO, three heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and 14 destroyers, set sail from Majuro Island in the Marshalls and on 20 May participated in a raid on Marcus Island. This was repeated on the 23rd with Wake Island as the target before returning to Majuro. It was a diversionary raid specifically staged to keep the IJN’s attention away from the Marianas. Admiral Toyoda still at this time believed the next target would be the Palaus, far to the southwest of Guam and Saipan. The Mobile fleet continued at Tawi Tawi awaiting the decisive battle and the order to commence Operation A-Go.
On 22 May, PUFFER found herself in the Celebes Sea south of Tawi Tawi after three unsuccessful attacks off the northwest coast of Borneo. A ComSubSoWesPac boat, CO Frank Selby was in charge when about 20 miles south of Tawi Tawi two aircraft carriers were sighted. Selby setup a spread of six torpedoes at a depth of 10 feet but only succeeded in damaging one carrier. Not to be denied, PUFFER, returned to the general area on 05 June and spotted a convoy of four tankers (AOs) with two escorts. Selby fired six bow shots and one stem shot and claimed seven hits. With this salvo he sank two AOs and one AK for 24,000 tons. The AOs had been busy refueling Ozawa’s fleet with oil from Tarakan and Balikpapan.
On 06 and 07 May, Bamboo Convoy, the reinforcement ships to Biak, was devastated by GURNARD in the area north of Molucca Passage. Two weeks of nothing ensued when CO Charles Andrews moved somewhat north closer to Davao Gulf. He was rewarded on 24 May when he sank a tanker with a four shot spread. Another Ozawa loss. GURNARD transiting from Pearl to Fremantle was credited with four ships sunk for 27,000 tons.
Sam Dealey, a name familiar to every submariner, was in command of HARDER’s 5th war patrol. Her assigned area was the Celebes Sea in and around Sibutu Passage, that main thoroughfare separating Tawi Tawi from Borneo. With Ozawa’s Fleet gathering here, it proved to be a hot spot of activity, and Dealey only made it hotter. On 06 June off Tarakan, HARDER intercepted a convoy of three oilers with two destroyer escorts. The opportunity to get a setup on one of the tankers didn’t present itself so the target of opportunity was a DD. With a six tube bow spread one destroyer was observed to sink. Attack #2 the same day was a waste, but attack #3 the following day got another destroyer patrolling Sibutu Passage-this time with a four torpedo down the throat bow shot. Two days later, 09 June, was unique. More destroyers patrolling Sibutu Passage were the targets. Dealey setup on two, and with a three tube bow spread, observed hits on both and the sinking of both. The next day brought about a sighting of a task force leaving Tawi Tawi. HARDER’s periscope was sighted and the charging DD was sunk with another down the throat spread of three torpedoes. In five days and five attacks, the Fremantle Boat was credited with sinking five destroyers at 1, 700 tons each.
(Note: the motto of HARDER from that day forth was “Hit ’em Harder”. HARDER was lost on her next patrol in Philippine waters with a loss of 79 shipmates. Sam Dealey became a legend and received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously -one of seven given to submariners during WWII).
OPERATIONS “A-Go” a GO
Admiral Nimitz gave the authorization to initiate Operation Forager, and on 11 and 12 June in preparation for the invasion of Saipan on 15 June, Mitscher’s TF 58 began to bomb strategic targets on Guam, Rota, Saipan and Tinian. Four task groups made up TF 58:
TG 58.I -Rr. Adm. Joseph J. Clark
CV As HORNET and YORKTOWN
CVLs BELLEAU WOOD and
BATAAN Three CAs, one CL and nine ODs TG 58.2 -Rr. Adm. A.E. Montgomery CVAs BUNKER HILL and WASP II CVLs MONTEREY and CABOT Four CLs and nine DDs TG 58.3 Rr. Adm. John W. Reeves CV As LEXINGTON and ENTERPRISE CVLs PRINCETON and SAN JACINTO One CA, four CLs and 13 DDs TG 58.4 R. Adm. Wm. K. Harrill
CVLs LANGLEY II and COWPENS
Four CLs and 13 DDS
TF 58 came from Majuro in the Marshalls with 15 carriers armed with 891 aircraft, mainly F6F Hellcats. They destroyed dozens upon dozens of aircraft on the ground. It was a complete surprise as the Japanese were expecting a raid on the Palaus not on the Marianas. Toyoda realizes immediately the situation and on 12 June initiates Operation A-Go. In parallel, he also cancels Operation KON for Biak and orders all elements of the Mobile Fleet to set course for the Marianas and rendezvous in the Philippine Sea. Ugaki’s fleet leaves Batjan, transits Molucca Passage and heads for the Philippine Sea skirting the east coast of Mindanao. Ozawa takes his fleet from Tawi Tawi north through the Sulu Sea to the Philippine Sea by threading the straits between Panay and Negros, P.I. into the Visayan Sea and finally transiting the San Bernardino Straits into the Pacific.
Sibutu Passage was the area in which REDFIN found herself on 13 June ’44. With Marshall Auston in command, the Fremantle boat turned what appeared to be bad luck into a positive as described by Auston in his war patrol report. At 0616 a periscope observation showed a convoy of one torpedo boat (TB), two CAs with planes on catapults and four DDs leaving the anchorage at Tawi Tawi -sortie number one. REDFIN was unable to close because of the convoy’s radical zig. At 0749 the TB and four DDs returned to the anchorage. At 0900 sortie number two consisting of the TB and four ODs along with two additional DDs, four BBs, five CAs with no planes on catapults but rigged for plane recovery, one CL, and six CVs with planes on deck left Tawi Tawi heading toward the Philippines -jackpot. Auston reasoned the first sortie was a decoy, and had he attacked it, the second sortie would not have occurred. This convoy was, of course, Ozawa’s Striking Force complying with Toyoda’s order to sail for the Marianas. At 2000 REDFIN sent a contact report which was relayed to the 5th Fleet and Spruance -he now knew Ozawa was on the move. The rest of the patrol resulted in credit for two ships of 16, 100 tons sunk and one damaged.
Meanwhile, TF 58’s battleships were pounding Saipan and Tinian. On 13 June Vice Admiral Willis Augustus Lee’s seven new battleships (NORTH CAROLINA, WASHINGTON, SOUTH DAKOTA, INDIANA, ALABAMA, IOWA & NEW JERSEY) from TG 58.7 started the advance shelling. Reports indicate they did minor damage with the associated excuse the crews had never been trained in bombardment techniques. The next day Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf and Rear Admiral Waldon Ainsworth from TF 52 & 53 took their eight older battleships (MARYLAND & COLORADO with their 16 inch guns and PENNSYLVANIA, TENNESSEE, CALIFORNIA, NEW MEXICO, MISSISSIPPI & IDAHO with 14 inch guns) and had a much better accounting. To be fair, the older battleships had the help of six heavy cruisers, five light cruisers and 26 destroyers. Communication lines were totally ruptured.
Not to be out done by the surface navy, on 15 and 16 June, TG 58. l and 58.2 bombarded lwo Jima and Chichi Jima in the Bonins to the north. These islands were staging areas in accord with Operation A-Go and were full of planes ready to thwart any invasion of the Marianas. Approximately 80 enemy planes were destroyed, the majority caught on the ground, with a loss of four carrier planes. Although not called upon for!if eguard duty, four U.S. submarines were stationed just west of the Bonins primarily to guard against any Japanese reinforcement fleet coming from the homeland. These boats were GAR, PLAICE, PLUNGER and SWORDFISH. No fleet from the north ever materialized, but PLAICE and SWORDFISH between them sunk six ships of 21,000 tons during their stay on station.
Also on 15 June, at 0542 Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, from his flag ship AGC ROCKY MOUNT, gave the signal, “Land the Landing Force” -the invasion of Saipan was at hand. Spruance’S TF 52, the Northern Attack Force, which had been assembled in Hawaii under command of Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill, numbered no less than 320 craft including troop ships cargo ships, and LSTs, supported by BBs, CAs, CLs, escort carriers (CVEs), DDs and miscellaneous craft. The marines tasked with the invasion were from the 2nd and 41h Marine Divisions commanded by Lt. General Holland “Howling Mad” Smith, USMC. Almost four weeks of fighting and clean up were required before Saipan was declared secured on 09 July.
Hunting had been poor for FLYING FISH, with Robert Risser in command. Her assigned area was north of Palau and west of the Marianas, and on 15 June she found herself at the mouth of San Bernardino Straits, the far western end of her patrol grid. This was a major transit waterway between the China Sea and the Philippine Sea which separates the Philippine Islands of Luzon and Samar. FL YING FISH was scouting for enemy activity when at 1635 a routine periscope observation developed into an amazing sight. The range was estimated to be 25,000 yards at initial sighting, but during two hours of tracking she sighted three battleships, three carriers, several cruisers and many destroyers. Range could not be closed for an attack. At 1820 contact was lost and 5th Fleet Commander Admiral Spruance was alerted.
This was Ozawa’s Striking Force.
Prior to this, FL YING FISH had only two sightings worthy of attack setups -both on 25 May. The first achieved nothing, but on the second she had two AK type marus and three escorts from which to choose. She fired four bow tubes, two at each maru, and sunk a 6,000 ton maru and damaged another 5,000 ton maru which later sank. For the patrol, however, she was credited with sinking one ship totaling 4,000 tons.
On its way from Brisbane to Pearl, SEAHORSE, still under command of Slade Cutter, had just arrived on station. She was 200 miles east of Surigao Straits, P.I. when on 16 June at 1845 smoke on the horizon was sighted on a bearing of 337 degrees. Cutter sighted four large men-of-war and six other smoke stacks only to lose them 10 minutes later. At 1936 contact was reestablished and identified as six large ships and two smaller ones on base course of 45 degrees. A faulty motor prevented SEAHORSE from closing, but a contact report was verified as received at 0300 the next morning. Cutter, in his war patrol report, indicated that the enemy was doing a very effective job at jamming the air waves. The sighting was Ugaki’s fleet from Batjan which had been joined by Supply Force Two from Davao Gulf, P.I. they were under orders to rendezvous with Oawa’s Fleet in the Philippine Sea.
SEAHORSE continued her patrol and between 27 June and 04 July she was credited with sinking three AKs, one AO and two passenger freighters for a total of 37,000 tons.
IJN MOBILE FLEET
The merged Mobile Fleet now was comprised of the following:
1st Mobile Fleet -V. Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa Mobile Force Vanguard -V. Adm. Kurita CVLs -CHITOSE, CHIYODA & ZUIHO -R. Adm. Obayashi BBs -YAMATO, MUSASHI, KONGO & HARUNA -V. ADM. Ugaki & V. Adm. Suzuki 8 CAs-V. Adm. Kurita and I CL & 7 DDs-R. Adm. Hayakawa
“A” Force-V. Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa CVs-TAIHO, SHOKAKU & ZUIKAKU 2 CAs -R. Adm. Hashimoto and I CL & 7 DDs -R. Adm. Kimur
“B” Force -R. Adm. Takaji Joshima CVs-JUNYO, HIYO & RYUHO, BB NAGATO, CA MOGAMI and 7 ODs Tanker Group 1 & 2 -6 ODs & 6 Oilers And 24 Submarines not normally associated with the Mobile Fleet.
While FLYING FISH was guarding San Bernardino Straits to the north and SEAHORSE was 200 miles to the east, GROWLER, under command of Thomas Oakley, was stationed off Surigao Straits. San Bernardino and Surigao Straits were the two possible short cuts through the Philippines from which Spruance expected Ozawa’s fleet to emerge. North through Luzon Straits or south through the Celebes Sea were not considered viable options because of the extra distance. The invasion of Saipan was set for 15 June and for the Mobile Fleet to make a difference, they had to take the shortcuts -time was critical. Hence GROWLER’s assignment which she diligently patrolled from 10 June to 21 June to no avail -no contacts. Later in the patrol, on 29 June, GROWLER sank a 10,000 ton tanker and damaged a 600 ton escort in the Luzon Straits.
FINBACK fresh on station from Pearl was under the command of James Jordan. She was about 550 miles west of Saipan on 18 June when at 2100 she sighted two bright search lights on the horizon. This was Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet. Jordan’s war patrol report indicated that FINBACK must have been on their radar as four destroyers altered course and with zero degrees angle on the bow charged ahead. FINBACK went deep and the DDs kept her there until close to midnight. When she finally surfaced to make a contact report her radio transmitter failed. It was still down at 0600 hours the next morning. When the message was finally sent, it was too late to be of much value.
THE BATTLE OF THE PHILIPPINE SEA ALBACORE:
On 19 June, ALBACORE was patrolling about 480 miles west southwest of Guam in conjunction with three other Pearl boats, FINBACK, BANG & STINGRAY. At 0750 CO James Blanchard called up periscope and sighted a carrier, cruiser and several unidentified ships. Five minutes later a second carrier and a second cruiser plus at least six destroyers showed up. One carrier was identified as a Shokaku class and one was unidentified. Both cruisers were of the Atago class. This was Ozawa’s CarDiv I. Blanchard immediately set up on carrier number two, but the torpedo data computer refused to give a solution. Lest the situation go for naught, Blanchard fired a spread of six torpedoes by seaman’s eye and headed deep as three DDs were coming her way. On the way down two explosions were heard, but she was held down by the escorts and couldn’t surface until shortly after 1300. Upon surfacing, the sea was now clear so Blanchard reported only damage to one carrier. He had no way of knowing that the target was the new 33,000 ton TAIHO. One torpedo had hit TAIHO on the starboard side near the forward elevator and gasoline storage area. The damage to the gasoline storage area created gas fumes which were inadvertently spread throughout the ship by the faulty setting of the ventilation system creating a volatile situation. And volatile it was when at 1530 the fumes ignited literally blowing her sides and bottom apart. Two hours later a final explosion caused TAIHO to capsize and sink taking 1,600 of her 2, 150 member crew with her.
Meanwhile CAVALLA’s position was about 70 miles east southeast of ALBACORE when at 1052 Commander Herman Kossler on CAVALLA’s maiden war patrol saw a picture “too good to be true”. He sighted a carrier of the Shokaku class with two cruisers of the Atago class on her port flank and three destroyers off her starboard bow. The carrier was taking on aircraft and her flight deck was jammed with planes. He sighted a large bed spring type radar antenna and a huge Japanese ensign flying from the main mast. This was the same fleet ALBACORE had encountered three hours earlier sans one carrier. At 1II8 Kossler fired a spread of six bow tubes set at a depth of 15 feet. Tubes one through three were hits and four through six were misses. Kossler took CAVALLA deep and took a severe depth charge pounding for three hours counting 106 depth charges. He secured from battle stations at 1527 and cleared the area. The carrier was the 30,000 ton SHOKAKU, the fifth of the six Pearl Harbor Strike Force to meet her demise. She went down approximately 1500, thirty minutes before TAIHO.
(Note: Four of the six Pearl Harbor Strike Force carriers were sunk in the Battle of Midway. They were the SORYU, HIRYU, KAGA and AKAGI. The last to be sunk was ZUIKAKU in the Battle of Engano (Leyte Gulf) October ’44.)
Early on that same morning of 19 June, Admiral Ozawa’s CarDiv I and Joshima’s CarDiv 2 were streaming eastward about 480 miles almost due west of Guam. Admiral Kurita’s CarDiv 3 was the Van Force about 100 miles ahead of Ozawa and Joshima. Ozawa’s plan was to keep his fleet about 400 miles from the American fleet to give him an edge. The IJN Zekes (Zeros) had a greater range than the American F6Fs due to their light weight sans annor plate. As a result, the Zekes could get within range of the U.S. fleet but the opposite was not true. Ergo, his carriers would be safe. Ozawa thought he had another “ace in the hole” in that he planned on using aircraft positioned at Guam’s Orote Field as back ups. He also planned on shuttle bombing, i.e., the practice of carrier plans reloading on land (Orote Field) and making a second run on the return leg to the carriers. What he did ‘t know was that Orote Field and its associated aircraft and landing strips had been demolished by previous TF 58 attacks.
Prior to the loss of TAIHO and SHOKAKU, described above, Ozawa started to launch planes at 830. He had a good idea where the American fleet was as they were sighted by a scouting float plane the day before about 200 miles west of Saipan. CarDiv 3, the vanguard fleet of light carriers, was the first to launch. CHITOSE, CHIYODA and ZUIHO put 16 Zekes, 45 Zekes with bombs and eight torpedo Jills in the air -69 planes. At 1023 TF 58 launched F6Fs, mainly from ESSEX. They engaged 13 minutes later and broke up the raid within 20 minutes. The count was 42 enemy planes shot down but not until one had laid a bomb on SOUTH DAKOTO, the only U.S. serious ship casualty.
Raid #2 was launched by CarDiv 1 at 0900, about the same time ALBACORE was setting up on TAIHO. The three big carriers, SHOKAKU, TAIHO and ZUIKAKU launched a combined 128 aircraft which included 53 Judy bombers, 27 Jill torpedo bombers and 48 Zeke fighters -a total of 128. Their last ortie was on the PRINCETON three hours later. Thanks to the aggressive counter attack by TF 58 F6Fs and the poorly trained IJN pilots, the count was 97 destroyed enemy aircraft.
At about I 000, raid #3 was launched. It was almost a wash out. CarDiv 2, JUNYO, HIYO and RYUHO, launched 15 Zekes, 25 Zekes with bombs and seven Jills for a total of 47 aircraft. Seven were shot down and half of the rest never engaged.
The fourth and final raid for the day was launched about 1100. All planes available from all three CarDivs participated. 82 planes were launched which included 30 Zekes, nine Judys, 27 Vais, 10 Zekes with bombs and six Jilts. 73 were shot down or damaged so badly as to render them useless.
49 additional planes were destroyed when they tried to land at Orote Field. Along with the planes that went down with TAIHO and SHOKAKU, the total loss of aircraft that thus far that day was 330. This left Ozawa with 100 serviceable aircraft. The price TF 58 paid was the loss of 31 aircraft and heavy damage to SOUTH DAKOTA.
The next evening, 20 June, Mitscher put TF 58 on the offensive. A contact report had put the IJN Fleet about 275 miles to the northwest or about 370 miles west of Rota. This was close to the maximum range from which the F6Fs could effect an attack and still have fuel enough for the return leg. At 1600 Mitscher put 216 planes in the air -85 F6F Hellcat fighters, 77 SBDS Dauntless I SB2C Helldiver dive bombers and 54 TBF/TBM Avenger torpedo bombers. Contact with the Mobile Fleet was made at 1840, and in the fighting that ensured TF 58 sunk two oilers, damaged the carriers ZUIKAK and JUNYO damaged the battleship HARUNA, shot down 65 more aircraft and, thanks to an Avenger pilot from the BELLEAU WOOD who laid a well aimed torpedo in the water, put the coup d’ grace on the carrier HIYO. TF 58 paid a price losing 20 aircraft to enemy fire and 80 more due to ditching on empty fuel tanks or crashing on the flight deck in night landings.
The next day Spruance gave chase to what was left of Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet. Reports indicated oil slicks coming from the retreating fleet, and Spruance hoped to catch some cripples The chase proved almost fruitless for two reasons, there were no cripples and the retreating fleet was traveling at a speed four knots faster than TF 58’s force speed of 16 knots. Ozawa was pulling away heading for safe harbor at Okinawa. The slower speed, however, had its benefits in that 59 aviators were fished from the water. At 2030 Spruance ordered the chase aborted and set course for Saipan. Had Mitscher had his way, TF 58 would have launched a full scale air attack, which was his mission -search and destroy the enemy fleet. In this case Spruance’s objective conflicted with Mitscher’s. His orders at this time were not to chase the enemy but to protect Amphibious Task Forces 52 and 53 and the scheduled invasions of Guam and Tinian. Spruance took a lot of criticism for this decision that dogged him for years.
OPERATION FORAGER CONCLUSION
Although the Battle of the Philippine Sea was over, Operation Forager continued. Recall Saipan was invaded on 15 June and declared secured on 9 July. Less than two weeks later, on 21 July, the Marines and Army landed troops on two beaches on Guam. This time it was Spruance’s TF 53, the Southern Attack Force under command of Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly. The TF numbered 186 ships which had assembled in Guadalcanal and Tulagi and included the amphibious landing ships of APAs, AKAs, LSTs, LSDs and supported by BBs, CAs, CLs, CVEs, DDs, one AH (hospital ship) and miscellaneous other craft. The Marines were from the 3n1 Marine Division and 151 Provisional Marine Bridge under command of Major General Roy S. Geiger. The Anny’s 77111 Infantry, called in from Hawaii as reinforcements and under command of Major General Andrew D. Bruce, proved themselves worthy. Two beachheads were quickly established, one on each side of Apra Harbor and Orate Field which were the main objectives. In just shy of three weeks on intensive fighting, Guam was declared secure on 10 August.
Three days after Marines landed on Guam, 24 July, the invasion of Tinian commenced with the same Marine and naval units which had led the invasion of Saipan. TF 52, the Northern Attack Force under command of Rear Admiral Henry W. Hill, landed the invasion troops of Lt. General Holland Smith, USMC, who later stated it was “the perfect amphibious operation in the Pacific”. It was perfect for many reasons among which were adequate planning time, naval bombardment and arial bombing for once were on target, a diversionary tactic to mask the intended landing beach was successful, landings were absent of confusion and finally the Marines charged ahead and were not held back by the slower moving units of the Anny (The Anny and Marines differed vastly in their invasion techniques which had been demonstrated in earlier Pacific invasions). The island was declared secured on 01 Aug, nine days after landing on White Beach, the northwest comer of the island -close to Ushi Point Airfield, the debarkation point for B-29s Enola Gay on 06 August and Sock’s Car on 09 August a year later.
The story about the contribution of the Submarine Force to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and Operation Forager wouldn’t be complete without giving due credit to some of the boats that were in the area but due to luck-of-the-draw didn’t sight or interact with Ozawa’s Mobile Fleet. These included ARCHERFISH, BANG, BLUEGILL, CABRILLA, MUSKELLUNGE, PILOTFISH, PIPEFISH, SEA WOLF, STINGRAY, TUNA & TUNNY.
The final tallies were:
U.S. pre-invasion losses dating from February ’44:
USS TROUT 81 shipmates
USS GRUDGEON 78 shipmates
Unknown number of aircraft during raids on islands
U.S. losses Battle of Philippine Sea:
19 June ’44 30 aircraft 27 airman
20 June ’44 100 aircraft 49 pilots & aircrew
U.S. invasion losses:
Obviously the casualties would have been much higher had it not been for the dedication and perseverance of the men of TF 58 and the Silent Service as evidenced below:
Japanese pre-invasion losses dating from February ’44:
Bombing of Truk -17 Feb.
Bombing of Guam & Saipan 23 Feb.
Raid on Marcus & Wake Islands -20 & 23 May
Raid on Palau, Yap & Woleai-03 & 09 June
Bombardment of Guam and Saipan -13 & 14 June
Bombardment of Iwo Jima & Chichi Jima -15 & 16 June
No conclusive totals
2 Cruisers -AGANO and TATSUTA
57 Marus AKAs, APAS, AOS & support vessels
19 Marus independent of Operation Forager
No conclusive totals
IJN losses -Battle of Philippine Sea:
3 Carriers -TAIHO and SHOKAKU 30,000
tons each & HIYO 27,000 tons
395 carrier planes, 31 float planes & 50 land based planes
No conclusive overall totals
Japanese invasion losses:
Saipan estimated greater than 50,000 killed
Guam estimated greater than 17,800 killed
Tinian estimated greater than 5,000 killed
numbers from Samuel Eliot Morison’s book New Guinea and the Marianas
**many were civilians who committed suicide.