Explosion aboard the USS St. Louis after she was hit be a Kamikaze off the coast of Samar Island, Philippines, on October 25, 1944. File Photo by US Navy/UPI
ABOARD ADMIRAL KINKAID'S FLAGSHIP OFF PHILIPPINES -- The Tokyo express rammed into the American Navy Limited today. The pride of Japan was wrecked so badly that it may never make another long run. It was the day our navy had dreamed about for considerably more than a year.
It was 17 hours of concentrated hell and the most amazing thing about the battle was that our Pacific light carrier force -- which nobody thought could deliver such a terrific punch -- held off the bulk of the Japanese fleet all day and had it on the run all afternoon.
When evening came and most of the pieces of the huge naval puzzle had been fitted together, a navy spokesman announced:
"The enemy has been decisively defeated with heavy losses and fit to fight tomorrow."
It is yet too early to ascertain accurately the destruction and damage wrought on the Japanese fleet but the enemy's minimum losses are estimated at one Yamashiro class battleship, sunk; one battleship knocked out and probably sunk; three battleships damaged "severely"l several cruisers and destroyers sunk, three cruisers and several destroyers damaged.
Four other warships were either sunk or very heavily damaged.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Gordon Walker, broadcasting from Leyte Island for Mutual network, quoted a naval spokesman as saying tonight that practically every major ship in the Japanese navy, with the exception of carriers, has been either sunk or damaged.
The statement was contained in an eyewitness account of the fleet action off Leyte, which Walker termed "one of the greatest battles of naval history."
"If the enemy fleet," said Walker, "had been able to break through our naval blockade and enter Leyte gulf, they could have wiped out every ship in San Pedro bay ...
"At one time the Japanese fleet got within 70 miles of these beaches of Leyte before they were turned back. It was a narrow squeak, and I can tell you there were some very worried men here in the central Philippines at that time."
Walker said the battle is not over and "the entire Pacific war hinges on this naval fight which is going on all around us here in the central Philippines.
"If the American navy comes out on top -- and early reports point almost conclusively in that direction -- the Japanese will have suffered their heaviest blow. It may be that the war will be shortened by as much as a year."
The Japanese, he said, threw Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid's 7th Fleet off balance, at first, with coordinated assaults by naval units from the north and south, plus heavy land-based bomber attacks.
American small-sized carriers beat off the thirst from the north, off the east coast of Samar Island, "through sheer heroism and superior fighting ability," although outnumbered. Many Japanese planes crashed in suicide dives, but only one American carrier was sunk (the U.S.S. Princeton).
The Japanese fleet began assembling behind the Philippines on Invasion Day, Walker said.
"The entire success of the invasion depended upon Admiral Kinkaid's ability to outmaneuver and outfight a heavier enemy fleet."