Veteran’s Day

11-10-2014

As we take time to honor our Veterans on Tuesday, November 11, let us reflect for a moment on the history of our world.  Is there anything more constant in the recorded histories of all regions and nations than War?

What does that say about us (humans)?  I don’t have an answer, I’m just posing the question.  How many millions of men and women have “answered the call” throughout the ages?

On November 11,  Americans celebrate Veterans Day  –   an echo of Armistice Day (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month)  –  which was, as we know, the War to End All Wars. Since then, there have only been a few decades of peace for Americans.  We have lots of Veterans in this country – from men and women in their twenties to the last of the WWII vets who are in their nineties.  To these folks we say, Thank You.

Let us give an extra thought and prayer to the Veterans who have survived armed conflict, and who are left to sort out their experiences for the rest of their lives.

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”         Jose Narosky

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Second Battle of the Philippine Sea

11-3-14

By the middle of October, the Combined Imperial Japanese Imperial Navy began heading for the Philippines to try to thwart American amphibious landings up and down the archipelago.  The landings on Leyte were the final straw for them.  The series of battles lasted three days (Oct. 23 – Oct. 28).

The Japanese were, by then, ill-equipped to wage a naval battle against Task Force 38.  Their ships had been pummeled by carrier planes in mid-June’s Battle of the Philippine Sea, during which they lost some 450 seasoned carrier pilots as their planes were shot down during the infamous Marianas Turkey Shoot.  In addition, American attacks (both from submarines and from the air) had systematically decimated Japanese shipping.  They had effectively lost access to  refined diesel oil, and had modified their ship engines to burn crude oil.  Each gallon of crude was priceless by then, and the fleet was limited to only absolutely necessary sorties.  The battles for Leyte Gulf qualified as an absolute necessity.

Over the course of those three days, there were three distinct “battles”  There were heavy losses on both sides.  Task group 38.1, which had been ordered by Halsey to turn around and head at full speed back to the Philippines on the 23rd, was redirected on the 25th to give chase to the Japanese “decoy fleet” travelling at full speed north and east of Leyte.  So the Boston steamed at 33 knots chasing the enemy task group of carriers and cruisers.  Once again, Halsey wanted to catch up to them and have a ship-to-ship battle.  Eventually, the distance was too great, and he had to settle for a very risky late-afternoon sortie of carrier bombers to the job.   The Japanese Navy was decimated, and was never the same again.

By October 28, the Boston made it back to Ulithi, one day after the Crippled Cruisers limped into the anchorage.

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Late October

10-23-14

By the 18th, Task Unit 30.3.1 had morphed into TU 30.3.2 as all the capital ships were redeployed back into their respective task groups.  The Boston, flagship of Cruiser Division 10, was now the only capital ship protecting the two crippled cruisers on their long journey to Ulithi.  Twenty miles away, the carrier Cabot remained until the 20th, when she rejoined TG38.2.    TU 30.3.2 (made up of two fleet tugs, two damaged cruisers, five destroyers and the Boston) was joined on the 19th by two more fleet tugs and a rescue ship.

On the 20th, Boston got orders to rejoin Task Group 38.1, and they head west at full speed.  The Japanese Navy is heading towards the Philippines, intending to break up the American invasion at Leyte Gulf. On the 21st, the ship rejoins TG38.1.  The Group is ordered to refuel the next day, and later that evening they got orders to turn east to Ulithi for reprovisioning. The group is still heading for Ulithi on the 24th, when they are ordered to reverse course AGAIN and proceed at full speed towards the Sibuyan Sea.  The Combined Japanese fleet has been spotted.  They are heading toward Leyte.

Next: The Battles for Leyte Gulf (also known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea)

 

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Streamlined Bait

10-21-14

After the Houston was hit by an aerial torpedo, the captain decided to abandon ship.  Halsey was faced with a dilemma –  the ship was damaged; in fact two cruisers were damaged.  The Canberra was deemed “salvageable”  – but the Houston was more seriously wounded.  Halsey knew that he might have to scuttle the Houston.  Hours after being hit, the Captain decided that his ship could also be saved, so he reversed his decision to Abandon and the Boston was pressed into service to tow the Houston.  The ships were less than 100 miles off the east coast of Formosa.  Their destination:  Ulithi  –  the lagoon in the Marshall Islands 1,200 miles to the east across the Philippine Sea.

The ships came under aerial attack several times over several days.

A fleet tug had already taken over for the Wichita and was towing the Canberra.  Another fleet tug was ordered to relieve the Boston, and she arrived on the 16th of October.  Within hours of the transfer of the tow, the Houston was hit again by an aerial torpedo.  Halsey debated scuttling the ship again.  However, in the hyperbole of War, Japanese pilots had reported sinking many American ships.  Back in Japan, a badly demoralized and extremely deprived citizenry was treated to a day of national celebration after their heroic carrier pilots had destroyed the American fleet.

Halsey had decided to use the “Cripple Cruisers” as bait to lure out what was left of the Imperial Japanese fleet in a drag-down-knock-out sea battle.  While the other task groups continued to pound targets up and down the Philippines, Boston’s task group (38.1) lingered less than 200 miles away, waiting for the enemy fleet to “take the bait” and attack the “Remnants of the Third Fleet.”   The Japanese fleet did, in fact, sortie north and east to find the Cripples.  They closed to within 100 miles or so, but one of their reconnaissance planes caught sight of one of the other American task groups.  They retreated, spoiling Halsey’s old-school chance for a spot in naval history.

(He had one more chance three months later when he sent the Boston’s task group into the South China Sea because the enemy fleet was moored near Singapore.  By the time they threaded their way into range, the IJF had slipped off and dispersed.)

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October 15, 1944

10-15-14

OCT 15, 1944 THE USS HOUSTON (CL-81) under tow by USS BOSTON (CA-69).

OCT 15, 1944
THE USS HOUSTON (CL-81) under tow by USS BOSTON (CA-69).

The USS HOUSTON (Cl-81) under tow by USS BOSTON (CA-69) after being struck amidships by an aerial torpedo during action off Formosa.  Destroyer removing personnel from damaged cruiser.

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