The First Battle of the Philippine Sea

"The Marianas Turkey Shoot"
19-20 June 1944
United States Forces
Consisting of
CV = Fleet Carrier ~ CVL = Light Fleet Carrier ~ BB = Battleship
CA = Heavy Cruiser ~ CL= Light Cruiser ~ DD = Destroyer

Fifth Fleet
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance 
in heavy cruiser Indianapolis
Fifth Fleet consisted primarily of:
Landing Forces ("Joint Expeditionary Force") 
under Vice Admiral R.K. Turner
Fast Carriers and their escorts (Task Force 58) 
under Vice Admiral Mitscher
The amphibious force was the ultimate target of the Japanese operation, but in 
the event it was not engaged in the battle, which consisted of a struggle between the Japanese carrier forces on one side, and Mitscher's Task Force 58 (and the American submarines) on the other. 
Task Force 58
Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher
in carrier Lexington
7 fleet carriers 8 light fleet carriers 7 battleships 
8 heavy cruisers 12 light cruisers 67 destroyers
Task Force 58 was organized into four carrier groups,
plus Vice Admiral Lee's Battle Line, as detailed below.
Task Group One TG58.1
Rear Admiral J.J. Clark
in carrier Hornet
CV-12 Hornet Capt W.D. Sample Air Group 2 Lt. Commander J.D. Arnold
CV-10 Yorktown Capt R.E. Jennings Air Group 1 Comdr J.M. Peters
CVL-24 Belleau Wood Capt John Perry Air Group 24 Lt. Commander E.M. Link
CVL-29 Bataan Capt V.H. Schaeffer Air Group 50 Lt. Commander J.C. Strange
CA Boston CA Canberra  CA Baltimore  CLAA Oakland
CLAA San Juan DD Izard  DD Bell DD Burns 
DD Conner  DD Charrette DD Boyd  DD Bradford 
DD Brown DD Cowell  DD Maury  DD Maury 
DD Craven DD Gridley  DD Helm DD McCall 
Task Group Two TG38.2
Rear Admiral A.E. Montgomery
in carrier Bunker Hill 
CV-17 Bunker Hill Captain T.P. Jeter Air Group 8 Commander R.L. Shipley
CV-18 Wasp Captain C.A.F. Sprague Air Group 14 Commander W.C. Wingard
CVL-26 Monterey Captain S.H. Ingersoll Air Group 28 Lt. Commander R.W. Mehle
CVL-28 Cabot Captain S.J. Michael Air Group 31 Lt. Commander R.A. Winston
CL Santa Fe CL Mobile  CL Biloxi .
DD Miller DD Owen  DD Stephen Potter DD The Sullivans
DD Tingey DD Hickox DD Hunt  DD Lewis Hancock
DD Marshall  DD Macdonough  DD Dewey  DD Hull
Task Group Three, TG58.3 
Rear Admiral J.W. Reeves
in carrier Enterprise
CV-6 Enterprise Captain M.B. Gardner Air Group 10 Commander W.R. Kane
CV-16 Lexington Captain E.W. Litch Air Group 16 Commander E.M. Snowden
CVL-23 Princeton Captain W.H. Buracker Air Group 27 Lt. Commander E.W. Wood
CVL-30 San Jacinto Captain H.M. Martin Air Group 51 Lt. Commander C.L. Moore
CA Indianapolis CL Montpelier CL Cleveland CL Birmingham 
DD Clarence K. Bronson DD Cotten DD Dortch
DD Gatling DD Healy DD Caperton 
DD Cogswell DD Ingersoll  DD Knapp 
DD Anthony  DD Wadsworth DD Terry 
. DD Braine .
Task Group Four, TG58.4 
Rear Admiral W.K. Harrill 
in carrier Essex
CV-9 Essex Captain R.A. Ofstie Air Group 15 Cdr. David McCampbell
CVL-25 Cowpens Captain H.W. Taylor Air Group 25 Lt. Commander R.H. Price
CVL-27 Langley Captain W.M. Dillon Air Group 32 Lt. Commander E.C. Outlaw
CL Vincennes CL Miami CL Houston CLAA San Diego
DD Lansdowne  DD Lardner DD McCalla 
DD Case  DD Lang  DD Sterett 
DD Wilson  DD Ellet DD Charles Ausburne
DD Stanly  DD Dyson  DD Converse
DD Spence  DD Thatcher  .
Task Group 58.7, Battle Line
Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee
in battleship Washington
BB Washington (Captain T.R. Cooley)  BB North Carolina (Captain F.P. Thomas)
BB Iowa (Captain A.R. McCann)  BB New Jersey  (Captain C.F. Holden)
BB South Dakota (Captain C.B. Momsen)  BB Alabama (Captain V.R. Murphy)
BB Indiana (Captain T.J. Keliher) .
CA Wichita CA Minneapolis  CA New Orleans  CA San Fransisco
DD Mugford DD Conyngham DD Bagley DD Patterson
DD Selfridge  DD Halford DD Fullam DD Hudson
DD Guest DD Bennett DD Yarnall  DD Monssen 

DD Twining DD Stockham


Main source for this order of battle was - Samuel Eliot Morison "History of US Naval Operations in World War II"  (Little Brown & Co., Boston), Vol.VIII 

.Brief History of First Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Final Phase - The Air Battle of 20 June
Task Force 58 pushed westwards during the night of 19/20 June in order to 
attack the Japanese fleet, and at dawn launched air searches.  On the Japanese 
side there was great confusion caused by the fact that Ozawa attempted to control his forces from the destroyer Wakatsuki,  to which he and his staff had 
transferred when the Taiho had to be abandoned. The destroyer's communications were inadequate for her to act as flagship, and at about 1300 on 20 June Ozawa transferred to the large carrier Zuikaku (sister ship to the Shokaku and as of 20 June the only survivor of the six carriers which had attacked Pearl Harbor). It was only now that Ozawa learned of the massacre of his air groups the day before, 
and that his force had only one hundred aircraft still operational.  Nonetheless he was determined to continue the battle, believing that there were still considerable numbers of Japanese aircraft operational on Rota and Guam. Ozawa intended to launch further strikes on the following day, 21 June. 
American searches failed, for most of 20 June, to find the Japanese fleet, but eventually - at 1540 - an Avenger piloted by Lieutenant R.S. Nelson, from the veteran carrier Enterprise, found Ozawa's force. Nelson's message reporting the contact was however so garbled that Mitscher did not know what had been 
sighted or where. He nonetheless decided to make an all-out strike when more information came in, despite the fact that there were now only about 75 minutes 
to sunset, and that the strike would therefore have to be recovered in darkness. 
By 1605 further reports from Lt. Nelson had given the Task Force 58 
commander the information needed. At 1610 the aircrew manned their planes, 
and at 1621 the carriers turned into the wind to launch the strike. The launching - of 216 aircraft - was completed in the remarkably short time of eleven minutes.
The attack went in at 1830. Ozawa had been able to put up very few fighters to intercept - no more than 35 according to the American pilots' later estimates,  but these few were skilfully handled, and the Japanese ships' anti-aircraft fire was intense. The first ships sighted by the US strike were oilers, and two of these 
were damaged so severely that they were later scuttled. The carrier Hiyo was attacked by 4 Avengers from the light carrier Belleau Wood and hit by at least 
one of their torpedoes. The carriers Zuikaku, Junyo and Chiyoda were damaged 
by bombs, as was the battleship Haruna. The torpedoed Hiyo later sank.  Roughly 20 American aircraft were lost in this strike. 
By nightfall on 20 June Ozawa had therefore lost three carriers, including two of his finest ships, and of the 430 aircraft which had been available to his force on 
the morning of 19 June only 35 were still operational. 
The Night Recovery
Twilight was closing in as the American attack ended, and the aircrew were faced with the difficult and dangerous task of making a landing on what proved to be an exceptionally dark night. They had flown 275-300 miles to the enemy fleet and
had almost as long a return flight to the US carriers. Their fuel was therefore dangerously low.  At 2045 the first returning planes began to circle over Task Force 58. 
Mitscher - who invariably showed unusual concern for the safety and well-being 
of his flyers - then took the decision to fully illuminate the carriers, despite the 
risk of attack from submarines and night-flying aircraft. All ships of the task force turned on their lights, and the screening destroyers fired starshell throughout the recovery, which lasted two hours. Despite these measures eighty of the returning aircraft - with pilots neither trained nor equipped for night landing - were lost, 
some crashing on flight decks, the majority going into the sea. But of the 209 aircrew participating in the 20 June strike 160 were rescued either during the operation or in the following few days. 
The End of Japanese Seaborne Airpower
At 2046 on 20 June Ozawa received orders from Admiral Toyoda, C-in-C of the Combined Fleet, to withdraw from the Philippine Sea.   After the night recovery 
of Mitscher's aircraft the US task force moved westwards in pursuit of the retreating Japanese,  but the battle was over. 
The two-day engagement had been the largest pure carrier-versus-carrier battle in history, and was to be the last. The immediate consequence of the Japanese 
defeat was the US capture of the Marianas. This broke the Japanese inner line of defence, and meant that American bombers based in the islands could now reach targets on Japan itself. As a result of their huge losses of aircrew in the battle the remnants of the Japanese seaborne air groups were never again able to challenge the American fleet, and at the Leyte Gulf four months later the Japanese carrier force - which had once dominated the Pacific War - was reduced to playing the role of decoy, while the primary attacking role was, of necessity, assigned to the Imperial Navy's battleships and their attendant cruisers and destroyers. 

The main source for this narrative was Samuel Eliot Morison's "History of US Naval Operations in World War II"  (Little, Brown & Co, Boston)  Volume VIII  "New Guineau and the Marianas."


The Night Recovery Phase
Toward the end of the battle, as darkness was creeping in, the returning American pilots were desperately attempting to locate their aircraft carriers. Admiral Mitscher, on the bridge of his flagship, concerned for his men, gave the order to "Turn on the lights". In response, OAKLAND's 36-inch searchlight maned by Almer Lee Ashton was flicked on helping light up the Philippine Sea like a motion picture premier. Oakland turned on all are topside lights and fired starshell throughout the recovery, which lasted two hours.

11 Apr45 - 14 May 45

A. During the major part of the period reported on, the OAKLAND operated with Task Group 58.3, a fast carrier group of Task Force 58. Task, Group 58.3 was commanded by Rear Admiral F.C. Sherman, U.S.N. (ComCarDivOne,, U.S.S. ESSEX, Flagship) and was organized as follows:

58.3.1 Air Force.6.Rear Admiral F.C. Sherman, U.S.N. 

ESSEX (F) (CV- 9) (10 April to 28 May) 

BUNKER HILL (F7) (CV-17) (10 April to 11 May) 

ENTERPRISE (CV- 6) (10 to 14 April, 6 to 16 May) 

RANDOLPH (CV-15) (17 April to 28 May) 

BATAAN (CVL29) (10 to 17 April 26 April to 28 May) 

LANGLEY (CVL27) (10 and 11 May 

MONTEREY (CVL26) (12 May to 28 May)

58-3.1 Heavy Support Vice Admiral W.A. Lee, U.S.N. 

SOUTH DAKOTA (F)(BB-57) (10 April to 11 May)

WASHINGTON (BB-56) (15 April to 28 May) 

NORTH CAROLINA (BB-55) 15 to 27 April) 

NEW JERSEY (BB-62) (10 to 14 April)

MISSOURI (B-64) (5 to 7 May) 

ALABAMA (BB-60) (12 May to 28 May)

58.3.3 Light Support Rear Admiral J.C. Jones, U.S.N. 

CruDiv 17 4 CL (10 April to 29 May)

OAKLAND (CL-95) CLAA (30 April to 28 May)

58.3.4 Screen Captain J.P. Womble, U.S.N. 

DesRon 52 (17 April to 28 May) 

DesRon 62 (10 April to 28 May) 

DesRon 48 (10 April to 28 May)

Note: The dates in parentheses are the inclusive dates after 10 April during which the unit concerned operated with Task Group 58-3. The composition of the DesRons varied somewhat during that period, with Task Unit 58.3.4 averaging between 20 and 22 destroyers-in strength. 

This web page was created by and
is maintained by Paul D. Henriott
Last updated 31 March 2005