The First Battle of the Philippine Sea
"The Marianas Turkey Shoot"
19-20 June 1944
United States Forces
CV = Fleet Carrier ~ CVL = Light Fleet Carrier ~ BB = Battleship
CA = Heavy Cruiser ~ CL= Light Cruiser ~ DD = Destroyer
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.
Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher
in carrier Lexington
Task Force 58 was organized into four carrier groups,
plus Vice Admiral Lee's Battle Line, as detailed below.
Rear Admiral J.J. Clark
in carrier Hornet
Task Group Two TG38.2
Rear Admiral A.E. Montgomery
in carrier Bunker Hill
Rear Admiral J.W. Reeves
in carrier Enterprise
Rear Admiral W.K. Harrill
in carrier Essex
Task Group 58.7, Battle Line
Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee
in battleship Washington
Main source for this
order of battle
was - Samuel Eliot Morison "History of US Naval
Operations in World War II" (Little Brown & Co., Boston),
.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.
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.
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
was Samuel Eliot Morison's "History of US Naval
Operations in World War II" (Little, Brown & Co,
Volume VIII "New Guineau and the
USS OAKLAND OPERATIONAL
DUTIES DURING THE BATTLE
The Night Recovery Phase
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
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