67 years ago today, the Battle of Leyte Gulf began off the Philippines. By the time it ended, three days later, 32 warships were at the bottom of the Pacific (6 US, 26 Japanese), and the Japanese Navy had been eliminated as a force of any consequence in the future conduct of World War II.
main armament turret during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, October 24th, 1944
The Battle of Leyte Gulf comprised four major engagements, each a battle in its own right:
There were also several minor engagements. The Battle of Leyte Gulf also saw the first use of deliberate suicide strikes by Japanese pilots, which would become known as kamikaze attacks. One of them sank the US escort carrier USS St. Lo, shown below, exploding after the attack.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf marked the coming together of the two prongs of the US assault on Japan across the Pacific. The South Pacific prong, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, joined the Central Pacific prong, under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. From now onward the two forces would operate together against Japan. Final victory was less than a year away, although it would exact a terrible price in human lives and suffering from both sides.
In terms of the number of ships, aircraft and personnel that took part, and the size of the area over which it was fought, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was (and remains) the largest naval engagement in history.