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Battle of Leyte Gulf

...The Largest Sea Battle of WW2, from Pen & Sword

Title: Battle of Leyte Gulf
Author: John Grehan & Alexander Nicoll
Publisher: Frontline Books
ISBN: 978-1-52677-039-4

Another Images of War title from Frontline Books, telling the story of the largest sea battle of WW2. A 184-page soft-cover book, this holds a valuable collection of archive photos with illustrate a key battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy of WW2 and US Navy fleets, along with some Australian Navy support. It involved over 360 ships and around 200,000 navy crew between the two sides.
The introduction sets out the context of the war in the Pacific when it got to the stage where the American forces needed to retake the Philippines before moving on towards the Japanese home islands. The Japanese knew they planned landings on Leyte and set out to make a major effort to bring the US Navy to battle, and to defeat it. There were some mixed fortunes for both sides, but ultimately it proved to be a significant defeat for the IJN. The book follows the sequence of the battle, which actually broke down into 4 separate engagements. The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24th October 1944; Battles of the Sulu Sea and the Surigao Strait, 24/25 October; The Battle off Samar, 25 October; and then The Battle off Cape Engano, 25/26 October, before a final chapter that considers Consequences & Controversies. Air power and their associated Carriers played a vital part, along with battleships and every other class of warship and submarine. It includes the story of the huge battleship Yamato, which got to fire its' huge 18.1in guns at enemy surface vessels, the only time it did so during the war. In the same engagement, the destroyer USS Johnstone was sunk, a vessel whose wreck has only very recently been found, one of the deepest wrecks to be found. Both these were involved in the Battle off Samar, when a force of US Escort Carriers, Taffy 3, were encountered by the Japanese who could have inflicted far worse damage than they did.
The number of photos that show the course of events, including plenty of aerial photos with ships manoeuvring below, along with aircraft carrying out Kamikaze attacks. One of the things that struck me, bearing in mind everything that was going on around the photographers, that so many photographs were actually taken during these tense and indeed dangerous/violent events. The supporting text with the picture caption are extensive and a key element in telling the full story. Another fine addition to the Image of War series.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for this review copy.


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