The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and also the largest naval battle in history.
It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon, from 23 to 26 October 1944, between allied American and Australian forces against the Japanese. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the US Navy's 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of petroleum fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf included four major naval battles: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is also notable as the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks.
Photo: The light carrier USS Princeton burning soon after being hit by a Japanese bomb while operating off the Philippines on 24 October 1944. This view, taken from USS South Dakota (BB-57) at about 1001, shows the large smoke column passing aft following a heavy explosion in the carrier's hangar deck.
[Official U.S. Navy Photograph]