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Leyte Island

Introduction | Features

Introduction to Leyte

In the Philippines the principal objective had been Luzon since it was on one of the corners of the so-called strategic triangle.

Since it was presumed that the Japanese had massed their principal ground, air, and naval strength in Luzon, United States strategists had planned to gain a foothold first in southernmost Mindanao, then move to Leyte, and finally to Luzon after air supremacy had been gained over that area. But when naval reconnaissance in September 1944 revealed little Japanese activity in the Philippines, Admiral Halsey proposed landing directly on Leyte in October.

This change of strategy was quickly approved by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, who were at that time attending the second Quebec Conference. Strategically the plan was brilliant, because it would force the Japanese to split their forces in the Philippines and practically force the Japanese Combined Fleet to come out in the open to meet the threat.

The amphibious assault on Leyte took place on October 20, 1944 with four divisions of the U.S. Sixth Army going in abreast. The invading force included the XXIV Corps from the Central Pacific.

Initial opposition was light, but the Japanese who had expected to make their main stand on Luzon decided to shift their remaining air and naval might against the U.S. forces in Leyte. They were also successful for a time in sending large numbers of ground reinforcements to Leyte, and the Sixth Army found itself engaged in a major struggle.

As had been anticipated, the attack on Leyte presented the Japanese navy with a challenge it could not ignore. Gathering together its remaining strength, the Japanese Combined Fleet converged on Leyte Gulf in three columns, and for a time seriously threatened the success of the whole Leyte operation. Actually, the sea battle was a series of engagements lasting from 23 to 26 October. In the end, Japan's fleet was almost completely destroyed, and for the rest of the war Allied naval forces were in virtual control of the surface of the Pacific.

Two months of heavy ground fighting took place in Leyte before American troops had secured parts of the island necessary for air and logistical bases, before the Army Air Forces had gained air superiority, and before naval and air forces had stopped Japanese reinforcing operations. Late in December General MacArthur announced that thereafter the U.S. Eighth Army would assume combat responsibility for the Leyte-Samar area.

Leyte Features

Heroes of Leyte

Fascinating, inspiring stories and details about American heroes of Leyte who were recognized with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

[The primary source for this text is the U.S. Army Center for Military History. For a more general overview of the war see the Brief History of WWII e-text."]

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