Photo: U.S. Navy
Photo: U.S. Navy
Cdr. David McCampbell in the cockpit of his Hellcat on board of USS Essex
in the beginning of October 1944. At that time his score stood at 21 kills.
day during one sortie shot down six D4Y Judy
bombers. It took him eight minutes and he spent
360 12.7 mm caliber rounds.
While the American pilots fought the Japanese
aircraft, on that day the Japanese ships were
only attacked by the American submarines.
They fared very well indeed. USS Cavalla hit
Shokaku with three torpedoes and sank her.
USS Albacore hit the new carrier Taiho with
only a single torpedo but a poor execution of
the rescue operations caused the fuel fumes to
accumulate under the deck which later caused a
series of explosions and Taiho sank as well. The
aircraft from the American carriers attacked
the Japanese vessels on June 20, 1944, at the
limit of their range and almost at night. They
sank light carrier Hiyo and two tankers. They
also damaged several other ships. However,
they paid the price by loosing 100 aircraft,
only 20 were shot down in combat tough. The
remaining 80 had to crash land due to the lack
of fuel and the crews were mostly rescued.
The Japanese losses were significantly higher.
The air forces they had gathered during the
whole previous year, were lost in two days. The
remaining Japanese aircraft carriers without
airplanes could not longer play an active role
and in the following battle they were used as
Four battles in one
It took place during the Philippines landing
in October 1944. Actually there was a series
McCampbell is posing in the cockpit of his Hellcat for a propaganda photograph in the end
of October 1944. By scoring additional 9 kills in a day, he raised his score to 30 victories.
of several naval battles which became to be
known under the common name, the Battle of
Leyte Gulf. The Japanese Navy did not recover
from the preceding defeats but had to react
to the Allied invasion. The Japanese deployed
the old samurai tactics of the feign attack.
The Northern Force, commanded by Vice
Admiral Ozawa, assumed the role of a decoy.
On the paper it looked strong composed of two
battleships, aircraft carrier Zuikaku and three
light carrier Zuiho, Chiyoda and Chitose, however
they altogether carried 108 aircraft only. In the
meantime, the Center Force led by Viceadmiral
Kurita and Southern Force consisting of two
groups led by Viceadmirals Nishimura and
Shima were to approach the Allied invasion
fleet through different passages. They were
at the disadvantage though due to the strict
radio silence and the admirals were unable to
coordinate their actions and each of them acted
individually. Therefore they gradually clashed
with the US Navy in four battles.
The first one took place in Sibuyan Sea. First,
on October 23, 1944, Kurita’s Center Force
was spotted and attacked by the American
submarines USS Darter and USS Dace. They
sank two heavy cruisers and damaged another
one. Then, on October 24, 1944, the Japanese
ships became targets of five waves of the
American carrier-borne aircraft. Those sank
the battleship Musashi and damaged several
other ships. Kurita therefore turned around
180 degrees and started to retreat, and the
Americans took the bait. Musashi’s wreck was
one of the first Paul Allen found. It happened
in March 2015 using his older ship Octopus.
Musashi lies 900 meters deep and Allen’s
expedition discovered that she had exploded
while sinking. The bow stands upright on the
ocean’s bottom and the stern is turned upside
down. The main superstructure and stack lie on
Nine kills in one sortie
In the meantime, three waves of Japanese
airplanes from the land bases attacked the
American ships. During their defenses Cdr.
David McCampbell distinguished himself again.
Only in a pair formation, just with his wingman,
he attacked the formation of 60-80 airplanes
approaching the American ships. In the combat,
which lasted an hour and 35 minutes, he shot
down 9 Japanese fighters and two probables.
His wingman, Lt. Roy Rushing was credited with
another six kills. They completely dismantled
the Japanese formation. After the landing
the mechanics did not find any fuel left in
Campbell Hellcat’s tanks and there were two
12.7 mm caliber rounds left for his machine
guns. For this achievement, as well as the
previous success in the Battle of Philippine Sea
four months ago , McCambell was decorated
with the highest American award, Medal of
Honour. The rare success by the Japanese side
was scored by a D4Y Judy dive bomber which
penetrated the defences and suddenly appeared