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USN Aircraft Intervention
Dick raises a good point. It is my understanding that the USN aircraft were F4F Wildcats and TBF Avengers (armed with depth charges). Most IJN floatplane would not have fared well against the US aircraft, but the separation between the two fleets was not great; less than 20 miles which an aircraft could cover in only a few minutes. That said, even with a high rate of attrition, only one sighting report would be needed to confirm the US ship types.
I concede that we don't know how many floatplane remained in the Center Force. Still, I wonder why Kurita didn't try.
The air over Taffy 3 and Kurita's force was full of USN aircraft, some from Taffy 3 and some from the other Taffy's. It is doubtful that any of the IJN float planes would have gotten close enough to Taffy 3 to get off a meaningful report before being splashed. And after the attacks of the previous day, how many serviceable float planes would have been available to Kurita in any case?
The heroism of the men of Taffy 3 during the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944, is legendary. What the Taffy 3 destroyers accomplished has no equals in the annals of U.S. Navy history.
Historians have reported that the Japanese did not recognize the USN ships being attacked. The escort carriers were mistaken for Halsey's fleet carriers and the destroyers were mistaken for cruisers. This confusion caused many Japanese shots to pass over the Taffy 3 escorts. These misses bought considerable time that enabled the destroyers to inflict unexpected damage on ADM Kurita's Center Force for over two hours. Finally, Kurita lost his nerve and turned away, and the rest is history.
The question I have is why didn't Kurita launch float planes from a battleship or cruiser in order to provide Kurita with a clearer picture of his opposition. It would not have taken long for the float planes to confirm the composition of Taffy 3. With that done, the Center Force could have turned around and easily dispatched the remnants of Taffy 3. Accordingly, the landing beaches at Leyte would have been exposed and vulnerable to the Center Force.
We can only surmise the effect of an attack on the Leyte landings, but recapture of the Philippines clearly would been delayed. Another impact would have been that of Nimitz's message to Halsey asking where his carriers were. Had Kurita been successful, Nimitz might have been less forgiving of Halsey.
Of course. Kurita didn't launch any scout planes and ultimately gave up the on the attack. The Leyte landings were successful and the rest is history.
Still, it is a provocative question.
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