What terribl e mistake was made that allowed Kurita to appearoffSamar?
The question has been considered many times over by naval historians and in the literature on the battle.
A simple answer is that the fa ult lay with the divided US command structure.
Admiral Halsey was responsible to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander Central Pacific.
Vice Admiral Kinkaid was under General Douglas MacArthur, Commander Southeast Pacific.
While there was cooperation between the Third and the Seventh Fleets in the Leyte operation,
there was no ultimate point of responsibility-so that Halsey could take his entire force from Philippine waters and attack Ozawa in the north on his own volition,
which, of course, is exactly what he did.
The situation was made much worse, however, because in doing so Halsey misled Kinkaid and others into believing that some of his force,
Battleship Task Group 34 under Admiral Lee, was still guarding San Bernardino Strait.
It is quite possible to view the Taffy 3 losses as the better alternative to that of a more traumatic,
and more devastating, scenario in which the Japanese battleships and cruisers enter Leyte Gulf and smash the supply ships
and the tremendous concentration of supplies and equipment on the beaches.
Conceivably this could have happened in conjunction with the planned army counterattack against the American invasion troops.
Certainly it would have been supported from the air and US air cover would have been less in evidence, as a result of Kamikaze attacks on US escort carriers.
Was there anything with which to contest Kurita in Leyte Gulf if he managed to get that far?
Perhaps Oldendorf’s battleships and cruisers thathad smashed the Southern Force the night before could have performed the task.
Indeed, on learning of the fight off Samar, Vice Admiral Kinkaid issued orders to Oldendo1f to move his ships to a position adjacent to the landing site and await the appearance of Kurita.
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