#ThrowbackThursday: Battle of the Philippine Sea – June 1944 – US Scores Major Victory against Japanese

marianasturkeyshoot

On this day in 1944, in what would become known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”, U.S. carrier-based fighters decimate the Japanese Fleet with only a minimum of losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

The security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, were vital to Japan, which had air bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. U.S. troops were already battling the Japanese on Saipan, having landed there on the 15th. Any further intrusion would leave the Philippine Islands, and Japan itself, vulnerable to U.S. attack.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance, was on its way west from the Marshall Islands as backup for the invasion of Saipan and the rest of the Marianas. But Japanese Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo decided to challenge the American fleet, ordering 430 of his planes, launched from aircraft carriers, to attack.

In what became the greatest carrier battle of the war, the United States, having already picked up the Japanese craft on radar, proceeded to shoot down more than 300 aircraft and sink two Japanese aircraft carriers, losing only 29 of their own planes in the process. It was described in the aftermath as a “turkey shoot”.

Admiral Ozawa, believing his missing planes had landed at their Guam air base, maintained his position in the Philippine Sea, allowing for a second attack of U.S. carrier-based fighter planes, this time commanded by Admiral Mitscher, to shoot down an additional 65 Japanese planes and sink another carrier. In total, the Japanese lost 480 aircraft, three-quarters of its total, not to mention most of its crews. American domination of the Marianas was now a foregone conclusion.

Not long after this battle at sea, U.S. Marine divisions penetrated farther into the island of Saipan. Two Japanese commanders on the island, Admiral Nagumo and General Saito, both committed suicide in an attempt to rally the remaining Japanese forces. It succeeded: Those forces also committed a virtual suicide as they attacked the Americans’ lines, losing 26,000 men compared with 3,500 lost by the United States. Within another month, the islands of Tinian and Guam were also captured by the United States.

The Japanese government of Premier Hideki Tojo resigned in disgrace at this stunning defeat, in what many have described as the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

On the Web:  WW II Battle of the Philippine Sea in Color – Video

Philippine Sea: June 19 – 20, 1944 – USS Enterprise CV-6

Great Marianas Turkey Shoot Timeline

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#MilitaryMonday: June 1944 – Invasion of Saipan

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. LCVPs approach the landing beaches on “D-Day,” 15 June 1944, National Archives photograph, 80-G-231821.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. LCVPs approach the landing beaches on “D-Day,” 15 June 1944, National Archives photograph, 80-G-231821.

On June 15, 1944, following intensive naval gunfire and carrier-based aircraft bombing, the Fifth Fleet’s Task Force 52 lands the Marines on Saipan, which is the first relatively large and heavily defended land mass in the Central Pacific to be assaulted by US amphibious forces. Among the ships firing gun support were battleships USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS California (BB-44). 

The island is secured on July 9.

Inching In (The Beach at Saipan, June 1944) Robert Benney #13 Oil on canvas Gift of Abbott Laboratories 88-159-AR Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection.

Inching In (The Beach at Saipan, June 1944)
Robert Benney #13
Oil on canvas
Gift of Abbott Laboratories
88-159-AR
Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. Marines take cover on the beach while awaiting the arrival of following waves, during the initial assault, 15 June 1944. Note LVT at left. This view is also available from the U.S. Marine Corps as USMC 81716. National Archives photograph, 80-G-234712.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. Marines take cover on the beach while awaiting the arrival of following waves, during the initial assault, 15 June 1944. Note LVT at left. This view is also available from the U.S. Marine Corps as USMC 81716. National Archives photograph, 80-G-234712.

USS Tennessee (BB-43). Underway in Puget Sound, Washington, on 12 May 1943, after modernization. Note the greatly increased beam that was one element of this work. Tennessee provided gunfire support for the Saipan invasion. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives, 19-N-45071.

USS Tennessee (BB-43). Underway in Puget Sound, Washington, on 12 May 1943, after modernization. Note the greatly increased beam that was one element of this work. Tennessee provided gunfire support for the Saipan invasion. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives, 19-N-45071.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. 5”/38 guns of a covering Naval ship point toward Mount Tapotchau during landing operations on “D-Day, National Archives photograph, 80-G-231837.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. 5”/38 guns of a covering Naval ship point toward Mount Tapotchau during landing operations on “D-Day, National Archives photograph, 80-G-231837.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. USS Lexington (CV-16) SBD Dive Bombers fly over the invasion of fleet off Saipan, on “D-Day.” National Archives Photograph, 80-G-236958.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. USS Lexington (CV-16) SBD Dive Bombers fly over the invasion of fleet off Saipan, on “D-Day.” National Archives Photograph, 80-G-236958.

USS California (BB-44). Underway at eight knots in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Washington, on 25 January 1944. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 16-D. USS California provided gunfire support for the Saipan invasion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-211831.

USS California (BB-44). Underway at eight knots in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Washington, on 25 January 1944. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 16-D. USS California provided gunfire support for the Saipan invasion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-211831.

USS Lexington (CV-16). Photographed from USS Cowpens (CVL-25) during raids in the Marshalls and Gilberts Islands, November-December 1943. She is painted in camouflage Measure 21. In June 1944, she participated in the Saipan Invasion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-102 (Color).

USS Lexington (CV-16). Photographed from USS Cowpens (CVL-25) during raids in the Marshalls and Gilberts Islands, November-December 1943. She is painted in camouflage Measure 21. In June 1944, she participated in the Saipan Invasion. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-102 (Color).

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. USS Lexington (CV-16) SBD Dive Bomber flies over Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, during the “D-Day” landings. Maniagassa Islet is in lower right, National Archives Photograph, 80-G-236951.

Saipan Invasion, 15 June 1944. USS Lexington (CV-16) SBD Dive Bomber flies over Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, during the “D-Day” landings. Maniagassa Islet is in lower right, National Archives Photograph, 80-G-236951.

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