Leyte, situated between Luzon and Mindanao, was the first of the Philippine islands to be recaptured during the Second World War. After a two day naval bombardment General Walter Krueger and the 6th Army began landing on the island on 22nd October, 1944.
The Japanese Navy now made a strenuous effort to save the Philippines. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, deployed every surviving Japanese warship in two groups under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita and Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa. The strategy was to use Ozawa's smaller fleet to draw the US Navy away from Leyte.
Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita and his fleet now moved in to attack the Allied invasion force. However Vice-Admiral Thomas Kinkaid and the 7th Fleet was still in the area providing cover for the 175,000 members of the US Army landing on Leyte.
The battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval engagement in history. It was a decisive victory for the Allies with the Japanese Navy lost four carriers, three battleships and ten cruisers. It was now clear that the US Navy had control of the Pacific and that further Allied landings in the region were likely to be successful.
After the successful amphibious landings General Douglas MacArthur and General Walter Krueger pushed the Japanese 35th Army out of the central valley onto the mountainous inland backbone of Leyte. After bitter fighting the US forces captured the important port of Ormoc on 10th December. By the time the island was completely secured the US Army had lost 3,500 men. It is estimated that over 55,000 Japanese soldiers were killed during the campaign.