USS Suwannee After Being Hit by Kamikaze Attack

October 25, 1944Photograph

While the Japanese brought the full force of their fleet to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, with little air support they were vulnerable to American air attacks and suffered heavy losses over the following two days. The battle that ensued would go down in history as the largest naval battle of World War II.

The battle is also significant for the first ever organized Kamikaze attack by Japanese pilots. As much of the Japanese air force had suffered tremendous losses prior to the battle, few experienced pilots remained. As less experienced pilots began filling the ranks, Japanese commanders instructed these men to use themselves and their planes as weapons against American ships. These attacks resulted in severe losses of both men and ships for the U.S. Navy, while rapidly depleting the Japanese air force.