June 19-20, 1944 the battle of the Philippine Sea (being part of the WWII Pacific War 1939-1945), that is known as “the greatest carrier battle of the WWII”.
After previously lost battles (at the Coral Sea, Midway and the Solomons Campaign) Japan was ready to hit once again. This time the plan was to defeat USN once and for all. Japan’s force was centered on 5 fleet carriers, 4 light carriers, 5 battleships and 43 smaller vessels, whereas USN turned out to consist of 7 fleet carriers, 8 light carriers, 7 battleships, 79 other warships and 28 submarines.
The battle began on the morning of June 19 with Japanese planes attacking the American fleet. On that day Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo sent his planes in four waves against the US, out of which around 373 carrier aircraft were lost (only 130 returned to the carriers). On same day US lost 29 only.
On June 20 American search aircraft spent most of the day trying to locate Japanese ships. At around 4 pm American scout (from USS Enterprise) spotted the enemy, thanks to which the strike began. American fleet managed to sank two oilers and the aircraft carrier Hiyo. During same attack aircraft carriers Zuikaku, Junyo, Chiyoda and the battleship Haruna received damage as well. After this the American pilots had to worry about getting back “home” (being 250 miles away!) in complete darkness. In order to make their return easier Admiral Marc Mitscher ordered a daring move – he wanted all his ships to turn on every light, so that pilots could safely land. Most of the US aircraft managed to return. However, about 80 planes were lost due to either landing accidents or low fuel.
In the evening of the same day Admiral Ozawa received orders to withdraw from the Philippine Sea.
Battle of the Philippine Sea ended in a complete US victory as well as made Japan unable to recover from the loss.
Losses in total:
US: 1 battleship damaged, 123 aircraft destroyed
Japan: 3 fleet carriers and 2 oilers sunk, ca. 550-645 aircraft destroyed, 6 other ships damaged