During the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the invasion of the Philippines, the Japanese launched a daring plan to destroy the American transports off the coast in the central Philippines and inflict crippling damage on U.S. naval forces. The Japanese plan worked thanks to a ruse that lured the heavy American fleet carriers away to the north. A fleet of Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers caught the depleted Americans completely by surprise. The desperate Americans had six slower, smaller “jeep” carriers, and destroyers whose five-inch guns and thin armor were no match for the Japanese.

Nevertheless, Task Unit 77.4.3 (“Taffy 3”), commanded by Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague, wouldn’t go down without a fight. Their delaying action aided by aircraft allowed the slower escort carriers to escape. The Americans suffered as many casualties as at the Battles at Midway and the Coral Sea combined; but it could have been much worse. The “Tin Cans” (destroyers and destroyer escorts) of Taffy 3 saved the day and showed incredible resolve and heroism. 

After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese fleet was a shell of its former self. It was rendered incapable of ever again conducting offensive operations.