Fighting Japanese Planes in Leyte


The Battle of Leyte Gulf  was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks, or suicide attacks in which the pilot uses his plane as the weapon, deliberately crashing it into ships.  David and the Hughes made several trips back and forth between Humboldt Bay and Leyte throughout November 1944.  Each visit to Leyte meant the possibility of a Japanese kamikaze attack on the ship.

On November 12th alone, the Hughes and its task force were attacked six times by Japanese planes, all but one of the attacks were kamikaze suicide bombers. The Hughes opened fire on the Japanese planes each time, and even came up with a new method of trying to divert the suicide planes:  LIGHT.  In the after action report (shown below), the Hughes’s commanding officer, E.B. Rittenhouse writes of pointing the ship’s bright 36″ search lights directly at the suicide planes in an attempt to temporarily blind them so they veer of course and miss the Hughes during their suicide dive.

The most harrowing of the six attacks came at 2:30pm, when the Hughes was moored to a tanker ship for refueling.  Three Japanese suicide planes appeared and began their dive on the Hughes and the nearby ships.  The Hughes was able to shoot down one of the planes, but the other two hit ships in the immediate vicinity.

When it was all over that day, the Hughes ended up shooting down two planes.  It took an incredible amount of bravery and courage from David and the men on the Hughes to remain calm and continue each’s individual duty while under constant threat of kamikaze attacks.

Here is the full after action report from November 12th:


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