ADMIRAL KUTITA'S TURN AWAY
While Kurita headed north at 1300,just as McCain's aircraft came in for their final attack and although they inflicted little damage they did confirm Kurita;s decision to avoid Leyte Gulf but he did continue his search for the American carriers-to thisend he haf called up every aircraft from Luzon but still drew a blank.BY this time his destroyers were low on fuel and Kurita and his staff were utterly exhausted.
Kurita saw retirement from the field of battle as his only alternative.Towards dusk hid Centre Force headed for San Bernardino Strait,which he entered at 21.30.That night they steamed at best possible speed across the Sibuyan Sea. Kurita had escaped with 4BB's,2 heavy cruisers and 1 light cruise along with 7 destroyers-a powerful force for a offensive action.Even though an answer is given above for his action -there is the nagging thought-was that the real reason????
Because there was no enemy to the north, at least nowhere close by. Halsey was still 200 miles away, racing back-too late to try to catch the Japanese. Shortly before dusk, Kurita turned his fleet to the west and passed back through the San Bernardino Strait. The fleet was attacked again the next day (at his post on the bridge wing, Koitabashi was badly wounded by shrapnel; during our interview, he took off his shoe and sock so I could feel the hard piece of metal,a memento of the Yanwn, still under his skin.) Kurita's fleet,halved in size, limped back to Lingaan. The Japanese Imperial Navy was effectively finished as a sea-fighting force.
Second-guessing started right away. In his battle report, Kurita justified his tum away from Leyte to the north on the morning of 25 October, writing he had received a telegram from an airbase at Manila that said a U.S. fleet had been sighted at 0945, 1 10 miles north of the lighthouse at the entrance to Leyte Gulf. That was the enemy fleet Kurita had turned to attack-but there was no U.S. fleet.Naval experts later guessed that a reconnaissance plane from Manila had spotted stragglers from Kurita's own fleet at 0945, which would mean that by circling back to attack,Kurita had in effect been chasing his own tail. No one in Japan has been able to find any record of the actual telegram. Some critics of Kurita suspect he and his staff concocted the telegram as an excuse.
Others wonder if it was a clever ruse by the Americans, who had broken the Japanese code and were capable of sending a false message. Had Halsey, who liked gambits (and whose staff was proudly nicknamed"the Department of Dirty Tlicks"), tried to cover his mistake in leaving the San Bemardino Strait unguarded by sending a false signal to confuse the Japanese? If so,one would think that Halsey's men would have bragged about it after the war; this is a mystery that warrants further investigation.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call