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Battle of the Philippine Sea:  June 19-20, 1944

The Battle of the Philippine Sea, the largest aircraft carrier action in World War II, began on June 19, 1944.   This battle was to counter the American invasion of Saipan.   Task Force 58 was commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, USN.  The Japanese were tactically led by Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, Commander Mobile Fleet.  Japanese Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander of the Combined Fleet stated, "The fate of the Empire rests on this one battle."   During the battle, Task Force 58 battled four Japanese air raids, shooting down hundreds of enemy aircraft in what became known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot."  It is estimated that 315 of the 423 enemy aircraft-carrier aircraft were destroyed, along with an additional 50 aircraft destroyed on Guam.  One of the reasons for the success was the use of Radio Proximity (VT) Fuses.  An example of one is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.    The Japanese lost two aircraft carriers Shokaku and Taiho, sunk by torpedoes from USS Cavalla (SS-244) and USS Albacore (SS-218), respectively.   The following day, with the Japanese in retreat, Task Force 58 attacked with a late afteroon strike that sank the Japanese carrier Hiyo and two oilers, but Mitscher called back the aviators due to the problem of night landing on the U.S. Navy carriers.  

Image:  80-G-236841:  Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 1944.  Lieutenant Junior Grade Alexander Vraciu, USNR, Fighting Squadron 16 "Ace" holds-up his six-fingers to signify his kills, June 19, 1944.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collection of the National Archives.