I believe that MacArthur did not forbade Kinkaid to communicate with Halsey, and that this is another myth of World War II. If you believe I am wrong, please provide source so that I can run this "rabbit" down its hole!
My comments are in black and anything from books are in red, at least I hope it came out that way!!
There were critical failures in US inter-fleet communications during the invasion of Leyte. Several writers have blamed this on the obsessive control of Douglas MacArthur, reporting that he proscribed the two from sharing information except when done through channels under his HQs. I believe it is a myth that GEN Douglas MacArthur forbade Admiral Kincaid, Commander 7th Fleet, to communicate with Admiral Halsey, Commander 3d Fleet, during the invasion of the island of Leyte. In fact, the US Navy's official history states things correctly, which are MacArthur told them to figure out how they were going to communicate, leaving the details up to them. Those that perpetuate the myth are, as H.P. Wilmott implies, blaming an Army General for an internal Navy communications problem. The bottom line is, the two fleet headquarters mismanaged message handling during this critical operation, resulting in delays and disruptions of sequence in delivery.
I have been trying to find where this first appeared in print and to read the footnotes to see who this “order” can be attributed to.
I decided to start with the official history of the United States Navy and went to the book entitled, “Leyte, June 1944-January 1945, Volume XII”, History of United States Naval Operation in World War II, by Samuel Eliot Morison, ISBN: 0-7858-1313-6 and on page 59-60 I found this:“In effect, Admiral Halsey had an overriding objective assigned to him by Nimitz apart from and independent of General MacArthur’s, which was the prompt liberation of Leyte. Halsey was the sole judge of his primary duty at any critical juncture. Nothing in his orders or in Nimitz’s operation plan required him to obtain the General’s concurrence in any action he chose to initiate, or even to advise him as to change of plan. To give divergent duties to two such strong and aggressive characters as Halsey and MacArthur, and expect them always to cooperate, was to invite trouble. And the only reason it did not create a great deal of trouble was that the General kept his hands off the Navy, and allowed his naval commander, Admiral Kinkaid, to determine his own relations with Third Fleet and Admiral Halsey.”
Further on in the book pages 290-294 we find the 7th Fleet Commander communicating directly with the 3d Fleet Commander. Admiral Kinkaid had a radio tuned to the 3d Fleet’s Command frequency and was aware of actions that Admiral Halsey had taken in regard to the Japanese carrier force that he decided to steam after and attack but he believed Halsey had left TF 34 (the battle line) to guard San Bernardino Strait; however other members of Kinkaid’s staff were not so sure and decided that Halsey should be questioned about his dispositions. So from page 291-292: “Certain Seventh Fleet staff officers who disagreed with the Admiral’s interpretation of these dispatches finally persuaded him to seek information from Third Fleet. At 0412 October 25, when sending Halsey news of the victory in Surigao Strait, Kinkaid added a query as to whether Task Force 34 was guarding San Bernardino Strait. Halsey did not receive this message until 0648, and at 0705 he sent the discouraging reply that TF 34 was with the fast carriers going north.”
There are other examples of Kinkaid and Clifton Sprague communicating directly with Halsey, the one that I believe shows that something was wrong in how the US Navy communicated during this battle is the one on page 293-294: “At 0727 Kinkaid radioed in plain English, and Halsey received the message at 0900: “Request Lee proceed top speed to cover Leyte; request immediate strike by fast carriers.”
Why would it take a plain text message one hour and thirty three minutes to get to Halsey?
I also checked the operations order which is on line and you can read the communications annex here:http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/rep ... -44-N.html
The whole order is here: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/rep ... l#contents
Nowhere in that annex can I find where it was forbidden for 7th Fleet to communicate with 3d Fleet. Command frequencies for both fleets are listed with call signs, which imply that they were permitted to communicate.
Next I checked the book entitled “The Two-Ocean War, A short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War” by Samuel Eliot Morison, copyright 1963.
On page 454 you will read this: “How could this formidable fleet have covered 125 to 150 miles from inside San Bernardino Strait, down along the ocean shore of Samar, in the last seven hours-undetected by ship, search plane or coastwatcher?
Admiral Halsey was informed by a night-search plane from Independence that Kurita’s Center Force would sortie from San Bernardino Strait. Sightings on it heading that way reached the Admiral as late as 2120 October 24. But he simply did not care. Estimating that his carrier pilots’ exaggerated reports of their sinkings in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea were correct, he assumed that Center Force “could no longer be considered a serious menace to Seventh Fleet,” in or outside Leyte Gulf, and did not even warn Kinkaid to watch out.”
So, even if you believe that MacArthur forbade Kinkaid to talk to Halsey, Halsey could talk to Kinkaid! Admiral Halsey fell under Nimitz not MacArthur and he could talk to anyone he desired. The statement by Morison that Halsey “simply did not care” is damning.
While searching on line to find more information I came across three papers written by naval officers to fulfill school required academic papers. Two papers did not state that General MacArthur forbade Admiral Kinkaid to communicate with Admiral Halsey, but one did. The paper is entitled: “Tarnished Victory: Divided Command In The Pacific And Its Consequences In The Naval Battle For Leyte Gulf” by James P. Drew, LCDR, USN, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2009. On page 33 he states the following under the sub title “Communications”“The division of command imposed obstacles on the free flow of communications between Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet and Halsey’s Third Fleet during the conduct of the operation. The lack of communication meant that neither fleet commander could derive what today would be termed a Common Operation Picture (COP) of what was actually occurring in and around the Leyte battlespace. Messages from Kinkaid to Halsey were often routed in a haphazard fashion and arrived woefully late and out of sequence. Likewise, Halsey communicated information regarding his intended fleet disposition and movement to Admiral Nimitz and his subordinates, but was under no obligation to share that information with Admiral Kinkaid. This ill conceived structure caused each fleet commander to make inaccurate assumptions about the conduct of the battle
The dual command structure in effect at Leyte also made it time consuming for Kinkaid to communicate with Halsey. To communicate directly with Halsey, Kinkaid had to transmit his message traffic to an intermediate radio station on the island of Manus. From there it would be rebroadcast to its intended recipients. Author Evan Thomas asserts that this restriction was designed so that MacArthur could see all message traffic. 11 In his biography of Halsey, Potter asserts: “MacArthur, insistent on maintaining the independence of his command, forbade any uninterrupted channel of communication from the Seventh Fleet to the Third.” 12 Regardless of the reasoning behind this regulation, it impeded the flow of message traffic from Kinkaid to Halsey. Potter continues: “The operators at Manus stacked the urgent messages and sent them out in the order they arrived or made a wild guess about which had priority. As a result it sometimes took hours for a dispatch to get from Kinkaid to Halsey, and often the messages arrived out of sequence. 13 In his recent book on the battle H.P. Wilmott states:
One hesitates to write anything in defense of MacArthur, but for naval historians to blame an army general for a lack of proper communications between naval formations seems to be at the very limit of credibility. In any event, a theater commander can hardly be blamed for lack of communications between one of his forces and a counterpart in another theater; that responsibility and task, surely, fell to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and specifically King, who bore executive responsibility for the pacific. 14
Willmott’s point is well taken. King’s earlier assertion that the Joint Chiefs would control strategy in the Pacific, coupled with the JCS’s refusal to resolve the issue of divided command in the Pacific absolved MacArthur of the ultimate responsibility. The point is not to cast blame on MacArthur; instead it is to illustrate the larger point that Third Fleet was not a “counterpart in another theater.” It was from another theater but was operating very much within MacArthur’s geographic area of responsibility. It was not his fault that Third Fleet, a unit who played a major part in determining the operation’s success or failure, was outside his operational control. Willmott does not dispute that MacArthur wanted to keep a tight rein on communications originating within his theater. That MacArthur did so is an illustration, or a symptom, of how disunity of command adversely impacted the Leyte operation. MacArthur would have had no need to hold communications tight if Third Fleet had been placed under his operational control for the duration of the campaign.”
Now let us examine some of the footnotes from the paper above. The paper states “MacArthur, insistent on maintaining the independence of his command, forbade any uninterrupted channel of communication from the Seventh Fleet to the Third.”
12 This quote is attributed to the book entitled “Bull Halsey” by E. B. Potter ISBN 1-59114-691-7, page 290. I go to page 290 and the information is listed under footnote#3 or at least that is the closest footnote. So the information is attributed to Van Deurs oral history, 487. So I assume this is Admiral George Van Deurs. I will have to track that down and see what he has to say and if he has any documentation to back up this assertion, or did he just make it up to explain why the US Navy had communication failures during this battle.
From the information that I have seen and reproduced above, I believe that once again a myth has made it into print and historians doing “original” research quote each other to perpetuate the myth until it becomes a fact by simple repetition.
It may be instructive to examine radio communications failures that occurred within the US Navy prior to Leyte Gulf to see if there may be a “systematic problem” of some sort.
From the book entitled “Midway: The Incredible Victory” by Walter Lord, ISBN 1 84022 236 0, page 136. “Racing southwest at 6:30, Task Force 16 had nothing to go on except those first contact reports-growing colder every minute. Spruance’s staff could listen to the PBY traffic, but there was nothing in since 6:02. The other best source-Midway itself-they couldn’t pick up at all. The fleet and the base were on entirely different frequencies, so there was no direct way to get anything reported by Midway’s Army and Marine pilots. Everything had to be relayed by Pearl-a slow, hit-or-miss process.”
So why did not the Task Force tune a radio to the frequency that they needed in order to get the most current information? Lots of radio’s in the Task Force, could have ordered a cruiser to monitor the correct frequency and send the information to the Task Force Commander by blinker light or semaphore, etc.
Page 189. “To make matters worse, radio reception was bad-lots of static and fading-and some fool in the Aleutians kept sending inconsequential messages, which CINCPAC dutifully relayed for the Enterprise’s information. Dow finally asked Pearl to stop.”
I think this shows that staffs may not of been properly trained or informed as to what the “big” picture was and how each part of this whole operation inter-related to each other. A cynical way of stating this is to ask “where were the adults?”
Page 262. “At 8:00 a PBY had reported a burning carrier trailing two battleships, three cruisers and four destroyers. For some reason the message didn’t reach Task Force 16 till late in the morning, but once Spruance had it he made his choice. The carrier was 275 miles away, the contact was cold, but it was still the “prime target.” At 11:15 he turned northwest and began a long stern chase. If a carrier was up there at 8:00 A.M., he’d take a chance on it now.”“For some reason the message didn’t reach Task Force 16 till late in the morning”
There is a reason and I wonder if anyone tried to determine the reason and fix it?
Page 288. “The second-guessers were soon at it too. Strategists argued, perhaps correctly, that the submarines were badly deployed. . . that the scouting was poor. . .that communications were slow and overly complicated. . . That there wasn’t enough coordination between the Task Forces. . . that the Yorktown might have been saved. . .that Task Force 16 was too slow in following up the first day’s success.”“Communications were slow and overly complicated”
Could the reason be a systemic or procedural problem obviously internal to the navy in this case.
The following communication problems come from the book entitled: “The Admirals, Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King-The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea”, by Walter R. Borneman. ISBN 978-0-316-09784-0.
Page 248 “Nimitz got the news by sporadic and long-delayed radio traffic, and when the final blow came, the engineer in him couldn’t help but surface, and he muttered, if only to himself, “They should have saved the Lexington.”
Page 290 “Characteristically, Nimitz’s first reaction was calmly to rally his subordinates. Radio communications with Ghormley were wretched and were equally so among Ghormley’s commands.”
If I recall correctly Ghormley’s headquarters was located on a very hot and cramp ship tied up to a pier and the first thing that Halsey did when he took over was to move everything into more spacious and cooler accommodations on shore so the staff could operate more effectively.