The last battleship battle in history took place during World War II, in which the United States Navy faced the Imperial Japanese Navy, marking the end of the heyday of these ships and giving way to aircraft carriers and submarines as dominant instruments of sea power.
American battleships in the Battle of Surigao Strait
Jesse Barrett “Oley” Oldendorf, US Rear Admiral, led the battleship fleet in the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, on October 25, 1944. Five of the six battleships used had been sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor and later raised or rebuilt.
Admiral Oldendorf performed the classic “crossing the T” maneuver, in which a line of warships crosses ahead of a line of enemy ships to allow the crossing line to use all its guns while taking fire from it. Response only from the enemy’s forward guns.
The Japanese rival: Shōji Nishimura
Japanese Vice Admiral Shōji Nishimura was Admiral Oldendorf’s main rival in the Battle of Surigao Strait. On November 30, 1889, Nishimura was born in the Akita Prefecture of Japan. In 1911, he earned a degree from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima.
Nishimura served on the armored cruiser Aso and the battle cruiser Hiei. Less than a month before Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was promoted to rear admiral. In 1942, he solidified his reputation as a leader of the 4th Destroyer Squadron during the Java Sea Battle and the Battle of Midway.
Nishimura led the Southern Force in Operation Sho-Go, a 1944 campaign meant to be the final and definitive assault against the U.S. Navy in the Philippines.
The outcome of the Battle of Surigao Strait
American battleships sank the Japanese Fusō-class battleship Yamashiro and the heavy cruiser Mogami in the battle. West Virginia fired the first salvo at 03:53 local time that morning, and Mississippi fired the last salvo in naval history against another battleship.
Shōji Nishimura died in the battle along with 12,500 of his compatriots, becoming casualties in the largest naval battle in history. On the other hand, Jesse Oldendorf earned the Navy Cross and lived until the end of the war.
He retired from the Navy as a four-star admiral on September 1, 1948, and died in Portsmouth, Virginia, on April 27, 1974, at the age of 87. His remains were cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the sea.
Legacy of the Last Battleship Battle
The Battle of Surigao Strait marked the end of the battleship era in naval history, as they gave way to aircraft carriers and submarines as the dominant instruments of sea power. While it wasn’t the last “hurrah” for battleships as a viable combat tool, it was the last time they faced each other in battle.
The confrontation between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II is an example of how the evolution of naval tactics and technology changed the course of history and the development of warfare at sea.
The last battleship battle in history took place during World War II and was an epic engagement between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Surigao Strait.
Although battleships no longer rule the seas, their legacy remains a reminder of the power and importance of naval warfare in history.