19-20 June

The Battle of the Philippine Sea concludes with a decisive U.S. naval victory over the forces of the Empire of Japan. The lopsided naval air battle is also known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June, 1944) was a decisive naval battle of World War II that eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States’ amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War. The battle was the last of five major “carrier-versus-carrier” engagements between American and Japanese naval forces, and involved elements of the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet as well as ships and land-based aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Mobile Fleet and nearby island garrisons.

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Map of the Battle

The aerial theatre of the battle was nicknamed the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot by American aviators for the severely disproportional loss ratio inflicted upon Japanese aircraft by American pilots and anti-aircraft gunners. During a debriefing after the first two air battles a pilot from USS Lexington remarked “Why, hell, it was just like an old-time turkey shoot down home!” The outcome is generally attributed to American improvements in pilot and crew training and tactics, war technology (including the top-secret anti-aircraft proximity fuse), and ship and aircraft design. Although at the time the battle appeared to be a missed opportunity to destroy the Japanese fleet, the Imperial Japanese Navy had lost the bulk of its carrier air strength and would never recover. During the course of the battle, American submarines torpedoed and sank two of the largest Japanese fleet carriers taking part in the battle. This was the largest carrier-to-carrier battle in history.