US Army General Douglas MacArthur had fought a hard campaign up the back of New Guinea, only to see his greatest successes eclipsed in the press by the invasions in the central Pacific and Europe. Privately, he was considering a run for US President against Roosevelt, and he did not get along with US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz. The reconquest of the Philippines would shore up his wounded prestige.
He had waited for three years to make good on his promise to return to the Philippines. He now commanded a force that could do the job and that was growing in strength every day. After the defeat of the Marianas, the Japanese were concentrating their strength on the Philippines. The battle would be one of the most intense of the war, and would begin with the main fleet engagement both sides had looked for since the start of the war.
When it was over, a cloud would hang over one of America's naval heroes, the Japanese would come within yards of winning the strategic objective, and the United States Navy would destroy the backbone of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Never again would surface units deploy in great numbers. After Leyte Gulf the largest fleet units would be reserved as suicide attacks for the coming invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.
But a determined Japanese force, using the "Go" Plan, would deploy to attack the transports supporting the landing and destroy the US Navy. The plan called for the remnants of the once great carrier forces, depleted of aircraft, to act as decoys for the battleships, which would come from Singapore and sink the American transports while the screening force would go after the carriers. Included in the Fleet from Singapore were the 18-inch guns of the Yamato and Musashi, the largest battleships ever built. Admiral Ozawa's force included the veteran Zuikaku; he had only 90 planes for his four carriers. A second group would come through the Surigao Straights to attack the Americans, while the main force -including Musashi and Yamato - would attack Leyte Gulf.
What the Japanese did not know was that their codes were still being read by US Navy intelligence. The entire plan was made available to the American commanders, who knew that Ozawa's decoy force was just that and the other forces would concentrate on the transports. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey knew that Ozawa was the decoy force, while battleships would try to attack the landing ships in Leyte Gulf while he was chasing the carriers.