In mid-October of 1944 the Japanese, close to military desperation, assembled an impressive, last-gasp fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita. Comprising 30 vessels, including the new battleships Yamato and Musashi and ten heavy cruisers, the armada was under orders to thwart the pending American invasion of the strategic Philippines. By October 26, the beaten remnant of the Imperial fleet was in full retreat and the ""mystique of the Japanese as never-say-die fighters was shattered once and for all."" To reconstruct the story of the decisive Leyte Gulf engagement, Hoyt has relied almost exclusively on archival sources (diaries, action reports -- both American and Japanese) as well as a few interview reminiscences with U.S. officers. Most of the account is stiltedly descriptive and what analysis there is -- for instance, Admiral Halsey's impetuosity at San Bernardino Strait -- is handled very gingerly (Halsey ""was wrong"" but his action was ""the strength of the man""). For those old sea dogs who just float away.