In this compelling account, retired combat veteran Cutler (Strategy/US Naval Academy; Brown Water, Black Berets, 1988) offers balanced criticism and praise of the American performance in a critical WW II battle. In October 1944, in an attempt to force a battle that would turn the tide of the war, Japanese fleets opposed General MacArthur's amphibious operations on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. Cutler shows how the American Third and Seventh fleets, which were combined to support operations on Leyte, were attacked by Japanese naval forces under Admiral Kurita; with total air superiority and a formidable attacking submarine force for which the Japanese had no counterpart, Cutler argues, the American forces should have had no difficulty achieving victory. Indeed, American air attacks in the Subuyan Sea on October 24, 1944, together with coordinated American submarine attacks, inflicted great damage on Kurita's ships. However, Admiral Ozawa, commanding a separate Japanese fleet from north of Leyte, feinted an all-out attack on American Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet, persuading Halsey that a large Japanese carrier force was attacking and diverting his fleet away from the battle. Cutler argues that if separate Japanese fleets under admirals Shima and Nishimura had been able to merge their fleets with Kurita's and coordinate their attacks, and if Kurita had not broken off the battle when a crucial task force of the Seventh Fleet was nearly exhausted, a major American defeat might have resulted. In the event, uncoordinated Japanese attacks (most notably, the destructive kamikaze attacks that were the first use of suicide fliers against American ships during the war) against an outnumbered American adversary resulted in a battle that was hugely costly on both sides, but that did not stop the American forces from achieving their strategic objectives in the Philippines. A well-researched, carefully reasoned account of the little-studied battle that made ultimate American victory in the Pacific inevitable.