Battle of the South China Sea

World War II




South China Sea


Allied victory

  • Loss of IJN's offensive power
  • Invasion of Taiwan




11 aircraft carriers
2 light carriers
9 battleships
3 battlecruisers
11 heavy cruisers
15 light cruisers
45 destroyers
3 frigates
5 submarines

5 fleet carriers
4 light carriers
3 battleships
2 battlecruisers
14 heavy cruisers
6 light cruisers
18 destroyers

  • Five destroyers sunk
  • One submarine sunk
  • Some aircraft shot down
  • Some ships damaged
  • Six aircraft carriers sunk
  • Three aircraft carriers damaged
  • Three battleships sunk
  • Most escorts sunk or damaged
  • Most aircraft shot down or crashed

The Battle of the South China Sea, also known as the Naval Battle of Taiwan or the Great Formosan Turkey Shoot is generally considered to have been the largest and most decisive naval battle of World War II, and possibly the largest naval battle in history.

It was fought in the waters off southern China in 1944, near Hong Kong and Taiwan, between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the combined forces of the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, French and Dutch navies. As the Japanese were pushed out of Southeast Asia, the Allies began to prepare to invade the Home Islands, but the IJN still posed a threat. Knowing that Japanese doctrine advocated fighting a single decisive battle, the British set a trap, allowing a seemingly weak force to draw the IJN out before revealing the rest of their forces. The Japanese mobilized nearly their entire remaining fleet in an attempt to destroy the decoy force, and were caught by the main Allied force in a pincer movement. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never again posed a significant threat to Allied forces. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War. Allied losses were light in comparison, but damage - especially to aircrews and escorts - delayed operations after the invasion of Taiwan by several months.

The battle was nicknamed the "Great Formosan Turkey Shoot" for the severely disproportionate loss ratio inflicted upon Japanese aircraft by Allied pilots and anti-aircraft gunners. During a debriefing after the first two air battles an American expatriate pilot serving on the HMS Implacable remarked "Why, hell, it was just like an old-time turkey shoot down home!" The outcome is generally attributed to British and Allied improvements in pilot and crew training and tactics, war technology, and ship and aircraft design. The Battle of the South China Sea was also the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized Kamikaze attacks.

Participants[edit | edit source]

Allies[edit | edit source]

Australia[edit | edit source]

British Empire[edit | edit source]

Canada[edit | edit source]

Battlegroup Able Two-Seven[edit | edit source]
Battlegroup Able Two-Eight[edit | edit source]

France[edit | edit source]

Netherlands[edit | edit source]

New Zealand[edit | edit source]

Japan[edit | edit source]

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