By 1944, the Japanese knew they were losing. With so many of their experienced fighter pilots dead and too many inexperienced ones taking their place, they resorted to a final desperate measure. And Hollywood saw it all.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t meant to take out the US. It was an attempt to keep America’s Pacific Fleet away from the Philippines, which they took ten hours later. And since the Philippines was US property, America wanted it back.
Which is why it invaded the island of Leyte on October 20, 1944. Also called the “Second Battle of the Philippine Sea,” the joint US-Australian attack is hailed as the biggest naval battle in recorded history.
Because of its central location, the Philippines was vital to Japan’s Pacific empire. If it lost the island nation, then it was game over. They, therefore, resisted the Allied invasion in four major skirmishes at the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao, the Battle of Cape Engaño, and the Battle off Samar.
Philip Andrew Hollywood was born on July 23, 1925, in Long Branch, New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 1942, he tried to join the Navy, but being 17, he needed his parent’s permission. His mother refused, but his father let him try, convinced the Navy would reject him because he was too puny.
They wanted him, which was how Hollywood ended up as a fire control technician aboard the USS Melvin. It was also how he ended up in the Surigao Strait in October 1944 as part of the 7th Fleet Support Force.
Japanese Vice Admiral Shoji Nishimura led his Southern Force to the strait to deal with the Americans, when they dealt with him on October 24th at 10:36 PM. Despite getting pummeled by six US battleships, he got away.
At least till his luck ran out the following day at 3 AM when the Melvin torpedoed one of his ships – the Fusō. More were sunk, including Nishimura’s own.
It wasn’t Hollywood’s first skirmish, but the Battle of Surigao Strait shocked him because of Japan’s mass use of kamikaze operations – the final gasp of a dying empire.