Brilliantly conceived and well executed.
— RAdm. Jesse B. Oldendorf
On 20 October 1944, when troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on Leyte’s east coast to begin reoccupying the Philippines, Japanese naval forces sortied from home waters and from Borneo, intent on forcing their way through the Allied Third and Seventh Fleets to reach the beaches.

On 24 October, while a weak Northern Force approached from the northeast, hoping to lure part of the American fleet away from the main action, a powerful Center Force approached San Bernardino Strait from the west and two elements of a weaker Southern Force approached Surigao Strait.

Temporarily stalled by aircraft attacks (Battle of the Sibuyan Sea), the Center Force passed through San Bernardino Strait in the early hours of 25 October. Meanwhile the Southern Force of two battleships, one cruiser and four destroyers, followed but unsupported by three more cruisers and four more destroyers, passed PT boat pickets without damage and entered Surigao Strait from the south. Tracking them and waiting in ambush were six battleships, eight cruisers and 26 destroyers of Adm. Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet.

Three squadrons of destroyers attacked in sequence. Two, DesRon 54 and DesRon 24, attacked the leading Japanese column from the flanks. As the Seventh Fleet Battle Line opened gunfire overhead, the third, Destroyer Squadron 56, attacked in three sections, deployed to ensure the enemy would pass “through torpedo waters, no matter which way he turns,” fulfilling the promise of Vella Gulf that American destroyers, operating independently, could deliver a decisive attack against heavy enemy forces.

Overall result: both Japanese battleships and three destroyers were sunk while three cruisers were damaged, at a cost of damage only to DesRon 56’s Albert W. Grant.