In June 1944, United States carrier-based fighters decimated the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea — a battle that would later be called the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”
“Why, hell, it was just like an old-time turkey shoot down home!” a pilot aboard the USS Lexington commented about the battle, according to War History Online.
The victory was huge for the U.S. Navy, as it neutralized Japan’s naval capacity and rendered it unable to launch any large-scale operations for the rest of the war.
The “turkey shoot” took place during the assault on the Mariana Islands — an archipelago in the western part of the North Pacific Ocean that was strategically vital during World War II because of its proximity to the Japanese mainland.
Thus, the security of the islands was vital to Japan, which was already battling U.S. forces on Saipan, and any further intrusion in the area would leave the Philippine Islands and Japan vulnerable to U.S. attack, according to the History Channel Online.
U.S. Admiral Raymond Spruance was leading the U.S. Fifth Fleet toward Saipan and the rest of the Marianas as backup, but Japanese forces decided to try to stop them.
Japanese Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo ordered 430 of his planes, launched from aircraft carriers, to attack Spruance’s fleet in what has been deemed the “greatest carrier battle of the war.”
The Americans, however, were too much for the Japanese. They shot down more than 300 aircraft and sank two carriers. Meanwhile, only 29 American planes were lost in the battle.
The decisive victory for the U.S. made it apparent that it was only a matter of time before the Allies had full control of the area, and many have called it the “turning point” of the war in the Pacific.
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