SURIGAO STRAIT– The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) conducted a Battle of Leyte Gulf Commemoration Ceremony on the ship’s fantail as it passed through the Surigao Strait, July 3.
The Battle of Surigao Strait was fought between the United States, and its allied forces, against Japan from Oct. 23-26, 1944. The battle was one of two battleship-to-battleship campaigns in the Pacific during World War II.
“Today we sail the same waters as those Sailors did 73 years ago,” said Cmdr. J.W. David Kurtz, Nimitz’ executive officer (XO). “While the immediate dangers may not be the same, the outcome of combat at sea has not changed.”
Nimitz payed tribute with remarks from the ship’s XO, a moment of silence, 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Taps” during the morning ceremony. In the afternoon, Nimitz held the Surigao 5K on the flight deck.
“The ceremony this morning shed light and painted a picture of the historic battle,” said Nimitz Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Matt Apodaca, a native of Puevlo West, Colo. “The 5K was also the perfect way to pay tribute to those Sailors who sacrificed so much, and allowed me the opportunities I have today.”
The battle of Leyte Gulf, in which the Battle of Surigao Strait is included, is assessed to be the largest naval battle of World War II, and possibly the largest in history.
“Proud Emotional. Motivated. I’m proud to be here at the ceremony because they didn’t have to give their lives for us, but they did,” said Chief Religious Program Specialist Kimberly Bell, from Tampa Fla. and a member of Nimitz’ religious ministries department. “This ceremony was emotional for me because every time they play taps I want to cry when I think about all that those service members sacrificed for us. It’s motivating to see an event like this because of what they did and accomplished in the battle and how it affected the war.”
When it was over, the United States Navy had lost roughly 3,000 Sailors and Marines, one light carrier and two escort carriers, while the Japanese navy had lost roughly 12,500 sailors, one fleet carrier and three light carriers, a loss they could not recover from.
“Today, as we carry on the necessary business of life at sea, I ask you to pause for just a moment to pay tribute to our predecessors who went before us, and remain here today, their names remembered mainly in records, but their spirit ever eternal,” said Kurtz.
Nimitz is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder