On 24 October 1944, as the result of a string of complicated events, a group of diminutive U.S. escort carriers and their even smaller screening vessels found themselves facing a formidable Japansese fleet consisting of battleships (one of them the largest in the world), heavy and light cruisers, and destroyers. It was as though David had shown up to fight Goliath and had forgotten his slingshot.
What ensued was one of the strangest battles in all of naval history. Recognizing that discretion is often the better part of valor, the tiny American carriers turned and “raced” away (their top speed was 18 knots). But their embarked aviators did quite the opposite, attacking with a fervor that was devoid of logic (having been tasked with supporting troops ashore, they were inappropriately armed for an engagement with armored surface ships) but full of tenacity and courage. These admirable qualities were matched by the crews of the destroyers and destroyer escorts who also charged headlong at the oncoming Japanese behemoths.