Marianas Turkey Shoot

This Day in History

On this day in 1944, a major US victory against the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea became famously known as “The Marianas Turkey Shoot,” due to the massive destruction of the Japanese Fleet with minimal damage for the American forces. 

The vulnerable Marianas Islands in the Pacific were vital to the Japanese, who stationed major air bases across Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. Commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance, the US Fifth Fleet was headed toward the Marshall Islands to serve as backup for the invasion of the Marianas Islands. 

To thwart the American invasion, Japanese Commander Ozawa Jisaburo ordered 430 planes to launch in response. The United States aircraft swiftly detected the enemy aircraft on the radar and began to defend against the attack. It would be remembered as the greatest carrier battle in World War II. 

Jisaburo tasted a hard defeat as the Americans shot down 300 of his planes and sunk two aircraft carriers. In comparison, Spruance only lost 29 planes. The American victors called it a “turkey shoot,” a colloquial American term meaning that one side had an overwhelming advantage.

Ozawa was unaware of the massive loss of his planes and assumed they were safely landed in Guam. Instead of retreating, he remained in the Philippine Sea, vulnerable to a second attack from the Americans. To his horror, the Americans advanced and dominated the Marianas Islands. The air attacks paved the way for the U.S. Marines to land on the island of Saipan.

The significant victory for the United States was a major turning point in winning the war in the Pacific.

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