The Battle of Leyte Gulf (23 October- 26 October 1944) was the decisive battle of the United States’ return to the Philippines in the Second World War. The Imperial Japanese had committed to a desperate struggle in hopes of retaining its grip on the Philippine Islands against the American invasion. The U.S. Navy’s Third and Seventh Fleet were tasked with covering the American transports offloading troops and supplies onto the island of Leyte where MacArthur had given his proclamation of return only days before. The Imperial Navy rallied its battlegroups from the Southwest Pacific and its weakened and battered First Mobile Fleet from the Home Islands to combat them. In this battle, the Japanese were simply outmatched, lacking carriers, airplanes, pilots and ships when brought to comparison with the American naval forces. They did not falter, however, seeing the greater strategic loss of the Philippines severing their Empire in two. The battle can be divided into three distinct but interconnected regions: The North in the Northern Philippine Sea; The Center in the Sibuyan Sea, San Bernardino Strait and Southern Philippine Sea; and The South in the Surigao Strait. In each region, the Imperial Navy was soundly routed in the end, but due to confusion within the American command, the Battle of Leyte Gulf as a whole cannot be deemed a “clean and smooth operation” by its victors.