Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid had had a distinguished naval career when he took command of the United States Seventh Fleet, also known as
MacArthurís Navy. The Seventh Fleet had the responsibility to transport MacArthurís forces as the mercurial general directed the highly successful campaign to capture the huge island of New Guinea.
The Japanese had invaded New Guinea during the early days of the Pacific War and captured almost
all of it with exception of the islandís southeast corner which contained the only town of any consequence on that island, Port Moresby. When MacArthur landed in
Australia after his harrowing escape from the Philippines, he dedicate all further efforts to defend Australia by attacking the Japanese on New
Guinea. However, the Japanese had established formidable bastions along New Guineaís northern coast. MacArthur made the correct military decision to bypass the powerful Japanese positions by launching
numerous amphibious invasions on undefended locations, thus leaving thousands of Japanese troops totally isolated to ďwither and die on the vine.Ē
All these amphibious operations required a powerful naval force that
could not be supplied directly by the American Pacific Fleet under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. So, the Seventh Fleet was created to provide the naval support needed to successfully carry out
MacArthurís ambitious amphibious incursions in the northern Solomon Islands and on New Guinea. The Seventh Fleet, despite lacking the significant naval resources of the Pacific Fleet, carried out their
assigned tasks with distinction, bravery, and overwhelming success.
When the Americans started the planning for the invasion of the
Philippines, it became clear that vitally critical invasion force required overwhelmingly powerful naval forces. Therefore, both the Third Fleet
and MacArthurís navy would be needed to deliver a blow of sufficient force to guarantee success. Thus the Seventh Fleet was expanded to
include not only a powerful bombardment force of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers but vast array of landing craft, supply ships, and minesweepers.
Kinkaid was the ideal commander for the expanded Seventh Fleet since
he had successfully demonstrated that he could effectively work under MacArthurís command and could carry out highly complex amphibious operations. And the American landings of Leyte would the greatest
invasion in the Pacific to that date.
However, the naval commands at Leyte was divided with Kinkaid under
MacArthurís command the Third Fleet commanded by Halsey under Nimitz's command. When the Imperial Japanese Fleet arrived in Philippine waters, the Americansí ability to have a coordinated naval
response became severely impaired. The lack of a single naval commander would result climactic Battle Off Samar.