In 1942 the Japanese had overrun the Philippines, but by mid 1944 the aircraft carriers of the American fleet under Admiral Chester Nimitz were within range of the islands and able to bomb the Japanese positions and airfields. For the Japanese, maintaining control of the Philippines was essential because their loss would enable the Allies to sever their oil supply lines from Borneo and Sumatra. On 20 October the US 6th Army, under cover of naval and air bombardment, landed on the western beaches of Leyte Island at Tacloban and Dulag, initiating a series of battles in the gulf in which the US fleet virtually destroyed the remnants of the Imperial Japanese Navy. With help from Filipino guerrillas, the Americans, under Colonel Ruperto Kangleon, then drove inland, destroying bridges and ammunition depots, harassing Japanese supply lines and moving northwards to the island of Samar.
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