Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, 1888-1972

Admiral Thomas Kinkaid (1888-1972) was an American admiral who commanded the 7th Fleet, cooperating with MacArthur during the liberation of the Philippines and who played a major part in the American victory at Leyte Gulf in October 1944.

Kinkaid joined the navy in 1904, graduating from Annapolis in 1908 in the bottom half of his class. He specialised in ordnance and gunnery, making him one of the 'non-aviator' admirals of the Second World War. In 1932 he was a technical advisor at the unsuccessful Geneva Disarmament Conference. From 1937 until March 1941 he was Naval Attaché in Rome and Belgrade.

In November 1941 Kinkaid was promoted to rear admiral and posted to Hawaii. He arrived at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1941, in the aftermath of the Japanese attack. He joined Admiral Fletcher's Task Force 14 as an observer during the unsuccessful attempt to help the defenders of Wake Island, and was then given his own command, as head of Cruiser Division 6.

USS Minneapolis (CA-36) with New Bow, 11 April 1943
USS Minneapolis (CA-36)
with New Bow,
11 April 1943

This force formed part of Task Force 11 (Admiral Wilson Brown) and took part in raids on the Gilbert, Marshal, Marcus and Wake Islands. Brown was then replaced by Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch, who led the task force during the Battle of the Coral Sea (6-8 May 1942). Kinkaid's cruisers (Minneapolis and New Orleans) were given the task of protecting the carrier Lexington. That carrier was critically damaged by a Japanese attack, and had to be abandoned. Kinkaid's ships helped rescue the survivors and then sank the doomed carrier.

Kinkaid was also present at the battle of Midway, where his cruisers formed part of Task Force 16 (Spruance). Their role was to protect the carriers Enterprise and Hornet. After Midway Kinkaid was promoted to command Task Force 16, now based around the Enterprise. He commanded this task force through many of the battles around Guadalcanal. He helped support the original American landings on the island in early August 1942. Next came the battle of the Eastern Solomons (23-25 August 1942) in which the Enterprise was badly damaged but survived.

In October Kinkaid was given command of Task Force 61, which contained the Enterprise and the Hornet. Both carriers were damaged during the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (26-27 October 1942). Hornet eventually sank while Enterprise was so badly damaged that her aircraft had to move to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The Japanese also suffered heavy losses, in particular amongst their experienced naval aviators and Admiral Hondo was also forced to retreat from the area. The carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku suffered minor damage during the battle.

In November Kinkaid's land based aircraft helped during the naval battle of Guadalcanal (12-13 November 1942). They were also used to prevent most Japanese reinforcements from reaching the island. On 28 November Kinkaid's time in the south Pacific came to an end. He was moved north and made Commander, North Pacific Force. His new task was the re-conquest of the Aleutian Islands, taken by the Japanese as part of the Midway operations. Kinkaid proposed that the Americans bypass the large Japanese garrison on Kiska and take Attu, at the western end of the Aleutian chain. Attu fell in May 1943. The Americans then turned back to Kiska, but when they landed on 20 August they found that the Japanese had already evacuated the island.

On 26 November 1943 Kinkaid was given command of the 7th Fleet, replacing Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender. The 7th Fleet's role was to cooperate with General MacArthur, but Carpender had fallen out with the touchy MacArthur. Kinkaid would prove to be much more successful in this delicate role.

Kinkaid is perhaps most famous for his role in the battle of Leyte Gulf (23-26 October 1944). On 20 October the Americans landed on Leyte, finally returning to the Philippines. Kinkaid's 7th Fleet had the task of supporting the invasion while Halsey's 3rd Fleet was there to guard against any action on the part of the Japanese Navy. Unfortunately Halsey fell for a Japanese ruse and late on 24 October took his fleet north to deal with a Japanese carrier force. Although this force was promptly destroyed (Battle of Cape Engano, 25 October 1944), the Japanese carriers had been an empty shell, carrying very few aircraft. The main threat came further south where three surface fleets approached Leyte Gulf from the west. On 25 October Kinkaid's fleet fought two separate battles. In the south his 'old' battleships crushed Admiral Nishimura's fleet (Battle of the Surigao Strait) and scared off Admiral Shima's small II Striking Force. In the centre Kinkaid's escort carriers, commanded by Admiral Thomas Sprague, were attacked by Admiral Kurita's II Striking Force, which included the largest battleship in the world, the Yamato. A task force of six escort carriers, Taffy 3 under Admiral 'Ziggy' Sprague, managed to escape destruction and confused Kurita, who eventually broke off the attack (battle of Samar). In the meantime Kinkaid had been sending a series of increasing urgent messages to Halsey asking for help. These messages had little impact, but a query from Nimitz eventually convinced Halsey to send ships south. Both admirals were somewhat at fault here. Halsey had taken his entire fleet north, despite knowing that Admiral Kurita still posed a threat. Kinkaid had intercepted a radio message from Halsey setting up a new Task Force that might have watched the crucial San Bernardino Strait, but failed to make sure that this task force actually existed or that it was where he believed it was.

Kinkaid remained with MacArthur for the rest of the campaign in the Philippines, supporting twenty seven separate assaults. He also supported three operations on Borneo. He was promoted to full admiral, effective from 3 April 1945. On 2 September 1945 he was one of the American officers who accepted the Japanese surrender in Korea. He remained commander of the 7th Fleet until November 1945. He then served as Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier and Commander, Reserve Fleet Atlantic, from 1946 until he retired in 1950.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 May 2012), Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, 1888-1972 ,

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