In 1944, the Americans were landing troops at Leyte Gulf.
They had a lot of troopships and some unarmed aircraft carriers.
These were protected by just 6 destroyers.
Destroyers are small, fast, lightly armoured ships.
(The fact that sailors call them ‘tin cans’ gives you an idea.)
Suddenly a massive Japanese force came over the horizon.
It was there to sink the American carriers and troopships.
The smallest ships in the Japanese force were 11 destroyers.
Already twice as many as the Americans.
On top of that, the Japanese had 2 light-cruisers.
Bigger ships with bigger guns.
On top of that, they had 6 heavy-cruisers.
Each one many times bigger and more powerful than a destroyer.
But mainly what the Japanese force had were 4 massive battleships.
Battleships are the biggest and most powerful of all fighting ships.
And one of these was the Yamato.
The biggest battleship, with the biggest guns, ever built.
Before or since.
So this was a huge, powerful fleet against just six destroyers.
What any sane person would do was get out of there as fast as possible.
But what the 6 tiny American destroyers did was attack the Japanese fleet.
This made no sense at all.
The first destroyer to open fire was the USS Johnston.
This tiny ship steamed straight at the Japanese firing all her small 5” guns.
The Japanese were so shocked, it threw their aim off.
The Johnston managed to fire three torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Kumano.
One torpedo hit and blew the bow clean off.
Another heavy cruiser had to stop to assist the sinking ship.
So that’s two Japanese heavy cruisers out of action.
But eventually the battleship Kongo hit the tiny Johnston, with three 14” shells.
Each shell weighing as much as a car.
Even then, the Johnston kept limping along and firing at the enemy.
The captain was last seen with just one arm.
Standing at the stern of the ship, yelling instructions down to the crew below who were steering the rudder manually.
Meanwhile the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an even smaller ship, fired off three torpedoes.
One of these scored a direct hit on another heavy cruiser.
Until three 14” shells from another battleship sank the Samuel B. Roberts.
The remaining four American destroyers steamed straight at the enemy.
Firing their guns and torpedoes as fast as they could.
Eventually, the mighty 18” gun Yamato, the flagship of the Japanese fleet, turned away and left the battle.
The Japanese Admiral couldn’t believe the ferocity of this tiny American force.
It made no sense for them to attack against such overwhelming odds.
Unless they had a much, much larger force behind them.
Obviously they were just trying to hold the Japanese fleet there until the bigger force arrived.
The Japanese Admiral wasn’t falling for such an obvious trick.
He retreated to escape from the larger American force.
Just one thing.
There wasn’t a larger American force anywhere nearby.
Except in his imagination.
If he’d carried on attacking he could have sunk all the American destroyers.
And all the unarmed aircraft carriers.
And all the unarmed troopships, and drowned all the troops.
And he would have destroyed the American landings.
Which was the job he’d been sent to do.
But he over thought it.
He could see the Americans believed they’d sink his fleet.
So he believed they’d sink his fleet.
The Americans attacked with the belief that they’d win.
And the Japanese, seeing that, also believed the Americans would win.
And they retreated.
Six little destroyers beat off a massive fleet, and saved the Leyte Gulf landings, and consequently the entire war in the Pacific.
It’s a good lesson for us.
We all look to other people to see what they believe.
And base what we believe on what they believe.
We should notice that’s how the human mind works.
We need to know that, because it’s our job to change people’s minds.
To change their behaviour.
To get them to believe what we want them to believe.
We need to remember, we’ve got a lot better chance of making them believe what we want them to believe if we believe it first.