On 17 October 1944, Allied forces assaulted Suluan Island, beginning the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Imperial Japanese Navy's 1st Air Fleet, based at Manila, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships that would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. That unit had only 41 aircraft: 34 Mitsubishi A6M Zero ("Zeke") carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N Tenzan ("Jill") torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M ("Betty") and two Yokosuka P1Y Ginga ("Frances") land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance aircraft. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, decided to form a suicide offensive force, the Special Attack Unit. In a meeting on 19 October at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U. S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, Onishi told officers of the 201st Flying Group headquarters: "I don't think there would be any other certain way to carry out the operation [to hold the Philippines] than to put a 250 kg bomb on a Zero and let it crash into a U. S. carrier, in order to disable her for a week. "