Better Outcome In the Phillipines Defense Dec 1941

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Carl Schwamberger, Jan 26, 2019.

  1. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    I don't usually initiate WWII questions, but have a few to post now. The first messages concerning the attack on Oahu started tricking into the US military HQ on PI around 2:00 am 8 Dec. With that as a PoD wank the US defense to the point of inflicting a strategic defeat on the Japanese invasion of PI. That is the Japanese may have a tactical or operational success in getting ashore, or having a enclave on Luzon, but fail to defeat the US/PI army.

    Some of the obvious items may be:

    Not find the bulk of the FEAF concentrated on Clarks Field when the Japanese air strikes arrive after 10:30 am.

    Asiatic fleet, or at least the submarine fleet remains effective & inflicts some damage on the invasion fleet.

    Rapid & concentrated counter attacks on the landing sites.

    Practicality of reinforcement of the FEAF via the DEI south route during January.

    Supply situation of the PI Army beyond December.
     
  2. Driftless Geezer Donor

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    One dilemma is how to more effectively jolt Mac into acknowledging that the war was already underway and not operating on his pre-conceived schedule or operational plan.

    Another idea to consider: IF Mac (or whoever is in local command) implements the general tenets of War Plan Orage in the opening days of war, then there's the basic estimation of timeline for relief. Mac's implementation of his plan left US & Philippine forces on their backfoot from the get-go. Obviously, for forces on the Philippines, the WPO relief schedule is shot to pieces with the wreckage of the fleet at Pearl Harbor. Might an adaptation of WPO be worked up to allow for a different deployment of forces in the Philippines? (Relief isn't coming for years, rather than a few months)
     
  3. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Relief convoys for PI existed only in Macs mind, and the pointless estimations of his staff. WPO was based on estimates as far back as 1907, that the Phillipines were indefensible & relief of a defending force was impractical. That as a basis for WPO existed right up to the Plan Dog memo to President Roosevelt in 1940, and after WP Orange was rolled into the RAINBOW Plans. The USN had repeated stated a trans Pacific offensive was impractical before 1943, that supply to the PI during war with Japan was impractical, and numerous staff studies, map exercises, and fleet exercises to show why.

    Mac choose to ignore all that & thought his political connections in Washington would override 'Timid Admirals' and magically produce large convoys of everything he demanded. That the USN had organized the last group of cargo ships to PI into a convoy in October, & another batch for December, fed Macs ideas about relief convoys. That second group was to be escorted by the cruiser Pensacola, hence the "Pensacola Convoy" that is occasionally referenced in the WWII literature. After the war started Mac hung onto the idea the Pensacola Convoy would still 'breakthrough' for several days. it was a major disillusionment for him when informed the convoy had been canceled and a portion of the material redirected to Australia and the DEI.

    The USN briefly considered sending blockade runners from the DEI to PI, but the Japanese onslaught from January in the East Indies rendered that impractical.
     
  4. Scafcom Well-Known Member

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    When Cavite was bombed by the Japanese, the torpedo reserves for the US forces were destroyed. Granted, many of these were the problem torpedoes that the sub force had to deal with, but still having those available might have helped.
     
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  5. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Were not other stores for the Asiatic fleet lost in those air attacks as well?
     
  6. eltf177 Well-Known Member

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    Besides the loss of torpedoes many other stores were lost. Don't think much can be done about that.

    Even if Dugout Doug gets his bombers up the fact is that Formosa is shrouded in fog which is why the Japanese attack got off so late to begin with. Even if the B-17's go there they can't even see the island much less the airfields. Waiting around for the fog to lift isn't much of an option. So that's really a no-go as well.

    The best bet is the fighters get off and inflict enough losses to keep damage down. And again that's a long shot...
     
  7. Driftless Geezer Donor

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    Any damage the bombers do against Formosa is secondary to getting them away from Clark Field, so they don't get shot to pieces on the ground.
     
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  8. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Depends on if its a ground fog, or a very low overcast. Ground fogs have little depth & while you cant see halfway down the runway, the sky is visible above. The reverse is true, a aircraft directly over the airfield can see it & the objects there, but you lose sight of it when attempting a approach to the runway. While Army Air Corps accuracy was not all that in 1941 a batch of B17s scattering bombs across the airbases & stranded planes with be a bit of discomfort for the Japanese, however many airframes or men they lose.
     
  9. Dennis Dean Matta Active Member

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    As I recall the strike against formosa was going to be against the harbor not the airfields
     
  10. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Never heard that one. Tho in hindsight an attack on a port filled with cargo ships might have had better results. Best case possible is a bombs goes down the hatch of a ammunition hold. Its quite possible Beretons staff had some of the bombers directed at ports as well. The accuracy and destruction of aircraft bombing was overestimated in those days & it would be in character for the FEAF staff to scatter the B17s in small packets over Formosa.

    The descriptions I've seen mention attacks on airfields, and a early morning photo recon mission over air fields on Formosa. That aircraft would have returned after 10:00, which may have contributed to the order to return the B17s from their holding patter far to the south and land them at Clark Field. Bereton really badly wanted to execute a airstrike vs Formosa & was getting very frustrated with the lack of permission from Macs HQ. the photo analysis unit, the bomb storage, the high speed refueling capability were all at Clark Field. Bereton was tired of waiting and wanted to get his attack armed and in the air. Bad planning the Japanese bombers arrived three hours late after most of the FEAF was collected together at Clark Field and the nearby satellite airfields.

    Worse planning or decisions were by the commanders and staff of the fighter defense. A on schedule attack by a nine bomber formation at about 9:30 caused a mad scramble. However that small group hit some empty landing strips in northern Luzon & were not intercepted. At 10:30 radar returns from a northern Luzon thunderstorm cell caused another mass launch of interceptors. When those returned discipline sort of broke down. Everyone had been awake since the alert had first been made around 3:30 am. Most of the air and ground crew had missed breakfast, the interceptors had been launched three times, at dawn, at the 9:30 raid, for the false radar returns. The mess halls had lunch ready on schedule & a few to many commanders, staff, and aircrew were drifting off the flight line when yet another alert came from the radar crews. The air defense staff had failed to keep a organized CAP at altitude, inexperience and short training causing them to be overwhelmed by related alerts. There were to few interceptors aloft when the Japanese air attacks came to offer any meaningful defense. After action reports by the FEAF staff indicate most of the damage to its aircraft on the airfields was actually done by strafing Japanese escort fighters. Lacking any real opposition in the air they followed up the bombers with ground strafing.

    Costellos 'The Pacific War' has one of the best short synopsis of the events in Beretons command in the PI 8th December. He avoids most of the 1940s myths and blame game stories and sticks to ordinarily reliable sources.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
  11. Father Maryland Enemy of Neo Secesh Everywhere

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    The asiatic fleet still had S boats and other obsolete types at the start of the war. The Mark 14 might be worthless at the time but the Mark 10 torpedo might be obsolete and short ranged but it still worked.
     
  12. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Moving the supplies to Bataan and improving the defenses there immediately as per the original plans and not attempting to hit the Japanese on the beaches would be a start. Conducting a delaying action to slow the Japanese to aid this, and also planning for an extended defense by moving men and equipment to southern islands would also help - and in aid of that once Bataan and the harbor islands are besieged separating the commands so when Bataan and the harbor islands fall the rest of the PI can go on.
     
  13. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    You might be able to have a tactical victory or two but the PI are screwed strategically. They would have to hold for over a year and with the Japanese holding both the air and sea lanes it is impossible. The Japanese can send reinforcements but the US can not. You can't win in that situation.
     
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  14. Butchpfd Well-Known Member

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    About 200 of those torpedos were MK Xs fo rthe S Boats. Those did work.. A decent POD would be the Navy giving Admiral Hart or his Predicessor Adm. Yarnell a competent commander for the 16th Naval District, prior to The arrival Of Adm Rockwell in 1941. A competent commander for the Naval District could have successfully completed the new protected Naval Magazine and Submarine shops at Mirivales on Baatan, as well as AA defences
     
  15. eltf177 Well-Known Member

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    I've never heard this. And I don't know what sort of fog it was, only that it grounded the Japanese attack. Agreed that getting the bombers airborne makes them less vulnerable.

    I've asked this before but there seems to be some confusion about Formosa. I've read several accounts where Brereton asked for a photo recon mission against Formosa but kept getting the run around from MacArthur and Sunderland. However, some pilots swear that they saw photos of their targets on Formosa leading me to wonder were they mistaken or did someone fly a photo recon mission before December 8th?
     
  16. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Most historians digging into Army records believe there was a photo recon flight launched before dawn. The usual claim I recall is Bereton did not ask Macs permission for it. I suspect the US had flown some of these missions previously. Costellos narrative (The Pacific War) describes Bereton three times requesting permission from Mac to bomb Formosa. The first two requests were described as denied by Sutherland, Macs CoS & the staff officer from Beretons HQ never actually saw Mac. Sutherland blocked the office door or something. A phone call was answered by Sutherland and Mac was not heard on the line. I'd have to recheck the book to see if Bereton actually received permission for the bomber strike, or ordered preparations completed without it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  17. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    The point needs to be emphasized, and has been stated already, that the PI were written off from the beginning of WPO. Even had the US fleet been completely intact there was no way the USA could send more than a trickle to the PI early on, you would have needed major changes before the war (there are some good T/Ls about this). Like any outpost, the role of the PI was to prove advanced warning and act as a speed bump and resource suck for the enemy. MacArthur refused to accept this reality, and therefore lost an opportunity to do a much better job at this.

    Because the PI were going to be getting independence in the near future, and also because of the WNT, work on the physical defenses of the PI were low priority during the 30s, even with the best will it is unclear if the naval magazine and the better AA defenses for Cavite and other spots could have been complete by the time of PH. Just one example of work started late and not hurried, like the defenses of Wake which had they been completed by PH realistically could have prevented the capture.

    Having admitted the issues with physical defenses, and the slow rate of training/progress of Philippine troops, the failure of strategic planning on MacArthur's part was massive. The sacrifices of the forces in the PI would probably have been more or less the same in terms of dead and wounded, but their achievements could have been much more had sensible planning in line with reality been done. Stockpile in Bataan, work on defenses there, don't try and put your eggs in defending the beaches, reinforce the southern PI and split the command. All of this was doable, sensible, and does not require any changes in the supply or construction schedule from the USA.
     
  18. Zheng He Well-Known Member

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    This, the easiest and best thing that can be done in the Philippines without massive PODs going back at least a couple of years is for His Imperial Majesty Douglas MacArthur to do what he was supposed to do. Move everyone and everything not bolted down onto the Bataan Peninsula as soon as the war started and then settle in for a nice long siege instead of adhering to his delusions that the Japanese invasion could be stopped. Yes the end result will be the same but the Japanese will have to work a lot harder for it.

    Also, contingency plans need to be in place to retreat FEAF to airfields on Mindanao when things get too hot. Yes a better performance by FEAF in the opening days of the war makes things harder for the Japanese but ultimately FEAF is doomed. They are outnumbered, the airfield infrastructure - revetments, AAA, radar warning, maintenance facilities, taxiways, etc. is still badly underdeveloped and they cannot sustain the fight from Luzon, especially once the Japanese capture forward airfields on the island.
     
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  19. marathag Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2013
    Don't even need heavy construction gear to do those, thought it goes faster than hand labor
     
  20. Unknown Member

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    Keynes' Cruisers by @fester portrays something like this, and MacArthur gets killed off before the war breaks out...