December 28th, 1941: The Day of Infamy

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Gridley, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    Post #1: Prologue
    Post #7: Pearl Harbor
    Post #41: Wake
    Post #86: The Philippines
    Post #90: Malaya
    Post #108: Dutch East Indies
    Post #115: Doolittle
    Post #125: Coral Sea, Part I
    Post #134: Coral Sea, Part II
    Post #140: Coral Sea, Part III
    Post #148: Diversions and Raids
    Post #154: Midway, Part I
    Post #164: Midway, Part II
    Post #165: Midway, Part III
    Post #202: Midway, Part IV
    Post #214: Midway, Part V
    Note: Midway, Parts I-V updated on 2/25.
    Post #253: Midway, Part VI
    Post #256: Midway, Part VII
    Post #285: Pacific: adj., peaceful, calm…
    Post #292: The Gilberts Campaign, Part I
    Post #299: The Gilberts Campaign, Part II
    Post #308: The Solomons Campaign, Part I

    November 5th, 1941, aboard CV Akagi, at sea off Yokosuka, Japan.

    Admiral Nagumo cursed as the line connecting his flagship to the tanker parted. The first such mishap had drawn no reaction from him at all – accidents happen at sea, especially when practicing new techniques. Two men injured, one seriously, and a cable lost was a small price to pay for learning the ability to refuel ships at sea.

    The second time a cable had parted had drawn a frown, quickly suppressed. The frown had returned briefly when word was brought to him that this time there had been a fatality.

    That had been three hours, four broken cables, eighteen injuries, five fatalities, and one near-collision ago.

    “Enough!” Nagumo snapped. “Signal ‘discontinue evolution’ and make preparations for returning to Yokosuka.”


    November 10th, 1941, aboard BB Nagato, Iwakuni, Japan.

    Admiral Yamamoto managed to restrain his curse. “Two weeks?”

    “If we are to count on underway refueling for the upcoming operations, yes,” Nagumo replied calmly. “The additional time would be of great benefit in other ways. Zuikaku has been in commission for less than two months, and Shokaku barely three. Their air groups are inexperienced.”

    “It is less than a month to the target date. Your force is to sail in sixteen days, and you want two extra weeks? Impossible.”

    “Perhaps, then, the operation should be cancelled,” Nagumo replied, still with his maddening calm.

    “The operation is vital. It can not be cancelled.”

    “Then in order to have Kido Butai ready, I shall require two additional weeks of training.”

    “You were able to transfer fuel from the tanker to Akagi, and to the destroyers, were you not?” Yamamoto countered.

    “Barely more than half the time, in moderate seas, with our most experienced tanker crew and one of our best carriers. The destroyers fared even worse.”

    This time, Yamamoto only barely managed to restrain his curse. “I shall speak to Nagano. Many operations would have to be delayed. Oil is running short. You are to continue to make all possible preparations to depart on schedule.”

    November 12th, 1941, Imperial General HQ, Tokyo, Japan.

    “THREE weeks?!”

    “If we are not to strike on the 8th, then that would be the ideal time. Task Force 1 is scheduled to sail on the 12th, and then Task Force 2 on the 17th. They will not both be in port again until the 27th. The 28th, Hawaii time, allows time for any delays and is a Sunday, just like the original target date of the 7th, Hawaii time,” the Intelligence officer replied.

    “More than just the Oahu raid is involved in this operation! More than just the Navy is involved! Malaya, the Philippines, everything will have to change,” General Sugiyama protested.

    “Yamamoto is most insistent…” Shimada began.

    “Enough.” Tojo’s single word silenced the room. “Our meetings with The Emperor continue. A decision of this magnitude can not be made without him. Whatever the plans may say, the final date is not set until it is set by him.”

    December 19th, 1941, aboard BB Nagato, Hashirajima, Japan.

    “So, it is to be war,” Yamamoto said quietly.

    “The Emperor has so ordered. War with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands will begin on December 29th.”

    “So be it. Signal to Kido Butai: Climb Mount Niitaka, 1229.”


    A few notes are in order. First, the international date line makes dates somewhat complicated. For TTL, the Japanese will, as they historically did, refer to Tokyo time unless explicitly stated otherwise. The US will generally refer to local time.

    The PoD is the IJN deciding to conduct underway replenishment exercises prior to the fleet sailing for the Pearl Harbor operation. These do not go well (casualties occurred during the OTL raid), and as shown above the end result is that the raid will take place on 12/28, not 12/7. According to CINCPAC File No. A4-3/FF12/(13), Serial 01254, US Pacific Fleet, August 13th, 1941, Task Forces 1 and 2 (with all the battleships plus USS Saratoga CV3 and USS Enterprise CV6) were scheduled to be in port that day. USS Saratoga would have returned from the refit on the Pacific Coast that kept her out of Pearl IOTL, and USS Enterprise will be back from her delivery run. As far as I can tell, the quarterly employment schedule’s contents were known to the Japanese, though further details (like USS Saratoga’s refit) were not. IOTL USS Enterprise’s ferry mission departed on November 28th, per the schedule, partly in order not to arouse suspicion.

    I intend to carry this timeline through to the end of the Pacific War, with occasional references to events elsewhere. This will mostly be in “textbook” form; but I felt the introduction should be a little more personal.

    Questions, comments, suggestions, and constructive criticism are welcome.

    Edits to add & update Index.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011
  2. Satrap Survivor of Ragnarok Donor

    Feb 28, 2007
    God Knows, it's too bloody dark to see!
    When was Lexington due back from delivering fighters to Midway?
  3. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    Well before the 28th, but she was part of Task Force 3, which oddly didn't include a battleship division. Per the quarterly employment schedule, she'd be at sea on the 28th.

    The basic idea behind the three task force organization was that at least one would always be at sea.

    For reference, TF1 had USS Saratoga and BatDiv 2 & 4 (USS Oklahoma BB37, USS Tennessee BB43, USS California BB44, USS Colorado BB45, USS Maryland BB46, USS West Virginia BB48) plus CurDiv 9 (USS Phoenix CL46, USS Boise CL47, USS Honolulu CL48, USS St. Louis CL49, USS Helena CL50) and DesRon 1 & 3 (18 DD plus USS Raleigh CL7 as DesFlot flag).

    TF2 had USS Enterprise and BatDiv 1 (USS Nevada BB36, USS Pennsylvania BB38, USS Arizona BB39), plus CruDiv 3 & 5 (USS Richmond CL9, USS Concord CL10, USS Trenton CL11, USS Northampton CA26, USS Chester CA27, USS Louisville CA28, USS Portland CA33) and DesFlot 2 (18 DD plus USS Detroit CL8 as DesFlot flag) with DesDiv 50 (4 DD).

    TF3 had USS Lexington and CruDiv 4 & 6 (USS Pensacola CA24, USS Salt Lake City CA25, USS Chicago CA29, USS Indianapolis CA35, USS New Orleans CA32, USS Astoria CA34, USS Minneapolis CA36, USS San Francisco CA38) and DesRon 5 (9 DD).

    Edit to add: you can find more details here:
  4. Don Lardo Well-Known Member

    Jul 3, 2010
  5. BlairWitch749 Banned

    Jan 17, 2009
    Long Island NY
    My only nitpicks (and a minor ones at that)

    1. Doesn't this highly increase the chance of the Japanese losing surprise?

    2. Would the Pacfleet have the same composition... ships where being sent from there to reinforce the neutrality patrols in the Atlantic periodically?
  6. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    1. Not really; the US knew that war was coming, the surprise came from EXACTLY when the war started, some serious examples of complacency and/or incompetence, and the targets hit (Pearl Harbor in particular).

    2. No. I've tried to make up a realistic OrBat for units at Pearl and elsewhere, based on their location and assignment up to OTL 12/7/1941. I'm sure I haven't gotten everything right, and if anyone can provide orders for a specific ship or ships between 12/7 and 12/28 please let me know. In particular, USS Saratoga and USS Enterprise will be in port at Pearl Harbor.
  7. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    On the morning of December 28th, 1941, over two-thirds of the US Pacific Fleet was in port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ships present included two aircraft carriers, eight battleships, four heavy cruisers, seven light cruisers, and over thirty destroyers.

    Cryptanalysts in Washington D.C. had decoded a message to the Japanese embassy, and a war warning was sent to all commands. Due to poor radio conditions, the message did not reach Pearl Harbor until ten minutes after the attack began.

    Pearl Harbor’s only warning was from the Army radar teams, which picked up the 1st attack wave as it approached the island almost an hour before the attack. However the operators initially believed the blip, the largest any of them had ever seen, to be a malfunction, and failed to pass word to the brand-new fighter direction center for 6 vital minutes. The senior officer there, apparently also believing this must be a mistake of some sort, ordered a single flight of fighters to be sent up to check out the blip, and did not send out a general alert. He was later court-martialed and discharged. A quartet of P-40B’s from the 73rd Interceptor Squadron were the first to make contact with the enemy just minutes before the 1st wave arrived over their targets.

    Fuchida, who had prepared for the possibility that complete surprise would not be achieved, fired two smoke signals to order his dive-bombers and fighters to attack first in order to draw fire from the torpedo bombers. The torpedo bombers failed to see one of the signals, and thus believed surprise had been achieved. All of the 1st wave aircraft thus attacked at once. The torpedo bombers did the most damage, hitting both carriers, four battleships, a heavy cruiser, and the target ship USS Utah with a total of 20 torpedoes from 40 aircraft. USS Saratoga, USS Enterprise, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah were capsized, and USS Nevada was sunk, though heroic damage control efforts allowed her to settle on an even keel.

    The most spectacular damage was later determined to have been caused by a single bomb, actually a modified 16” shell, which penetrated the deck armor of USS California and caused an explosion in her forward magazine. Over 1,000 men were killed and the ship began to sink rapidly.

    The second wave of IJN aircraft encountered much increased resistance from anti-aircraft fire and the few aircraft which managed to get off the ground, but were able to bomb the capsized hulls of USS Saratoga, USS Enterprise, and USS Utah, ensuring that these ships could not be salvaged later. Two bombs from the second wave struck USS Craven (DD382), which exploded and sank in less than 5 minutes with the loss of 170 of her crew.

    Of nearly 600 aircraft present, 135 were destroyed and 144 were damaged. Particularly high losses were taken by the Navy Patrol Wings; every single aircraft on the ground at the start of the attack was destroyed or damaged.

    Japanese losses were 37 aircraft destroyed, with 61 aircrew killed.

    Capital ships & cruisers present:

    USS Saratoga CV3 – sunk by 4 torpedoes, unsalvageable
    USS Enterprise CV6 – sunk by 3 torpedoes, unsalvageable

    USS Nevada BB36 – sunk by 3 torpedoes
    USS Oklahoma BB37 – sunk by 4 torpedoes, unsalvageable
    USS Pennsylvania BB38 – lightly damaged
    USS Arizona BB39 – damaged by torpedo and bombs
    USS Tennessee BB43 – damaged by 2 torpedoes and bombs
    USS California BB44 – sunk by bomb, unsalvageable
    USS Maryland BB46 – damaged by bombs
    USS West Virginia BB48 – lightly damaged

    USS Northampton CA26
    USS Chester CA27 – damaged by torpedo
    USS Louisville CA28 – lightly damaged
    USS Portland CA33

    USS Raleigh CL7
    USS Detroit CL8
    USS Phoenix CL46
    USS Boise CL47 – lightly damaged
    USS Honolulu CL48
    USS St. Louis CL49
    USS Helena CL50

    Other ships damaged or destroyed:

    USS Tucker DD374 – damaged by bombs
    USS Craven DD382 – sunk by bombs, unsalvageable
    USS Blue DD387 – damaged by bombs

    USS Whitney AD4 – lightly damaged
    USS Utah AG16 – sunk by 2 torpedoes, unsalvageable
    J VonAxel likes this.
  8. Yankflyboy His Imperial Obnoxiousness

    *Hits Subscribe*

    Both CVs? Ouch. Somebody's gonna be hurting for mobile air power for the forseeable future. :D
  9. troosvelt Well-Known Member

    Dec 24, 2010
    I have to wonder why they'd be unsalvagable with just torpedoes.

    Pearl isn't that deep.
  10. Cook Support iCAN Banned

    Jan 5, 2010
    this side of the Black Stump.

    In mid November 1941 that 8th A.I.F. received a warning order that it would be departing Malaya for North Africa. If Japan did not attack until December 28th (December 29th local Singapore time) the 8th division would have been at sea on their way to Egypt by then.
  11. Dave in St. Louis Banned

    Feb 22, 2010
    St. Louis MO
    At Dawn We Slept

    Have you read At Dawn We Slept?
  12. DuQuense Commisioned Officer CSN

    Jan 1, 2004
    Florida ,CSA
    ?Weren't there some planes & tanks headed to DEI that were sunk OTL just after the 7th, that would make it ITTL.?

    Whe also have the planes and reinforcements off loaded at Midway.

    ?Will the 3 weeks make a difference in the readiness of the Philippines or Malaysia? I think there were some supplies equipment en-route.
  13. Cook Support iCAN Banned

    Jan 5, 2010
    this side of the Black Stump.
    The B-17s that flew into Hawaii on December 7th were on their way to the Philippines.

    The forces sent to the Dutch East Indies had originally been destined for the P.I. but were diverted.

    While the Philippines were being strengthened, Malaya and Singapore were being weakened; three weeks would have resulted, as said above, in Malaya losing the 8th division.

    Also, the British infantry division that was rushed to Singapore after the Japanese attack on Malaya had been rounding South Africa on its way to Egypt when the Pacific War started and it was diverted, three weeks later it would have been in Egypt in the western desert. They were unfit from weeks at sea and equipped for the desert rather than the tropical jungle so struggled in Malaya.

    Apologies, which division it was escapes me, I’ll look it up later.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011
  14. Rickshaw Well-Known Member

    Dec 25, 2007
    Interesting. Do you have a reference for that?
  15. Cook Support iCAN Banned

    Jan 5, 2010
    this side of the Black Stump.
    Peter Thompson’s ‘Pacific Fury’ and ‘Battle for Singapore’.

    Bob Wurth’s ‘1942’.

    I Think Hastings’ ‘Finest Hours’ may mention it but can’t remember, maybe not, he's not that thorough when it comes to the Pacific War.

    It’s mentioned in various histories of the A.I.F.

    I don’t have an online reference though.
  16. Bearcat Banned

    May 21, 2009
    Its deep enough to capsize without prompt counterflooding. Witness the Oklahoma and Utah from OTL. Perhaps more accurate to say, so badly damaged as to not be worth the incredible expense of righting them, and towing them back to the mainland (though we did try with the Oklahoma, much latter. She sank on the way).
  17. lloyd007 Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2010
    Having the 8th division fighting in Egypt could be a pretty massive butterfly for the African/European theater.
  18. Cook Support iCAN Banned

    Jan 5, 2010
    this side of the Black Stump.
    They’d have got there just in time for Curtin to call them home, they may not have even got to Egypt if the Pacific War started in the 28th.

    It would have increased the required shipping to move the A.I.F. divisions back to Australia though.

    It would be Ironic if after turning back Churchill had the opportunity to divert the 8th’s convoy to Burma and they end up in the bag anyway.
  19. AmericanCataphract Evil Underlord

    Sep 29, 2008
    This looks like it has some potential. I think I'll subscribe.
  20. Cook Support iCAN Banned

    Jan 5, 2010
    this side of the Black Stump.
    Another thing.

    In the weeks following the commencement of the Pacific War John Curtin worked himself to the point of complete physical exhaustion and was recovering in Perth in the last weeks before the fall of Singapore. He was out of touch and not in Canberra when the decision was made to not evacuate forces from Singapore.

    That may or may not remain the same in a delayed time frame.