Essai en Guerre: an FFO-inspired TL

Part 7.2
Extract from Marianne and John by Charles Montague, ch.12


Few disputes during the war consumed more of the Council’s time than the question of how and how much to assist Indochina. Very early on all parties agreed that Hanoi could not be held in the face of Japanese numerical and air superiority. ‘We can hold it until Christmas, perhaps the New Year,’ commented de Gaulle. ‘But we must try as far as possible to preserve fighting strength for the fight further south.’ The French pinned their hopes on holding a line midway down the coast, roughly as far south as Hue or Da Nang. However this would require heavy reinforcements which at this point could only come from British imperial resources. ‘Wavell faces several simultaneous demands, and while his resources are considerable and growing, he cannot fulfil all of them,’ noted General Brooke in London. ‘As long as the enemy retain the initiative, the risk is that we dissipate fighting strength in futile defensive efforts, which risk a complete collapse of our position in the theatre. We can fight only delaying actions in Indochina. But political complications severe.’

During December the Council worked out a compromise. General Georges wanted at least two divisions, preferably three, and hundreds of aircraft. ‘Without these Indochina cannot be held,’ he said. M. Mandel, though privately suspecting that Indochina could not be held in any case, put forward this view. Wavell had already agreed to send Indian 4th Division, and the first elements began arriving in Saigon by Christmas. His other experienced Indian division, 5th, he insisted on retaining to intimidate Thailand. ‘If Phibun throws in his lot with Japanese, entire position becomes untenable,’ he wrote in late December. ‘We believe British 6th Division also needed for MATADOR, if needed. Two of its brigades arrived and training for it, now massed in the Kra isthmus in readiness.’ British 18th Division had been intended for Greece, but was also now heading for the East. This division Wavell wanted in North Borneo, evidently the next target.

That left the Australians. They had four divisions available; 6th and 7th had seen much hard fighting in Greece, while 9th had been preparing for operations in that theatre. All these had now been sent east, though they would take time to arrive. At least two divisions were needed to guard Australia itself and its northern approaches. Australian 9th Division was at that time preparing to go to Makassar, though Wavell privately believed the Japanese were likely to get there first. ‘We are too weak to hold Celebes, Dutch garrison is weak and too distant from our main bases,’ he wrote. ‘Essential not to fritter away 9th Australian on lost cause.’ From a naval point of view Cunningham agreed. ‘We cannot operate Eastern Fleet so far from Singapore - Japanese advance in DEI resembles a trident - we may blunt the western prong, but central and eastern prongs too distant, risk excessive.’ Wavell therefore preferred to keep Australian 9th on Java, anticipating a Japanese thrust in that direction once Makassar and Balikpapan fell.

Wavell therefore proposed to send the two available brigades of Australian 8th Division to Indochina. However, the Australian government disliked sending forces to Indochina, believing the risk too great. ‘Public opinion here favours fighting in the islands,’ argued Mr. Curtin, ‘we believe this offers much better prospects.’ The British therefore felt compelled to send the 18th Division to Indochina instead, even though some of its advance elements had already gone to North Borneo. ‘Question is how long until Japanese move against Borneo,’ noted Mr. Churchill. ‘We cannot defend it with present forces there, and too great a prize to yield without a fight.’ After heated debate, the Australians agreed to send most of 8th Division there, though Mr. Curtin did so under protest. ‘We note this deployment is essential to security of Singapore and therefore to Australia, but is only necessary because of British commitment to French. Australian government is not a formal party to the Union and does not accept that Union considerations should dictate Australian policy.’ In saying this, Mr. Curtin spoke from his great anxiety for New Guinea, anxiety which the sequel proved justified. Several RAAF and RAF squadrons, Hurricanes, Hudsons and Catalinas, were also sent to Borneo, despite the airmen’s concerns about the quality of bases there. ‘We can only operate from Borneo bases for brief period,’ noted Air Marshal Longmore. ‘A brief period may be all that is required,’ countered Churchill.
 
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Part 7.3
Extract from ch.3, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green


As far as the Japanese high command were concerned, the opening phase of the war had gone satisfactorily. Victory in the Philippines was clearly only a matter of time, and Hong Kong fell in late December. Shortly after Hanoi also fell, amid scenes of horror. The French air force in Indochina effectively no longer existed, reduced to less than one hundred planes, many of them unserviceable. The French naval forces had also suffered heavy attrition, and could do no more than mount submarine attacks to hinder Japanese amphibious operations down the coast. Overall, their most effective contribution was in mine-laying, which sank or damaged several transports and destroyers. The submarine Pallas achieved the most spectacular exploit of this period, torpedoing and sinking the large transport Africa Maru.
The French ground forces in the north, much bloodied around Hanoi, had become too weak to hold as Japanese reserves entered the fray. Many of the Indochinese troops dispersed, and the only force the French now had larger than a battalion was the 7th Infantry Regiment of the Foreign Legion, already blooded in Greece. ‘It does feel as though we do all the fighting for Indochina,’ noted its commander. ‘That’s fine, we are Legionnaires, but more air cover would help.’ In the New Year Japanese naval infantry landed south of Vinh… A fighting retreat down the coast was all that was now possible, and by January it became apparent that the Japanese would soon have air bases within easy reach of Cam Ranh Bay. ‘At that point what is left of our fleet must leave for Singapore,’ noted Admiral Esteva. During January, the Japanese also crossed the mountains into Laos, and French units there again could do no more than fight delaying actions as they retreated southwards.
The Japanese had hoped to mount the invasion of North Borneo before the end of December, but the stubborn French defence, and attrition to transports and landing craft, meant that no operation could be mounted before January. News of the Australian build-up in North Borneo had reached the IJN high command, and they felt that at least two regiments would be needed, with substantial air support. The IJN also wished to make this operation coincide with the invasion of Dutch Borneo. These factors caused further delay, until a second regiment could be released from the Indochina fighting, and naval reinforcements arrived. These took the form of 2nd Carrier Division, Soryu and Hiryu, following their action at Wake Island. The covering force also included two battleships, and two small carriers accompanied the invasion convoy. Reconnaissance assets should have included flying boats operating from bases in the Philippines, but these were in the event not available, their operations stymied by the sinking of their tender by the USS Sealion. ‘Only time our fish worked the whole patrol,’ commented her skipper later. One Mavis flying boat did operate briefly from Mindanao in the second week of January, but on 10th strayed too close to Borneo and suffered damage from Dutch fighters, putting it out of action. The IJN chose to proceed, believing they had enough search planes with the fleet.
On January 16th all was ready, and the invasion convoy set out, covered at a distance by the heavy forces. The plan was to use the IJN strike planes to eliminate British and Australian aircraft in the north, particularly around Miri, and then land the two infantry regiments. Once a suitable air base was gained, the heavy forces would withdraw. ‘A risk must be taken,’ noted Admiral Yamamoto, ‘in this mission. The British Eastern Fleet might intervene. But so far they have not ventured far from their base.’ The Japanese commanders with the fleet itself were more bullish. ‘Their naval air power does not worry us, with their two-seater fighters and their biplane bombers,’ commented one air group commander. ‘We expect no more than a demonstration from them. They must remember what happened to the French - one touch of an armoured sleeve.’
 
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The Japanese commanders with the fleet itself were more bullish. ‘Their naval air power does not worry us, with their two-seater fighters and their biplane bombers,’ commented one air group commander. ‘We expect no more than a demonstration from them. They must remember what happened to the French - one touch of an armoured sleeve.’
Given that the Stringbag was surprisingly capable, I want to predict "Famous Last Words" here. But of course I am happy to remain in deep suspense. Again even if this phase of the war is almost as much a debacle for the Allies as OTL (I am disappointed the Philippines are not apparently going notably less poorly than OTL for the defenders, but perhaps they are indeed, it is just that a slower disaster is still a disaster and there was no way to close the gap with what would have been needed--nor am I a fan of MacArthur and of course he's presumably still the guy in charge) it was in the long run that the Allies won OTL, and that must still be true here as well. I am not so well versed in the OTL pace of Japanese conquest in the Southeast Asian mainland to compare what is happening with them being obliged to fight their way to Indochina's borders, nor is it clear to me how the defense of Borneo compares to OTL benchmarks. I assume the delay of Japanese forces reaching given degrees of magnitude at given sites is quite significant in Indonesia and versus Burma and Malaysia already.

Also it is not clear whether there are any differences in basic defensive preparations in Singapore versus OTL--if not its fall is a matter of time. Though perhaps even if ultimately driven that far eventually much as OTL, perhaps the level of force the Allies have will anyway be greater, reinforced by retreating French forces from Indochina, all of whom were immobilized by orders from Paris OTL--so even a fraction of them retreating and consolidating in Malaya and Burma and DEI would be some improvement on OTL.

I'm hoping that the western reach of DEI and southern Malaya can hold, especially if Thailand is dissuaded from breaking neutrality. Of course that kingdom is coming under a lot of pressure and if the court does not cooperate, the Japanese can surely conquer the place pretty handily. Or perhaps just ignore the royal government and operate on Thai soil as they please without bothering to consolidate a thorough conquest of the whole kingdom. But surely Japanese forces will want to go right through the southern region where Bangkok and other major cities are anyway. So conquering the core of the kingdom anyway is probably in the cards just by the way, and if the heat of battle causes them to neglect reining in every region in the short run, in the longer run they are sure to get around to it, unless the Allies can indeed hold them to a front that keeps them busy.
 
Also it is not clear whether there are any differences in basic defensive preparations in Singapore versus OTL--if not its fall is a matter of time. Though perhaps even if ultimately driven that far eventually much as OTL, perhaps the level of force the Allies have will anyway be greater, reinforced by retreating French forces from Indochina, all of whom were immobilized by orders from Paris OTL--so even a fraction of them retreating and consolidating in Malaya and Burma and DEI would be some improvement on OTL.
I think that we have to fundamentally assume that Malaya's preparedness will be significantly different TTL than OTL just because the Med Theatre is not an ever consuming maw of British ships, planes and brigades. The Levant is secure for the UK because the French are in control of their mandates in Syria and Lebanon and the Italians are dealt with on the North African littoral. The Commonwealth and Free French are fighting on in Greece, so that is sucking up manpower and supplies, but there have not been multiple corps worth of equipment destroyed and multiple divisions worth of men captured. There are more units available, and the quality of those units are likely higher TTL than OTL.

Most importantly, Singapore is strategically secure at this time. As long as the Japanese do not control Saigon and south, the Japanese can not or will not project corps sized amphibious units into the Gulf of Siam or the East Coast of Malaya. Even if the French fall in Indochina (although they are being significantly reinforced in the near term with veteran UK units), Malaya can't be threatened in December or January. And then once the Monsoon hits in May, the weather gives the UK another six months to dig in. But that is an operational detail; strategically, the UK is paying more attention to the Far East TTL than OTL, and they are actually able to pressure the Thais which means the route to Burma is secured and the likely invasion beaches at least have British "tourists" enjoying the sights. More likely, if the Foreign Office pressures Bangkok enough, the major ports on the Kra Isthmus likely have a brigade or three of Commonwealth troops in each of them with plenty of pre-plotted artillery ready.

Once Burma is secured, that gives a couple of divisions another six months to get organized, that gives the KMT a very secure supply line with a new set of motivated suppliers along the Burma Road, and sooner or later, the full weight of US and UK production can be sent forward to support Australians, New Zealanders, East Africans, Indians, French Foreign Legion, and UK raised units fighting in Vietnam.
 
Given that the Stringbag was surprisingly capable, I want to predict "Famous Last Words" here. But of course I am happy to remain in deep suspense.
Not for too long... it might not be the Stringbag the Japanese mainly have to watch out for.
I am disappointed the Philippines are not apparently going notably less poorly than OTL for the defenders, but perhaps they are indeed, it is just that a slower disaster is still a disaster
It is not much better, as Macarthur is still in charged and there are hard limits on what the US can do in 1941; but already there's been one divergence. We have seen that USS Sealion (that name's inevitable, really) has avoided her OTL damage (perhaps those bombers were busy attacking the French) and is in the fight.
nor is it clear to me how the defense of Borneo compares to OTL benchmarks.
OTL the Japanese invaded North Borneo (using FIC as a base) in December (alluded to in the story as an unfulfilled ambition); so if they are going for it in the 3rd week of January, they are several weeks behind OTL.
ot clear whether there are any differences in basic defensive preparations in Singapore versus OTL
As of 7th December, not much, but the British have several weeks to get into war-fighting mode.
I'm hoping that the western reach of DEI and southern Malaya can hold, especially if Thailand is dissuaded from breaking neutrality. Of course that kingdom is coming under a lot of pressure and if the court does not cooperate, the Japanese can surely conquer the place pretty handily.
The IJA could conquer Thailand, but that option faces some issues; it would come as an unwelcome distraction from bigger game, most importantly the DEI oilfields. The IJA don't actually have all that many divisions to spare, and of course in the short run FIC will keep them busy.
The Commonwealth and Free French are fighting on in Greece, so that is sucking up manpower and supplies, but there have not been multiple corps worth of equipment destroyed and multiple divisions worth of men captured. There are more units available, and the quality of those units are likely higher TTL than OTL.
Very much so - the key point here is whether the British, with Commonwealth/ Imperial help, can sustain two major (i.e. corps+ sized) campaigns in remote theatres (i.e. Greece & SE Asia) in early 1942 (i.e. January to June). I think with the lower overall attrition of 1941 in the Med, plus French assets, they can do so with a modicum of success, or at any rate avoid (many of) the litany of defeats of OTL.
Even if the French fall in Indochina (although they are being significantly reinforced in the near term with veteran UK units), Malaya can't be threatened in December or January.
My rough feeling is that FIC can't fall any sooner ATL than Singapore did OTL (i.e. mid-February). Geography alone would probably ensure this - FIC is huge compared to Malaya, though of course much closer to Japanese bases. This will hold even if the Japanese focus on just taking the major centres (e.g. Hanoi, Cam Ranh, Hue, Saigon) and bypass everywhere else.
once the Monsoon hits in May
One issue I've found with this TL is understanding the monsoon seasons of SE Asia. I haven't found a fully detailed and authoritative source. The monsoon appears to hit the various regions and even sub-regions at different times. I read somewhere that the western side of the Malay peninsula has its dry season while the east has its wet season, and vice versa. I do think though that the main Japanese offensive in SE Asia can't maintain its full force beyond May, partly due to logistic considerations - Clausewitzian friction and attrition. Also US operations in the Pacific will distract attention.
strategically, the UK is paying more attention to the Far East TTL than OTL, and they are actually able to pressure the Thais
This is the key difference from OTL, in the diplomatic sphere. OTL FIC was completely isolated, and the Thais and Japanese basically cooperated carving it up. This lay the groundwork for the Thai alignment with Japan. That diplomatic factor is now absent, Bangkok has no deep involvement with Tokyo, as the British made it clear in 1940, contrary to OTL, that attacking FIC meant war with Britain. Phibun, and the Thais generally, will play for time in late 1941, trying to maintain their freedom of action. But to preserve long-run Thai neutrality the Allies really need some kind of meaningful success on the ground (or sea).
Once Burma is secured, that gives a couple of divisions another six months to get organized, that gives the KMT a very secure supply line with a new set of motivated suppliers along the Burma Road
It seems certain the Burma Road will remain open. That poses a question. Recently I've read Payson O'Brien's book How the War was Won which got me thinking. He points out that the US made three major efforts at bringing the war home to Japan itself. These were the central Pacific advance (in the event the decisive one), the SW Pacific advance, and the B-29 bombing campaign from China. That last becomes a better option with the Burma Road open (no/ less need to fly the Hump). But would it be possible to sustain both the B-29 campaign and send enough supplies to the KMT to protect the B-29 bases? That is, would Ichi-Go fail? Longer term still, does that mean the A-bomb gets delivered from China?
 
Longer term still, does that mean the A-bomb gets delivered from China?
Not sure about this - the A-bomb will take around as long as it took OTL. By that point, the US is likely to control an island or two in B29 range of Japan - and the logistical path from CONUS to a US-controlled Pacific island is a lot more direct and 100% US owned. The path from CONUS to the Burma road to China is long, convoluted and involves steps which are merely US-influenced.

I think we're only going to see a China-launched A-bomb if the US is utterly failing to win in the central Pacific and desperate to end the war ASAP - and I don't see how that can work unless the A-bomb is ~as OTL and the US Navy is much weaker than OTL.
 
Not sure about this - the A-bomb will take around as long as it took OTL. By that point, the US is likely to control an island or two in B29 range of Japan - and the logistical path from CONUS to a US-controlled Pacific island is a lot more direct and 100% US owned.
Guam is close enough for a Silverplate mission. or Saipan. Or even Marcus, if you need a postage stamp in the Ocean that could have a 5000' runway
USN can put Carriers along the way to suppress any IJA interceptors, so really don't need Tinian or Iwo
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Very much so - the key point here is whether the British, with Commonwealth/ Imperial help, can sustain two major (i.e. corps+ sized) campaigns in remote theatres (i.e. Greece & SE Asia) in early 1942 (i.e. January to June). I think with the lower overall attrition of 1941 in the Med, plus French assets, they can do so with a modicum of success, or at any rate avoid (many of) the litany of defeats of OTL.....

This is the key difference from OTL, in the diplomatic sphere. OTL FIC was completely isolated, and the Thais and Japanese basically cooperated carving it up. This lay the groundwork for the Thai alignment with Japan. That diplomatic factor is now absent, Bangkok has no deep involvement with Tokyo, as the British made it clear in 1940, contrary to OTL, that attacking FIC meant war with Britain. Phibun, and the Thais generally, will play for time in late 1941, trying to maintain their freedom of action. But to preserve long-run Thai neutrality the Allies really need some kind of meaningful success on the ground (or sea).

It seems certain the Burma Road will remain open. That poses a question. Recently I've read Payson O'Brien's book How the War was Won which got me thinking. He points out that the US made three major efforts at bringing the war home to Japan itself. These were the central Pacific advance (in the event the decisive one), the SW Pacific advance, and the B-29 bombing campaign from China. That last becomes a better option with the Burma Road open (no/ less need to fly the Hump). But would it be possible to sustain both the B-29 campaign and send enough supplies to the KMT to protect the B-29 bases? That is, would Ichi-Go fail? Longer term still, does that mean the A-bomb gets delivered from China?
Let me respond to the points that you are making in response to me --->

I agree with you that the Commonwealth can keep several corps at the end of the Earth supplied in TTL as they kept the WDF/8th Army well supplied in OTL. Supplying a corps via Athens and then on a pre-war rail network is probably easier than supplying a few corps via Alexandria and then either trucks or coastal shipping for several hundred miles. The ground forces deployed to SE Asia were fairly significant and well-enough supplied. They were just green as a Christmas tree and poorly trained and led. The naval forces were just grossly outnumbered and not playing integrated combined arms warfare. Given more RN units surviving the fighting against the Italians and likely more RAF units, as well as the ability to shift higher quality commanders and leaders east, we could conceivably see differences in performance in small battles (Oh yeah, the RN will also be able to keep the T-class submarines in their intended operational environment)

The Thais are in a sticky wicket. The Japanese can't directly pressure them until the Japanese conquer most/all of French Indochina. And if the Japanese do get FIC, they are going to be exhausted and their logistics will be questionable at best so immediate pressure will be minimal and the available bribes of materials, tools, supplies etc are also likely to be limited. The Thais at the same time will be looking at the Uncle Sam Emporium Catalog for anything and everything that they want with promises of delivery in late 1942 or early 1943. They are in a sticky situation. I think their incentive to align with the Japanese are minimal even if the Japanese conquer all of FIC.

Regarding Burma and China -- If the Japanese can't get to Java/Sumatra and then get the oil home, Ichi-Go is unlikely to be logistically plausible.
 
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Not sure about this - the A-bomb will take around as long as it took OTL. By that point, the US is likely to control an island or two in B29 range of Japan - and the logistical path from CONUS to a US-controlled Pacific island is a lot more direct and 100% US owned.
You are right of course - foolish question for me even to ask, on reflection. Payson O'Brien's argument is that only the central Pacific advance was strategically crucial, with hindsight.
Given more RN units surviving the fighting against the Italians and likely more RAF units, as well as the ability to shift higher quality commanders and leaders east, we could conceivably see differences in performance in small battles
Note in part 7.1 there is a mention of a certain admiral going East...
The Thais at the same time will be looking at the Uncle Sam Emporium Catalog for anything and everything that they want with promises of delivery in late 1942 or early 1943. They are in a sticky situation. I think their incentive to align with the Japanese are minimal even if the Japanese conquer all of FIC.
This seems right, but I think there might have been a narrow window in early 1942 when Phibun might feel the Japanese are winning big enough that he might feel tempted. But this depends on an impression of Japanese invincibility.
If the Japanese can't get to Java/Sumatra and then get the oil home, Ichi-Go is unlikely to be logistically plausible.
That might have butterflies for the Chinese Civil War, though I don't propose to take the TL much if at all beyond 1945.
 
Part 7.4
Report by Admiral Cunningham on operations in the South China Sea, January 14th - 24th 1942 (Excerpt)

...Victorious arrived at Singapore on 14th and had just time to refuel and replenish before we set out… the forces therefore available to me on the 16th comprised aircraft carriers Illustrious, Formidable, Victorious, capital ships Prince of Wales, Repulse, Warspite, 5 cruisers, 10 destroyers. We departed Singapore 2230 hours.
5. French submarine Aurore sighting report gave sufficient indication of likely enemy intentions. On morning of 17th, report of US flying boat gave confirmation. Crew deserve special commendation for their sacrifice performing their task despite risk. I ordered Dutch and RN submarines to intercept invasion force near likely landing sites, and requested RAAF Hudsons to prepare for shipping strike.
6. Main target for my forces was enemy covering force, which we knew now to include two aircraft carriers. Given known sensitivities regarding Thai attitude and Australian position, Gen. Wavell & believed a calculated risk essential...
7. I manoeuvred my forces to reduce our risks to a minimum while still offering possibility of effective offensive. By nightfall on the 19th I considered circumstances favourable. Enemy had not to our knowledge sighted us. Therefore we made high speed run due north based on latest sighting report from US & Dutch submarines.
8. Strike force comprised two waves Albacores, total 34 aircraft, guided by ASV Swordfish which dropped flares for illumination. Several aircraft did not however find target, annexed are recommendations for improvement of crew training in night navigation. Two separate coordinated attacks made on enemy heavy units with 25 torpedoes dropped.
9. Crews claimed five hits on enemy carriers, though this seems doubtful. So many hits would surely have produced at least one sinking. At least two hits however seem certain. Morning reconnaissance showed enemy covering force withdrawing northward at best speed, some 15 knots. The cost we consider acceptable, four Albacores lost, with one crew safe.
 
IJN covering force blunted, but not necessarily really hurt, although we'll await the damage reports.

Two immediate questions: one, did the invasion force turn back too, or were they landed; two, are there any submarines in position to have a potshot at the withdrawing force?
 
As to A-Bomb development, I swear I read a page on FFO , what 13 or 14 years ago, though I could never find it when I went back to look, discussing said development. The idea was that with French input into Tube Alloys, and increased pressure on the Americans to get things going, Manhattan could be advanced about six months compared to OTL.
 
Two immediate questions: one, did the invasion force turn back too, or were they landed; two, are there any submarines in position to have a potshot at the withdrawing force?
Excellent questions which receive an answer in the next update.
The idea was that with French input into Tube Alloys, and increased pressure on the Americans to get things going, Manhattan could be advanced about six months compared to OTL.
I'd like to know more about this, since this would have evident major implications for events in 1945.
 
Part 7.5
Extract from ch.4, The Fall of the Rising Sun, Brendan Green


The Battle of North Borneo, as this action became known, had wide strategic effects. Admiral Yamaguchi rather cold-bloodedly allowed Admiral Shima’s invasion convoy to proceed for several hours after the covering force began its withdrawal - presumably as a distraction, both for the withdrawal of the covering force, and for the other invasion force (under Admiral Ozawa), at that time heading for Tarakan. The order to cancel the assault only went out at dawn, when the invasion convoy had already come within range of land-based air from North Borneo.
The immediate sequel of this was tragic for both sides. The RAAF Hudson squadron operating from near Miri could just reach the convoy, and launched an attack that morning, just as the convoy reversed course. However, they went unescorted, as the Hurricanes lacked the range. The Claude fighters of the Japanese light carriers intercepted them, and shot down three bombers. Three more, damaged, had to ditch on the return journey, with few survivors. Only two hits were scored, causing little damage, though three Claudes fell to the Hudson gunners, confirming Admiral Shima in his belief that his residual air assets were quite inadequate. The consequence was also that the Hudsons were unavailable to attack Ozawa’s eastern force, which therefore landed its troops at Tarakan unmolested by them. The Dutch fought stubbornly but lacked the strength to prevent the landing.
However, later on the 20th two submarines - HNLMS O-20 and the USS Sealion - made an interception of Shima’s retreating convoy. One transport was sunk, and only dud torpedoes saved another. The invasion force then withdrew out of range.
At the time and since Cunningham faced criticism for not pursuing the invasion force with his main fleet and sinking it. The potential prize was considerable - much of the Japanese sea-lift and amphibious assets in the region, and thousands of elite enemy troops. However, he felt he had pressed his luck far enough, having risked his carriers far from land-based cover. To the strike commander Eugene Esmonde, just returned to Victorious, he commented: ‘Good show. Now let’s get out of here before any more carriers show up.’ In his memoirs, Esmonde’s own comment was: ‘Cunningham wanted his own carriers well out of range of any counter-stroke as quickly as possible. We all knew that our success had relied on the superb intelligence provided by American, Dutch and French searchers. We also knew that there was such a thing as pushing one’s luck.’ There had also been reports of Japanese submarines operating too close for comfort.
In fact the Admiral had no need to fear a counter-strike on the 20th. Both Hiryu and Soryu had been hit by torpedoes, damaging them enough to make air operations impossible. Yamaguchi’s immediate sole concern on learning that his striking power was gone was bringing his priceless assets out of danger. Both carriers reached safety, but would need substantial repairs.
Further afield the news caused grave disquiet in Tokyo. ‘This kind of night torpedo attack appears a speciality of theirs,’ commented Yamamoto, ‘we should have been better prepared for it. Our doctrine does not contemplate it - our commanders must learn to think like the enemy.’ Orders went out to the other fleet carriers, 1st and 5th Divisions, to assemble for a renewed offensive. One carrier division had been refitting and the other operating in the Pacific during the North Borneo invasion attempt. ‘Borneo, with its oil wells, must be taken quickly, or the war cannot continue,’ commented Admiral Nagumo. ‘Happily we have made a successful landing in eastern Borneo. We should have land-based air support available for the next effort.’
 
Excellent questions which receive an answer in the next update.

I'd like to know more about this, since this would have evident major implications for events in 1945.
There were a few goofups with the industrial side at Oak Ridge, possible to have got lucky.
So you can get Little Boy advanced, but no similar way for Hanford.
Now it's possible to implode U-235, you need a lot less fissile material.
With enough U-235 for Little Boy, would some of the next production go for an implosion test? Possible, since there wouldn't be enough Plutonium for months for Gadget.
 
I'd like to know more about this, since this would have evident major implications for events in 1945.
From what I remember it would have been 2007 or 2008 whilst the original FFO had a English translated page. It wasn't part of the main storyline but a separate annex. When I went looking for it again 12-18 months later I couldn't find it.

As I recall the main idea was that bunches of British and French scientists jumping up and down in front of the Americans screaming 'this is important: you have to act now' gets them going quicker. I don't know much about the development of the a-bomb to say if this is feasible.

I spent several hours at the French FFO site searching around, including reading threads dating back to 2006, I couldn't find anything remotely similar.
 
From what I remember it would have been 2007 or 2008 whilst the original FFO had a English translated page. It wasn't part of the main storyline but a separate annex. When I went looking for it again 12-18 months later I couldn't find it.

As I recall the main idea was that bunches of British and French scientists jumping up and down in front of the Americans screaming 'this is important: you have to act now' gets them going quicker. I don't know much about the development of the a-bomb to say if this is feasible.

I spent several hours at the French FFO site searching around, including reading threads dating back to 2006, I couldn't find anything remotely similar.
Tube Alloys was the research and development programme authorised by the United Kingdom, with participation from Canada, to develop nuclear weapons during the Second World War. Starting before the Manhattan Project in the United States, the British efforts were kept classified, and as such had to be referred to by code even within the highest circles of government.

The possibility of nuclear weapons was acknowledged early in the war. At the University of Birmingham, Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch co-wrote a memorandum explaining that a small mass of pure uranium-235 could be used to produce a chain reaction in a bomb with the power of thousands of tons of TNT. This led to the formation of the MAUD Committee, which called for an all-out effort to develop nuclear weapons. Wallace Akers, who oversaw the project, chose the deliberately misleading code name "Tube Alloys". His Tube Alloys Directorate was part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Tube Alloys programme in Britain and Canada was the first nuclear weapons project.
 
Tube Alloys was the research and development programme authorised by the United Kingdom, with participation from Canada, to develop nuclear weapons during the Second World War. Starting before the Manhattan Project in the United States, the British efforts were kept classified, and as such had to be referred to by code even within the highest circles of government.

The possibility of nuclear weapons was acknowledged early in the war. At the University of Birmingham, Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch co-wrote a memorandum explaining that a small mass of pure uranium-235 could be used to produce a chain reaction in a bomb with the power of thousands of tons of TNT. This led to the formation of the MAUD Committee, which called for an all-out effort to develop nuclear weapons. Wallace Akers, who oversaw the project, chose the deliberately misleading code name "Tube Alloys". His Tube Alloys Directorate was part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Tube Alloys programme in Britain and Canada was the first nuclear weapons project.
This general subject of ATL nuclear development, could "someone" reasonably have The Bomb substantially earlier than the middle of1945, came up in A Blunted Sickle too. The author claimed that just by happenstance, the particular method of acquiring fissionable material most rapidly and efficiently happened to be the very same method Tube Alloys happened to focus on--maybe this was less coincidence than one method being more intuitively promising. There was no way to know in advance there would not be unforeseen hitches but in fact there weren't. So the author's premise was that Britain working alone, and still more with France (in ABS, France is partially occupied as during the Great War but does not fall, or falls after considerably more delay and decimation of Axis forces, I forget now if Italy even attacks though IIRC they don't) just plodding along methodically as Tube Alloys historically did OTL, suitable material for a bomb or three would be available as fast as Manhattan Project did it or possibly sooner. I remain skeptical, figuring hindsight Mary-Sueing is all too easy, and also that Uncle Sam had deeper pockets than the Entente at war and no doubt proceeded just as rapidly in the in-hindsight best method as in the several others the US project was capable of blowing lots of extra resources on. It seems unlikely that the American project would actually be slower than Tube Alloys.

But maybe deeper study into the two projects would justify that claim.

Here the USA is In, and there is no reason Franklin Roosevelt would not have got the letter from Szillard, Einstein, et al that launched the embryonic MP. No doubt there is talk of consolidating the work in America, but I do hope, given the raw deal Britain got OTL, that France and Britain speaking together as partners can nail down better terms for the European allies. In all probability to get clearer title to shared nuclear secrets, both Britain and France must contribute more scientists and engineers to locate in New Mexico or the other MP sites. That might accelerate work a bit, but I suspect the project had plenty of top level minds working on it OTL and adding 10 or 20 percent more won't result in commensurate acceleration.
 
Part 7.6
Rank Organisation
Verbatim transcript of meeting between Mr. Davis & Mr. Ambler
1st April 1948
File ref. PM/001/F/48

Mr. Davis: So you have a war movie for me?

Mr. Ambler: Yes sir, I do. It’s titled Victorious Voyage.

D: Amazing. Go on.

A: It’s set at the beginning of the war with Japan, when HMS Victorious sailed from Britain to Singapore and arrived just in time.

D: I think I heard about that.

A: It was a famous affair. Well, the movie starts on December 8th 1941 with the ship’s captain getting orders to cancel all leave and put to sea at once. We see the officers, we thought John Mills and Donald Sinden, coming back to the ship complaining about missing Christmas.

D: I like where this is going. I hate Christmas too.

A: Er… anyway then we have an action sequence with the planes landing on the ship as it sets out. We meet the aircrew whose story we’re going to follow. There’s the pilot, who also commands the bomber squadron, he’s upper-class English, plus his observer and gunner, who are both chirpy Cockney types.

D: Wasn’t that squadron commander actually Irish?

A: Yes, but the focus group liked David Niven in the role, and I don’t think he’s got a convincing Irish accent.

D: I do like David Niven. He means box office.

A: I thought you would, sir. So anyway they set off across the ocean, and we’ve got agreement to use HMS Victorious herself for the sea shots. We see a German U-boat attack, but all the torpedoes miss.

D: That was lucky. If I remember rightly, the escorts actually sank that U-boat before it could attack.

A: Yes, sir, but we need an early action sequence.

D: Ah, fictitious submarine attacks are tight.

A: What does that mean?

D: I’m not sure why I said that.

A: Then the carrier gets to Gibraltar and John Mills meets his wife who is a Wren serving there. She works out they’re going to the Far East and she begs him to be careful.

D: Who’s playing her?

A: I thought Vivien Leigh.

D: No, Larry’s keeping her busy. Maybe Jill Balcon.

A: Then they pass through the Mediterranean and get attacked off Tunisia by over fifty Italian bombers.

D: It’s going to be difficult to survive that.

A: Actually it’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience. You see they get air cover from the Lafayette Escadrille and we see William Holden playing an American pilot shoot down three bombers in his P-40.

D: I thought the Lafayette Escadrille only started operating from Tunisia in 1942. Wasn’t it a French fighter group, the Storks, that drove off that attack?

A: American market, sir.

D: Well OK then.

A: They get to Suez and there’s a poignant scene of them celebrating Christmas and thinking of home as they pass through the Canal. Then a montage of them crossing the Indian Ocean and arriving at Singapore on 14th January. We see Admiral Cunningham saying, “now we’re in business,” and a staff officer says “the Japs won’t expect us to have three carriers”.

D: Surely the Italians must have told the Japanese it was heading east? How do the Japanese not know there’s a third carrier?

A: Unclear.

D: Okay.

A: So then we get a big scene where the fleet puts to sea.

D: Stock footage? Think of the budget.

A: That’s right sir. Then we finally get the big scene where David Niven takes off and torpedoes the Japanese carrier, and it starts listing and retreats.

D: Wouldn’t it be better to show it sinking?

A: But they didn’t sink it, sir. Our Navy never sank any Japanese carriers.

D: But the audience would like it.

A: All the Japanese carriers sunk in the war were sunk by the Americans. It would never do to pretend otherwise.

D: But the audience would like it.

A: Sir, I’m going to need you to get all the way off my back on this one.

D: Well let me get off of that thing.

A: So at the end we see the fleet steaming back to Singapore and everyone shakes hands and says “jolly good show”. The end.

D: I like it. I’m very glad we can get Victorious herself for the filming.

A: Yes, it’s splendid sir. It was such a great victory, I’m sure they’ll make her a museum ship one day.

(Note. On the next page in the file, someone has added a newspaper clipping with the headline: ‘HMS Victorious sold for scrapping’.)

*​
(OOC: apologies to Mr. Ryan George for this one. I’ll delete this if I have to.)
 
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Part 8.1
Part 8. ...pas comme on voudrait

Extract from ch.8 of To the stars the hard way: a history of 50 Wing RAF by Bertram Owen

The news that the Wing was to go to Indochina did not go down very well. ‘We had just gotten comfortable at Singapore,’ complained one pilot. The squadrons flew out on successive days in mid-January. Ground crews had gone on ahead to ensure that there were stocks of fuel and ordnance in place, and that the runways were satisfactory. The reports back were just encouraging enough for the deployment to go ahead, after some prodding from HQ. Each squadron had its own smallish airstrip in the area west of Saigon.
Squadron Leader Maxwell described his experience in a letter: ‘we all managed to make it in without damage. Our erks had a few tents, but accommodations scanty, some of us used makeshift shelters under the trees. A few others got billets in a village nearby, but our M.O. didn’t like the look of it and said he expected we couldn't stay for long. Fuel stocks were adequate for now - but doubtful if they can replenish quickly in combat conditions. Ordnance limited, we'd flown in some of our own from Singapore, but the armourer found a lot of the bombs were in poor condition and he said he’d take no responsibility for them. So that was a quarter of our bombs u/s just like that.’
He went on: ‘Early warning is non-existent it seems. Depends on someone - not clear who - telephoning the French Commandant’s office and then someone else raising a flag. No air-raid shelters or slit-trenches - the erks already started digging their own. We asked for some locals to help dig - apparently not possible. But the worst thing is ack-ack. We’d been told the French had that in hand. But Dickie went to inspect and all he found was a handful of machine-guns on AA mounts - some u/s and not much ammo. I went ready for a ding-dong with the Commandant. Poor man practically blubbed. He’d had to call in every favour owed to him to even get that much, he said. He agreed it was totally inadequate, but very few AA guns available anywhere, and the Army had snaffled most - lots more over at Cam Ranh Bay. ‘Maybe your fighters can protect us,’ he said. I said I’d believe it when I saw it. If they only get warning by someone waving flags at them, they’ll have a hell of a time. So will we.’
 
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