The Battle at Dawn: The first battle between the United States and Japan December 7-10, 1941

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US Army Command changes
The Army is found wanting
On February 8, 1941, Lieutenant General Walter Short, an infantry commander with extensive experience and considered a 'comer' is sent to Hawaii to take command of Army forces there. Soon after his arrival, on February 17, Secretary Stimson sends a letter to General Short that the Secretary had received from Secretary Knox, warning as follows:

“"If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the fleet or the naval base at Pearl Harbor." The letter proceeded: "The dangers envisaged in their order of importance and probability are considered to be: (1) Air bombing attack (2) Air torpedo plane attack, (3) Sabotage, (4) Submarine attack, (5) Mining, (6) Bombardment by gunfire." ( (The official Congressional Report)

Admiral Richardson, who has already received this letter, begins pushing for the strongest possible measures be taken by the Army to prepare for the first two likelihoods, considering sabotage reasonably unlikely with at least basic security measures, the next two a Navy problem, and the final possibility highly unlikely but certainly what the coast defense guns are supposed to defend against. He pressures General Short and General Frederick Martin, commander of the Hawaiian Air Force, to allow the assignment of Marine Corps and Navy personnel to the Air Information Center. The Admiral is also dissatisfied with the degree of anti aircraft protection his three naval air stations (Ewa, Ford Island, and Kaneohe Bay) have and assigns the 2nd and 4th Marine Defense Battalions (less their batteries of 5 inch guns which will be assigned to the 1st Battalion slated for Wake Island, and the 3rd Battalion slated for Midway). This gives Ewa and Kaneohe Bay each 16 3 inch guns and 48 .50 caliber machine guns, plus 2 machine gun companies (48 .30 caliber machine guns) to provide security for the bases (and which can also be sent to Wake or Midway once facilities are available). Richardson requests an additional Marine Defense Battalion once its available for Ford Island. War would come before he got that wish fulfilled. By November 1941 both bases have their Marine defenses completed and ready for war.

However, Richardson finds that Short simply does not understand the air threat, and indeed seems unusually concerned about the sabotage threat of the very large Japanese population in Hawaii. The General is also focused more on his infantry and preparing for an amphibious assault which Richardson believes is unlikely in the extreme due to Japanese shipping constraints. Several meetings in March and April are unproductive and Richardson realizes that only Fleet Problem XXII is going to serve to make his point.

Fleet Problem XXII May 1941
In a complex plan developed by Richardson and Yarnell, the fleet is divided into two forces. The Red Force, which will be commanded by Halsey (commander Aircraft Battleforce) and given the Saratoga, Lexington, Enterprise, plus 6 heavy cruisers, 12 destroyers and all 3 available oilers, and told to recreate Fleet Problem XIII. CINCPAC (Commander Pacific Fleet) purposefully neglects to inform the Army, or indeed Admiral Bellinger (commander US Navy Aviation Hawaii) of the first part of the problem, which will be a simulated surprise attack aimed at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Pye, commander of the Battle Force is appointed senior referee, as are several senior Naval officers, while Admiral Anderson is given the Blue Force, which consists of the battleships and their escorts, and Admiral Brown is given the Yorktown, the remaining cruisers and some destroyers as the scout force for Anderson. Most of the submarines are given to Blue Force as well.

Deciding that as the Red Force is simulating the Japanese, and thus the most likely approach is from the southwest (in the direction of the Japanese held Marshal Islands), Anderson sends Brown in that direction, while keeping his slower battleships in the harbor as directed. Bellinger, with only 40 available PBY Catalina long range flying boats, cannot patrol everywhere, and is forced to make choices. He decides to primarily support Brown, leaving only a handful for the northern search.

Halsey, fully aware of the limitations of the PBY, manages to avoid contact with all but one, and the referee determines that the fighters of his task force would have shot it down before it got off a contact report. The submarines, which are deployed mainly to the west and south, also miss him, and thus Halsey comes to within 200 miles of the north coast of Oahu on June 19. He launches 90 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, 36 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers and 36 Wildcat fighters as a strike. The dive bombers are to eliminate the primary Army airfields of Wheeler and Hickam fields, as well as Ewa and the two Navy patrol plane bases, while the TBDs will act as glide bombers and attack the fleet machine shops, drydocks, and oil tank farms. The fighters will provide cover and conduct simulated strafing attacks on the airfields. Convinced that the shallow depth of Pearl Harbor precludes a torpedo attacks with aerial torpedoes, Halsey ignores that possibility as Yarnell and Richardson also believed this.

The result is a stunning embarrassment for the Army. The Army has not yet received the new SCR270 radar sets and indeed has allocated minimal staff or preparation for them. The Air Information Center is still minimally staffed, and indeed the Marine Corps Liaison, 2 clerks and a lowly Army fighter pilot are the only staff present when the first Dauntless begins its dive on Hickam Field. The Army Anti aircraft units are either parked in storage, or for those guns that are present, their crews are too far away to man them quickly and their ammunition supply is locked. Only a handful of fighters manage to get off the ground during the simulated attack and the referees rule that they are destroyed and their bases wrecked. Only at Ewa and Kaneohe do the defenders score successes, as the Marines are closer to a war footing, although the referees rule that as these units are still below strength and lacking equipment and thus the bases are considered damaged. The strike on the fleet facilities is unopposed as Short has not yet deployed batteries to defend the base, and the referees decide that it would be a total loss.

In short, the Red Force has eliminated the ability of the Army to defend the fleet, and for the Navy to support the fleet. A fully detailed report is soon on the way to Secretary Knox.

The next part of the problem is designed to see if the fleet can intercept the Red Force or prevent further attacks. The Blue Force fleet sorties (which takes several hours), while Admiral Brown and his scouting force hurries north to try and find the Red Force. However Halsey steams due north and then swings north and west to put himself within strike range of Midway, which the referees rule is destroyed (particularly as no aircraft have yet arrived for the airfield). A report of this is also sent to Knox, although Brown is commended for his aggression in attempting to find Halsey.

The remainder of May and into June is spent conducting operations in the Midway area to simulate an amphibious invasion as well as to allow the battleship divisions to practice gunnery and maneuver.

A new Army Commander
Knox is appalled when he reads how successful the humiliation has been of the Army and thus the likely elimination of the ability of the Pacific Fleet to operate out of Hawaii. He forwards the report to Secretary Stimson and asks to meet with the President. In a short meeting, General Marshall and Secretary of War find themselves highly embarrassed by the debacle suffered by the Army, and soon after that Marshall decides that an aviator is needed for senior command in Hawaii. General Hap Arnold, commander of the Army Air Corps, decides he has just the man.

Brigadier General Millard Harmon, recently returned from his duties as an observer in the British Isles and one of the most senior pilots in the entire Army Air Corps, seems like just the man. He has a good understanding of the uses of radar, has watched the RAF use it and he is promoted to Lieutenant General, skipping an entire rank, and sent to Hawaii on July 19, 1941. General Walter Short is sent back to the United States and given command of the 2nd Army in Tennessee, which at present is a training organization.
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authors note: I think I made my opinion of General Short clear enough

General Millard Harmon commanded US Army Air Forces in the South Pacific Area from 1942-44, working closely and extremely well with Halsey and his loss in the late portion of the war (his plane disappeared while flying across the Pacific) was a deep shame, something that General Kenny in his book "General Kenny Reports" notes with considerable sadness

That work by the way is fascinating and is a superb and very readable report of the US Army Air Force operations from 1942 until the end of the war and can be found here

I was lucky enough to find it recently for a $1 at a thrift store in paperback

Harmon had a firm understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of American air power and learned the same about Japanese capabilities during the war. He was a superb commander and does not get the recognition he deserves
Just found this and caught up. As a big fan of WW2 PODs, you have my interest and I like your style. I look forward to more, when you are able, and seeing how the Battle will play out. Please keep up the good work.
He does manage to talk Stark and Knox into giving him a few more fleet oilers however, arguing that as the Atlantic Fleet is primarily patrolling the eastern Atlantic, that fleet does not need oilers as badly as his fleet does, and that it will extend the range of the Pacific Scouting Force

I think you meant western Atlantic. ;)
The Japanese Initial Plan
The Japanese Plan
Admiral Yamamoto has been planning for months a decisive blow against the American Pacific Fleet at the start of the war. He feels that in a single blow the First Air Fleet can eliminate at least 4 of the American battleships and clear the way for operations aimed at the Southern Resource Area. With proper planning and a bit of luck, all 8 of the battleships can be at least damaged enough to knock them out for some weeks, and with luck one or two or even more of the American carriers will be in port and they can be destroyed as well.

This will require eliminating the American ability to resist the strike by removing their fighters from the equation, as well as eliminating any counterstrike ability. A report from Takeo Yoskikawa regarding the embarrassment of the US Army in recent war games as well as the report that US Navy conducted a simulated strike against the Army airfields and fleet base poses a worry to Yamamoto, who thinks that possibly the Americans may anticipate his plan. Yamamoto decides to revise his plan somewhat, and more importantly, decides that as he is seeking Kantai Kessen (the decisive battle) with the Americans in their home waters,it would best be lead by him in person. The change takes several days to get approved by Admiral of the Fleet Nagano but in the end Nagano accepts the decision. The battleships Nagato and Mutsu replace the two fast battleships assigned to southern operations and to support them Yamamoto adds 4 more destroyers and 4 more fleet oilers to the Striking Force. Yamamoto also decides that to support future attacks against the American fleet base, Midway Island should be seized as well. A proposed landing in the Gilbert Islands is canceled, and those forces assigned to deal with the weakly defended US base at Guam, while the South Seas Detachment and the ships assigned to it are pulled from the Guam operation and instead will follow behind the Striking Force and after the raid on Pearl Harbor the carrier fleet will support the seizure of this base, which is good location to stage seaplanes from the Mandates to spy and harass Hawaii, as well as offering a refueling facility for submarines to patrol east of Hawaii and harass naval traffic from the US West Coast.

Operation AI
The plan has as its essentials the following tasks
1. Eliminate the threat of American aviation to the air strikes on the American fleet as well as its ability to launch coordinated strikes against the Striking Force
2. Eliminate the capability of the US Pacific Fleet to interfere with Japanese operations in the Southern Resource Area by sinking or severely damaging at least 4 battleships, and inflicting serious damage on the remainder.
3. Bring to battle American carriers and their escorts if they are not in port, or eliminate them as secondary targets if they are in port. This will remove American ability to harass Japanese operations and garrisons in the Central Pacific.

(authors note: With the exception of bringing to battle the American carriers if they are not in port, this was the historical Japanese plan. Note that nowhere is there any mention of attacking the repair facilities or fuel reserves at the base. The whole focus of the operation was to attack the FLEET, not the base except as incidental to hitting warships in drydock and of course the airfields. A change in the operational priorities of the Japanese Navy requires a bigger point of departure than I am willing to make)

Japanese Forces assigned Operation AI
Kido Butai (First Air Fleet) (Striking Force)
Carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, Hiryu, Shokaku, Zuikaku, battleships Hiei (fleet flag: Yamamoto), Haruna, Kongo, Kirishima, CA Tone, Chikuma, CL Abukuma, 14 destroyers, 12 fleet oilers, 414 combat aircraft (54 Zero fighters for fleet defense, 354 for striking force including 81 fighters, 143 B5N Kate torpedo/level bombers, 135 D3A Val dive bombers) plus 20 float planes for scouting

6th Fleet (submarines)
31 fleet submarines plus 5 special attack (midget) submarines

Midway Island Assault Force
CA Aoba, Furutaka, Kako, Kinugasa, 4 destroyers, 2 gunboats, 6 submarine chasers, 1 seaplane tender, 2 tenders, 9 transports, South Sea Force (4,886 troops

that is it for the evening.. hope to finish more this week

while there is a lot of criticism for the Japanese failure to launch a third strike or attack the fleet base itself, it should be noted it was never in the actual plan. Whether it will happen will of course depend on how the battle goes for the Japanese and Americans but even in OTL it was never planned for. So while criticizing the Japanese for failing to do so is a fair point, they did achieve what they were hoping for

The fact that it was the wrong objective is an Western Viewpoint, not a Japanese one (at least at that time and place)
The new update looks quite intriguing and the added force to try to take Midway will be a gamble. Even if they succeed, the troops and and forces will be left hanging if the US can minimize the damage to Pearl Harbor. The setting up of the various forces will something I look forward to play out.

With Yamamoto commanding from the carriers, he may make decisions that Nagumo would never have contemplated. Though if was to die at this stage, Japan would suffer a set back. The two additional fast battleships may prove an asset when the aforementioned surface battle commences.

Thanks again for the update. Post again when you have time.
If Pearl harbor is better prepared, will the japanese war games of August 1941 come true?

The plans will most likely modified further as better defenses are shown by the Japanese spies.

Though if the new commander and the US can detect and stop some of that espionage before hostilities start, so much the better.
The new update looks quite intriguing and the added force to try to take Midway will be a gamble. Even if they succeed, the troops and and forces will be left hanging if the US can minimize the damage to Pearl Harbor. The setting up of the various forces will something I look forward to play out.

With Yamamoto commanding from the carriers, he may make decisions that Nagumo would never have contemplated. Though if was to die at this stage, Japan would suffer a set back. The two additional fast battleships may prove an asset when the aforementioned surface battle commences.

Thanks again for the update. Post again when you have time.

throughout World War II the Japanese military (Navy and Army) casual approach to logistics often bit them in the ass
throughout World War II the Japanese military (Navy and Army) casual approach to logistics often bit them in the ass

Very true. Lots of island bases suffered when bypassed. Operations were slowed up by lack of fuel and ammo several times in 1942-1943.
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