...Those Marvelous Tin Fish: The Great Torpedo Scandal Avoided


Will someone continue the story?

Yes. ABDA chapter may take a few days.


How that happened will be most illuminating.

It has something to do with this:


and this:

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I do not have the wealth of knowledge that Dave or PHX possess
I'm flattered, but you've been holding your own pretty good for somebody claiming ignorance.:)
accept that as an upper design bound for the Mark XV torpedo...46 knots @ 12,500 yards or a shade over 7 miles.
That's not counting the range estimation & angle errors that were inevitable with the standard aiming gear, before reliance on radar.

And to be clear, talking about torpedoes, that range is (near as dammit) bang on 6.5mi: 2025yd/nm.


I'm flattered, but you've been holding your own pretty good for somebody claiming ignorance.:)

That's not counting the range estimation & angle errors that were inevitable with the standard aiming gear, before reliance on radar.

And to be clear, talking about torpedoes, that range is (near as dammit) bang on 6.5mi: 2025yd/nm.

Yeah, I goofed. I'm used to meters/seconds and kilometers more than knots and nautical miles. I used the statute or the English land mile when I should have kept to nautical units.


However, two can play that game, and it is in that vein that I intend to look at ABDA next. It is not the range that makes the torpedo so deadly in a WW II night surface action. It is the surprise conditions with which it is used.

And the operant US example that should have flashed warnings all the way back to Washington that US torpedoes were defective was the night raid on the Japanese landings at Balikapan.

Background, before we discuss the Mark VIII Bliss Leavitt torpedo and the catastrophic role it played in the Balikapan Raid:

At the Arcadia Conference, the Allied political and military leadership could very well prognosticate just how huge a defeat they would suffer in the Philippines and in Indonesia, though the British as late as early January thought they could pull their own fat out of the fire in Burma and in Malaysia. The Americans with a fine sense of ironic humor, did not fuss when the British proposed ABDA with that paragon of Military Misfortune, General Archibald Wavell, as its supreme commander.

It was not that Wavell was a bad general. He actually was competent up to the corps level, but in theater command situations where you needed ruthless men who were efficient and heartless and who could spend men as if they were bullets, he was neither efficient nor heartless. And if there was a situation where such ruthless efficiency was necessary, it was the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia in January 1942.

He was further handicapped by sitting atop the most ridiculous committee run bodged up Allied command structure anywhere.

Taken from here: (My comments in parenthesis. McP.)
Official command structure[edit]

General Sir Archibald Wavell. (Not a Churchill favorite, selected to be the fall guy for everyone else involved when this enterprise collapsed from its own perplexed imbecility.)
General Sir Archibald Wavell, British Army (BA) – Supreme Commander
Land forces (ABDARM)

(MacArthur was technically subordinate to Wavell, but in reality many of the chains of command shown here operated independently of ABDACOM and/or existed only on paper.)

Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse.
Air forces (ABDAIR)

Admiral Thomas C. Hart.
Naval forces (ABDAFLOAT)
To summarize ABDA's defeat, although they outnumbered the Japanese in troops, available aircraft and had more supplies and means to fight and in many cases, superior or at least equivalent equipment, they were a divided command; politically, militarily, geographically in space and time, and once the Philippine Islands were enveloped, fought on exterior lines of communication out of mutual support on four fronts (Burma, Malaysia, East and West Indonesia), and at the points of contact, were outnumbered and outfought by a Japanese enemy who was faster in the decision cycle, and who operated on interior lines.

The Balikapan Raid was actually a bright spot in that long four month sour note of defeat. Dutch army air forces, a Dutch submarine and an American desron for a few hours, actually disrupted the Japanese war machine and threw the Japanese timetable off... for a day. Balikapan actually was a glitch. It could have been so much more.


So let us look at the Balikapan Raid.

This is what happened RTL.

This is what could have happened ITTL if some steps had been taken early enough.

We have to go back to the crisis period, starting in 1937, when the USN starts to seriously contemplate that the Japanese will definitely go to war with the United States. Measures to modernize the USN weapon inventory, despite the effects of Congressional penny-pinching and a global depression have been discussed, but these efforts, from 1933 onward, were concentrated on such things as the new third generation Mark XIII, XIV, and XV torpedoes, the classes of superheavyweight shells and bomb fusing. (^^^^) The efforts to "fix" things found wrong concentrated on the "new". Little attention was paid to the old munitions in inventory. Or to the old weapon systems that would use those munitions.

But in 1937 when the majority of the USN torpedo stocks were the Mark VIII and the Mark X, and considering the Institutional USN Memory that knew how the Mark VIIIs had failed in Fleet Problems 2, 3 and 4. the Torpedo Board finally took a belated look at the Mark VIII which would be the principle weapon of the Clemson class and other 4 stacker destroyers that would be called out of mothballs in a war emergency.

The decision to "proof" the weapons, using the same nets, water tanks, cliffs methods devised to test the XIII, XIV, and XV were used on the Mark VIII in exercise and live warshot target testing on an old "condemned" WW I Hog Islander freighter SS Robin Moor. The Mark VIII failed disastrously in a series of simulated warshots fired from the USS Welborn C. Wood (DD-195) which had been hauled out of mothballs and reconditioned precisely for this series of tests staged off Long Island during March 1938 to simulate what would be needed to get the mothballed 4 stackers ready in event of war. It took six months or twice as long as was planned in case of mobilization to ready the Wood. But that was the good news. The destroyers could be made combat ready in a fashion. Here came the bad news. The torpedo armament was utterly worthless. The Mark VIII did not work. Eight shots, 5 ran deep, 4 were gyro tumbles and circle runs, 1 stuck in the tube (caught fire by the way.), a Mark VIII ran wild before it even left the tube with the motor bursting and scattering shrapnel everywhere and the two that hit the stationary Robin Moor were clangers. These tests forced the USN to face the horrible prospect that their war reserve of 300 destroyers and 4200 Mark VIII torpedoes might be utterly worthless. Something had to be done and quickly.

It was not easy to find the money, even in 1938, or the resources to remedy the problem. There was a company; Allis Chalmers; a tractor/farm, machinery producer and an electrical manufacturer that became the company that took on the task of refurbishing the Mark VIII after Bliss washed their hands of it, citing their own backlog of work with the Mark XIII which was in the throes of its production and quality control crisis at the same time.

What could Allis Chalmers do with the Mark VIII?

a. Replace the gyro control with the licensed Bliss version incorporated in the Mark XIII. This was a no-tumble gyro designed for an airplane dropped torpedo. It was not a perfect fix, but it would work about 75% of the time.
b. Replace the tube launching by black powder method used on the old 4 stackers with the modern gas generator system used by the Germans of all people.
c. Replace the defective Mark II contact exploder with the Mark V, which had by this time been weapon proofed in the Mark XIV.
d. Perform proper calibration testing on the pendulum depth control and certify with hot runs in tanks and through nets that the new calibration was accurate.
e. And repack the torpedo warhead with the American version of British developed Torpex.

It all sounds fine, but here are the kickers;

e. Nothing could be done about torpedo speed. It was a 14 m/s (27 knot) fish that ran for 1000 seconds after Allis Chalmers refurbished the propulsion unit and fuel section. It was slow and could be easily dodged.
f. Even with Torpex, the warhead at 200 kg was puny.

And no amount of engineering sweat was going to change that pair of facts.

And there was the problem that Allis Chalmers could only refurbish 3 torpedoes per day at its La Porte, Indiana plant where it set up its torpedo rebuild shop. 1000 Mark VIII's a year...

The USN better pray that war does not come before 1942.


The ITTL version of the Balikpapan Raid.


On the afternoon of 23 January two USNAS Martin SBT2Ms located a convoy of 16 transports escorted by a Sendai class light cruiser (Naka) and six "submarine chasers/minesweepers" in the Makassar Strait at 1540 hours. Both Martin torpedo bombers attacked independently with Mark XIII torpedoes and missed the Naka, which combed the wakes, but one torpedo traveled beyond and exploded into the starboard side of a transport, the Seattle Maru, stopping it briefly. It had to be taken under tow. In a mistake that was all too common this early in the war, the excited American naval aviators, LTJGs Howell and Parker, each attacked before reporting, when they should have reported before attacking,

They finally made their contact report when they landed at the Balikpapan aerodrome where they were liaison based. As soon as the Dutch could manage; nine Dutch Martin B-10 bombers, escorted by twenty Brewster Buffaloes from 2-VLG-V and 3-VLG-V, that evening attacked the Japanese convoy loaded with a reinforced battalion equivalent of troops intended to seize the Dutch oil fields near the Bay. The transport ship Tatsugami Maru was hit by a 250 kg bomb and damaged and Nana Maru was sunk by another such bomb. Near Balikpapan, the Dutch submarine HNLMS K XVIII, under Lieutenant Commander van Well Groeneveld, also attacked once the contact report reached her, and sank the transport Tsuruga Maru and reportedly damaged the patrol boat P-37 by midnight, but was later heavily damaged herself by depth charges and forced to withdraw to Surabaya for emergency repairs.

While the Japanese invasion force was landing its troops at Balikpapan, on the early morning of 24 January, at around 0246; Desron 59, under Rear Admiral William A. Glassford and Commander Paul H. Talbot, acting on orders from Admiral Hart, attacked the Japanese navy escort led by Rear Admiral Shoji Nishimura for about four hours. Desron 59 was composed of USS Paul Jones, USS Parrott, USS Pope and USS John D. Ford, which were old four stacker Clemson class destroyers assigned to the US Asiatic Fleet. These antique WW I destroyers attacked the fourteen surviving transport ships present and the four Japanese patrol boats (also World War I-era destroyers) escorting them. The other two Japanese destroyer escorts and the cruiser were undertaking a search for the Dutch submarine which had been sighted earlier. Four transport ships—Kuretake Maru, Nana Maru, Sumanoura Maru and Tatsukami Maru—and patrol boat P-37 were immediately sunk in torpedo attacks. Two other transports were sunk by gunfire and another four by torpedoes as the US destroyers wind-milled through the surprised and discombobulated Japanese. Gunfire from one of the armed transports damaged the John D. Ford which played the role this night of tail-end Charlie. The Ford promptly returned fire, inflicting 50 casualties on the transport which she set on fire. At 04:00 the Ford withdrew.

It should have been a resounding success, except for the fact that the Japanese had landed enough troops by the time the Americans reached the anchored transports to overwhelm the understrength local Dutch defense battalion. Losing ten transports and the four subchasers present to the Americans hurt, but Nishimura still carried out his mission, which was to seize the oil fields near Balikpapan and the Dutch airfield as well.

Judged in that light, despite the sterling performance, Glasford and his destroyers turned in, it has to be scored as another allied defeat, as a mission failure. Needless to say Helfrich was furious. Hart in a rare temper losing moment for him, told Helfrich where he could put it. Hart was actually kind of pleased that the “Rumpot Navy”, as the Asiatic squadron was called, could actually pull the operation, which he regarded as a suicide mission, off with as much success as it had.

And incidentally, the Allis Chalmis refurbished Mark VIII torpedoes worked. Not perfectly, Only about 50% hit and it took a lot of four inch to finish off the cripples, because the puny torpedo warheads simply could not sink a 2500 tonne Maru.


Now does someone want to take a crack at Badung Strait, or the BIG ONE, the Battle of the Java Sea?
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Yeah, I goofed. I'm used to meters/seconds and kilometers more than knots and nautical miles. I used the statute or the English land mile when I should have kept to nautical units.
Not trying to bust you for it, just pointing out.:)
And the operant US example that should have flashed warnings all the way back to Washington that US torpedoes were defective was the night raid on the Japanese landings at Balikapan...
This well captures the situation, & demonstrates more clearly than I've seen before just how buggered the ABDA chain of command (if it can be called that:rolleyes:) was.

As to why MacArthur wasn't court-martialled, AIUI, it was because he'd have to be brought back to DC, & in DC, he'd run for PotUS at the drop of a hat, & FDR knew it.

There's an interesting novel, MacArthur Must Die, that posits a Japanese assassination plot. The writer clearly didn't do his research, or he'd have known that would only make things worse for Japan--but had it happened, I can believe it's a conspiracy FDR might actually have been behind.:openedeyewink:
Torpedo Board finally took a belated look at the Mark VIII ...

What a snafu... And more evidence everybody in charge should've been stood up & shot.:mad:
What could Allis Chalmers do with the Mark VIII?
Allis Chalmers? Really? Very interesting choice. I'd have picked Bulova or somebody.
The USN better pray that war does not come before 1942.
Production problems will have helped sort that out, no? Also, many of these ships would end up in British hands, helping resolve the difficulties.

That said, let me add a bit to the narrative. (Subject to correction for timing & expansion based on later events. I'm skipping ahead a trifle...& adding a small dose of handwavium, so if anybody objects, I'm open to revision.)
When L/Gen Homma's Fourteenth Army came ashore in Lingayen Gulf, they had the protection of the light carrier Ryūjō. On 11/12 December, S-39 (under the command of Commander James W. Coe) was presented with a opportunity submariners' dreams are made of, encountering the carrier at 7000 yards. Coe rang up flank speed and tried to close, dodging escorts in the dark, never managing to get nearer than 5100 yards before deciding to gamble: he fired all four bow tubes & (as his patrol report put it) "prayed harder than ever before". Something worked; he scored two hits on Ryūjō (& had one of her escorts, Akikaze, absorb another); Coe claimed damage to both. (HYPO would determine Akikaze sank, & Ryūjō was out of action for seven months.) It earned Coe a Navy Cross.

On the night 13/14 December, Commander Morton C. Mumma in Squailfish encountered two destroyers, firing two spreads (all six bow tubes), hitting one destroyer under her #1 turret. The other counterattacked, and Mumma's nerves shattered; he put his exec, Hiram Cassidy, in charge. When Sailfish returned to Manila, Commander Richard G. Voge (later Chief of Staff to ComSubPac & informal liaison to HYPO) took over. (HYPO would reveal the destroyer Tachikaze, sister to Akikaze, was sunk.) For sinking Tachikaze, Mumma would recieve a Silver Star; he would be reassigned to surface duty & serve honorably for the remainder of the war.

The additional losses to shipping forced Homma to call on manpower originally scheduled for the Malaya operation, & the delay bought MacArthur a couple of crucial days to recover from surprise & organize the evacuation of civilians and supplies into Bataan, including medicine & hundreds of tons of rice. Meanwhile, Hart ordered stores, spares, and 233 torpedoes hastily loaded aboard tenders Canopus & Holland, which were sent south, to Mariveles, while Wilkes (nominal ComSubAs) gathered the fuel oil (only 760,000 US gal, in the event, or about five full fleet boat fuel loads worth) he could into barges and barrels for movement there, as well--just ahead of a JO detailed to destroy it, in the event, while the departure of the two tenders beat the Japanese by only two days. Along with the tenders, & their technicians & specialists, went Rudy Fabian's codebreakers and their priceless Purple machines and JN-25 & Purple codebooks. In all, over 500 men & women escaped in the two ships.

After the departure of the sub tenders, Hart decided he would send them on to Tawi Tawi, wnen Luzon fell, while choosing to move south of the Malay Barrier, himself; he requested Wilkes be attached to Withers (ComSubPac) if Tawi Tawi became untenable (as it would almost immediately, for lack of fuel). This would be a fateful decision for the Submarine Force.

When Wilkes, his tenders, & his boats arrived at Pearl Harbor, Withers was appalled at their terrible state of upkeep, & Wilkes was summarily relieved, as was "Red" Doyle. Withers was barraged with complaints about the HOR-boats' main diesels; he was not (yet) in a position to do anything about it, but as the boats were scheduled for routine yard stays at Mare Island, they would be progressively re-engined with Winton diesels.

The reaction of Mumma was a portent for the future, but one nobody could yet realize it...
OT: FYI, the typical fleet boat fuel load was in the range of 140,000 U.S. gallons.

Edit: corrected English; Withers was still ComSubPac at the time...:oops::oops::oops:

Edit 2: retconned to delete S-39's (nonexistent...) stern tubes...
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To summarize ABDA's defeat, although they outnumbered the Japanese in troops, available aircraft and had more supplies and means to fight and in many cases, superior or at least equivalent equipment, they were a divided command; politically, militarily, geographically in space and time, and once the Philippine Islands were enveloped, fought on exterior lines of communication out of mutual support on four fronts (Burma, Malaysia, East and West Indonesia), and at the points of contact, were outnumbered and outfought by a Japanese enemy who was faster in the decision cycle, and who operated on interior lines.

Absolutely. And the fact that the navies had for the most part never worked together before and had a language barrier to cross was another huge problem. The fact they lost was not in doubt, the fact ABDA did as well as they did given all their problems is a minor miracle...

Great stuff McPherson!

Any idea what kind of effect this would have on the rest of the campaign? I'm very interested to know if the ships at Balikpapan were supposed to be used in the rest of the campaign.

RE: Helfrich. What a tool. One of the proponents of the Navalist-lobby that dominated the RNN at the end of the Interbellum. Screwed up the RNN in the DEI with his (or actually Furstners) idea of Anarchy on the Seas.


Great stuff McPherson!

Would you believe I pulled that together out of thin air? What I knew about Glasford's Balikpapan Raid before I went looking could be put into a crushed fedora with enough room left over for an elephant.

Any idea what kind of effect this would have on the rest of the campaign? I'm very interested to know if the ships at Balikpapan were supposed to be used in the rest of the campaign.

Any action that removes a brigade lift equivalent from the Japanese order of battle has to hurt later on for the Java operation. For the Indonesia and Philippines campaigns in total, the Japanese commandeered 1/4 of all of their merchant shipping including 1/3 of their tanker hulls. (They were so desperate for oil, they intended to burn existing fuel stocks and then send back raw feed stock from the captured oil fields in whatever containers that would hold oil on whatever holds could carry the barrels. Needless to say, this plan did not work out too well?). One of the reasons Glasford was able to hit the Japanese invasion convoy at all, approximately at the time when they were in the midst of disembarkation and landing of troops, was that the Japanese, as the convoy was at sea, telegraphed the Dutch at Balikpapan, warning them not to blow up the oil fields or the local refinery at Balikpapan proper.

RE: Helfrich. What a tool. One of the proponents of the Navalist-lobby that dominated the RNN at the end of the Interbellum. Screwed up the RNN in the DEI with his (or actually Furstners) idea of Anarchy on the Seas.

Anarchy on the Seas? That sounds like Furstner (Dutch admiral?) ran afoul of the influence or became a student of that French "theorist" RADM Raoul Castrex, the man who founded the French Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale which is the equivalent of the US National War College (Carlisle Barracks). Pardon my French, but Castrex was a NUT.

"Attack!" is not what Mahan had in mind when he writes, "the inferior fleet must never let itself become a passive fleet in being, but must always seek to create the opportunity for the offensive and promote the spirit of positive action."

In other words; the Balikpapan Raid... not the Battle of the Java Sea. I think that is what you mean when you refer to Helfrich "as a tool."? Hart and he did not see eye to eye on naval matters at all.




Just a teaser; Helfrich and Hart are at loggerheads and it is going to cost dearly, Karel Doorman has his first real try at command, and the USS Seawolf has a very rotten day.


USS Seawolf SS197 Part 1.

USS Seawolf SS197 Part 2.


1. Bubayan Channel and Bojeador Cape, 1st war patrol, 14th December 1941, the 1st contact is IDed by LTCDR Warder *(Seawolf Actual) early morning as a seaplane tender. Seawolf engages the target with her stern tubes. Warder takes quick looks (no more than a couple quick peaks as per doctrine), then dives the boat and takes evasive action as the Japanese locally react all too quickly. Men in aft steering keeping time by their heartbeats hear four spaced detonations. Escorts, then, work Seawolf over hard for 60 minutes and keep her down. Then the ocean silences and screw noises fade. Seawolf under Warder's command comes up cautiously for a look. Empty ocean. There is no evidence to show if Seawolf got her seaplane tender when she spent four precious Mark XIVs. No oil is seen, no debris field, no Japanese bodies or anything to show for it: except birds, wind and waves. It is going to be that kind of war.

2. Second War Patrol out of Manila to Darwin on a passenger ferry run. Nothing seen. Big fat zero.


3 January, Freddy Warder (Seawolf) was detailed to surveil Truk. He was joined by Eliot Olsn's Grayling, which departed Pearl Harbor 5 January. Informed by Hypo of the sortie of Akagi & Kaga, Olsen failed to detect either task force. Warder, by contrast, spots Akagi arriving 14 January (escorted by BatDiv 3 & DesDiv 18); to his eternal frustration, they go by at 11,000 yd, & Withers has not had the foresight to outfit Seawolf with mines (to block harbor channels). Warder moves to within 1500 yd of the atoll, hoping to catch something coming out. Olsen, on the other hand, remains more than 10mi offshore.

15 January, Kaga (with escort CruDiv 8 {Tone & Chikuma} & DesDiv 17) arrives; Warder, playing hide & seek with patrol planes, spots them steaming over the horizon, and as it becomes clear which channel they intend to use, moves to intercept, firing all four bow tubes at Kaga, then ("an extremely difficult choice", Warder's patrol report would say, "between two cruisers") the stern tubes at Tone, all at 4000 yd (having been unable to get any closer without being detected). Two torpedoes miss Kaga ahead, Warder overestimating her speed; the other two set her on fire, and she barely limps into the lagoon, where she is beached for two months. (Her efforts to return to Japan for repairs would be the stuff of Sub Force legend.) Tone was less fortunate; she was hit by three torpedoes, and her stern is blown off by a hit in her after magazine. She sinks in a matter of minutes. The fourth torpedo intended for Tone claims Urakaze, instead. This "miracle salvo" makes Warder (justifiably) famous. Warder pays for it; four escorting destroyers subject Seawolf to a punishing two-hour depth-charging, dropping almost 100 depth charges (by Warder's count), putting both periscopes out of action and forcing Warder to curtail his patrol. When Seawolf returns, Warder is awarded a Navy Cross, & Seawolf gets a Presidential Unit Citation. Warder's tally for the patrol is 11,213 tons for Tone, damage to Kaga for 19100 tons, and 2,032 tons for Urakaze, a total of 32,345 tons, the second best patrol of the war so far.)

(Edit comment; This replaces Seawolf's JANAC patrol summary of her record.)

3. Third War Patrol out of Darwin as a cargo run to Manila and thence another passenger run to Surabaya, Java. Batches of Japanese destroyers, just begging for torpedoes, but Warder has his orders: deliver machine gun ammunition and transport passengers. These orders may come down to him through Navy channels, but SEAWOLF ACTUAL knows it is the corncob pipe-smoker who is misusing the US Navy this far into the war.

4. Fourth War Patrol; 19th February 1942. Seawolf is in the Badung Strait when Warder sights a small convoy. He spends 3 of his 8 available Mark XIVs left forward in a risky overlapping salvo periscope attack and is handsomely rewarded. Sagami Maru is stopped dead in the water with a prop hit. Hatsushimo, a destroyer, takes one in the belly and she is a another deader in the water. Later that day a combination of USAAF Havocs and NEIAAF Martin B-10s finishes the job with the usual 250 kg SAPI parachute drag-fall bombs that have proved to be such good ship killers for the allies in this losing war.

But as was the case off Bojeador Cape, the Japanese escorts react with persistence and fury. Badung channel is SHALLOW, the waters too clear and Seawolf suffers for it. She cannot clear datum and is hounded by two Japanese tin cans, will be hounded continuously until the night battle of Badung Straits draws them off and finally rescues her...

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Just a teaser; Helfrich and Hart are at loggerheads and it is going to cost dearly, Karel Doorman has his first real try at command, and the USS Seawolf has a very rotten day.
Now that's weird. I quote the above post and get lines and lines of story appear..... Very odd.

Anyway, just wondering if this is a real drawing off the net or if it is from a game or something? Looks gamey.....

Thanks :)
A bit more...
17 January, William L. "Bull" Wright (who, when Japan attacked the P.I., allowed his exec, Rueben Whitaker, to deal with the problem, confident Whitaker "could handle a little thing like a war"), in Sturgeon, spotted 7200 ton tanker Ogura Maru off Subutu Island, firing four Mark XIVs, scoring a single hit. The tanker stopped, and Wright closed, firing a two more from his stern tubes. Both exploded under her keel. Wright signalled Pearl with a paraphrase of a bawdy song, "Sturgeon no longer virgin".

On the night of 22/23 January, Sturgeon encountered a convoy in Makassar Strait (previously detected by Bart Bacon in Pickerel). Wright attacked a 6000 ton tanker with four torpedoes; all functioned correctly. (JANAC was unable to confirm this postwar, either.) He also fired on a Japanese destroyer with three torpedoes from close range (only 1000 yd), scoring two hits (one missing ahead), breaking the destroyer's back. (Hypo identified her as Amagiri.)

24 January, off Celebes, S-36 (under John R. McNight) had a battleship division (Kongō and Haruna, with two cruisers and four destroyers on escort) practically run right over her; McNight fired all four bow tubes at Kongō, scoring three hits, one missing astern. The destroyers counterattacked fiercely, delivering over 100 depth charges, many close, enough to knock one of S-36's main diesel off its base and spring fuel leaks (which led the Japanese to believe her sunk). When McNight returns to Tawi Tawi, he is immediately sent on to Pearl, then Mare Island: S-36 is no longer fit for service. Her crew would be transferred entire to new construction, Chicolar (SS-218).
OT: I've found so much in Blair I can't reconcile with the WP pages based on DANFS, IDK what to do with them...

For the record, I'm quoting Blair on Wright both times. And Mumma's crackup is OTL; his fate is a bit kinder than I suspect he got OTL. S-36 went aground OTL.

Edit: retconned to delete prematures (changed "spread" to "2 fish"), add ship name Ogura Maru, delete "unidentified".
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Honestly with IJN Damage Control practice I wouldn't be surprised if just one sunk her. I really don't see her surviving with 3 unless they beach her.
Not to mention, she was a ship designed to survive WWI torpedo impacts, not the much larger and more powerful torpedos of WWII


Shambles in the Allied command, and a lot of mixed luck in the Badung Strait.

As ABDA unraveled, Doorman, Helfrich, and Hart met on the 17th of February 1942 to have it out. Doorman told his superiors he could not operate in the Western Java Sea without air support. Doorman directly told Helfrich that until ABDA could provide adequate air cover for future fleet operations, it was his intention to concentrate ABDAFLOAT in the Eastern Java Sea. This set off Helfrich who threw an admiral’s tantrum. Hart, knowing the true state of Allied air power on Java the only air bastion left, could do little but side with Doorman against the delusional Helfrich. Meanwhile, the Japanese improved their positions in the eastern half of the East Indies as well. On the 14th, USNAS scout planes reported seven transports, escorted by seven destroyers and three cruisers off Kendari. Three days later, Dutch NEIAAF planes sighted two cruisers and two destroyers escorting three transports 50 nautiocal miles southwest of Ambon. This force was the SAG and convoy of Rear-Admiral Kyuji Kubo, bound for Bali. Bali was originally not a Japanese objective as they already held the strategic airfield at Kendari. But despite its well-lit, all-weather runways, the Japanese found that the fickle weather patterns over Kendari often socked the airfield in. It was this inability to bomb Surabaya on a regular basis that prompted them to attack Bali.

Since ABDA's ability to hold Java hinged on air reinforcements from Australia, capture of Bali would cut off the flow of Allied fighters to the Javanese airfield system. Japanese capture of Den Passar Airfield on the islands's southern end would also give them a forward air base just two miles off the eastern shore of Java. It would permit the Japanese to strike Surabaya and eastern Java's multiple airfields at will. They could then deal ABDA air power a sledgehammer blow. At the same time, they could interdict any ABDA fleet sent out to contest the planned invasion of Java.

With its close proximity to Java, the Japanese considered the Bali operation extremely vulnerable to both air and sea attack. Kubo, himself, wanted to land the ground elements and clear his ships out of the area as soon as possible before ABDA air forces or naval units could retaliate. Despite Kubo's concerns and the risks involved, the Japanese chose to proceed and the invasion force left Makassar in the night of February 17/18.

The convoy consisted of the transports Sagebo Maru and Sagami Maru with the destroyers Asashio, Oshio, Arashio and Michisio in close escort. The light cruiser Nagara and the destroyers Hatsushimo, Nenohi and Wakaba followed behind and provided a distant covering force from a position in the Banda Sea. From Kubo's movements, ABDA reconnaissance positively identified his axis odfadvance, although most ABDA commanders thought he was headed for Timor.

The landing force consisted of the 3rd IJN NSLF Battalion (minus one company), one mountain gun platoon, radio and field units, an engineer platoon and part of the Anchorage headquarters of the 1st Formosa Infantry Regiment of the 48th Infantry division. All had been withdrawn from combat duty in the Philippines when other units on Borneo could not find adequate sea transport (Thanks to the Balikpapan Massacre) in time to meet the scheduled departure date.

Meanwhile, following the recent bungled antishipping sweep in the Banka Strait, Doorman's striking force was scattered. De Ruyter and Java were with Piet Hein cutting circles uselessly in the water. The destroyers Kortenaer, USS Pope, and USS John D. Ford were milling about on a separate mission of ill-defined purpose. The destroyers, USS Barker and Bulmer, lay in Tjilatjap, but due to the damage suffered in their Bangka Strait action, neither was capable of offensive action and the decision had been made to send them to Australia for repairs and refit.

The cruiser, Tromp, was at Surabaya, while USS Stewart, John D. Edwards, Parrott and Pillsbury refueled at Ratai Bay on southern Sumatra before the facilities there were demolished to prevent their capture once the Allied evacuation was complete. At the meantime, the Dutch destroyers Witte de With and Banckert were detailed to take part in the pending action Doorman planned, but were unable to do so. Witte de With lay in overhaul and could not be readied in time. The Dutch destroyer, Banckert, was operational, but was badly damaged in a Japanese air raid on the morning of the 18th and was also forced into drydock. Her sister ship, the Evertsen was also available, but on convoy duty between the Indian Ocean and Singapore.

With ABDAFLOAT so badly scattered, Admiral Doorman could do little when he received word that Kubo was on the move. However, once ABDAAIR air reconnaissance confirmed the Japanese convoy's destination, Doorman ordered his ships to raise steam and make for Bali while he formulated a battle plan. The plan he came up with was extremely idiotic. It was forced upon him out of necessity. Because time was critical, Doorman's force had no chance to concentrate. As a result, his attack would consist of three waves, Japanese fashion, which would come from three different directions around Java and southern Sumatra.

The first wave, consisting of De Ruyter and Java with their destroyers, left Tjilatjap on the evening of February 18. Disaster reared up immediately when Kortenaer temporarily lost rudder control and ran aground while threading her way out of Tjilatjap's treacherous narrow harbor channel. The destroyer could not be pulled off until the morning tide came in and put into Surabaya for repairs. Unable to wait, Doorman continued on with only Piet Hein, Pope and John D. Ford to screen his cruisers.

The second wave consisted of the American 58th Destroyer Division under Commander T.H. Binford. This was the USS Stewart, Parrott, John D. Edwards and Pillsbury. They had orders to leave Ratai Bay at full speed and join Tromp at Surabaya to form a SAG. They joined the Dutch light cruiser on the 18th and the force sortied that afternoon.

The third wave consisted of seven Dutch motor torpedo boats. Eight were originally detailed to participate in the attack, but departing Surabaya, TM-6 hit a buoy, forcing her into dry-dock. This left TM-4, TM-5, TM-7, TM-9, TM-10, TM-11 and TM-12 to carry on. They departed on the morning of the 19th, headed for Pangpang Bay on Java's east coast. There, after a substantial delay, they refueled from the Dutch minelayer Krakatau and covered the short distance from Java to Bali.

Doorman's plan called for each of his three waves to attack independently. The first was to approach through the southern entrance of the Badung Strait from the Indian Ocean after midnight on the 19th. Badung Strait is a 15 mile-wide channel which separates Bali from Noesa Besar, a small island in the Flores Archipelago. The nearest passable channel to eastern Java, it represents a major thoroughfare for merchant shipping in the eastern East Indies doing trade with Australia. (One wonders why it was not mined in this military emergency. McP.)

By the time Doorman's first wave appeared, Admiral Kubo had already landed his troops on a small beach near Den Passar and was ready to depart. He chose not to risk his entire force in the restricted strait. Nagara and her destroyer screen remained in the Banda Sea, leaving Asashio, Oshio, Arashio and Michisio to cover the two beached transports.

The only ABDA sea forces in the vicinity were the American submarine, Seawolf, and Truant, a British boat. Theirs was the only naval resistance offered to the Japanese during the landings. Seawolf was positioned in the Badoeng Strait in anticipation of an invasion and was the first to attack. Under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Fred. B. Warder, she made contact at 0200 in the morning of the 18th.

Warder took his boat through the destroyer screen on the surface before being forced to submerge. With poor charts and tricky currents, Seawolf had great difficulty navigating the strait. By morning, Warder was so lost that he was unable to fix his position through the periscope. However, he could see the masts of several ships in the distance. As Seawolf moved in, she bumped onto a sand bar. Warder backed off with no problem and proceeded in until his boat suddenly ran aground again.

This time, the situation was more serious. The submarine was unable to back off while submerged, creating a highly dangerous situation for Seawolf as the Japanese escorts were on alert for ABDA submarines. Finally, after several failed attempts while submerged, Warder gave orders to blow the main ballast tanks despite being within visual range of the convoy.

The submarine was lucky. As Seawolf surfaced, a squall blew over her and Warder was able to move closer on the surface for another 30 minutes until it blew over and he dived again. Running silent, Warder crept into torpedo range, swung around and fired his two stern tubes as he withdrew. Seawolf then began her desperate fight for survival. Two explosions were heard in the distance. The Sagebo Maru had been hit. She was crippled and had to be run aground. She was not going anywhere. Then two Japanese destroyers found Seawolf and gave chase.

Seawolf received a terrible day long battering as she fought her deadly battle to outwit the Japanese destroyers. But despite the closeness of the depth charges in the shallow strait, Warder managed to take his boat out of the danger zone without critical damage. As for the explosions, although the Sagebo Maru would be torpedoed and bombed again - the Seawolf’s torpedoes had practically torn her guts out.

About the same time Seawolf fought for her life, Truant arrived in the area. She had been ordered into action from Surabaya without any kind of briefing, including being informed about the presence of Seawolf. Warder was also unaware of Truant's presence. Truant encountered Kubo's covering force in the Banda Sea and had little trouble penetrating the destroyer screen to set up an attack on Nagara. She fired six torpedoes from too far away and went deep. None of the British fish hit. The destroyers drove off Truant and did not let her approach again; She withdrew scoreless and unharrassed to Surabaya.

American planes from Java arrived over the strait at dawn. First word of the landings had reached Java at 0200 and the USAAF was ordered to prepare its 13 A-20 Havoc bombers and seven A-24 dive bombers for action at dawn. The first planes arrived over Bali at 0700 and their attacks numbered 38 sorties by dusk. As at Palembang, Japanese air cover was initially strong, but gradually died away. This was fortunate, as strong air attacks on eastern Java tied up most of ABDA's fighters, leaving very few to escort the bombers. Miraculously, their claims of four direct hits and 12 near misses were confirmed for the first time by gun camera footage. Two Japanese destroyers were damaged in these air attacks off Bali on February 19 and the Sagami Maru was rendered a mission kill from a bomb hit in her engine room.

Ashore, on Bali, the poorly motivated garrison of 600 native militia deserted almost immediately. Their Dutch commander was further disgusted to learn that through a misunderstanding of his orders, Den Passar airfield had not been blown up. His order not to delay the demolition was misread by the engineers who thought he wanted the operation delayed. This confusion allowed the Japanese to take the airfield with its runways completely intact.

Admiral Kubo, having tasted his second USAAF bombing in the same week, had enough of that. He turned his covering force away from Bali and set course for Makassar. With his mission completed, Kubo wanted to leave Bali's exposed shores as soon as possible and get his ships home in some semblance of a floating condition. By 2300, he was well north of the Badung Strait, effectively taking him out of the coming fight that night.

He left Arashio, Michihio, Asashio and Oshio to escort the two ruined transports to Makassar. Arashio and Michisio were detailed to look after and tow the crippled Sagami Maru, which they finally managed to get tied off and underweigh at 2200 after making emergency repairs to stop her engine room flooding. When the first ABDA ships arrived, the three ships were reported by a Dutch night scout flying ahead of Doorman’s ships as being “unknowns”, presumably hostile near the north entrance of the Badung Strait and “ready for the kill”. In fact, this was the object of Doorman’s immediate fixation as soon as he had that report and it was the probable reason he ostensibly charged off to the north with De Ruyter, Java and Piet Hien, leaving the Commander Holt completely befuddled, three miles astern, with USS Ford and USS Pope, with no orders for his detached destroyers, except: “Engage enemy due west.” (Bestrijding van de vijand ten westen van je.) as an instruction. He was left with his own surprise fight on his hands.

Asashio and Oshio were now attempting to take the crew off the crippled Sagebo Maru when Doorman’s force surprised them. They were just weighing anchor when approaching ships were sighted at 2235. The first wave had arrived off the south tip of Bali at 2130 on February 19 in column formation. De Ruyter , Java and Piet Hien led with the American destroyers 5000 meters behind. It was a dark night with little wind and a calm sea. Battle speed was 27 knots (14 m/s).

At 2230, a lookout on De Ruyter sighted a ship to starboard, but it disappeared behind Noesa Besar. No Japanese ships were in that part of the strait, so it was either a phantom or a native prauw. 30 minutes later, Java sighted three silhouettes to port against the dark Bali shore. These were Asashio, Oshio and Sagebo Maru, although the lookout reported them as a destroyer, a transport and a landing craft. Java immediately opened her searchlight shutters and fired starshells. Her first salvo followed seconds later at a range of 2000 meters.

Java's target was Asashio, while the "landing craft" was Oshio, which De Ruyter engaged. The Japanese destroyers immediately left their efforts to aid the Sagebo Maru and charged the Dutch cruisers on a eastern course. This let them cap Doorman's "T" almost immediately and there was heavy firing on both sides.

Java fired nine salvoes and De Ruyter about the same number and the Piet Hien let off seven as they continued up the strait. Java claimed multiple hits on Asashio, as did De Ruyter on Oshio. In reality, there was no damage to either Japanese destroyer, who continued their course across the cruiser's "T". In return, Asashio put a 5 inch round into Java's port midsection. However, thanks to efficient damage control, there was no fire or loss of speed.

The cruisers then lost contact and were unable to regain it. Believing they had inflicted major damage, De Ruyter and Java sped northeast and then north at full speed through the Lombok Strait to Sarabaya. Piet Hien followed a little behind them. Their part, and Doorman’s, in the battle lasted less than 10 minutes and caused no damage. But, the American destroyers, Ford and Pope were still some 5000 meters behind and now they encountered Asashio and Oshio.

Asashio continued east for several minutes after losing contact with De Ruyter, Java and Piet Hien before turning southeast. Oshio followed a parallel course, but went further east before turning. This course change brought Asashio into a head on confrontation with the American destroyers, which were currently on a course due north.

At 2305, Pope and John D. Ford zigzaged left to right and made a hard turn to starboard behind a smokescreen. The smoke hid the Japanese from view, who concentrated their fire on the Pope. They proceeded to hammer her as the Ford struggled to enter the fight and provide support.

Pope and John D. Ford increased speed to 29 knots and turned east in an attempt to close. At 2310, the Japanese turned - this time south - and fired five torpedoes as they opened fire with guns on the Americans. Pope returned fire and quickly scored direct hits, destroying the Asashio’s searchlight platform and cutting the main steam line in her aft engine room. Torpedoes from Pope followed quickly.

Asashio went dead in the water for the moment as she burned brightly in the night. Oshio then came up and joined Asashio in the desperate fight. Together, they launched nine torpedoes at the American destroyers, and incredibly at the murderously close range of 4000 meters... missed.

The two American destroyers were left with a knife fight on their hands. Pope and John D. Ford were immediately put on the defensive as Asashio and Oshio aggresively defended the beached transport. The Americans had orders to continue north up the Badung Strait, engaging whatever targets presented themselves. Well; they could not very well continue north with these Japanese in the way, now could they? USS John D. Ford now engaged Asashio in a gunnery duel. Oshio was hidden to the American destroyers by thick smoke.

Lured (target fixated) by Asashio's gunflashes at 2324, Pope and John D. Ford continued circling south as they tried to get back on a northern course in accordance with Admiral Doorman's orders. Both laid smoke and traded gunfire with Asashio as Oshio finally emerged and joined the battle.

Pressure from the Japanese ships was so strong that the American destroyers never completed their loop to the north. The four ships paralleled each other, trading torpedoes and gunfire as Pope and John D. Ford continued their effort to the north. When the Japanese thwarted this latest maneuver, the American destroyers attempted to mask themselves against the shores of Noesa Besar Island.

This involved a turn to port, taking Pope and John D. Ford across the bow of Asashio and Oshio, leading to another heated gun action and more damage. But by now, the Americans had enough of this Japanese kubuki dance. Pope launched five torpedoes to starboard as John D. Ford laid smoke to cover her stern. This torpedo attack hit the Japanese destroyer Oshio who did not see the spread come out of the smoke in time to avoid the Mark VIIIs. Two of them blew the Oshio up and left her adrift and afire. The Americans now turned south at full speed in pursuit of the Asashio and they ganged her in the Tennesse Two Step (torpedo and gun sandwich) and somehow in a running fight managed to put her down. Both Americans at the conclusion were thoroughly shot up and Winchester on their fish. They never realized their orders to proceed north through the strait.

As Oshio was sinking to the north, a darkened ship approached her, which she assumed to be hostile. She opened fire. But the "enemy" ship was Michisio, who returned fire on her also misidentified colleague. The exchange lasted several minutes to the amazement of the Americans as they, themselves, retired to Tjilatjap. Despite the mutual heavy firing, Michisio was undamaged. It was some time before she realized her error and stopped to rescue survivors off the Oshio. The Michisio then proceeded to the luckless Sagebo Maru. It is interesting to note that the Japanese were careful in their battle logs to omit the errors and the entire episode.

Confusing is it not? It ain't over yet folks...
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A bit more...
10 January, William E. "Pete" Ferrall's Seadragon was on patrol near Cam Ranh Bay, where she found numerous targets. One was a small destroyer (patrol craft), barely worth a torpedo; Ferrall fired two and blew her to bits. (Hypo would identify the patrol boat as Sub Chaser #7, 295 tons). The patrol boat was in the vanguard of a convoy of eleven troopships, escorted by four destroyers (the fourth was identified as a cruiser, a common mistake at the time). Beginning at 12:40, Ferrall tried to close on the surface; even at flank speed, he never got closer than 2500 yd before firing all four bow tubes. He scored a lucky hit in the second-last ship and two in the last, diving to avoid two destroyers which raced after him. As they closed, Ferrall coolly poked his periscope up and fired two stern tubes at the leading tincan at just over 1000yd (just enough for the torpedo to arm, at the rate of closure); the destroyer, turned to avoid one torpedo and was hit by the other. The second destroyer turned in time to avoid Seadragon's two other stern fish, & Ferrall escaped, but lost contact with the convoy.

The second trooper, Yokohama Maru (5143 tons), sank; the first, Ferrall returned to, pouring 77 rounds of 3" into, to little effect, before expending another bow torpedo, sinking Sasebo Maru II (3228 tons). Hypo would identify the destroyer as the Momi-class Tsuga (850 tons).

12 January, Ferrall intercepted a seven-ship convoy (five freighters, a tanker, and a steamer) at long range; he attempted to close, but was unable to get closer than 3500 yd, firing all four bow tubes; he scored a single, remarkably lucky hit in the stern-most freighter, the 3927 ton Okuma Maru. It stopped her; Ferrall then approached submerged, firing another torpedo before being startled by an unseen aircraft, which bombed Seadragon. Ferrall withdrew.

About 2400 16/17 January, Ferrall's good fortune continued. He detected two more ships (3871 ton Sankei Maru and 4077 ton Davao Maru), closing on the surface to only 700 yards before firing two bow tubes at each. One fish hit the lead ship, one missed astern, and one hit the second as it turned, trying to avoid. Thinking he may have been too close, Ferrall backed off to 1500yd and fired one stern tube at each cripple. Both sank.

On 23 January, Seadragon came across a four-ship convoy; Ferrall fired a single stern tube at the leading ship, 2088 ton Kobe Maru, and two at the second, 4108 ton Sapporo Maru. Kobe Maru broke in half; Sapporo Maru took over half an hour to sink, aided by Seadragon's final torpedo, fired just before an aircraft bombed her.

Ferrall returned to Pearl Harbor in triumph, a broom tied to the periscope shears. It was the most successful war patrol by the U.S. Submarine Force to date, and earned Ferrall a Navy Cross.
For the record, the names of the merchantmen are made up. The warships are (somewhat) out of position (as they were in the previous post); I tried to pick ones that were at least nearby.

I also decided to include prematures in a few cases, both to add some uncertainty & because I suspect any magnetic feature is going to have a percentage of failures.

Convoy compositions & dates are OTL.

Edit: retcon to delete prematures...
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Well best wishes DaveJ576 with your duties and life. Thanks for starting this and perhaps, in time, you will be able to come back and do more stories, if not with this one.

I also wish to say thanks to McPherson and phx1188 for their picking up the baton and creating some very intriguing battles and attacks in this OTL with what has already been worked out. Each of these damaging and sinking ships will add to the cutting off the success for future invasions and attacks by the IJN and IJA. The slimming down of workable transports and tankers will limit the lifting ability of Japan and force it to take away more of its shipping for military uses.

I hope both of you will continue to add scenarios when you have time.