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

McPherson

Kicked
I'm more curious to the political aspect of earlier construction of Unryū-class aircraft carrier, IOTL they were built as belated reaction to the Two Oceans Navy Plan, if their construction began in 1939, it require of different balence of power within IJN, as Air Power Faction got a clear upperhand, how to made it happen ITTL?
Good question...^1

I wish I had a good realistic answer.

By Leonard Engel


Because the Japanese air force has devastated helpless Chinese cities does not mean it is a potent aerial armada. Here are some cold facts.

Originally published in the January 1941 issue of Flying and Popular Aviation.


There is only one considerable air force in the world about which less is known today than about the mysterious Red air fleet of the U.S.S.R. That one is the Japanese. The editors of FLYING AND POPUI.AR AVIATION therefore — or should I say, nevertheless—feel it a fit subject for inquiry.

Here is that it has been possible to learn about the men and planes that have been battering virtually defenseless Chinese cities day after day for nearly 3½ years. The information comes from a variety of sources, none of them public and none of them official Japanese. Tokyo doesn’t talk much about anything military or economic and that silence goes double for matters aeronautic. It has not been possible to obtain up-to-the-minute figures in all cases.

Japan has two air forces—an army air corps and a naval aviation service—as does the United States, the only other major power without a unified and separate air command. At this writing the Japanese army has something under 2,500 ships of all types, including trainers; the navy, less than 500. Numerically, the Japanese forces are the smallest of the six major air fleets, whose approximate current strengths are: Germany, 25,000-30,000 planes; Great Britain, 10,000-12,000; U.S.S.R., 10,000-20,000; Italy, less than 5,000; U.S.A., about 5,000. Japanese planes are also the poorest qualitatively, but more about that later.

A year ago, the air corps had 3.000 pilots including reserves, and the navy, 2,100. Just about half of these were commissioned officers, the rest enlisted men.

The Island Empire’s seven army and navy air schools cannot turn out more than about 600 pilots a year. All of which, again, is small potatoes compared to the other major powers, where training commanders are accustomed to counting their yearly output in thousands instead of the hundreds.

In one respect Tokyo can claim to lead the world—namely, complexity of its governmental organizations. Even our own War and Navy Departments are put to shame in this. The organization of the Island Empire’s air services is no exception to the general rule.

The basic unit, as in other countries, is the squadron, but the Japanese squadron is smaller than ordinary. Pursuit, interceptor and heavy bomber squadrons contain only 10 planes and observation and light bomber, only nine. (The usual bomber squadron in other countries contains a dozen ships plus a spare; the fighter squadron, 18 warcraft.)

Japan has 106 combat squadrons altogether of which some 35 are pursuit and the rest are divided equally among light and heavy bombardment and observation. Total combat machines: about 1,000. About one-fourth of the Japanese air corps is based on Manchuria, part of the huge garrison (300,000 men, the crack Kwantung army, best of the Island Empire’s forces) so far immobilized north of China by Tokyo-Moscow mistrust. Another quarter is in Central China, a sixth in North China and a quarter—mostly pursuit and scouting—is in Japan itself.

Here is where the organization begins to get dizzy. In the first place, a squadron is not necessarily made up of the same type of planes. It is not unusual to find observation and bombing craft in the same squadron.

Squadrons are grouped into "air regiments." An air regiment is supposed to contain four squadrons, but in practice the number ranges from two to five. It is most unusual to find all the squadrons in a regiment—which corresponds roughly, very roughly indeed, to the American group and the British wing—made up of the same type of plane.

Air units stationed in China are under the army commanders in charge in the particular area in which they operate; Manchuria-based ships are directed by the Kwantung army staff from its headquarters at Dairen, the big Japanese port wrested from Czarist Russia 35 years ago. Squadrons in Japan proper, Corea (first Japanese mainland colony, "annexed" in 1910) and the island of Formosa make up a G.H.Q. air force. This is divided into three wings. The biggest, of four regiments, is in Japan itself; two-regiment wings are in Corea and Formosa.

The inadequacy of the Island Empire’s air corps in numbers by western standards is even more striking in the case of the naval air service, although only when the latter is contrasted with its only possible naval opponent: the United States. Naval aviation, in general, is limited by the capacity of a navy’s ships to carry warplanes. At first sight, the Japanese seem to be well off: seven aircraft carriers—more than either the United States or Great Britain has—are in commission. But here the equality ends. Japanese carriers, surface ship for surface ship, are inferior to the British. And the British are far inferior to the American.

The six American carriers can handle about 600 planes under wartime conditions; their peacetime complement is 450. British carriers have a total capacity of 250. The Japanese capacity is even smaller. The fact is that American naval designers build better carriers than the British—and the British, better than the Japanese.

Three of the Japanese carriers are brand new 10,050-ton sister ships: the Soryu, Hiryu and Syokaku. The Syokaku was placed in commission only late this summer. These three can each carry about 30 planes. For purposes of comparison, Uncle Sam’s newest are the Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet, of which the Hornet is still building. The American vessels are 20,000-tonners with a peacetime complement of four squadrons (72 planes) and a wartime capacity of about 100. The greater American capacity is due not only to their larger size, but to better utilization of space and the ability of American manufacturers to turn out smaller planes still able to meet the rigorous requirements of sea duty.

The biggest Japanese carriers are the Kaga, a 27,000-tonner originally laid down as a 39,000-ton battleship and altered following the 1921 naval limitation treaty among Great Britain, France, the United States, Japan and Italy; and the Akagi, also a 27,000-tonner. The Akagi started life as a 42,000-ton battle cruiser.

The Kaga and Akagi carry 30 planes apiece normally, but can handle as many as 50. The Akagi would be able to handle more if the Japanese had run the flight deck the length of the ship and used the space beneath it for hangars. But so far, only American designers seem willing to go in for overhangs and the like.

The other Japanese carriers are small and slow (speed is essential to a carrier because it is such a vulnerable ship; it takes only a couple of bomb or shell hits to wreck the flight deck). They are the Ryuzyo and Hosyo, about 7,000 tons and 20 planes each. Speed: 25 knots. Carriers should do 30 knots or more. Three new carriers are under construction but will not be ready for at least two years.

Including shore-based seaplanes and flying boats, the naval air service had in commission, just before the outbreak of war in Europe about 100 fighters, 150 torpedo bombers and 75 heavy bombers (which are not comparable to our own patrol flying boats, but which are not ship-based craft). It has been only in the last year that the Japanese navy has completed installation of catapults on its battleships and cruisers to launch spotting planes.

If relatively little is known about the numbers and distribution of Tokyo’s air arms, even less is known of the ships they employ—except that they are not big league in quality or performance. Fortunately, however, the Japanese have a curious numbering system which enables the outsider to make a pretty good guess at the caliber of Japanese warcraft.

Models produced originally in Japan in 1935 are known as Type 95: for example, Type 95 pursuit and Type 95-1, 95-2 and 95-3 trainers. Ships produced in 1936 are Type 96; in 1937, Type 97. There are Type 97 observation, pursuit, light and heavy bombardment planes. Now it happens that Type 97 models, produced in 1937, are no better than 1935 models developed in Europe and the United States. Japan was thus at least two years behind the parade two years ago (the 97 series of models did not go into service until 1938, of course). Despite Herculean efforts to catch up, the Japanese are undoubtedly further behind today. The stimuli of war in Europe and the armament program in the United States have boosted air performance in the West way beyond levels attainable in Japan.

The 97 series of planes is the first of modern construction. The heavy bomber is a four-motored job whose top speed is about 260 m.p.h. The maximum bomb load, however, is only 3,000 pounds; maximum range (maximum bomb load cannot be carried at maximum range) is 2,200 miles. Type 97 pursuit and observation ships approach 300 m.p.h. These planes still are standard.

A later twin-engined bomber, Type 98, is the Fiat BR-20M, built under license. The Japanese air force also has 80 Italian-built Fiats purchased in 1938. The Italian-built BR-20M is a pretty good bomber for a 1938 model: 256 m.p.h. top speed on two 1,000 h.p. Fiat radials. Gross weight of the plane is just over 11 tons. It is not believed, however, that the Japanese version is quite so fast or efficient, partly because Japanese-built engines do not deliver the same power as the Italian.

Japan’s aircraft factories, following several years of intensive effort on the part of the government to encourage their development, now are in a position to produce about 2,500 planes a year of all types—if they can get the materials. Raw materials are a difficult problem. Neither Japan nor China, for example, produces much bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is extracted. In the past, Tokyo has met a considerable part of its aluminum requirements by purchases in the United States, but the urgent need for aluminum in this country and the possibility of an embargo make the U. S. an unreliable source for Japan.

The Japanese engine industry has yet to pass the thousand-horsepower stage of development. The 2,500 planes a year is somewhat more than is necessary to maintain the air force at its present strength.

Another indication of the poor quality of Nippon’s planes is the fact that about one-third of the planes in China wear out each year and one-fourth in Japan. This does not include losses inflicted by the small Chinese air force.

It may well be asked why Japanese military planes are so few and so poor in comparison with other powers. An important reason is the fact that civil aviation is in an extraordinarily low state of development. In other countries, notably our own, when military air appropriations were at an ebb, an aircraft industry based on transport and charter services and private flying was able to lay the groundwork for much of the later expansion in the military field.

Japan operates a considerable number of airlines now, but they are a recent growth and are not heavily traveled. When I was in the Far East five years ago there was only one Japanese line operating within the mainland of Asia— the Japan Air Transport Company, which flew a couple of services in Manchuria. I trusted my life to its moth-eaten planes more than once; now that I look back on it, it gives me the shivers. When I look back, I recall that the American-operated outfit in China, the China National Aviation Company, didn’t have any too modern equipment at that time, except for a few Douglas Dolphins. But CNAC’s planes were positively 25th century compared with those flown by Japan Air Transport.

Civilian flying did not develop in Japan largely, I think, because of the poverty of the country’s people and because Japan is small. Another factor is that for years civil aviation has been under the thumb of the Ministry of Communications. The Communications Ministry runs the railroads along with the wire services and has never been particularly interested in the air. In Manchuria the giant South Manchuria Railway Company, which runs everything from half a dozen railroads to the dope traffic and red light districts, doesn’t care about airplanes either.

But there is an even more compelling series of reasons for the current state of affairs. It must be remembered that Japan arrived late on the modern industrial scene. The experience of the Japanese people with mechanical gadgets is definitely limited. They have not yet gotten much beyond merely imitating what others have done. At that they are the world’s finest, but imitativeness is little help in aeronautics. In the first place, aeronautical developments are more closely guarded by the major powers than are any others. Anything the Japanese obtain via the imitation route is bound to be three years old. Which is not extremely satisfactory at a time when every fighter plane designed is between 10 to 50 m.p.h. faster than its predecessor.

In the second place, planes being the most complicated and highly developed type of machinery in existence, a certain amount of native ingenuity is needed to make them work, even after you have been presented with the blueprints. And third, the Japanese system of small factories employing only a few semi-skilled workers—which system dominates Japanese industry—is not well adapted to the high degree of precision required in planes.

Some day, perhaps, the Japanese will have accumulated enough experience in a mechanical way to catch up, but that day will not come soon. One of the factors holding up its arrival is the educational system in Japan, which turns out a nation of blind patriots but gives only limited schooling in the mechanical arts. The general level of education in Japan is low. It takes a good educational system to turn out a nation of mechanics— and a nation of mechanics to run an air industry and air force. The Japanese’ blind patriotism is undoubtedly pleasing to Japan’s rulers. But it doesn’t cut any ice with a 1,000 h.p. motor. Motors just don’t understand noble sentiments.

It is no surprise, therefore, to learn that Japan’s five aeronautical research institutes—the institute at Tokyo University, the Army’s institute, the Navy’s aeronautical arsenal, the experimental laboratory of the Communications Ministry and the Central Aeronautical Research Institute—are not making effective progress in research. They are not in the same class as America’s NACA Langley Memorial Laboratory, or England’s Farnborough. Their equipment is deficient. Such modern apparatus as supersonic speed tunnels, refrigerated tunnels and variable density tunnels is unknown.

There remains one question: what of the Japanese ability to fly? Is it any greater than the Japanese ability to build planes? The answer is probably yes, although five years ago Japanese airman-ship was extremely poor. I wasn’t there at the time, but old hands in the Far East tell a story illustrating this. It is about a German pilot who used to be with CNAC, and an encounter he had with the Japanese.

It seems he was nominated by the German embassy in Tokyo as a special observer for some special piece of business that was to be shown. The night he arrived in Tokyo he drank himself too deep of Japanese beer, which happens to be quite strong. Somewhat in his cups, he boasted that he could knock down the 10 best Japanese pilots one after the other in a single afternoon of dogfights—with cameras, not guns, of course. He had not laid a hand to a fighting plane since the World War, but he was quite sure he could do it. He did—in less than two hours. He didn’t need the whole afternoon.

The Japanese have come a long way since then, particularly in bombardment and observation operations, through their practice in the China war. They now are quite proficient in these operations—although how they would perform against real opposition is not known. The relatively high toll taken by the few Chinese planes indicates, not too well. In loyalty, courage and readiness to follow orders, the Japanese pilot is second to no one, however. So far, the Japanese have shown no understanding of the tactics of massed aerial warfare on the World War II model.

In summary, the Japanese air force can be described as the sixth in the world in numbers and quality, as adequate to the job it has so far had to do. But it would not be adequate in the event of an encounter with either possible major opponent, the U.S.A. or the U.S.S.R., unless-in the case of the U. S. S. R.—simultaneous war in the west drained too many planes from Siberia.

Editors Notes:

Translation of Japanese ship names often resulted in more than one English spelling. The IJN carrier names, Syokaku, Ryuzyo and Hosyo in the article are more commonly known or spelled as Shokaku, Ryujo and Hosho. The author's data on the newer Shokaku and sister-ship Zuikaku (not mentioned) is also less than correct. There is more information on Japanese aircraft designations elsewhere on this site.
(^^^) was the state of USN open declared knowledge before Pearl Harbor. I would be accused of hand-wavium if I simply said the Treaty Faction demanded a vigorous naval air service and aircraft carrier program based on...

^1
Interservice rivalry and differing Navy vs. Army views of who Japan’s main “hypothetical enemy” really was—the United States or the Soviet Union—meant IJN relations with the Imperial Japanese Army were openly hostile from 1936. The competition went far beyond the most severe interservice rivalries over budgets, influence, and prestige that are common to all militaries. It affected strategy, operational planning, weapons design, hoarding of oil and other strategic resources, economic competition, technical research, and virtually every other vital aspect of Japan’s ongoing war effort in China and future war in the Pacific. The pull on Japan by the Guandong Army into war for Manchuria in 1931, then more war in northern China from 1937, deeply frightened planners in the IJN. Their rather feeble effort to gain countervailing influence in Imperial Conferences was to base a small fleet on the Songhua (Songari) River in northern China. During the opening campaign of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the IJN was assigned to evacuate Japanese nationals from China’s coastal cities. It also supported its own Rikusentai, or marines, fighting for nine days in the streets of Shanghai, and flew air cover for the Army’s 50,000 man relief force. To interdict supplies to Jiang Jieshi, who was holed up in the southern interior at Chongqing, the IJN occupied Hainan Island and the Spratly Islands in 1939. ^2 That move was followed by an amphibious operation to land an expeditionary force on the south China coast, which moved inland to take Nanning. This coastal support role continued to the end of the war in China.
The usefulness of the Akagi and Kaga in those air operations was enough to give added impetus to the acceleration for the planned additional flattops within the IJN. Maybe it can be argued that the IJN gun-club within IGHQ is peremptorily overruled by the otherwise anti-navy Yamato spirit happy IJA, who somehow are made to understand in battle that a lot of aircraft carriers cruising off the coast of China are a "good idea" for when their own 無能な征服幸せな将軍 (incompetent conquest happy generals) (mi-noh ah shez chi ama na cho-sen) bungle their way into a Nationalist Chinese campaign and become in imminent danger of a massive defeat like what almost occured outside Shanghai?

Frankly that is the best I can come up with.
 
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Good question...^1

I wish I had a good realistic answer.



(^^^) was the state of USN open declared knowledge before Pearl Harbor. I would be accused of hand-wavium if I simply said the Treaty Faction demanded a vigorous naval air service and aircraft carrier program based on...

^1

The usefulness of the Akagi and Kaga in those air operations was enough to give added impetus to the acceleration for the planned additional flattops within the IJN. Maybe it can be argued that the IJN gun-club within IGHQ is peremptorily overruled by the otherwise anti-navy Yamato spirit happy IJA, who somehow are made to understand in battle that a lot of aircraft carriers cruising off the coast of China are a "good idea" for when their own 無能な征服幸せな将軍 (incompetent conquest happy generals) (mi-noh ah shez chi ama na cho-sen) bungle their way into a Nationalist Chinese campaign and become in imminent danger of a massive defeat like what almost occured outside Shanghai?

Frankly that is the best I can come up with.
Are we supposed to understand that the articles quoted, in particular the one from January 1941 issue of Flying and Popular Aviation, are the reason that Japan's opponents were steamrollered in the actual shooting war?

Accounts I have read/heard from people who were there at the time - some of my high school teachers for example - tend to state that the Japanese had been dismissed as inherently racially inferior pilots flying badly made obsolete junk. This article reads like exactly the sort of material that led people in Western military's in Asia to dismiss the Japanese out of hand with racist stereotypes involving Japanese pilots squinting out at the world through 'Coke bottle thick glasses'.

That Spitfires flown by Battle of Britain veterans were being eaten alive by IJN pilots in Zero's came as quite a shock. I think it was one of my maths teachers who said that to me.

Or of course I may have missed the entire point of your post. It would not be the first time
 

McPherson

Kicked
Are we supposed to understand that the articles quoted, in particular the one from January 1941 issue of Flying and Popular Aviation, are the reason that Japan's opponents were steamrollered in the actual shooting war?
I think that would be a misinterpretation of my intent if one reads the article that way. So let me very plainly state my intent. The article shows to me at least that the Japanese were not the only nation filled with people who were completely out of touch with reality. A whole generation of many Americans was not paying close attention to actual ground truth or making the proper weltanschauung (philosophical or world view adjustments) to conform with and prepare for that ground truth as it existed.

It often takes two groups of people who are completely delusional to stumble eyes wide open into a war. The lesson learned from this example is to never underestimate the desperation, clumsiness, and inept resourcefulness to do it the wrong way of highly motivated human beings who think they are backed into a corner. If both sides think that they are so being pushed and misjudge the other's will and resolve to not adjust, then bad things start to happen far sooner than they expect or are prepared.

I suppose that sounds a little Neville Chamberlainish of me, but I often feet sorry for that poor little man who had a more realistic view of world events and consequences than many of his compeers and yet today is derided as an appeaser of the Berlin maniac, when he was only trying to buy another year for his RAF to get ready. Try to put yourself with your present knowledge of the past reality in Cordell Hull's shoes and advise Roosevelt differently about the Japanese than he actually did, or be Admiral James Otto Richardson who had a very grim sour pessimistic realistic view of just what ground truth is in 1941 as he locked horns with the stubborn FDR and warned him repeatedly about such things as viable IJN strike sortie radii and the acute vulnerability of the then current USN to the IJN air attack and its own unreadiness to execute ORANGE. J. O. Richardson wanted to buy the USN another year for the Two Ocean Program to bear first fruits. He was cashiered instead.
 
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I think that would be a misinterpretation of my intent if one reads the article that way. So let me very plainly state my intent. The article shows to me at least that the Japanese were not the only nation filled with people who were completely out of touch with reality. A whole generation of many Americans was not paying close attention to actual ground truth or making the proper weltanschauung (philosophical or world view adjustments) to conform with and prepare for that ground truth as it existed.

It often takes two groups of people who are completely delusional to stumble eyes wide open into a war. The lesson learned from this example is to never underestimate the desperation, clumsiness, and inept resourcefulness to do it the wrong way of highly motivated human beings who think they are backed into a corner. If both sides think that they are so being pushed and misjudge the other's will and resolve to not adjust, then bad things start to happen far sooner than they expect or are prepared.

I suppose that sounds a little Neville Chamberlainish of me, but I often feet sorry for that poor little man who had a more realistic view of world events and consequences than many of his compeers and yet today is derided as an appeaser of the Berlin maniac, when he was only trying to buy another year for his RAF to get ready. Try to put yourself with your present knowledge of the past reality in Cordell Hull's shoes and advise Roosevelt differently about the Japanese than he actually did, or be Admiral James Otto Richardson who had a very grim sour pessimistic realistic view of just what ground truth is in 1941 as he locked horns with the stubborn FDR and warned him repeatedly about such things as viable IJN strike sortie radii and the acute vulnerability of the then current USN to the IJN air attack and its own unreadiness to execute ORANGE. J. O. Richardson wanted to buy the USN another year for the Two Ocean Program to bear first fruits. He was cashiered instead.
Thank you for the clarification.
 
I suppose that sounds a little Neville Chamberlainish of me, but I often feet sorry for that poor little man who had a more realistic view of world events and consequences than many of his compeers and yet today is derided as an appeaser of the Berlin maniac, when he was only trying to buy another year for his RAF to get ready. Try to put yourself with your present knowledge of the past reality in Cordell Hull's shoes and advise Roosevelt differently about the Japanese than he actually did, or be Admiral James Otto Richardson who had a very grim sour pessimistic realistic view of just what ground truth is in 1941 as he locked horns with the stubborn FDR and warned him repeatedly about such things as viable IJN strike sortie radii and the acute vulnerability of the then current USN to the IJN air attack and its own unreadiness to execute ORANGE. J. O. Richardson wanted to buy the USN another year for the Two Ocean Program to bear first fruits. He was cashiered instead.
Perhaps, but a year of preparation works for both sides. Both sides are chasing a moving target of enemy readiness. Even OTL the IJN only got torpedoes that could work at Pearl Harbor at the last minute, and almost didn't get them at all if it weren't for a single factory manager. To make the torpedo modifications for shallow water, he authorized overtime which was officially prohibited, but he guessed correctly that it was important and his superiors would stand by the decision later. It's not like the Japanese had their war plan perfected for months; they had to rush things to get there.
 

McPherson

Kicked
Perhaps, but a year of preparation works for both sides. Both sides are chasing a moving target of enemy readiness. Even OTL the IJN only got torpedoes that could work at Pearl Harbor at the last minute, and almost didn't get them at all if it weren't for a single factory manager. To make the torpedo modifications for shallow water, he authorized overtime which was officially prohibited, but he guessed correctly that it was important and his superiors would stand by the decision later. It's not like the Japanese had their war plan perfected for months; they had to rush things to get there.
Quite true. But there is getting ready and there is getting ready.

It can be argued specifically in the American case, that RTL, more oil tankers would be ready, a core SAG of fast battleships (2 North Carolinas and 4 South Dakotas) and 1 Essex Class would have been ready (Essex) and 3 Independence Class plus about 100 other warships of all types. As an example, there was a sandflat on the Massachussetts coast near Boston in Cohassett, which went from bare shoreline to full shipyard from January 1942 to May 1942. By August 1942 they were churning out LSTs and DEs at the rate of 1 every 600-800 hours or about 25 -33 days from 10 slips, one ship per slip. First 8 months of operation that was about 65-70 ships. They employed about 20,000 people in three 8 hour shifts. In the immediate Boston area was the Boston Navy Yard and at Quincy there was the Fore River Shipyard with another 78,000 people combined with a dozen large slips and 3 drydocks churning out hulls like sausages. Together, it was about another 100 ships of all varieties from those yards in the first year. Fore River was a rather major yard churning out Essex flattops. Five of them, if I remember correctly. By contrast Kure, Yokusuka and Sasebo together only produced half that many total ships in their year of operation. Add Norfolk, New York (Brooklyn), Newport News, Bremerton and I guess San Diego and that year sinks Japan if she tries Pearl. And let's not forget the subs... And that does not include the Kaiser Program, either.
 
The article shows to me at least that the Japanese were not the only nation filled with people who were completely out of touch with reality. A whole generation of many Americans was not paying close attention to actual ground truth or making the proper weltanschauung (philosophical or world view adjustments) to conform with and prepare for that ground truth as it existed.
It's fairly staggering to read the mish-mash of fairly accurate information (limited IJN/IJA pilot training capability, though still understated) and wildly inaccurate (IJN air strength, carrier capacity, and front-line pilot quality).

Granted that there was no internet, but...

But something that has come through in sources used by the best secondary source treatments is how much the U.S. officer corps right up until December 7, 1941 tended to underestimated the Japanese as second stringers. Some of that was lack of useful interaction, some simply lack of data (Japan was not the poster boy for transparency), and some just flat out racism. And anyway, who had the Japanese beaten, anyway? A corrupt and moribund Tsarist empire, and an even more corrupt and moribund China (twice, sort of) - no top shelf competition.

And this was a key reason why Pearl Harbor and the rapid Japanese conquest of every American and European force in the Far East in record time came as such a shock. It was a failure of imagination. Deep down, many simply did not think the Japanese could *do* it.

And then there's this, which I could not help but laugh at:

But here the equality ends. Japanese carriers, surface ship for surface ship, are inferior to the British. And the British are far inferior to the American.
This looks more like American solipsism, straight up. The Brit decks had been in combat for almost a year and a half by this point.

But American officers were all thinking big blue water naval campaigns over the vast stretches of the Pacific - and for that kind of war, the Yorktown class *was* better suited, overall. But British carriers weren't designed for that kind of war. They had to survive the confined (and land-based air dominated) waters of the ETO, where Yankee lack of armored flight decks would have been a lot more exciting to try.

Well, that was a fun read. Thanks for sharing.
 
I suppose that sounds a little Neville Chamberlainish of me, but I often feet sorry for that poor little man who had a more realistic view of world events and consequences than many of his compeers and yet today is derided as an appeaser of the Berlin maniac, when he was only trying to buy another year for his RAF to get ready.
As blame for the disaster of appeasement goes, people really ought to shovel more Baldwin's way than Chamberlain's. By the time the latter came to power in 1937, the British (and French) were already a couple years behind the Reich, and having to play catchup - and the mood of the electorate and the Commons was fairly against rearmament to boot (which is why Labour had no leg whatsoever to stand on in its later attacks on the Guilty Men).

But Chamberlain can't get off so easily, because the extra year gained by Munich benefited Hitler more than it did Britain and France in terms of rearmament (and, uh, the obliteration of 35 Czechoslovak divisions sitting on a first-rate fortification line), and more to the point, there were senior British statesmen (Churchill, Duff, Adams, Eden, etc.) who actually appreciated this difficulty at the time.

Your point in Richardson is dead on target, however. FDR's sacking of him sent a loud message to the U.S. Navy leadership. The results were calamitous.
 

McPherson

Kicked
It's fairly staggering to read the mish-mash of fairly accurate information (limited IJN/IJA pilot training capability, though still understated) and wildly inaccurate (IJN air strength, carrier capacity, and front-line pilot quality).

Granted that there was no internet, but...
One has to remember that the Americans were not the only ones who badly underestimated the Japanese. Sir Tom Phillips was deputy director of plans for the RN during the critical last three years before the second world war kicked off. Granted he inherited guidance from Pound but he was getting warnings from British east Asian naval attaches at British consulates about what the IJN was doing with their Rikkos and flattops. Did he suggest anything to modify the "Two Power Standard/One and a half War" model that the RN operated upon?

But something that has come through in sources used by the best secondary source treatments is how much the U.S. officer corps right up until December 7, 1941 tended to underestimate the Japanese as second stringers. Some of that was lack of useful interaction, some simply lack of data (Japan was not the poster boy for transparency), and some just flat out racism. And anyway, who had the Japanese beaten, anyway? A corrupt and moribund Tsarist empire, and an even more corrupt and moribund China (twice, sort of) - no top shelf competition.
Those Chinese...

Short version... The Battle of the Yalu River is very instructive. Philo Norton McGiffin was one of those "Chinese" who was defeated by the Japanese. He managed to get back to the United States and he gave the 1895 USN an earful about the Japanese. That was why everyone except the USN was shocked by the Russo Japanese War.

And this was a key reason why Pearl Harbor and the rapid Japanese conquest of every American and European force in the Far East in record time came as such a shock. It was a failure of imagination. Deep down, many simply did not think the Japanese could *do* it.
Theodore Roosevelt listened to Philo Norton McGiffin give a lecture on the Yalu disaster, which is why he made it a point to make sure Manila was heavily fortified and why "the Great White Fleet" made an unusual number of port calls upon Japan in their round the world in 16 battleships sojourn.

And then there's this, which I could not help but laugh at:

But here the equality ends. Japanese carriers, surface ship for surface ship, are inferior to the British. And the British are far inferior to the American.
This looks more like American solipsism, straight up. The Brit decks had been in combat for almost a year and a half by this point.

But American officers were all thinking big blue water naval campaigns over the vast stretches of the Pacific - and for that kind of war, the Yorktown class *was* better suited, overall. But British carriers weren't designed for that kind of war. They had to survive the confined (and land-based air dominated) waters of the ETO, where Yankee lack of armored flight decks would have been a lot more exciting to try.

Well, that was a fun read. Thanks for sharing.
Well... that is the usual featured part of it, but there is far more to what is going on in the controversy. Everyone seems to argue armored versus wooden flight decks, but that is not what the Americans (or the British) really think about the aircraft carrier issue in 1939.

The basic problem with aircraft carrier warfare is that before radar, the aircraft carrier is a floating fuel and ammo dump, easily dedecked and very easy to mission kill. Whether USS Franklin or HMS Indomitable, this actually proves to be the case. It is almost impossible to defend an aircraft carrier before radar, except by standing CAP, which is what the Japanese tried at Coral Sea and Midway, with predictable disastrous results.

The operational art heart is to prevent being hit in the first place. The British realized this tactical answer but like the Japanese and the Americans, before radar, they could only see three ways to solve the problem, armor up, trust to AAA and find them and sink them first. Well as to armor up... The British used own capability to define the armor limit, which in this case was a fleet air arm ability to dive bomb with a 250 kg bomb. What happened to indomitable that sent her to the US for almost a year of rebuilding? A Stuka hit her with a 500 kg bomb. Kaput. OOPs. RIKKO; Luftwaffe style.


AAA and armored decks are not enough. What else is there? Airborne interception of course.

That means FIGHTERS and when the Americans finally get ones of their own, RADAR and the close integration of one to ground control intercept on the threat vector (GCI) with the other tool.


The Japanese get fighters profoundly right entirely by accident because of China and the ROCAF which puts up one hell of a fight; but they never develop air intercept stratagems to make the various systems all work together until 1944. You will see what happens at Santa Cruz when THEY get to play with RADAR. It came as a shock to me when I wargamed it out. It ain't pretty.

I should point out these are lessons learned by everybody. For example, the British RN was so much better at reconnaissance and the use of radar than the USN before the 1942 aircraft carrier battles it was ridiculous, but it did not do them any good in their one serious attempt to fight their one single aircraft carrier battle of WW II in the Indian Ocean in April off Sri Lanka when they had controlled intercept methodology, shore based air support and that huge radar advantage. It takes actual combat practice to wield naval airpower against an enemy navy properly. They had not practiced enough. Neither had the USN, really, but if you survive a couple of defeats, (Coral Sea and one can seriously argue Midway at the tactical op-art level.) one learns fast.

As I understand it and you can check me on it, all three players had bits and pieces of the puzzle by 1939, but it is not until post-war op analysis of Okinawa and the kamikaze campaign that it all comes together with the massive British innovations of Japanese deck trapping systems, American deck handling and plane parking, the angled flight deck (^^^ see America's clumsy 1930 first tries?) and in war learned fighter director methods that both British and the Americans begin to rebuild their aircraft carrier fleets and adopt the onion-layer defense that results of the outer and inner air battle zones which come from it. Fighters, radar pickets, radar directed intercept for the outer air battle, body guard AAA and ASW ships for the inner battle and most important for survival; long range standoff reconnaissance to find and kill the enemy before he finds you and hits your ships first. Always that important first requirement.

As blame for the disaster of appeasement goes, people really ought to shovel more Baldwin's way than Chamberlain's. By the time the latter came to power in 1937, the British (and French) were already a couple years behind the Reich, and having to play catchup - and the mood of the electorate and the Commons was fairly against rearmament to boot (which is why Labour had no leg whatsoever to stand on in its later attacks on the Guilty Men).
Baldwin always gave me heartburn, but on a whole front of issues that have no place for discussion here. Let us just say I wholeheartedly agree with what you point out and move forward?

But Chamberlain can't get off so easily, because the extra year gained by Munich benefited Hitler more than it did Britain and France in terms of rearmament (and, uh, the obliteration of 35 Czechoslovak divisions sitting on a first-rate fortification line), and more to the point, there were senior British statesmen (Churchill, Duff, Adams, Eden, etc.) who actually appreciated this difficulty at the time.
It depends. Could the Wallies afford a Germano-Soviet alliance? I would not put it past the two dictators to help each other in 1938 openly as they actually were under the table doing prior. The Moscow madman was playing all sides Halma and it would fit his cynical game plan to have "You and him fight and I'll be your corner man, until he drops you and then I'll come in"... and carve up the loser^1. Just food for thought.

Your point in Richardson is dead on target, however. FDR's sacking of him sent a loud message to the U.S. Navy leadership. The results were calamitous.
Does not help all that much, post facto. I hope I illustrate in my ITTL contributions, here, that a lot of the same politics still handicap the "senior service" despite the fact that they are in a shooting war?

^1 And the winner.
 
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The basic problem with aircraft carrier warfare is that before radar, the aircraft carrier is a floating fuel and ammo dump, easily dedecked and very easy to mission kill. Whether USS Franklin or HMS Indomitable, this actually proves to be the case. It is almost impossible to defend an aircraft carrier before radar, except by standing CAP, which is what the Japanese tried at Coral Sea and Midway, with predictable disastrous results.
Fair. I won't argue this save at the margins. Each navy DID have a steep, steep learning curve with carrier warfare - not just with working out how to defend them, but how to keep them from sinking once hit!

That said: If I'm building carriers expected to spend nearly all their time in the ETO, I still think...I still think I'd rather have armored flight decks. Helps you only at the margins, sure, but... Perhaps I should say: it was not unreasonable, I think, for the RN and USN to make the choices they did pre-war in view of the geographical contexts in which each was thinking, and what they knew and did not know yet about operating carriers...

Could the Wallies afford a Germano-Soviet alliance? I would not put it past the two dictators to help each other in 1938 openly as they actually were under the table doing prior.
They really couldn't, of course; but it's also true that a Western-Soviet alliance was there to be had in 1938, and this was both reflected and caused at the same time by Litvinov being Stalin's foreign minister. The Czechs had a relationship with Moscow whereas the Poles had...well, a blood feud. This also made them more sympathetic to that Western alliance in '38.

The problem was, Chamberlain definitely did NOT want such an alliance, and he made that fairly clear throughout that period, not least in how he hamstrung the mission he finally did send to Moscow. There's a decisive shift in Stalin's attitude by the spring of 1939, and it is marked by the replacement of Litvinov by Molotov. Stalin had given up on London and Paris.

I really do think that Churchill was right: the fall of 1938 was a better time to fight Hitler than the fall of 1939. Chamberlain was not wrong to want to the fruits of another year of rearmament for the RAF; he just did not understand what he would be giving up to get it.

Thanks (as always) for the amazingly thoughtful and informative reply.
 
One has to remember that the Americans were not the only ones who badly underestimated the Japanese. Sir Tom Phillips was deputy director of plans for the RN during the critical last three years before the second world war kicked off. Granted he inherited guidance from Pound but he was getting warnings from British east Asian naval attaches at British consulates about what the IJN was doing with their Rikkos and flattops. Did he suggest anything to modify the "Two Power Standard/One and a half War" model that the RN operated upon?

Those Chinese...

Short version... The Battle of the Yalu River is very instructive. Philo Norton McGiffin was one of those "Chinese" who was defeated by the Japanese. He managed to get back to the United States and he gave the 1895 USN an earful about the Japanese. That was why everyone except the USN was shocked by the Russo Japanese War.

Theodore Roosevelt listened to Philo Norton McGiffin give a lecture on the Yalu disaster, which is why he made it a point to make sure Manila was heavily fortified and why "the Great White Fleet" made an unusual number of port calls upon Japan in their round the world in 16 battleships sojourn.
This part of the thread reminds me of Admiral Piett's posts back when I was on the Eugen Forums. I wish I had read them more closely, I would probably know a lot more about this than I do now.
 
The genesis of the Great Torpedo Scandal of WWII was right there in 1919. That was when the decision was made to consolidate all torpedo activities at Newport. NTS Alexandria was closed and the Bliss company was allowed to finish out its contract before getting out of the business too. The environment at Newport became very insular, with the installation literally cut off on Goat Island in Narragansett Bay. Newport became a fiefdom, with little oversight from the rest of the Navy. The engineers that worked there were extremely intelligent, brilliant, and dedicated but soon came to think of themselves as unimpeachable. They firmly believed in their own brilliance, and the politically powerful Bureau of Ordnance backed them up. Thus when criticism of the torpedo's performance came back to them they dismissed it, believing that there was nothing wrong with the wonder weapon they had created. Keeping Newport in the loop with the fleet, and forcing them to answer to the Torpedo Development Council (TDC) and the Asst. SecNav would have prevented this.

As you will see later, the presence and expertise of Alexandria and the Bliss company will have a big effect on how things turn out when the war starts. The Fleet Liaison Office will provide much needed feedback and oversight that was sorely lacking IOTL.

I am still developing the next chapters. These will address specifics of the technical side. My plan is to eliminate the technical problems one by one, then tackle some of the ramifications on the war. I do not intend to write a minute by minute timeline, but will do a good setup for the first few months of the war. As you can see by Admiral Nimitz's letter above there will be some very positive effects! :)
If you want to go a long way towards heading off the nascent 'Torpedo Mafia', have something VERY bad happen to one Theodore F. Green....
 

McPherson

Kicked
Theodore F. Green
Theodore F. Green^1 ... Had partners in crime... Felix Herbert and Peter G. Gerry who preceded him and/or served alongside. Jesse H. Metcalf who was immediately ahead of that crook, Green, did not help with torpedo development either. All of them on the Senate side fought to retain Rhode Island's torpedo station monopoly. On the House side; there were more crooks; Francis B. Condon, John Mathew O'Connell, Charles Risk, Aime Forand and Harry Sandager.
Francis B. Condon (D) John Matthew O'Connell (D)


Theordore Green; Senator^1 from Rhode Island has been mentioned. This _____ showed his true colors in action when he became governor of Rhode Island in 1932.^1

^1 Robbery of the state treasury, ballot stuffing, Wilsonian power-lust shenanigans,

The most important political event in 20th century Rhode Island history, the Coup of 1935.
and other assorted Tomfoolery.

The British expert thought he was a dim-bulb, but a bit of an "all right fellow".

Another interesting example of where Sir Isaiah Berlin gets it wrong is Elbert D. Thomas. The man was indeed a farm bloc Mormon, an expert on Japan... and an Anglophobe who wanted the death of the British Empire more fervently than Roosevelt did. He got his way. Berlin also dangerously misreads US Senate attitudes toward British interests as in severely underestimates where the majority of isolationists and internationalists in that body agreed... Britain was to be supplanted. There was a strong uniform nationalist streak in that cohort that Berlin completely misses that goes way beyond their local state interests.

No criticism implied here. It just is how it all RTL turned out. Truman and Eisenhower could not have done what they did, if the Senate opposed them. It was very monobloc from 1945-1957.
 
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Since the Battle of Santa Cruz has been posted, I thought you might want to know that the wreck of the U.S.S. Hornet CV-8, has been discovered, and several pictures of the wreck have posted on certain Facebook pages.
 

McPherson

Kicked
Since the Battle of Santa Cruz has been posted, I thought you might want to know that the wreck of the U.S.S. Hornet CV-8, has been discovered, and several pictures of the wreck have posted on certain Facebook pages.
Just to be clear, I'm still writing the battle narrative and trying to make everything fit together. It is a little messy in the current draft.
 
Just to be clear, I'm still writing the battle narrative and trying to make everything fit together. It is a little messy in the current draft.
I didn't mean anything by my post, I just thought I would post it here, because you had started talking about the battle. Both the pictures and the sonar scan of the wreck were really interesting.
 

McPherson

Kicked
Hey, I'm glad you posted. The more the merrier. I just hope I do the Lady H justice in the narrative. And I'm glad people posted about her discovery, before I got to it.
 
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