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

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by DaveJ576, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

    Feb 2, 2013
    For starters, the Italians replaced the entire propulsion section, and more than doubled the plant's output to make that 27 knots.

    Instead, it seems the USN wanted to make the ultimate 21 kt Standard.

    Different goal.

    Right in the Center where they reconstructed most everything anyway, looks like the spot for the plug
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
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  2. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    They could strap JATO rockets to the stern...

    What they did to West Virginia was as close to rebuilding the entire ship as you can get without ripping out the power plant. Which, as you observe, means having to rebuild the hull, too, on a ship like that (see Nagato).

    Also, there was the post-attack assessment of the propulsion plant:

    If the engines and shafts had been trashed, I wonder if they would still have reconstructed her.
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  3. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    Probably because 1942 was such a different context than it was for the RM and IJN when they were rebuilding their battlewagons in the 1930's: The USN calculated that big gunline battles were much less likely to factor in the war, and that fast battleships were now more useful as fleet carrier escorts; and anyway they had ten new fast battleships (and, uh, a fistful of Alaskas) built or building as it was.

    To get Wee Vee where she need to be in order to function as an escort to fast carriers (which is the only real change worth bothering with), you are talking about a power plant and hull that can tack on a minimum of 7 (preferably 9) more knots, which is hell of a lot. Otherwise, all you are really doing is restoring a second class battleship that you'll only be using for shore bombardment and other secondary duties anyway.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2019
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  4. Stephanus Meteu Well-Known Member

    Sep 27, 2018
    No west coast yard was ever going to be assigned a new build battleship in wartime, all the infastructure other than the slipway needed for such was unique to the east coast. Check where facilities to build (not refurbish) turrets, guns, armour plate, and appropriate engines and it is all east coast along with workers experienced in doing it.

    Thus Puget Sound could handle a refit that reused key components that were bottlenecked, but a new build battleship was impossible. For the same reason a fleet carrier wasn't possible either. You probably could have built an oil tanker, but lots of places could build oil tankers while very few could do the work on WV.

    Now, was returning any of the standards to service worthwhile? Obviously that is debatable, but given what was known when the decision was made it seems not outlandish from a naval and economic view. From a PR view having the wrecks of Pearl get raised up and given revenge is the sort of symbol that is easily worth more than a couple oil tankers, and war is after all a political act, perhaps doubly true in a democracy.
  5. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    I think PR *was* a worthwhile consideration; and I think it's also true that Surigao Strait was a heart-warming moment for both the Navy and the public in a way that some other, more decisive battles probably were not.

    It's also true that the United States had the luxury of being able to do a radical reconstruction of a severely damaged second-line battleship that was still going to be a second-line battleship when it was done. Had circumstances been otherwise, it is not hard to imagine the USN deciding that it could not spare the resources or the slips to rebuild Wee Vee.
  6. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    That may not be quite correct. The facilities at Hunter's Point might have been usable for a keel up conversion of the Pearl Harbor survivors or for new gunship construction provided dedicated rail shipment of key components that could only be built in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, and Maryland (US naval arsenal foundries and manufactories). They were every bit the equal of Sasebo as to final assembly.

    Same again. Armor plate could be railed. Elevators (lifts) were not a big problem. What is a big problem is that you lose two slips and two graving docks more useful for oil tanker builds and warship battle damage repair.

    Given time and technology invested and hindsight post hoc, I would want a dozen more Sangamons and about 2 dozen Gleaves (Puget Sound and Seattle/Tacoma, along with the usual east coast US yards was building the destroyers like pizzas in the panic years of 1940-1941).

    More useful to the U-boat war and to the early fighting in the Pacific.
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  7. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    So would I.

    Indeed, looking at the Pearl Harbor survivors...I think it's more rational to declare California and West Virginia as constructive losses, remove the guns for use or replacement on other ships as necessary. That frees up two slips at Puget Sound for well over two years right there for other uses, to say nothing of the materials and manpower. Whatever modest loss there is to shore bombardment in the Marianas, Philippines, and Okinawa (or the gunline at Surigao Strait) can be made up in other ways, and if you can get some escort carriers instead, why...

    But then again, the decision to rebuild these two old Standard super-dreadnoughts instead of more productive possibilities was a fairly marginal one for the monster that was U.S. war production in 1942-44, and not likely to make any notable difference in the war's end date. It was clearly a decision based largely on non-tangible factors, and maybe the sort of decision I wouldn't want to second guess the naval leadership of that generation on too harshly. It was obviously a deeply felt morale decision to save these ships, and given the vast abundance of tonnage coming down the slipways anyway, perhaps that was their right.

    Now, if the USN ends up losing more carrier decks (or rather, loses them more quickly) in the first year of the war, then maybe that's a decision they would (and should) have revisited.
  8. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    This oh so applies here!


    I won't discuss Jutland in detail, but I will give you a parallel communications disaster. (Not the Japanese, their communications systems and unit evolution execution of commander's intent that June 1942 was outstanding. It was the admirals who failed the Japanese sailors at Midway, not their communications; despite the Tone floatplane.)

    I mean the Americans.

    What do I mean?

    The Americans had never fought a blue water general fleet action^1 in their naval history prior to WW II. Sounds incredible does it not?

    ^1 A general fleet action is described as a tactical level evolution where the bulk of a fleet in a theater is operationally committed to oppose an enemy naval evolution which requires the enemy to commit the bulk of his available fleet assets to execute the naval evolution.

    It does not mean that they did not practice it, twenty fleet problems and exercises from the end of WW I to the beginning of WW II (almost annual at sea validation exercises of current theory) occurred, but it is no substitute for a fighting tradition that involves more than river gunboats and blockades of enemy ports or confused ambuscades of fleeing enemy ships. The wartime examples of American fleet evolutions were their civil war riverine operations, port blockades of that same war, and the Spanish American War, the frank embarrassment and chaos of the naval melee of Santiago de Cuba and the target practice at sitting ducks at Manila Bay. This does not mean that the American fleets involved in those evolutions and the admirals (Rogers, Dupont, Farragut, Dhalgren, Porter, Schley and Dewey) did not have severe (and I mean severe) fleet control problems and somehow managed by flag signal, signal rocket, blinker, and Bell infra-phone figure out in the midst of their battles to keep everyone together and on the same page, in frank imitation of British methods of the day, but it was always a case of "stick together, follow the flagship in line ahead, keep a sharp lookout and don't collide with each other." Brooklyn and Texas and Oregon especially illustrate this kind of American chaos at Santiago de Cuba, but Baltimore and Olympia had their moments at Manila Bay and this was when it was broad daylight and everyone understood Dewey's instructions to stay in line and follow him at least 4 cables apart.

    Midway, oh Midway!

    I'm sure some of the English posters on this board are familiar with Midway, but there is recent scholarship (declassified or first source re-examined) that makes a fresh approach on what really happened on the American side important to be undertaken. I mean the communications side of the affair. If Jutland's communication story is a bit confused to me because I am not certain how weather effects futzed radio communications, then I am in a better position to explain how fickle radio is when in a more "modern" setting in the American case.

    1. After WWI experience as part of the Grand Fleet and as a result of their Caribbean evolutions, the Americans understood that a shore command post with a master fleet plot was essential. This was the PACFlt command and control situation awareness tool. It was no different from the Admiralty plotting room or station controller plots for British air operations at about the same time, but seems to have been more intrusive as an operational art tool. IOW Nimitz told his admirals at key points in the battle where to go, what to expect and what to do off his master plot. One famous example is when Spruance and his staff were arguing over a garbled PBY report that had given a position fix and scalar movement value for Kondo's invasion troop convoy. As a matter of routine, Pearl had eavesdropped and picked up the PBY report, heard it more clearly *(ionosphere bounce, Murphy LOVE RCA and their radios) and it was plotted against the master plot and compared to pre-battle intelligence and staff expectations. Nimitz told his admirals to ignore it and stick to the pre-battle brief. Spruance (not the first or last time) overruled Miles Browning who wanted to strike it, Fletcher (canny and shrewd had already figured it out independently and Yorktown's air staff agreed with him) likewise complied and the Americans sat where they were to greet Nagumo exactly as planned. American situation awareness and communication at the op-art level was GOOD.

    Apparently it was not too good at Jutland between fleet and shore naval higher headquarters but that is something I am not qualified to discuss in detail.

    Where did American communications fail at Midway?

    At the tactical unit level. Simard's recon assets based on Midway gave faulty situation reports, contacts and mistaken position fixes. The PBYs were supposed to be the USN's eyes top down in battle. Their crews were supposed to be the best recon trained crews in the fleet. Their sole reason to exist was to contact, report and update, die if necessary, but keep the enemy in sight and track him, so the American admirals knew where the enemy was moment to moment. At Midway, they failed. I kid you not. Most contact reports were either by submarine (Dolphin, Nautilus, a few others, key to some of Spruance's strikes) or by sheer Murphy factor guesswork, based on successful attack on contact reports from Midway strike sorties or otherwise sheer "Murphy knows how" guesswork by Enterprise and Yorktown strike package commanders who (in the air, when out of reach!) ignored the bumbling Miles Browning and his incompetent air staff weenies in the case of Enterprise's air group or adjusted for drift errors by Yorktown air staff, or by Spruance, himself, on 2 occasions (Kurita and Yamaguchi hit) who kept his own plot of everyone and everywhen on a cardboard plotting circle!

    Admiral Speaks From the Grave About Midway Battle

    !@# !@#$ MARC MITSCHER! A 5 degree angle plot error in Hornet's air staff estimate. Ring follows his instructions to the letter and he missed. Man at fault? Mitscher who allowed no deviations and who was supposed to be the "great aircraft carrier warfare expert". Want to know who handled the aircraft carriers at Philippine Sea? SPRUANCE.

    But that is not the kicker. The other bastard, and he was one, Miles Browning, was Halsey's chief of air staff and "ran" Enterprise's air-ops. He was the detail man who was supposed to tell Hornet when Spruance wanted to send off a strike package, wanted to send scouts, wanted to run away from contact by ducking behind a weather front and pursue the enemy, etc.; the nuts and bolts of aircraft carrier warfare. On no less than 8 separate occasions during the battle, he failed to pass along admiral's intent or inform Hornet of an impending tactical evolution or sortie requirement. This was blinker light level or short range (talk between ships) TBS radio traffic. Housekeeping kind of obvious staff-work. Post battle Enterprise's signals division caught hell for it, but it ultimately tracks to Miles Browning who did not even do this part of his job properly.

    Air and surface contact reports among the strikers and aircraft carrier launched search plane scouting reports were bungled. Position errors and vector values given back were often off as much as 40 kilometers and since it would take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours to vector onto that contact, well drift errors of 10 degrees angle were the norm in subsequent air searches. Finding Hiryu to end the air combat phase of the aircraft carrier battle was Spruance's second wild guess from his own plot. Murphy love that man!

    No-one American at the tactical level had more than strobe-light glimpses of the situation at sea. Nimitz, back at Pearl Harbor, with the master plot, was better overall informed. He acted twice to keep his admirals in the loop, but with the perceived vulnerability of radio comms and the expected jamming (It was present, which explains a lot of the American scout reportage failures, though US subs seem to have found a way to defeat it by simply waiting for clear channels.) he was cautious with his interventions (See above, the Kondo contact instructions.).

    The Japanese side of it?

    I really am amazed that the IJN was crazy enough to go into an aircraft carrier battle THAT BLIND.

    They were strobe lighted in their awareness, too. However, when they communicated with each other, the reports were collated and acted on with efficiency and dispatch, the staffs did their work to perfection, their strike leaders did not have to search and navigate in the air to find Yorktown and their strike coordinator system was in place and three years ahead of where the Americans were. Their air communications were "adequate". They had their scout report drift errors and their search plans, their staffs prepared, were clearly not up to American standards, but nothing was wrong with THEIR communications. They had a battle drill and good procedures that worked. Their admirals were no good, but that is not what I discuss here. I'll get to no good admirals soon enough.

    What the Americans would have given for Japanese communications discipline and staff work. Where did the Japanese learn it? Well; they had to figure a lot of it out in their air support in coastal operations from their aircraft carriers to aid the IJA in the China war, but ultimately the IJN took their communications and staff lessons from their interactions with the Royal Navy. Lessons learned from Jutland, it was.

    One thing I do note. "Stay together and follow me!" That was a Jutland lesson the Japanese followed when they massed their flattops. Great for surface warfare. The Americans had really worked hard on aircraft carriers during the 30s and had found that if the strike package arrived over massed aircraft carriers, everybody below the strike package got dedecked at first go and mission killed. So... spread out the flattops and HIDE. The Japanese did not follow that lesson and it killed them at Midway.

    At Philippine Sea, the Japanese spread out and most of them got away. I note sourly, that with the Japanese on defense, essentially playing the role of the USN had played at Midway, it was as much their communications between land and sea based air forces that hobbled them as it had the Americans at Midway. Scouting failures are in the record for both sides, but this time the Americans had "decent" staff work and a commander who knew how to manage an air staff and get them to do the grunt work that battle management requires. You look at Ozawa's staff and you still see the superb execution of admiral's intent on the Japanese side. Ozawa cannot be faulted, nor his staff. Got to look at Japanese aircrew training and poor IJA/IJN fleet/IJN ashore (Nagumo again!) with no communications or cooperation between the Mariannas Islands air garrisons and the Combined Fleet to see where Philippine Sea went IJN sideways.

    One last note on American communications; Leyte Gulf.

    Halsey had a reputation for assembling "loose" staffs who turned in very poor work (Rennell Island, Santa Cruz, the typhoons, Leyte Gulf.). Spruance took that same organization and those same men and HE BORE DOWN HARD. He was a Jellicoe in that respect.

    When the contacts reports, tracking Kurita, flooded in and the master fleet plot generated showed that after the Sibuyan Sea drubbing and turn away and Toyoda's cracked order which directed Kurita to resume his advance and Kurita's reported turn again and advance on San Bernardino Strait came through loud and clear so that everyone on the American side (except Taffy 3?) knew it was going to be a gun action off Samar at the morning of 25 October 1944, what did Halsey do?

    He had submarine and air contact reports of Ozawa headed for Cape Engano. Good solid fixes, with accurate information. He had the Kurita contact reports, good solid information. Two targets, what to do? He headed everyone he had for Ozawa. His staff executed a flawed movement.

    You see... Prebattle conference, it had been pounded home (by Spruance no less) that the Japanese had "apparently" at Coral Sea, Eastern Solomon Islands and Santa Cruz, used "bait ships" to misdirect American attention away from their main effort. Spruance (maybe unnecessarily?) was leery of this perceived Japanese tactical trick and warned that the Japanese might use their aircraft carriers as bait to lure the main American fleet away from its covering mission to protect MacArthur.

    Halsey, in his airy careless way at the conference, and later deployed with the 3rd Fleet had radio- transmitted an intention to cover this possibility by leaving his battle-line under the air protection of the 7th Fleet Taffies (a fleet of escort carriers) while he would take the American attack flattops to finish what "Spruance had bungled" at the Philippine Sea. Willis Lee would handle Kurita a la Jutland.

    You see where I am going?

    Kincaid, the poor schmuck who was 7th Fleet Actual, had his own threat to eliminate, and that was Nishimura and Shima at Surigao Strait. The resurrected veterans of Pearl Harbor got their chance, and though Oldendorf made an untidy mess of it, Kincaid rubbed that threat out in an approved naval war college (NWC) manner. Meanwhile... Nobody was minding the open San Bernardino Strait. Kincaid was not told that Halsey took the parts of 3rd fleet, every !@# !@#$%^ ship he had, and hared off after Ozawa.

    Then Clifton Sprague shrieked for help.

    Let me add a tidbit.

    John McCain, in charge of the largest of Third Fleet's air battle task forces, had a couple days before, asked Halsey by RADIO for permission IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS OPERATION, to detach and move off to the east to rendezvous with the service force "to undertake long overdue rest, replenishment and repairs". Think about that one. FIVE of 16 US attack aircraft carriers with close to 400 aircraft were taken out of the middle of the Leyte landing operations, which MacArthur and Kruger, in their typical cautious fashion, were dragging out to a fare thee well. The Japanese did not crack into the traffic that this movement involved; but their sharp radio intercept service deduced from the comm chatter what happened. In fact those sharp cookies were completely up to date with RDF and signal traffic analysis where everyone, American, except the Silent Service, was and what they did in the battle.

    Toyoda acted on it to direct Kurita to resume the attack.

    He even ordered Ozawa to stick around Engano and make himself obvious, when Ozawa wanted to call the show off as useless, when Halsey seemed slow to "take the bait". The IJN had learned shore control and master plot methods, too.

    Halsey finally made up his dithering mind and raced north to Cape Engano with his circus and then Nimitz called him as it showed up on the Pearl Harbor master plot. Nimitz wanted to make sure of something.

    "Where is, repeat where is, Task Force 34?" The World wonders.(padding).

    That is the official USN story.

    Halsey was three hours away from his "glorious aircraft carrier battle", where he would dedeck Ozawa's flattops and then sink them with battleship gunfire. Now his boss called him and he lost his temper. He finally clued in that he had screwed up, for Sprague's calls for help were in the loud, open, clear. You would have to be radio deaf not to hear. So Halsey had a decision to make or face a Bynging.

    He turned around and made a slow sedate return to San Bernardino Strait. About 20 knots. He expected to find Kurita offshore pounding MacArthur; but he, Halsey, would still show up in time to save the day and wipe Kurita out. By the way, he left behind Bogue, with the weakest of his aircraft carrier task groups to fight Ozawa: 4 carriers against 4 and 2 demi-carriers. He of course RADIOED his intentions and demanded acknowledgements from everybody including Kincaid and Nimitz. The Japanese signal traffic analysis boys picked him up and correctly interpreted it and plotted it. They passed it on to Kurita.

    Meanwhile TAFFY 3 fought her heart out and turned Kurita back. They did not run from the fight. They played lure, instead, and paid a terrible price to save MacArthur.

    !@# !@#$ HALSEY.

    Communications failures are not just radio or signal flag.

    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  9. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2014
    1123 6536 5321
    Not entirely sure, but are you suggesting that Halsey fucked up? :p

    I check daily for the 2nd part of Montemayor's excellent 'fog of war' video taken from the IJN POV - a superbly made analysis of the battle - one of the best I have seen.

    As for the IJN leaders at Midway I understand it was largely a case of whoever was next in seniority rather than who was 'best'?
  10. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    I'm not sure about that. There were several competitors for Kido Butai who were equal to or longer in grade time than Nagumo, Chuichi. Notable among them was the guy who took over First Air Fleet after Nagumo was beached. Kakuji, Kakuta. As it turns out, the gunnery expert staff weenie was no better than the torpedo expert staff weenie. Neither of them, seemed to have the decisive leadership "vision" quality, team building and business management skills of a Nimitz, Spruance, Fletcher, or Burke. Or in the Japanese case, a Toyoda, Ozawa, Tanaka or Kondo. Notice I do not include Yamamoto in the Japanese list? I find it unusual, this lack of vision and decisiveness, since the mid level Japanese officers of the era are quite methodical team players and good committee workers, who could and did effect the "vision" thing at their level. They produced top grade staff work that on paper makes American staff work look like amateur hour. Their unit commanders at the mid grade were unusually good. It seems when the flag rank was achieved and "responsibility" loomed that something snapped in a lot of them. I really cannot explain it. Where their admiralty failed has more to do with "lack of imagination", or maybe I should say "lack of mirroring enemy intent" and decisiveness to thwart it, than the nuts and bolts of command procedures which they had thoroughly learned coming up through the grades. But that characteristic defect is there. Call it, "loss of nerve"?
  11. All Hail Enterprise CV-6 Best Waifu

    Nov 2, 2017
    I mean, the IJN does seem to have a habit of these throughout the war, despite, you know, the whole "surrender/retreat is dishonorable" shtick.
    • Leyte Gulf: Kurita loses his nerve against Taffy 3, hands the US a victory even though he severely outmatched the defending forces and had basically annihilated Taffy 3
    • Komandorski Islands: again, with Japan at the cusp of victory, they decide to withdraw (and even leave the badly damaged USS Salt Lake City still floating)
    • 1st Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: Abe has a clear path to Guadalcanal after mopping up the US force (if Laffey hadn't charged Hiei, Callaghan probably would have thrown the battle into another Tassafaronga or even Savo Island)
    There are probably more that I'm forgetting.

    Perhaps it was that their overall doctrine hindered them? I mean, if you, as a high-ranking Japanese naval commander, are theoretically supposed to be setting up for the "decisive battle", which is a pretty specific scenario, and you've watched a lot of your peers who weren't part of the battleship clique get treated more harshly than those who were part of said clique, you'd probably lose a lot of your previous flexibility too.
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  12. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    For our Dutch and British friends a little bit of history for them.

    Man that campaign was brutal. Don't forget this part of the Pacific War. The Dutch bought us time for Coral Sea. Honor them.
  13. bsmart Well-Known Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    I am just getting 'sucked into' (In a good way) this thread. Is the story to this point consolidated somewhere that I can download it and catch up?
  14. Trevayne Well-Known Member

    Jul 7, 2012
    At a guess, probably not. The OP does not get up to the board often and he is the only one who can thread mark it.
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  15. dmg86 Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    To be fair to Kurita He was recovering from a fever and he was on one of the ships sunk earlier on.
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  16. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    He should have died at Midway. Kumano was lucky she was not torpedoed.
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