What the odds that a third strike on Pearl Harbor. . .

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Art, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. corditeman Relatively Sane and Unique

    Aug 24, 2008
    Dalbeattie or Beamish
    617 Squadron after the Dams Raid...

    ... Attacked a wide variety of targets. The Limoges factory making Gnome-Rhone engines was attacked with 4,000 lbs blast bombs and badly damaged. In 1944 a range of factories in France were hit, the first Tallboy attack being on the Saumur tunnel on the night of 8/9 June 1944. 14 June saw the attack on the Le Havre E-boat pens. Later attacks on Mimoyecques, Wizernes, Watten, Rilly-la-Montagne, St Leu d'Esserent, and (I think) Siracourt, forced abandonment of the 'blockhouse' V-1 and V-2 sites, in favour of smaller more reparable and more mobile launch sites. Mimoyecques, the V-3 gun site, was completely abandoned.

    Hope this info helps.
  2. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    Indeed. Six torpedoes were authorized for carriers. Was he overconfident, under confident? Be interesting to study this attack sometime & sort the details.
  3. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    Based on what I've been reading here let me propose a rather unusual third strike scenario for the Pearl Harbor Attack.

    Nagumo sends in two attack waves the same as OTL, but in the following order.

    1. The first wave is ordered to target the airfields only. Take out all planes that might remotely pose a danger, do not attack the ships.
    2. The second wave is ordered to target the dry docks and oil tanks. Nagumo knows the damage here will not be enough to cripple them, but this is just a feint for phase 3.
    3. The now hopping mad U.S. Pacific Fleet sorties to get out of the harbor and attack the Japanese. Here's where things get interesting. The Japanese submarines that carried those midget subs? They aren't carrying midget subs, scrap that idea. Instead they shadow the U.S. fleet as it sorties. It's high risk to be sure but they contact the main fleet to give them general data on the fleet's location.
    4. At an appropriate time the submarines attack as close as possible to Nagumo launching his planes in a third strike targeting the USN fleet at sea. His objective: to sink as many of these ships in deep water as possible.
    Using this battle plan how successful or unsuccessful might Nagumo be?
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  4. DougM Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2015
    Yes many of these ideas would have been good for Japan in hindsight. But the problem is the Japanese did not know it at the time. Therefore it is useless. Years after graduation an old classmate told me the prettiest girl in pur class had a huge crush on me back in the day. That information was useless when I found out but non the less it was factually information.
    The same holds true with Japan. Yes the Carriers were in no position to attack. Yes other targets would have been better as it turns out. Yes if the battle fleet comes out to fight the Japanese can do huge amounts of damage to it. Yes Aircraft can sink actively fighting battleships. Yes sinking the fleet in deep water is better then where it could be raised and repaired.
    We know this today December 3rd 2018. But Japan needed this information on December 3rd 1941. And the did not have it.
    This is the part everyone is missing.
    If you want to change the Peril Harbor Attack then you need to change what Japan knows/thinks it knows. And that is virtually impossible before the raid as until the big Pacific battles no one had enough experience to truly understand how drastically the balance of power in the fleet had changed. And without that info you can’t get a reasonable change in the plan.
    So if you want to change the raid you need more significant sea battles where the carriers are dominant befor Peril, and that is all but impossible to have happon
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  5. SsgtC Ready to Call it a Day

    May 14, 2017
    The problem is, Japan never thought that the US would raise their battle fleet from the bottom of Pearl Harbor. It kind of ties into how Japan never had a good grasp of exactly what America could do if it put it's mind to it. They figured that American industrial capability would be so busy and overwhelmed with building new ships, they wouldn't have the spare capacity to return heavily damaged and sunk Battleships to service. So they never would have even considered luring the fleet out into deep water.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
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  6. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    It's an intriguing plan, actually. The potential is there for even more damage to the Pacific Fleet - especially if Halsey joins up with the Enterprise group. She would provide some kind of CAP, but against six fleet carriers...well, she'd be Target #1, with the battlewagons to be picked off at leisure afterward.

    Of course, it's all heavily dependent on hindsight, as SsgtC notes*, and utterly at odds with established Japanese doctrine.

    * It's not just a question of underestimating USN recovery capabilities; it is also premised on knowledge of where the other USN fleet carriers are (or more to the point, that the other six are too far away to be of any threat to Nagumo).
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  7. Dorknought Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2018
    Yes but the IJN subs were controlled from their flagship cruiser in the Marshal Islands (Katori based a Jaluit IIRC). The rationale behind the flagship Oyodo or the very large submarine flagships was to take the command with them to sea. KB did not have this facility and chatting away with subs would give away the position. I think both Enterprise and Lexington were spotted in the days after PH but after KB had left.
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  8. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    The sad thing is...well, let's play this out. The Japanese would NEVER do anything like this, but play it out. Play it out optimistically for Nagumo.

    Kimmel sorties PACFLT immediately. By late morning the ships have full steam up, and they're clearing the channel. He's sent out his few surviving scout planes, mostly to the south; he decides to wait for Halsey, wanting air cover in tackling what is clearly a sizable IJN force. IJN submarines call in the location, and Nagumo is off to the races, able to find and attack Halsey/Kimmel before they can do unto him since he knows where to look, and they don't. Say Nagumo sinks six battleships, the Enterprise, and a few other escorts in deep water off Oahu, with over 10,000 KIA, on top of the working over of AAF units, and modest (but not fatal) damage to the tanks and docks. He sustains a grand total of 80-100 lost or damaged aircraft. It's the worst naval disaster in US history without even a close peer, and a rival to Tsushima for worst ass-kicking in the Age of Steam. Kimmel would be court martialed and hanged if he weren't in Davy Jones' locker; at least honor is salved by dying bravely.

    But I'm not sure this even lengthens the war by a month. Roosevelt likely orders Yorktown and Wasp to EastPac immediately along with perhaps the North Carolinas, the Hornet following shortly later. The Independence class gets approved a little sooner, and the Pacific gets a little higher priority on certain items and units for several months. The war could play out pretty much as it did, with perhaps a chance that CARTWHEEL gets scaled back due to lack of carriers. I doubt this even affects TORCH, even if Ranger has to be redeployed.
  9. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    I wonder what research Bond based this on? Or if he was delivering a package. As I understand neither Kimmel nor Pye had any intent for rushing the Battle Fleet off against a raiding force. They understood perfectly well the Standards were not going to 'rush' nor run any raiding force down. My understanding is the battle fleet was to displace to the SE of Hawaii, and wait for the cruiser force and air to do what they could do to chase off a raid group.
  10. Zheng He Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2013
    Genda indicates that he wanted to withdraw and come back a few days later, like how it was done during the IO raid.

    That was for two different targets though. They hit Colombo and sank the two heavy cruisers at sea on 5 April and Trincomalee on 9 April along with HMS HERMES (again at sea) and a few other cats and dogs.
  11. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    This overestimates a bit the ability to damage & sink moving ships set up for battle. OTL the ships were stationary & had the compartment doors open. Most had insufficient power up to respond to damage control requirements, and the damage control teams were half ashore and very disorganized. At general quarters the ships would be water tight, very difficult to hit with the bombers attacking level at altitude, or by the torpedo bombers. The damage control teams would be fully operational, the AA weapons fully manned, the ships maneuvering.

    Also if the ships have 3-5 hours to get up steam and sortie the Army air wing has time to get a proper CAP up over the fleet, and have the remainder of the fighters on standby. While the air defense may not shoot down many Japanese bombers they would disrupt many of the attack runs, reducing torpedo and bomb hits further.
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  12. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    ...and came within a few hours of getting nailed by a night torpedo attack by radar equipped Albacores. Had Sommervels search pattern anticipated the course reversal of Nagumo the KB would have had its night defense ability tested.

    If the KB makes another pass at Oahu on the 9th or 10th the ability of the US to do much damage is limited. A submarine attack, or two, a few B17s scattering bombs about, maybe some lighter bombers are targets for the Japanese CAP over their fleet. Still a crippled carrier, or a Kongo class escort with jammed rudders, or speed down to ten knots presents a nasty decision to Nagumo.

    To digress; Genda is always quoted for one thing or another. He is like the lawyer, who will never be convicted by the jury, no matter what his opinion or advice. Nagumo had to make the decisions and carry the real responsibility.
  13. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    It's certainly the top end case. Not likely.

    I was taking Geon's proposal at face value that the AAF assets would all be neutralized, with no more than a handful available for any operations.

    My point...was that even the extreme best case scenario simply isn't likely to change the course of the war in a significant way.
  14. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    The Junsen type submarine (Second Batch or the I-6 class) has only four bow 53.3 cm torpedo tubes. If Inaba follows Japanese doctrine, he keeps one tube in reserve for contingencies. He fired everything forward he could, pursuant to doctrine. My guess is that he was a little busy after he hit the Saratoga, so he was unable to follow up with stern tubes.

    Tabular movement of I-6.

    Characteristics of the I-6 (Junsen II)

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  15. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    You would think they would have listened a bit more to Yamamoto who had actually lived in the U.S. for some years and had a better idea of American industrial power then most Japanese military leaders. That should have given them some clue as to what the U.S. was capable of.

    In the episode I mentioned the goal was to see whether the U.S. would have done better if they had at least an hour or so warning of the incoming attack, enough time to sortie the fleet and maybe get the planes off and scattred.
  16. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

    Oct 25, 2012
    You mean new orders from Yamamoto back in Japan? No, it would not at all have required anything like that.

    Fuel state was fine for the next day or so, and it's hard to find a ship if you don't look.

    Nagumo had about 400 aircraft and over 3 months to figure it out the problem of how to deal with carriers at sea during the attack. He just didn't want to - he figured that because he'd hit the battleships, mission accomplished.
  17. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

    Jun 8, 2011
    Sure, but it's also not worth the risk, when you have literally no idea where they might be, or how many there might be of them. (A problem which would bite the Kido Butai in the ass at Midway.)

    Aside from the fact that Enterprise and Lexington had been seen in and out of Pearl in the last few months, the IJN had NO IDEA where any of the other five USN fleet carriers were. They could have been cruising off Cape Cod, or Manila Bay for all they knew. As noted above, they were prepared for as many as four at Pearl. If your orders assume four carriers based at Oahu, and none of them are caught in harbor, that means they could be...well, they could be ready to come pounce on your flank.

    And he was right. He had been given a mission, and he accomplished that mission - at shockingly low cost, keeping his fleet and squadrons intact for the arduous missions lying ahead. As Furlong put it, "Their mission may have been wrong, but they stuck with it."

    The problem was not Nagumo. The problem, if there was one, was in the definition of his mission, and the discretion he was given in executing it.

    Of course, the real problem was in going to war in the first place.
  18. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    There are however a number of butterflies here to consider. First, Enterprise is sunk in this worst (or if your Japan best) case scenario. Enterprise was responsible for sinking two of the four Japanese carriers sunk at Midway. To be clear Enterprise place could be taken by the Saratoga and/or the Wasp but then the question is given the different carriers would that have made a difference at Midway.

    Second, with the loss of Enterprise would FDR or the USN risk the loss of Hornet and possibly Lexington or Yorktown (as escorts) for the Doolittle mission?

    So, with a different line up at Midway assuming the same losses at Coral Sea, would the results still be the same?

    I agree here. The problem was once Japan went to war in China the clock was ticking to Pearl Harbor. The option by 1941 was move into Southeast Asia, Sumatra, and the rest or starve both industrially and literally. Japan needed resources and there was only one way to get them from the militarists' perspective by 1941 and that meant the destruction of the USN.
  19. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

    Oct 29, 2017
    Somewhere where rockets fly.
    I wonder what assumptions Bond operates under as well.

    1. Was the PacFlt beyond land based seaplane reconnaissance support?
    2. How was the PacFlt air battle force to be deployed in the scenario?

    These are critical, because if Nagumo was stupid enough to operate within reach of US land based air, there is a decent chance both aircraft carrier forces neutralize each other. The Japanese are LOUSY at sea search; the Americans are not too good at anti-ship strike. Based on at sea anti-ship strike battle results, it takes at most, one American aircraft carrier's worth of planes to de-deck and force scuttle TWO Japanese carriers, while it takes TWO Japanese carriers to do the same to an American flattop.

    On the battleship front, we have some evidence that these ships are a lot tougher to neutralize than aircraft carriers, the US doctrine late war, to commit no less than 3-4 aircraft carrier strike packages to sink one Japanese battleship. (Sibuyan Sea). If anything about the repulse and Prince of Wales is a guide, then we can accept that WW I equivalent US Standards would have needed at least a full unmolested strike package apiece.

    I consider the situation that would allow an unmolested strike package to mount an attack in such a situation... dubious.

    Now, a possible surprise meeting engagement where Kimmel plays the role of Marschall and Nagumo plays the role of Captain Guy D'Oyly-Hughes? Kimmel has radar and Nagumo does not. The Americans are better at reconnaissance, so they might pick the First Air Fleet up in that hypothetical, first. The critical issue is can Enterprise and Lexington get in their de-decking strike first? A lot of ifs, to ponder, but I do not like Nagumo's chances, here. He was not a very good naval tactician. My opinion. YMMV.

    Hello, yes; more than one imagines. Hornet's performance at Midway was terrible. If she was replaced by Wasp or Lexington, Hiryu would have been smashed in the same strike that got Akagi, Kaga and Soryu.
    If you mean Fletcher shows up with 4 flattops (No Doolittle Raid) at Coral Sea, and kills Braindead Takagi, instead of using 2, and fights a clear win instead of a draw? My guess is that Midway happens again; 3 on 4, same results.
    Depends on what replaces Hornet and the incompetent Marc Mitscher.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
  20. Dorknought Well-Known Member

    Mar 8, 2018
    Perhaps to revisit the proposal to knock out the Naval Base just how much effort would be needed? The RAF tried to cripple Scharnhorst Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen in Brest in 1941-42. A snapshot of this effort:
    Bomber Command despatched 508 sorties, compared with 424 last week, and lost only three aircraft. A total of 514 tons of H.E. bombs (including 17 of 4,000 lbs. and 52 of 2,000 lbs.), and 24,000 incendiaries were dropped. Unsuitable weather prevented operations on two nights. The principal effort was directed against the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen, which were attacked on each of the remaining nights of the week.

    On the night of the 5th, 140 aircraft dropped 203 tons of H.E. bombs and 7,200 incendiaries on the dock area at Brest, and, on four other nights, a total of 126 aircraft dropped a further 186 tons of H.E. bombs and 12,680 incendiaries on the same objective. Visibility was generally poor, but, during the heaviest raid, occasional gaps in the cloud enabled the crews to observe bomb bursts in the dock and dry-dock areas and along the torpedo boat quay. They also saw large fires followed by explosions in the town and Port Militaire.
    In March-April 1942 25 major raids (+50 aircraft each) dropped 1,655 tons of bombs on Brest. In March-April 1942 the Germans flew 11,819 sorties against Malta dropping 3,150 tons of bombs on Valetta. In both these cases the bases were untenable for fleet units but the facilities were not destroyed. I doubt the IJN carrier or land based bombers could deliver this tonnage or effort.