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

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

  1. starman Well-Known Member

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    Years ago, when I mentioned this, somebody suggested I-6 was low on torpedoes when it encountered Saratoga. But, unless I overlooked something, I found no record of any prior action during that patrol.
     
  2. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    The British RN FAA had been hammered by three years of war. Their pre-war highly trained operators; the ones who got Bismarck and the ones who mounted the remarkable raid on Taranto were either promoted out of front-line squadrons or had become casualties and had NOT been replaced by equally well trained cadres. The navigation fix error the one scout who did find Nagumo reported indicates this decline in quality. Somerville could have tried an attack, but I wonder if his planes could have accomplished much? The Japanese were at sea, they had a doctrine of high speed corkscrewing maneuver and they had good night fliers of their own. Iffy.

    Given the state of US torpedoes... zero chance of inflicting damage by submarine. Given USAAF doctrine of high altitude bombing? Zero chance of a hit. Zero chance, period. It means a radical change in American technology or tactical thinking to achieve any success at all.

    Genda is the honest one. Does one mean the liar, Fuchida?
     
  3. pzwicke Member

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    Would Japan's better opening strike option have been to have a Midway-style battle first instead of launching the Pearl Harbor raid? Would that have been enough of a threat to get the American fleet to sortie and then destroy it in deep water.
     
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  4. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    Right, and if your intention was to withdraw after the attack no matter what, then not having scouted creates the uncertainty one needs to justify the decision. Whereas, had Nagumo scouted and found that no US carriers were within 250 miles of his location, his decision to withdraw would look even more questionable.

    Sure, and if the US carriers at Oahu had been on Nagumo's flank waiting to pounce, then Nagumo may have suffered his Midway catastrophe on December 7th. Because he walked right into that trap. At Midway he did much the same thing, but at least there he didn't know that US carriers were in the vicinity. At Oahu he knew that the US carriers could be in strike range and he ignored the danger instead of responding to it proactively.

    Nagumo's freedom to execute his mission was practically unbounded. Once Battleship Row was hit by torpedoes, he was in the clear to sail away. Combined Fleet should have made his mission orders more exacting, not less.
     
  5. Athelstane Anglo-Saxon Troublemaker

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    Do recall what Furlong told Gordon Prange:

    Even broadly worded orders are not likely to be followed in a broad way by a commander like Nagumo.

    But I can see the point that if Yamamoto REALLY wanted to make the extra effort to a) track down and trash any fleet carriers in the vicinity, or b) hit the tank farms (though we know it wouldn't have worked well), then the orders probably should have been much more explicit on that point.
     
  6. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    Nope. War Plan Orange precludes this option. It would take a Pearl Harbor type attack to bring about the provocation. So...

    As it was the Japanese would have had their "Watchtower" in March *42. That would have been "interesting".
     
  7. Glenn239 Well-Known Member

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    There was nothing in Nagumo's orders or IJN doctrine that prevented Nagumo from acting with absolute freedom of action. Provided he returned to Japan with at least 2/3rd's of his carrier strength intact and the USN unable to interfere in the Southern Operation for 6 months, he'd accomplished his mission. He took the view that the damage to Battleship Row and uncertain location of the US carriers constituted the fulfilment of his basic mission orders.

    That's the real issue of IJN doctrine that applied - command and control at a distance. Yamamoto was extremely reluctant to override or overdirect his combat commands on the theory that they knew best their own situation and outside interference might cause trouble. So, when Nagumo broke radio silence to declare he was withdrawing, the debate in Combined Fleet was whether to override that or let it happen on the assumption the local commander knew best. When Nagumo returned, it became clear he'd taken a choice to leave when he would have been more than justified to have stayed.

    If Yamamoto had a do-over at Pearl Harbor, it might be to the effect of sending more battleships and a high-ranking Combined Fleet commander to watch over things. But, in war, there are no do-overs (and I'm sure Kimmel would have a few of his own).
     
  8. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    That is a good question. Sommerville had been rehearsing this carrier night strike gambit during the previous weeks, along with the larger ambush operation. How much that improved the aircrew I cant say. Perhaps I am misreading the events/times, but it appears to me Nagumos course change is what took him out of harms way that specific night. Whoever planned the air search for that night did not anticipate the course change actually made.

    High speed corkscrewing maneuvers, at night, while under air torpedo attacks, at effectively random times and directions over one to two hours. I'm wondering how well trained in that the Japanese bridge crews were? Be embarrassing if no torpedoes hit, but a pair of large ships were stove in from a collision. Collisions in combat occurred in daylight with relatively few ships around to complicate things. Double the excitement in this night action?



    Depends on if the sub is still carrying the older Mk13 torpedoes. Less capable, but more reliable triggers. As I understand the S class were not loaded wi the Mk14

    [/QUOTE]Given USAAF doctrine of high altitude bombing? Zero chance of a hit. Zero chance, period. It means a radical change in American technology or tactical thinking to achieve any success at all.



    Never said Genda lied about anything. Its a reference to a old lawyers joke that was used in the movie 'Twelve O'Clock High'. The scene where the Adjutant Major Harvey reminds General Savage that he is the commander & responsible for the actual decision, not the staff officer who advised and planned. "I never heard of a jury convicting the lawyer, sir"
     
  9. Dilvish Well-Known Member

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    (My whole post may be OT for this thread.) What day was it that the one FAA scout found Nagumo? Was it the same day that Cornwall and Dorsetshire were sunk? Somerville may have been lucky to have avoided a massive attack by the KB. Somerville may have been able to inflict real damage on KB in a night attack. On the other hand, his two carriers vs. Nagumo's five, in early 1942, I think the loss of the RN carriers (and probably Warspite and/or more cruisers) outweighs the possible damage done to the KB.

    http://propnturret.com/tully/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3510 A discussion at the combinedfleet.com board about the 5 April action. Later in the discussion (pg. 4 and on) they talk about the chances of each carrier force finding their opposition.

    And I'll plug this article, a downloadable document about the sinking of HMS Hermes, HMAS Vampire, and others: http://propnturret.com/tully/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3501

    All in all, I think it was more likely that the RN would have gotten the worse end of another carrier action during the Indian Ocean raid.
     
  10. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Another outcome would be the Japanese fail to find the US carrier TF, & the US strike is ineffective, with heavy losses. Theses several ways their post battle assessments could go wrong from this. Theres really a lot of ways this can play out, with a good dose of luck for each side.

    The heavy armor piercing bombs would be useless in level attack. Against moving ships the Japanese making level attacks at medium altitude are not going to be noticeably more effective than the Army AF. If those bombs cant be used in a dive bombing attack they would become a waste vs moving ships.


    Was Mitchner incompetent, or his staff still green? The latter many have been his fault, or not. Browning had his defects as CoS, but Spruance grasped the situation and yanked Brownings leash. Was such a decision in Mitchers grasp, or the staff to shaky to get a quick grip on?
     
  11. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Thats in line with the results of the 5th Air Force attacks on Rabaul. The volume was not high enough, but the ratio of sorties to ships damaged was similar. Ships in harbors were a entirely different ball game from those at sea where air attack is concerned.
     
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  12. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    Based on his sorry later performance at Philippine Sea, when Spruance took the battle away from him and overruled him to make the carriers stay put and protect the Marines? Incompetent Mitscher might have been in Spruance's judgement, or at least Spruance's actions during that battle suggest so. Even Halsey took the aircraft carriers away from him, that is Mitscher, at Leyte Gulf, which I found somewhat curious, because Halsey LIKED Mitscher and otherwise let him run the day to day operations.

    It is my opinion that Mitscher was not trusted in the clinches; but then I never had much use for commanders who fudged their post-action reports to alibi their mistakes, as Spruance caught Mitscher doing with Hornet's war diaries at Midway. When the task force commander acting states for the record that the only valid accounts for post battle analysis, are the records of Yorktown (to be reconstructed from memory of personnel serving) because she sank with a lot of her logs and data still aboard, and Enterprise, while those of Hornet are to be entirely discounted? That is Spruance calling Mitscher and his staff in USNese, a bunch of liars. Makes for interesting discussion among current USN historians; for example, was Stanhope Ring really to blame for the navigation error that took his dive bomber squadron out of the fight during the dive bomber attack on Kido Butai, or was it a botched air-ops order that was wrong briefed to him? We can never be sure because the ones who fudged the record, Mitscher and his staff, ruined the paper trail.

    Enterprise and Yorktown had their own problems with green staffs, but we know those problems and the lessons learned, because despite Miles Browning, those records were accurate either in the actual logs, (Enterprise) or recollections (Yorktown).
     
  13. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    I am in the process of reading a book by Andrew Boyd, (The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters) so when I am done, I may have a better answer for your question, but at present I am of the opinion that the British Eastern Fleet was lucky that ADM Sir Harold Somerville did not try accounts with Nagumo. My guess; and it is only a guess for now, is that the night torpedo attack would not have come off, and if Somerville's force had been in pursuit range of Nagumo come the dawn, it would have been an utter RN disaster as Midway almost was for the USN. Timing is everything in carrier warfare in 1942. First strike successful is usually victory.

    As for how I arrive at my opinion: it is primarily based on ADM Somerville's report on what he thought he was doing. I find that his actual movements are somewhat puzzling as to what he states he assumes the Japanese intend; but until I have a clearer read on the local weather, which I think accounts for some of those decisions (including phases of the moon) I attribute that as a major factor in Somerville's movements east.

    The PBY reconnaissance plan incidentally is terrible, but the best I presume possible given the paucity of aircraft.

    If Somerville made a crucial mistake, that was it. In no wise should an air battle group ever tie its tactical speed to slow battleships. This shows me that Somerville did not understand the function of the aircraft carrier in a naval air battle at all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018 at 4:55 PM
  14. DougM Well-Known Member

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    If you look at it, at this point early in the war Japan (all sides actually ) act a LOT different then later on when they have experience. At this point no one is truly sure how to use a carrier or what it can do. So the all hedge thier bets and tend to play it safe as much as they can,
    This is what Japan does at Peril. They got in did LOTS of damage to what as of December 6th was seen as the real threat, the battle line. And got out with effectively no damage, it would be judged a huge success.
    It is only with hindsight that we know how fast the ships can be fixed, and how fast the US can build new ships. And with this knowledge we understand that thier May have been better options.
    But that knowledge was non existent in 1941. This is what is constantly being forgotten. Yes if Japan used 2018 knowledge they could have done better. On the other hand if the US used 2018 knowledge then they could have had thier entire fleet waiting to ambush them... but short of ASB neither is going to happen.
    And to show how much the Japanese thinking was stuck in the old way we get more then one attempt to use Aircraft Carriers and such to get the US To within gun range of the battleships. Which is odd considering they planed and executed the Peril raid and later would use carriers very effectively. But they never seamed to completely give up the way of the battleship.
     
  15. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    The entire bad azimuth affair is pretty damming. What I have to wonder is why Mitchner remained in command. Others like Fletcher or Gormley, who did better under far worse circumstances were replaced. Mitchner carries on after a major multifaceted failure in a critical battle

    My take is he did try, he moved his carrier force into strike range of the suspected enemy position, reconnaissance was sent, and the strike force was on the deck, armed, and ready to launch.

    As I understand it the rehearsals involved the strike force retiring out of range before dawn.

    I don't know if Sommerville or his staff had direct influence over the PBY reconnaissance plans. Those were launched from bases ashore & presumably outside Sommervilles fleet command. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding he Brit command structure here.

    Possibly the information I have is imperfect, but what I am seeing is that each time Sommerville maneuvered to set up a night attack (Which he tried twice?) the carrier group was tactically separated from the slower battleship group. If I am reading the various accounts correctly the carrier group at those moments was maneuvering independently and at times over the horizon from the BB group. Maybe a more detailed account or course plot would clarify this, but it appears Sommerville was operating the carrier group seperately from the battle group, but usually close enough that support to the CG could be had in a hour or two. There appear to be exceptions to this. Possibly when he risk was assessed as low and other times when the risk seemed worth gain.

    Another question I have is if Sommerville had knowledge of the composition of Nagumos group. If so the paucity of battleships with the raiding force may have influenced his thinking. The Kongo class were built in Britain, & even with the upgrades may not have impressed the RN at all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018 at 7:40 PM
  16. MattII Well-Known Member

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    Just on the tanks. Yes they wouldn't burn, but wouldn't any damaged tanks be only partially useable until they were repaired? Effectively, would'nt they only be able to store as much fuel as up to the lowest hole in their sides?
     
  17. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Not difficult to make those repairs on the tanks. No one in these conversations ever mentions bombing the pumps and power generators. Destroying those would be a bigger show stopper.
     
  18. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    1. Mitscher was naval aviator #4 in the USN. As such he had immense seniority in "the air club" and powerful Congressional patronage. It would be hard to either deny him a command or prevent him from asserting influence as a matter of seniority through service rules or politics. However history has a way of catching up with these guys.

    2. For some strange reason, Admiral King took a personal dislike to Admiral Fletcher. During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons where Fletcher was injured in action and had to rotate out, it was an opportunity for King to reassign Fletcher. There was a thoroughly screwed up command in Alaska where the American army and navy cincs had come to almost killing blows over who was in charge. Guess who King sent to straighten that mess out for the American navy? It was a wise choice, as far as interservice politics was concerned but being assigned to a backwater theater was the dead end for Fletcher.

    3. Ghormley was a tragedy as far as public relations and health issues were concerned. For quite some time he had a serious debilitating medical condition with his teeth that drove him almost mad with pain. The dentists who tried to treat him may have hooked him on pain killers, but something was badly affecting his mental judgment so he had to be relieved. We just do not know for sure, because the records were fudged to protect his public reputation and that of the American navy.

    4. I have a lot of heartburn about Halsey, but give the man credit, when he took over, no matter the many mistakes he made, somehow his command bounced back and carried forward with élan. You need that quality in a leader despite his other shortcomings.

    Granted, but I think Somerville was incredibly lucky that it never came off. based on what he thought he knew, I suggest that he seriously underestimated Japanese night fighting ability as the Americans did. Also, hitting ships at sea at night as "Braindead" Takagi tried to do to Fletcher at Coral Sea, can have catastrophic consequences, as Fletcher taught the Japanese.

    As I understand it, Somerville disposed his forces into what Americans would recognize as two task groups and intended to operate them in mutual support. The "fast force" {Force A contained Warspite and Indomitable), was the maneuver force which he intended to strike, while the slow force (Force B which contained Hermes and the R-class battleships) would be base force upon which he would fall back once he had attacked and the Japanese pursued. Here is what I think Somerville failed to understand about tactical speed and the nature of aircraft carrier warfare. He obviously thought in terms of an air strike, followed by gunnery decision. However, he was either unaware or did not recognize, that an aircraft carrier centered task force; especially one with longer ranged aircraft, would refuse to enter gun range for a surface action. The only way to pace such a force is with fast carriers. And as was shown at Philippine Sea, if the other side has the weather gage and a knot or two advantage, then he can accept or refuse battle as he wills. THAT is why I emphasize what the weather was in the Indian Ocean. It appears Somerville had the weather gage, but did not know how to use it!
    I'm not sure about this one myself. It does seem that Somerville had some control over search plans, because he reports he ordered a search to the northeast off Sri Lanka as well as to the southeast using all 6 PBYs he did have about the 1st April. These searches did turn up Japanese contacts by the way, which formed the basis of some of Somerville's dispositions.

    This is correct, except that Hermes remained with Force B unless I am misreading Somerville's record?

    Based on the confused and erroneous scouting reports he received from shore based air, and from contact reports (Agar of the Cornwall / Dorsetshire force was badly amiss in not promptly and accurately reporting the air attack on the cruisers.) I am convinced that ADM Somerville had an incomplete and woefully inaccurate picture of what he faced. Certainly like the Americans at Coral Sea, he would have been astounded at the size and ferocity of the 50+ aircraft strike package that killed Cornwall and Dorsetshire. One must remember, that the RN up to that raid still badly underestimated Japanese aircraft carrier plane capacity and op-tempo cycles by about 30% and 50% respectively. The Americans only knew better because they had been Pearl Harbored and had some idea about how fast and far the Japanese had to fly and cycle their strikes that terrible Sunday morning. Even so, the size, speed and precision of the strike package that did in Lexington shocked Fletcher at Coral Sea.

    Add to the problem ADM Somerville faced, that he had about 42-45 Fulmars (slow and rather short ranged) to throw against Nagumo's 5 flattops. His Martlets were equally short ranged, were not matched to cruise speed and were not trained for night operations. The Fulmars would have to launch, travel 100 minutes out, find Nagumo, attack the Japanese who were capable of night fighter operations, manage to torpedo carriers dodging and jinking at night, and the survivors would have to travel back to Homeplate using the British equivalent of American Y homing radio. Now that distance of separation? About 150 nautical miles maximum. This is well within the 250 nautical mile strike radius of the First Air Fleet. Somerville, with Force A in 3 hours just might be able to outrun Nagumo's air power circle, but with Force B within 25-30 nautical miles tactical support as Somerville planned, against Japanese torpedo bombers come the dawn? Dead meat. And there is no guarantee that Force A will make it either. The Fulmars still have to be recovered. Radar gives Somerville a slight dodge and weave advantage and he uses it, but if he has to hang around to recover aircraft, then he's signed his own death warrant. Not a good choice; flee and lose your strike package or hang around and face First Air Fleet come the dawn?

    But then again, as I have written, I need to finish with Andrew Boyd and see if his revisions change that understanding I have of the situation as I outline above.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018 at 1:14 AM
  19. marcus_aurelius A BIRD and proud

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    How about:

    1. Assuming they're committed to going to war with the US come hell or high water, can the IJN afford to not attack Pearl Harbour at all? Say, they hammer US/British targets up and down in SW Pacific, consolidate their gains and wait for the US Pacific Fleet to go to them?
    2. By the grace of mixed-up orders, both the Big E and Lady Lex were sitting in Pearl Harbour on 7th December, they were sunk along with the rest of the Battle Line. How would this affect the strategic picture in PTO up to 1943 (I'm assuming the Essex spam would bring US deck numbers way up by then)?
    3. Similar to 2), but instead this time all of the Battle Line sunk at Pearl Harbour were declared total losses. Since almost none of the BBs ended up more than short bombardment platforms, this won't affect the big picture by a lot, yeah?

    Marc A

    P.S. I know I should probably start new threads for this, but since we're already talking about Pearl Harbour here...
     
  20. Dorknought Well-Known Member

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    They burn.
    upload_2018-12-6_21-32-37.jpg upload_2018-12-6_21-33-21.jpg The tanks in Darwin.