WI The Doolittle Disaster

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Geon, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    I'd like to thank Centuion for his timeline which in turn prompted me to post this scenario. Thanks also to Calbear and Bearcat for their input.


    On April 18, 1942 the carrier task force carrying the Doolittle Raiders is spotted by the Japanese Picket boat Nittō Maru. Before the Nittō Maru is sunk by gunfire from the heavy cruiser Nashville she is able to get off two distinct attack warnings to Japan.

    After consulting with Colonel Doolittle, Vice-Admiral Halsey orders the bombers to be launched immediately. But by this time the Japanese are aware of what is happening. Before she sank the Nittō Maru was able to send her position. The Japanese quickly launch interceptors and fighters over Tokyo and Yokohoma as precautions. (These are after all the most logical targets.) They also launch an attack on the task force with their land based naval and torpedo bombers. Every available submarine is ordered into the area to hunt the task force down.

    The next few hours are a bloodbath for the Americans. None of the modified 16 B-25s survives the attack by the Japanese interceptors which are waiting over the target cities. All the crews are either killed or captured. At sea both the Hornet and the Enterprise are repeatedly hit by bomber attacks both dive bombers and torpedo bomers. The carriers are burning wrecks. Vice-Admiral Halsey is missing and presumed dead. The heavy cruisers and destroyers are forced to run a gauntlet in order to get back to Pearl Harbor. In the meantime the losses mount. The heavy cruisers Salt Lake City, the Vincennes, the destroyers Gwim and Monssen and the oilers Cimarron and Sabine are lost and the rest of the force suffers varying degrees of damage. It is perhaps one of the worst disasters in U.S. naval history.

    Two weeks later insult is added to injury as word is received that Col. Jimmy Dolittle survived the crash and was captured by the Japanese. He and the surviving airman are put on trial. The Japanese press later announces that Col. Dolittle is executed along with several of the surviving airmen.


    Based on this scenario what happens next? How is the Pacific War different and how is it the same?

  2. Orville_third Banned

    Mar 3, 2009
    Piedmont Socialist Republic
    Doolittle and his men are considered martyrs and Japan is looked at even worse. Japan may come off even worse, with more firebombings and even more atomic bombs.
  3. lothaw Texan Nationalist

    Dec 18, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    Doolittle would be a martyr on a level that this country has never seen. You'd probably see the USN adopt a defensive posture until the Essex class carriers come off the line.

    On the other hand Ranger might be send to the Pacific along with Lexington, Saratoga, and Wasp. Might even see Langley reconverted for CAP duty or something.

    You'd probably see Midway thrown to the wolves like Wake was, while the USN battles to keep the Southeast route to Australia open. You'd probably only see the remaining carriers offer battle if Moresby or Australia are threatened or if they IJN does something off the wall like try to attack Hawaii again.

    In the long run, really wouldn't change much except Pearl Harbor the movie would be a bit shorter since Ben Affleck can't join up with the Doolittle raid and expect to live to get the girl. THe other guy still goes though I bet. ;)
  4. Grimm Reaper Desperate But Not Serious

    Since Japan's land based aircraft can't reach the carriers in the first place none of this is possible.

    One key reason that the raid took Japan by surprise was that they knew the carriers were too far away to strike and had no idea that the carriers were carrying B-25s which had the range but only on a one way trip, something else which they never expected from the US.
  5. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon Donor

    Sep 24, 2008
    UK - Oxfordshire
    Indeed, and as they launched early, the carriers are even less vulnerable to attack, since they got the hell out as soon as they had launched.
    All that happens is Doolittle becomes a martyr.
  6. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

    Oct 4, 2005
    In a house on Sol-3
    JNAF Betty torpedo bombers could reach out a thousand miles and RTB with a Type 91 torpedo. The point where Doolittle launched was well with in range of both the G4M AND the G3M, not to mention being within escort range of the A6M. All three aircraft had range at least equal to the B-25.

    There is some evidence that the Japanese received the sighting report and decided to let the TF close in because they knew it couldn't reach a launch point until the next day based on the range of the fighters. The same evidence indicates that the IJN planned to hit the TF at sunset the day of the sighting while it was still well out of attack range but close enough to overwhelm.
  7. Gridley Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2010
    Everett, WA, USA
    I think you can achieve your desired results, just with a different PoD.

    A Japanese search plane spots the US TF as they approach. The plane manages to get a look at the B-25s on the deck and warns of a pair of CVs, one with twin-engine aircraft on the deck.

    The Japanese guess, correctly, at what the US plan is, and launch an attack that arrives just BEFORE Doolittle's group takes off. Hornet's aircraft are trapped below, so only the Enterprise's air group is available to defend the TF.
  8. Hyperion Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    Even if they get a good warning, it would probably take hours to prepare a strike. Factoring in how fast the Japanese bombers would travel, and figuring as soon as the B-25s launch the US carriers will turn around and run, the bombers would be pushing it.

    It would likely take at least a few hours to get the specific location on the US carriers. Then you would have to have time to get the squadrons ready to attack, during which time Doolittle takes off and Halsey turns his ships around and heads east as fast as possible.

    As for submarines, no, Japanese submarines where effective, but the coordination you have isn't possible. That and there would not have been that many to deploy to begin with.

    Also factor in that the Japanese bombers would have no fighter escorts whatsoever. Any bombers that take damage are not coming back.

    It is not impossible, but it is very implausible.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011
  9. stevep Member

    Mar 21, 2006

    I think that the simplest way is that in the last stages of the approach, when the two carriers left the escorting destroyers behind, they get spotted by a patrolling sub. Especially if it nails the Enterprise, so that the Hornet, laden with B-25's can't defend itself and gets a report off it's very likely that both ships could be lost with all their crew without any significant Japanese losses.

    I agree that in the longer term it's likely to make little difference. Even if the Americans lose heavily at another battle [Coral Sea or Midway] the Japanese can't hurt their heartland and new production is coming in while the Japanese are simply expanding their supplies lines further and further.

    The significant difference from OTL could be some heads rolling as people start asking 'what @*!@ authorised this cock-up!'. There might well be a drop in moral but not likely to last for long.

  10. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon Donor

    Sep 24, 2008
    UK - Oxfordshire
    The problem with an attack at extreme range with no real time data is the very slim chance of actually finding the carriers.
    The IJN has to assemble a strike force with no warning (it wasn't exactly an expected attack). This takes hours at best. Then they have to fly 5-6 hours. During this time the carrier force can go 200+ miles easily, and they are going to be nowhere near the initial sighting point.
    Chances of finding them?? Pretty much zero, with 1942 tech (any cloud, rain, bad weather reduces the chance dramatically)
    And then the IJN has to attack a carrier group with all its fighters available without fighter support (I dont think the Zero can get that far and back?)
    Its not quite an impossible task, but the chance seems ASB-like small.

    Of course there is always the possibility that the IJN could send out a force without it being able to get back, but would they do thsi at this point in the ar?
  11. NHBL Member

    Jan 1, 2004

    Suppose a Japanese sub saw the group further out, but couldn't atack (out of torpedoes, perhaps) but did get close enough to see twin engine bombers aboard. (very unlikely--but I'm not sure if it's impossible.)

    From there, someone decides to prepare for an American raid--they know the range of the bombers, and also know they can't land aboard. They deduce that the planes wil head for friendly territory--like China.

    Now you might be able to make things happen.

    It's also possible the Japanese don't atack Midway after all, since the Doolitle raid played a role in making it happen.
  12. Geon Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    Ideas appreciated

    Thank you for all the ideas so far..please keep them coming.

    I'll make a few thoughts here. As to a POD of having a submarine or another plane find the TF, I think I'd like my POD to start as close to history as possible. So much could have gone wrong with the Doolittle Raid it wasn't funny. When the Nashville discovered that Japanese picket boat it took several shots to sink it--and I mean several (I think the number was in the dozens)! So it's not unreasonable that a warning complete with position could have been radioed in.

    As to an earlier comment on the movie "Pearl Harbor", well..we are talking Hollywood here. Since when do they let a little thing like history stand in the way of the boy getting the girl:D!