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A carrier battle between all japanese vs american carriers early in the war

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by OhneGewehr, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Aircraft carriers are one of my special interests in WWII.
    What do the experts here expect from a major carrier battle early in the war? Midway wasn't, it was a surprise attack and then, there was only one japanese carrier left.

    On paper, the opposing carrier fleets looked equally strong. Would Nagumo be the right man to command such a force?

    Opinions?
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    With respect Midway was a major Carrier battle by any standard and if you are speaking of Japan, after Midway, IJN still has 2 Fleet Carriers and I believe 4 or 5 Light Carriers. In the aftermath of Midway both Carrier fleets were still nearly equal in commissioned hull's, unfortunately for Japan the number of hulls under construction was in no way equal.
     
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  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Which one...Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, or Santa Cruz?

    Or, are you talking about an all in carrier battle?

    You have specified no date - Given commissionings, transfers, losses and battle damage, it would help to specify a date, so we know what carrier forces are available.

    You have specified no location - Depending on the location, the Japanese or Americans may have an additional advantages or disadvantages.


    Midway was not a surprise attack.


    No offense, but it must not be much of a special interest.

    The Japanese carriers after Midway were:
    Large Carriers
    Shokaku
    Zuikaku
    Junyo

    Small Carriers
    Hosho
    Ryuho
    Ryujo
    Zuiho

    Escort Carriers/Airplane Ferries
    Kasuga Maru/Taiyo
    Yawata Maru/Unyo


    You also want to take a close look at those officers on a given Admiral's staff. Unfortunately, I don't think such a close look has been taken on the members of Nagumo's staff, although it may have been touched on in "At Dawn We Slept" or "Shattered Sword".
     
  4. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Ok, my fault. I meant a major carrier battle in the first months of the war. What the japanese Navy or more precise, Yamamoto, wanted: a decisive naval battle.

    With Lexington. With Shokaku/Zuikaku.

    Midway was an important battle, but the presence of the US-carriers was a total surprise for Nagumo.

    Maybe, similar to the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot but under the circumstances of early 1942.

    Before Midway, the Kido Butai dominated the battles almost at will, but were they really superior to the american pilots, planes, tactics?
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    There is wanting something and wanting something.

    Japanese plans did call for a decisive battle to be fought, but only after they had secured their empire and on terms of their own choosing. Midway was that battle, but it failed in no small measure because they threw their grand strategy out the window. As Napoleon is credited with saying 'no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy'

    First, in the Pearl Harbor raid they failed to catch at least part of the US Carrier fleet at port. This gave the US a viable attack force to counter their plans almost from the get go. Then they succomed to victory disease and kept expanding their goals forcing both a dispersion of their primary attack force and its degradation due to over use. By Midway it was more feeble than at the start of the war with the loss of two CV's from the order of battle (damaged/aircrew loss) and the diminution of aircrew from those CV's operational. Finally they completely misread American character in thinking they would either scurry off back to San Diego or hunker down at Pearl.

    The strikes on outpost's, Coral Sea and Doolittle's Raid convinced Yamamoto that he had to force a decisive battle long before his defensive perimeter could be achieved, which basically threw prewar strategy out the window. The Japanese plan did expect an American carrier force and they even had/made preparations to meet such a force if it arrived at the time it did, but their blindness would not allow them to give it the credence it deserved. Bad luck in a delayed scout plane launch did not help matters. The Japanese plan hinged not only on the US doing what they expected them to do (often dangerous) but on them doing what was most advantageous for Japan (always dangerous).

    If Nagumo was surprised by the US presence, it was a matter of self delusion and group think.

    If the Kido Butai 'dominated' the early battles it was because they fought unequal battles. Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, most of the rest they possessed vastly greater numbers. In the two 'equal' contests (Coral Sea and Midway) they suffered strategic defeats and both sides had advantages. Japanese aircraft were faster and longer ranged, American aircraft were tougher. They had more flight decks, America had better intell and superior damage control.

    In truth neither side anticipated the 'Decisive Battle' so soon based on prewar planning, and old Boney can explain why it happened when and where it did.
     
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  6. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    Wasn't the fact that American ships actually came expected. It was the when in and where that caught the Japanese by surprise by the weak reconnaissance effort by Kido Butai and the fact that the submarine cordon completely failed to detect Task Forces 16 and 17.
     
  7. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    What Belasar said.

    Actually, I don't know a damned thing about naval strategy, but post #5 strikes me as a very clear and succinct analysis of the situation in the opening months of the Pacific War.
     
  8. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Andrew Lambert, Professor of naval history, noticed once that Nagumo sent out reconnaisance planes to confirm, that the US Fleet is not present...
    Nagumo was told, that the US Fleet could hardly be around Midway at the first day of the attack, not an unusual event in the first years of the war. Lütjens also was fooled by his intelligence during "Rheinübung" when he was told, that the Home Fleet is still in Scapa Flow.

    Wasn't Midway an effort by the japanese Navy to lure the carriers out of Pearl Harbour for the "decisive battle" they were waiting for impatiently? So i can't imagine why they should avoid such a battle earlier in the war. Their fleet didn't expect many new ships in early 1942, Yamato was already in service, so why should they wait?

    I don't want to start a debate about Midway, but i still think that the IJN should have used all their forces at Midway, the slower carriers to attack the (less important) island and Kido Butai for the "decisive battle".
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    If you are taking this from the TV episode on Midway he did, his analysis is faulty.

    Genda has stated that the Kido Butai air reconnaissance was the same as had been flown at Pearl Harbor & the Indian Ocean. As every aircraft devoted to search was one less devoted to the attack, the Japanese used the bare minimum necessary. Hence, there were only 2 B5N high-level/torpedo bombers that participated in the search.


    Is this the "planned" first day of the attack, or the "actual" first day of the attack? I ask this because Nagumo was a day behind schedule.

    Why did the Japanese hold back there reserve for anti-shipping strikes if the American fleet was not expected until the second day? After all, 43 torpedo armed Kates & 34 dive-bombing Vals is an awful lot of firepower to have idle for a threat that is not expected to be there. More so, considering that most of the Japanese officers in charge expected a 2nd strike to be necessary to neutralize Midway.


    Because, their attention was focused elsewhere. Namely, securing their objectives in the DEI, South Pacific, Malaysia, Philippine, etc. and to protect their flank by attacking Australia & chasing of the British/ABDA naval forces.


    So does near about everybody else, so there is not much of a debate to start. The Aleutian Islands invasion diluted the Japanese naval forces and the Main Body of Japanese battleships was to far behind Kido Butai to provide any support, soak up air attacks, or chase down damages American ships.
     
  10. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Just some nitpicking...


    Well, the Decisive Battle plan went out the window with the attack on Pearl Harbor...it was thrown out before it even contacted the enemy. Still, it's adherents tried to shoehorn it into the Japanese ever-changing grand strategy. IGHQ still tenuously held to to drawing the American fleet to near Japan and destroying it. Meanwhile, Yamamoto decided to forgo luring the Americans to him, but instead, charge headlong into them - Quite the reverse of the Decisive Battle strategy.

    I can't say that I have ever read that the Japanese would initiate their "Decisive Battle" only after securing their empire. At best, I have only come across the rather vague "at the appropriate time." Do you have a source for this, as I am genuinely curious.


    I have always thought that the "victory disease" was more or less a cop-out for lack of an achievable grand strategy. The Japanese kept expanding their goals because they had no viable way of bringing the Allies, particularly the Americans, to surrender on Japanese terms.

    I can't say that I see Kido Butai as being "over used," as for the first several months, they faced no real opposition. After all, look at how hard the US Navy drove Task Force 38/58. The problem lay in their logistics, resupply, and reinforcement procedures. For all of Kido Butai's bluster, it never had the staying power of TF 38/58. Kido Butai would forever remain a raiding force only.


    Yamamoto had decided on a Midway/Central Pacific strike prior to some of the outpost strikes(Rabaul & Lae/Salamaua), Doolittle's Raid, and the Coral Sea. As such, these actions had no bearing on his planning.

    As I have stated pre-war strategy went out the window with the decision to attack Pearl.


    Well, the Japanese gave the carriers credence and they didn't.

    They planned a preliminary reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor, two submarine cordon lines to detect the American carriers, as well as Kido Butai's scout planes.

    They didn't give the American carriers the credence they deserved, in that the submarine cordon lines were composed of mostly elderly & materially unreliable submarines, while their newer, reconnaissance devoted, submarines were up North in the Aleutians.


    Actually, that delayed scout plane(heavy cruiser Tone's floatplane flying the #4 search line) was good luck, for it was the one that found the American carriers.

    Now for the reconnaissance "bad luck"...
    - The aircraft that should have found the American carriers earlier was the Chikuma scout flying the #5 search line.
    - The preliminary Pearl Harbor reconnaissance to be flown by H8K Emily flying boats was cancelled when it was found that the Americans had occupied the French Frigate Shoals, which was to be used to refuel the H8Ks from Japanese submarines.
    - The old Japanese submarine that were to form the 2 submarine cordon lines were at least a day late in forming their lines, after the American carriers had gone past. This was compounded, because the error was never passed up the chain-of-command.
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    In my reading I have gotten the sense that the intent was to degrade a eventual US counter attack from interlocking defense bases and fleet submarines before engaging in the final battle. This would indicate some point well after they secured these bases and built up the needed runway's and support elements.

    I concede you are the greater expert on this aspect of the war, but the plan's Yamamoto drew up were still in a state of limbo since approval (as I understand it) was still held up by the Army (whom I believe was more interested in the SRA) and who did not initially support the idea for Midway. Doolittle especially seems to have helped to break up the log jam here.

    I agree logistics/reinforcement played the greater role in the limitations of the Kido Butai, but they were in near constant use during the first 6 months when they were expanding their goals and with limitations in this regard had to have a degrading effect. At least I gained that impression from Midway by Fuchida/Okumiya.

    Again, I am not the expert and will bow to the sensai.
     
  12. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    The Battle of Midway could have been drawn out a bit. There were several small carriers with the northern task force sent to bomb Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. This force could have combined with the flat tops that the main force had left and pressed on. Of course the USS Saratoga was few days off, coming in from the US west coast to reinforce the Enterprise and Hornet. I don't think that there was much left in the way of aircraft on Midway to help out. This could have been hampered by the IJN and their fuel carrying ships and how long they could linger in the Midway area. Not sure how many oilers they had.
     
  13. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Having recently finished Shattered Sword, a few things strike me about the Japanese failure at Midway:
    - Yamamoto was inflexible with his plans. It seemed that no matter the situation at Midway. he expected things to be decided in his favor. The expectation that the American carriers would chase him willy-nilly was misguided at best.

    - Nagumo's reluctance to tell his superiors what was happening.

    - The division of forces between the Aleutians and Midway was a recipe for disaster, as was the division of Kido Butai into several groups that were too far apart to be of assistance.

    I'm sure that those more educated than I am will weigh in here, but these seem to be what I took away.
     
  14. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Shattered Sword is next in the reading rotation for me, as soon as I finish reading the book about Russell Volckmann and his guerrilla war in Luzon. Looking forward to it.
     
  15. OhneGewehr

    OhneGewehr New Member

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    Didn't know they used carrier planes for reconnaissance. Usually the cruisers with their floatplanes did that.

    After loosing all of their carriers, it is easy to call Yamamoto or Nagumo stupid. But were the events of the morning between the first attack on Midway and the hits on 3 japanese carriers not much more than a series of coincidences? Maybe, the Aleutians campaign was useless only because the real target was known. We don't know.
     
  16. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    Carrier Attack Planes (B5N Kates) were used by Zuikaku and Shokaku for reconnaissance on May 8th at Coral Sea, seven in total taken from Lundstrom's account in the First Team. This is especially surprising considering their Attack Squadrons had already taken such a beating from the disastrous evening strike the night before.

    All this would amount to the main strike against Lexington and Yorktown not having enough torpedo planes to successfully attack both carriers. The result was that Lexington took the brunt of their attention while Yorktown was attacked by a grand total of four.

    Its kinda surprising that they were willing to dilute that much of their strength to reconnaissance, considering Midway.
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Normally, they would not be, but the Tone & Chikuma with their long-range E13A1 floatplanes are still with the rest of Kido Butai in the Indian Ocean. So, Shokaku and Zuikaku are without there benefit.

    However, and sources vary as to service dates, the heavy cruisers, Myoko & Haguro, that accompanied the carriers at Coral Sea may have had one E13A1 a piece, I can't say with certainty. Then the question of operational availability arises.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    For the most part, early in the war, few cruisers, and few battleships, were equipped with the long-range Aichi E13A1 Jake. For the most part, they were equipped with the shorter ranged Kawanishi E7K or Nakajima E8N floatplanes. These were suitable for spotting duties, ASW work, or reconnaissance for "big gun" fleets, but were unsuited to the reconnaissance needs of a carrier fleet.
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    2 Squadrons of torpedo capable B-26s were in the process of flying into Hawaii on June 5th-6th, and could have flown off to Midway had it been deemed necessary. Of course it should be mentioned that the crews were green and had not really practiced torpedo drops before.
     
  20. DT1991

    DT1991 New Member

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    Wow I didn't even think about the fact Tone and Chikuma weren't with them. Even then if the sources for Myoko and Haguro's floatplanes are correct, the 5th Carrier Division would have had no choice but to use their own planes for recon.

    I feel like in retrospect B-26 bombers at Midway would have been better off carrying bombs. Doubt they would have hit anything but I feel like they would have had a better chance with them than torpedoes.
     

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