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Midway - PBY searches and the Flight to Nowhere

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by Carronade, Feb 18, 2018.

  1. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    .Part of the American strategy at Midway was to rely primarily on PBYs from Midway to detect the Japanese forces, allowing the carriers to concentrate on preparing for attack. This was particularly true for Enterprise and Hornet of TF16. And it worked in that PBYs flown by Lieutenants Chase and Ady spotted the Japanese carrier force approximately 200 miles NW of Midway. So here's my question: presumably they were intended to search out to their normal range of about 700 miles, so what did they do after spotting Kido Butai? I would think they would have worked their way around the Japanese force and continued their assigned searches - does anyone know if they did so? They don't appear to have sent followon reports as they presumably would if they lingered in the vicinity of Nagumo's force.

    This relates to the flight of Hornet's air group. Enterprise's Air Group 16 headed for the estimated position of the Japanese based on the PBY sighting reports, bearing approximately 239 degrees. Hornet's group took a heading of 265, apparently with the intention of searching for additional Japanese carriers (the initial sighting reports had identified only two)..Basically they were searching the area NW of Nagumo, which ought to have been covered by PBYs including Chase and Ady. Was there any reason to suspect that they PBYs had not adequately covered their assigned search area? Was there potentially a "blind spot" or "shadow zone" behind/NW of Kido Butai which justified Hornet's strike (less Torpedo 8) heading there instead of toward the known Japanese position?
     
  2. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    One thing when you are spotting is not being spotted spotting! Once you have spotted the enemy/Carrier force you should bug out as quietly as possible...
     
  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The PBYs, as per their orders, continued to carry out their searches.
     
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  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Thanks for your responses, gentlemen.
     
  5. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    They wanted to maintain the element of surprise, having the Japanese believe they weren't detected would be, and was huge.
     
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  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I believe that it had more to do with finding all of the Japanese naval forces converging on Midway, than maintaining any figment of not spotting the Japanese carriers. Remember, the Americans were expecting more carriers than had so far been located.
     
  7. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Doctrine at the time was spot, report & shadow. That continued for the VP community, for the most part, but there were some rather aggressive VP drivers out there. VS/VB searchers, by the fall of 1942, were in the spot, report, & attack mode, thus the difference between Sam Adams & Rocky Dickson finding, reporting, and briefly shadowing Hiryu at Midway and Birney Strong & Chuck Irvine searching out (albeit based on an earlier reported sighting), reporting, and then, just the two of them, attacking Zuiho at Santa Cruz. A mission kill, they put her flight deck out off commission with a 50 foot hole in the after portion. Zuiho would not again recover aircraft until shipyard repairs were complete in mid-December 1942.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  8. the_diego

    the_diego Member

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    But how do you "Ascertain ship types and maintain contact"?
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Ship types were ascertained visually, probably with the aid of binoculars on the larger patrol types with dedicated spotters, but often by guess and by God - ie. Guessing on size difference and appearance alone.

    Maintaing contact would be to stay within visual contact, but outside gun range. CAP complicated the equation, and the patrol plane would use clouds to their advantage by ducking in and out of them as necessary. If no cloud cover was availble, things could go south very quickly.
     
  10. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Practice, practice, practice.

    Bigger than a destroyer? Yes. Bigger than a cruiser, Yes. Must be a battleship (and no one really cares which one). Bigger than a destroyer? Yes. Bigger than a cruiser, No, must be a cruiser. Flat deck, little to no superstructure? Must be a carrier.

    Seriously, there were manuals with pictures, drawings, varying angles of view, yea even simply mimeograph (or whatever they called in the early 1940's) simple written out descriptions - I've a lovely original of one such from 1943 - that operators were required to study.

    This was not casual observation. The folks in the VP, and the VB/VS and, yes even the VT and VF communities spent a lot of time an effort on recognition.

    Maintaining contact meant either repeatedly popping over the horizon for a quick view or dodging from cloud bank to cloud bank with the purpose of maintaining that contact without getting blown away . . . sometimes some pretty high pucker factor work.
     
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  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Was that true? Were there standing orders to that effect? I would have thought that once a search aircraft had spotted a force on the surface it might have been expected to shadow the force unobtrusively as possible. The fleet might change direction. It would be embarrassing to send a strike force to the wrong place.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    It's a valid point, but sources like Shattered Sword mention that McCluskey and other flight leaders searching for Kido Butai had not received any updates since the original sighting reports.
     

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