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New Movie Alert! "Midway", coming November 2019!

Discussion in 'WWII Films & TV' started by George Patton, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. EKB

    EKB Member

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    This turning point talk comes down to semantics. One could also argue that end of Imperial Japan was decided by a plan to bomb Pearl Harbor.

    The rapid loss of four aircraft carriers was serious, but not a deciding blow because Japan did not surrender until more than three years later. They were worn down by attrition over time. One immediate result of Midway was that Japan had to scale back efforts against New Guinea and Australia, but that does not mean they were content to stop attacking and simply fall back. Otherwise the Battle of the Bismarck Sea would not be necessary. Likewise the war in the CBI was a bit more than a skirmish.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    After Midway the IJN was no longer capable of large scale offensives. How long it took them to surrender is irrelevant as to whether or not it was decisive. It did shape the naval war in the Pacific. While the meat grinder of the Solomon's seriously attrited the IJN in ships, planes, and men it wouldn't have been possible without Midway. Midway IMO was more important than Leyte Gulf and at least arguably deserves the title of decisive.
     
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  3. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    How did I miss this?

    Not decisive? The IJN was not able mount large scale offensive naval operations for two years after Midway and by the time they could, they were well behind the curve and more or less fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. They essentially could do nothing to stop the raids before and during the taking of the Marshall's and had to abandon Truk, the major Japanese fleet anchorage in the South Pacific, after devastating raids raids in early 1944 because they still lacked sufficient naval arm to challenge the US 5th Fleet.

    I would argue that the Battle of the Philippine Sea was actually more decisive than Leyte Gulf, as it destroyed the carefully husbanded naval air forces that led to Ozawa being used as bait for the US 3rd Fleet instead of the striking arm of the Japanese attack.

    The other guys above also make stong, salient points in favor of Midway as the decisive battle of the Pacific war.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
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  4. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I agree that Midway was decisive. In 8 of my WW2 books, one specifically focusing on the war between the Allies and Japan, I have yet to read that Midway wasn't decisive, or at the very least a massive momentum swing in the favor of the allies. Leyte Gulf insured that the IJN was no longer an organized effective force, Midway was the moment the IJN began to fall apart.......that sound pretty decisive to me.......
     
  5. EKB

    EKB Member

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    I guess I'm outgunned here, but you might want to look at the full list of U.S. shipwrecks at Iron Bottom Sound. It was largely prompted by victory disease from Midway, complacency, and a false sense of superiority over Japan. No carriers were sunk during the Battle of Savo Island but the outcome was a huge embarrassment for the U.S. Navy. It could have been much worse if Mikawa was more aggressive about attacking Allied transport ships.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2019
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm careful about using the term "decisive" but I think it works for Midway in WWII. Arguably the most deceive battle was PH as it put the US and Japan on a course that could only lead to total defeat for one or the other and the odds were clearly against Japan. The battles on and around Guadalcanal are IMO on the same order in many ways as Midway. Embarrassing perhaps but the IJN took losses they couldn't afford and the US learned lessons they needed and could recover from the losses. Which of the two is more important depends on the criteria one uses in making that determination. in any case both were important nails in the coffin of Imperial Japan and ones that only PH and the Philippine Sea are comparable to.
     
  7. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Mikawa cut short his foray into "Iron Bottom" sound, because he feared US carrier airpower with the coming of daylight. If Japan had available the four carriers lost at Midway, they could have been on station northeast of Guadalcanal and could have provided aircover for Mikawa's task force if it had remained in the waters around Guadalcanal and finished it's task. Given how badly the Marines ashore on Guadalcanal suffered with the additional men, equipment and supplies landed on the 9th, how much worse would it have been had Mikawa sunk those assets? Something he would likely have attempted if he had carrer air cover.
    The four "lost" carriers in conjunction with the carriers Japan historically committed to the battle would have made resupply and reinforcement a much harder task. The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, would have most likely have been a Japanese victory with the four extra carriers.
    Henderson Field would have been neutralized if the four were available. Japan's two biggest obstacles were: 1.)The long distance from Rabaul to Guadalcanal where they would face defensive fighter aircraft, any damaged aircraft or wounded pilots had little hope of making the long trip back. This led to high attrition. 2.) The need for naval units to make the run down the slot during hours when they couldn't be interdicted by aircraft from Henderson. They needed to remain outside of interdiction range until it was dark enough to prevent allied aircraft from flying. Then they hurried down the slot to execute their mission, but needed to head back up the slot with enough darkness remaining that they could get back out of interdiction range.
    With the four carriers they could have sailed capital units down the slot to bombard Henderson and they could have hung around long enough to insure the job was done. Then carrier air could have hit Henderson at dawn before the air units out of Rabaul could have hoped to arrive, keeping it out of action. Then when the airstrikes from Rabaul arrived they wouldn't have to deal with enemy fighters. Any losses would be strictly due to AA fire, which wouldn't have been much since ammo would be scarce because re-supply would be virtually impossible in the face of round the clock Japanese control of the surrounding waters. The attrition to Japanese ground forces due to lack of supply would have been reduced and reinforcements could have arrived intact. The Marines would have eventually been forced to scatter and conduct a guerilla campaign (something Vandegrift actually contemplated ordering during a particularly low point in the campaign). The hit to the public's morale with the loss of the 1st Marine Division and the ships expended trying to support them at Guadalcanal, would have had far reaching strategic repercussions. Either, Roosevelt would have been forced to abandon the Europe first strategy due to public sentiment, or some type of negotiations with Japan to end the war. I think the former more likely than the latter. If the former were the case, then Operation Torch would probably be cancelled and the resources redirected to the Pacific. Husky/Sicily would probably be a no go as well. The Japanese would probably complete the airfield at Guadalcanal and interdict the supply line to Australia. They could quite likely make holding the New Hebrides problematic or untenable as well.
    More likely, Roosevelt would stick to the Europe first strategy. Operation Watchtower/Guadalcanal would not take place, Japan would solidify it's hold on the Solomons and build numerous airfields/bases down the chain. Australia would be under the gun until probably early 1944, with all available assets used to hold on to New Guinea. The Central Pacific Campaign probably wouldn't happen. The drive towards Japan harder, slower and bloodier, and probably dragging on into 1947.
     
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  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Japan: 3 years to put a combat pilot on the line.
    US : 2 years.

    They lost too many pilots at Midway to win.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Without Midway I don't see an invasion of Guadalcanal at least in 42.

    Shattered Sword suggested that IJN pilot losses at Midway were actually pretty reasonable. The ground crew losses were actually more of a problem. The pilot losses in the Solomon's on the other hand were prohibitive. Japan's pilot training system not only took it's time though it wasn't easily modified to ramp up pilot training i.e it wasn't just time but numbers
     
  10. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Not sure if all the statistics from this Wiki article are accurate, but the author insists that the IJN continued to hold sway after Midway ...

    Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II - Wikipedia
     
  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The US was fighting on several nautical fronts, allowing the Japanese to run the western Pacific, for a time.
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Bob, I think you are correct. The sinking of the Japanese carriers proved to be significant. As hard pressed as the Marines were at Guadalcanal, I can't imagine how much different the outcome would have been had the IJN had those carriers. Your later post lays out some interesting changes that would have occurred. Well said.
     
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  13. Stuka1942

    Stuka1942 Member

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    Basically, what I see, is that Midway stopped the period of Japanese hegemony. What followed (the last half of 1942) was a period of about 6 months of relative stalemate, but the U.S. gambled on starting the Guadalcanal counter-offensive at that point. It was the right call, despite the considerable losses (especially naval) that they would incur, because they were already outbuilding the IJN, and had lots of new ships in the pipeline. By early 1943, with Guadalcanal won, they went on from offensive campaign to campaign across the Pacific. The later Pacific naval and air showdowns that we are debating about, just re-affirmed U.S. superiority. The fact of the many ships in the pipeline, and a colossal air build up, meant that Japan already had no realistic way to compete, because U.S. losses would always be replaceable, but not so for the Japanese. As well, the U.S. had a much larger and faster infrastructure to train pilots, and this was also a chokepoint for the Japanese that they could not rectify. For them, pilot losses (esp. carrier air) became irreplaceable.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    As far as they go they are correct but IMO somewhat misleading. For instance some of the smaller carriers couldn't or didn't operate first line aircraft. Those were also in short supply and the IJN lost essentially all the air craft on the carriers. Then Shokaku was still under repair from the Battle of the Coral Sea. Then there's the logistics impacts. Japan used a significant fraction of the IJN fuel supply in the Midway op. Indeed if you look at:
    Oil and Japanese Strategy in the Solomons: A Postulate
    There's a pretty good argument that the fuel situation is also limiting Japanese offensive actions. Combine this with the mental shock of both the Doolittle raid and the losses at Midway and Japan and Japan really wasn't in position to comit to any major offensive operations after Midway. Had they won that would hardly be the case.
    Here's a good article on whether Midway or the Solomon's should be considered the "turning point":
    Oil and Japanese Strategy in the Solomons: A Postulate
    I'm not completely convinced that either should be or perhaps both should in any case it's clear that these two battles pretty much destroyed the IJN's offensive capability and the Solomon's wouldn't have happened without Midway. In summary if any battles of the Pacific war are to be considered "decisive" Midway has a strong claim on being one of them.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'm surprised that such a simple event has caused so much controversy.

    Same with the atomic bombs.





    :p
     
  16. EKB

    EKB Member

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    Would it not be more reasonable to suppose that U.S. industry was the deciding factor of the Pacific war?

    By October 1942 the carriers Lexington, Yorktown, Wasp, and Hornet were sunk. We could go through an exercise of cataloging all possible actions the U.S. Navy could take if that didn’t happen. :)

    The point is that the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet was seriously weakened and this is why USAAF and RAAF planes had to stand in for naval power in the Bismarck Sea. Japan had no major fleet commitment to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. But the British constantly demanded more warships from the USA, especially carriers. The next large U.S. carrier was Essex CV-9 and this one did not join the battle until August 1943.

    Admiral Mikawa did not need help from Japanese carriers to score a lopsided victory at Savo Island. Had Mikawa been informed about the withdrawal of U.S. carriers, he would have attacked the transports at anchor. This probably would have compelled the U.S. Navy to delay or abandon plans for the Solomons. Mikawa should have taken the risk regardless of what he knew about U.S. aircraft because Japan had no chance of winning a long war of attrition.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  17. Stuka1942

    Stuka1942 Member

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    This turning point talk comes down to semantics. One could also argue that end of Imperial Japan was decided by a plan to bomb Pearl Harbor.

    Well, sure, but this misses the point. The same logic could be used to say that Germany lost the war as soon as it was certain that Moscow would not fall in 1941. That would be because the combined economics, industrial capacity and access to resources of the British Empire, the U.S. (who were clearly backing the Allies, even while "neutral"), and the Soviet Union were stacked against the Axis, such that they could not win a long, protracted war. (Early capture of Moscow, is a benchmark that most historians agree, would destroy the Stalin dictatorship, thus keeping the war short or at least, manageable, for Germany.)


    Would it not be more reasonable to suppose that U.S. industry was the deciding factor of the Pacific war?

    Here again, yes, the economics etc. are definitely against the Axis - in this case, Japan. But clearly it would not do, for the Allies to contact the Axis as soon as Moscow held in 1941, or on the day after Pearl Harbor, and demand that the Axis nation in question surrender, by pointing out that the economics of the war were now against them. Just because the Allies SHOULD win, does not mean the issue was not still in doubt. In war, regardless of the economics, there still remains the necessity of a difficult, costly and time-consuming effort to impose ones will on the enemy.


    In discussing what is decisive, we are talking about strategic and grand strategic issues. (Although I applaud the wealth of detail some have added to the discussion, they are mostly pointing out operational issues that do not decisively change the overall situation.) We know that the Axis used the element of surprise, for example, catching enemy air power on the ground and destroying it, when they started the war (be it in Sept.'39 or Dec. '41). In addition to surprise, the Axis had the benefit of a military build-up prior to war starting. The result was that they started with the initiative. It is a basic axiom of war, that they would continue to run with the initiative until either: they won the war, or: until they lost a battle that decisively swung the balance. In other words, a battle that not only stopped their momentum, but also allowed the other side to run with it. I don't know how anyone can dispute that this turning point was Midway in the Pacific. It happened earlier than anyone expected, even before the superior U.S. economics had really reached or made a difference on the front line, mainly thanks to the U.S. intel bonanza. That this U.S. momentum was very TENTATIVE at first, is well documented by the difficulties and mistakes made by the navy in trying to keep Guadalcanal supplied. The operation was aptly named SHOESTRING. Meanwhile, their loss of momentum caught the Japanese unprepared, having to improvise reinforcement of Guadalcanal by use of destroyer runs, with forces that had been intended for New Guinea.

    The original IJN plan had been to win a large & annihilating naval showdown with the U.S., then sit back in the fortified Pacific Perimeter defenses, in hopes the U.S. would tire of the effort, and make a compromise peace. (This is pretty "iffy" strategic planning.) In the event, Pearl Harbor was not the annihilating showdown that the Japanese hoped for, mainly because they failed to stay and finish the job. They failed to catch the U.S. Carrier Fleet in port (just bad luck), they failed to destroy the Tank Farm (holding the U.S. Pacific Fleet's fuel oil reserves!), and they failed to actually eliminate most of the BB's that they deemed "sunk" (because the harbor was shallow, and many ships repairable). With the island's defenses in turmoil (after the air strikes), the Japanese would have been smart to land infantry from transports, and they could likely have taken Hawaii. That such infantry were historically elsewhere (clearing the Pacific Perimeter) is true, but they could have then completed those operations at their leisure, later. As it was executed, the Pearl Harbor operation was important because it bought time for the Japanese to clear the Perimeter. But regardless of possible Hawaii outcomes, the operation would not be decisive, because it would not reverse the underlying economics that were against Japan succeeding. There is no doubt that capture of Hawaii would have made it much more difficult for the U.S. to wrest momentum away from Japan. (Only in the very unlikely event that the U.S. would eventually make a compromise peace, could such an operation at Hawaii be called decisive.)

    After Midway, the Japanese forces were in disarray. They were in a state of strategic over-stretch. They needed to build up strength, consolidate supply lines, and re-organize for any further offensives. A pause was desirable, but if choosing to continue to push, it would have to be an improvised effort (and therefore, a not very effective effort). Had they still had the momentum, this would not have been a problem - but they lost it at Midway. After the war, and before executed, Tojo admitted that there was never a plan to invade Australia (no troops available for it). The best they could do was try to interdict supply lines to Australia. They made a half-assed attempt at India in spring '42, but did not have enough troops for that, and had bad supply lines through the jungles of Burma. The majority of troops were still in China, the rest trying to subdue and guard their gains in the Dutch East Indies and Philippines. They were spread all over, and even added the Aleutians to the list, as an attempt to divert U.S. forces from Midway. (In the event, they had simply diverted a small portion of their own strength from Midway - and added to their supply difficulties.)

    The whole war, the Japanese chased this idea of an annihilating sea battle. When Pearl Harbor failed to be it, they tried to make the Midway operation be it. When that failed, they continued in vain to manipulate events and hope to achieve it. Others have mentioned Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf as decisive. Not so. They were important large air/sea battles, but they changed nothing. The U.S. had momentum before them, and had even more of the initiative after them. The only way these could be decisive, would be if the Japanese actually achieved their dream of making them "annihilating" (to the enemy). The U.S. would have had to be pretty incompetent (and the Japs pretty damn lucky) to have these turn into Jap victories. Midway was the turning point, pure and simple.

     
  18. Stuka1942

    Stuka1942 Member

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    I should probably add that timing was crucial. Enough further reverses in 1942, might have prompted peace talks from the U.S.A. with Japan, because U.S. economic advantages had not really had time to kick in, yet. Such a compromise peace with Japan would still probably ONLY happen if the Germans had simultaneously managed to do even better (than historically they did), in the ETO, prompting the U.S. to go with a "Europe Only" strategy. When we talk of these later showdowns in the Pacific, even an "annihilating" result by Japan might have done little to dissuade the U.S., because the ETO was stable by then, and the economics of 1944/45 were massively in Allied favor.
     
  19. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Early in the war some of the smaller carriers operated B4Ys or A5Ms, but this was because the newer types were not available in sufficient numbers. The fighters on Shoho at Coral Sea and Zuiho at Midway were a mix of A5Ms and A6Ms, but after that AFAIK the small carriers flew entirely A6Ms and B5N carrier attack planes.

    I am not aware of the IJN using D3As on light carriers, and I suspect this was for the same reason the USN ceased flying SBDs from CVLs and CVEs. The D3A's wings only folded for a couple of feet at the wingtip (SBDs didn't fold at all) so they took up considerably more space in the hangars than torpedo bombers. Also, probably a secondary consideration, it was easier not to have too many different types in a small air group.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2019
  20. Stuka1942

    Stuka1942 Member

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    I also see that posts elsewhere are debating if Hawaii could have been taken by the Japs, after their airstrikes. Maybe it could, maybe it couldn't be. Had they been lucky enough to catch the U.S. Carriers there, their chances would improve. IMO, it was worth a try!!! As executed, the Pearl Harbor plan only amounted to limited potential for success. Had they brought loaded transports, the Japs may have taken it, which represents planning for the best possible outcome. The cost would have been to ignore the Philippines, for the moment. (They could not ignore the oil of the East Indies, they needed it long-term, so the sooner the better.) Some propose that this oil would have been interdicted by the U.S. forces left behind in the Philippines. But I would counter that the Philippines was pretty much weak and abandoned, even historically WITH Hawaii in U.S. hands. Without Hawaii, the Philippines was even more isolated and interdicted, themselves. Without Hawaii, maybe the U.S. forces in the Philippines would have been ordered out with anything that could get out, (not just MacArthur). Also, the East Indies oil installations were not usable immediately, and needed repair before much oil would flow. With Hawaii possibly Japanese, I don't think the weak forces in the Philippines were much danger to the overall Jap position, and could be dealt with soon after Hawaii.
     

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