Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Oct 5, 2011.
The Pearl Harbor Myth
Recommended. Not approved, but recommended.
Hey OP, I was meaning to ask you about this article. I read it last weekend and was wondering what your take would be. Is it too oversimplified?
It's a severe case of Monday Morning Quarterbacking with a side of "acute hindsight". Now hindsight can also be termed "Historical analysis" but only when it's done right.
I have the book and overall I believe he makes some valid points. the main one I like is that the Japanese did not bother to sink the cruisers and destroyers. Operations could have been curtailed if the carriers did not have enough escorts and would Guadalcanal have gone as well if there was a lack of cruisers and destroyers? There was definite overkill on the Weevee and Oklahoma. I personally believe the Japanese would have been better served drawing the fleet out in a Midway operation It is puzzling for an admiral like Yamamoto who was called a modern thinker to obsess over BB's so much
It's worth the few minutes it took to read it, but I have to agree with OP; it's easier to get everything right in hindsight than when you're zipping across a hostile harbor trying to pick out warship silhouettes against a background of cranes, buildings, etc.
Ironically the "day before the strike, Japanese intelligence report that there were no carriers in Pearl Harbor" was not an accurate prediction of what they could expect to find on Dec 7. Enterprise was scheduled to be right where Matsumara's B5Ns were looking for her; the
"hope that the carriers might return in the few hours remaining before the attack" and the unchanged plan were the reasonable estimate, undone only by the weather which delayed Halsey's task force. There was an inherent unpredictability in the plan.
The US Navy had 27 modern cruisers on Dec 7 of which 16 were in the Pacific Fleet, 6 in Pearl Harbor (2 others in the Asiatic Fleet). Pacific operations in 1942, excluding the Far East, involved 25 cruisers includeing 3 Australian and the four new Atlantas. 7 of 9 modern CA/CLs in the Atlantic were able to remain there through Operation Torch (the old Omaha class CLs were not involved in any major operation). The one modern cruiser seriously damaged at Pearl Harbor, Helena, was back in action by October. How much would a few more hits on cruisers really impact the war?
Phoenix was the only other modern cruiser exposed to torpedo attack, although she was not in the path of either torpedo attack group. Honolulu, St. Louis, San Francisco, and New Orleans were docked close together in the Navy Yard and suffered only minor damage. This cluster might have been a good bombing target, but damaged ships would likely have been repaired in time for the Solomons campaign when the need for cruisers first became critical. Incidentally these were among the most well-protected cruisers in the world at that time - anyone know if a 250kg GP bomb could penetrate 2" deck armor?
What about putting a few torpedos in them? The one thing I get from the book is that the attack was a total waste in that the effort did not permanently knock out enough ships.
The paradox of the attack is that it was never going to succeed in its mission. The Japanese talked themselves into thinking it was a good idea, but realistically all it was going to do was make the US uber angry.
The above renders logic about the attack tenuous at best. It's easy to get bollixed over the concept, but a cold analysis would say that the Japanese just shot themselves in the foot.
Perhaps, the Japanese would have been better off if they had brought along an invasion force and landed it.
We've fought that out quite a bit here, I think. The IJN could not have supported the troops properly, and rule of thumb would have required at least six divisions to have parity with the defenders, just parity not an advantage. And it would have been another occupation force that would have needed supply.
Opana: Received, Read, and Approved. I'll go back to fishing from my midget submarine now...
As noted, only two modern cruisers, Phoenix and Helena, were exposed to torpedo attack. Hitting them would have been more useful than Utah or the last few torpedos into Oklahoma, if the Japanese pilots had been able to make under pressure the assessments that seem so obvious to us today. But again, how much difference would two cruisers make? Helena was out of action for most of 1942 as it was and Phoenix does not seem to have taken part in any significant actions. After the Russian war of 1904-5 the Japanese knew perfectly well that most ships hit or sunk inside a major naval base would eventually return to action, and by 1943 a whole new navy's worth of battleships, cruisers, carriers, etc. were flowing out of American yards.
One amusing thought - the Japanese torpedos were set for capital ships, for example one passed under Oglala to hit Helena. There were two groups of destroyers tied up alongside tenders in the eastern part of Pearl Harbor. A torpedo might pass under the destroyers and explode against the side of the tender, under a solid mass of DDs, a potentially devastating effect.
The two groups of torpedo planes were targeted against the two sides of Ford Island, where battleships and carriers (when present) were moored. Helena was right in the path of those attacking from the NW who saw no worthwhile targets on the 'carrier' side of Ford Island, so it's not surprising that she was attacked. Phoenix and the destroyer tenders were anchored away from the torpedo planes' flight path, less likely to catch their eyes.
The several groups of nested DDs might also have been good targets for the 250kg GP bombs of the second wave D3As, but they were after bigger game.
World War II magazine had a long article this month about this very subject.
The article lists several problems including disagreements with target selection, poor rehearsal, lack of contingency if ships were not in the harbor and poor communications between attack aircraft.
Then there was the problem of poor coordination during the attack. They misidentified the Oglala and of 10 planes to attack it, only one hit. Of the 16 torps assigned to attack the carriers, 11 attacked low value targets, such as the Utah.
The article also addressed overkill. Of the 19 torp hits on the battleships, 2 of the vessels were hit by 12 of those 19, nearly 2/3 of the hits. As it worked out, only 1/3 of the torps launched were effective.
The second wave continued to pound the battleships with the largely ineffective bombs instead of going after other targets. Regardless, they only landed 19% of the dive bombs on target, a very poor showing.
The final total was the loss of only 5 of the 16 primary targets attacked, when they had the ordinance to easily sinking nearly all.
Another useful target would have been the fleet oiler Neosho, moored to a pier on Battleship Row between California and Maryland/Oklahoma. She was the newest, largest, and fastest of just three oilers then available to the Pacific Fleet and IIRC was fully loaded. Lack of oilers was a major problem for the USN in the first months of the war. If one of the later B5Ns had realized that Oklahoma had had enough, he might have struck a valuable blow, but logistics was never the IJN's strong point, and a young pilot probably the least likely to appreciate it.
Wasn't the Oglala sunk because of a hit on the ship ahead of her at the pier? As I understand it she was raised and found to be undamaged (later leading to speculation that her seams had opened from a shock.) When one of the chiefs was asked about this apparent mystery he is reported to have said, "Well, I guess the old girl died of fright.)
The article might actually be referring to Utah. It's in the stack but there are many things ahead of it.
Oglala was moored outboard of Helena, common practice. After the hit on Helena it was evident that Oglala was in danger of sinking, so she was pulled forward or aft, not sure, and tied directly to the pier. This kept Helena from being pinned when Oglala capsized shortly thereafter.
Thanks. I do forget the exact details at times, my ALZ has Alzheimer's I think.
Minor Correction; Helena was escorting USS Long Island to Guadalcanal in August.
That's why I've said that the true turning point of the war was Pearl Harbor. The Japanese might have won a few battles after this point, but the true turning point was the day they enraged the arsenal of democracy. It was a strategic blunder of catastrophic proportions for that regime.
You're right, according to the Navy's history site she completed repairs in June of 1942 and returned to the Pacific. She also rescued the survivors from the Wasp when she was torpedoed on 15 Sept 42.
I'm currently working with a gentleman in Tokyo, helping him with his Ph.D. project, a Japanese analysis of the "Magic" intercepts. We have had a few quite long discussions over the interpretation of the messages by the Americans. Sato-san says he can tell where a person learned their Japanese by the English words they chose to use, at least in some cases. This level of complexity of language is fascinating to me. I admit to only modest understanding of the American English I used daily and I've never spent 20 minutes deciding if I will use "should" or "could" in a sentence. My hat is off to the folks in DC who had to make those kind of calls quickly while knowing that the fate of millions might hinge on their snap decisions.
My point, rambled toward with such glacial speed, is that the Japanese language, IMHO, reflects the thinking of the people who use it, complex, convoluted, and multi-dimensional. It's also something of a trap from what I've observed because they can talk themselves into a position that they can't back out of, and going to war in 1941 was one of the worst traps they stepped into.
It would have required almost all of Japans merchant fleet to carry and supply an invasion force. The army refused to supply the troops that would be needed, the Navy did not have enough troops. Japan had no landing vessels that could make the trip. The invasion force that landed at Wake was all but wiped out.