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Refighting the Pacific War - Alternate History and the Battle of Midway

Discussion in 'Alternate History' started by Otto, Feb 16, 2016.

  1. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Here is an excellent video concerning alternate history produced by the excellent Pritzker Military Museum & Library (which I'll add is based in Chicago). There is a very good discussion on alternate history (aka counter-factual history) with three solid historical researchers and authors. It's just 25 minutes but worth every second to those who wish to post in this section. You'll notice they spend most of their time discussing actual history rather than trying to find a way to have the Axis win WW2. Their arguments are well researched and based upon critical thinking. Take note and follow suit if you want your alternate history premise to get approveed and discussed here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWeKC-xNNQU
     
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  2. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Good video, well worth the watch. One thing worth noting is that at least two of the three experts see alternate history as a good way to understand factual history because it makes you look critically at each of the factors that contributed to the actual event. I do agree with Lundstrom, in that alternate history needs to be based on a sound historical foundation, not as he says, "what if Napoleon had a B-52 at Waterloo."
     
  3. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    That B-52 at Waterloo line gave me a good laugh, while the "alternate history needs to be based on a sound historical foundation" is the line that raised my eyebrow and was the reason I posted the discussion here.

    This thread is now pinned.
     
  4. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    very, very good !! thank you ....as stated on the Forum before --think realistically, not movies, TV, maps , etc....think weather, terrain, logistics, humans, SNAFU, movement, enemy capability, time constraints, etc...ie they talk about the-- ''mechanics'' and time constraints of launching a strike .....this has been stated before on the Forum
    one of the words they use is ''unknowable''...some things are unknowable, --if so, that must be stated....
    the enemy will not be a snowman, frozen in place--as some 'real life' generals have found out the hard way
     
  5. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Great video, the idiots at History Channel should take a page or two from this.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm not sure about that. If they only took a page or two they would likely demonstrate again how they could muck it up.
     
  7. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    True, those people couldn't make a decent documentary even if their lives depended on it. :p
     
  8. Otto

    Otto Spambot Nemesis Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I'm very much appreciating the effort to put these sorts of lectures online. There is a tonne of really good historical research being done by some great writers, it's great to get a taste of their efforts in a concise 30 or 60 minute presentation is ca listen to on the way to work.There is of course a lot of trash out there, but when you can find the gems it's well worth the effort.
     
  9. mjölnir

    mjölnir New Member

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    As usuall, the introductcion about the battle of Midway is extremely short and misses many fascinating facts:
    1) A USN fleet carrier was lost in the Coral Sea (which would have been very valuable in Midway) and no Japanese fleet carrier was sunk in the Coral Sea, probably because Rooosevelt insisted on two fleet carriers sailing all the way to within 700 miles from Japan, so that 16 bombers could drop 16 t of bombs and then be destroyed. While naval aviators in the carriers acquired no experience during a critical period. The Doolitle raid also involved 4 cruisers and 8 destroyers at a time that cargo ships were being sunk at an alarmming rate along the east coast during the U-boat second happy times, for lack of escorts to form convoys.
    Had Roovevelt let Nimitz deploy these invaluable ships (top admirals know better than presidents, regarding asset deployment), Nimitz would most likely have sent at least one of the new carriers to the Coral Sea along with the 2 oldest carriers. If two old carriers sank an IJN escort carrier and very heavily damaged Shokaku, then 3 or 4 fleet carriers would probably have sunk Shokaku (one more bomb or torpedo would probably have done it) and Zuikaku and escorting ships and the pilots of the new carriers would have acquired invaluable experience for Midway. Most importantly, a larger CAP and more targets available would probably have resorted in Lexington incurring less damage, so that its cast iron fuel lines would not rupture and the carrier would not be lost, so she would be avialable for Midway. Even if Lexington had sunk, there would have been more carriers to receive its planes. With more carries in Midway, Yorktown would probably not have been sunk and several escorting ships would also have been sunk, so that fewer of the carrier crews could have been rescued to fight another day.

    2) It is incredible that having the possibility of deploying stronger a large number of land based, even multi engine bombers & fighters with very long range from Midway, that none of these bombers placed a single bomb or torpedo in any carrier. Incredibly, the bombers had little chance of placing a bomb or torpedo and incurred many losses and heavy damage, because not a single fighter plane escorted them. Moreover, the outdated SB2U dive bombers (many of whose green marine pilots had never dive bombed) did not drop their 500 lb bombs on the vulnerable carriers, but attacked an invulnerable battelships instead. Although there were both army and navy planes in the Midway runways, only a surpringly poorly chosen assortment was there. Although the Japanese force attacking Alaska was known to be a diversion and a much smaller force, P-38 were deployed there but not in Midway, which was to face the much stronger main force.
    Ironically and surreally, one of the 16 B-25 wasted in the Doolitle raid, did score a hit on carrier Ryuho under construction, despite carrying a small bomb load owing to the great distance. Therefore, the 16 planes of the Doolittle raid damaged more ships than the large force from Midway, flying a short distance (which allows more bombs) and which included B-17, B-26, TBF, SB2U, etc,

    3) Saratoga had come out of repairs, improvements and rearming before the battle of Midway and with good planning, her panes could have flown to her in Bremerton, instead of she saiing to San Diego to pick them up and to await for an admiral, who was less necessary for the battle fo Midway than Saratoga herself. Irocanically, while there was no hurry deploying Sara to Midway, there was a frantic and heroic effort to repair battered Yorktown to send her to Midway, still undergoing repairs along the way.

    4) Having invaluable intelligence specifying the strength, direction and time of arrival of the enemy and having 2 available, old battleships (wasted patrolling the west coast), Nimitz did not deploy them west of Midway, which would have attracted and shot down several planes with powerful AAA, whose strong armor made them much less vulnerable to the 250 kg bombs of the Val and to strafing than were the carriers or the forces in Midway and whose guns would be useful to finish off damegd ships or to sink IJN battleships or cruisers trying to shell Midway at night.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    You are neglecting the fact that Doolittle's raid obviously had some naval backing and had a profound impact on the war. As for Coral Sea while no IJN fleet carriers were sunk a light carrier was and two fleet carriers were out of action during a critical period.

    It's not at all incredible that 4 engine planes had trouble hitting the carriers at Midway. They were well defended and not available as targets for more than a few hours. What's more some of the 4 engine planes were kept on recon duty or attacked other targets. The only torpedo hit by a US plane during the Midway campaign was from a PBY by the way.

    There was little reason to expect that Saratoga would be needed in a rush so normal procedures were followed. That is not an indicator of poor planning. Since by the time it was clear she would be useful it was also clear she couldn't make it there was indeed no rush.

    The old battleships weren't available for similar reasons. To even get to from the West Coast to PH is going to take them almost a week at top speed and twice that time at their cruising speed and over almost another 3 days again at top speed to get to Midway. The carriers barly got there ahead of the IJN sub screen. The battleships wouldn't have.
     
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  11. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Good point and add to that the fact that Hornfischer covered well in "Neptune's Inferno", the old BB's were fuel hogs and the US Navy lacked the tankers to support them at this point in the war. In fact they still lacked them several months later when they were desperately needed during the Guadalcanal campaign, but were still sitting off the US West Coast.

    A raid that provided a profound morale boost for the US population and military and just as profound a shock to the Japanese. In "Shattered Sword" the authors make a good case that the Doolittle raid was the straw that broke the camels back and led Yamamoto to push for the Midway operation so he could once and for all destroy the pesky American carriers.

    Not incredible, high altitude heavy bombers proved notoriously poor at hitting Japanese shipping.
     
  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Didn't the Doolittle raid also convince the Japanese to retain airgroups in the home islands to guard against another such raid, thus denying their use elsewhere? That probably made an impact at Guadalcanal and later campaigns in the south and central Pacific.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Are you familiar with the Pacific War at all?

    - During the time preceding the Doolittle Raid, the focus of Japanese activity was in the Indian Ocean, and at the time, no Japanese offensive was seen to be in the offing in the SoWestPac area.
    - The Doolittle Raid directly resulted in the Battle of Midway taking place when and where it did. Prior to that, Yamamoto had been facing many challenges to this plan. After, the Doolittle Raid, all opposition to his plan evaporated.
    - ..."probably because Rooosevelt insisted on two fleet carriers sailing all the way to within 700 miles from Japan, so that 16 bombers could drop 16 t of bombs and then be destroyed." Glosses over quite a bit, namely that the b-25 bombers were to have flown on to airfields in Southern China, the plan never called for them being destroyed.
    - The naval aviators acquired no experience during this critical time??? The USS Enterprise had already struck the Japanese held islands in the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, Wake Island, and Marcus Island between February & March, 1942. While the newly commissioned USS Hornet could not exercise her air group while the B-25s were still aboard, the Hornet's crew was receiving plenty of time in learning the intricacies of their new ship.
    - Using the 4 Cruisers & 8 destroyers as ASW escorts on the East Coast??? Apparently, you have no clue as to what you are saying here. The cruisers are utterly useless as ASW escorts since they all lacked sonar suites and any ASW weapons. As to 8 destroyers, well, that was a drop in the bucket, since the Eastern Sea Frontier had requested 31 destroyers be permanently assigned to them - Rather than the standard practice of assigning destroyers on a temporary basis(of which 20-some destroyers came and went through the Eastern Sea Frontier in April, 1942).


    - Nimitz did send one of the new carriers to Coral Sea, the USS Yorktown. The two "oldest" carriers in the Pacific were the USS Lexington & USS Saratoga...The Saratoga was undergoing repairs and modernization at the time of Coral Sea and did not participate in the action. So, there was one "old" & one "new" fleet carrier at the Coral Sea battle.
    - Given the USS Hornet's "flight to nowhere" at the Battle of Midway, there exists the possibility that the majority of her planes may not have found the Japanese carriers at Coral Sea.
    - The ability of the CAP to intercept incoming enemy aircraft was dependent on the quality of the fighter controllers. So, just because there is the possibility of more fighters for CAP, it will not necessarily translate into a more effective CAP.
    - What is you source for cast iron AVGAS lines? AFAIK, the cast iron lines were the fire mains that were installed while the ship was still planned as a battlecruiser.
    - More carriers to receive Lexington planes? This is utter tosh on your part. Up until the time of the 1247 explosion, there was no need to transfer planes to other carriers, as the ship had been brought back on an even keel, the fires had been put out or otherwise controlled, and the Lexington was able to and did conduct flight operations.


    - The B-17s were dropping their bombs from between 8,000 & 12,000 feet against a moving & maneuvering target. What would have been incredible, is if the multi-engine bombers actually hit their target. The odds were stacked well against the high-altitude bombers hitting their target.
    - Distance to the Japanese carriers precluded the use of fighter escorts. However, several American pilots from Midway did get into a position to score a hit on the Japanese, they just didn't.
    - The outdated SB2U Vinidicator was problematic when used as a dive-bomber, because it had no dive brakes to help keep dive speed down and maintain control. Standard practice was to drop the wheels to try and keep the speed down, but even then, pulling out was a struggle at best.
    - The Marine pilots were not "green" pilots. Those that had never dive-bombed were the ones flying the SBD-2s, having recently converted from the SB2U and they had very few hours time-in-type.
    - The SB2Us attacked battleship Haruna, because they were being heavily attacked by Japanese CAP, and searching out a Japanese carrier would likely have led to the loss of the group, so they attacked the target at hand.
    - The P-38s were deployed to Alaska because they could fly there from their location at Paine Field, Washington. The P-38s could not fly from Paine Field, Washington, to Midway Island. Use some common sense...


    - A Midway-based PBY put a torpedo into the oiler Akebono Maru.
    - The B-25 faced little to no opposition while making their attacks. They also carried 2,000 pounds of bombs, hardly "small".


    - "Good" planning or "20/20 hindsight" planning? Nimitz had ordered the USS Saratoga to expedite her refit on May 12, 1942, so as to be ready to sail for Pearl on June 5th.
    - The USS Yorktown would have sailed immediately for Bremerton, Washington had she proved to have been more damaged than she was.


    - Ummm...There were 7 battleships, not 2.
    - Nimitz did not deploy them to Midway because there was no carrier available to provide air cover for the battleships, nor were there enough available destroyers to provide escorts for the battleships - IIRC, at the time, there were only 3 destroyers assigned as an escort for the 7 battleships.
    - The slow speed of the battleships basically precluded their use in pursuing a retreating fleet, and finishing off damaged ships could be just as easily handled by the cruisers and destroyers with the carriers.
    - The slow speed of the battleships also effectively precluded their operating with the fast carrier task forces.
     
  14. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Some people never let reality impinge upon their fantasy.

    mjölnir specializes in 20/20 hindsight, the art glazing over important details, and is incredibly resistant to logic.
     
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  15. mjölnir

    mjölnir New Member

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    Who needs more than 2 battleships to defend Midway. Not that there were 7 available. There were plenty of destroyers, cruisers', P-38, B-26, etc, in Alaska, which Nimitz knew to be a diversion.

    Midway obviously provides aircover and with a little thinking from the leaders, with much better planes than the carriers': P-38, B-25 and 26, TBF, etc,

    The Wildcats, Buffalo, TBF, SBD, etc, did not fly alone to Midway. How do you think that 4 B-26 arrived in Midway? It is infinitely easier for 2 dozen P-38 and a similar number of twin engine bombers to get to Midway than it is for 16 B-25 to drop 15 tons of bombs over Japan. A P-38 can very easily fly from PH to Midway (even the single engine, SB2U dive bombers did). A carrier can launch P-38 without ammo 2,000 km from PH and sail back to pick up more. Sara could easily have done that, contributig a least a little to the battle of Midway.


    Actually, with P-38, Wildcats, B-25 & 26, TBF, SBD, etc, in Midway, who needs to even risk USN carriers to wipe out IJN planes and carriers? Imagine the difference between TBD attacking alone W/O escort or torpedo B-26, TBF, SBD, etc, attacking with an escort of 24 P-38, while the island is defended by 30 Wildcats and with USN carriers E of Midway and 2 battleships WNW of Midway.

    The battleships are ideal for attracting IJN planes, subs and surface ships away from the carrier fleet and Midway and for sinking any damaged ships, they do not have to chase anybody, they only need to be between Midway and the Kidobutai when it strikes. Their planes can also assist recce.

    It is strange that many people think that the US in the Pacific was weak in 1942. It was extremely strong, it just deployed its assets quite poorly.
    The Zero was trash compared to the P-38 or even the Wildcat, the Betty was trash compared to the B-17, 24, 25 or 26. The Val (550 lb bomb) compared to the SBD (1,000 lb bomb) or the Kate compared to the TBF or even to the TBD. IJN cruisers and destroyers compared to USN counterparts. Japanese AAA, sonar, mines, submarine and antisubmarine tactics, communications, damage control training and procedures, intelligence and code breaking were also much inferior.
    Even the old, slow USN battleships were very useful, but used extremely poorly in 1942

    In contrast, Japan was extremely weak in 1942. The IJN and IJA were very thinly spread and Japanese naval plane production and pilot training were ridiculous. For example, no carrier, torpedo bombers were produced (despite very heavy losses), a few hundred naval pilots entered service. So that despite only the 2 oldest carriers fighting in the Coral Sea, Japanese plane and aviator losses were never really made up after that battle, much less after Midway.
    .
    The only much inferior American pieces of equipment were the torpedoes, but even they damaged Shoho in the Coral sea and sub torpedoes damaged or sank well over a hundred ship that year.
    The disastrous performance of the TBD in Midway was more the result of incompetent leadership than of its bad torpedoes or its low velocity (comparable to the Kate's). The TBD arrived w/o escort or dive bombers.
    Even the excellent TBF and the torpedo B-26 deployed from Midway performed and fared extremely bad, mainly because they attacked w/o escort at all or even without coordination with the dive bombers and amongst themselves.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The fail is strong with this one.
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Japanese had 7 battleships approaching Midway: Yamato, Musashi, Nagato, Kongo, Hiei, Kirishima, and Haruna. Two American battleships will probably not last long in the gun fight.

    There were 7 American battleships available: New Mexico, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado , and Pennsylvania. They were formed into Task Force 1.

    I would not say that there were "plenty of destroyers, cruisers', P-38, B-26, etc, in Alaska". There were 2 heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers, and 13 destroyers. As for the P-38s, there were only 24 and they had just flown in from Washington. With regards to the B-26s, there were 23 scattered about Alaska - 6 at Unimak, 6 at Umnak, and 11 at Anchorage. IIRC, some of these had been in Alaska since very early '42, and some were recent arrivals.

    Nimitz knew it was a "diversion", but the Japanese were still sending quite a powerful force to Alaska: 4 battleships, 2 aircraft carriers, 3 heavy cruisers, 5 light cruisers, and 24 destroyers. As such, Nimitz could not afford to ignore this sizable force.


    Midway had B-26s and TBFs...They did not fare to well.


    I would think that the Sara would have better served an ATL Midway in an actual combat role, rather than being wasted as an aircraft transport. But that is just me.

    Not to mention were there any P-38E/Fs to be had...With trained pilots who had a decent amount of "time in type"? Green pilots will be of little use against the Japanese A6Ms.


    Considering that Midway had Wildcats, B-26s, TBFs, SBDs, etc. and they performed poorly...Do you really believe that by adding P-38s and B-25s will make one iota of difference to the outcome of a "no American carriers" Midway engagement?

    You think 24 P-38s is a lot huh? Apparently, you have not taken into account that you are using several different types of aircraft that will be attacking from various altitudes...This is going to whittle down the number of escorting P-38s that can be used to cover each group.

    Not to mention that Midway only had 7 F4Fs, not 30...Roughly three quarters of Midway's fighter compliment were F2A Brewster Buffaloes.



    Given the lack of escorts for the battleships, and the fact that you are only using 2 of the 7, the 2 are more vulnerable targets than anything else.

    They will have to chase somebody, the "retreating" Japanese forces...And at 18 knots, it is going to be a very long stern chase. Of course, the Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers will likely have a say in stopping this American "pursuit."

    Given the preponderance of American long-range scouting aircraft, the use of the battleship floatplanes will more than likely be held back to assist in spotting the battleships fall of shot.


    No offense, but I think it strange that you believe that the USN deployed it's assets quite poorly.


    Yes, the Zero trashed the P-38s early in the Pacific War...Until the American pilots learned their lessons through combat and came to know the strengths and weaknesses of the P-38 in air-to-air combat vs the A6M. P-38 pilots at Midway, would not have learned these lessons, and would suffer accordingly.

    Of course, the G4M Betty will compare unfavorably to the B-17 & B-24...I believe this falls under the heading of "Well, Duh!" While the G4M compare better to the B-25 or B-26, it still comes out 2nd best, but certainly not "trash."

    The SBD could carry a heavier bomb load, but had a shorter combat range than the Val, even if the SBD only carried a 500lb bomb.

    The B5N Kate compared quite favorably to the TBD Devastator, but not so much to the TBF/TBM.

    The IJN cruisers and destroyers compared favorably to their American counterparts in most areas. The exception for the Japanese destroyers would be that their main armament was effectively "single-purpose", as opposed to the dual-purpose main armament of the American destroyers.

    This early in the war, the Japanese were roughly equal to their American counter parts in these areas: Japanese AAA, sonar, mines, submarine and antisubmarine tactics, communications. The Americans would improve in these areas only later in the war.

    The Americans were superior to the Japanese in damage control, but that is only because every sailor received training in that area, while the Japanese treated damage control as a specialty, and only trained the pertinent crewmembers.

    The American OBBs were only useful for shore bombardment...And the Americans did not really have a need for that until 1943.


    Why do you continue to insist that the 2 oldest American carriers participated in the Coral Sea battle??? Is it drink, drugs, or just plain old feeblemindedness.

    The Japanese made up their losses after the Coral Sea battle and after Midway. The problem only arose with the "meat grinder" that was the Solomons Campaign. The IJNAAF, to make good on their losses and carry out offensives, stripped their carrier of planes & pilots, not once, not twice, but at least three times. And each time those carrier pilots suffered heavy losses. Thus when the carrier battles resumed in late 1943- early 1944, the Japanese carrier planes were manned by essentially green crews - even though the Japanese carriers had been mostly inactive for about a year.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Interesting since there is a pretty strong case for it not being a diversion at all at least from what I recall reading in Shattered Sword. Care to source that?
     
  19. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The Aleutian attack was described as a diversion in many of the older works, but recent scholarship like Shattered Sword has corrected this. One notable point is that the two attacks were intended to be simultaneous, both on June 3 local time. Nagumo's departure from Japan, and therefore his attack on Midway, was put back by one day due to delays in fueling and supplying his ships. In typical Japanese fashion, the rest of the operation went on as scheduled.

    If the Aleutians had been a diversion, it was a remarkably inept one. The Japanese presumed that most American ships would be in Pearl Harbor and would sortie after the first Japanese attack. Hitting the Aleutians a day before Midway would just get the Americans to sea and preparing for battle a day sooner. Even heading north, the first day's steaming would get them a bit closer to Midway than if they were still in harbor.
     
  20. mjölnir

    mjölnir New Member

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    24 P-38 fighting CAP while the bombers attack the carriers are in a much better prosition than a few P-38 OTL attacking bases or even crashing into the Arctic owing to disorientation after long hours in fog. IJN CAP in Midway would have to either fight the P-38 and let its carrier be damaged-sunk or attack the bombers and fall prey to the P-38. A completely different situation from attacking an unsinkable base, where the Zeroes and Ki-43 (which despite being produced in much smaller numbers, it shot down more allied planes) priority is to shoot down the P-38 first and then the bombers.

    One does not make up for an aviator with years of experience lost in Coral Sea and Midway with a fresh graduate. They did not even have the Vals and Kates to replace the lost planes, they were only making Zeroes, Ki-43, G4M, etc, in 1942.

    The IJN was so low in planes even before the Coral Sea (so inferior in power to the USN) that in Coral Sea excellent plots were lost fighting with completely outdated and outclassed, fixed landing gear, undergunned A5M. It is hard to believe that supposedly brilliant Yamamoto sent 4 fleet carriers to bomb weak Darwin in Feb, 1942, yet he sent small Shoho alone (IJN doctrine specified at least 2 carriers of similar class in every operation) to support the landing in Port Moresby (certainly stronger than Darwin) with few and outdated planes in May 1942!

    Certainly, Sara would have been very useful in Midway, had utter incompetence not resulted in her wasting time sailing to San Diego to pick up planes (instead of the planes flying to Bremerton) and then wasting even more time waiting for an admiral, so that she did not contribute at all to the battle of Midway. At least, ferrying P-38 so the bombers from Midway do have an excort and B-25 or 26 would have been a major contribution.

    I still don't undertand why risk 3 carriers against 4, when one has an excellent island, in which one can deploy good P-38, Wildcats, B-25 and 26, SBD, etc, instead of useless Buffalo, SB2U, etc, and then make the glaring blunder of sending all the bombers without a single escort or coordination amongst themselver and with the carrier planes. It must be a record in incompetence to waste the invaluable intelligence and a large force, so that it iflicts to damage at all, but takes heavy losses and damage. Its funny that you worry about 24 P-38 attacking CAP and think it normal for SB2U, etc, to attack without escort.
     

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