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Was the Pearl Harbor attack flawed ?

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by steverodgers801, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Given that the Neosho was nestled amidst the battleships and collected nary a torpedo or bomb hit(although the California which was moored ahead of her took two torpedoes, and the Oklahoma which was moored astern took several) , it is probably safe to say that she was not identified as a battleship or aircraft carrier.
     
  2. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I tend to think they correctly identified most ships. It's possible Utah was a miscue, but she was an awfully big target, so it's an understandable one. That said, I think I'm not sure how you could mistake Curtiss for a warship and she wasn't especially close to any either. There was really no way to hit Curtiss with a miss against anything but Medussa, so she was probably the target. Further, in Curtiss's after action report she relates torpedo attacks on Raleigh and Richmond, next to Utah. CL-9 Richmond was in California at the time, so presumably her officer misspoke and meant CL-8 Detroit, which gives us at least one cruiser target attacked . . . and completely missed. I must assume there were others, and it's more likely to have been the targets less heavily dealt with. (Which would be those not on the "sink this at all costs" list.)
     
  3. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    I believe that the cruisers hit were not the targets, but hit as a result of an attack on another ship. Utah was attacked despite strict orders to leave it alone. Misidentification was a serious issue for Japanese pilots through out the war.
     
  4. green slime

    green slime Member Patron  

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    I'm less knowledgable about the Pacific War, there are others with far better understanding than I. As no one else has mentioned it yet, I'll bring up the "mistake" of the missing third wave:

    Several Japanese junior officers, including Mitsuo Fuchida and Minoru Genda, the chief architect of the attack, urged Nagumo to carry out a third strike in order to destroy as much of Pearl Harbor's fuel and torpedo storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities as possible; and the captains of the other five carriers in the formation reported they were willing and ready to carry out a third strike. Military historians have suggested the destruction of these would have hampered the U.S. Pacific Fleet far more seriously than loss of its battleships. If they had been wiped out, "serious [American] operations in the Pacific would have been postponed for more than a year"; according to American Admiral Chester Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, "it would have prolonged the war another two years." Nagumo, however, decided to withdraw for several reasons:
    • American anti-aircraft performance had improved considerably during the second strike, and two thirds of Japan's losses were incurred during the second wave. Nagumo felt if he launched a third strike, he would be risking three quarters of the Combined Fleet's strength to wipe out the remaining targets (which included the facilities) while suffering higher aircraft losses.
    • The location of the American carriers remained unknown. In addition, the admiral was concerned his force was now within range of American land-based bombers. Nagumo was uncertain whether the U.S. had enough surviving planes remaining on Hawaii to launch an attack against his carriers.
    • A third wave would have required substantial preparation and turnaround time, and would have meant returning planes would have had to land at night. At the time, only the (British) Royal Navy had developed night carrier techniques, so this was a substantial risk.
    • Weather had deteriorated notably since the first and second wave launching, and rough seas complicated takeoff and landing for a third wave attack.
    • The task force's fuel situation did not permit him to remain in waters north of Pearl Harbor much longer, since he was at the very limit of logistical support. To do so risked running unacceptably low on fuel, perhaps even having to abandon destroyers en route home.
    • He believed the second strike had essentially satisfied the main objective of his mission—the neutralization of the Pacific Fleet—and did not wish to risk further losses. Moreover, it was Japanese Navy practice to prefer the conservation of strength over the total destruction of the enemy.
    At a conference aboard Yamato the following morning, Yamamoto initially supported Nagumo. In retrospect, sparing the vital dockyards, maintenance shops, and oil depots meant the U.S. could respond relatively quickly to Japanese activities in the Pacific. Yamamoto later regretted Nagumo's decision to withdraw and categorically stated it had been a great mistake not to order a third strike.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    But none of these were optunites to engage in the "Decisive Battle". At most there were two US battleships in the area. This is also one of the affects of their strategy as well. Since the "Decisive Battle" was what would win the war they were reluctant to "waste" assets critical to it on lesser tasks.
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    This is at best debateable. Fuchida certainly made this claim but there is pretty strong evidence that brings it to question. Nor is it clear that those would ahve been the primary targets. Furthermore there's the question of whether or not a third wave could have been launched that day and when it could be launched if not on the 7th.

    The question is though how likely would it have been that these targets were wiped out? In discussions I've seen it's been pretty clear that it would have takend several more waves to do so and may well have been beyond the capability of the IJN at that point in time.

    Indeed he had inflicted more damage than the Japanese expected and had recived far less in return. From what I recall the Japanese expected to loose several carriers.

    I'm kind of wondering about this. The Yamato wasn't even commissioned at that point.
     
  7. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    two things . . .

    1 - It would probably do well to remember that the Japanese operations order for the attack on Pearl Harbor very specifically spells out that should a third attack be launched, this being left to the commander's, Nagumo's, discretion, the load out for the B5Ns was to be torpedoes; apparently, then, any envisioned third attack was to be focused on ship killing.

    2 - Yes, for a long time the USN, too, was focused on the decisive battle. Miller's War Plan Orange covers this nicely. Despite varying and acrimonious disagreement amongst planners and commanders in the forty years leading up to the war, the essence was that the USN would work it's way across the Pacific, by one route or the other, establishing bases as necessary, and fight a decisive sea battle with the Japanese somewhere north of the Philippines. I recommend a reading.
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    IMO the strategic impact was almost completely disconected to the tactical result. An attack with no prior declaration of war whether it sucseeded or failed was goiong to generate almost the same strategic result.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    If they had been wiped out, "serious [American] operations in the Pacific would have been postponed for more than a year"; according to American Admiral Chester Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, "it would have prolonged the war another two years."

    That's a pretty big "if"; assuming that one strike would "wipe out" a major industrial facility.

    The first two strikes each comprised about half the Japanese attack aircraft, each carrier launching either dive bombers or level/torpedo bombers, so presumably a "third strike" would be similarly composed. My guess is against land targets they would use their B5N carrier attack planes in high-level mode; they had the heaviest bombloads, and in the second wave none had been shot down while the dive bombers lost about 1/6 of their number (14 out of 80). They had used 143 B5Ns of which 5 were shot down, 11 damaged beyond repair, and probably a few more could not be repaired in time for a second flight on Dec 7. So we'd have around 110-120 planes carrying 1325 (1x533, 6x132) or 1760lb bombloads, total 146-211,000lb, comparable to what 30-40 B-17s delivered in the bombing campaign against German industry - nowhere near enough to "wipe out" much of anything. Experience showed that hundreds of heavy bombers were needed to even temporarily disable major factories, refineres, or the like, and they were still usually back in service within a few months.

    The presumption that "third strike" equals "naval base eliminated" was and is wishful thinking.

    Of course they could also use their dive bombers, which had been reduced from 131 to 100 or fewer in the morning mission. These had lighter bombloads but greater accuracy against identifiable targets like fuel tanks or drydock caissons (can't tell what's inside a building though) but would be likely to suffer further heavy losses against alert defenses. I don't see this changing the total impact much. More likely they would retain the D3As to engage American ships at sea, such as the dozen cruisers and destroyers which sortied during the attack. We know today that lingering a few more hours might have brought them into contact with the Enterprise task force, which under Halsey was seeking the attackers, but the Japanese had no way of knowing that.
     
  10. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    this can be a whole different topic.....the IJN never used their big BBs....., but when they did throw 'everything' at the US in November, the US still came out on top....
     
  11. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    good point here...as seen in the European theater [ Schweinfurt and Regensburg hit VERY hard/damged, but not prolonged ] and other wars, air superiority and bombings have to be ''prolonged'' to achieve the goal..
     
  12. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    great posts here...many great points....my opinion<>not flawed at all....as stated before, many operations have their problems, but the IJN sailed across the Pacific, surprised the US, and the pilots hit their targets....
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Arguably the tactics they planned to use to win the "Decisive Battle" were badly flawed. See:
    http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-067.htm
     
  14. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    There were no more torpedos left that had the modified fins, so a third strike would not include them. There were also no more special heavy bombs left. A third strike was never discussed in the planning stages and we have only Fuchida's word that he argued for one after the 2nd strike. We already know Fuchida lied about the planes being on the decks of the carriers at Midway and he also lied about being on the Missouri during the surrender ceremony. The Japanese did not carry large enough bombs to do the kind of damage needed to really shut down the naval facilities.

    Finally Nagumo's decision to leave was also based on the need for the carriers to support more operations against the DEI and Rabaul. What he did may or may not have been in accord with Yamamoto's wishes, but it was in accord with what the rest of the high command wanted.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I thought I remembered reading there was some discussion of a third wave but it was pretty nebulous. As it was Nagumo's carriers were intact and his airgroups in pretty decent shape. Why risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

    I think Opana's sight has some info on the above.

    This link has some useful info:
    http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/P/e/Pearl_Harbor.htm#mozTocId658374
    This comment on the targeting is also of interest:
    This document also is worth looking at:
    http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/pt_12/x12-008.html
    in particular:
    And here's the follow up reference:
    They did not believe that the land based air power had been "compltely knocked out" nor was it. Furthermore the location of the US carriers was in question. It's also worth comparing the level of detail in the planning of the first two waves to that of the afore mentioned follow up.
     
  16. gunbunnyb/3/75FA

    gunbunnyb/3/75FA Member

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    hi guys just want to throw my 2p into this,my moms stepgrandad was a shell oil man he mainly worked on pipelines.(he was sent to england as a civilian tech to help figure out the oil flow for d-day) he used to tell me that if the attack had taken out the oil tanks that while there were some other resources that could be used, to rebuild the tank farms to prewar size that it would have taken at least six months but probably longer due to the fact that there was shortage of men with the proper training to build the tanks and pipes.
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    IIRC, Zinn mentions this, and he point to the fact that there was somewhere around 125 commercial oil tankers that the USN could have confiscated and used as "floating oil tanks" until the land-based oil tanks were completed. he also gives figures on how long and how many trips would have been needed to refill the oil tanks, or refill the docked oil tankers, using varying numbers of oil tankers to transfer the oil from the States.
     
  18. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    There was another tank farm under construction. The problem with the tank and it has been discussed is that each individual tank would have had to been hit.
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    That was the Red Hill underground complex I had already mentioned. However, underground fuel tanks are far more difficult and time consuming to comstruct than their above ground brethren.
     
  20. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    yes, no carrier action?? torpedoes for a Decisive Fleet battle?? hard to believe the Navy air boys really agreed [etc ] with this???yes, I've read much about a final battle with the BBs, but, I would think this was the IJN thinking before Pearl Harbor, pre-1940/
     

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