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Was the Pearl Harbor attack flawed ?

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

  1. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    The problem is that Japan, unlike the US never adjusted their mentality of the decisive battle to the carrier age. The biggest problem they had is the lack of base development to go with the concept of fighting the US beyond home waters.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    To be fair they didn't have a lot of time. After Midway they lost their carrier edge which meant that if carriers were the key to winning they had lost. Something they didn't want to admit. I do believe carriers were suppose to play a role in the Decisive Battle though. The document above concentrates on the torpedo component. Carriers were suppose to scout and attrit opposing carriers and what ever ships they could. They weren't invisioned as being decisive against warships moving at speed in the open ocean. That would likely have been very accurate prior to 1941 and perhaps even through the end of the war unless said carriers had a significant numerical advantage.
     
  3. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Its more they knew they didn't have the support needed to fight far from home waters, and they spent little time building up bases until it was too late.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Truk? Rabaul?
     
  5. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Rabaul was captured, but the Marshall islands, Truk, the Marrianas were not equipped to support large naval operations.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Rabaul and Truk were the two largest naval bases in the Pacific, the only thing they really lacked were major ship repair facilities. Which, giving their lack of mechanization would probably have taken years to complete.
     
  7. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I tend to think Japan's forces weren't really sufficient to disable/destroy the industrial targets in and around Pearl, but assuming for a second they were destroyed rebuilding would have been a more complicated proposition than rebuilding Schweinfurt. Gunbunny already mentioned the labor problem. Materials would have been a problem as well, since shipping was in short supply and it's a long way to Pearl from the nearest major industrial centers. I don't doubt that anything would take twice as long or more when halfway across the world from the continental U.S. Hawaii is nearly as far from the West coast as that coast is from the eastern one. 'Sa long bloody way across a lot of water.
     
  8. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    the problem is the assumption that just dropping a few bombs would ruin the facilities. I read a fascinating story about how some naval personal landed at a captured Italian base in east Africa. All they had were 50 motors that were damaged but not completely destroyed, Using the motors they were able to cannibalize enough parts to build a lathe I believe. Using the lathe they then were able to build other machines and they soon had an functional repair shop going.
     
  9. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    The bottom-line was there was never a designated third strike planned for the Pearl Harbor attack. The only mention of a possible third attack on Pearl Harbor that appears in the Operations Order is:

    "Immediately after the return of the first and second attack units, preparations for the next attack will be completed. At this time, carrier attack planes capable of carrying torpedoes will be armed with such as long as the supply lasts. "

    There were no designated targets, nothing, no frag order for specific squadrons to attack specific targets.

    And note that preparations will be completed AFTER the return of the 1st and 2nd strikes. That means the same planes would have to be surveyed for damage and if acceptable, fueled and re-armed. Now Nagumo was looking at a night strike recovery and he still has no idea where the US carriers might be lurking. Also, nowhere, really, nowhere in the Operations Order is there any reference whatsoever to oil/fuel facilities or to fleet maintenance facilities. The subject does not even come up.

    See: http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/monos/097/

    Poor Nagumo is berated all over the internet for this failure to strike fuel and maintenance facilities; and all sorts of dire consequences to USN operations are predicted if only Nagumo had . . .
    Everyone seems to forget that this is the Japanese Navy, an organization not particularly known for departing from the written order.

    As for a set back to USN operations, remember that Pearl Harbor as the main base for the Pacific Fleet had only been in operation for about 20 months. Much of what was to later become the massive infrastructure there had not been built. The fuel storage facilities at PH were not the, yet to be completed, permanent facilities at Red Hill, and, as such, did not have all that much capacity. Further, a not inconsiderable quantity of the available bunker fuel at PH had been loaded on the Lexington, Enterprise, their escorts, and their logistical trains for their reinforcement missions to Midway and Wake, so the storage facilities were not at full capacity, anyway.

    Loss of repair facilities would not mean much, either, considering that major repairs were done at the west coast navy yards, anyway, not at Pearl Harbor. There was a single permanent structure drydock at Pearl Harbor, how many do you think were at Mare Island, Terminal Island, or Puget Sound? Why do you think they had to move a floating drydock to Pearl Harbor . . . because there wasn't enough maintenance capacity.

    Loss of fuel reserves? That's what oilers were for. Does anyone really believe that in 1941/1942 the US could not conjure up replacement stocks? And commit both naval and civilian oilers to the replenishment effort? How long do you think a determined effort to do so would take? Sure, the loss would be unfortunate, but it could be replaced. I’ll give you an idea. In 1941, the US was a net EXPORTER of oil (remember, this is one of the reasons the Japanese were miffed in the first place), not an IMPORTER as today. Further, the Pacific Fleet had some 10 fleet oilers available and another 22 civilian tankers under contract. Major fuel loading facilities were located on the west coast. Replacement of lost fuel would not be easy, but not particularly difficult, either.

    I believe that if folks were to look into the logistical capabilities of the USN they would find that the "Third Strike" failure as a potential crippler of US capabilities is a red herring.

    Further, this third strike on PH theory gives the striking power of the Japanese entirely too much credit. Fuel facilities aside, what about the maintenance facilities? The poured, reinforced, concrete nature of dry dock construction would mitigate against the possible destruction of the facility, even if exposed to the No 80 805 Kg (1774 lbs) bomb or the Type 98 #25 242 Kg (533 lbs) bomb, both of which were rated to penetrate up to 400 mm (a whopping 16 inches) of concrete. Of course you can always protest that they could have dropped some of their modified 14in AP rounds (which, BTW had a remarkable failure rate, that is, so bad that it could be remarked upon), but actually, that type of bomb would been even worse for the job, as to be truly effective it needs a void, that is a relatively empty space, in which to explode in order to magnify the effect of it’s somewhat small explosive charge . . . a battleship’s magazine is just such a perfect place.

    Imagine for a moment deliberately dropping, say, 5 Type 98s or even, 5 No 80s around the Drydock #1 area. How long do you suppose it would take the USN to craft new forms and fashion the reinforcing rods and pour new concrete? Over night? Certainly not, but within three weeks? Why not? They had everything there they needed to do the job. . . after all by December 1941, PH was in a constant state of construction.

    I would also point out that Floating Drydock #2 (YFD-2), in which USS Shaw had it’s bow blown off by a one of the three Japanese bomb which struck that ship, in addition to at least two bomb hits on the drydock itself (which caused it to sink), was back in service by the end of April 1942.

    About the only way to take out the Pearl Harbor Drydock #1 in December 1941 was a direct hit, by a bomb, or, better, a torpedo on the floodgates. As any dive-bomber pilot or torpedo plane pilot can tell you, that is a very small target and, probably, without all the luck that one could muster, impossible to hit. And again, how long do you think it would take to effect repairs?

    And you have to think about just how many of these specialized bombs was the Kido Butai going to be willing to haul around when as far as the IJN was concerned the targets were ships, battleships, carriers, cruisers, in that order. The plain simple truth is that the strike on Pearl Harbor was planned with the typical, ubiquitous, Japanese disregard for logistics. The object, in which they actually failed, was to kill the fighting power of the Pacific Fleet. There was no thought to striking the fleet service facilities, fuel or maintenance, whatsoever.

    A lot of what folks tend to write on this subject shows ( a ) a disregard of the information available to the Japanese, ( b ) an unfortunate lack of knowledge on how places like Pearl Harbor are laid out and operate, and ( c ) the, now so obvious, typical Japanese disregard for the strategic logistical target over the strategic combat target. These are critical issues. For starts, Pearl Harbor maintenance shops and facilities were not all congregated in one place, but rather disbursed though the base. This was not particularly due to any diligence in protecting facilities from a massive strike, but simply evolution of the development of the installation. Further, like most naval bases, even today, if you don’t know where you are going, you need to read carefully the signs on buildings announcing this activity or that. Not really do-able from the air and what few Japanese intelligence types were in the islands tended to be content to count ships and conduct random timings of patrol plane activities. They did not wander around the base making note of this shop or the other. And just the evidence of the attack operations order itself displays the lack of interest in these types of strategic logistical targets.

    Bottom line is the Japanese did not have the capability, capacity, nor, and more importantly, any interest, to successfully strike these facilities, so speculation as to the possible outcome of their doing so is somewhat idle.

    Most of the question of their failure to do so comes from the US side and not the Japanese side, sort of a “I wonder why they didn’t . . . ?” This is usually followed with “We would have tried to level the place.” Yes, yes, sure we would, with just a couple of hundred carrier planes in the strike force, uh huh, right. Might want to look at Yokahama, Sasebo, Kure and similar and see how badly they were leveled by carrier attacks in the summer of 1945 when US carrier power was at its peak . . . I’ll leave that as a homework assignment. But it is indicative of the American strike operational mentality to look to the fleet service facilities as targets not to be wasted . . . Certainly by the end of the war, with massive AAF bombing forces available and carrier task forces that could throw 1100 sorties at a single target, Japanese shore installations were sorely attacked, but they were never totally taken out . . . kind of gives you an idea of the difficulties. The only way the facilities at Pearl Harbor could have been significantly damaged would be through massive carpet bombing, something a little difficult to execute from the decks of but six aircraft carriers; not to mention that the common problem in trying to destroy industrial targets is that even when the correct building or buildings is destroyed, probably, under the rubble, the machinery is mostly intact.


    Lastly, you might want to consider losses incurred by the Japanese. Their first wave got off fairly lightly, but their second wave was not so lucky, especially in terms of losses to strike aircraft. A third wave would have gotten off no better than the second, and, I would guess, even worse.

    I think Nagumo would have been able to figure that out for himself, and since a third strike was left somewhat optional, that is why he opted out.
     
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Well spoken as usual, Rich.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I have a memeory of rading some very vague description of targeting for a third wave. I think it was on the Opana's site somewhere but it wasn't much more than is quoted above (two or three sentances from what I recall). It may also be the product of a less than perfect memory.
     
  12. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    The very fact that Pearl Harbor was attacked at all was a flaw in Japanese planning. Admiral Nagano was quite correct in his opinion that Japan could attack the possessions of the British and the Dutch without provoking a US military response. This would expand Japan's defensive perimeter, gain them the resources they sought, and give themselves time to dig in should Roosevelt eventually manage to convince the US public that it was in America's interest to fight Japan. Further, if the US Pacific Fleet DID sortie across the Pacific, the fleet would have proven much more vulnerable in deep water.

    TACTICALLY the attack is a great Japanese victory. ON EVERY OTHER LEVEL, the attack was a debacle of unparalleled proportions.It even helped seal the fate of Germany as it would still have been months before FDR could have gotten Congress to declare war on Germany. (The war FDR actually was seeking.) And that means no Operation Torch in 1942 when the Soviets were screaming for a second front.
     
  13. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Again there is no record of a third strike being part of the orders for Nagumo. We only have Fuchida's account and even then he is the only one who claims he asked for a third strike.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    That is very questionable. Indeed looking at the Gallup polls from the period the opposite conclusion is far more likely. The polls were available to the Japanese at the time as well.

    It would also leave the Japanese in a rather precarious position strategically. The US would still control the Philipines and given even a few more months Japan would have had a hard time takeing them while US planes, ships, and submarines based there could have played havoc with Japan's supply lines. FDR had also offered the use of US bases to the British and Dutch in the event of war even prior to the US entry in the same. Thus British and Dutch subs for instance could have been based in the Philipines and used scouting reports from US planes to intercept Japanese convoys and merchants. Note that at that point neither the Dutch nor the British had torpedo problems.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There were never orders for a third strike. The option was left open to Nagumo if he thought it necessary or worthwhile. I thought Genda might have mentioned it as well but could be wrong there. Given the situation I don't see it being a very viable option though.
     
  16. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Perhaps. Though the suggestion that an attempt to maintain US ambivalence would somehow have been a more dangerous strategy than walking up to Uncle Sam, tapping him on the shoulder as he slept and then punching him in the face is a bit incredible on the face of it.

    But then "Wise after the fact" and all...
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well leaving the Philopines as a dagger across the throat of Japan until the US chose to use it would hardly be much better would it?

    The major flaw IMO was letting junior officers get them into a war in China that they weren't ready for nor capable of winning in the long run. Everything ran down hill from there.
     
  18. dna

    dna New Member

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    Some people think the biggest mistake in the attacK.plan was not invading Oahu to sever the US supply line more thotughly. If they had, where would the Japanese have found the troops to capture an island so well defended and how would they have gotten them there unnoticed? Sorry. If this is an old topic, but it's new to me. Thanks.
     
  19. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Not going to happen. Army committed to the southward advance, Navy not strong enough.
     
  20. albanaich

    albanaich New Member

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    Absolutely agree. . . . .

    What all this means is that the only real effect the Pearl Harbor attack could possibly have on the U.S. was psychological. The U.S. simply had too many assets dispersed too far for it to achieve much directly. Now as an act of strategic-psychological warfare it was not so successful, but you can hardly blame that on the forces on the scene. They did everything Japan could have hoped and more. (I believe better than Japan's most favorable estimates of the likely results.) I simply can't see any way in which the attack was anything but a brilliant tactical success . . . and a dismal strategic/psychological failure precisely because of that.
     

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