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What if the Japanese strike at Hickham and Pearl Harbor succeded but the one at Clark failed?

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Falcon Jun, Oct 26, 2007.

  1. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The question there is how accurate the US bombing actually would have been. The best target might have been the landing beaches with the congested beach and ships at anchor. At Gudacannal and New Guinea many supply convoys and troops landings were disrupted by timely airstrikes.

    Another question is if the B17s could have raided Japan from Luzon? MacAurthur apprently thought so. He made some 1941 statements about burning Japans cities to the ground with the heavy bombers. While decisive destruction was not possible what would have been the consequences if a squadron had dropped a few hundred bombs on some southern Japanese industrial cities in Dcember 1941?
     
  2. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    The US leadership was certainly aware of the British air defense system and was taking steps to institute similar systems in certain vital areas such as Pearl Harbor, where Commander William Taylor, USNR, who had served in the USN, RN, and RAF, as a fighter pilot, and studied the British radar warning net, was assisting Kimmel and Short in establishing an air defense system and training the necessary personnel. That system was, however, some weeks from becoming operational when the Japanese struck.
    INDEX TO WITNESS TESTIMONY REGARDING OPANA POINT RADAR.

    To the best of my knowledge, however, MacArthur had no conception of modern air defense systems based on radar warning, and was not implementing any sort of British-style early warning radar system for Luzon. There may have been air warning radar sets and communications systems in the Philippines or on their way, but making them operational was not one of MacArthur's priorities.

    According to Eric Bergerud in "Fire In The Sky", the Japanese never solved the problem of attacking US heavy bombers, and B-17's, B-24's, and even B-25's continued to take a heavy toll of Japanese fighter planes and pilots throughout the war. But, Bergerud was writing of the later model heavy bombers, such as the B-17E, with powered turrets in the dorsal and ventral positions, and the addition of a twin.50 caliber tail turret. Earlier model B-17's, lacking these defensive refinements, were very vulnerable to Japanese fighters, especially at lower altitudes, where the fighter's performance was not degraded as it was above 15,000 feet. In attacking Formosa, MacArthur's B-17's would have been without the benefit of P-40 escorts, and would have had to stay above 20,000 feet where their ability to hit a target, stationary or not, was less than impressive. However, if MacArthur had preserved his air assets to attack the Lingayan Gulf landings, they could have attacked with fighter escort which would have made them much more effective. This was not something that MacArthur understood or appreciated. Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the ... - Google Book Search
     
  3. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Hmmm, this plus an earlier post makes me think that if most of the US air assets in Clark survived, a US attack in Formosa would've really dent Japanese plans. At the very least, bombing Formosa would've achieve minimal results. Japanese losses there could easily be replaced at this early stage. Now, concentrating the US air assets on the Lingayen Gulf landings would seem the more effective way of doing inflicting a more long term damage to Japanese plans.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    There were two SCR 286 radar sets in the Philippines at the beginning of the war. Both were set up and operational on the northern end of Luzon facing Formosa and Japan, the most likely direction of attack. Both sets were connected by commercial telephone to Clark Field and there was a fighter direction center in operation there just as at Pearl Harbor.
    The problem was that the radars frequently broke down in the tropical conditions and sometimes ran out of fuel for their generators. But, the most frequent and persistant problem was that the phone service was poor when it did work and most of the time it didn't.
    This was the condition on December 8. The radar(s) did spot the incomming Japanese raids but had no means to communicate this to Clark Field and raise a warning.


    On attacking bombers: The tactical problem here for virtually all air forces of the period was on of equipment and training. With the exception of the US Navy no 1940 vintage air force was teaching their pilots in training how to deflection shoot and tactics that supported that technique. Additionally, aircraft were not being designed (except the USN again) with this tactic in mind (this is the reason the F3B, F4F and F6F all look humpbacked).
    The most effective method of attacking a heavily armed aircraft is to perform an head- on high-side pass on it. The figher in this approach flies a parallel and higher flight path towards the bomber. As the figher draws even with the target the pilot turns into the bomber and noses down. Deflection is taken to make the fire hit the center mass of the target.
    This approach makes the fighter least vulnerable to defensive fire due to the high speed of approach, and the constant deflection angle it has relative to the defensive gunners.
    Interestingly, one of the worst aircraft for using such a tactic on a bomber is the Fw 190. The US Navy tested a Fw 190A-3 in Maryland and found it totally unsuited to deflection shooting due to the shape of the nose and low canopy clearance. The pilot would have to guess where his target was due to blanking by the aircraft's structure.
     
  5. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    The problem at both Pearl Harbor and on Luzon was that neither General Short nor General MacArthur seems to have appreciated the significance of having an operational early warning radar system. Commander Taylor, the USNR officer trying to assist in getting such a system set up on Oahu, testified before Congress that neither Short nor Admiral Kimmel put any extra effort into solving the problems (mostly making personnel available and training them) that plagued the Hawaiian effort. There were also some relatively minor technical problems, but the system was working on December 7th.

    The problems on Luzon seem to be similar; not enough fuel for the generators was simply a logistical planning problem, and could have been solved by an order from MacArthur or one of his staff officers. Poor phone service also could have been solved by a dedicated radio net system, with a phone landline as a backup. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a radar contact on incoming enemy bombers is useless unless someone is able to inform the officers responsible for aircraft operations. Judging from the confusion that accompanied what warnings did reach the American airbases, there was also no air defense doctrine established, nor any personnel trained to initiate such a doctrine. This was a command function; obviously, neither MacArthur, nor anyone on his staff, was overseeing the work on the Luzon air defense warning system.

    Yes, that was part of the problem. The later marks of the B-17, and the B-24, were heavily armed with defensive machine guns and an approach by enemy fighters was met by a hail of heavy machine gun fire. Deflection shooting was one way of approaching the problem, but as you point out, no air force, with the exception of the US Navy, was teaching it's pilots such techniques. Another problem for the Japanese was that their fighters, including the Zero, were not designed for high altitude bomber interception. At about 15,000 feet, the Zero began to lose it's agility and become sluggish. That made it an easy target for defensive fire, and made any approach other than headon or from the rear extremely difficult to execute. Once the B-17 acquired a tail-gun position, it was often fatal for Japanese pilts to attack from that direction. The headon pass was not altogether satisfactory either, because it minimized the time that an opposing pilot had to aim and hit the target and also subjected him to fire from the dorsal turret. According to Bergerud, the Japanese air forces never fully solved the problem of attacking American bombers with fighter aircraft.
     
  6. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    According to Joh Costello 'The Great Pacific War 1941-45'; at least two phone warnigs from the radar stations got thru to the airfields. The first was between 09:00 & 10:00, reporting a contact East and North of Luzon. This report resulted in a mass flyoff of the bombers which orbited south of Manila for some two hours, and in starting the launch of fighter interceptor flights. The second phone call, or series of calls begain around 12:00 as the Japanese bombers fianlly came into range. That call reached a CP, but only administrative personell were present and they were unable to locate any of the tactical officers who should have been present, or get anyone at the fighter group HQ on the phone.

    Costello infers that a after 11:00 a sort of disorganization set in as the interception of the first pre 10:00 contact was stood down. The USAAF personell had been on alert since 03:00 - 04:00. Several false alarms had swept through the units, and there was still the uncertainity over preparing for a raid on Formosa. Two eyewitnesses I've read make similar suggestions. One claimed confusion and chaos at all levels. The other was less so, but described how as noon approached folks begain thinking more about lunch. Some messhalls begain serving food, sandwiches were brought to working groups, and officers begain setting off for their dining facilities. he also refered to a confrence of Breatons staff causing officers to vanish from their posts during the critical minutes between 11:00 and 12:00.

    This all suggests to me a air defense that was not yet drilled to standards suitable for combat and unit leaders that did not quite yet grasp their new situation.
     
  7. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I can certainly visualize the scene that has been suggested.
    It definitely shows that from the highest echelons to the lowest ranks, there was an aura of unreality that was prevailing in their minds, consciously and subconsciously.
    It also implied that what was needed in such a situation was a decisive leader. And I have to admit, Macarthur and his senior officers dropped the ball. I can't remember where I first read the term "order, counter-order leads to disorder." And this term certainly applies to the what the US forces in the Philippines were doing in the grace period they failed to utilize.
    We have the benefit of hindsight, of course. But if I were among the men who were there at that moment, I think I wouldn't do any better.
     
  8. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    Chaos always reigns supreme at the beginning of a war, especially for the side that is the non-aggressor. That is why it is so important to train realistically and have a response doctrine firmly established beforehand. Clearly, MacArthur's staff failed to do either. If I recall correctly, MacArthur's air force commander, General Brereton had just arrived the day before the attack, and had had no opportunity to review the readiness of his forces, implement training programs, nor even meet all of his subordinate officers. It's not surprising that he was ineffective. But, the problem went beyond Brereton.

    As far as I can determine, there had been no realistic testing of the radar warning system, no widespread response drills, and no doctrine developed to quide a response to an air attack. In such a situation, the leadership, determination, knowledge, experience, and foresight of the supreme commander is of paramount importance in establishing order and mounting an effective defense. MacArthur failed the test as badly as General Short or Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor.
     
  9. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I agree with your viewpoint but I have soft spot for Kimmel. It seems to me that among all the commanders on Dec. 7 (Dec. 8 if across the International Date Line), Kimmel had at least some ships ready and out at sea on that fateful day. And one of Kimmel's destroyers did sink one of the Japanese midget subs before the actual attack.
     
  10. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    At least Kimmel and Short have the excuse they were surprise attacked in peace time. MacAuthur doesn't. If you want to look for a culprit on his staff I'd mark as number one on my list his Chief of Staff General Sutherland. The guy was tactically and militarily incompetent. He might have been a good office manager and paper pusher but he was clueless on actually doing military "stuff."
     
  11. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I also have some sympathy for Admiral Kimmel. After all, it was Army General Short's responsibility to mount an air defense of Kimmel's ships while they were in port; he failed utterly. Kimmel's sailors manned their anti-aircraft guns and put up an intense AA barrage within minutes of the beginning of the attack; Short's AA gunners weren't even able to completely man their guns until the attack was over. Overall, the Navy response to the attack was much better than that of the Army, although I admit their circumstances were somewhat different. And as TA has pointed out both Kimmel and Short were the victims of a tactical surprise attack, which few even thought possible. Admiral Kimmel, who had a reputation in the Navy for being a taut commander, was sent out to Pearl Harbor to "shake up" the Navy, and prepare the Pacific Fleet for a possible war, that was the mission that Kimmel really failed and why he was sacked afterward.

    You are probably correct. General Sutherland acted more as a "cheer leader" and "gate keeper" for MacArthur than a real military Chief of Staff' his chief appeal to MacArthur was as a "yes man". On the other hand, it's my understanding that Sutherland did give General Kenney a free hand in air operations after Kenney confronted him on the issue. MacArthur surrounded himself with an "inner circle" of staff officers known colloquially as the "Bataan Gang". Officers who weren't a member of the "Gang" were frozen out of important decisions; certainly not a professional way to run a military staff.
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Kenney wouldn't put up with Sutherland's ignorance. One account he gives is of him taking a piece of paper on Sutherland's desk and putting a dot in the middle of it. He then snarled at Sutherland "You see this piece of paper? This is what I know about air power! You see that dot? That's what you know about air power!"
    After meeting with MacAuthur and some other confontations like that Sutherland left Kenney alone and 5th AF became an actual force to be reconned with.
     
  13. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    To expand on this, I have just been reading Ward Rutherford's "Fall of the Philippines"
    "The Japanese estimated that some 200 combat-ready aircraft. Relying on these figures, the Japanese assigned two air forces for the Philippine campaign. These were the 5th Air Group of Army Air Force, commanded by Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata, with 307 first line aircraft including the Mitsubish Ki-21 heavy bombers as well as Kawasaki Ki-15 and Mitsubishi KI-30 light bombers plus supporting elements, and the Navy's 11th Air Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Nishizo Tsukahara, which would supply 444 land-based and carrier-based aircraft, mostly Mitsubishi Zeros and Mitsubishi Type 1 "Betty" bombers, making a total of 751 aircraft. This was calculated to give them a 3-to-1 ratio they believed necessary to ensure supremacy against the Americans."
    The odds were definitely stacked against the US but there was chance that the Americans missed. Rutherford wrote:
    "There was only one radar set working in the Philippines, at about the time the American Far Easter Air Force was on the ground being fuelled and armed at Clark, Nichols and Iba Airfields."
    Rutherford writes the Japanese force was spotted and a warning was relayed to Nielson Field to Clark Field by teleprinter and another warning was broadcast over forces radio network. The teleprinter message never arrivd because an inexperienced operator left his machine to go to lunch. The radio message wasn't heard because of radio jamming. Because of these misfortunes, only one American pursuit squadron, the 3rd, got off the ground."
    This, for me, indicates that had the warnings of the impending Japanese attack reached the Americans in time, more US aircraft could've gotten into the air and probably survived, also inflicting more losses to the Japanese. This, however, wouldn't really affect the outcome of the Japanese campaign in the Philippines though it could've forced the Japanese to allocate more forces that it did historically.
     
  14. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Another problem that was to plague the P-40's throughout their all too short life in the Philippines was the gun switches on their 50 caliber machineguns that had never been properly installed. Due to a lack of 50 caliber ammunition, the P-40's never had an opportunity to testfire their guns during test flights and this became all too apparent during their first aerial combat against the Japanese when the vast majority of the P-40 E's wing guns jammed and malfunctioned.
     
  15. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Later, during the fighting on Bataan, US submarines ran the Japanese naval blockade to deliver limited numbers of new, mechanically fuzed 3-inch antiaircraft ammunition to the some of the flak batteries on Corregidor. This proved to be a nasty surprise to attacking Japanese bombers because the new ammunition had a higher blast ceiling of over 25,500 feet. The Japanese quickly learned to respect these new shells and were forced to bomb at much more ineffectual higher altitudes until late in the siege
     
  16. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    FWIW, according to both Saburo Sakai and Martin Cadin in different books, if heavy ground fog hadn't delayed the Japanese Air attack, chances are the USAAF would have met the IJN Air attack in the air. How well they might have done is a matter of conjecture, as neither side would have known what to expect. Recall that Welch and Taylor didn't do too badly over Oahu.

    P-35's and P-26's would have been sitting ducks, but meeting the initial IJN attack in the air might have been a butterfly effect. More US aircraft available for ground attack and strafing.
     
  17. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    The P-40's would have had a number of problems as well. In the book "Doomed at the Start", it was shown that the P-40's suffered from two major deficiencies at outbreak of war in the Pacific, green pilots, just out of flight school and much more grievious problems in just getting their .50 caliber machineguns to load and fire properly. There was insufficient .50 caliber ammuntiion in the pre-war Philippines to allow the new fighter plane's wing guns to be fire tested and calibrated properly and the results of this was not known until the Japanese air raid against Clark Field on the day after the Pearl Harbor attack.
     
  18. Tom Lockley

    Tom Lockley recruit

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    Before the advent of the B-17 and Macarthurs appointment as US commander (not just adviser to the Philippine army) in June 1941, the US had decided to abandon the Philippines in the event of a Pacific war with Japan. B-17s were concentrated in the Philippines. There were even arrangements being made to repossess B-17s and B-24s from the British. Also, reinforcemnts were being sent to the Philippines, but it was thought that the Japanese would not attack till May 1942 or thereabouts.

    Brereton, Macarthur's air commander, came to Australia to plan an air route to the Philippines. I beieve that it was obvious that the Philippines would be blockaded at the outset of the war until the USN got a fleet together to break through, the Malta situation on a bigger scale.

    The Brereton route for fighters and light bombers was from either Sydney or Brisbane through to Central Australia, then north to Darwin, then island-hopping to the Philippines. B-17s etc could fly direct from Darwin, and indeed bombing raids were launched on the Philippines from Darwin later on. Considerable work was done to prepare for this, including a new airstrip at Bourke, western NSW.

    When Pearl Harbour occurred, the Japanese attacks on the Philippines attacks achieved surprise, for various reasons. It was obvious that the Philippines was in dire straits, so the convoys that were either en route or being prepared for the Philippines were sent to Australia.

    Australian defences were pretty poor. Our best soldiers were in Africa etc, or lost in Singapore (aother story); our best airmen were in Africa, the UK or Malaya. We had 170 combat aircraft, namely a few Catalinas, some Hudsons, and mainly Wirraways, armed North American T-6 Texan trainers made in Australia, plus a few home-made Beauforts. Australia had mainly been used to train airmen for the Empire Air Training Scheme, and had 1400 purely training aircraft. Even the TIger Moths were being equipped with bombs!

    Anyway, the arrival of the US aircraft bound for the Philippines was magnificent. Sydney had a US squadron of P-40 Kittyhawks based at Bankstown by 16 February 1942, 67 days after Pearl Harbour, which would be a pretty rapid deployment even at the present time.

    The question that started this discussion is a bit irrelevant to my post, but is an interesting sidelight.

    The Brereton route across central Australia was widely used, and pretty rugged. It is said that it was easy to find one's way, however, one simply followed the trail of crashed aircraft.

    home.st.net.au/~dunn/pensacola.htm has some good material and links about this.
    Tom
     
  19. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    No Japanese fighters at that time had pilot armor at all. Never installed in the factory or the field. It was against the whole Bushido code and philosophy of battle for the Japanese.
     
  20. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Hmmm...I think I have to review Saburo Sakai's account on how they increased the range of their aircraft as soon as I'm discharged from the hospital.
    As I recall what I've read from his autobiography, he described how they took off unncessary stuff and explored the limits of their aircraft's endurance and flying characteristics to lenghten their range and improve their chances when hitting airfields in the PI with aircraft based in Formosa.
     

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