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Leyte Gulf Refought

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Gromit801, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Let's presume the IJN has altered their sailing schedules for the three prong forces. Ozawa still lures Halsey off to the north, Halsey still taking the carriers and battle line with him.

    Nishimura and Kurita coordinate better, with the two forces coming into the gulf at about the same time, maybe just before sunrise when IJN visual sighting come into play, and it's not a one sided radar fest. This time, US scouting has missed the two IJN prongs, perhaps looking elsewhere or looking at the wrong time. Musashi survives in fighting trim.

    Kurita's force descends upon the beachheads (ignoring the Taffy's) at the same time Oldendorf begins his fight with Nishimura.

    Oldendorf should still knock out the southern force, but while occupied with that force, the fox would be well and truly among the chickens with the beaches at Tacloban. The IJN cruisers screen against the Taffy's.

    A reversal? A setback? Delaying the inevitable?
     
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  2. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    problem, Halsey attacked Kurita's force and sank the Musashi. It was because Kurita withdrew that Halsey thought he could chase the decoy force. Kinkaid would still be waiting for the other force so I fail to see how the Japanese could have coordinated it better.
     
  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Oldendorf sent two destroyer squadrons into Surigao Strait to make the initial attacks, but his battle line, cruisers, and the other two DDrons remained in Leyte Gulf at the northern exit of the strait, so they were in position to cover the eastern entrance to the gulf; Kurita was not going to slip by them and get at the landing beaches. However if all the Japanese forces, including Shima's, were in action Oldendorf would have:

    6 battleships against 7
    8 cruisers against 10 heavies
    26 destroyers against 21 with 3 light cruiser leaders

    (treaty designations notwithstanding, ships like Abukuma or Yahagi do not belong in the same category as Clevelands or Brooklyns)

    (besides Musashi the Japanese would still have Myoko and the two destroyers which escorted her home historically)

    Fighting in two directions could have both advantages and disadvantages. Mass long range torpedo attacks could be a problem if the Japanese could coordinate them.

    Kurita might miss or ignore the Taffies, but would they ignore him? Historically their aircraft sank three cruisers and inflicted other damage; in this scenario the Japanese would be exposed longer and would still be under air attack as they went into the surface battle. Taffy 3 would be able to conduct air operations rather than running and fighting for survival. The Taffies' DDs (3 in each) might also take part.

    Anthony Tully's recent book on Surigao Strait suggests that Nishimura's role, like Ozawa's, was sacrificial and diversionary, to draw American forces out of Kurita's path; but Oldendorf did not let his main force be drawn out of position.
     
  4. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    All true. But in the scenario of this "What If"...

    Halsey never saw the center force, just Ozawa.

    Kurita would leave his CA's to screen or even chase down the Taffy's and focus the BB's on beach pounding.

    I'm currently reading Tully's book, which inspired this What If. He seems to feel that more coordination among the IJN would have had a greater effect.
     
  5. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    delays the war by a few months or so. Doesn't really change the outcome since Japan had no air force or merchant fleet left. Halsey would have still returned and wiped out all the ships since they cant get away. The US can still replace everything. I have serious doubts about not spotting the ships since the US had so many air assets and were just waiting for the Japanese fleet, plus I don't think Halsey would have left because he hasn't struck Kuritas force.
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Kurita supposedly mistook Taffy 3 for Halsey's carrier force, so attacked with his whole strength, but apparently in this case he identifies them properly and detaches his seven CAs - with any DDs? - to fend them off while he engages Oldendorf with battleships and destroyers. That would even the odds a bit; the cruisers were a fair increment of firepower and carried over 1/3 of the force's torpedos. For one thing, it might allow a couple of the American CLs to concentrate on the Japanese destroyers.

    As noted, radar and wartime tactical improvements now gave the USN the advantage at night, both for gunnery and torpedo attack. Radar is also a help in daylight of course - for one thing it would save the Americans wasting ammunition finding the range - but the disparity in fire control would be less, and the Japanese BBs would have an ~25% edge in weight of metal if all their forces managed to engage simultaneously.

    Torpedo attacks on the Japanese side would be a key question. The Long Lance was designed for long-range attacks, but in the few daylight engagements to date they were minimally effective - one hit from over 100 at the Java Sea and 0 for 43 at the Komandorski Islands. The number of American ships maneuvering in the relatively confined area of Leyte Gulf might give them a better chance; a few torpedo hits could make a difference in the gunnery action. Historically for some reason Kurita's destroyers were not very enterprising.

    Also historically, the six Japanese CAs bore the brunt of the action against Taffy 3, losing three of their number plus Kumano crippled, so that part of the scenario might develop much as it did in real life. It's a bit of a toss-up whether a prolonged engagement would enable them to finish off the CVEs or let the Taffies' aircraft and destroyers do even more damage.

    p.s. added BBs for clarification
     
  7. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Also remember, if Nishimura exited Surigao Straight just before dawn, the US ships would have been backlit by the lightening sky in the east, and the Japanese ships would still be against a dark background. Equals up the radar advantage some.


    It would not change the ultimate outcome of the war, but in the "What If," say MacArthur was booted out of the PI again. Part of the Japanese plan included a counter landing. Would that then give Nimitz the weight he needs to force the Formosa Invasion as he wanted instead?
     
  8. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    A counter landing would be absurd since US air and naval strength would be unaffected. It would be like the battle of the Bulge, it caused some worry and stress, but overall no effect on the outcome, maybe a delay in the end of the war.
     
  9. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I don't think so. The A-bombs would have been dropped on the same schedule.
     
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  10. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Perhaps, but it was part of the Japanese plan, to land troops behind the US forces after the IJN had done it work. Several DD's and CA's had been assigned the task. If they had managed it, with the US troops cut off from their logistics, one has to wonder. Troop and cargo ships sunk by the IJN? The Japanese would have more logistics to draw from at that point, regardless of TF58 returning. Once the logistic ships are sunk, then the US troops are pretty much left on their own like they were at the beginning of Guadalcanal.
     
  11. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    I have no idea where the counter invasion force was, I don't think it sailed, but with Halseys fleet around it seems like sitting duck strategy.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The Japanese counter landing was to be at Ormoc on the west side of Leyte. The force was led by heavy cruiser Aoba, the only one not otherwise involved in the operation, and light cruiser Kinu. They had not initially planned to fight a major battle on Leyte and needed to rush reinforcements to the island. Incidentally historically they were able to land significant reinforcements at Ormoc over the next month even with American forces established on and around Leyte, enabling them to prolong the battle.

    Getting back to our hypothetical, by October 25 MacArthur's transports had had five days to unload, so the initial four divisions were well established ashore; they even had Tacloban airfield in operation. Even if the worst happened they would be in better shape than the Marines on Guadalcanal in 1942. As noted it would take some time for the Japanese to build up sufficient force to seriously threaten the beachhead.

    In the unlikely - and unprecedented - event that the landing was completely defeated, it would likely force a reconsideration of American strategy. Going for Formosa would be even more like reaching an arm into a hornets' nest than Leyte. On the plus side, it's likely that much of the Japanese fleet would have been destroyed in and around Leyte Gulf.
     
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  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    if Nishimura exited Surigao Straight just before dawn, the US ships would have been backlit by the lightening sky in the east

    Oldendorf's battle line and cruisers were positioned in Leyte Gulf at the entrance from Surigao Strait and fired almost directly south when engaging Nishimura. Nishimura would only get to the west of them if Oldendorf moved east, which he would be unlikely to do, since it would give the Japanese a shot at the transports up the gulf.

    Oldendorf would keep his force between the Japanese and the transports. Actions between fleets were rarely fought to the point of complete destruction, but Oldendorf would not be able to break off no matter how the battle went. If Kurita and Nishimura/Shima entered through the two entrances to Leyte Gulf, there would no way to retreat except towards the transports - which Oldendorf was committed to protecting in any case. Bottom line - a fight to the finish, unless the Japanese broke it off.
     
  14. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I realize Surigao Straight runs roughly north and south, but the IJN would have a darker background due to land masses blocking the rising sun. The OBB's really have nothing behind them but horizon, and open water to the east of their battleline, aka "sunrise."
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In this situation they may open fire earlier possibly with HE. Some of the US BB's had a lock at over 30,000 yards from what I recall.
    wiki confirms this at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Leyte_Gulf#The_Battle_of_Surigao_Strait_.2825_October.29

    Light might also allow the rest of the US BBs to participate. I suspect that at least one would open up on the Japanese CA's as telling whose splashes were whose in those lighting conditions would be problematic. The cruisers also might have opened fire in the smaller ships in this situation as well.

    If you haven't seen:
    http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-079.htm
    it's worth reading as is Tully's book on the subject.

    If the Japanese attacks were well coordinated I'm not sure that Oldendorf's BBs could make it back in time to cut off the Japanese middle force though. Of course if they heard in time they might have left the Southern force to the cruisers as Fuso was already gone and Yamashiro had taken at least one torpedo.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Again I must empahisize that Oldendorf at no point moved his battle line out of position to cover the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf. Even when he believed that Halsey was taking care of the Center Force and San Bernadino Strait, he kept the battle line and supporting units within Leyte Gulf, firing down Surigao Strait. Early in the battle he sent destroyers to make torpedo attacks, and after the main gunnery action he took his flagship Louisville with several cruisers and destroyers down-strait to find out what was happening and finish off cripples; but the BBs, several cruisers, and those destroyers which still had torpedos remained ready to engage Kurita should he appear.

    Even if as hypothesized "US scouting has missed the two IJN prongs", it seems unlikely that 7th Fleet would be totally surprised when the Japanese appeared with the sunrise. At the least there would be PTs down Surigao Strait, and Kurita had to steam a hundred miles or so around Samar, past the Taffies. Indeed the scenario suggests that he would detach his cruisers to engage them. Oldendorf's forces at the north exit from Surigao Strait would have to be remarkably negligent to let Nishimura/Shima slip by them to the west, giving them a straight shot at the transports.

    The ideal for the Americans would still be to knock out most of Nishimura/Shima's forces before Kurita arrived. If the Japanese did manage to engage simultaneously, the Americans might still focus on N/S to the extent possible. If the six BBs had to leave one of their opponents unfired upon, it would probably be one of Kurita's, maybe Nagato. If Kurita was without CAs, Oldendorf could use most of his cruisers against N/S, though as noted earlier he would probably reserve a couple of his fast-firing CLs to help fend off destroyer attacks.

    If worse came to worst, he would fall back slowly towards the landing area. He could also get some reinforcements, light cruiser Nashville, whatever destroyers were still with the tranports, even DEs could take a hand as they did in Taffy 3's "Last Stand".
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    For some reason I had the impression that the Eastern opening(s) to Leyte Gulf were some distance from Surigao Strait. The following map proves that impression was wrong.
    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://destroyerhistory.org/assets/actions/3Db_surigaostrait01.jpg&imgrefurl=http://destroyerhistory.org/actions/surigaostrait/surigaostrait_progress01.html&h=540&w=720&sz=67&tbnid=znizmPj43DdYLM:&tbnh=86&tbnw=114&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dsurigao%2Bstrait%2Bmap%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=surigao+strait+map&usg=__E5qSq39c63I5zV50d1ChTDjQicY=&docid=7MyYT2xvy7bSWM&sa=X&ei=_7jlUfyvFO-j4AOqsIHYAw&ved=0CDcQ9QEwBA&dur=700

    Since the Japanese forces would have to move through fairly narrow waters the US battle line could concentrate on the lead elements in both cases. Only if they succesfully emerged from the straits would there be a problem with leaving a Japanese BB unengaged.
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Great map, lwd!

    Good point about the Japanese approach. A chart in Morison shows that part of the eastern entrance had been previously mined by the Japanese, which ironically might further restrict Kurita's ability to maneuver. As you say, Oldendorf would have a chance to inflict damage on the lead ships before the Japanese could fully deploy.
     
  19. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I've run across a little mystery concerning USS Maryland. Everything I've read including the navweaps paper lwd provided says that she had only Mark 3 radar at Surigao Strait.

    Slight digression - in 1942 Maryland and her sister Colorado had their aft cage masts cut down to just below funnel height, leaving only a platform which mounted light AA guns, searchlights, etc. This also meant that for most of the war they had only one main battery director, and it was 'original equipment'. Eventually both ships had the mainmast remnant replaced by a short tower mounting a modern Mark 34 director with Mark 8 radar, the same that was carried on their thoroughly reconstructed sister West Virginia. Colorado had just had this done in Sept-Oct 1944 and had not yet returned to action. Which brings us to the mystery; I've run across a couple photos of Maryland in the Naval Historical Center files:

    Photo #: 19-N-63820 dated April 25, 1944
    [​IMG]

    Photo #: 19-N-65057 dated April 26, 1944
    [​IMG]

    ...which appear to show the Mark 34/Mark 8 aft. According to DANFS she spent about two months in overhaul in early 1944, between the Kwajalein and Saipan invasions, so she could have received the Mark 34 then, but that conflicts with everything written about her performance at Surigao Strait.

    The Mark 34 was mainly used on cruisers, but a number became available when nine Cleveland class CLs were transformed into CVLs. A total of 19 Mark 34s were eventually mounted in older ships:

    6 on the reconstructed West Virginia, California, and Tennessee
    3 on Maryland, Colorado, and Pennsylvania
    10 on CAs Chester, Augusta, Louisville, Portland, and Indianapolis
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Your eyes decieve you, the Maryland is not carrying a Mark 34/Mark 8.
    Colorado before
    [​IMG]
    Colorado after
    [​IMG]
    The Mark 34/Mark 8 is noticably larger than the previous radar installation aboard Colorado. However, in the Maryland photos, the radar is quite similar to the Colorado before.
     

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