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USS Enterprise sunk at Pearl Harbor

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Gromit801, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    If everything had gone according to plan, Enterprise would have been in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, arriving the day before. She would have been moored on the same side of Ford Island as the Utah. There's no doubt she would have been sunk, and being moored against the island like Utah, capsized would have been quite probable. When they made the attemps to right the Utah, they discovered the mud and slope of the island prevented the task. A ship as tall as Enterprise would have complicated matters more. The Utah was given up on because of the difficulties trying to roll her over. I've no doubt they would have moved heaven and earth getting the Enterprise back in action. Perhaps even the mother of all dredging and earth moving operations altering Ford Island itself, to get that precious flight deck back.

    So, consider the key engagements Enterprise participated in till 1944, which at best, is when she would have been back in the fleet, if at all.
     
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    didn't we have another carrier in European theater? Ranger and Wasp? I would think they would've been brought to Pacific, Wasp earlier...what happened to the Ranger?
     
  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Off hand, I would say that 1942 would be the only year that really mattered...

    1943, she provided air cover in and around Guadalcanal, and then from May through October, she was out of action, undergoing repairs at Pearl, and the refit at Bremerton. She would return to action in time for the invasion of the Gilberts, but by then, she was one carrier of many, IIRC 5 CVs and 5 CVLs participated in the Gilberts, along with several CVEs. In 1944, she would be one of many more.


    The Ranger and Wasp were originally kept out of the Pacific, because they were the least survivable of the American carriers(Langley by that time was no longer a CV), Wasp was brought to the Pacific following the loss of Lexington. So, it would not be unreasonable to bring Wasp over early with the Enterprise out of action at Pearl, and then scraping the bottom of the barrel by bringing the Ranger to the Pacific to somewhat make up for further carrier losses.

    This would extend the ripple effect due to Wasp's two ferry sorties to Malta in April and May, 1942, that would not take place.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    That would be an intriguing situation. The Big E represented 1/3, 1/2, or all of our flight decks in most of the carrier operations of 1942.

    Wasp and Ranger were smaller than our other carriers, with shorter flight decks and lower speed, about 29 knots, significant limitations at that time since flight ops relied almost entirely on rolling takeoffs. They also had different air groups, two squadrons each of scout bombers, which were still SB2Us at the time of Pearl Harbor, and two of fighters. They were only just starting to organize torpedo squadrons for them, and the new Avengers were just starting to be delivered to operational squadrons. Wasp for example did not receive SBDs or TBFs until her arrival on the West Coast in June 1942.

    We should note that the loss or disabling of Enterprise would make her air group available; they would usually have been flown ashore before her arrival at Pearl.

    The "Germany First" strategy put considerable pressure on Roosevelt to support British priorities like the ferry missions to Malta which Takao mentioned. Troop convoys also required heavy escorts, often including capital ships or carriers. The USN was reluctant to use Ranger for major operations, although she seems hardly inferior to ships like HMS Eagle which played an active role in the war.

    The Doolittle raid was a strong political priority, but it required two of our best carriers, not a smaller, slower ship like Wasp. This on top of Atlantic/European commitments could impact our ability to send adequates forces to the South Pacific or Coral Sea.

    We had a lot of priorities to juggle, and being short one ball wouldn't help.
     
  5. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Had the Wasp been forced to come to the Pacific earlier, would the Ranger have to make the Malta runs? She certainly had the ability. At some point, Saratoga would have been shouldering the entire carrier war until the first Essex class ships arrived. This might have been her undoing, being the solitary target. But then, with Enterprise gone at the beginning, a huge ripple effect would have taken place concerning all US carrier dispositions and battles. Enterprise pilots took out half the IJN carriers at Midway, provided a great deal,of the aerial striking force at Guadalcanal. Would the US have committed both Yorktown And Lexington at Coral Sea? If not, might the IJN won that day, and took the rest of New Guinea?
     
  6. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    and, would Japanese strategy have changed, if they knew it was out?? I would say yes, ...more bolder
     
  7. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    IIRC, the Japanese pulled off a few successful reconnasaince flights over PH after the attack and in early 1942. The shape of Enterprise against Ford Island would certainly let them know he US was down a Yorktown class carrier.
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    If Wasp was sent to the Pacific right after Pearl Harbor, or the torpedoing of Saratoga in January 1942, the first six months or so of the war might proceed much as they did historically. We could have the same number of flight decks for each raid or battle, although as noted Wasp was somewhat less effective. We might recall the tribulations of Enterprise and Hornet at Midway; they didn't have enough flight deck length or wind over deck to launch their full air groups all at once, and their operations suffered accordingly.

    If events proceeded as historically through the Guadalcanal campaign, having one less carrier could become a real problem.

    The other potential impact is those ferry runs to Malta. There were quite a few "Club Runs" delivering fighters to the island http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_Run. Wasp carried the largest number of aircraft, up to 48, but HMS Eagle and Furious could accommodate as many as 32 and 39 (some refs say 37 or 38). At one point apparently none of the British carriers were available, although there was still the option of using USS Ranger. At any rate it seems unlikely that Malta would gone down the drain but for Wasp.

    The US did have a commitment to the "Germany First" strategy. Historically we sent Yorktown back to the Pacific almost immediately after Pearl Harbor and Hornet as soon as she was worked up, making 5 of our 7 CVs, leaving the 2 smallest in the Atlantic. Had Enterprise been lost, a 4:2 distribution might not have seemed unreasonable.
     
  9. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    With Enterprise sunk, would her air-groups be disbanded? Because I'm wondering if the first 6 months of the Pacific war go about historically and Midway still happens, they could fly "The Big E's" air-groups to midway island to reinforce it.
     
  10. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    Disbanded seems unlikely, what with US carrier air groups (then and now) being independent units (independent from the carriers, that is), but of course I couldn't guess what would have been done with them, were there no other carrier to put them on. Bet somebody would have pushed to send them to Wake to help defend it.
     
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  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The squadrons weren't wedded to the ships, they were independent commands that came on board when needed. More likely than disbanding would have been mining them for cadre for new squadrons.
     
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  12. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    A key part of the question is how much of the crew would be on board. Loss of the ship would eventually be replaced, but the loss of the air and maintenance crews would hurt moe.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    This is Pearl Harbor, not Midway...Her pilots and air crews would be safely ashore.

    The survival of the aircraft mechanics would be a different question. Although, any losses here could probably be made good fairly quickly.
     
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    It would depend on how many were bunking on board, etc. Liberty secured for most enlisted men at midnight on Saturday night, IIRC. Officers and senior enlisted men had the option of staying out all night.

    The amount of damage done would indicate the number of casualties. A lucky hit on a magazine or AvGas bunker could devastate the crew. I think a carrier would have gotten special attention from the IJN pilots.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Where did they bunk the squadron's personnel when in port. I thought it was on board the mother unit. I could be wrong, of course.
     
  16. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    .

    Enterprise was coming in for resupply and heading out again, so originally she would have been in port just a few days (December 7th being one of them). Likely the crew would be sleeping on board.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I agree. The squadrons had home bases where they went for down time, repair, refresher training and a place to store their stuff (spare planes, hangar queens, coffee mugs, etc.) and they deployed from there to the carriers. They were effectively "camping out" on the bird farms.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Where was she going to?

    As her schedule, for the most part, adheres to her pre-war training schedule, she was to have been in-port undergoing upkeep for the next 12 or so days.

    pdf page 16:
    http://ibiblio.org/pha/congress/Joint%20Committee%20Exhibits/Exhibit%20113.pdf
     
  19. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Wake and Midway run had caused some essential maintenance work to be delayed, especially for Enterprise, so that schedule would have been extended a bit more for "availability" time, I suspect.
     
  20. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I don't know why I didn't notice this sentence way back when. Her air group would have been ashore at the time of the attack. A very good chance her air group would have been destroyed on the ground.
     

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