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USS Saratoga at Midway

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by KiMaSa, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    I know historically that USS Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 6, 1942. Delays in loading aircraft in San Diego and in assembling escorts are cited as reasons for this as well as the fact that Saratoga was awaiting for the arrival of Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch. Nimitz ordered Captain Ramsey to sail on June 1st without further delay. Fitch arrived at San Diego on June 2.

    If Admiral Nimitz had deemed Saratoga's participation absolutely essential to the battle, what steps could have been taken so that Saratoga clears Pearl for Midway with a full airgroup and escorts by the afternoon of June 1st?
     
  2. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    The Sara could have sailed with out all her escorts and could have had a different commander is it was deemed critical, but the delays in aircraft was the kicker. Only if their was enough available in Pearl could the Sara have been used
     
  3. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Here is my best crack at answering my own question. Critical viewpoints and constructive criticism are;of course, welcome.

    The four factors I see are: Aircraft, Pilots, Escorts, and Time to complete preparations and arrive at Point Luck. Point Luck must be achieved on June 2.

    Aircraft: Saratoga has a detachment of VF-2 consisting of 13 F4F-4s and 1 F4F-7, as well as 23 SBDs of VS-3 waiting at NAS San Diego. There are 10 SBDs of the REAL VS-5 that will be waiting at Pearl as well as enough F4F-4s available from Carrier Air Services Unit -1 to fill out a full fighter squadron but the added Wildcats come without pilots. We will need to acquire these from somewhere else. Also, there are not enough TBDs to make a full squadron. (I count 3 in the fleet pool and 5 from VT-5) There ARE; however, three squadrons enroute to Pearl Harbor aboard the transports Hammondsport and Chaumont. VF-5 with 18 F4F-4s, VF-72 with 20 F4F-4s, and the second part of VT-8 with 20 TBFs. These all have crew and 6 TBFs WERE sent to Midway in time to fight. That still leaves 14 TBFs If they can be unloaded and readied in time. IF these can be ready and on board Saratoga by the morning of May 31st. This is probably doable with the transports having arrived on the 28th. Assuming that the 6 TBFs are still sent to Midway, we can still have Saratoga with a full compliment of aircraft.

    Pilots: VS-3 is fully manned, as is VS-5. VF-2 (Det) has eight veterans and six new pilots from ACTG. VT-8 (Second Half. Herein VT-8b) is fully manned but is a completely green squadron. This cannot be helped. No other pilots in theater are trained with the TBF. We are still short on fighter pilots though.
    We COULD poach them off one of the newly arriving squadrons; VF-5 or VF-72, but these pilots are also green. Not ideal if it can be helped. Fortunately there IS a source of combat experienced pilots. Unfortunately they are going the wrong way. The survivors of VF-2 from Coral Sea ( minus four pilots transfered to Yorktown and Enterprise) are currently sailing for San Diego aboard transports George F. Elliott and Barnett and escorted by the Heavy Cruiser USS Chester. This force must be diverted to Pearl Harbor. This will add eleven experienced pilots to the reconstituted VF-2. It will be easier to borrow a couple of pilots from VF-72 than trying to integrated a whole flock of rookies. The survivors of VB-2 and VS-2 are available but not really necessary here. (Although among their ranks are a couple of pilots who would be assigned to the newly forming VF-10 Maybe just borrow them.) The entire personnel strength of VT-2 is here but with no planes. The choice would be a half squadron of TBDs flown by combat veterans or a full squadron of TBFs. Will it were that VT-2s planes had been diverted to Yorktown instead of landing on Lexington and going down with the ship, but alas it is not so. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that enough pilots CAN be made available. Indeed, there are enough SBDs in the fleet pool to reconstitute Bombing Two once the unit's pilots arrive.

    *Note: Historically it took from May 17 to June 2nd for USS Chester and the accompanying transports to reach San Diego from the island of Tonga. Assuming that the decision to divert to Pearl is made on May 22, then they should arrive on the 28th. If the decision is made on the 25th, then it may take two more days.

    Escorts: By running at high speed, Saratoga should be able to avoid trouble before reaching Pearl Harbor, but from that point on, she will need at least some escort. We have already diverted the heavy cruiser Chester to Pearl. (Not incidentally bringing TF-11 CO Fitch with her.) USS San Diego; an Atlanta class AA cruiser, is fully available. It seems probable that four destroyers: Laffey, Mahan, Smith, and Craven; possibly also USS Preston and USS Dunlap, can be ready in time. So we have escorts. Note that in Operation Plan No. 29-42. that TF-11 did not list DDs Smith or Mahan but did include DDs Dale, Fanning, Aaron Ward, and Dunlap. I am simply not sure if these ships will be available in time. As for Smith and Mahan, these were on escort duties during this period and probably available.

    Time: The most precious comodity. Saratoga MUST make Point Luck by the afternoon of June 2. This means that as at 20 knots, it will take 51.3 hours to cover the distance, we should count on Saratoga leaving Pearl no later than the morning of May 31st. Sara left Puget Sound on May 22 and arrived in San Diego on May 25. First thing's first: There is no time for ACTG qualification flights. If Captain Ramsey goes at a sustained 30 knots it will take 76 hours to reach Pearl. Assuming that she departs on the morning of May 26, it will take until about noon on the 29th to reach Pearl. This gives 36 hours to refuel and reprovision, put the right people onboard and nail everything down before sailing. However at a sustained 33 knots, (within Saratoga's capability) the trip takes 70 hours. This will up the time available in Pearl to 42 hours as she arrives early on the morning of the 29th.

    This is a VERY tight schedule and would require tight coordination, but seems POSSIBLE if managed correctly at the earliest moment..
     
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  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The planes wouldn't necessariily have to be on board Saratoga the morning of the 31st. They could probably still catch up to her and land the afternoon of that day.
     
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  5. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    On the other side of the battle, we have Zuikaku, the OTHER carrier that possibly should have been there. According to Shattered Sword, She came back from Coral Sea carrying 25 A6Ms, 17 D3As, and 14 B5Ns (including those deemed repairable.) This is only 7 B5Ns and 5 D3As short of what she carried into the battle and 5 A6Ms beyond her prebattle compliment! If SOMEONE in the Japanese chain of command had insisted on some improvisation, Just what could have been done to get Zuikaku into the fight? I was thinking about transferring Ryujo's Type 97s to Zuikaku and transferring a unit of B5Ms to Ryujo. (The B5M may be an inferior model to the B5N but the Aleutians force isn't really expecting to confront the US Fleet.)
     
  6. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    But what about Yorktown, historically she had to take on Saratoga's air groups to get her combat ready for Midway; Perhaps as an alternative, Yorktown could be the one to take aboard some of the various air groups you noted while Saratoga retains her squadrons, giving us 4 CVs at Midway rather than 3?
     
  7. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    but nimitz had to keep a reserve force at pearl, should nagumo make a sudden dash in that direction. that's according to walter lord.
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    It's been a while since I read Lord, but I don't quite get this. The main defense of Pearl Harbor/Oahu would be land-based air, of which I expect there was plenty by June 1942 - anyone have information? A lone carrier with a patched-together air group wouldn't make much of a difference and indeed would be a potential target. Speaking of targets, what exactly would the Japanese be hoping to accomplish by attacking Oahu at this point?

    KiMaSa and USS Washington make some good points about putting air groups together. Yorktown's air group was understrength and deserving of a rest, but it's not impossible to ask them to make one more effort for what was likely to be a crucial battle. It would also be desirable to get the new TBFs of VT-8 into action. If there was a plan to put VT-8 on a carrier, it might not be necessary to fly the 6-plane detachment to Midway.

    Assembling an escort for Saratoga is a valid concern, but how much is needed? The Japanese had fewer escorts (16) for their four carriers than we had for three (22). She should certainly have a few destroyers, but it would be a pity if lack of surface escorts kept a flight deck out of what was primarily an air battle. Fletcher and Spruance could also shift a few ships if needed after Sara arrived at Point Luck.

    Historically, Japanese submarines were positioned between Pearl Harbor and Midway too late to intercept our carriers, but depending when Sara left Pearl she might be in danger from them.
     
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  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    My Saratoga relic (the one in the middle)

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One other option if Saratoga needed an escort as far as Point Luck, there were five WWI-era destroyers attached to the 14th Naval District (Ward, Schley, Chew, Allen) and Submarines, Pacific (Litchfield) which often performed patrol and escort duties.

    Allen (DD-66) was the last of the "thousand-tonners", the class before the flush-decker/four-pipers, featuring a raised forecastle.

    There would also have been a number of destroyer-minelayers/sweepers (DM/DMS), light seaplane tenders (AVD), and possibly some fast transports (APDs), all of which retained sonar and depth charge tracks, not to mention that important WWII antisubmarine sensor, the Mark 1 eyeball.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A somewhat off topic question but perhaps relevant. Lacking the damage control failure that led to the fuel air explosion that sank her could Lexingtion have made it to Midway? Or would her damage have precluded it?
     
  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Maybe, though Lexington did take a heavier beating than Yorktown, taking 3 bombs and 2 torpedoes vs. just 1 bomb hit, the underwater damage in particular probably would have been enough to keep her out of the battle, but the USN could still use the aircraft aboard Lexington to help patch up Yorktowns air groups.
     
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  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I would agree, the two(or more) torpedo hits to Lexington would preclude her taking part in the Battle of Midway.

    The planes and pilots could be used to bolster the Yorktown's air group or flown out to Midway to add to it's air power.
     
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  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I agree also. A lot of ships have gotten home after being torpedoed, but that's all they do. I can't think of a ship that carried on with its mission after being torpedoed - anyone? - let alone embarked on a new one.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I can think of a couple but most if not all involve the torpedo not exploding.
     
  16. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Good one! ;)
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Agreed, all the ones that I can think of involved dud torpedoes.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It's called "Covering your bases." The same reason that the American battleships and USS Long Island "marked time" during the Battle of Midway some 1,200 miles west of San Francisco(about 1/3rd the distance between San Fran and Midway) covering the US West Coast. What the Japanese hoped to accomplish by attacking Oahu would be irrelevant to Nimitz's decision making. That the possibility existed is what he had to guard against. Same thing with providing protection for the US West Coast.


    The Sara had USS Preston as an escort as of June 1st, the USS San Diego joined Sara's Task Force 11 on June 2nd.

    Fletcher and Spruance could have contributed some escorts, but only at the cost of losing escorts for their own carriers. Essentially, this would be a lose-lose situation, the Americans gain an extra deck, but at the no carrier will have a full strength AA screen. FYI, the Americans always ran heavy on escorts for their carriers.


    I don't think that the Americans were as concerned with an anti-submarine screen, as they were with an anti-aircraft screen. And, the old "four pipers" would add next to nothing to Sara's AA screen. Same would go for the DM/DMS, AVDs, and APDs.
     
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  19. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    It was Admiral Redman in Washington commander of communications, who had a major feud with commander Rochefort over control of the decryption efforts in Hawaii, who insisted the Japanese were going to attack Pearl. Fortunately Nimitz was allowed to make the decision over the location of the fleet, but they had to pretend to cover Hawaii to ease concerns. Even though he was wrong, Admiral Redman managed to get himself an award for the victory at Pearl while denying Rochefort any recognition and finally getting him demoted to command of a dry dock.
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Redman said the Japanese were headed for Johnston Island, not Pearl.

    The "trick" with the broken distillation plant on Midway, confirmed the unknown designator AF, some two weeks before the battle.
     

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