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What if the US Navy had developed a night fighting doctrine prior to WW2?

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by USS Washington, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    From 'Friedman's US destroyers' for your infomation:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Now that I think about it, during the Guadalcanal/Solomons campaign, Savo Island, Tassafaronga, Kolombangara, and Vella Lavella were the only night time battles where the IJN had dominated, in most other engagements, they were either tactical draws(though it seems the Japanese generally succeeded in dropping off their supplies/evacuating troops), where losses were roughly even, or US victories:

    *Battle of Cape Esperance, Oct 11-12, 1942: An American battle group of 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 5 destroyers ambush a Japanese squadron of 3 heavy cruisers and 2 destroyers, sinking 1 CA, 1 DD with another CA being damaged, while the Americans lost 1 DD(which fell out of formation and got caught between both forces), with 1 CL and 1 DD being damaged. This was the first defeat the IJN suffered in a night battle.

    *Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Nov. 12-15, 1942: The last major effort by the IJN to recapture Henderson Field is defeated by the efforts of the US forces, costing the IJN 2 battleships, 1 heavy cruiser, 3 destroyers, and another 3 destroyers damaged, along with all 11 transports, while USN losses were 2 CLs, and 7 DDs sunk, along with 1 BB, 2 CAs, 1 CL, and 2 DDs being damaged.

    *Battle of Blackett Strait, Mar 6th, 1943: An American squadron of 3 light cruisers and 3 destroyers successfully ambushed and sank 2 Japanese destroyers that had just finished dropping their cargo on the Island of Kolombangara, while suffering no losses to themselves.

    *Battle of Kula Gulf, Jul 6th, 1943: A battle-group of 3 American light cruisers and 4 destroyers engaged a Japanese flotilla of 10 destroyers on a reinforcement mission to the Island of Rendova, sinking 1 DD and causing another to run aground(Which was destroyed the next day by American aircraft), and damaging another 2-4 DDs, while the US force lost 1 CL.

    *Battle of Vella Gulf, Aug 6th-7th, 1943: A flotilla of 6 American destroyers successfully ambushed 4 Japanese destroyers, sinking 3 of them and damaging the sole survivor, this was the first time that American DDs operated independently from cruisers and defeated their vaunted Japanese counterparts in a night battle.

    *Battle of Horainu, Aug 18th, 1943: 4 American destroyers engage 4 Japanese destroyers escorting 20 barges headed for the Island of Vella Lavella, where the USN damaged 2 of the enemy DDs, and sinking 4 auxiliary ships, while taking no losses, though the Japanese succeeded in evacuating their troops.

    *Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, Nov. 1st-2nd, 1943: 4 American light cruisers and 8 destroyers intercept a Japanese force of 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 6 destroyers heading for the American landings at the island of Bougainville, and in the ensuing battle, the US sinks 1 CL, 1 DD, damaged 1 CA and 1 CL, and with another 2 DDs being damaged due to collisions within the Japanese squadron, while 1 American CL, and 3 DDs were damaged to varying degrees.

    *Battle of Cape St. George, Nov. 26th, 1943: In an engagement similar to Vella Gulf, 6 American destroyers ambushed 5 Japanese DDs, sinking 3 of them, while incurring no losses to themselves.

    All in all, it seems that the IJN really didn't dominate as much in the most of the night battles in the Guadalcanal/Solomons campaign as some would believe, and in some of their more devastating tactical victories, such as Savo, were helped due to factors such as incompetence on part of allied commanders. Now, I'm not trying to discredit the Japanese navy, they fought well despite the odds they labored against, and they should be accorded respect, I just feel the USN should be given their due credit as well.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If you look at the tonnage of warships lost in the Solomons it comes up pretty even from what I recall. The US lost more ships but the IJN loosing 2 battleships made up for it. Given that the IJN was operating a lot further from their airbases they did do quite well. The problem for them though was that a campaign that resulted in equla loss was a strategic disaster.
     
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  4. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    I agree, while the Japanese had a skilled navy, they didn't have the resources, industrial capacity, and manpower(particularly in their cadre of skilled airmen) to replace their losses in ships and personnel, unlike the US, meaning Guadalcanal was the campaign of attrition that depleted the IJN in ships and personnel past the point of recovery, and ensured that the momentum was attained and retained by the Allies for the rest of the war.
     
  5. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    But at least in being aware of the Type 93s speed/range characteristics, I could see RADM C H Wright employing tactics that would make his forces harder to hit.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Not necessarily so, that is only one part of the equation.

    Wright would also need to know that the superior Japanese optics and better lookouts allowed them to see much further in the dark.

    So, even if he did know the speed/range characteristics of the Type 93, he still was operating under the old "If I can't see them, then they can't see me." Rule. The Americans were relying on radar to do most of that work, radar they knew the Japanese did not have.
     
  7. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    After reading that, it makes me wonder how Tassafaronga would have gone if the we had sent in a destroyer flotilla instead.
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    After reading that, it makes me wonder how Tassafaronga would have gone if the we had sent in a destroyer flotilla instead.

    Intriguing question. In hindsight we could hardly have done much worse, but however they determined what ships were reasonably available to form TF67, it came down to five cruisers and just four destroyers. Lamson and Lardner were a last-minute addition and were tasked to just follow the cruisers; I suppose they could have been attached to the destroyers instead. Either way it would have been unusual to task 4-6 DDs to engage the Tokyo Express while the cruisers sat it out.

    As it turned out, 8" gunned cruisers were not very effective in night actions, but you go to war with the fleet you have.

    From what I've read, Wright's planning wasn't bad, it called for the destroyers to initiate the action with a torpedo attack and the cruisers to follow up with gunfire, a bit like what all-DD forces did at Vella Gulf and Cape St. George. Unfortunately when push came to shove Wright wouldn't let the destroyers exercise their initiative.

    The US DDs apparently felt they had a satisfactory firing solution, but post-battle reports suggested that the cruisers had been outside of their opponents' expected torpedo range; Friedman writes that "non-existant submarines were blamed". Anyway, getting back to an earlier topic, it does not appear that the extreme range of the Long Lance oxygen torpedo made a difference.

    For some reason the destroyer Drayton only fired two torpedos out of her broadside of eight. Fletcher and Perkins fired their full broadsides, ten and eight respectively.
     
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  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Drayton's Radar Plot was giving a solution of zero speed for the Japanese destroyers, this was checked and rechecked with additional ranges and bearings, still resulting in zero speed. Fletcher then passed to Drayton a solution speed of 15 knots for the Japanese destroyers.
    Drayton's AAR for the action: http://destroyerhistory.org/assets/pdf/421130_366drayton.pdf
     
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  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of the points made in Neptune's Inferno was that the flotilla and higher commanders with a few exceptions didn't really understand or trust radar so it was hard for the US to gain full advantage of it early on. This did change over time but the cost was high.
     
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  11. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Wright seemed to have undermined his own plan, in my view.
     
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  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    No doubt it would have made a difference for the USN in some of those battles had the commanders put more faith in radar.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Operational plan was not Wright's, but that of Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid. However, Kinkaid was promoted and sent to duty elsewhere, the plan devolved to Rear Admiral Wright, Kinkaid's replacement, who had just arrived at Espiritu Santo with the USS Minneapolis.
     
  14. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    Alright, thanks for the correction.
     
  15. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    I know it has been almost 9 months since the last post to this thread, but I would like to get back to my original question: If the US Navy had conducted extensive night fighting training prior to the war, employing tactics similar to that of the RN and IJN, such as giving our destroyers greater freedom to operate ahead of the main body of the task force(assuming cruisers are accompanying them) and open the engagement with a torpedo barrage instead of the line-ahead gun tactics that we used historically in the early battles of the Guadalcanal and Solomons campaign, might this have made a difference for us at Tassafaronga, Kula Gulf, Vella Lavella, and Kolombangara?
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Doubtful, as their is no practical reason for the Americans to do so, as it serves to negate their numerical advantage over Japan.
    The Japanese trained in night fighting because they were numerically inferior, and night actions would help to negate American advantages. While the British trained in night combat thanks to their abysmal night performance at Jutland.
     
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