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Halsey and the battle of Midway

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by AmericanEagle, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. AmericanEagle

    AmericanEagle Member

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    So as Adm. Halsey was bed-ridden during the battle of Midway, his only contribution to the battle in general terms was naming his replacement Rear Adm. Spruance. Knowing Halsey's bitter hatred I'll call it of the Japanese, if he had been able to participate in the battle would there have been any change in the outcome? He was very aggresive in his tactics, but honestly don't know if it was a reckless approach or well calculated gamble on his part. If he had been in the battle instead of Spruance is it thought that he would done things differently and perhaps changed the outcome?
     
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  2. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Your question would be more accurately phrased as "What would have been the outcome, or what would have been different, had Halsey been in command rather than Fletcher?" Fletcher was in command, not Spruance.

    Good thing I don't play "what if."
     
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I think this qualifies as a "What if?", so I'll move it there. Feel free to weigh in.
     
  4. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member

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    It would be hard to imagine anyone doing better than Fletcher did at Midway..
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well the strikes could have been a bit better organized but I don't think that was Fletcher's fault. It might come down to whether or not there was a more extended persuit.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    In a nutshell there you have it.

    The first question that must be asked is Halsey's presence going to change the command arraignment to any significant degree. I suspect Fletcher remains in overall command.

    As a practical matter how much better could the US do in the battle? The Midway airstrikes were a failure, never compromising the base. The Japanese never got close to landing a force on the islands and 4 of her 6 Fleet CV's were total losses. While the US did lose Yorktown this was as much a situation where a enemy sub was in the right place at the right time, so nothing Halsey could do to prevent it.

    The only real change I can think of is if the US carrier strikes were properly coordinated, with bomber, torpedo and fighters arriving all at the same time. Perhaps more of the torpedo planes make it back home and perhaps the 4th carrier is struck, preventing the Japanese counterstrike on Yorktown (which prevents her being a sitting duck to a Japanese sub).

    There are several problems how ever with this. Halsey can't force squadron commanders to keep together once in the air. Then there is the issue that the US attacks, however disjointed and uncoordinated, had a net benefit to the US, in such that when the US dive-bombers tipped over to attack they did so against minimal fighter opposition and against targets that were as vunerable as possibly could be. these unco-ordinated attacks also allowed a creeping command confusion to remain in place with senior Japanese officers. I believe it was not till after Torpedo 8's heroic and fruitless attack and just minutes before the dive-bombers struck that Nagumo realized he faced more than one carrier. His belief in only one American CV played a part in his choices in rearming and staging.

    I have to wonder that if Halsey was to get better co-ordination from his attack groups would they have found Nagumo at a different time. Perhaps after he recovered the Midway strike and after launching the Carrier strike? if so a resounding strategic and tactical victory might be exchanged with rough draw simply because an American admiral did everything right.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Halsey would have been under the same direction from Nimitz to be guided by the principal of calculated risk, he'd have the same information about Japanese plans, as an aviator he was familiar with the range and performance of our aircraft, and the details of the plan for catching the enemy while they were attacking Midway were worked out by Halsey's own staff under Miles Browning; so I would expect the events of June 4 to unfold mainly as the did historically. One "what-if", perhaps Halsey would not have been as concerned as Fletcher about the possibility of other undetected Japanese forces and might therefore have thrown Yorktown's VS-5 into the strike, which might knock out the fourth Japanese carrier and spare Yorktown from attack.

    At Leyte Gulf in 1944, Halsey's idea of a carrier battle including closing in with his gunnery ships to finish off the enemy, but of course he knew he had superiority in surface firepower as well as air. I could see him being more aggressive on June 5-6, but hopefully he would remain cautious of engaging the Japanese battleships. As I recall, at Coral Sea there had been consideration of a night attack using cruisers and destroyers, which might be perceived as an alternative to daylight gunnery action; we had not yet learned how formidable the Japanese could be in night combat. I also recall that Halsey was an aggressive destroyer commander before switching to aviation.
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Belasar and I appear to have achieved a simultaneous attack, probably more so than any American commander in 1942 could. Except for the most basic decisions like "launch at 0700", carrier operations were run by the individual captains and CAGs. Hornet's air group took a completely different direction from Enterprise's even though Spruance's intention and expectation appears to have been that they would attack the Japanese force reported by PBYs.
     
  9. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    HAD Halsey been present at Midway, he would have been in overall command. Halsey was a Vice Admiral, promoted on 13 June 1940, and Fletcher was a Rear Admiral, promoted on 1 November 1939. Halsey's promotion to Rear Admiral had come on 1 March 1938. Fletcher would not receive his third star until 26 June 1942, after the battle; at that point Halsey was still about 15 numbers senior to Fletcher.

    One could further consider the tangled web of force commands. Halsey was Commmander, Carriers Pacific Fleet (ComCarPac); Fletcher’s Task Force 17 fell under that umbrella. Fletcher’s other hat, though, besides Commander Task Force 17, was Commander Cruisers Pacific (ComCruPac) and Spruance, although working for Halsey in Task Force 16, reported to Fletcher administratively in his capacity as Commander Cruiser Division 5 (ComCruDiv5).

    As badly as Spruance’s staff (the same folks Halsey would have used) screwed up operations for Task Force 16 during the battle - mostly through an abject failure to maintain control of operations, generally, and failing to communicate roles, responsibilities, and expectations (all in no uncertain terms) to the folks over on Hornet - one wonders how much worse they could have screwed up with Halsey’s free-wheeling style versus Spruance’s more systematic approach.
     
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  10. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Halsey in overall command could indeed have made an inpact, yet again I fear for the worse, despite my respect for him as a Fighting Admiral.
     
  11. AmericanEagle

    AmericanEagle Member

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    Knowing of Halsey's aggressiveness and his distaste for the Japanese, could that have not also made him more apt to not withdraw his forces and try to find and bomb the transports or other resources of the advancing forces? Or would he have retired as history had happen?
     
  12. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    the only person who screwed up was Ring, and I don't know what Spruance or Fletcher could have done, since they could not control Rings actions as they were not aware of them. Except for Ring the battle went beautifully. The US still had difficulties with coordinating their air groups due to a lack of experience in operations, which is why the attack was so dysfunctional. Still the bad timing contributed to the success since the Japanese failed to show proper cap discipline. I don't think Halsey would have been so reckless. The only reason he went after the carriers at Leyte is he thought the BB's had withdrawn and he did believe the carriers were a threat.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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