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How would you have avoided the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. OpanaPointer

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

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    I'm not sure I follow your argument as fully as you may have wished.
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    the pentagon was stripping the pacific fleet for the war in EU.

    Transfers to the Atlantic comprised:
    3 of 12 battleships - New Mexico class, at that point the most modernized of the WWI-era ships.
    1 of 4 carriers - Yorktown
    4 of 20 modern cruisers - Brooklyn class CLs, whose size and fighting power was comparable to contemporary CAs; I use "modern" to exclude the old Omaha class ships. In addition one CA, one Brooklyn, and one Omaha were in the Far East on Dec 7.
    ~15 of ~60 modern DDs

    The BBs, Yorktown, and escorting destroyers returned to the Pacific shortly after Dec 7; Yorktown was already in operation in January 1942.

    Minor note, the Pentagon building was completed and opened in 1943, so it's not the best shorthand for US military in 1941.

    just like they did at Guadalcanal.

    What was stripped from the Guadalcanal operation? After Pearl Harbor the flow was all one-way, except for ships needing major repairs at East Coast shipyards. Transfers from the Atlantic by then included carriers Wasp and Hornet, heavy cruisers Quincy and Vincennes, and the new Atlanta class light cruisers. New battleship North Carolina was there, and sister Washington was en route after a short stint with the British Home Fleet. Destroyer strength in the Atlantic held steady at just over 90; the net increase from new construction all went to the Pacific. Ditto for other useful ships like the APDs.
     
  3. OpanaPointer

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

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    Namvet's post sounds like a bowl of conspiracy stew to me, Carronade.
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I'd be interested on your opinion on the 3 questions that I posted above.

    Thanks! On your first question, it was certainly appreciated that Pearl Harbor might be a target, it just was not considered the likely or most likely thing for the Japanese to do. Their actual objectives were all in the Far East, and we were aware of movements in that area. No major operation had ever been conducted over such a distance, and incidentally they rarely would be afterwards; even the US fleet with its logistic train rarely operated more than a thousand miles from at least an advance base. Nonetheless defensive measures were being taken, of course there's a massive debate as to whether they were sufficient.

    On 2 and 3, we had seven battleships operational in the Pacific a couple of months after Pearl Harbor. Little use was made of them; Nimitz did not even bring them forward to Hawaii when preparing for Midway. Incidentally the corresponding Japanese battleships were also mainly inactive, although they were in the far distance on that occasion. Maryland and Colorado were in the South Pacific during the Solomons campaign but were never sent near the actual fighting.

    Had the Japanese skipped Pearl Harbor, and the Pacific Fleet been intact while they were running wild in the Far East, there would have been considerable pressure to "do something" even if there was no clear understanding of what - or how it would be supported logistically. Our main war plans were for an advance across the Central Pacific which could not get underway until a vast logistic train had been assembled, largely from civilian shipping. Any support for the hard-pressed ABDA forces would be improvised. Historically most of our operations against the advancing Japanese were carrier raids against points like Rabaul and New Guinea.

    Getting back to the decoy idea, the British ships were intended to fool say a reconnaissance pilot flying over Scapa Flow or spotting a convoy into thinking there was a KGV-type battleship there. It's a whole different story if a ship recognition expert like Yoshikawa can study them through binoculars, check his reference books, and observe them over time. He'd know what battleships we had, something that didn't look exactly like one of them would be an obvious fake. He kept track of ships' movements; the real ones moved around all the time, spent half their time at sea. Crewmen moving about, stores being delivered, ships' boats, flag hoists, morning colors, smoke - you'd have to fake all of this to make it believable. If the observer once got the idea that something might not be kosher, the whole deception program would fail.

    A "carrier" on a merchant hull might actuall be easier, not necessarily to fool anyone into thinking it was say the Saratoga, but both the US and Japanese navies had plans for converting liners and other merchant ships into auxiliary CVs. The scam might be to make them think we had a few more carriers than we really did.

    p.s. Oregon was 351' long, Illinois 368'.
    Our shortest active BB in 1941, Arkansas, was 562' and the shortest in Pac Flt, Nevada class, 583'.
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    No s**t????? :)
     
  6. OpanaPointer

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

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    This was primarily a fuel issue, with the operational speeds being important as well.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I will standby my assesment that the raid on Pearl Harbor was not meant to draw the United States into war in the Pacific. If Japan wanted to start a war with just the US there were easier ways to get there than attack Pearl Harbor.

    Not sure I see your point here. Is anyone suggesting that the Japanese "wanted" a war with the US? Their ideal would have been to leave each other alone and maintain normal relations, including sale of oil and other materials. Only if we wouldn't do that would they consider war neessary or inevitable (needless to say, the option of them backing down was off the table, or at least off their table). Pearl Harbor was not a means of starting a war so much as a tactic for prosecuting one.
     
  8. OpanaPointer

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

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    In class I called the attack "A brilliantly executed failure." (I also got to give the module on Pearl Harbor to the NROTC "Naval History" class, which I took on a lark.)
     
  9. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    A few thoughts, some already mentioned by others:


    -sailing schedule: Make it irregular and the attack won’t happen IMO. The Japanese needed to catch the fleet in port in the early morning. The fleet was in port for ~two mornings per week, one always was Sunday morning. If its two random mornings, the Japanese would have to rely on 100% luck as they did not have the fuel to remain near PH for more than a short hit and run raid.

    -West Coast, Manila, Darwin: No can do. FDR ordered the fleet to PH, Manila was most unsecured as a base and Darwin an outpost in the outback.

    -more fighters and AA to PH: They had enough of it, more than enough actually.

    -abandoning the PI: That long time strategy was abandoned by mid-41 and the PI were tunred into a major B-17 base due for completion in early/mid-42.

    -hitting PH’s infrastructure: Several BB escaped with minor damage, the cruisers were barely attacked at all. There were plenty intact warships left for another two waves. While the Cavite Naval Yard was old, cramped and a tinderbox, the one at PH was big and new. Good luck doing much damage with single engine planes. And even if, machine shops can repair themselves. See Massawa: The machine shops of the Royal Italian Navy had been demolished. The allied salvage team disassembled all destroyed tools and machines and from the good parts they put together a lathe and a milling machine, made parts of the rest and in no time the shops were back at full capacity. At PH the Japanese would not only have to destroy all machine shops but also sink all the repair ships and tenders.

    Similar story with the fuel tanks. If you look at the pics of them, you’ll notice an earth wall around every single one. And what you can’t see is the underground lines connecting them. Hit one tank with a bomb and the earth wall contains the spillage, empty the surrounding tanks and damage is localized. Furthermore it would have taken but few trips of few tankers to replace all the oil.


    edit: Ohh, I forgot to answer the OP's question, how I would have avoided the attack on PH. Not at all of course! If had a)been in charge and b)been worried about a carrier attack, I would have had my defences at an appropriate level of readyness to meet such an attack.
     
  10. OpanaPointer

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

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    Markus, Rainbow-5 conceded the PI to the Japanese.

    As for the OP, perhaps it would have been better to say "how would you avoid a SUCCESSFUL attack on Pearl Harbor."
     
  11. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Overtaken by the events. As for example William H. Bartsch describes in his books, the USAAF was in the process of sending massive reinforcements to the PI. Everything from an AA-gun to B-17s. The PI had 30+ B-17, PH only a dozen and as we all know more B-17 were on the way to the PI via PH. Who sends his best and at the time scarce heavy bombers to an outpost about to be conceded to the enemy?

    See also here: HyperWar: US Army in WWII: Fall of the Philippines [Chapter 3]
     
  12. OpanaPointer

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

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    MacArthur's optimism wasn't in line with reality.
     
  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Maybe ??

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Still, the policy of not reinforcing the PI had been reversed, just not soon enough.
     
  15. OpanaPointer

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

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    And PI was meant to hold out on it's own for up to six months when and if the reinforcements got there. Mac wanted 200,000, he had about 10% of that number. Given that he held out for nearly that long with what he had the possibility exists that he could have held some part of the PI for the required amount of time, but that would have meant the Guadalcanal forces would have gone to him if we did in deed decide to ride to the rescue. It would have been exactly what the Japanese wanted, of course.
     
  16. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    IMO a moot point.

    If the Japanese take everything around the PI, like the Malaya barrier and Rabaul, the PI are utterly out of reach. The closest the GC forces could get is the northern shores of New Guinea.

    If there is a realistic chance of getting to the PI because the Japanese have not taken some key locations around the PI, the Japanese must have suffered some VERY bad defeat already.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

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

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    I don't think we're disagreeing there.
     
  18. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    I'm not sure I would go as far as to say that Japan wanted to fight a war with the US. Once the decision was made however, there was no changing their mind. From reading some of Nomura's messages to his superiors, he seemed to feel FDR truely wanted peace in the Pacific, and that he was being hogtied in his own efforts to negotiate that peace.
     
  19. OpanaPointer

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

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    Nomura and Grew shared a similar problem, their bosses weren't being fully informative. Grew never heard of "Magic", and Nomura knew nothing of the "Southward Advance", except for the obvious signs, of course. Japan's November 20th memorandum pretty much outlines what it would have taken to avoid a war in the Pacific. 254
     
  20. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    Political leaders who leave thier underlings in the Dark. I'm Shocked!
     

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