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The Japanese Invasion Landings at Midway

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by John Dudek, Mar 18, 2007.

  1. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    What were the chances that a Japanese Special Naval Landing force could have successfully landed on Midway Island in the event of a US Navy reversal during the battle? Remember, the island was defended by the elements of three Marine Defense Battalions, whose artillery ranged from 3-inch to 5-inch to old 7-inch guns. There were also two Companies of Marine Raiders on the island as well as a number of M-3 Stuart tanks as well. This would not bode well for the Japanese.

    Personally, I would say that the Japanese would have been given yet another bloody nose in this operation, given that the Aircraft Carrier USS Saratoga arrived a day or so after the battle of Midway had ended and could have been used in further fleet sponsored, counter-invasion duties. What say you?
     
  2. Marienburg

    Marienburg Member

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    Agreed, the Marine defences would have been formidable and planes from the Saratoga could have hampered Japanese landing attempts. However, if the Japanese had won the naval battle their own carrier based planes would also have been available for attacks on the island and to defend against the Saratoga's planes. What the ultimate result would have been I don't know.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Judging from the two opposed amphibious landings the Japanese made at the opening of the war, Wake and Khota Bharu in Malayia, they would have gotten wacked on the beaches big time. At Wake their first battalion sized landings failed miserably. The second attempt made it ashore against minimial defenses only after heavy casualties.
    At Khota Bharu the Japanese landing consisted of a reinforced division. The intital wave of about a regiment was almost thrown back into the sea by the defending Indian brigade that had about a battalion strength componet directly on the landing beaches. Again, only massive casualties and sheer determination saved the situation for the Japanese.
    The Midway landings would have seen the Japanese sending about equal sized forces to the defenders ashore in the first wave. The defenders had far more automatic weapons and heavy guns than the Japanese had faced elsewhere. The likelyhood is that the Japanese landing would have looked alot like a late war banzai charge rather than a serious attempt to make a sustainable landing.
     
  4. Balderdasher

    Balderdasher Dishonorably Discharged

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    I suspect that the lessons from Wake etc were the reason why Yamamoto changed up the Midway fleet composition. Their biggest battleships and numerous cruisers, including the 18" Yamato reserved for just that effort. More than one bombarding taskforce specifically prepared and assigned.

    I think we might be under-estimating the contributions of unchallenge air superiority and big gun battleship shore bombardment support as we eventually succeeded with. MacArthur wrote 'no-one prepares fortified defenses as well as the ****' and yet with old battleships and cruisers and carrier support the USN would succeed in the same endeavours.

    With continual carrier-born air attacks(especially on that kind of terrain) and cruiser even Yamato 18" battleship bombardment, (and no bunker we had there would survive those), they could change the odds drastically.

    I've read Spruance, Nimitz and Fletcher and none of them mention confidence in holding Midway if the US carriers didn't succeed the way they did. But of course that's the Navy for you ;).

    With no replacing supplies or reinforcements, Midway defenders would be faced with the same problem as Iwo Jima. It wasn't an island like Hawaii after-all, it was pretty much the ideal set-up for Yamato, Nagato and Kirishima let alone cruiser bombardment till surrender. The Americans were not likely to fight to the death like Iwo Jima. Especially if they heard the carriers were sunk, routed or not coming to their rescue like Corregidor.

    According to books on Midway, despite reinforcements, the supply situation was dire. It really wasn't a very big island with very many buildings or bunkers to stockpile and store safe from bombardment. It's a surprisingly small, accessible from every angle all over, wide open vulnerable terrain to defend. Ideal for attackers, a bugger for defenders.

    So from what I've read, yeah, the Japanese would conquer the Island if they won they won the carrier battle or the US fleet wasn't there anymore for whatever reason. Yup, I think they'd take the Atol.
     
  5. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    There are a number of things about this post that are taken for granted, partially correct, or not even considered. While the Japanese were indeed going to subject Midway to a naval bombardment, only Cruiser Division Seven was supposed to carry this out. Using battleships to conduct naval shore bombardments went against official Japanese Navy Doctrine and would continue to be so until the Battle of Guadalcanal, a few months later. Even then, we must not overemphasize the effect of battleship gunfire on fixed land targets.

    In one night, the Battlecruisers Haruna and Kongo fired over 970 14" high explosive, incendiary rounds into Henderson Field and the Marine Perimeter on Guadalcanal and even then, they were unable to knock out the US "Cactus Airforce." The following day, the Marines were somehow able to put aircraft aloft to bomb the Japanese transports that had deliberately been run aground several miles away down the shoreline from the Marine Perimeter.

    Yamamoto brought his battleships along with him because it was hoped that the Midway Invasion would draw out the remainder of the US Pacific Fleet, whereby the IJN could destroy it. The Battleship Yamato would not have been part of the battleship force in any sense, as she was several hundred miles to the rear of the Japanese Main Body Force.

    I just read a piece detailing the Midway Garrison's TOE in overall weaponry and manpower. There were close to 4,000 armed Marines, Navy Bluejackets, plus US Army and Army Air Corps personel on the two islands. They were very well supplied with automatic weapons ranging from BAR's, Lewis Guns, Browning water-cooled .30 and .50 calibre machineguns, along with a battery of 20mm and 37mm antiaircraft guns. The garrison would also be doing battle from numerous, prepared pillboxes and other concrete hardened positions.

    That 5,000 man Japanese Special Naval Landing Force would have undergone an American-style Tarawa, except they wouldn't have been able to overcome the sheer weight and disparity in automatic and other weapons firepower arrayed against them. They also did not posess the needed 3to1 numbers advantage needed to overcome a dug-in and committed foe.

    I'm not saying that the Marines would emerge unscathed, although I am saying that the Japanese would undoubtedly suffer losses far greater than they did during the second invasion of Wake Island and once those 5,000 men were killed off, there would be no new influx of fresh Japanese troops.

    Midway had only two entrances through the surrounding coral reef and both of them were well covered by US Marine 3", 5" and 7" shore batteries. Any Japanese shore bombardment would have to be conducted from well offshore, to minimize the risk of serious damage being done to their ships from Marine counterbattery fire.

    Lastly, the IJN was not a bluewater "Fleet That Came to Stay", in that the logistical problems of provisioning and refueling it, meant that the Japanese Fleet could not remain in Hawaiian Waters for very long before having to return back to a main fleet ancorage base.
     
  6. Balderdasher

    Balderdasher Dishonorably Discharged

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    Oh I have no doubt the Japanese were not prepared for the actual defenses at Midway. Instead of the 750 troops and 60 land-based aircraft they expected, the Americans had reinforced an entire new marine battalion for a total of 3,000 marines and 126 aircraft.
    So first, my books/series disagree with your numbers a bit. 3,000 to your 4-5,000. And the Japanese had 3,000 plus two more battalions of marines in addition I don't think you count. My sources give lower numbers for America and higher for Japan than yours apparently.
    Nevertheless, I believe they would have been in for a nasty surprise, that's for sure.

    Nimitz, Spruance and Fletcher are interviewed and quoted in my library here including the recent
    "The Second World War" from classicpictures uk
    "Secrets of World War II" Time Live "War at Sea"
    "The Century of Warfare" The History Channel

    ..."Had Halsey been in charge instead of Flecther, we would have lost the battle"
    "Instead of withdrawing after hitting their carriers as Spruance had, Halsey would have closed on them, been soundly defeated, and we'd have lost the battle after-all."

    Now, personally I take this and similar quotes and interviews on these great new videos to say the naval battle. But Nimitz, Spruance and Fletcher as well as Halsey(of course) indicate that without the naval challenge, the island was lost. Maybe they are just being arrogant naval men, I don't know, but since Nimitz was well informed of the defenses, even participating in the planning and reinforcing and pep-talk himself, I take his word for it.

    I don't think it is fair to compare the Kirishima at Guadalcanal with what Yamamoto could have and would have(read Total War and Liddel off top of my head hear where they indicate all his tfs had orders to react as needed including bombarding Midway with destroyers if need be) at Midway is unfair.

    2 bc and 2 ca running the Tokyo Express for a couple of hours bombardment at night visibility at all against determined USN resistance on sea cannot be compared to over 10 battleships and umpteen heavy cruisers 140 ships vs a divided tiny barren atol where even the US admits 25% of all their batteries were wiped out by the first historical raid?(that by just video interview i watched this pm, may be innaccurate).

    Iwo Jima was proof how even the most dug in and fortified tunnel defenses can still be suppressed even taken out by directed air and big gun support and overcome eventually. Given this scenario, no relief is to be expected, and eventually you run out of ammo and the bombardment is too much. I think the US would hold out alot longer if they felt there was a chance of naval reprieve, but in this scenario where we're assuming it's been spent, routed or not coming at all, it's like Correigidor, there comes a point where you have to say we inflicted as much as we could on them, say we did the best we could and give up. They aren't Japanese willing to fight to the last man or without ammo and supplies after all. They are the bravest of the brave we have who'll teach the Japanese planners how bad their intel and assumptions were.

    According to Lippman Rr Adm Lee wrote that had the Yamato alone come down one night he would not have only lost the battle, but the airfield and beachhead would have been destroyed as well. And after the war he always wondered why Yamamoto withheld the Yamato when even what few records we have gotten un-editd by us, from the Japanese indicate he had learnt the lesson of not coordinating his ships with the army at Guadalcanal and promised by witness to send the Yamato if needed. But he never did. Nevertheless, my point is that according to US Admirals themselves, the Japanese could have and would have adapted and overcome with big-gun support as well as tactical air support.

    If all else failed, like the US at Tarawa, the Japanese were not likely to give up just because their first couple of waves were thrown back, all the sources I've seen report that Yamamoto, (a carrier theory man) would have reacted and responded accordingly, not just sit there and wonder why his marines can't do the job with only pre-planned bombardment support. He had more fire-power available to him there than we did at Iwo Jima.

    Btw, remember that Nagumo was in fact a battleship man, not a fan of carrier-theory and he'd jump at the opportunity to prove that the battleships would do the job at Midway that Yamamto's carrier planes might not.

    I don't think the Japanese would just stick to the plan w/o adapting as you infer. I think once they realized they totally under-estimated the defenses(and they were great), they wouldn't just put, wipe a bloody nose and go home. I'm pretty sure they'd stick it out and bombard the defenders into surrender if their 3000 PLUS 2 more marine battalions couldn't do it even the first day like Iwo Jima.
    If Attu wasn't really as important as Midway, who knows? maybe they'd do like we did and divert divisions already landing or landed elsewhere to new targets against plans, like we did for Guadacanal and the Port Moresby campaign.

    Summary.
    I have no doubt that the Japanese gravely under-estimated the actual US defenses at Midway.
    But without having to worry about the US fleet, I don't believe that that would prevent the island from falling under the focused attention of that armada.
    It sure would cost them though, eventhough we'd surrender alot earlier than they did at Iwo Jima of course, it still sure would cost them and teach them a lesson they'll never forget again.
     
  7. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    I still maintain that there is no way that a Marine Garrison on Midway would have surrendered merely because of a Japanese Naval bombardment, no matter how large. Please name a historical parallel wherein this happened to a US Marine Garrison. The Marines on Guadalcanal, while on short rations and virtually cut off from US support, suffered successive nights of heavy naval bombardments by Japanese Battleships and Cruisers, using only their foxholes for cover against the shelling, rather than the hardened shelters on Midway, yet they still prevailed. The island fortress of Corregidor withstood months of intensive aerial bombings and artillery shellings before a Japanese invasion force finally went in and cinched the deal.

    You simply cannot bombard an island fortress into surrender, you still have to get friendly "boots on the ground" and successfully land an invasion force in sufficient enough numbers to overcome a dug-in garrison that has much more than it's normal TOE in automatic weapons, coastal guns, tanks and etc.

    Historically speaking, the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force Troops never fared well when going up against US Marines and the rest of the Allies as well. They always took a serious beating whenever they did, no matter what the odds. A year later, a Japanese SNLT invasion at Milne Bay, New Guinea was hurled back into the sea by the Australians after a pitched battle. In Midway's case, once those 5,000 SNLF troops were destroyed in the invasion attempt, it would take weeks, if not months before another operation of this size and scope could be mounted and attempted. In the meantime, the Marines would be receiving reinforcements, further weaponry and replacement aircraft from Hawaii.

    Lastly, the Midway Operation represented their largest single concentration of Japanese warships used during the entire Pacific war. All of those ships burn a great deal of fuel oil and consume mountains of provisions every 24 hours that they are in operation. The Japanese Navy never learned the difficult art of reprovisioning at sea, especially with a force as large as this. Therefore, they have an extremely finite window of opportunity before they will have to return to friendly waters for refueling, resupply and basic maintainence.
     
  8. Balderdasher

    Balderdasher Dishonorably Discharged

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    Well, if you read some of the books from the Japanese side, or even play the English computer games on it, they did bring along supply trains and refueling taskforces. When i play the Americans I am always trying to find and get them too.

    You can cheat if you play and memorize the Japanese side and know where these 3 supply-train taskforces are set for way-points, but that is cheating.

    I haven't said they wouldn't need to put feet on the ground to take the island, just that I've never heard a US marine say that air and big gun bombardments support wasn't crucial to American island hopping campaigns either.

    To keep comparing Midway with no US air or naval support to Guadalcanal is like me comparing the Japanese invasion of Midway to the Allied invasion of Dieppe. The islands can't even be compared.

    As I've said, I have the utmost respect for marines, however, I do also for Rangers and those who landed at Dieppe and those who surrendered on Correigidor.
    You just can't/shouldn't compare Guadalcanal(size, geography, land, air or sea) to this Midway scenario.
    The Japanese were never unchallenged at Guadalcanal air or sea, nor did they have the air and bombardment power available here.
    And yes, they did have supply arrangements to stay around.

    Even the English computer simulations written up with the help of our best naval historians, including, I see from opening up the old games, sourcing the US marines themselves, still give the Japanese the island if the US Navy fails.

    I would love it if the over-confident arrogant Japanese suffered their own Dieppe here. It may not be as important as the naval victory, but it still would be a great boost to our side and humility lesson for theirs.

    I have yet to find any commander or historian on our side who'd claim otherwise, only as long as we were challenging them by sea and air do we get such comments as 'chances of successful invasion unlikely'. Every source I read or watch on documentary series concurs that if the US had lost or not challenged the Midway naval battle, the island would have been lost. If you can show sources and quotes to the contrary, it would only make me happier to think of the enemy suffering the same bloody nose we did at Dieppe.

    But I would still have loved it if they did have to call it off a few days later(my longest Midway scenario goes 2 weeks in fact)...even if the Japanese hid the truth from the public like they did the carrier losses in real history, it would be a great rallying cry for the Allied side.
     
  9. Marienburg

    Marienburg Member

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    Even if the Japanese had managed to take Midway their ability to hold the island would have been extremely limited. Midway's a long ways away from Japan and the US fleet, no matter how battered in any Midway loss, would have been able to on short notice cut off the Japanese supply line and then send in their own landing force. And the Japanese would have had little time to dig themselves in and rebuild the island's defences. Unless the Japanese utterly destroyed the Pacific fleet, I don't think they could have held Midway for long. And that assumes that they could take it in the first place. ;)
     
  10. Carl G. E. von Mannerheim

    Carl G. E. von Mannerheim Ace

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    Absolutely right. It makes you wonder what the principle objective of the Midway campaign was. I was under the impression that the main objective was the taking of the island, not as a means of drawing the US Fleet into battle.
     
  11. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    One last bit of all-important information. Midway Atoll has but two, narrow channels through the coral reef that will accomodate deep-draft ships. Both of those channels were heavily defended with three-inch, five-inch and seven-inch, Marine served artillery batteries. Any ship attempting to run that gauntlet of fire would have been quickly holed and sunk in the lagoon. Any Japanese attempt to land their Naval Special Landing Troops would have been held up by the coral reef that surrounded the atoll, meaning that the troops would have to be unloaded several hundred yards offshore, making them perfect targets for all of the automatic weapons that the Marines and Navy BlueJackets had onshore. It would quickly become a Japanese version of Tarawa.
     

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