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USS Saratoga at Midway

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

  1. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Good post F8F. Good questions, and its obvious you've done your homework. I'm gonna keep my eyes open for posts by your user name, because I have a feeling they'll lead to some interesting, informative discussions.
     
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  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Agreed. It's a bit silly to imply that a Brooklyn was "lighter" than say a Furutaka. I sometimes phrase it as "cruisers" and "light cruisers", the latter being the Agano, Atlanta, Arethusa etc. that really merit the designation.

    In the case of the Aleutians, the basic question might be whether sending a cruiser-destroyer force there at all was a better use than having them augment the carrier forces for Midway. Earlier in this thread it was noted that they might have provided an escort for Saratoga had she been deployed there. If we were going to send a force to the Aleutians, I think it made sense to include Brooklyns.

    The Brooklyns' AA capabilities were comparable to CAs', but no better, so the choice largely comes down to which type of low-angle guns you want where. It soon became apparent that surface actions were going to be mostly at night, where the advantages of the 8" gun were less significant. To me it's just as surprising that CAs were so prominent in the early battles in the Solomons - until most of them were sunk or crippled.

    The forces for Operation Watchtower, the invasion of Guadalcanal, included nine American CAs, two of the new Atlantas, but no USN 6" ships. Of course a lot of it is just which ships were available at a given moment.

    Santa Cruz brings up something I've wondered about, whether TF64 (Washington, Helena, et. al.) ought to have been added to the carriers' already formidable screens. Apparently there was felt to be a need for a separate surface force, in which case it probably was a good place for Helena.
     
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  3. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Aside from the Nimitz graybook, are there any available sources to view the messages sent by CINCPAC around this time? Graybook volume 1 page 482 and dated May 12, 1942 refers to the following:

    Cincpac 121951 gives plans for SARATOGA. This CV is urgently needed now.

    Would be informative to see the contents of that message.

    D'oh! Found it in the Graybook (Should teach me to scroll more slowly.)

    12 1951 CINCPAC TO COMTASKFOR 1, SARATOGA s~~atoga hereby assigned ~emporarily to TF 1 is scheduled conduct trials Puget Sound 25-27 May then proceed San_Diego for training x Comtaskfor one direct four DD join Saratoga Puget Sound by 25 May provide escort and plane guard services during trials voyage to San Diego and training until relieved about 5 June by other destroyers to be designated by me later x Assign Task Group number x Battleship operations may be limited as required by this diversion of your DDs.
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    There is also this on page 530


     
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  5. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Would that matter in the end? I can't see how having Sara at Midway could have made things worse for the US. Even if her strike had accomplished nothing at all, her mere presence might have made a critical difference.

    The two strikes that left Yorktown dead in the water occured at least 30 minutes apart, didn't they? With Sara there both could have hit her. Being bigger, fully modernized and having no hastily repaired damage from a previous battle she would have taken the damage better. Or each of the strikes could have hit a different carrier, leaving neither as badly damaged as Yorktown in @.
     
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  6. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    I actually do not see it as a large problem. I feel strongly she would certainly have been more effective than Hornet and her mere presence would have almost certainly resulted in a larger initial strike from TF-17. It should be noted that VS-3 and certainly VB-5 and VB-2 would well be expected to at least crack Hiryu's deck in the morning strike had any second VB unit been dispatched along with VB-3 (VS-3 at least had considerable more training time than Hornet squadrons)

    I was actually merely noting that the subject of air group cohesion (Very valid when discussing what Saratoga actually DID carry out from Pearl on June 7th) was in my opinion not going to cause a major problem with the squadrons I envision using.

    Frankly I would expect that Fletcher might have allowed Thach (CO VF-3/42) a larger fighter compliment to accompany Yorktown's strike. Given his success with 6 F4F-4s as opposed to the results of TF-16 fighter launches, even a few more fighters might have allowed more of VT-3 to survive the encounter. I expect VB-5 still kept in reserve. My view: VB-2 launches from Saratoga and escorted by 8-10 VF-2 fighters, allowing for a quick launch and still retaining one carrier's worth of attack squadrons in reserve.
     
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  7. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Reading further in Nimitz Graybook Volume 1, reinforces limited utility of using VF-5 or VF-72 at this time as these were 18 plane squadrons and would still need to be beefed up to the required 27 aircraft in addition to their lack of combat experience, but the same passage that delineates this also provides a small mystery:

    About May 15th the HAMMONDSPORT should leave Alameda with the following replacement planes: 21 TBF-1; 36 F4F-4; 75 officers; 400 men.

    We know that these planes are squadrons VF-5, VF-72, and the junior half of VT-8. But while the estimated departure date is May 15, Hammondsport did not actually leave Alameda until on or about May 25. I have yet to find a reason for this discrepancy.
     
  8. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    How did Hiryu escape the 1st strike? Did she operate a bit away from the other three, was she obscure by a raincloud like Enterprise at Santa Cruz or was she just ... overlooked.

    With regard to the TBD. I thought the fighters were very near but for some reason didn't even see the torpedo bomber squadrons.


    And great info by the way.
     
  9. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    In regards to Hiryu, for decades, accepted wisdom was that she was further removed from the rest and may have been obscured by cloud cover. However, reevaluation of evidence suggests that what actually happened was a communications failure:

    Hiryu was actually closer to the incoming Yorktown SBDs than Soryu. This may seem odd but if one reads Tully and Parshall's Shattered Sword, it notes that during the attack on Kaga and Akagi by Enterprise's aircraft, Doctrine calls for the leading squadron to attack the more distant target. This being so two targets are attacked more simultaneously rather than sequentially. McClusky had been a Fighter squadron CO before becoming CAG on Enterprise so he was not aware of doctrine and went for the target nearest at hand... Kaga. By doctrine this should have been the target of Dick Best's VB-6 which was trailing behind CAG element and VS-6. So everyone dove on Kaga with only Best and two of his wingmen realizing that this was leaving the second target: Akagi unengaged. Hence Best's three plane attack and his 'Golden BB' hit on Akagi.

    How this applies to Hiryu is as follows: Max Leslie, CO VB-3, believed that Fletcher had intended to launch Scouting Five behind the rest of Yorktown's strike. That Scouting Five was trailing his group while maintaining radio silence. Therefore he believed that TWO Yorktown dive bomber squadrons were now approaching Carrier Division 2. Following Doctrine, he tried to coordinate an attack on Soryu, the FAR target with VT-3. But heavy fighter opposition caused VT-3 to switch approach to the closer Hiryu. Leslie attacked Soryu with 13 armed and 4 unarmed SBDs, expecting Scouting Five to attack Hiryu. He did not learn til later that uncertainty whether all Japanese carriers had been located had caused Fletcher to hold back Scouting Five as a reserve.

    In this new scenario, Fletcher still maintains enough reserve to cover surprises but sends a second dive bomber squadron to attack Hiryu, virtually guaranteeing its destruction or at least disabling in the morning and preventing counterstrikes on Yorktown.

    In regards the TBDs, VT-8 broke from the rest of Hornet's strike package after a disagreement between VT-8 Commander Waldron and Hornet CAG Stanhope Ring. VF-8 stayed with the Dive Bombers until they began running low on fuel. (VF-8 would unwittingly fly past TF-16 and all 10 assigned fighters ditched. 8 pilots recovered days later)

    VF-6 actually followed VT-8 by mistake, thinking they were Torpedo SIX. They lost VT-8 in the clouds as they approached the target, but as they thought they were following VT-6, they waited on a prearranged code signal to summon them to their aide. Obviously, wrong squadron and wrong com frequencies, VT-8 never called. When VT-6 DID show up, VF-6's 10 assigned F4Fs were running low on fuel. VF-6 aborted and at any rate, the XO of VT-6 who was supposed to signal VF-6 was actually the first VT-6 plane shot down.

    VT-3 actually HAD fighter cover but only six Wildcats were assigned. 2 close cover and 4 top cover. But by the time they got into the Japanese formation, the Zeroes were simply swamping them. First they drove off the Wildcats. (Amazingly 5 of 6 survived in exchange for at least 5 Zeroes.) then fresh fighters (Those not trying to pile on VF-3) cut down VT-3 just short of Hiryu.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Good summary, KiMaSa. One more thought, even if Leslie had known that his was the only Yorktown dive bomber squadron then approaching Kido Butai, we should consider whether he would have divided it to attack both of the carriers he saw. The usual doctrine was one squadron per target, and thirteen planes (those still with bombs) was not an excessively large force for a single carrier. He couldn't know how ready the Japanese carriers were to burst into flames from even a single hit. Nor did he know where TF16's planes were; it was just chance that he attacked from the NE at almost the same time as McClusky from the SW.

    With 20/20 hindsight we could say that maybe Leslie should have divided his squadron, and maybe 6-7 planes apiece would have scored crippling hits on both carriers, sparing Yorktown from attack, but I think he acted reasonably based on what he knew at the time.
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    IIRC the attacks were about two hours apart; Shattered Sword notes that Hiryu's flight operations were slowing down as the day went on. If a fourth American carrier was present, it's certainly possible she would have caught one or both of the attacks. While Sara may have been overall more survivable than Yorktown, we should also remember that she was immobilized by a single (submarine) torpedo a few months later.

    I agree that more combat power is unlikey to make things worse ;) but for speculation I'll toss out one possibility - an additional American carrier force centered on the large and distinctive Saratoga might have been spotted and identified earlier.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    One thing I'm curious about - Torpedo 8 - it had been split into essentially two full-size squadrons - if Waldron's half had not been lost, what were they planning to do? In the short term, they'd probably send Waldron's crews to convert to the TBF, but what then?
     
  13. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Fair question. All things considered had the Torpedo squadrons not been decimated, I expect some of the crews would soon have transferred to Torpedo 3, the next squadron slated to switch over, A few would probably have gone over to Torpedo 6, which would have needed to convert once Enterprise had replaced her arrester gear. The rest of the surplus would probably have transferred to Torpedo 5, which would need rebuilding after Coral Sea and months of combat operations.Though it would have been months before Yorktown (I assume her survival here for the sake of planning) would have been ready, her existing squadrons would likely have been rested and broken up in accordance with Nimitz's desire not to fly his aircrew into the ground and to get their operational experience dispersed out to new units and the training schools.
     
  14. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    On the survivability of Saratoga.

    Air dropped 45cm torpedoes had 450-520lb warheads, submarine launched 53cm torpedoes around 900lb.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Some of the IJN air dropped torpedoes carried explosive charges in the range of 900lbs by 43 according to navweapons. (Type 91 mod 7 and type 4 mod 4 for example) and some of the sub launched ones carried "only" 661 lb warheads (Type 92) although others carried warheads in excess of 1200 lbs
     
  16. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Life has no certain guarantees, but the odds are that Saratoga's presence would likely have resulted in a second SBD squadron and more fighters from TF-17 joining the morning attack and very likely disabling Hiryu and preventing her from launching her strikes on Yorktown. I-168 was not likely to find and successfully attack carriers not otherwise disabled. VT-3 would likely have suffered fewer losses than historically. There would not likely have been a requirement for an afternoon strike, nor the American casualties associated with it.

    With all four Japanese carriers knocked out in the morning and problematic recon for Yamamoto to attempt to properly gauge the situation, (Soryu's D4Y scout plane now having to ditch after already not having the ability to transmit her contact report via radio.) We have this as a likely, though not certain scenario:

    TF-17 has nearly intact air groups (Yorktown and Saratoga) TF-16 will be stripped of VTs, VF strength down 20%, VB strength down roughly 25%. All carriers still maneuverable.

    Fletcher's first priority: Confirming the condition of the four struck enemy carriers and making sure a 5th carrier is not nearby (as COMINCH believed there might be)

    Beyond that is anyone's guess but Nimitz may very well order his carriers to proceed north to attempt to locate the carriers that attacked Dutch Harbor. Note that Ryujo and Junyo at this time are not up to varsity levels with their reduced and undermanned air groups.
     
  17. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Right, but the sub torps with the 661lb warheads were from the early 1930s, later models had the much heavier ones, while the air launched torpedo with the 900lb warhead wasn't available until long after Midway.

    I have no idea how good Sara's torpedo defence system was after her modernisation but the smaller Yorktown took two 45cm fish and remained afloat.
     
  18. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Lexington ALSO took two such torpedoes and her flotation was not compromised. Her fatal problem was in the rupturing of the AV gas bunker that was detonated by the spark from the IC generator
     
  19. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    And Lex took the two torps with her original TDS, while Sara's had been improved, hadn't it? Or was she just getting a bulge to fix her overweight and stability issues? She and Lex had that problem since they went into service but treaty limitations meant it could not be fixed. The two were already at the absolute maximum displacement permitted by a 'creative' interpretation of the WNT.
     
  20. KiMaSa

    KiMaSa Member

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    Anything that aided her stability issues would certainly have helped. of course a study of the damage reports for both the January and August torpedo hits might be illuminating as well as Lexington's damage report.

    Summary of Damage, USS Saratoga January 11, 1942 Torpedoing: http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/w/war-damage-reports/uss-saratoga-cv3-war-damage-report-no-19.html

    Summary of Damage resulting in loss, USS Lexington May 8, 1942: http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/w/war-damage-reports/uss-lexington-cv2-war-damage-report-no16.html

    Am still searching for an official report on Saratoga's August Torpedoing, but it seems that a large part of her damage was a chance hit which caused shock and threw the ship's turboelectric drive.
     

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