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Wake Island reinforced

Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by Emperor, Nov 15, 2007.

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  1. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    In December 1941, Wake Island was attacked following Pearl Harbor. The small Marine garrison repulsed the first Japanese assault, inflicting heavy losses. Task force 14, including the USS Saratoga and Lexington, was dispatched towards the island.

    Controversially, Admiral Pye recalled this force before it could complete its mission, citing the extreme danger the ships would be in and need to preserve what was left of the Navy. In effect, this decision condemned the Marines on the island to death or capture.

    What if Pye decided otherwise, declaring that no matter what the risk, the Navy would not abandon the Marines?

    I'm thinking that this was exactly the Japanese strategy, to draw in the U.S. fleet piecemeal, negating the long-term American advantage in numbers. Their forces would launch a devastating attack on the task force, sinking several more capital ships. The U.S. still would have bounced back eventually but it would have taken another year. In summary, Pye was right.

    Anyone have any other ideas?
     
  2. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    There was just a show on the History Channel about this, called Alamo in the Pacific.
    Not all those ships (per Kimmel's) plan, were headed towards Wake. Half that force, including the Lexington were headed straight South of wake in the Marshall's/Gilbert's as a feint to draw off the main Japanese force and allow Saratoga to deliver her planes and land 500 (or so) Marines w/ammunition.
    I don't believe it would have changed the outcome, but it may have lengthen it quite a bit. It most probably would have resulted in another atrocity of killing prisoners....again.
    Pye was a twerp, and kicked upstairs in desperation per the "Peter" principle, (ye shall rise one rating above your level of incompetence). He had California sunk from under him at Pearl.
    I don't believe the force was large enough to stop the onslaught (per round two). The Japanese were resolute about not failing again.
    If.....they were there (and ready....all of the ships) for the first attacks....the first Japanese force would have been decimated because of their over confidence. The way their first attack actually was, only worse. Perhaps few if any survivors.
    An after the fact/to late to beat the second (even bigger wave) reinforcement would have just ended in equal attrition. America could not afford this, at that time, with many more battles just on the horizon to stop further expansion towards Australia.
    No Coral Sea/Doolittle/Santa Cruise.
    A much longer haul to final victory, with many more islands to take, and even fewer secure supply bases to start submarine/amphibious/naval operations from.
    A Damn Dirty Shame they had to be abandoned, but just another in a long list, for all sides.
    Even a scared "Turkey" makes the right decision sometimes.
    Halsey replaced Pye almost immediately. So something good did come of it.
    It culled a loser.
     
  3. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    Explain? If you think Wake would have been lost anyway, and the Navy would have taken heavy losses, then Pye made the right decision. Why do you call him a twerp and a loser?
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    You might also note that Admiral Pye had nothing to do with the loss of the battleship California. The above shows a fundimental lack of understanding of the Navy chain of command. Admiral Pye did not command the California. He would not have been in charge of damage control measures or anything else about the operation of the ship.
    Instead, initially the California was commanded by Ensign Edgar Fain as many of the more senior officers were ashore. Ensign Fain acted decisively in ordering counterflooding of tanks to keep California afloat and from capsizing. Even though his orders were a bit less than ideal in this respect, he did a credible job given his rank. He also got California to Zed by 0805 which is pretty good given the number of open hatches and scuttles on the ship.
    Captain Bunkley came aboard and took command at 0910 75 minutes after the attack began. At that point the California reported ready to get underway on four boilers. But, buring oil slicks drifting down on her initially precluded this. At 1002 Captain Bunkley ordered "abandon ship." This put a halt to damage control efforts. At 1015 the order was recended and the crew ordered to return to the ship. But, the damage was done. The boilers were secured and progressive flooding was now out of control.
    Admiral Pye, as Flag Officer commanded the battleline; that is, the battleships as a group. This was the normal duties of a Flag Officer. He did not command an individual ship. Admirals rarely do. If anyone is to blame for the sinking of California it is her Captain. He made the fatal decision that finished her not Admiral Pye.
     
  5. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    Being cautious and being scared often have the same result. One is credible and one is not. The two flip-flop (and excuse each other), but that time I call it scared.
    According to the show, a 24 hour refueling stop by the reinforcement group, allowed the Japanese (second force) to arrive first.
    Why would under fueled ships set sail for a rescue mission? Did they think they wouldn't need fuel?
    Why would you stop for 24 hrs to refuel at sea? Is that easier than refueling before they started? Did they leave with the tanker or rendezvous on the way?
    Who gave these commands?
    Why turn around when you are 5 hours away, when you could've been 19 hrs early?
    Are their tanks so small that they needed to be topped off to get to Wake? Didn't the South Dakota sail from Guadalcanal to New York without refueling?
    It appears he (Pye) was looking for an excuse not to do it, because I believe he would've been out of his element when he arrived, and things would've gotten worse in a hurry. He (Pye) was (with a viable excuse) avoiding something he couldn't handle. Which is why (I dare say) he was replaced.
    I compare Pye to LLoyd Fredendall....too little, too late.
    just an opinion.
     
  6. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Wake reinforced? I think it's possible given the available fleet units of the US Navy at that time. However, it would have been a very risky proposition because the Japanese held the initiative and the US would be reacting to a Japanese move. It's an iffy thing. If both navies had their fleet in place, a battle similar to Midway could've occured. But predicting the outcome is beyond me. At Midway, it was an iffy thing.
    But the long term bottom line would still be this. The US would still win the Pacific War because it had a better naval doctrine, (better use of subs, etc). Another thing, if we go by attrition, the Japanese would eventually lose because the US had a better system in place to replace what it lost.
    As to Wake Island itself, the size of the island meant that it couldn't support a large garrison. It would have to depend on ships for better protection.
    Tying fleet units to a specific spot at that time of the war would mean that Japanese naval units would be free to move elsewhere in other areas.
     
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  7. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    So the USN fights a Midway-type battle six months earlier? I think this could have easily been a Japanese victory because the Americans wouldn't have had enough time to shake things out of complacency, retrain, and get new blood in at the top.

    As far as attrition goes I think it would have been very frustrating for Americans to see one half-assed fleet after another sail to destruction in the middle of the Pacific. At some point it would still make sense to give some territory in order to get some space and time to reorganize and come back stronger than ever.
     
  8. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    Could it be that he valued the lives of his sailors, preservation of the fleet, and a war-winning strategy more than public perception of the size of his gonads?
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    More likely, Pye was following pre-war US strategic doctrine. That is, that the line of defense on the outbreak of war in the Pacific was a line from Alaska to Hawaii to Panama. Positions forward of that line, Wake, Johnson, Baker, Howland, Guam, the Philippines, etc., were largely on their own in the opening days of such a war.
    Now, could Wake have been reinforced? Probably. At the least it was clearly possible that additional aircraft could have been flown in. Would this have been worthwhile? Again the likely answer is yes. An additional dozen F4F fighters and say a dozen SBD would have given Wake a good chance to do considerable damage to additional Japanese fleet units before the island fell.
    Reinforcing the island with an additional Marine defense battalion would have been a good move only if the US intended to extend their defense line to Wake and hold the island. Could this have been done in the opening days of the Pacific War? Probably not and it likely would have cost the US dearly to try and hold the island.
    A cardinal rule in war is: "Never reinforce defeat."
     
  10. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    True-true

    I'm not saying hold the island.
    Don't waste your ships. Give the enemy a bloody nose (they got that in the first attack) and a black-eye (perhaps a couple of lumps besides) and make him waste his ships. Make him think it needs securing and extra protection beyond what he originally thought.
    I was just trying to say....get there....first. Deliver your planes/marine(volunteers?), and ammo/fuel.
    Leave and rendezvous with the decoy group on the way back (Lex/Sara) are more important at this point.
    The "Alamo" Wake was. A delay, and the more painful they could make it for the Japanese....the more wind out of their sails (momentum lost), the more time gained, the more resources occupied.
    Wake's original force did a magnificent job of this with what they had. Had they gotten the extra....who knows how much of Japan's limited fuel/warships/time/soldiers/supplies would've been used up for that "Bird" sanctuary.
    Get there, deliver, get out. That was the mission of most sense.
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    That group had originally been sent to raid a Japanese island & was diverted to the Wake relief mission. This roughly doubled the distance they would be traveling.


    The tanker & escorts were sent to meet them when the mission was changed. The task force had to slow down for them.

    They were a combination of 'suggestions from Washington DC (mostly Adm King), guidance & orders from the Pacific Fleet command (Adm Pye and his staff) and the task force commander (Adm Fletcher).


    Another task Force was susposed to join them. It was far to the south and could not make the schedule. Also it was beleived the Japanese had sent a large battle group with carriers towards Wake.


    The destroyers did have small fuel tanks. While they might have been able to reach the Wake area with the fuel aboard them it would have left them with no reserve for combat. Refueling while in shooting range of the enemy is stupid. Running out of fuel is even worse. Refueling the destroyers and other small ships was a constant headache for all fleet commanders in all navys through the war.

    Pye was told he was the temporary commander, and told that if he lost any ships he would get the same or worse treatment as his predecessor. It was made clear to him by Adm King that his mission was to preserve the situation and not risk anything unless he won something decisive.

    Pye would not have arrived anywhere. As temporary commander of the Pacific fleet his place was then at the fleet command post on Oahu. Adm Fletcher was the commander of the aircraft carrier task force that was sent to the relief of Wake.

    I think this illustrates the problems in getting history leassons from the TV. They tend to leave out 95% of the history and garble the remaining 5%.
     
  12. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Halsey did not replace Pye. Nimitz arrived to take the command Pye was temporarily filling in. Halsey was subordinate to Pye during this time & to Nimitz later.
     
  13. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    Totally sounds like No One/Everyone was in charge. Suggestions from everywhere, threats, temporary positions, replacements, conglomerated forces, no one knows where anyone is, what they're doing (for sure), where they're going, or when, and of course the best part is......there's No One to take the blame. Ping Pong responsibility, how PC.
    Why did they all go ? Fishing trip ?
    This "Cluster" needs to sit as underwriters for insurance companies for driver liability. They can prove it never happened, and they never existed, and it's your fault.
    Double distance? What island, where, and why? Double what? 1+1=2
    King, Fletcher, Pye, and "Kimmels" staff.....pick a commander? Who?
    The one to the South with Lexington was to divert that second Japanese battle group on purpose, not to fight....to bait them. They did not wait for them.
    Running out of fuel IS stupid, as IS leaving unfueled.
    So Pye was being micro-managed by everyone? No hope (of total victory) and no choice (he could make by himself)(except suicide, or a make it look good (total waste/failure)?
    Pye = Pye's plan/people not the human body. It appears many names controlled this pleasure cruise, and only one got the blame?
    Of course Nimitz was the "Big" boy, and everyone was his subordinate. Only in ancient armies was being subordinate/in-charge not passed back and forth. Back then he either had to die or be murdered.
    Even the 4-stackers (Clemsons) had a 3,000 mi. radius, before emergency war act which would've increased their range by 41%.
    Sound an awful lot like Pye was chumped into being responsible for a micro-managed, threat laden, No-Win situation.
    Bottom line.....it accomplished nothing, and no one is responsible. Act of God?
    one version
    Nadir of the Navy: Operations to Relief Wake Island, December 1941
    another
    Wake Island: Dec. 7-23, 1941
     
  14. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Unfortunately for the Wake Island defenders, the only aircraft slated for its relief and carried aboard the USS Saratoga were Major Verne McCaul's VMF 221 which consisted of but 14 F2A-3 Brewster Buffalos. These planes were later delivered to Midway Island on Christmas Day.
     
  15. AntiWank

    AntiWank Member

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    Not possible. The Hiryu and Soryu were out of Aviation Gas and Bombs when Pye gave the recall order.

    Had the relief force been allowed to continue the dispersed Japanese ships were easy targets for USN pilots who wouldn't have to worry about enemy fighters.

    Land wise Cunningham had he been told relief was on its way would have told Deveraux to hold out. That would have given the other Detachments which were out of contact to launch the crushing counter attack against an already surrendering enemy.

    End result a crushing American victory and a Base pointed at the Mariannas.
     
  16. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Even Buffaloes would have proven useful. As at Midway they were fully capable of making at a minimum a first pass on Japanese bombers successfully and causing considerable damage. It is in the following mix up with the escorts they had problems. At Wake the Japanese G3M bombers would have had no escort and proved easy meat even for the F3A.
    Had the US gone all-out and actually managed the landing of an additional Marine defense battalion, in its entirety, I doubt Japan would have taken the island at all. This doesn't mean Wake would have proved much use to the US until at least late 1942 but, it might have held giving the US a much needed political victory.
     
  17. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    Interesting. So I guess it would have been possible to hold the island after all. Do you think something like Midway would have happened in that area within the next six months?
     
  18. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    More like a Coral Sea battle, or the series of attritional battles fought around the Solomons.

    A review of the plans for evacuating Wake might add something to this thread. I suspect that continued Japanese pressure would have led to evacuation. The postion of Wake makes it easier for the IJN to fight on its terms, rather than out on a limb as in the Solomons/New Guniea region. The US is not nearly as far along in decrypting IJN radio traffic as well, so a suprise upset as at the Coral Sea or Midway is less likely, tho not impossible.
     
  19. AntiWank

    AntiWank Member

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    Attritional Battles, favor the U.S. as they can replace losses far more quickly than the Japanese can.
     
  20. curious

    curious Member

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    Kimmel could have set up an ambush and completely annihilated the Japanese second attack force.

    I don't think anyone doubted that the Japanese would be back, and be back in force after the failed Wake invasion. The carrier strike force that had attacked Pearl was out of ammo and out of aviation fuel and had no place nearby to rearm/refuel. They had three choices, none of them good - Kwajalein, Truk, or Marcus Island. Even if they had decided to go to Kwajalein or Truk by the time they got there, refueled, rearmed, and headed to Wake the second invasion would be long over. Plus detecting them, if they were indeed headed to either of these places to rearm, refuel was highly probable.

    Assuming that the decision was made to reinforce Wake and annihilate the second invasion force it was quite possible. First, long range planes could have been used as a shuttle service to send men and material to Wake. These planes consisted of PBYs, Dakota cargo planes and B-17 bombers. One of Wake's main shortages was in anti aircraft gun crews, they had plenty of AA guns but lacked the crews to man them. A second shortage was in signal corps. Their communications consisted of phone lines buried in the sand, these were easily broken/cut. If the Wake commander had put his command post at the highest point in the center of the island instead of in a bunker and if he had had the signal corpsmen to put with each combat unit he could have had a much better idea of what was going on. The Wake commander was blind/deaf/dumb for most of the battle holed up in his bunker.

    A third shortage was in rifle companies. AA guns, artillery, heavy machine guns, bunkers, anti ship guns, etc, are not very useful without the rifle companies to defend them. This was a constant problem in the battle.

    There were plenty of troops on Hawaii, dug in waiting to repel an invasion which was impossible for the Japanese to launch. They lacked the supply tonnage necessary to sustain an invasion of Hawaii and anyone who knew anything about the Japanese navy knew this. The fastest ships available could have been pressed into service to begin moving at least one division to Wake. There were plenty of ships available for this duty.

    Even after the raid, the US navy had 2 Carriers, 10 heavy cruisers, half a dozen light cruisers and 30 destroyers in the immediate area. If these ships had taken on reinforcements and supplies for Wake and headed out as quickly as possible they could have resupplied Wake and then been waiting for the 2nd invasion force.

    There were plenty of AV and AK class ships that could have ferried fighter and torpedo planes to Wake, IF they had left Hawaii immediately after the attack on Wake.

    The second invasion arrived on Dec 22/23, composed of 8 heavy cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 10 destroyers, and 2 carriers. But, the Japanese had a disadvantage, these forces were sent into action piecemeal and were not a unified force. Halsey, sitting in ambush with his force could have pounced on the invasion force one squadron at a time and destroyed them one by one. Sea plane and PBYs and patrol planes based at wake could have given Halsey an advantage. The Japanese were not expecting a major US naval force to be at wake, they could have been surprised.

    If between Dec 8 and Dec 22 the US navy had made reinforcing wake a top priority, a full division backed up by significant AA guns and fighter aircraft with a large and lethal naval force hidden within striking distance could have greeted the second Japanese invasion force. Halsey would have made mincemeat of them.
     
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