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Wanted: Japanese Strategy for Guadalcanal

Discussion in 'Land Warfare in the Pacific' started by mac_bolan00, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    i haven't come across official accounts from the Japanese high command. most japanese accounts were made by field commanders. only the american side gave any good holistics. so let me put it this way: wasn't guadalcanal the opportunity yamamoto sought and failed to find at midway? at midway, the americans refused to come out to an all-out engagement. they relied on long-distance carrier strikes to cripple the japanese striking force. but in guadalcanal, the americans were maintaining a toe-hold and throwing everything they had to keep it. shouldn't have yamamoto dispatched his nine battleships and five aircraft carriers to destroy both turner and fletcher in an all-out fight? we know that at midway, the japanese lost their four best carriers and 300 of their best pilots. but their remaining carrier strength was still formidable, more than a match to what the US had after midway. the americans early on still had no battleships.

    i can't understand how nagumo conducted the carrier battle in the solomons. in two attacks (one by submarines, the other by bombers) the americans ended up with just one operational carrier in the south pacific. why were the japanese not able to capitalize on this?

    why send out battleships in pairs down the slot and just invite stronger and stronger opposition? why not send out all nine to challenge the surface force in the open sea?
     
  2. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Okay. I take it that the question would be how the Japanese could've beaten the US on Guadalcanal.

    US forces moved in on the island to take over the airstrip that the Japanese were building. The Marines, however, are left on the island with minimum supplies. This, I think, is the only point in the campaign that the Japanese would've had the best chance of defeating the US. Historically, the Japanese underestimated the size and strength of the US Marines there and that resulted in the piecemeal sending of Japanese reinforcements.

    Had the Japanese estimated the Marine strength on the island, they could've reacted properly. That's always been my answer and responses to it have been quite educational.
    There's been a similar thread about this on the forum that discussed this issue before.
    If I misunderstood the context of this what if, then please correct me so the right ideas and suggestions can start flowing.
     
  3. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    I would never commit all 9 of my battleships in one engagement either, you need them to 'watch' other areas, to have capital ship support there, plus if the american were to find out all the battleships were there, they would have been devestated by the American Airforce in one single battle.
     
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  4. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    I agree with Falcon's post. First the Japanese needed to estimate the Marine strength. I believe the first reinforcements where called back as they were nowhere near the strength needed. The best possible time for the Japanese to have claimed victory would have been directly following Savo. If Admiral Mikawa had stayed, destroying the transports, followed by a strong off shore bombardment of the defensive perimeter around Lunga Point. A strong counter-attack, I feel would have forced the marines on shore to surrender. With only a couple weeks food and no knowledge of when the fleet might return, the situation would have been very desperate.
     
  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Historically, the Japanese problem was a combination of limited intelliegence on what the US landed, a misconception about their mission, and over confidence on their part about what it would take to secure the island. What the Japanese initially thought had occured on Guadalcanal was a Mankin Island style raid. The US defeat at 1st Savo Island and the precipitious withdrawal of their transport fleet reinforced this view in Tokyo. The Japanese estimated that what US forces remained on the island were minimal, having been left behind during the withdrawal. This is the problem with mirroring your own thinking about what you would have done with what your enemy would do.
    Thus, the Japanese initially thought that sending the Ikichi Detachment of just 900 men would be sufficent for a mopping up operation. Of course Colonel Ikichi had no clue what he was up against and had minimal intelligence about his enemy. This led to his unit being wiped out by the well supported and dug in 20,000 or so Marines on Guadalcanal.
    From this point the Japanese at Rabaul, the primary staging point for the Guadalcanal campaign (Saipan being the other), had their attention split between the Island and New Guinea. This also divided their available forces, particularly aircraft. Also, the Japanese initially had few operational carriers so much of their carrier aircraft were operated from land at and around Rabaul. The IJAAF also contribued nothing to air operations over Guadalcanal leaving that entirely to the IJN.
    To commit a larger force for landings would take considerable time and effort. First, the Japanese would need to assemble say, at least two divisions with support and transport. This would require about 30 to 40 transport ships (Japanese shipping was generally about one half to two thirds the capacity of US shipping thus the larger number needed). In addition, they would have to bring in a fleet to escort the landing force.
    This would mean a delay of at least two to three months and the complete loss of surprise on their part. By this time the Marines would have built up more supplies and have finished Henderson field so they would have air support. Even if the Japanese regularly came and bombarded the field it would have cost them some ships and aircraft only slowing the invasion planning due to losses.
    Carrier battles to draw the US out would have ended much like they did historically with both sides worn to nothing. Even though the Japanese ended up after Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz with more carriers they had virtually no aircraft left to fly from them having suffered severe losses in planes and pilots.
    A battleship heavy operation was possible, but the US could have countered having as many as 12 of their own (mostly older slow battleships) in the Pacific. Using these ships in the restricted waters off Guadalcanal was also risky one reason both sides avoided a heavy deployment of these ships there.
    So, there is no good answer for how the Japanese might successfully respond.
     
  6. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    my initial reaction to a US invasion would naturally be a surgical night attack on the landing fields and transports. having failed the latter, i would have changed my strategy immediately: take out their navy with my navy though an open sea engagement. i will still be looking for the once-and-for-all battle as with midway. as for the marine landings, i will have to destroy it by land-based air power, like what i'm trying to do at the moment with new guinea. sending surface naval forces down the slot at night seemed like a heroic thing to do but in a war between two unequal economies, a sea campaign of attrition just doesn't seem right.

    i agree with ta that the whole-scale naval engagement and invasion would have taken months to orchestrate. meanwhile, i could wage an airwar with henderson field. i could put up airbases in bouganville and transfer some of the fighters and bombers from rabaul and lae. that will give the zeros more loiter time above tulagi than if they were based at rabaul. so i will sap henderson's air strength to make a direct assault from the sea feasible.

    and then we'll see how carrier engagement at santa cruz would pan out. if the american carriers were sufficiently weakened, i'll attack guadalcanal --by day using, at least four battleships and a hoarde of transports.
     
  7. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The US Commanders, particularly Ghormley & to a lesser extent Fletcher thought this was what the Japanese were up to from the start. Both were cautious and kept a eye on their excape route. We know in retrospect their intel on the naval forces sortied against them was good. Had a larger force been deployed the odds are any US naval commander would have known the general size of it and acted accordingly.

    The Japanese also thought this. They also knew they did not have the tranport to bring the required weight in bombs, or the necessary support for the aircraft to Rabul, or anywhere else in effective range. In theory more aircraft could have been provided, but providing the fuel, parts, ground crew, and bombs would severely strain the cargo fleet.

    They did not intend for this to be a attritional battle & kept thinking each sucessive offensive operation would tip the balance decisively.

    There were attempts to do this. The decsion to do so was delayed by the original idea that they had already won the battle of the Solomons and the airfield on Guadacannal would be recaptured shortly. Once the need was seen then there was further delay while the necessary transport was diverted from other needs. The first attempt failed when its inital trasport squadron was sunk off loading. A second attempt established a airbase, by which time a shortage of effective fighter squadrons begain to be felt.

    The severe shortage of Japanese cargo ships must be understood. Prewar Japans cargo fleet was able to tranport only 2/3ds of the required imports. The balance was made up with US, Dutch, British, French and Soviet cargo ships. From December 1941 only the USSR cargo fleet remained available and that was only suitable for hauling goods between Japan and Siberian ports. Through extreme measures the Japanese were able to make up a significant part of the shortfall, but the requirements for military operations added demand. Rapidly amassing transport ships for deploying a decisive force to the Solomons is possible. However it would require that Japanese industry be abruptly denied critical imports. It would also likely cause operations in New Guniea and Burma be seriously curtailed, or suspended. Justifying this to repel a minor attack on a non stratigic airfield at a distant point was difficult.

    Deploying the main strength of the fleet may be practical for at least short period. It could bring its own fuel for a limited ammount of time. Yamamoto decided against this first because he wanted to rebuild the weak air wings and not further attrition them before they were sharp again. Second he thought the US still off balance and to weak to make a stand in the Solomons. He would have been correct if a large fleet were deployed towards the Solomons. Fletcher and Ghormley would not have made a stand up fight of it with any remotely accurate intel. As it was they, and later Halsey played a skillfull game of strike and dodge & there no reason to think they would be suckered into a fight with bad odds.

    On Guadacanal Vandergrifts contingincy plan was to wreck the airfields and move his force into the slightly healthier uplands. The locals took his reconissance on some patrols though the intended area. He had routes surveyed into the central massif of the island and prepared a one shot transport lift of some food and ammo into the hinterland. His intent was to preserve his force for another couple months diverting a bit of Japanese strength to cover the airfield from raids. Not much but he thought it preferable to surrender or a last stand & massacre on the airfields.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Roughly 90 days after the initial US landings the situation on Guadalcanal was hopeless from the Japanese position. While the Japanese did not recognize this it is essentially the facts. By that point, the US had nearly 200 aircraft on the island, two airfields, and Seabees building three more. There were well over 20,000 Marines, Army, and Naval personnel on the island and the equipment included an amtrac battalion, a tank company, and a coastal defense battalion with 5" guns and 90mm AA guns with radar fire control.
    Permanent naval forces in the area included a tender the Jamestown, as many as 15 PT boats, two destroyer squadrons, an APD squadron, and numerous small and yard craft. Tulagi harbor was a functioning port operation.
    Basically the Japanese by late October 1942 would have had to mount an operation on the scale of the invasion of Malaysia to stand any reasonable chance of success. But, they had virtually no chance of scrapping up three reinforced infantry divisions and the necessary shipping to move them to Guadalcanal. Doing this in less than 90 days was going to be impossible for them.
    The only possible way I see for the Japanese to succeed in holding Guadalcanal was to land a reinforced division with engineer support during their initial landings in May 1942 when they first took the island. At the same time they would have to land an SNLF on Flordia Island and install a permanent naval presence in the form of say, a seaplane tender, a destroyer squadron or two with tender(s), and a number of patrol boats and small craft.
    Such a course of action would have put them in the position the US was in shortly after their landings. With an entrenched division and an operating airfield with naval support the Japanese would have been very hard to displace. In August 1942 the US didn't have the manpower or equipment to mount an operation of the size necessary to overcome that sort of defense.

    As far as a bombardment and then landing, one can look to the Japanese efforts of 13 to 17 October. They started by sending two battlecruisers to shell Henderson Field. These ships fired over 900 14" rounds onto the field. Japanese long range 15cm guns fired starting the next day a shell about every 15 minutes onto the field in an effort to keep it out of service.
    The next night (14 October) the Japanese returned and fired 752 8" shells onto the airfield. On the 15th the Japanese started landing the 2nd division from six transports.
    Despite the heavy shelling one air strip (the grass fighter field) remained servicable. 42 of 90 aircraft were still intact and the US made a supreme effort to scrape up enough fuel and ammunition to put all of them up. The Japanese also launched a number of air raids on the 15th to try and keep the US occupied.
    Instead, they lost over 20 aircraft and all six transports were heavily damaged, three being forced to beach becoming constructive losses. The troops landed suffered heavy casualties and lost a large protion of their supplies and heavy equipment. It set Japanese plans for retaking the island back nearly a month while they tried to make up the losses a bit each night using destroyer transports.
    On the US side, the Seabees proved capable (mainly because they were heavily mechanized) of quickly reopening the airfields. Transport aircraft from Rennell and Espirto Santo islands flew in more fuel and took out wounded personnel.
    If anything, the US simply had the means at their disposal even within the limited resources given to the Pacific at that time, to out reinforce the Japanese on a massive scale.
     
  9. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Theres a interesting story that circulates concerning these October naval bombardments. When dawn came the the Marines and Army ground and air crew at the air field were a bit demoralized. The cratered airfields, shattered palm trees shredded tents, burning fuel, fifty odd wrecked aircraft, and casualties led to the obvious conclusion that the air wing was shattered. The commander of the air wing, Geiger, thought otherwise. like most military pilots his age he had learned to fly out of primitive airfileds in the 1920s, and like many USMC pilots had flown missions off converted roads and unimproved fields in Nicarrgua. Taking direct action he took the first fighter plane available aloft himself shortly after dawn proving to the other pilots the runways were usuable, and to the rifle battalions on the perimeter they still had air support.
     
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  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The other thing is this probably would have eaten up almost their entire oil reserve. Check out this article:
    Oil and Japanese Strategy in the Solomons: A Postulate
     
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  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The allocation of oil seems to have affected pilot training, shaking down the new ships, and even the construction of ships and aircraft back in Japan.

    Leaving oil aside there seems to have been a chronic inability to coordinate ground, air, and naval operations to the fine degree necessary.
     
  12. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    This seems to me the main problem with the Japanese. Their Navy and Army officials were often at odds with each other in an attempt to outdo each other. Though in Guadalcanal, there was some attempt at cooperation with the Imperial Navy sending destroyers to transport troops, it was too little and too late.
     
  13. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I'm begaining to think the best Japanese course of action is to probe cautiously. When it is found the US force on Guadacannal is not a weak raid then only harrass it and adopt a strategy of waiting ambushing any US forces that venture further. After the carrier airwings are rebuilt and the fleet fuel reserve restored then the decsive battle can be sought again.
     

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