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Was the Dispersal of the Japanese Fleet at Midway an Error???

Discussion in 'Naval Warfare in the Pacific' started by bronk7, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    was the Japanese dispersal of their units a significant factor in the battle's loss?? I say no.....the US had Midway's airpower plus carriers.....Midway was still operational after the first raid [although many aircraft down ] at best, I see a draw for the Japanese...they could not sustain attacks on both Midway and the US carriers...I think Midway was a bigger thorn regarding the naval only aspect.....much thanks all replies....I look forward to your usual excellent responses....
     
  2. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    Many factors contributed to the Japanese defeat and the American victory. All the naval historians I have read (Toll, Parshall and Tully, Lord, Tuleja, Willmott) agree that the dispersal of forces was a major Japanese error. When all ships are counted, the Japanese had a great advantage in nearly all categories, but the dispersal of forces meant that many of those forces were out of supporting distance when it mattered most. The carrier force was short one-third of its usual strength, thanks to losses of aircraft and damage at the Coral Sea. The lighter carriers deployed with the main battle force to the rear and the Aleutians strike force were far from first rate, but their presence with the main carrier force would have at least enhanced Japanese reconnaisance capability and perhaps have enabled the Japanese to cope better with both Midway and the US carriers. Among the battleships, the Yamato was reasonably fast and so capable of working with the carriers. Though Japanese naval doctrine at the time emphasized the combat air patrol and manuever rather than AA fire as the main answers to enemy air attack, the Yamato and any other fast battleships or cruisers would have strengthened the carrier force's AA barrage. Even after the carriers were lost Yamamoto hoped to engage the US fleet in a gunfire action, but his battle line was too far to the west to close Midway before the US fleet prudently withdrew.

    The Midway plan was typically Japanese in its complexity and use of multiple forces. In previous operations such dispersal had not been a major problem because the Allies lacked intelligence about Japanese plans and the strength to take advantage of Japanese errors and weaknesses. At Midway, on the other hand, thanks to proper intelligence the Americans had near-parity at the point of critical contact and were thus able to destroy the isolated Japanese carrier force before other elements could come to its aid. The Japanese made many errors at Midway, and the dispersal inherent in the plan was one of the most important.
     
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  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    cope better, but was it enough for a clear/easy victory???...the recon angle is important, i must say
     
  4. Bundesluftwaffe

    Bundesluftwaffe New Member

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    Well the whole operation was ...... bonkers....... almost like Kursk or Stalingrad at sea.

    However the US also had some luck (and without luck you won´t win). Eg. that they slipped through the jap sub screen as well the jap recon planes didn´t detect the US force - or better much too late.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    yes, how critical was the sub screen?? what were the chances, that they would've sunk a carrier?
     
  6. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    I have no idea what the chances of Jap subs sinking a carrier would have been, but from what I have read the main purpose of the sub screen was reconnaisance and early warning.

    And what is "luck"? Military luck is made by acting promptly and intelligently. The US Navy made their luck by dispatching their carrier forces as soon as possible. The Japanese acted negligently by taking too long to get the sub force in position. They also took too long to get their French Frigate Shoals seaplane operation under way, and by the time they did the Americans had seized the location. Their laziness handicapped the Japanese, leaving them with only a limited reconnaisance capability and little or no idea of what naval forces the Americans had in the area. Despite serious deficiencies in reconnaisance and intelligence, Yamamoto still ordered the Combined Fleet to carry out his plan. In effect, the Japanese were sailing into battle blind. The Americans did things right, the Japanese did them wrong or didn't do them at all. That's not luck, it's the difference between competence and slackness.
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    This was not "luck" as you put it... Since, the Americans never "slipped through" the Japanese submarine cordon, you cannot "slip through" something that is not there in the first place.

    Thus we arrive at the crux of the matter...Japanese incompetence, and their underestimation of their opponent.

    The two critical submarine cordons across the estimated American Fleet's path were assigned to Japan's SubRon 3 and SubRon 5. These two submarine squadrons were equipped with Japan's older submarines, especially SubRon 5, and were woefully equipped to carry out the most important task assigned to them. SubRon 5's elderly boats were undergoing overhaul at the time, and could not be made ready in time to meet their sailing date, they were then delayed even further because they had to stop at Kawjalein to refuel. Thus SubRon 5 established it's cordon on June 3rd, two days later than planned. Several of SubRon 3's submarines had been assigned to participate in Operation K, but when this operation miscarried, those boats found themselves well out of position to establish their cordon by it's assigned date. These submarines arrived 2 or 3 days late.

    To close the matter. the Japanese had underestimated their American opponent. The submarine cordon lines were both to have been established on June 1st. However, even if the cordon lines had been established by their designated date, the American carriers had already crossed those positions some 24 hours earlier.
     
  8. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    sounds very logical....have to agree
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    True.



    American "luck" was that we were reading the IJN's "mail." American "luck" would have been nonexistent had it not been for the US codebreaking effort.


    The Japanese acted negligently by assigning the task to Submarine Squadron 5, which consisted of elderly submarines incapable of carrying out their assigned task. The miscarriage of Operation K(French Frigate Shoals) put Submarine Squadron 3 behind schedule to reach their cordon line.


    This has nothing to do with the failure at the French Frigate Shoals...

    The Japanese had used this "trick" a few times before. By using radio intercepts, direction finding, and some common sense, American intelligence quickly caught on. The forces the Japanese had seen, had been their awhile. What the Japanese did not see, was that the Americans had also been mining the area, although this was not complete at the time.

    Thus, it was the Japanese overplaying their hand, and not their timing, that caused this part of the Midway operation to fail.


    It was not laziness or slackness, but complacency. They had gotten used to having things their own way.
     
  10. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    yes, one quote I remember from a Midway book, was something like '''always factor in what the enemy is CAPABLE of, not just what you think they will do'''
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Luck has never decided the outcome of any battle. The outcome of a battle is decided by which side makes the least mistakes.

    The Americans made their fair share of mistakes at Midway, however, the Japanese made far more mistakes than the Americans.
     
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  12. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Just move off tangent just a tad, there have been some events I could only describe as lucky. One round in precisely the right place at the right moment, there goes the Hood. Certainly not the result expected or planned for.

    We now return you to our regularly scheduled thread.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Seems to me that the result was expected by the British themselves in 1920.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Bundesluftwaffe

    Bundesluftwaffe New Member

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    Would agree with you guys re the luck topic. Yup, Jap plans sucked also underestimination played a role. But I read at least one thing that would count as luck, 1 recon plane of the Jap was scheduled to fly but couldn´t. It had some kind of problem, so started 2 hours too late. As luck or bad luck would have it this plane was on the search angle which might have detected the US fleet.

    We need a new thread to discuss the failed and incompetent plans and actions of the Axis tho.

    Of course the Allies could read Jap codes, but had the Jap better radio discipline it would have been maybe not that important. Or changed codes more often (guess Germans suffered that too).

    Re. Hood, it was already known in WW1 after Jutland that BCs had some flaws in certain armor portions, maybe they should have re-armored the Hood and sacrifice some speed therefore.
    However sad for the Hood, the Ger operation failed in the end, so her death served a purpose. This Ger operation also was flawed anyway, send 1 BB + 1 CA out without more support knowiing Brits had much more ships and carriers (better air screen).
     
  15. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    yes, I brought up that recon plane in some other thread...can someone make a Hood thread? that is also very interesting...I'll say it again, much thanks, very enjoyable/informative reading from all
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Actually, it was the Tone's No.4(the late one) that spotted the American fleet when she should not have. To return on time, the pilot cut his route short, and thereby spotted the American fleet. Now, had he held to his original route, he would have missed them on his return leg.

    The Japanese floatplane that should have spotted the American's but didn't was Chikuma's No.1 plane. The theories advanced as to why the Chikuma aircraft did not spot the Americans were that it was off course or that it was flying above the cloud deck(descending briefly to look around and then flying back above the clouds - were the flying conditions were more favorable.


    The Japanese changed their codes often enough. The problem was getting current codebooks to each and every Japanese ship and radio station the Pacific in a timely fashion, as it was, the task that could take a month or more. This lead to radio messages being broadcast in both the old and the new codes, which greatly helped the Americans to quickly crack the new code. The Germans suffered from this to a certain extent, but it was far less a problem for them.

    Also, Japanese inter-service rivalry was a problem. The IJA knew that the Navy's JN-25 code had been broken...But, they never told the Navy about it.


    IIRC, it was not an armor issue, but an ammunition one. Naval battles were consuming more shells than expected, so the British had taken to loading their warships with more powder and shells. The battlecruisers did not have enough room to fit all the extra ammunition in their magazines, and had taken to storing them outside of the protected magazines. The belief is that it was this practice the directly led to the loss of the 3 battlecruisers at Jutland. Although, I don't know if this was any factor in the Hood's loss some 25 years later.
     
  17. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The dispersion was a factor, but hardly the only one, or most telling.. Lest we forget the US dispersed its carrier aviation. Hornet and Enterprise were in one Task Force, Yorktown in another. Midway, sometimes credited as our 4th Carrier was in a third position.

    It is certainly possible that the presence of Yamato and Hosogaya's Carrier Group (Aleutian attack group), along with their escorts, might have turned a near absolute defeat into a rough draw, turning it into a victory outright would need much more flexible thinking by both Nagumo and Yamamoto.
     
  18. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    yes, the Yamato group, ...what type of role, do you mean, would they help? AA, night action,etc?
     
  19. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Certainly the extra AA guns might have been useful, and the greater number of potential targets (Yamato, Junyo and Ryujo) might have seen dive bomber attacks dispersed over a greater number of ships or focusing on the two Light Carriers (CVL's). Yamaguchi's counter strike might also have been more effective with another 80 to 100 aircraft on the two CVL's. Then again they might have been used to hit Midway, keeping the best pilots and planes available for the US fleet. If Nagumo had hoisted his flag aboard Yamato, many of the command issues might have been avoided. Better communication's and staff accommodations., no need to transfer his flag if his carrier is hit.

    But of course this comes at a price. Neither CVL is a ideal design as one is a bit slow (a converted liner), the other a bit unstable.
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Nagumo didn't need the Yamato for a flagship...Battleships Haruna & Kirishima, and the heavy cruisers Tone & Chikuma, all would have fit the bill just as well as the Yamato.
     

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