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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. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Yamato and her consorts steamed most of the way to Midway, about 300 miles behind Kido Butai, so in the context of all the fuel consumed in the entire operation, it might not have been that much of an increment. Speed might be a more relevant concern. Yamato was about a knot slower than Kaga, Nagato another knot, the older battleships a couple more if they were included.

    A less dispersed Japanese deployment might involve more heavy cruisers being attached to the carrier force, particularly Kurita's Cruiser Division 7 (they would also have done well to save the Aleutians operation for later). Nagumo relied heavily on cruiser floatplanes for scouting, so a few more cruisers might - might - have made a difference.

    The battleships best suited for operating with carriers were the Kongo class. Another option would be to assign all four to Nagumo and have the main body, or part of it, screen the transports and support the landing if they got to that point.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    But if she is operating with the carriers every time they go to flank to launch aircraft Yamato needs to as well. Those speeds are usually into the wind as well which may not be the direction they want to head in. The result could be a significant increase in fuel consumption. I haven't actually worked the numbers though.
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed they did. Shattered Sword had an Appendix (I believe) that disussed the probability of success. They were not optimistic. The invasion force is listed here:
    http://www.navweaps.com/index_oob/OOB_WWII_Pacific/OOB_WWII_Midway.htm
    There were a number of significant potential problems. Including
    1) They didn't realize that the Marines had been reinforced. The reinforcements include not just a lot more Marines but more and bigger shore batteries, AA guns, and even some tanks.
    2) They didn't have a good way to get from the reef to the beach.
    3) Fire support such as it was amounted to a few heavy cruisers and some destroyers. However they didn't have trained observers to work with the ships so close support was questionable.
    That's from memory I think there were more problems.
    Here's an article on the defenders:
    http://www.pacificwar.org.au/Midway/Marines_arrive_Midway.html
    This page in paraticular goes into some of the problems the Japanese had:
    http://www.pacificwar.org.au/Midway/Preparations.html
     
  4. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    Thank you for answering my question lwd! :) I thought that there was some kind of land invasion force, I just wasn't quite sure. And thank you for posting the links! :) Very insightful!
     
  5. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    Yamamoto at Midway, up to a point, sort of reminds me of McClellan at Antietam - had a superior force but never brought it to bear in a way that could have and should have crushed the enemy force. Far from a perfect analogy (i.e. McClellan had the intel advantage while the Americans had it at Midway).... but responsibility for failure to bring superior firepower (which the Japanese had at Midway) to bear at the critical point of the battle rests with the commander. Many of the seeds of Japanese failure at Midway were sown by their high command prior to June 4.

    It is more than a bit ironic that the Japanese plan was to lure the American carriers out to Midway, yet when those American carriers arrived, the IJN wasn't ready for them. They were anticipating American movements based on highly flawed or practically nonexistent intel - another command failure.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Most of the major battles of the American Civil War, were fought that way, with a sizable part of the troops never seeing battle.

    It would be almost impossible for Yamamoto to get the Americans under the guns of his battleships. At best, the would have been some 25 miles in front of the carriers to serve as early warning, and to absorb some or all of the aerial attacks meant for the carriers.

    IIRC, that was the failure of most Japanese battle plans. They were predicated on the Americans acting as the Japanese expected them to. And when the Americans didn't, the Japanese were unable to adjust their plans in response.
     
  7. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    I see this a little differently. There were only so many planes and only so many ships. Had the IJN had the majority of their combat power up forward and heading north and east toward the American fleet (assuming they knew the Americans were there, which they didn't), there was only so much of it USN aircraft could have hit, while taking their own losses, both planes and ships, from IJN aircraft, before it reached a point where USN had no choice but to withdraw or be destroyed. IJN would have taken losses in this scenario, but starting from an advantage would have, I believe, reached the American fleet with enough to do the job - but the most likely outcome of this scenario is an American withdrawal. Actually something like this did come to pass - USN did withdraw, for this reason, but after inflicting severe damage to Kido Butai.

    In the actual event, there was IMO an overestimation by the Japanese leadership of the threat posed by American land based air on Midway Island, which prevented them from attempting anything of this sort. Not to mention the gross intel failure on Japan's part (which was of course the real American advantage in the battle).
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    If the IJN leads with the battleships they are likely to be found much sooner. There's also the problem of what happens if the Midway air component has some fight left and finds the transports. If the IJN carriers are out of range there's a good chance the US just hits the battleships and lighter vessels and retires. The IJN battle line can't keep up with the US CVs. What can keep up might not fair well under air attack. Note also that an IJN vessel disabled between Midway and PH is in a world of trouble where a damage US vessel has a much shorter distance to go to a friendly port and will be under at least some land based air cover fairly soon.
     
  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    That would depend if the Midway & Aleutian forces are still split.

    If the forces are still split, you have Nagato, Mutsu, and Yamato which would be advancing at their best speed of a theoretical 26 knots, and it would take them some 7 hours 45 minutes to roughly cover the distance to the Americans. With the inclusion of the slower battleships of the Aleutians force(Fuso, Yamashiro, Ise, and Hyuga) the maximum speed of the Japanese battleships would be reduced to 23 knots, taking some 8 hours 45 minutes to cover the same distance.

    The Japanese battleships might be able to save Hiryu from attacks, but if the American carriers fore go attacking the battleships, the Japanese still lose Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. However, the Americans can still outpace the Japanese battleships and attack them at leisure.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The key factor is still the codebreaking. Without that, there was no reason whatsoever for every available American aircraft carrier to be perfectly positioned to hit the Japanese while they were launching their attacks on Midway.

    Apparently the Japanese plan called for them to be even more dispersed. Shattered Sword states that Kido Butai's departure was delayed one day to complete refueling, but all other units stuck to the original schedule. The plan was for Nagumo to hit Midway on June 3 while Kondo, the Main Body, and the rest were still 700 miles or more away.

    Part of their reasoning may have been the fuel and oiler situation. Their schedule allowed each force to steam directly for Midway and arrive just when it was needed - carriers, Kondo's gunnery ships, the landing force, and finally the Main Body just in time to meet the Americans who presumably would be coming from Pearl Harbor.

    From the Japanese point of view, there was no reason for major American naval forces to be loitering around Midway on the particular day they chose to attack. Otherwise they might have used something like their deployment for the battle of Santa Cruz. On that occasion the carrier force was preceded by two surface units, each comprising two fast battleships, a few heavy cruisers, and a destroyer squadron. Ships' floatplanes would significantly enhance the Japanese scouting capability, the ships could warn of approaching aircraft and perhaps absorb some of the American attacks, and there was the chance of a surface engagement. Historically by the time Hiryu launched her attacks on Yorktown, the carriers were only about 100 miles apart.
     
  11. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    it's that decoy strategy that did them in. it worked at coral sea, somewhat at leyte gulf, but was a disaster at midway. the reason was midway was a mid-ocean battle, not a weave in-and-out around islands. they should have openly challenged the americans. first, kondo should have had at least three light carriers to support his battleships and the landing force. behind him and farther north should have been yamamoto and nagumo's carriers waiting for fletcher/halsey to show up.

    if that was done, kondo would have sufferred heavy losses and maybe failed to invade midway. but fletcher would have lost all three carriers.
     
  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    On the part of the Japanese and Americans, there was no decoy strategy at Coral Sea.
     
  13. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    there was a little. the japanese sacrificed their light carrier, allowing the two big ones a clear crack at lex and york.
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Shoho was not "sacrificed", as you say. She was covering the Tulagi landings and upon their success was withdrawn to cover the Port Moresby Invasion convoy.

    The first day's carrier attacks are more pointedly the result poor reconnaissance, rather than any guile on the opposing sides. The American SBD that found Shoho mis-coded his report, which read, two carriers and four cruisers, rather than the intended two cruisers and four destroyers. The Japanese also had their own air recon problems, when the oil tanker USS Neosho and destroyer USS Sims were reported as a carrier and a cruiser.

    The results of these mistakes was that each opposing side launched a double carrier strike at the wrong target.
     
  15. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    I can see how one could mistake a destroyer for a cruiser.... but I've never seen an oiler that looked like a carrier. Always wondered about that.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    maybe it was confused and/or miscommunicated in the communications, not necessarily IDed incorrectly
     
  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Your looking at her from a submarine's perspective...

    From overhead, you are going to see a lot of empty deck space. So, I can see how, from several thousand feet in the air, a tanker could look like an aircraft carrier. Especially if the reconnaissance plane does not get to close.
     
  18. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    well, the basic division betrween the covering force and the main carrier force created a situation that will certainly draw american force towards the shoho (inadvertantly, i suppose). but the real tactical victory during the carrier-to-carrier battle was due to something else.

    the above works better for an attacking force. halsey and kinkaid did it, yamamoto should have repeated it at midway.
     
  19. Triton

    Triton New Member

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    There were a lot of japanese "fleets" on the way to Midway.
    We all know the "Kido Butai" because of their losses, but their was a slower "Main Force" with Yamamoto on board of the brand spanking new Yamato. Then there was a Invasion fleet with 5000 men, nearly double the strength of the american troops on the islands. There was a bombardment fleet to cover the landings, i think mostly cruisers. And even a minelayer/minesweeper fleet.
    Sure, they wanted to capture the Islands and the airport at all cost. Yamamoto even wanted it after the loss of 3 carriers.

    The landing force was attacked 2 or 3 days before the actual battle we know as the "Battle of Midway", so Yamamoto was aware, that he couldn't surprise the enemy as he did in Pearl Harbour. What he didn't know was, that there were more than 2 carriers available, so he just continued. 4 carriers against one or two - he expected easy victory.
    The famous plane from Tone reported just one carrier, so Nagumo wasn't in panic.
     
  20. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    The Japanese were quite poor at ship ID. What I think should have been done is have two air groups. A couple of the smaller carriers for striking Midway and saving the four main carriers for the US response. Since only the Kongo class was capable of keeping up with the carriers the BB's would have had to follow behind unless the carriers are restricted to the slower speed.
     

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